Green Fee preps for future sustainability efforts

Students wanting a greener campus had their voices heard after voting in favor of a Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) during interim elections in April. However, change will not be immediately felt, Office of Sustainability Director Christian Wells said.

The fund, which will implement a $1-per-credit-hour fee toward green energy and sustainability projects, passed with 69.9 percent of the student vote with 1,412 students participating. Another 25.71 percent of students voted against the fund and 4.39 percent had no opinion.

Students will be charged the fee beginning in fall 2011, though energy-saving measures will not be implemented until spring 2012, Wells said.

“We want to give enough time to advertise the call for proposals and what kind of projects we’re interested in funding,” he said.

Wells and student body President Matt Diaz met Wednesday, deciding on the formation of a 10- to 12-person task force to help create a proposal committee. Once formed, the task force will make recommendations as to who should be on the SGEF committee; however, the task force will not make the final decision on committee selections, Wells said.

Half of the committee’s membership will be comprised of students, chosen by Diaz, and the other half could be comprised of some combination of faculty, staff and students, chosen by President Judy Genshaft or the Provost’s Office.

“The committee that the task force is creating, their primary responsibility is really to be to determine which proposals to fund and at what level,” he said. “If a proposal comes in at $10,000, the committee might scrutinize the budget and say, ‘Well, you don’t really need that much for this or that budget category,’ so they might not fund it at the full level.”

While it will be up to the committee to judge proposals, the criteria it will use for evaluating those proposals will be determined by the task force, Wells said. Half of the task force members, consisting of students, faculty and staff, will be chosen by Wells and the other half by Diaz. Once the task force makes its recommendations and sets evaluation criteria, it will “die out,” or disband, Diaz said, who said he will not look to Student Government (SG) to get members.

“I don’t want to appoint SG representatives, I want to appoint student representatives who are most educated on sustainability,” he said. “Students from the Student Environmental Association (SEA) or the Farm Coalition, any students who are really focused on these sustainability efforts on campus.”

Wells said Physical Plant (PP) has been active in preparing ideas for the committee, including a plan to upgrade its heating and cooling system that regulates air temperature within campus buildings administrated by PP.

Physical Plant Assistant Director Nainan Desai said PP is focused on projects that will reduce energy usage and greenhouse gases that come from systems and equipment that generate and use a lot of utility.

“Many of these highly effective measures may not be so visible even though they will have large impact on reducing energy and greenhouse gases,” Desai said. “Certainly, there are measures that are visible as well.

“The list of measures that will be sent to the committee for review and approval will include proven and tested technologies and measures to ensure that we receive assured, immediate and the best return on Green Fees investment, and do not risk funds with experimental ideas.”

SEA President Kaitlin Zwingert, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, said she has sent emails to Diaz about the formation of the committees, but has yet to receive a response.

“I would love to see SEA have representation on the committee. I think the members of SEA are pretty environmentally aware,” she said. “We might have to storm their offices with cardboard swords and shields and make them listen to us.”

Diaz said he received Zwingert’s emails, but “didn’t want to give (her) a presumptive answer based off of hearsay” before meeting with Wells. Now that he has met with Wells, Diaz said he is excited.

“We’re really excited it was something the student body pushed for … and they succeeded,” Diaz said. “This is something that turns our campus into a real green campus and is a testament to what students can achieve.”