Amidst the blustery hail and slush of a January day, thousands of students from across the United States huddled into over-crowded conference rooms in the George Washington Conference Center in Washington D.C. We stood among these masses of 18-22 year olds donning green shirts, as part of the 40-member Wesleyan contingent at the 2009 Power Shift Climate Change Conference. There, we learned about a concept called the “green fund,” an initiative implemented at many schools nationwide that raises money for sustainability through an optional fee attached to tuition. “Why doesn’t Wesleyan have one of these?,” we thought. Upon our return to campus, we began researching our current sustainability infrastructure on campus compared it to those of our peer institutions.
Unlike Tufts, we don’t have an entire office of full-time staff dedicated to sustainability. Unlike Middlebury, we don’t have a biomass plant on campus. And unlike many other colleges and universities, we have no institutionalized source of funding designated specifically for sustainability. What we do have is one of the most passionate and innovative student bodies in the nation, and an incredibly supportive faculty and staff. It’s time for our entire student body to take environmental responsibility into our own hands.
The Green Fund will be an entirely student-elected, student-financed, and student-managed source of funding for sustainability initiatives on campus, and will thus be impervious to the University’s financial vulnerabilities. Initiatives sponsored by the Green Fund will decrease our carbon footprint and waste, increase our use of renewable energy and increase visibility of environmentally responsible practices on campus. This 15 dollar semesterly fee will be opt-out, so those students with financial limitations or who do not support the fund will have the opportunity to decline payment. Over 50 other schools, including Tufts, UConn, UC Berkeley, College of William and Mary, and even (!) our neighbor Conn College have already successfully implemented similar initiatives with some impressive results. Most schools experience an opt-out rate of about 10%, and if we follow suit we will end up with more than $70,000 in the fund every year!
The Green Fund also poses an incredible opportunity for collaboration—it will provide a hub for students, faculty, and staff concerned about sustainability issues to come together and debate the most effective ways to make our campus more sustainable. Projects may include the installation of solar panels, insulation of senior housing, energy metering, and other innovative initiatives. It will allow some of the current initiatives under review by the administration to come to fruition by financing a portion of the costs.
The Green Fund will benefit all of us in the Wesleyan Community. A more sustainable infrastructure will increase our competitiveness among peer liberal arts institutions and provide substantial financial returns, and the streamlining and organization of the Fund will increase the effectiveness of our money that is currently being spent on diverse and uncoordinated projects.
The Green Fund will create an unprecedented opportunity for coordinated and effective progress that will last longer than our tenure at Wesleyan. Let’s leave a legacy that we’re proud of.
The Green Fund will be on the WSA ballot in the first two weeks of December. Get online and vote yes if you support it.