This November, the University’s Green Fund Committee will launch a new campaign to raise awareness for its microgrant project, allowing students and faculty to turn their environmental dreams for campus into a reality. This campaign will be kicked off with the launch of a promotional video highlighting the extent to which students are unfamiliar with the Green Fund’s potential.
“The Green Fund is an important vehicle we have for supporting sustainable initiatives on campus,” said President Michael Roth in the promotional video. “It allows us to increase our sustainability, decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and become a better place.”
The Green Fund, founded in 2010, is supported by the $15 “opt-out” fee that students pay at the start of each semester. This past school year, the Green Fund got approved by the Board of Trustees for another five-year period, and the Fund currently has $85,000 to spend on environmental initiatives. Historically, the largest grants have supported Wild Wes and Long Lane Farm, funding student internships along with other initiatives. The Fund has also supported the Beekeeping Club, the Bike Co-Op, and Middletown Urban Gardens, among other projects; and with this campaign, the Green Fund is hoping to inspire a greater variety of proposals.
“I would love to see a lot of people applying, and a lot of different kinds of projects,” said Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst. “It’s always exciting to see new proposals come in, especially when they’re really creative ideas.”
The first goal of this campaign is to make the Wesleyan community aware that the Green Fund exists, and that it is accessible to all.
“A lot of students probably have ideas and just don’t know that this is out there and that this is an opportunity,” Kleindienst said.
The promotional video emphasizes this idea, showing, Jimmy Fallon-style, students’ lack of awareness of a program on which most voluntarily spent 30 dollars each year.
A second goal is to attract a creative and diverse set of proposals from a diverse population.
“Environmental activism at Wes is often too narrowly defined, both in terms of who is involved and the kinds of projects students are working on,” wrote Keren Reichler ’16, co-chair of the Green Fund, in an email to The Argus. “We believe that in order to effectively address the complexity of environmental issues today, we must think much more creatively and inclusively about environmental action and change.”
Not only are they hoping for a variety of proposals, but they are hoping to get them from a diverse group of applicants.
“[One] aim is to spread awareness that you don’t have to fit a stereotype of an environmentalist to benefit from the fund,” said Cassia Patel ’17, accountant for The Green Fund. “We want everyone to be able to benefit.”
Kleindienst stressed that the program is open to faculty and staff as well as students.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s a student fund, so it’s just for students,’ but really it’s for the whole campus, and we’ve had some good ideas out of it,” she said.
In addition to promoting awareness and a diverse range of applications, members of the Green Fund have a third goal: to encourage small proposals.
“There…seems to be a misconception on campus that the Green Fund only funds large-scale projects,” Reichler wrote. “We’re emphasizing the small grant option to encourage smaller-scale projects and to increase student engagement.”
Patel noted that one past small proposal, costing $60, was to place “These Come From Trees” stickers on paper towel dispensers. Looking forward, she posited suggestions for reusable water bottles for sports teams, or changes to WesStation to increase its sustainability.
Although there are many environmental groups on campus, the Green Fund sees itself as holding a unique position on the University’s campus. For one, it is both campus-centric and student-centric.
“It’s by students, for students,” Patel said. “It’s student money, organized by students, and given out to students.”
The Fund also provides support for initiatives that would otherwise be challenging to accomplish at the University.
“There are a lot of great things that students can do on campus, but they’re not necessarily cost effective,” she said. Kleindienst provided Long Lane as an example of such a project, saying it has done amazing things, but has no financial return to appeal to the administration.
“This provided an opportunity to have funding for things from the smallest project to a really large project, without that same financial weight,” she said.
She added that, while a financial return is ideal, it is in no way a requirement.
The Green Fund is also unique in the amount of money it controls and in the transformative effect it has played in sustainability at the University. The Office of Sustainability itself originated as a product of Green Fund money, and this office has since grown to support many campus-wide initiatives, such as the Eco Facilitators program, which employs peer “sustainability educators” in all dorms and throughout campus, hosting a variety of events.
Members of the Green Fund also hope to promote cohesiveness and communication within the student body.
“My goal with the Green Fund is to unify the environmental movements on campus,” Patel said. “There are so many polar opposites. People who are protesting the system, people who are working within the system, people who are all the way up at Long Lane…. The Green Fund knows about most of the projects on campus and can be a way to unify people.”
Patel added that her personal goals for the Green Fund go beyond specific sustainability causes.
“Another project that I want to make sure happens this year is some sort of social gathering for environmental people, to get people together talking and sharing ideas,” she said.
The Green Fund Committee is eagerly anticipating its new outreach program, and proposals for microgrants can be submitted through its website.
“We’re excited to see the innovative project proposals that students will submit,” Reichler wrote. “And we’re hoping to see a wide range of groups apply for funding to address a wide range of issues.”