The Green Fund is currently in the midst of a November “micro-grant” campaign aimed at attracting new proposals from a broader range of students and making the Fund more visible on campus. The organization, financed by a $15 optional fee paid by the student body, funds sustainability initiatives and other green efforts around campus, with Long Lane Farm and WildWes serving as major beneficiaries. However, the organization is not widely known around campus, which results in most of the organization’s funds going toward similar purposes each semester.
Cassia Patel ’17, a member of the Green Fund Committee, described the goal of this month-long campaign, stating that the Fund hoped for more diversity in proposals.
“We were brainstorming ways that we could spread awareness of our existence on campus because a lot of people don’t even know that we exist or what we are,” Patel said. “So we decided to launch something that was exciting and time sensitive, this month of November, so people would get involved…. So that was the idea behind the campaign, because it’s our responsibility to make students know who we are… especially because it is composed completely of student money. This is our attempt at spreading awareness and getting proposals from hopefully a broader spectrum.”
Director of the Sustainability Office Jen Kleindienst commented on the Fund’s lack of visibility and on common misconceptions of the organization’s role at the University.
“A big part of it is that the Green Fund’s been around for five years now; they get consistent applications for funding, but it tends to be a lot of the same groups, and sometimes they end up with unspent money each year and it rolls over, but still there’s potential and they really just want to get the word out to let people know that the Green Fund exists, and that it’s an opportunity for funding, and also to try to get projects that think outside the box,” said Kleindienst. “From the video they showed, it seems, unsurprisingly, that a lot of people think the Green Fund is for gardening, farming type of projects, and that is a large part of what they fund now, but they want to be more open and inclusive of new ideas and new things to fund.”
Ingrid Eck ’19, Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Representative and member of the Green Fund, discussed some of the details of the campaign, stating that the Fund also operates in an advisory role for project proposers.
“We’re trying to encourage students to apply no matter what the size of funding might be that’s necessary for the project,” Eck said. “So it’s sort of like this micro-grant campaign, and our slogan is sort of ‘$5 to $55,000,’ and we just want to also emphasize that we’re here to help those have an idea…. We can help fund your project, but we can also give advice or maybe lead you in the right direction, so no matter what point you are in your thinking process, we’re there to help you.”
Eck expanded on the advisory role of the committee, stating that while informal, the Fund’s members are well-grounded in how to implement proposals and in broader sustainability methods.
“It’s sort of an informal one,” Eck said. “I would say almost everyone on the Green Fund is involved with some sort of environmental initiative or club on this campus…. I’ve only been on the Green Fund this year, but I know a lot of the other Green Fund members have been on there for a while. So I think they’ve seen lots of proposals, what might be a successful project, what might not be, so just sort of trying to lead them in the right direction to make sure their project is indeed successful.”
Additionally, the Green Fund is looking to broaden its reach in terms of which projects it supports.
“Recently we’ve been trying to sort of expand sustainability on campus, in that we’d like to see projects that maybe…are incorporated into dance and performances, or some sort of art campaign,” Eck said.
Patel gave some examples of new proposals that the Fund had received since the start of the campaign, stating that proposals for sustainability can come from anyone, and that proposals did not have to be grand.
“You don’t just have to be a farmer,” Patel said. “You can be an athlete, be a science major, you can be a film major—there’s so many ways to make film more sustainable—and we’ve gotten some pretty cool proposals actually, which has been great, to diversify our portfolio. So for example, we are funding something called-, well, it’s an ‘ESQUE’ workshop essentially, so it’s going to be a dance performance and workshop two day event, and basically it’s going to be exploring queer bodies and abject spaces…and how it relates to the environment. So, you know…definitely different than Long Lane or than WildWes, right?”
Patel further commented that the scope of Green Fund-supported projects can be as large or as small as students want them to be.
“We’re really focusing on increasing that diversity,” she said. “So the idea behind the micro-grant campaign was that people wouldn’t feel that they had to have a huge project, you know, it could just be twenty bucks to put up stickers that say, ‘Save paper towels.’ It doesn’t have to be the biggest thing ever, so that’s kind of the goal behind the campaign.”
Kleindienst attested to the success of the campaign, stating that many new proposals had come forward thus far.
“None of the ones submitted this month have been from the groups that have submitted before or kind of the same kinds of projects,” Kleindienst said. “A few that are really thinking about new ideas and new ways of integrating sustainability into things that happen on campus outside of the environmental organizations.”
The campaign continues until the end of November.