Environmental Club seeks to create green fee

Kathleen Naderer

Students at St. Edward’s University may be asked to dole out greenbacks to go green.

The Environmental Club is looking to create a green fee, which would fund eco-friendly projects at St. Edward’s University to help reduce the university’s impact on the environment. Potential projects involve increasing recycling, using clean energy and expanding the Environmental Club’s community garden.

“We’re behind other universities sustainability-wise,” said Portia Odell, president of the Environmental Club. “I hope that students understand and realize that now is the time to take action and set an example for sustainability.”

The conflict between being green and saving money is expected to play a role in the green fee’s campaign. The amount of the fee and whether it will be mandatory has not been decided but would be a student-based decision.

Odell said she would like the fee to be $20 per year for each student.

The biggest obstacle the green fee will face is the fact that the campaign makes its debut on the heels of Bon Appétit’s new policy, which requires all full-time undergraduate students to purchase a minimum $100 mandatory meal plan. The negative reaction to the increased cost of tuition might also carry over to the green fee campaign, as students have generally been unreceptive to increased fees.

In 2008, St. Edward’s President George Martin and the Student Government Association explored the possibility of signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The agreement required specific benchmarks regarding sustainability. Martin formed a committee on the issue of sustainability, which still meets, but he never signed the agreement.

SGA President Meghan Kuentz said this year in her state of the campus address that some students have expressed an interest in increasing the amount of recycling bins on campus.

Likewise, the use of clean energy and energy-efficient products has been a popular topic among students. In October 2009, students expressed concern over the effect that Austin Energy’s decision to provide more clean energy would have on utility rates. Some students showed a desire to be eco-friendly, but many were also concerned about the costs associated with “going green.”

Odell expressed hope that the fee would allow the Environmental Club to expand the garden on campus. Odell said she believed that the Environmental Club could sell produce to Bon Appétit, but such a plan would be small in scale.

It is uncertain when students would begin seeing changes across the campus. The fee would require a lot of paperwork. Right now the campaign consists of advertising and creating student surveys.

“We want students to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Odell said.

In order to begin the process of adding a green fee, 20 percent of the student body must support the proposal.

If the campaign receives the support of over 460 students, the amount of the fee will be put up to vote. Once an amount has been determined, the Environmental Club will present a green fee proposal to SGA. Odell predicted that, if students approved the fee, it would not go into effect until the 2011-2012 school year.

Green fees have been added to the tuition costs of other universities across the country. The Green Initiative Fund, TGIF for short, at the University of California at Santa Barbara would be the model for the potential green fee at St. Edward’s.

UCSB students voted for TGIF in 2006, adding $2.60 to their semester tuition. This gave UCSB an additional $182,000 for green projects on the campus.

Other universities’ green fees vary from $1 per semester at the Community College of Denver to upwards of $45 per semester at University of the South.

Some participating universities in 2009 included Harvard at $5 per semester, UC Berkeley at $2.50 per semester, Rice University at $9 per semester, Humboldt State University at $10 per semester, and The College of William and Mary at $30 per semester.


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