January 26, 2011

Green Fee thinks long term

In a marked departure from previous policies, Sustainability Committee Chairman and sophomore Firas Suqi is aiming to incorporate economic as well as environmental sustainability into the Green Fee.

“Last year, it was all spent, and I feel like we need to make the Green Fee more sustainable—to actually live up to the word ‘sustainable’ and focus on the future,” Suqi said.

Established in 2008, the Green Fee is a fund available to students for projects that will increase environmental sustainability on campus. Five dollars from each student’s Activity Fee goes towards the Green Fee each term, resulting in approximately $21,000 for use each year. Funds that are not used one year will roll over to the next.

In order to make the Green Fee more economically sustainable, student contributions to the Green Fee will increase starting next year to $10 per term, thereby doubling the size of the fund. Suqi also plans to save 25 percent of this year’s fund (approximately $5000). He hopes this practice will continue even after he is no longer sustainability chair.

“Within 15 years, we’d be able to save up $150,000 to actually be able to do a…large, substantial project, like renovating an entire building to make it green,” he said.

Previous Green Fee-funded projects have ranged from cutting down invasive tree species at Knox’s Green Oaks Biological Field Station to buying drying racks for several residence halls. However, the Sustainability Committee has not received many proposals so far this year.

“We weren’t getting good proposals, and we needed to focus on something,” Suqi said.

Although Suqi will have long- since graduated by the time the $150,000 goal is reached, he has already come up with ideas for how this money could be spent, including renovating a campus building or creating a compost system.

“Every other school I visited when I was a prospie had [a compost system],” he said. “There are ridiculous amounts of food being thrown away [at Knox], and a compost system would be really nice.”

Junior Sam Frank is skeptical, however, about whether $150,000 will be enough to fund a worthwhile project.

“Going green costs money, and thinking big is expensive,” he said. “I don’t see a project small enough that it will only cost $150,000 but that will have a big enough impact to be worth it.”

Frank pointed out that a portion of the college’s budget goes towards sustainability initiatives every year and that the Green Fee, given its size, is well-suited for small projects.

“The Presidential Task Force on Sustainability should work to do large projects,” he said. “It’s not for the Green Fee to fund these…projects. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Senior Sarah Juist also has her doubts about the new Green Fee policy, particularly regarding the possibility that Suqi’s plan will discourage the implementation of small-scale sustainability projects.

“I see the logic in saving money for a large project, but I don’t think the Green Fee is a good way to go about this,” she said. “I’m afraid it will prevent small projects from getting done…it seems a little ridiculous.”

Frank echoed these sentiments.

“If you restrict access to the Green Fee, green education is stifled because these small projects aren’t happening and people aren’t seeing green things on campus,” he said. “It’s important to create the idea of how to think sustainably.”

Suqi stressed that a large portion of the Green Fee will still be available to students and that small projects will not be discouraged. What appears to be more of an issue, he said, is a lack of student proposals for uses of Green Fee money. The Sustainability Committee plans to spend much of winter term spreading the word about the Green Fee in order to increase the number and quality of proposals.

“The ideas [for proposals] are there, but there’s no initiative,” he said.

Through a combination of more small-scale projects and an eventual large sustainability initiative, Suqi hopes that the Green Fee can become a force for long-term sustainability at Knox.

“It’s recommended in the Green Fee guidelines that some of the fund be saved,” he said. “I don’t think I have the sole authority to make that decision, but hopefully the numbers speak for themselves.”

Anna Meier

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