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SEA Change: Green fees can do it

Published: October 23, 2009
Section: Opinions


“Four Years Tuition at Brandeis: $200,0000. $60 towards saving the environment…At this point, who’s counting? Green Fees Can Do It.”

For the past week, the Rabb Steps have housed colorful banners sporting the slogan: “Green Fees Can Do It.” But the question is, what are Green Fees, and what can they do? Green Fees are a student run payment incurred at the beginning of each school year, allocated towards improving the sustainability of a campus. The concept is very popular in California, The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) has been launched at UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UCLA. The money raised has been used to install solar panels on campus buildings, create organic gardens, and improve waste management and energy efficiency.

The Green Fee would differ from the mandatory Student event and activities fee that appears on a bill statement at the beginning of each year, as the entire student body would have equal access to applying for this fund by designing projects. Students for Environmental Action (SEA) is working to figure out the details of the Green Fee’s implementation, and a proposal will be brought to the Board of Trustees at the beginning of next semester. An official survey will be created in mid November, further gauging the opinion of the student body. If 3,200 undergraduates paid $15 at the beginning of each year, $48,000 could be invested yearly in energy efficiency, green buildings, greening events, and improving waste management.

Students were first inspired to introduce the Green Fees concept to Brandeis after attending the annual Powershift environmental conference last February. Over 10,000 college students gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss pressing environmental issues, actions, and solutions for a sustainable future. After hearing from Rachel Barge of CampusInPower, who had introduced Green Fees to the University of California, Berkely, members of SEA wanted to test the feasibility here. Introducing the Green Fees concept to Brandeis would mesh well with recent environmental initiatives taken on campus, which have helped to establish Brandeis as a leading institution in sustainability practices. Brandeis students overwhelmingly supported the removal of bottled water from dining service locations on campus, and in the last month, President Reinharz introduced the plan to bring solar power to Gosman Sports Center. Initiatives like these help bring Brandeis closer to achieving our Climate Action Plan Goals, established with the introduction of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The implementation of a green fund like this would allow students to play an increasing role in helping to make the campus more sustainable, as undergraduates would help determine the allocation of the ‘green’ money. Symbolically, the introduction of Green Fees represents the idea that our current generation has the potential to take hold of our future, as students will chose which green projects are most important to them. Can solar panels on Shapiro Campus Center help make it more efficient? Will Usdan offer reusable cutlery and plates for barbeque events to reduce waste? Can students bring a wind turbine to campus? Green Fees will allow students to make our voice heard.

The slogans featured on Rabb Steps encourage students to respond to an unofficial survey of four questions produced by the Green Fees policy group of SEA. The survey asks what ‘green’ activities the money should be used for, whether the individual would design and/or apply for a Green Fee grant, how much the fee should cost, and whether an opt-out or opt-in system works best. SEA is hoping that with student input, the program can be better designed to fit the needs of the Brandeis community, while making the campus increasingly environmentally friendly and sustainable. With the support of the student body, green fees can do it!

To complete the survey, please visit http://seabrandeis.org.