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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SEA Change: Pricing carbon: $7.50 per semester

Published: April 23, 2010
Section: Opinions

Have you ever considered how your personal carbon footprint affects the operation of this university? Perhaps you haven’t, but you certainly should.

The Brandeis Sustainability Fund (BSF) seeks to address the costs of reducing your carbon footprint through the allocation of money towards student driven initiatives and projects that show demonstrable results in reducing carbon emissions and promoting a more sustainable university. The BSF would be funded through a $7.50 per semester increase in the Student Activity Fee levied upon students and administered by a separate student, faculty and staff run governing board.

While the Brandeis Sustainability Fund would be a huge step towards our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, most importantly it would represent an acknowledgment by students of the role they play in Brandeis’ green house gas emissions.

Non-academic student services such as housing, dining and transportation, are responsible for the majority of total Brandeis emissions (conservative estimates attribute between 30 to 40 percent of emissions to these services). By living on campus we create emissions that the university must reduce. As students we must realize our responsibility for university emissions, and understand that these reductions, while often unseen, are not free.

Although voluntary, the costs of current emission reductions are substantial, and while the university has committed a large amount of resources in capital and labor to this project, it is inevitable that some costs will be born by students.  As with other service fees, such as the Technology Fee and the Health Services Fee, the BSF works to put a price on student services, in this case student emission reductions. Like publicly provided wireless internet, the carbon reductions the university has undertaken cover all undergraduate students equally. While we may not realize it, our personal emissions are being reduced by the university and this fee places a small price on those emissions.

While small, only $15 annually per student, the Brandeis Sustainability Fund is a creative and innovative way to harness student fees toward student driven carbon reducing initiatives.  The BSF enables students to propose projects that do not fit the larger scale investments being currently undertaken by the university, but still result in tangible emissions reductions.  Through the stringent application process, outlined in more detail at, student proposals will be vetted to ensure that student funds are appropriately allocated towards projects with tangible goals.

The world as a whole is moving towards mandatory carbon pricing. Brandeis University has taken the lead in this initiative by voluntarily reducing our emissions and the BSF is one step in that direction. Rather than just buying carbon offsets with proceeds from the fee, the BSF aims to involve students with their own money and in the process create a more sustainable university.

In a few days you will receive an e-mail asking you to vote on the proposed Student Union Constitutional amendments to create the Brandeis Sustainability Fund. While it may not be convenient I urge you to accept responsibility for your impact on this campus and vote yes to create the Brandeis Sustainability Fund.

More information can be found at