Students pay to go green
Students at seven University of California campuses have voted to charge themselves extra fees, usually less than $10 apiece each quarter or semester, to create initiatives that support sustainability practices.
“Students realize that being sustainable is the way of the future, they know it’s kind of inescapable and they know this is the right way to go,” said Kevin Schlunegger, sustainability commissioner of the Associated Students of UC Irvine. “We have no other alternative but to be green in the 21st century.”
The Green Initiative Funds (TGIF) at five UC campuses give grants to programs originated by students, staff or faculty that promote such practices as energy efficiency and water conservation or provide educational outreach about sustainability. The funds have distributed about $3 million in grants since the first such program was approved at UC Santa Barbara in 2006.
Even as costs for tuition rise at many universities, students are willing to pay to support sustainability fees because making their campuses green is a priority, said Niles Barnes, projects coordinator for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“Students see that they can help to make changes happen on a large scale,” Barnes said, noting that while many of the fees are small, “add it up, and it’s a fairly large amount of money, and students can have input in how it’s spent.”
At UC Berkeley, for example, about $250,000 a year in TGIF money is available; more than $950,000 has been given out since the first grants were awarded in 2008, the most of any UC with a TGIF.
One grantee is the volunteer effort to restore the natural habitat along Strawberry Creek, which runs through the Berkeley campus. It has received two TGIF grants for a native plant nursery and the hiring of student leadership coordinators to organize volunteers