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Campus moves forward with Green Revolving Fund

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Solar Power: The installation of of new solar car ports, like the ones shown above from the parking garage, will be the first project to contribute to the Green Revolving Fund. Delaney Brown | The Crow's Nest
Solar Power: The installation  of new solar car ports, like the ones shown above from the parking garage, will be the first project to contribute to the Green Revolving Fund. Delaney Brown | The Crow’s Nest

Future sustainability projects on campus will now find funding, in part, through the Green Revolving Fund.

Signed on Monday, Feb. 6, the Green Revolving Fund would utilize the savings from previous sustainability initiatives to fund new green projects around the university.

The fund was signed into action by the Clean Energy and Resource Conservation Commission (CERCC), an on-campus student-run organization that works with the administration to promote sustainability.

The funding consists of 50 percent of the money saved through sustainability initiatives, like future rooftop solar panels or LED light bulbs. The money will be re-directed into a fund controlled by CERCC to be used for other projects. The remaining half will be returned to the administration as repayment.

Previous sustainability projects received funding through the Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) which is financed by a $1 per credit hour fee paid by students per semester. These fees have been used to pay for initiatives like refitting the parking garage to include LED lighting (Fall 2012), water refill stations in RHO (Fall 2013), and most recently retrofitting the gym to include LED lighting and energy efficient cardio machines (Fall 2016).

With the implementation of the Green Revolving Fund, organizations like SGEF and CERCC will be able to spread the costs of initiatives to lighten the burden, allowing them to tackle more ambitious projects in the future.

The fund will begin with $10,000 to allocate for future projects. Alana Todd, Student Government’s director of sustainable initiatives, said that within the next 2-5 years she hopes the revolving fund will help organizations like CERCC reach the goals outlined in the school’s climate action plan —  a 50 percent reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2035, and carbon neutrality by 2050.

For Todd, this means 600 kilowatts of solar power a day, enough to make the parking garage net-zero six times over, by 2020 and the installation of energy management systems in all buildings to monitor and help eliminate excessive energy use.

Sustainability projects are typically seen as cost-prohibitive, as they typically require more capital up front. LED lightbulbs, for example, cost an average of $8 per bulb while traditional incandescent bulbs only cost about $1. A look at the cost of use, however, shows that though more expensive up front, sustainable options save money in the long run.

It takes $201 to run incandescent bulbs for 23,000 kWh, whereas LED bulbs only require $38. The energy management systems that CERCC wants to install are a classic example of a project whose cost of approximately $100,000 makes it initially off-putting.

However, according to Todd, this system could save the university thousands in just a few years. With the Green Revolving Fund, the hope is that sustainability projects like the energy management system can be pursued without having to ask for loans from the administration and student government who might find initial cost deterrent.

Alexis Ferguson, a member of CERCC, feels very strongly about sustainability at USFSP and the help that the Revolving Fund will provide.

“I believe that in our millennial generation, students at USFSP are in support of the sustainable transition of our campus,” Ferguson said. “The GRF will help us see the monetary value in implementing efficiency products everywhere.”

The USFSP Green Revolving Fund is unique in that it was started completely from scratch with money saved from previous sustainability projects. Though the presence of Green Revolving Funds is becoming more and more common on college campuses across the nation, most receive their initial funding from large endowments.

The USFSP Green Revolving Fund was student driven, with two seniors, Todd and Ferguson, taking the lead and working closely with administrators like Joe Trubacz, the regional vice chancellor of administrative and financial services, to make this fund a possibility.

The students began by drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) using a template they found online to outline their plans for the fund and to create a set of bylaws delineating the intricacies of the fund.

“Administration was super excited to have students that are excited to work on a project,” said Todd.

She said that her experiences working with administration during the process was “warm and welcoming,” and expressed that for administration “the interest of the students is all they care about.”

The implementation of the Green Revolving Fund shows just how much of an impact students can have on sustainability on campus, said Todd.
  
Students can come to CERCC meetings and discuss current and upcoming projects like greenhouses, rooftop aeroponic growing systems, and community outreach programs, or suggest ideas be brought to administration. Students can even suggest ideas for projects to be funded through the Green Revolving Fund; something both Todd and Ferguson hope will happen in the future.

 

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