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Student Green Energy Fund seeks student approval

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Power Pedaling: One of SGEF's recent accomplishments was adding power-generating cycling equipment to the gym in the SLC. Courtesy of Student Green Energy Fund
Power Pedaling: One of SGEF’s recent accomplishments was adding power-generating cycling equipment to the gym in the SLC. Courtesy of Student Green Energy Fund

Starting Monday, students will have the chance to vote on whether or not they would like to renew the Student Green Energy Fund.

SGEF is a fund that is “used to assist the university in reducing energy costs through conservation, promoting power generation using clean, renewable energy technologies and lowering greenhouse gas emissions” according to its bylaws. It must be re-approved every three years.

The financing of these sustainable initiatives is assessed through a $1 per credit hour fee administered on student tuition. A cost of about $12 for a full-time student, depending on a number of courses taken.

The referendum will last until Thursday, March 2 and can be voted on either at The Reef or online through Petesync. The Tampa campus will simultaneously be voting on its own chapter of SGEF.

Lexi Ferguson, 22, is a senior who is studying environmental science and policy. She is also the chair of SGEF. She hopes the renewals will allow students to buy into more energy efficient projects.

“We have high hopes for the next three years,” she told The Crow’s Nest.

According to Ferguson, each project is proposed by a student, faculty member or staff and must meet one of the following criteria before being voted on: it either must reduce carbon emissions, reduce energy cost or reduce waste.

SGEF, Ferguson insists, is primarily a student-driven initiative.

“We really encourage students to come in and voice their opinions on projects. It is their money and we definitely want student input,” she said.

If you’ve noticed the new recycling bins all around campus, then you’ve seen the finished product of an SGEF proposal.

Other successful projects include the solar charging stations by the bayfront, LED gym lights, water bottle refill stations and lab recyclable gloves for science classes.

Ferguson explained that the fund is essential in USFSP meeting the terms of its Climate Action Plan. The plan was adopted back in December with the key goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

Alana Todd, Student Government’s director of sustainable initiatives, is a senior who is double-majoring in environmental studies and anthropology. She is the chair of the Clean Energy and Resource Conservation Commission and a voting member of SGEF.

For Todd, the most exciting thing about sustainability on this campus is its future.

“You really feel like you’re making a difference. That’s so attractive — students want to feel that way, they want to feel like they’re making an impact on their campus,” she said.

One potential point of impact will be the new tower garden, a six-foot-tall aeroponic growing tower that will grace the University Student Center next to the staircases. Todd aims to have the project up either this semester or during the summer but admits that the timetable for installation is still up in the air.

While not yet approved, other potential projects that will soon be up for vote include the renovation and expansion of the bike share program as well as the addition of more water bottle refill stations.

A 40-kilowatt solar array will also be unveiled when the new Poynter Biology Labs open and will account for 13 percent of the building’s energy.

“Our school is so small. These opportunities are plentiful and our sustainability is unique,” she said. “It’s pretty unheard of at other campuses. From all the conferences that I’ve been to — they’re amazed that our head of facilities is coming to our student meetings.”

Not everyone is a fan of SGEF.

Alex Johnson, a graduate student in criminology at the Tampa campus who did part of his undergrad here at USFSP, thinks the money should be collected and distributed differently.

“I think it should just be mixed into the activities & service fee so more could be done with the money,” he said. “If SGEF was eliminated then we could actually put the heat on student government to put their money where their mouth is for green awareness.”

Arissa Shimabuku and Kennah Christie didn’t realize that there was any sort of vote going on Monday. Siera Anderson, a sophomore psychology major, remembered seeing something about the student government elections on Facebook.

But when they learned that SGEF’s renewal was at stake, all three friends agreed that they’d be voting in favor of the fund.

“I’m already like thousands of dollars in debt anyways, so what’s a dollar? There are so many student fees, it’s just a dollar and there are so many benefits from it,” Christie said.

When asked what they think about some of the sustainability projects on campus, they were quick to praise the water bottle refill stations on campus but noted that they’d like to see more of them.

Christie also mentioned that the residence halls in the USC could use the recycling bins that the rest of the campus are privy to.

In order for SGEF to continue, it must receive at least 51 percent “yes” votes. The last referendum was held in 2014, where it passed by 89.4 percent.

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