It started as a message on each student’s statement of account, an optional addition of $5 to fall tuition.
Individually, $5 would cover the cost of a single morning’s Starbucks or one draft beer at a local bar.
But used cohesively, that money will lead to something larger – sustainability-based action on the Gonzaga campus, allocated and put to use by a committee of students and staff. The money compiled from this semester’s optional fee became the Green Fund.
In an email distributed to the entire student body in early September, GSBA President Conner House said that the fund would finance “student-led projects directed toward improving sustainability in operation of the Gonzaga campus.”
The execution of this project, as described by House, is managed by a board of volunteers.
“The students will oversee the fund along with the GSBA treasurer, members of the GSBA Senate and the Director of Sustainability while allocating funds to students interested in implementing sustainability efforts around campus,” he said.
House was flooded with student interest to volunteer, and an interview process was formed to select the volunteer board.
Director of Sustainability Jim Simon, GSBA Treasurer Caitlin Grant and House conducted the interviews, and selected students at the end of last week. Grant said they looked for passion that would drive their sustainability goals into action.
“I’ve always considered myself semi eco-friendly, but it’s always been a personal thing … I’ve never gotten involved in my community or worked with others to try to make Gonzaga more environmentally friendly,” said senior Hania Burrows. “That’s why I got involved – to take it from a personal level to a community level.”
In her application and interview, Burrows provided information about the areas of improvement she would focus on.
“I looked to our Climate Action Plan and found that the most energy we use is from electricity,” Burrows said. “I said I would focus on ways to conserve that.”
Three undergraduates were chosen last week, including Burrows. The others are Alexis VanDrey and Venezia Hyland, both freshmen.
“Though there are still some positions to fill on the committee, we are very happy with the group so far,” Grant said.
A graduate student and two GSBA senators will work alongside the three undergraduate volunteers. There are several non-voting committee members: a faculty representative (from the Advisory Council for Stewardship and Sustainability), a member of GEO, the GSBA treasurer for budget purposes and the Director of Sustainability as the committee’s adviser.
The interaction between the university and student sustainability efforts is a lasting conversation. Several developing improvements have occurred in recent years.
“The initial idea for the Gonzaga Green Fund was in 2011 as sustainability funds became increasingly popular on other college campuses,” Grant said. “The Green Fund was essentially the student response to the (Climate Action Plan).”
The Climate Action Plan (CAP) was signed into action by President McCulloh in January of last year. It focuses on various areas in which the university can improve to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
Past sustainability efforts include the eradication of selling plastic water bottles, the effort to replace Styrofoam in take-away dining, and the mass composting executed by Sodexo and Plant Services. GU invited Zip Cars onto campus to encourage eco-friendly transportation.
In 2012, GU won an Outstanding Recyclers Award from the Washington State Recycling Association for cutting out roughly 25 percent of its garbage through recycling, composting and reducing efforts.
The direction that the Green Fund will take is up in the air. A portion is used to pay Simon’s position, which was just created this academic year.
“From environmental awareness events such as guest lecturers to engineering senior projects, there are just so many possibilities,” Grant said.
The committee will meet for the first time Oct. 15.