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UT needs a green fund

On November 27, 2011

The University of Toledo is on a path towards a sustainable future judging from its plans to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2014. UT has done okay so far, but I want to see more engagement from the students. I would love to see more energy efficient buildings and renewable energy come to Main Campus to transform it into a living laboratory.

UT is already dedicated to sustainability; I want there to be resources for student-driven initiatives. I advocate the creation of a student-controlled fund for creative sustainability initiatives on campus, named The Green Initiative Fund.

The student-majority green fund committee would be able to fund projects that benefit students and the environment. Some students have spoken to me about increasing access to recycling and composting on campus. The recent bike lockers on campus are an example of something TGIF could work with.

Bowling Green State University is one of many universities that have already created sustainability funds and are working to go green. The Ohio State University is working towards zero waste for every home football game. A conservation program called UTakeCharge at the University of Texas at Austin has revamped lighting, water and steam systems to save the campus thousands of dollars. Keeping the operating costs of our university down could reduce pressure to increase tuition rates.

TGIF committee would be staffed by students and advised by faculty; they can use organizations like the Student Advisory Committee, a group that allocates special request funding to student organizations, as a model. We already have countless professors directly working on green research and initiatives, and the committee will be able to link students to existing green opportunities and provide guidance on new ones.

A green fund would give students an opportunity to gain experience for the next industrial revolution. The Midwest has been dealing with economic troubles long before the latest recession, but Ohio's economic future can be saved by green technology. Ohio is second only to Iowa in manufacturing for the wind industry. An example of our state's presence in the renewable energy industry is First Solar, a company with its first factory in Ohio and one of America's largest photovoltaic manufacturers.

TGIF would help elevate UT's sagging reputation as a university committed to sustainability. UT received a "C" rating on the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card and an "F" for shareholder engagement. TGFI must include multiple shareholders like students, faculty and alumni to be effective.

I'm proposing a new student fee of just $10 to create TGIF; this is just 0.1 percent of the current tuition rate. Don't forget, this isn't about taking student money, it's about putting money in students' hands.

- Braeden Gilchrist is an IC Columnist and a senior majoring in mechnical engineering.

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