Why our campus needs a revolving loan fund

Ellie Cooper and Rachel Zemke | Op-Ed Submission

What is a revolving loan fund?

A revolving loan fund (RLF) is managed by a committee of students, faculty and administrators and is used to finance student-led sustainability projects on campus. The fund can be used for projects ranging from replacing regular lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to energy audits to water monitors to green education initiatives. Students submit proposals to the committee, which then decides what projects to fund based on the largest return on investment measured in monetary profit, educational potential for the campus, or positive environmental impact. RLFs are funded in several ways: some by donations, some by the administration, some by student government and some by student green fees. These last two options are most compatible with Washington University’s structure and sustainability needs. The principal benefit of combining these two strategies is that together they provide a steady source of income to the fund independent of RLF projects’ profits, meaning that the committee is not constrained to projects that will provide a monetary return on investment.

What is a green fee?

A green fee is a fee that campuses across the country, including Emory, Harvard and University of Florida, have implemented to support sustainability initiatives on campus. They provide an autonomous source of funding for projects that benefit the student body, the school’s image and the planet. A green fee at Washington University would cost each student $10 a semester and generate about $124,000 a year for sustainability projects on campus.

Why do we need an RLF on campus?

Washington University continues to implement sustainability programs on campus, evident in the new biodiesel delivery and the reusable food container programs. Student Union has established a Green Events Commission charged with making all events on campus more eco-friendly, while the University has created a sustainability office to investigate how the University can be more sustainable. Yet there is no way for students to research and realize their own sustainability initiatives, especially when those initiatives have little monetary return. The RLF committee would help provide the sustainability education much needed on campus, but more importantly, it would provide an outlet for students to carry out ideas in promoting sustainability on campus.

Ellis is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at ercooper@wustl.edu.

Rachel is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at rezemke@artsci.wustl.edu.