Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Sustainable projects funding to appear on SU election ballot

A new green initiative called the Student Sustainability Fund is on the ballot for the upcoming Student Union elections. Ellie Cooper, Emily Averna and Rachel Zemke, three sophomores in the College of Arts & Sciences, are the sponsors of the initiative, which seeks to dole out $11,900 each year for the next two years to students seeking funding for their projects dedicated to inspiring sustainability on campus.

Zemke, Cooper and Averna originally collaborated for the creation of a rotating loan system for students promoting projects for sustainability on campus. They discussed the option with several University officials, including Liz Kramer, a fellow in the office of the executive vice chancellor for administration, and senior Jeff Nelson, the student body president. After lengthily deliberations, they concluded that a rotating fund at Washington University would not be practical and that a green fund would be the most viable option.

The fund would be supported through block funding and serve as money that undergraduate students can apply for if they have an idea to support sustainability on campus.

“[The green ideas] could include bringing a speaker to talk about renewable resources on campus, to actually changing infrastructure, putting stickers on light switches, trying to see if we could use rainwater for irrigation on campus,” Zemke said.

Once a student fills out the paperwork to receive the fund, a committee of four students, two faculty members, someone from the administration and a member of the facilities staff will review the application. They will provide feedback and the opportunity for the applicants to modify their application based on recommendations.

“If there was something they thought could be better on the application, they would say, ‘Hey, this looks great, but it could be better,’” Zemke said. “There is an opportunity for this to be a process, but we want to make sure that these projects are effective and feasible. The best way to do that is to make it an ongoing process.”

One of the committee members would serve as a project mentor for the student’s work, serving as a portal to the outside community and as a sounding board for ideas.

Zemke added that the process of starting the initiative was surprisingly easy. Zemke enjoyed working with campus administrators.

“We talked to a lot of people who said, ‘That sounds really cool!’” Zemke said. “People seemed really interested.”

Zemke, Cooper and Averna worked with Green Action, the Burning Kumquat and other sustainability groups on campus that had a range of ideas on how to use the funds, including the planting native plants and building a new green roof on campus.

“I think that the nice thing about this fund is that it wouldn’t just be for environmental studies majors—it would be architecture, engineering or even business students looking at sustainability,” Zemke said. “Wash. U. students have this amazing capacity to do a lot of work on some pretty amazing things. When you think about the things that go on, on campus, I think that can really be showcased and put into practice with this fund, and, more importantly, I think it’s a way to be aware of the responsibility of how we use our resources.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878