Seeing Green? Events go sustainable

| News Editor

The trend of the year has been the push for sustainability. In a culmination of that effort, outgoing Student Body President Jeff Nelson, along with Will Fischer, the Student Union executive adviser for sustainable events, proposed the new Protocol for Green Events.

Next Tuesday, SU Treasury will vote to decide whether or not to put the Protocol for Green Events into action. It is expected to pass.

The Protocol outlines a system of incentives to motivate student groups to host environmentally friendly events.

“The overall goal is to incentivize these actions by student groups and reward those student groups who make their events more sustainable,” Fischer said.

After interviewing multiple student groups, especially large ones like Dance Marathon, Team 31 and Ashoka, Nelson and Fischer came up with the final protocol.

“We wanted structure that was transparent and open,” Nelson said.

Fischer shared Nelson’s sentiments.

“We saw the need, we saw the interest, and Jeff Nelson provided us with the legislative backing and SU capital to make it happen,” Fischer said.

It calls for ways to make campus events more environmentally sustainable. Every time a student group takes a sanctioned action at an event, such as using reusable plates, donating leftover food or publicizing without paper (to name a few), they are awarded a certain number of credits. Credits are awarded on a weighted basis; encouraging attendees to bring reusable water bottles is worth one credit, while renting a root beer or soda keg is worth three.

The protocol takes into account the difficulty of organizing large-scale events. Depending on attendance at each event, the Green Event Commission will use a credit multiplier. The more a student group has in attendance, the greater the multiplier.

Student groups can collect these credits and then exchange them for rebates. Rewards range from advertisements on the SU bulletin board, space on the Underpass and e-mail advertisements to financial rewards in SU operating accounts.

The Green Events Commission, which was permanently added to the SU constitution two weeks ago, will review each group’s events to award the credits and multiplier.

The Protocol would also give SU structure and a process to give away advertizing space. In the past, groups just requested space in passing, which was usually awarded.

Even though the credit multiplier benefits groups with large events, Nelson thinks that small groups would really benefit from the new system as well. It would give them access to venues and publicity on a scale they normally wouldn’t have access to.

Nelson said that he believes that the purpose of the protocol could continue on even after current SU officers have graduated.

This green protocol is the first of its kind at a university.

“No school has created a system to award groups with money, with resources, for implementing sustainable measures at their events, so this is historic,” Nelson said. “I think a lot of schools will want to look at this and copy it in some ways.”

Nelson does expect many of the rewards to eventually change over time. He hopes that they can reflect more input from student groups.

Fischer noted that the initiative would ensure that student activity money was spent wisely.

“Student Union has over $2.3 million, and that’s an incredible amount of money,” he said. “We have so much money going out to student groups. How can we make sure that it’s spent in a more responsible manner?”

According to Fischer, Wash. U. is among a couple of schools pushing for green events.

“We’re pioneering this,” he said. “We’re providing an opportunity for students to act more sustainably.”

With additional reporting by Alan Liu

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