A coalition of green student groups has garnered support from student government to create a loan fund for sustainable development at the University of Minnesota.
During forum Tuesday, the Minnesota Student Association considered a resolution in favor of the Sustainable Legacy Fund, which would provide money for green projects with the potential to save the University thousands of dollars –– but would have students paying the startup costs.
There were not enough members present to vote on the resolution.
The Sustainable Legacy Coalition is an umbrella group that combines the efforts of student groups including the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, EcoWatch and Campus Beyond Coal. Its goal is to reach climate neutrality on campus by 2050.
The University of Minnesota made a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 when President Bob Bruininks signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in January 2008.
The coalition argues that environmental goals can be met by establishing a fund for projects. The Sustainable Legacy Fund was introduced at the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly meeting March 23 and will likely be an action item on their agenda for April. The Student Senate will also hear from the coalition during its meeting Thursday.
According to the plans outlined by the Sustainable Legacy Coalition, students will pay the startup costs for the fund via a $10 per semester fee. Since preferred projects will save the University money over time, a portion of the savings will be redistributed into the fund, and the fee will eventually be phased out, though the timeline is uncertain.
Christy Newell, a representative from the coalition and EcoWatch, said they closely followed the UIUC model. Illinois is one of 80 schools that have established a similar fund, including the University of Minnesota-Crookston.
The fund would be used to finance projects developed by students and faculty. According to the coalition’s requirements for proposals, at least one student and one faculty member must work together to create a proposal.
Projects would range from smaller changes, like compact fluorescent light bulbs in all buildings or upgrading laboratory fume hoods, to more costly investments, such as installing solar panels.
Preference will be given to projects that meet the University’s Climate Action Plan goals, greatly reduce the University’s environmental impact and generate savings to repay the fund.
Under the proposal, students would have a great deal of oversight in the projects that received money from the fund. A committee of eight students, five faculty members, a University landcare and Facilities Management staff member and a University sustainability coordinator will determine which proposals receive funding.
“The Sustainable Legacy Fund is a tool that will foster innovation at the University,” Jason Bender, an aerospace engineering and mechanics student who spoke in favor of the fund, said.
For Bender, the fund is necessary because it will provide crucial financial backing for scientists, engineers and researchers at the University to “modernize our school’s energy infrastructure.”
During GAPSA’s March 23 hearing of the fund proposal, Bree Dalager, a representative from GAPSA, expressed concern that the Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow had not be contacted to become part of the coalition, although they have an environmental focus.