EAO launches campaign for sustainable investment fund

It turns out $5 can go a long way.
The Environmental Awareness Organization is spearheading a campaign to add a sustainable investment fund to the University. The proposed fund would be the result of a $5 fee added to tuition each semester and would be used to fund projects related to sustainability on campus.
"So the goal is it's a student-controlled, student-funded program for green investment on campus," said Daniel Martinez, junior in materials engineering and physics and EAO vice president.
The project comes as part of a collaboration with a statewide initiative called the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment, or CASE, which unites Alabama college campuses in sustainable projects. Currently, UA, UAH, UAB and Auburn are each involved in efforts to add sustainable investment funds to their campuses, while Montevallo has already succeeded in establishing such a fund.
"Each investment fund will be unique to its campus," Martinez said. "Each one will be different, but the idea is between all of them basically to have a million dollars going toward the green project among all the campuses."
According to Martinez, some campuses will have larger green funds than others, depending on the total number of enrolled students. The Auburn EAO is proposing a $5 fee per student each semester, which, when distributed among approximately 25,000 students, would add up to about $125,000 per semester.
The EAO is in the process of completing a proposal for the fund, which will outline details for the creation of a committee to manage the fund and rules for the submission of project proposals. Currently, the vision is a committee composed of mostly students with a faculty chairperson. The committee would be in charge of reviewing and approving proposals for sustainable projects around campus.
"So students and faculty and staff are all allowed to propose whatever project, and it goes to committee, they discuss it," Martinez said. "And you have to have a budget, you have to have a sponsor, you have to have the cooperating, interested parties already informed and aware and accepting of cooperation. So you don't just come with an idea; you come with a plan."
Martinez said Montevallo has already used its sustainable investment fund to sponsor a bike-sharing program on campus. Other examples of sustainable projects that could be made possible by the fund include campus-wide composting or community gardens.
Although the proposal has not received University approval, the EAO has already contacted the Office of Sustainability in search of support.
According to Mike Kensler, director of campus sustainability operations, the Office of Sustainability will not be involved in the advocating of the fund in order to preserve the campaign's student-run approach. However, Kensler said the Office was able to offer some advice about seeking University approval.
"We just raised those types of questions about timing and process to make sure that the timing was right, whatever they determined that to be, and that the process was good in making sure that the campus was fully informed about it and could make an informed decision," Kensler said.
Kensler said if the fee is approved in the future, it is possible the Office could become involved in a supportive way.
"Of course we support any and all activities to help us become sustainable," Kensler said.
The EAO is also planning to garner student support by distributing a petition in favor of the fund.
"We haven't been told by administration that we need to come to them with a petition yet, but we feel to be armed with a petition will be beneficial," said Stephanie Ard, senior in hotel and restaurant management and EAO president.
The EAO will begin petitioning on Saturday, Feb. 2. Other student organizations, including the Conservation Biology Society and the Real Food Challenge, have expressed their support for the program and may assist in promoting the project in the future, according to Martinez.
Interested students may attend the EAO's next meeting Monday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. in Student Center 2218.

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