In an effort to encourage student-led sustainability initiatives on campus, the University of Wisconsin Office of Sustainability is going to distribute $50,000 through the Green Fund.
According to its website, the Green Fund is a collection of $50,000 designed to support student projects that reduce the environmental footprint and operating costs of on-campus facilities in solid waste, energy or water conservation.
The Green Fund encourages students to initiate projects, control its progress and work in partnership with other large entities on campus.
In 2014, the Associated Students of Madison accepted the Green Fund as part of its budget for the first time, deciding to distribute $80,000 to projects. However, in 2015, after running into legal issues with segregated fee restrictions, ASM revised the rules to help rectify the situation with the university’s legal policies.
This year, Ian Aley, the Green Fund project coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said there should not be issues because the Green Fund will not be funded through segregated fees this year. Segregated fees can’t cover operating costs of the university, so the scope of projects were limited and caused the original legal issue.
Because of the segregated fee limitation, Aley said applicants were previously not able to conduct projects like creating solar panels on campus buildings, new insulation for buildings or using water efficient shower heads.
“There is quite a bit of enthusiasm about doing projects that had a direct impact on carbon emissions, on water usage, solid waste on campus,” Aley said.
Aley said the Green Fund empowers students to engage in a creative process, one that asks them to look at ways the campus could look different and model sustainability.
In previous years, the Green Fund supported projects like Edible Landscapes, which creates plant beds filled with edible plants to raise awareness about environmental issues centered around food and serve as a resource for students who face food insecurity.
With some of the possible projects, Aley said campus buildings could see reductions in energy costs. The goal is to have the possible savings used to support the fund for future years to come.
“Knowing how to work with different entities and build momentum and build a partnership is really key,” Aley said.
Aley said there is also an educational component to the Green Fund because students learn how to draft a grant application as well as how to turn a project idea into a reality.
Aley said the Office of Sustainability wants the Green Fund to be a collaborative process, encouraging people to create teams with different experiences.
“There is value in having a couple different teams that can share experiences and work together,” Aley said.
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Along with the Office of Sustainability, ASM and Facilities Planning and Management will also work on the Green Fund.
The applications for the Green Fund will be reviewed by a board of nine people who will distribute funds to the various projects. Aley said the number of grants given out depends on the amount of money asked for in the group’s proposals. He anticipates at least two groups out of all applicants will receive funding.
As a way to help the interested applicants, the Office of Sustainability plans to host informational sessions — the first one this Friday.
ASM sent out a mass email to all students encouraging them to participate in the information sessions. The email said the fund will officially launch in January 2017 to projects reducing the environmental footprint specifically in residence halls, dining facilities and student unions.
Besides the sessions, Aley encouraged interested students to connect with the Office of Sustainability if interested in learning more about the application process.