The student-funded Green Energy Fee Grant Program is now the Sustainable Action Fund Grant Program. The change, proposed and approved by students during the 2015 Associated Students Elections, continues the innovative legacy of the Green Energy Fee and supports a broad definition of sustainability and student development.
The Sustainable Action Fund is managed by the Office of Sustainability with oversight by the AS and a committee of students, faculty, and staff. The program was originally established by students as the Green Energy Fee in 2005 to purchase 100-percent renewable energy for Western. In 2010, the program was restructured to add a $300,000 grant program that funds innovative student-led sustainability projects in addition to buying 100-percent renewable energy.
Seth Vidaña, campus sustainability manager, says the SAF allows for great ideas to become living projects.
“The student, staff, and faculty who are impacted by the projects are able to experience examples of sustainability that we hope take hold in the greater world,” he said.
Since 2010, more than 20 student-led projects have been funded, contributing to Western’s overall sustainability and providing student team members with valuable professional experience.
The program was set to expire this year unless re-approved by students, so a group of students led by Students for Renewable Energy Vice-President Emily Blessington (Environmental Policy,'16) and former AS Vice President for Student Life Zach Dugovich (Political Science/Public Relations '15) formed to campaign in support of the program.
The result was an 86-percent approval rating, new features to the program and a new name that students thought fit the description of the program better, Blessington said.
“The response from students was awesome,” Blessington said. “The students that helped contribute to the reauthorization campaign were passionate about environmental issues and willing to help whenever asked.”
Emma Palumbo, AS VP for Student Life and chair of the Sustainable Action Fund Committee, is excited that students overwhelmingly voted to keep the program going, and wants to increase the number of students who know, and use, the SAF to promote campus sustainability.
“The SAF is funded exclusively by student fees, and it is for students to use and to benefit from,” Palumbo said. “This fund is healthy, and we really want it to be used.”
Programmatic funding is provided through a student fee that is charged on a per-credit basis. The fee level for the next term of the program (fall 2015 to summer 2018) is currently set at $0.70 per academic credit, not to exceed $7 per quarter.
Currently, a taskforce of students, faculty and staff led by Palumbo is considering the changes proposed to the program. These changes include expanding the purchase of renewable energy, funding student leadership positions, and increasing employment opportunities funded by the program. The grant program will remain unchanged, continuing to provide $300,000 for student-led sustainability projects.
More details on the program, including how and when to apply for grants, can be found on the Sustainable Action Fund website at wwu.edu/saf.