Sandwiched between the many different fees listed on a student’s account summary is a $3 charge called the Green Fee. The money began accumulating in spring 2013. About $36,000 is generated each semester. Students can tap this fund if they come up with ideas about how to make UAA a greener campus.
Former UAA students Mallory Givens and Kent Spiers came up with the concept in 2010 while working in the UAA Office of Sustainability. USUAA student government soon after began writing legislation to bring the concept to a vote.
In November 2011 a referendum establishing the Green Fee appeared on the student general election ballot. The Green Fee was established with 318 votes counted and 167 in favor. In spring 2012 a student general election established a seven-member Green Fee Board.
According to the USUAA Constitution, “The purpose of the Green Fee Board will be to promote sustainability efforts on the UAA campus through student-led initiatives that are defined as environmentally wise, economically sound, and socially responsible.”
In spring 2013 all students enrolled in three or more credits were charged the $3 fee, and the Green Fee Board began accepting student project proposals. The proposal guidelines are rigorous and similar to a typical grant application. Proposals are required to have at least one UAA faculty or staff adviser. Supporting documentation must back detailed budgets, and all projects are required to give a presentation of their proposal to the Green Fee Board.
The Green Fee Board has since received two proposals and voted to approve one. The first project to utilize the fee will be a bike share project proposed by junior and former USUAA senator Max Bullock. The bike share aims to lower the amount of vehicular use on campus by providing bicycles as alternative means of getting around. The project, which received $22,000 in funding, is bringing 50 new bicycles to UAA and will begin operations this fall.
“Considering how long it takes to get the word out to students, I think that the Green Fee is doing well to have had two applications in the first semester,” UAA Sustainability Director Paula Williams said.
UAA hopes to get the word out through the Green Fee website at www.uaa.alaska.edu/greenfee. The official Green Fee Facebook page has 36 “likes.” In spring 2013 Green Fee Board chair Oliver Petraitis and Green Fee administrative assistant Whitney Lowell polled a limited a number of students and found about half had heard about the Green Fee. They also found that when questioned, fewer than half had ideas about how to make UAA a more sustainable campus.
“The real challenge is getting people to think about that stuff,” Bullock said.
In 2009 UAF began requiring all students pay a $20 fee called the Student Initiative for Renewable Energy Now fee. The SIREN fee brings in about $250,000 each year. According to the UAF Office of Sustainability, the UAF Chancellor matches whatever amount the fee generates each year. SIREN has since received over 60 project proposals.
In spring 2011 UAF began its Green Bikes program that provides 100 bicycles to students for a nominal rental fee and continues to receive funding from SIREN. Other SIREN projects include an electric shuttle bus, on-campus vegetable gardens and a live-in sustainable housing project called the UAF Sustainable Village.
UAA Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Bill Spindle pledged that the university will supplement Green Fee approved projects where Green Fee funding is inadequate.
For more information about student sustainability initiatives, visit the Green Fee Facebook page at www.facebook.com/uaagreenfee.