For this spring’s campus-wide elections, students must decide whether or not to support The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), the campaign for which involves neither tasty eateries nor the ABC network’s old Friday night lineup.
If passed, TGIF will be used to purchase alternative sources of energy, as well as energy and water efficient appliances or systems on campus. The initiative proposes a lock-in fee of $4 per undergraduate and graduate student per quarter, including Summer Sessions.
Campus Sustainability Coordinator Katie Maynard said the lock-in, while requesting a small amount right now, will save students more money in the long run.
“[TGIF] focuses on environmental sustainability: It will be there to allow us the funding to work on energy and water efficiency on campus,” Maynard said. “These steps will help prevent future increases in tuition, and help lessen the environmental impact of the university. Funding is one of the biggest barriers that we are up against right now.”
Although UCSB has already committed itself to buying more sustainable appliances for its buildings, such as waterless urinals, the funding available for such projects is inadequate, Maynard said. She said UCSB gave roughly $70,000 to $80,000 to sustainability projects in the fall, which was used to pay for consultant groups Brightworks and Glumac.
“Brightworks and Glumac brought 79 people from all different areas of campus together in a room to come together and get a consistent idea of what we are trying to accomplish, and motivated all of them to start to look at sustainability within their own department,” Maynard said.
Maynard said UCSB has begun implementing short-term goals, such as purchasing more energy efficient appliances, but has a while to go before updating all buildings to the highest energy efficient standards.
“The university [gave] some money to it already, but this will require quite a bit of start-up money,” Maynard said. “All these changes are happening because we haven’t been building in an environmentally friendly way for a long time, so even the amount of money that the university is paying now will only pay for a fraction. We hope that student funding will encourage the university to match it.”
TGIF supporters collected 15 percent of undergraduates’ signatures, as well as 15 percent of graduate students’ signatures, to place the proposal on the spring campus-wide ballot, said Logan Green, a fifth-year business economics major and petition-drive coordinator.
“A lot of people worked on this,” Green said. “It is a broad-based group of undergrads and graduate students who care about the environment.”
If passed, $2.67 of the $4 lock-in would go toward the purchase of energy and water efficient appliances or alternative energy providers like solar panels. Green said a panel of five students, one staff and one faculty member will decide what projects receive funding.
Meanwhile, $1.33 of the lock-in would go to “return-to-aid,” which subsidizes financial aid students’ lock-in fees.
Financial aid students previously received return-to-aid funds for both their UC-wide fees and UCSB campus-based fees from the pooling of funds from all UC campuses, but this year UCSB must pay for its own return-to-aid for lock-in fees, as per a new UC Office of the President policy. All new lock-in fees and lock-in fees being reaffirmed will include a surcharge.
Although UCSB students already pay $852 in campus-based lock-in fees – second in the UC system to the approximately $1,300 UC Davis students pay – Green said students should not look at TGIF as an additional expense, but rather as an investment in keeping other fees low.
“This helps insulate the university from any shock associated with increasing energy costs,” Green said. “We also want our first projects to be the UCen and the Rec Cen, which are buildings that students pay the bills for. We want to cut down on operating costs over there so it will have a very direct effect on students.”
Maynard said students will need to exercise patience as they wait for some of the sustainable purchases to pay for themselves and start saving the campus a considerable sum of money.
“The payback time on a waterless urinal is seven years, maybe less; a solar panel has a payback period of 25 years,” Maynard said.
She said she hopes to see a good student turnout in favor of the initiative at the polls in April.
“When students decide to pay for something, it really means a lot to the university,” Maynard said. “We are hoping to get matching funds and use them to leverage funding from private donors and alumni.”