Several Utah State University students are working to establish a new student “green” fee, the Blue Goes Green Fee, to help develop a sustainability office on campus.
“The new office would benefit students by providing on-campus student employment opportunities and grant funding,” said John Rentschler, a senior majoring in conservation and restoration ecology and the student leading the fee proposal. “The revolving grant-loan fund would be used to help students attend sustainability-themed conferences and programs and provide funding for students pursuing sustainability-themed projects. Additionally, the office would help strengthen USU’s biking, recycling and composting efforts and help find ways to reduce energy costs and develop ways to incorporate sustainability into the curriculum.”
The team put together a short, five-question survey in an effort to better understand students’ feelings about a green fee and about current sustainability efforts on campus.
“In order for USU to grow into a more sustainable campus, we all have to believe in the cause,” Rentschler said. “This survey gives students a chance to communicate their awareness about sustainability and tell us how much they are willing to pay for a green fee.”
The proposed fee would help develop an office of sustainability at Utah State. This is becoming common on campuses across the nation, Rentschler said. In the state, the University of Utah, Weber State University and Westminster College already have sustainability offices.
USU currently has a sustainability council that was formed in 2007 after President Stan Albrecht was the first in Utah to sign the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a document that holds the university responsible for developing a plan to work toward climate neutrality. The council consists entirely of volunteer faculty, staff and students. The new office would employ a full-time sustainability program coordinator and several student interns.
“The council has accomplished a lot during the last few years,” said Rentschler, who joined the student sustainability council in 2009. “But without full-time, paid employees, it won’t be able to take USU to the level mandated by the Presidents’ Climate Commitment.”
The survey developed as part of a project Rentschler and other students conducted in a natural resources class taught by Adam Beh. The project allowed students to choose any natural resources topic and then conduct research, identify and contact stakeholders, display data, etc.
“I have always been passionate about sustainability and want to find ways for USU to improve in that area,” Rentschler said. “When I was given this assignment, it was the perfect way for me to pursue the development of a green fee. With just a small investment, students can work together to create a campus that is more environmentally friendly and that creates internship and grant opportunities for students.”
The survey is open to all USU students is available online.