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Green for green: Student fees may be increased to fund campus sustainability efforts

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A member of the Campus Sustainability Fund solicits fellow students for signatures on a petition to show support for a sustainable cafeteria in the new Services and Activities fee budget.

UW students may soon have to give up more green to university fees in exchange for a greener campus.

The quarterly Services and Activities Fee (SAF) may be increased in order to provide revenue for a proposal called the Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF), which will finance student-led projects that increase the university’s sustainability and reduce its environmental impact.

A group of nine student leaders from various environmental groups on campus formulated the CSF proposal with the intention not only to address sustainability concerns, but also to engage more students in creating solutions.

“Climate change and environmental sustainability are some of the most important challenges facing our generation,” said Alan Wright, member of the CSF working group. “If we’re going to resolve them, we need to work together in small communities, like the UW students, to implement local solutions.”

This quarter, the CSF working group will be requesting an annual budget of $685,000 from the SAF committee. If the budget is approved without fund reallocation, this amount could correspond to about a $5 increase in the individual SAF per quarter, which is a 4.4 percent increase from the current $113 fee.

It would become the largest sustainability fund in the state, according to a CSF proposal to the ASUW board of directors.

Ruth Johnston, associate vice president for Strategy Management and responsible for the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Office, expressed her support for the CSF proposal but recognized the challenge of increasing costs for students.

“[The SAF committee] will have to decide how much money to provide for the fund, and whether or not they want to propose raising the SAF fees to cover it,” she wrote in an e-mail. “With the UW likely facing budget cuts again and not knowing how that might impact tuition rates, students may be cautious about incurring any additional costs.”

The CSF working group has already heard some creative project ideas from students and groups, member Justin Hellier wrote in an e-mail. Some ideas include expansion and development of the UW student farm, construction of a student-run local organic food cafe and co-op on campus, and covering the UW towers in red square with solar panels, he wrote.

The CSF working group will meet with the SAF committee by mid-quarter, and a final budget will be proposed at the end of winter quarter. If the budget proposal is approved by the SAF committee, the quarterly fee may be increased by fall 2010.

At this juncture, the working group is in the planning stages for launching an awareness campaign both to inform the campus and gain support from the student body, Wright wrote.

The CSF proposal has already received official, signed letters of support from several student organizations, including the Green Coalition, Students Expressing Environmental Dedication, WashPIRG, the Sierra Student Coalition, and the Earth Club.

“The CSF’s long-term success is dependent on student support and involvement with the fund,” Wright wrote. “So, although the proposal is all but complete, we have a lot of work to do to raise student awareness and support on campus.”

Today, the CSF working group will be holding a public forum in HUB 200AB from 4 to 5 p.m.

Reach reporter Joanna Nolasco at news@dailyuw.com.

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