New student fee for green projects

By Elizabeth Ballinger
A new fee will be added to registration costs beginning winter quarter, creating a pool of money for students to turn their campus green. The Student Environmental Sustainability Fee (SESF) will fund student and club initiated proposals for projects to increase renewable energy sources, reduce waste, and increase use of recycled and non-toxic materials on campus. “A solar-powered coffee stand, a green-roof showcase, on-campus composting, student P-patch, or even an electric BCC bus” are some of the ideas Lauren Dewitt, a former BCC student who worked on developing the fee before transferring to Western Washington University, said could be candidates for the SESF. “It all depends how well the campus community can work together to initiate these projects,” said DeWitt. Posters, surveys, forums, and plasma ads will advertise the program to solicit students to come forward with ideas. Campus efforts to go green have increased in recent years. In 2007, President Jean Floten signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment and began an energy audit of the campus. An Environemtal Advisory Committee was established last year. The SESF fee was approved this spring. An SESF Oversight Committee will be appointed by the Associated Student Government (ASG) to review and vote on project proposals. Rob Viens, advisor to the Student Science Association (SSA) whose Energy Action Team has led development of the fee, said the committee will be made up of a student majority. Faculty members will also serve on the committee to work as a liason between campus operations, administration, and the students, and to help assess the viability of ideas. Some ideas may not be as easy as estimated, said Laurel LaFever, director of Campus Operations. Solar panels, for example, couldn’t be used on several campus roofs because the buildings couldn’t hold the weight. Wind power for energy is unlikely because of irregular wind patterns in the area. Architects and other experts would be needed to determine if infrastructure projects are possible and cost-effective. “A lot of green ideas sound great, but making them operational is much more difficult,” said LaFever. Buying renewable energy for the campus through the Puget Sound’s “Green Power Program,” said DeWitt, might be an option for the SESF. Currently, the R-building is heated with geothermal energy, and renovations may allow this or similar technologies to be used in other buildings. The cost for some projects may be more than the fee can cover. A hike in fees to fund larger projects, said Brita Norvold, president of the SSA, would be voted on by the whole campus. “It’s like taxes,” said Laura Mustello, a first-year BCC student, who said she didn’t mind paying the fee. “How are we going to get anywhere without it?” Mustello said she hopes the fee will help BCC reduce the campus’ use of oil energy. Planting trees, surveying campus products, and switching to biodegradable materials, such as corn, are ideas BCC student Thomas Gibbons said would be less of an undertaking to make BCC more green. Chris Lytle, a student who recently transferred from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), said he’d like to see BCC use recycled materials in the computer lab, a practice modeled off PLU. Recycle bins for paper, aluminum, and plastic has reduced 50 percent of garbage output in classrooms hosting the extra bins.The SESF could be used to place recycle bins wherever there are garbage cans, a task LaFever said would be easy and significant in reducing waste. The SESF will build on administrative green-making efforts. The cafeteria has begun donating used fry oil to a company that makes bio-diesel, and construction of the new science building has been carried out according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard.