Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:42:00 CST — by: Charlotte Henderson, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow
The Student Green Fee, a part of every students' tuition, was formed in 2005 to give students the ability to direct funds to meaningful causes. Historically, it was directed to TVA's Green Power Switch program, but now, it's going to a Sewanee initiative in Haiti.
This past week, members of the Sewanee Haiti Institute met with Sewanee's Student Government Association to discuss the Student Green Fee. The Student Green Fee was formed by involved and passionate students in 2005 to give students agency in where their investments were made. At $15 dollars a student, the Green Fee has the ability to be used in a meaningful and important way. However, due to many years passing since its formation, the Green Fee has lost its visibility and usefulness for students.
Last year, Jonathan Salazar ('13), with guidance from Marvin Pate and Dr. Deborah McGrath, wanted to use the Green Fee in a more meaningful way than its historical use. Since the Green Fee's formation, its funds were directed towards the Tennessee Valley Authority's Green Power Switch program in which "green" or alternative energy was purchased. However, due to the scale of the program, Sewanee's funds were not making a noticeable difference in TVA's energy source use (most of their energy still comes from coal).
Salazar wanted to bring back the true nature of the Student Green Fee that allowed students to decide where the funds would go.
In March of 2013, students traveled to Haiti and started a coffee and shade tree nursery in a small mountainous village. To incentivize tree planting and maintenance for the farmers, farmers are paid to maintain trees in return for sequestering carbon from carbon dioxide omissions. Student air travel is one of the easiest things for Sewanee to offset (and work towards becoming carbon neutral). Through the work of Salazar, carbon emissions from student air travel are now offset by utilizing the Student Green Fee to pay Haitian farmers to maintain trees. These trees not only sequester carbon but also provide exceptional benefits both for human and environmental health in Haiti.
This year, students engaged in Spring break Outreach trips are able to offset their carbon emissions due to air travel by utilizing their Student Green Fee. Already, +25 participants have agreed to utilize these funds. The Student Green Fee has gained visibility and use, once again. And thanks to the Student Government Association, more students are gaining knowledge of its existence.