Sustainable projects to be on student ballot next semester

Nov. 12, 2012

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

Strings of plastic water bottles, hanging between leafless trees like garlands, encircled the plaza just beyond the Kramer Family Library on Nov. 2. Posters with information about sustainability and bottled water dangled from the display.

With projects like Take Back the Tap, which is installing water bottle refilling stations in every academic building on campus and plans to ban the sale of bottled water on campus by 2014, the Green Action Fund – a student-based committee that allocates funds from the student solar fee – has several programs aimed at promoting sustainability.

The solar fee, enacted in 2008 to be $5 per student, per semester, is scheduled to expire in Spring 2013 unless the student body votes to keep it in place.

During the demonstration last Friday, Andrea Hassler, a graduate geography student, and Hillary Fuller, a senior geography and environmental studies major, the co-chairs of Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability (SEAS), called out to students walking past and offered candy.

Caution tape sectioned off chalked outlines of bodies with posters about health concerns potentially associated with drinking bottled water. Hassler said they wanted “to educate people and reiterate” the campaign’s purpose.

“Some students are new and [others] are unaware that Take Back the Tap is still being carried through. It was originated by students, and then some of the students graduated. SEAS has continued to carry the project to raise awareness about the dangers of one-time use plastic water bottles.”

The SEAS club is also interested in the research and documentation behind their position.

“The city water has a certain health standard, is regulated three times a day on average and people still choose to purchase filters for that. But it’s still a much higher standard … whereas the plastic water bottle industry is not regulated in that way.”

SEAS has often worked closely with and supports the Green Action Fund’s sustainability programs. Drew Johnson, the chair of the Green Action Fund committee, hopes to make students aware of the program’s past accomplishments and future endeavors.

“In 2008, students voted to create the solar fee, $5 per student for semester for solar projects on campus,” Johnson said. “In 2011, students voted to repurpose it for any project that increases sustainability.”

That created the Green Action Fund committee, which functions separately from the Student Government Association but alongside SGA’s senator for sustainability.

According to Johnson, the idea behind the Green Action Fund was that student fees should be allocated by a student-based committee. Currently, the committee has 16 members, 12 of whom are current students.

Last year, the Green Action Fund completed six projects, including Take Back the Tap, an LED lighting project replacing mercury light in a classroom in Columbine Hall, a smart irrigation timer for University Hall connected to the local weather station and the replacement of two dead trees in the lower plaza of University Center.

This year, the committee has received 11 proposals by the Oct. 12 deadline and had already approved the Engineers for a Sustainable World’s project to build a solar-powered golf cart for facility services.

Also, Johnson said that “a project was submitted to retrofit the showerheads in campus housing that will reduce water used in showering by 40 percent.”

The shows in the Summit Village Dormitories flow at 2.5 gallons per minute, and the completed project is projected to reduce flow to 1.5 gallons per minute.

Other proposals include a vertical growing system to increase yield potentials for the UCCS greenhouse, producing fresh food for Sodexo and a solar shed for intramural sports to display statistics during games at Four Diamonds.

Johnson urges students to vote for continuation of the fee, saying, “We take that as an honor, and we try to be stewards of that money to increase campus sustainability and give students opportunities for engagement. We are going to do everything we can to get the word out this spring to the students that this is a good investment.”

SEAS will be hosting another water bottle display outside the library Nov. 14 as part of America Recycles Day, the following day.

Also, the Green Action Fund is having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the water bottle filling stations on Friday, Feb. 1, in Dwire Hall at 11:30 am, and SEAS will be providing free refillable water bottles at this event.

Those interested in sustainability can contact either group for involvement and engagement opportunities.