Fund proposed to improved campus sustainability

Amanda Laabs

Northwestern students and other community members may soon have the opportunity to directly address the issue of sustainability on campus.

Members of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development and NU’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institution’s Center for Environmental and Energy Policy are working to establish a Revolving Loan Fund that would come into effect next fall. Students, administrators and faculty members will be able to apply for money from the fund to implement campus sustainability projects – anything from a light switch or using more efficient bulbs in a dorm to low-flow faucets in the library, said SEED co-Director Emily Wright.

“We want to give members of the university a chance to get involved with sustainability on campus,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “If they see something wrong, we want to give them the opportunity to fix it.”

The fund will renew itself with profits trickling in from lower energy and water bills, Wright said. But the “beauty of the fund” is that it does not need financial support from the university, she said. The fund directors said they need about $20,000 for initial funding through grants and donations and are “confident” they will be able to reach that amount by next fall.

Alex Wall, a co-chair of the Roosevelt Institution’s Center for Environmental and Energy Policy, said there has been a lot of support for the project and does not anticipate any problems getting the fund approved.

“Even in these tough economic times, there’s still a need for sustainability,” the Medill senior said.

In addition to not costing the university any money, the fund could be great for NU’s reputation – especially in such a critical time for enrollment, said Anthony Valente, a member of both SEED and the Roosevelt Institution.

“The Ivies are much better than Northwestern with sustainability at this point,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “This could help prospective students who are deciding between NU and other elite universities.”

Though the university is currently working toward improving sustainability through more large-scale energy audits, Wall said the fund is unique in its ability to foster cooperation among the NU community and serve as an educational tool as well.

“There are certain classes in McCormick which focus on the development of energy-saving projects,” Wall said. “This fund could be a great way to see those projects implemented and bring about results, instead of just focusing on the theoretical.”

The group has already worked with and gained approval from various influential groups on campus, including the Associated Student Government, Sustainability Working Group, Facilities Management and members of the administration, directors said.

“We would hope ideas generated from a program such as this could address some of the needs not met by university departments and could improve the experience of students and staff at NU,” said Burgwell Howard, assistant to the vice president for student affairs, in an e-mail.

Julie Cahillane, manager of recycling and refuse at Facilities Management, said the idea of investment in sustainable projects is “particularly desirable” because the fund will compliment other green projects at NU.

The next step is approval from higher administration, said Naomi Harris, co-chair of the Center for Environmental and Energy Policy of the Roosevelt Institution.

“We hope to have everything ready for incoming President Schapiro next fall,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “We really want to show him that this idea has a strong base and a strong backing.”

[email protected]