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April 12, 2010 9:00 pm

SGA to Start Green Revolving Fund

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A new bill passed by the Student Government Association (SGA) will allocate roughly $100,000 to a new fund for creating or implementing sustainable, energy-saving technologies and systems on campus. The bill, presented to the SGA by Matt Foerster, Lisa Neu, Danielle Doubt, Becky White, and SGA President Justin Perry, will create a fund for projects which save energy, and in turn money, for the school. The majority of the money saved will then go back into the fund. Students will be able to propose and modify projects using the fund.

“[Sustainability Fellow] Shane Hall had heard about revolving load funds at Macallister [College], and he helped me a lot in the gestation period,” said Perry. “We continued to run with it because I got really excited about it and so did a lot of people.”

In their presentation to the SGA, the group used the high return on investment which other schools see on their revolving funds. However, not many schools have revolving funds, and by investing the amount of money the SGA is currently, St. Mary’s College will jump onto the list of the top ten largest revolving funds at any college in the country.

The SGA will invest $100,000 in seed money, which will come from a variety of sources. Because of the SGA’s recent fiscal conservatism, it has a surplus to draw on. The SGA will also spend money from the Green Energy Allocation fund, a $25 per-student per-semester fee, which will reduce the amount spent on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

“I’m excited that the SGA has taken on this issue with such enthusiasm,” said senior Elizabeth Brunner. “It’s been a really amazing journey from when we passed the REC bill to now.”

Two governing bodies will control the allocation of funds. The fund will be broadly managed by an oversight board of mostly faculty, and a committee composed entirely of students. The structure will be similar to that of the Student Investment Group (SIG). The oversight board will include a representative from the Energy Performance Contract, which hires a private firm to audit energy-saving projects on campus, so that the two groups can work in tandem.

Two ideas that Perry discussed as being likely soon after the creation of Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund (GSMRF) are reusable to-go boxes and solar trash compactors, which would noticeably reduce piles of trash outside the campus center which are currently problematic.

“Whenever you go outside there are massive piles of Styrofoam everywhere,” said first-year Michael Hullett. “St. Mary’s is not a green school.”

“We have a very evident trash problem on this campus,” agreed Perry. He pointed out that after Philadelphia put in place solar trash compactors, the city cut down on waste by 70% and was expecting to save $13 million over ten years. Implementing this same system on campus at a much smaller scale could save the college a similar percent of collection costs. The majority of the savings from that could then go back into GSMRF.

“I’ve spent most of my year securing the funding, I haven’t had as much time to plan projects,” said Perry.
“Solar is very expensive, that’s obviously one of our pie-in-the-sky goals,” he added.

GSMRF is likely to help the college get closer to reaching the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by previous St. Mary’s President Margaret O’Brien and promising the college become carbon-neutral. The next step is to bring the proposal to Tom Botzman, the vice president of business and operation, whom Perry says thinks the GSMRF is a good idea.

“It’s really small steps,” said Perry. “GSMRF is a physical embodiment of acting responsibly. I hope that GSMRF will be a model for how small colleges can make a concerted effort to promote green energy.”

Note: the article published on April 12th, 2010 did not include Lisa Neu and Matt Foerster as sponsors of the bill. The article has been changed to include their names.

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