Despite slow start, campus leaders hopeful for success of Green Fund

Twenty-three thousand dollars.

That’s about how much money was collected this fall from University of Nebraska-Lincoln students toward a newly established Green Fund, according to Green Fund Selections Committee chair Cale Brodersen.

Though a handful of projects are in the works, he said, the committee tasked with facilitating grant requests has yet to grant any official proposals, leaving the $23,000 fund untouched near the end of its first semester.

The fund, collected on a $1-per-student-per-semester basis as part of University Program and Facilities Fees, is controlled by UNL’s student governing body, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.

Several years in the making, the fund was established to allow students, faculty and staff to request monetary support, awarded on a grant basis, to be used toward making the campus more sustainable.

Vivian Nguyen, the Green Fund committee’s communication coordinator, calls these grants “funding for the future.”

Brodersen, who authored the bylaws governing the committee, said that putting the finishing touches on preparations for the fund took longer than expected, which left the committee delayed on advertising the fund broadly among campus groups that might benefit from the resource.

“We’re just kind of now starting to really push it,” he said. “Because it took us forever to get all the systems set up. … Now, everything is perfectly ready to go, so starting right away next semester we can start handing out applications.”

Already at least four project proposals are in the works, Nguyen said, including one that would add solar panels to seating areas outside the Nebraska Union to allow students to charge their electronics outdoors and another that would repurpose aluminum into sturdier, more durable objects like dishes and silverware to be donated to local homeless shelters.

“Most of the projects also have some sort of educational component to them,” Brodersen said, “and that’s really important to us, because that’s how you’re engaging most of the students.”

The committee has already been working with the student groups behind both of these ideas, Brodersen said, and they expect to see formal grant proposals submitted to the Green Fund committee within the first few weeks of the spring semester.

The seven-member committee – advised by UNL sustainability coordinator Prabhakar Shrestha and assisted by a panel of faculty, staff and professionals who serve as experts in related fields – will then review the grant proposals, interview applicants and recommend funding to projects it determines have the potential to influence sustainability efforts on campus or among UNL students. The ASUN senate has the final say on whether to approve or deny funding.

Next semester, another $23,000 will be collected from students before the fund comes up for review. Each spring, according to ASUN bylaws regarding the Green Fund, an independent survey question will be placed on the student government election ballot to allow students to vote on whether they support continuing to collect student fees toward the fund.

Brodersen and Nguyen are hopeful students will continue to see value in maintaining the fund despite lack of interest in its first semester.

Nguyen, a first-year graduate student who was a member of the Environmental Sustainability Committee when the now-thriving group was still in its infancy, said she’s hopeful because she thinks the campus community’s attitude toward sustainability has dramatically changed in recent years, especially among students.

“I’ve seen the culture change within students and the university in general because of students,” she said. “I think if you ask anyone who has been here for a long time, they would say, ‘Yeah, these changes are being made because of students.’ And now that we have funding for it, it’s more encouraging for students who have an issue they’re interested in to have the financial support to do it.”

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