UISG proposes voluntary 'green' fee


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University of Iowa students might soon be able to opt into a "green" fee to fund sustainability efforts on campus.

Hinging on student approval, the UI may join 87 schools across the country in implementing a "green fee" to help fund sustainable projects.

Initiated by UI Student Government and the Sierra Student Coalition, the $3 to $5 fee per semester would be put into one large fund to save for both long-term goals — such as investments in renewable energy — and short-term projects, such as automatic hand dryers.

Officials with both groups are hoping to gain support from the students.

"It all depends on student support," said Abbey Moffitt, the head of the sustainability committee for UISG. The next step is to reach out to students with a student survey, she said.

Even if the fee is put in place, Zach Carter, a cofounder of the Sierra Student Coalition, said students will likely be given the choice to opt out of paying the fee.

Such a fee has proven successful at other universities.

Seth Vidana, campus sustainability manager for Western Washington University, said students pay approximately 70 cents per credit hour, amounting to roughly $7 a student for the mandatory green fee.

"We're able to get small pilot projects on the ground when funds are tight," Vidana said, and the fee has allowed officials to fund a $157,000 solar ray, water-bottle refilling stations, hand dryers, and a paper towel composting pilot.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has two green fees on campus. The first fee is a $2 per semester fee — implemented in 2003 — strictly for the promotion of clean energy through solar or wind energy. The second fee — originally implemented in 2007 as a $5 fee — is currently a $14 per semester optional fee used for numerous sustainability projects, including weatherizing buildings and new lighting.

"They have a big list of projects in store," said Stephanie Lage, assistant to the director of the Office of Sustainability.

The committee has completed projects such as a sustainable student farm, which provides produce for the dining halls, a solar ray on the business instructional facility, and new bike-parking facilities.

"The fee has been proven very effective as can be seen with the projects accomplished," Lage said.

And though Moffitt iterated the fee is small, some students expressed concern over any extra costs added to their tuition.

"It depends on how much the fee is. We already get slammed with so many fees, it would be kind of hard to support that," said UI junior Patrick Stremel. "I'm definitely for sustainability, though, as a college student, it's tough."

Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said the university spent almost $4 million this year on energy conservation alone. Christiansen declined to comment on whether the fee would be effective in funding more projects.

But UI junior Harry Johnson said he would be willing to pay the fee because of the future benefits.

"… the environment is getting worse and worse," he said. "We need to stay healthy on this Earth and make it a better place for our children and their children."

Moffitt said when the fee would go in effect depends on student support, although implementing the fee within three years is achievable.

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