Congress may be stuck in political gridlock, but the youth climate movement is running full speed ahead. Case in point: College students in Alabama are kicking off 2013 with an unprecedented statewide Sustainable Investment Project. The goal? Allocate one million dollars in campus sustainability funding by January 2014.
Student groups at the University of Alabama (UA), UA at Birmingham, UA at Huntsville, and Auburn University are all launching campaigns to create student-supported Sustainable Investment Projects, or green funds. UA and Auburn each aim to allocate at least $350,000 annually, while UAB and UAH have set their targets at $150,000.
So how does a "green fund" work? Students make a small investment—say, $5 per semester, or sometimes $0.50 per credit hour. The money is then pooled, so that any student can request funding for a campus project.
The system has an obvious environmental benefit: financial support for renewable energy and other green initiatives. Universities, meanwhile, can save money from new efficiency measures. Also—and this is important—students have a central role in the sustainable investment, from launching their own ventures to voting on funding decisions.
Currently, the University of Montevallo is the only public university in Alabama with a sustainable investment fund. Since its establishment in 2011, Montevallo's fund has raised $30,000 per year for student-implemented projects, such as the establishment of the state's first and only city-wide bike-share program, student design and construction of sculpted bicycle racks, and the addition of solar energy and greywater filtration systems at the school's now carbon-neutral Observatory. Other green funds will be based on Montevallo's model but customized to suit each campus's needs.
The Sustainable Investment Project is a campaign organized by the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment (CASE), a statewide student network similar to Florida YES and MASS in Mississippi. Through CASE, Alabama students are working to build a clean, just future for all of us.
If you'd like to get involved, shoot an email to casealabama[at]gmail[dot]com to be put in touch with a CASE representative.