Editorial: UConn continues to climb in green rankings, now No. 5
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 22:08
As reported by the Daily Campus, UConn Today, and other news sources, UConn was recently ranked No. 5 in this year’s installation of the Sierra Club’s list of “Cool Schools.” In comparison, UConn was rated No. 16 in 2011, and No. 49 in 2010.
This jump in rankings is a great reflection of the work that students, faculty and staff have recently put in to making UConn a more sustainable campus. Some notable endeavors include retro-commissioning many buildings to be more energy-efficient, purchasing the first all-electric vehicle for Daily Campus deliveries, and USG’s “UConn Cycles” program to promote bicycling among students. We are thankful to everyone who has engaged in these and other projects increasing UConn’s commitment to sustainability.
However, while reflecting on our recent accomplishments, we must also be sure to avoid becoming complacent. There are many things that can be done to further reduce our negative impact on the environment. The UConn community should be continually evaluating our progress and identifying areas where we can improve.
For example, one proposal that deserves consideration is the implementation of a sustainability fee, commonly known as a “green fee.” A fee of $10 per semester would raise $330,000 to $360,000 per year (depending on enrollment,) and this money could be used to fund a myriad of projects to make our campus more sustainable.
Green fees are a growing trend and have been adopted at hundreds of colleges, public and private, in the past decade. Importantly, three out the four colleges ahead of UConn in the Sierra Club’s rankings – the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Washington – have recently implemented green fees. Many colleges in our own state have adopted fees of their own, including Connecticut College’s $25 annual fee for the purchase of renewable energy, and Wesleyan University’s $15 semesterly fee for its Green Fund. Existing sustainability fees often allow students to opt-out if they have financial limitations or objections to the projects.
If UConn students wanted to join the ranks of colleges with green fees, they would have to endure a long process which ensures that new fees are not implemented without forethought or the student body’s consent. A group would need to submit a proposal, gather signatures from students in order to bring it to a vote, and have the fee approved by a majority of the student body. Voting on student fees is nothing new to UConn students – just last March, students voted on proposed fee increases for the Undergraduate Student Government, the Daily Campus and the Nutmeg Yearbook.
Of course, the implementation of a new fee should never be taken lightly, and the exact proposal would require significant analysis by the UConn community. It would also have to be ensured that the funds were managed by students and with the utmost level of transparency. However, if we want to continue the trend of growing more environmentally friendly every year, it is a proposal worth serious consideration.