February 3rd, 2013 Posted in News
By Seth Merrill
LOGAN—What started as an idea to help on-campus residents become environmentally conscious may soon be a full-fledged project for two Utah State University resident assistants. Rene Hernandez and Wendy Sticht say they’ll try to bring more sustainability projects to campus residents.
“I love the idea of people being aware of the stuff they use,” said Hernandez, a junior who is studying Spanish and math, after Wednesday’s Blue Goes Green forum.
“We want to get a project going to help our residents see that they can get involved, too,” said Sticht, a freshman majoring in psychology.
If they are able to secure funding, Hernandez, Sticht and the students they represent would become two of the newest beneficiaries of a program that has awarded 12 grants totaling $50,369 since its inception in fall 2011.
The Student Sustainability Office sponsored the town hall to answer questions about Blue Goes Green, a program that allows students to implement sustainability projects on campus. The meeting featured a panel of student volunteers from Blue Goes Green and past grant recipients. The program has $9,000 available this semester to award for projects that align with USU’s commitment to be environmentally responsible and reduce the campus’s carbon footprint.
Sustainability efforts on campus were spearheaded in January 2007 by President Stan Albrecht’s signing of an initiative to minimize carbon emissions and achieve climate neutrality at USU.
“There are two key things we are looking for in grant proposals: Are the projects accessible to students, and do they align with the President’s Climate Commitment?” said Roslynn Brain, a member of the committee that reviews grant proposals.
Brain encourages students from various disciplines to get involved in Blue Goes Green. The grant funds, which come from fees that students agreed to add in February 2011, provide an opportunity for students to gain professional experience by seeing a project through from conception to execution.
“From my perspective with talking to students about jobs and hirability, submitting a grant is a great opportunity, especially if it relates to sustainability,” Brain said. “Thousands of businesses across the world have incorporated sustainability as part of their business motto. If you have on your resume that you’ve submitted and received funds for a project that improves our campus’s environmental footprint, that’s a really big appeal.”
Grant proposals are due before March 1. The Student Sustainability Office encourages students to seek out other stakeholders willing to donate money or match the amount that would come from Blue Goes Green. If a proposal is approved by two-thirds of the Student Grant Committee, funds are awarded. Grantees are expected to follow through with the project to its completion and use the grant funds within one calendar year of receiving them.
Chris Binder, a landscape architecture graduate student and avid bicycler, has received two grants in the past year to improve bike infrastructure on campus. Having worked on projects individually and as a member of an interdisciplinary group, Binder has seen how important communication and teamwork are in executing a project successfully.
“You really need to talk to every person involved many times over the course of weeks, if not months, to make sure you put something together that is feasible even if it is simple,” Binder said. “These grants involve a lot of late-night work, gathering papers, documents and proposals, and doing it on your own can be overwhelming.”
“You have to be passionate about it or you won’t be very successful,” he said.
Sticht and Hernandez hope that Blue Goes Green will be able to fund ideas and goals that are currently bigger than their budget. They want to help other students get excited about sustainability by seeing what can be accomplished.
“We are going to have a brainstorming meeting with our other associates at Housing Services to decide on a project,” Sticht said. “Our current sustainability budget is very small, so a grant would allow us to do a lot more than we can now.”
“I hope that as our ideas come out, we won’t be limited by what we don’t have money for,” Hernandez said. “We want our project to be elaborate and realistic, but we need help. Blue Goes Green is a big resource.”