By Sebastian Moronta, SGA CorrespondentIn 2013, the student body voted to allow an option- al fee, the Green Fee, to be charged to students. Individuals can opt-out of paying the fee, and those who didn’t raised about $141,000 for the program. This fund is expressly and exclusively for projects that contribute to campus sustainability, maintain its natural fixtures, and im- prove the student lifestyle. This week, members of the student body can vote to allow the Green Fee initiative to continue, and The Torch sat down with Jamie Jacquart, Assistant Director for Campus Sus- tainability and Residen- tial Initiatives, so he could make his case as to why you all should.
The simplest case is this: the fee is optional. If you as an individual don’t want to pay it you don’t have to, so there’s no per- sonal harm to you if you give others the ability to pay it if they choose to. If you can pay it, how- ever, you’d be contribut- ing to a cause that direct- ly improves the campus. For example, with part of the initial fund, the Green Fee has committed itself to providing more water bottle filling stations to public areas. When they started there were only six on campus, and the Green Fee has added another nineteen, and they’re looking to fund fifteen more in the Star Store, the Dells etc.
The Green Fee initia- tive has installed more recycling bins, sponsored a spring break sustainabil- ity program, evaluated the UMass fleet for inefficien- cies, and even several stu- dent research projects, one of which focused on electric vehicles and re- sulted in the installation of an electric vehicle charging station just out- side CCB.
As a growing resource for the campus, the Green Fee is developing a per- maculture garden near the Cedar Dells. Permaculture is a col- lection of farming tech- niques that mix different crops together in small spaces to use land and dis- tribute nutrients most ef- ficiently. Now the garden is simply a demonstration, but Green Fee hopes it can grow into a resource that students can learn and eat from. For the last six years, Mr. Jacquart has been working with students to try to bring a bike-sharing system to campus. Over the past few weeks he’s sat down with several differ- ent bike-sharing compa- nies, many of whom will be providing ten bikes each for students to test out during Green Week, April 23-27, to eventually decide which service to bring to UMass.
If the fee is approved again, they hope to use the funds to develop more projects, as well as subsi- dize the bike share pro- gram and other offerings for students, either reduc- ing the cost to rent, or providing free helmets and water bottles, for ex- ample. Another project that Green Fee is eager to ex- plore adds powered seating to the main quad. There is a solar powered bench just outside CCB, and they want to expand on that concept and allow students to be able to use the center of campus more without running out of power.
This measure and much more is up for consider- ation and voting ends Fri- day, April 13. As you vote, consider that by voting for the Green Fee initiative, you are allowing it to ap- pear as an opt-out fee to all students, meaning any- one can choose not to sup- port it when it appears on their bill.