The three dollar Green Fee included in every University of Georgia student’s tuition is not to be confused with the green fees at the UGA Golf Course that dictate how much the public and those associated with the University pay for a round of golf.
Nevertheless, the Green Fee included in tuition is often mistaken as just that, but in reality this small payment does a lot more to support sustainability and a greener future for students than any golf course fee could ever do.
THE OTHER TGIF
The Green Fee Initiative Fund, abbreviated TGIF, was established in 2009 when the Go Green Alliance, a partnership of multiple environmental student organizations, led a dedicated drive to implement the fee.
The Green Fee funds the Office of Sustainability at UGA, which was created at the same time the payment was implemented. The goal of the office is to reduce the University’s environmental impact through education, research and programs. The fee also supports student internship opportunities within the Office of Sustainability.
Kevin Kirsche with the University’s Office of Sustainability says that after a vote was held by UGA’s Student Government Association, the Green Fee passed with overwhelming support. The proposal received 4,698 votes in its favor and had the largest voter response UGA had seen in over a decade. The three-dollar student imposed fee was then approved by the Board of Regents, and first collected in Fall 2010’s tuition.
The initiative, while innovative on UGA’s campus, was not the first of its kind. Actually, the Go Green Alliance’s campaign, and the subsequent payment, was modeled after a program of the same name name at UC Berkeley. Berkeley’s initiative was implemented in Fall 2007, and features a six-dollar payment for each student.
Kirsche, the current Director of Sustainability at UGA, says that three dollars was chosen because when compared to a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee, the students felt that three dollars seemed appropriate.
This small amount for one student to pay has proven to go a long way. The Green Fee raises approximately $150,000 each year, and makes up 50% of the Office of Sustainability’s $300,000 budget.
Some initiatives spearheaded by the Office of Sustainability that have made contributed to a greener campus include providing the seed money to buy solar panels for the building that houses the College of Environment and Design on Jackson St., creating a certification in sustainability program for interested students, and working with UGA’s Food Services to incorporate more local foods in their meals.
In 2013 the student body voted to increase the Green Fee by one dollar. While 75% of those who voted were in support of increasing the payment, an increase in fees was ultimately denied.
However, after taking a close look at the Office of Sustainability’s effectiveness, a report done by a review team from the University concluded that, “In the five years since the inception of the office, sustainability on UGA’s campus has markedly improved. Key to the office’s success is its engagement with students, especially in regards to the internship program, sustainability grant program and its willingness to interact and counsel student organizations.”
Following an announcement made by President Morehead, this year $80,000 of increased institutional funding was given to the Office of Sustainability. This increased amount is equivalent to how much the office would have received had the Green Fee been raised from three to four dollars.
When asked about the Office of Sustainability’s accomplishments, Kevin Kirsche noted much of its success is derived from the members of the UGA community who support it, saying, “Students continue to be a catalyst and driving force for sustainability at UGA.”
The Green Fee is a direct example of how students at the University of Georgia can make a difference. Without the work of the Go Green Alliance, the Green Fee may never have been created, and it is through continued support that more sustainable initiatives may be able to take place on campus.
While the Green Fee has made advancement possible at UGA, there are more steps to be made to reduce waste and conserve energy. Kirshe says that by 2020, the University hopes to reduce energy consumption by 25% and improve on things like transportation and lessening food waste. Of the progress to be made at UGA, Kirshe admits that the University still has a long way to go.