The Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment, a statewide non-profit group committed to raising environmental awareness, announced this week efforts to start a “green fund” at JSU.
“It’s sort of an in-house, competitive fund for students who want to bring sustainability projects to campus,” said James Rayburn, a biology professor and faculty adviser for the university’s Earth Club. “It would set up a committee of students, faculty and administrators to encourage students to come up with ideas to make the campus more green.”
Sophomore David Rickless, a geography major at JSU and member of the coalition, brought the idea to the Earth Club this semester.
“We want to counter the idea that college students are apathetic,” Rickless said. “There’s actually a number of us who are interested in sustainability and improving campus and the environment.”
Rickless said he’s still in the early stages of drafting a proposal, but if he can secure the money, JSU would join the University of Alabama’s campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville, as well as the University of Montevallo as Alabama schools that have established green funds since 2011.
This summer, Haley Hix, a biology student at University of Alabama in Huntsville, secured $20,000 for the university’s green fund, and has been piloting several projects on her campus.
“We’ve been kind of using this fund as an experiment and helping other schools start these funds,” Hix said.
Hix said the first initiative at UAH was a “ban the bottle” awareness campaign. Students distributed reusable water bottles around campus and built 10 “hydration stations” on campus for students to refuel.
Proposed projects that can be funded from green money can run the gamut from replacing lighting in academic buildings to buying electric cars for campus police, said Hix, who hopes UAH can have an electric charging station on campus by fall of next year.
Using Hix’s model, Rickless said, he thinks similar efforts can be brought to JSU, and include bike-sharing programs and dedicated recycling projects.
The problem with student-led initiatives, said Kristen Carlisle, a senior majoring in biology at JSU and former president of the Earth Club, can be the rapid turnover of the student body and the lack of resources.
“JSU has tried to do things in the past, but it’s kind of lacked support,” Carlisle said. “It’s hard to have a recycling program if you don’t have money to afford the bins, or to take it every day to Anniston.”
Rickless said that’s why a green fund can be beneficial in opening students’ eyes to getting more involved in environmentally conscious efforts around campus.
“That’s the hope,” Rickless said. “We want students to be more aware of what they can do through sustainability projects.”
Rickless said while he is interested in fundraising efforts and looking for outside help, he hopes most of the money for the proposed fund would come straight from the university which, Rickless said, has just as much to gain as students for the efforts.
“More and more companies are looking for ways to save money through these types of projects, so they want students who’ve taken action on these kinds of efforts,” Rickless said. “So if JSU wants to keep motivated students, they need a fund like this.”
Rickless said he knows JSU’s efforts probably can’t reach the level of the University of Alabama, which raised $1 million for its green fund last year, but he thinks JSU can be a model university for smaller campuses in the state.
“I think JSU does have a chance to be a leader in this movement,” Rickless said. “I think it’s a real win-win for students and the university.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.