Should students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs continue to pay five bucks each semester to help reduce the campus’ ecological footprint?
Freshman Jonathan Toman says “yes.” Without the Green Action Fund, an idea to curb student water consumption — which popped into Toman’s head last fall while he was taking a shower — wouldn’t have gotten the green light to move forward.
“The fund provides cool opportunities for anyone on campus to present a project for approval and contribute to sustainability,” he said. “It’s something everybody’s going to have to think about.”
Beginning Monday, Earth Day, and running through Friday, students can vote whether to renew the Green Action Fund for another five years or let it sunset next month, when the academic year ends.
In 2008, students approved, by a 76 percent majority, a fee to pay for installing solar panels on buildings on campus. A 2011 amendment expanded the fee so that it could be used to finance other environmental projects.
Since then, a student-run Green Action Fund committee has approved and completed seven sustainability projects, including planting trees, creating a student garden, installing wind power and replacing fluorescent bulbs in classrooms with LEDs.
The most popular, said UCCS Sustainability Director Linda Kogan, are the hydration stations set up around campus. Students recently agreed by a 57 percent majority to eliminate plastic water bottle sales on campus by 2014. To prepare for the change, the hydration stations enable students to quickly refill reusable bottles with cold, filtered water. A counter on each tells how many plastic water bottles have been saved, with some stations totaling more than 10,000, Kogan said.
“So people are using them quite a bit,” she said.
Another 11 projects have been approved and are waiting to be carried out. On that list is Toman’s proposal to install 218 high-efficiency showerheads and sink aerators in the oldest dorms in Summit Village, which were built in 1995 and house 600 students.
He thought of the idea after he noticed that the showerhead in a bathroom at his dorm had disgusting green stuff plugging some of the holes, and he found he needed to stay under the spray longer to get clean.
“It seemed like such a waste of water,” Toman said.
Retrofitting newer technology, scheduled to get underway after the May 24 graduation, will save one gallon of water per shower, or 114,450 gallons a month. That translates into estimated cost savings of $1,144.50 each month.
Well worth the $5 fee, says Drew Johnson, a senior who chairs the Green Action Fund committee.
“You can spend $5 on a latte very easily,” he said. “It goes a long way toward a sustainable campus, and we have environmental problems that need to be addressed immediately. We can’t wait for funding to be available from the state or our school administration. We need to make it happen, and students get that.”
The fund generates $116,000 per year in student fees and has allocated about $183,000 since it started approving projects last fall, Johnson said. A surplus from the original solar fee accounts for the difference.
One of the best things about the pot of money, Johnson said, is its easy accessibility to students.
“For a brand new freshman like Jonathan Toman to come in and be able to turn his idea into a reality, it makes a big impact and lets students know anything is possible,” he said.
Kogan agrees: “How empowering for a freshman, who don’t usually think they can change the way a school operates.”
Toman, who says he’s been “passionate” about sustainability for several years, is glad his project will come to fruition.
“The technology has improved so much that you can get the same amount of power out of the showerhead using less water,” he said. “It’s so cool.”