$3 fee to help UGA go greener

Starting next semester, students will pay a $3 “green” fee to support environmentally friendly efforts on campus. Students often protest higher fees imposed by officials, but this charge was initiated by students.

“This is something universities need, and we have said this is something that matters to us,” said Mark Milby, a senior from Marietta and a member of the Go Green Alliance, which developed and promoted the fee. “We’re not the first college to do this, but it is an important step for UGA, and it will allow all of us to make an impact.”

The new Office of Sustainability will coordinate environmental and sustainable efforts on campus, UGA President Michael Adams said. Previously these efforts — everything from recycling to transportation to energy efficiency — were handled by different offices, students said.

Students approved the fee last spring, but Adams didn’t sign off until his Jan. 21 State of the University speech.

“We have done much and will continue to do much,” Adams said, referring to the college’s green initiatives. “We will move toward sustainability.”

Kevin Kirsche, who served as assistant director of planning in the Office of University Architects, is scheduled to begin at the Office of Sustainability this month.

Other colleges — including Georgia Tech and Emory University — have sustainability offices. Milby hopes UGA’s office will be as successful as the ones on those campuses. Emory has had its office since 2006. It is funded through the university’s budget, not student fees.

College students have long emphasized environment issues on campus, but today’s efforts go beyond recycling. Students are challenging college officials to conserve energy, reduce waste and offer more organic and locally grown food in dining halls. In recent years more students are willing to pay special fees to make their campuses more efficient, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which tracks some of these fees.

UGA students are expected to raise about $150,000 a year through the fee.

Ideally, students will receive internships at the new sustainability office, said Emily Karol, a junior from Marietta involved with Go Green. The office should also serve as a place students can go to share ideas on how to improve the campus, she said.

Karol envisions the office getting involved with the university’s environmental literacy requirement by making sure courses emphasize how to be sustainable.

“We can give students the knowledge on how to build sustainable habits to help the environment,” Karol said. “We can use the time in college to provide the lessons needed to change the way students live and help make the world a better place.”

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