February 12, 2013

If Approved by University, Proposed Fund Will Aid Green Projects at Cornell

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Student leaders said they are confident that a Green Revolving Fund will be created at Cornell, after University President David Skorton sent an email to members of the Student Assembly Thursday saying he would “consider [giving] a one-million dollar loan to create the fund.”

Through this fund, individuals –– as well as departments within the University –– would be able to fund projects that would “enhance energy conservation efforts,” according to S.A. President Adam Gitlin ’13.

The revolving fund — which derives its name from the fact that money saved as a result of the conservation efforts would return to the fund — is intended to foster student engagement in the University’s sustainability practices, according to Jacob Reisch ’13, president of Energy Corps at Cornell, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainability on campus.

“A [Green Revolving Fund] opens up opportunies for funding for their projects,” he said.

According to Reisch, projects could include the installation of low-flush toilets, energy efficient lighting and weatherizing windows, among other ideas.

While the logistics of how the fund will operate will be determined by discussions between the University and student leaders, individuals who support the GRF said they are confident it will become a reality and are eager to continue working with the administration.

“We weren’t sure that this was going to happen, and now that it is, all of the trivial details can be worked out,” said Sarah Balik ’15, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative for the S.A.

But University discussions regarding initial funding, also known as seed funding, for the GRF have yet to be held, according to student leaders. University officials also emphasized that Skorton has yet to make a decision about investment in the fund.

In a presentation shown to several administrators in September, Reisch suggested that the seed funding could be supported either by funds from the student body, the endowment, donations or allocations from the administration’s budget.

There is currently no timeline for how long talks with the University will extend or when a GRF would go into effect, according to Reisch.

“The immediate next step is to create the exact model of how this is going to function,” Reisch said.

Similar funds have been set up at other universities including Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. According to Reisch, 75 percent of all green revolving funds have been created in the past four years.

Harvard has experienced success with their revolving fund, which started in 1993, Reisch said. Over the past decade, Harvard has seen an approximate 30-percent return from its fund each year, The Harvard Crimson reported in Oct. 2011.

Balik said that she “could think of about a million reasons” why the GRF would benefit the University.

“I think this is a great way for students to get involved with sustainability,” she said.

Student leaders who have brought attention to the GRF also said they believe that such a fund aligns with Cornell’s goals about sustainability.

“The University already is extremely committed to sustainability and energy conservation. We believe this is only an extension of the University’s goals,” Gitlin said.

Reisch, along with other students, have been working since last spring to make a GRF at Cornell a reality.

The S.A. passed a resolution, which was sponsored by both Reisch and Balik, in October urging the University to supply money to a GRF.

Gitlin expressed enthusiasm over Skorton’s consideration to supply funds for the GRF.

“The S.A. is very excited and commends the University for their commitment [to] sustainability and the environment,” Gitlin said.

Original Author: Tyler Alicea