Ready to reduce, reuse and recycle, Student Government will launch its sixth branch, the ECO Agency, next fall.
SG’s ECO Agency will be the green initiative programming board with a goal of reducing UM’s carbon footprint, which is the university’s environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Other schools that have established green funds or student government initiatives include University of California-Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University at St. Louis, according to Ian McKeown, the university’s sustainability coordinator.
ECO Agency members will determine “how to create positive sustainable change on the campus,” SG President Nawara Alawa said.
The creation of the agency is a result of the passing of the Green U referendum two years ago. Starting in the fall of 2012, the referendum will allot $5 of each UM students’ student activity fee each semester to SG in order to pursue green initiatives, according to Speaker Pro Tempore Doug Aguililla.
Erica Barrios, a first-year medical student, served on the Green U committee when she was an undergraduate. She worked to write the referendum bill after observing that the student efforts to make UM more environmentally conscious were divided between the various green organizations.
While Green U started out as a temporary ad-hoc committee, Barrios and other former SG members saw the need for an actual branch to carry out the continuous mission of the university to become more green.
“I envisioned the agency in SG being kind of like a focal point for all those organizations to come and voice their project ideas and work together,” she said.
Aguililla worked with the Policy and Finance committee to write the bills and ensure that ECO Agency would be created and structured efficiently. The branch will operate similarly to Category 5, the spirit programming board that became a part of SG by way of a referendum as well.
The SG president will appoint a chair, who then appoints a vice-chair. The ECO Agency chair will be responsible for budgeting the funds and also sit on the SG executive board, Alawa said.
“This again is student funds and ultimately students need to guide the projects the funds go to,” McKeown said. “It creates a very proactive process that will lead to engagement of the student body.”
Alawa has appointed junior Jae Shrader, an ecosystem science and policy and biology major, as the first chair of the ECO Agency.
“I wanted somebody that had that knowledge-base prior because I didn’t want them making any mistakes,” Alawa said.
Shrader, who is currently the presiden of Earth Alert, said she found this passion growing up in Guam, surrounded by “gorgeous landscapes.”
“We hope to evaluate UM’s green footprint and implement realistic change,” Shrader said.
McKeown said that one of the most important parts of the improved green program will be community involvement.
“This means a cultural shift at the university to bike, carpool, walk, take public transit, conserve water, conserve energy, and create less waste,” he said.
Aguililla said that attaching the green initiative programming board to SG will ensure continued and consistent support for environmentalism.
However, according to Alawa, incorporating Green U initiatives into the SG framework will come with a learning curve.
“A lot of guidance is going to be needed on their part to figure out where they’re going and how they fit into the rest of SG,” Alawa said.