By Luke Williamson
In 2013, the Board of Trustees approved a Sustainability Master Plan that was, according to the Provost’s Office, meant to “guide the University’s work in sustainability for years to come.” Sustainability, funding, and student involvement were all naturally concerns of this plan. With the introduction of the new “Green Fund” organization on campus this year, Sewanee is one step closer to these goals.
The Sewanee Green Fund is a student-run organization on campus whose primary aim is to support “green” projects through funding allocated to the fund. It receives funding from the University, which allocates $6 from every student’s tuition toward the fund.
Comprised of mostly undergraduate students, the Green Fund has an executive board of seven students: Founder Crystal Ngo (C’20), Chair Hannah-Marie Garcia (C’19), Vice-Chair Alexandra Sinha (C’20), Grant Liaisons Lindsey Sikorski (C’20) and Katie Roth (C’19), Community Outreach Coordinator Jackson Campbell (C’20), and Treasurer Jack Lance (C’19).
In addition to these seven students, there are five additional voting members on the Committee, and one staff representative from the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (OESS): Nick Cookson, Sustainability Program Manager. The voting members of the Green Fund Committee direct the efforts and funds for the organization.
The Green Fund is an organization dedicated to the ideals of sustainability and environmentalism, but Chair of the Executive Board Hannah-Marie Garcia believes the idea of sustainability shouldn’t be perceived in a narrow or limiting way.
“I think there is a stigma surrounding sustainability in general, that it’s just environmental,” said Garcia. For her, sustainability also encompasses social and economic issues. Garcia suggested that the Green Fund’s most important aim is fostering a culture that acknowledges and seeks to address these issues.
Although the Green Fund hasn’t funded any projects yet, they plan to open up the application process soon, and more information about the application process will be available on their website.
Lauren Newman, Sustainability Fellows Coordinator, added that the OESS and Greek Life had already begun working together towards this goal earlier in the semester.
“I had two students approach me close to Shake Day this semester, Annie Corley (C’20) and Grace Metzger (C’20). They were interested in making Shake Day more sustainable,” began Newman. She added that, with the help of Facilities Management, “they were able to gather bins and make sure that [recyclables] were responsibly disposed of.”
Newman explained that there lies still more opportunity in seeing how this relationship could expand in the future, saying that one way this might manifest would be Sustainability or “Green” representatives in each Greek organization to help increase the relevance of sustainability on campus.
Garcia emphasized that one of the main goals for the Green Fund is to engage with students from multiple disciplines, not just students studying environmental topics. She discussed how both herself and Crystal Ngo, the founder of the Green Fund who is currently abroad, share this vision.
“One thing that I have learned from both my sustainability major and from my experience in Anthropology too, and in talking with Crystal, is that issues with the environment right now and with sustainability aren’t going to be solved from just one area,” said Garcia.
“[Conversations about Sustainability] should also include the anthropology or economics or computer science individuals who might have a different perspective. It’s about social sustainability too, so how do we get people there? How we make our community more effective and better for the future is by enabling people who recognize how to address different issues from different angles,” continued Garcia.
One limitation on the Green Fund is that it must keep its sights focused on Sewanee’s campus. Garcia explained, “There is a portion of the fund already dedicated to off-campus initiatives, but 50 percent of the fund this year will be specifically related to campus activities in order to promote a sustainable culture from within the community itself.”
For now, though, members of the Green Fund are focused on building the infrastructure for the organization and ensuring its prolonged success. One way the Green Fund hopes to do this is by featuring its own good work.
“We’re going to try to showcase projects, too,” stated Garcia, explaining that they hope to “once a semester have a community gathering or meeting, just as a welcome back to the semester, and have the Green Fund host it, where we invite all of the successful applicants and maybe have a panel.”
When asked how she envisions the growth of the Green Fund moving into the future, Garcia stated: “I would like to see the Green Fund grow in terms of our budget and be able to be an even greater resource for the community. I would love to see the Green Fund become a collaborative entity that encourages Sewanee to push a little deeper into planning projects that make a positive and lasting impacts.”
Ultimately though, returning to the importance of diversity of thought on campus, Garcia explained, “I really hope to see it be a positive presence on campus, that it’s not just a source of money but also a source of conversation.”
She concluded by saying, “By the time I graduate, I want to walk up to someone and ask ‘Have you heard of the —’ And their response immediately be ‘Yes, Hannah-Marie, we’ve heard about the Green Fund.’”
Laughing, Garcia added, “I feel like I’ve been campaigning, but you can’t expect change to happen if people don’t know the resources available to them!”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability website.