Re-Growing the Green Fund

Everett Ackley

Contributing Writer

The Green Fund, also known as the Green Fee, has had a long history at Sewanee. According to its website, this student-led initiative started in 2005 when Katherine Wilkinson (C ’05 and Rhodes Scholar) proposed it to the University. It was subsequently approved and, by allotting six dollars from each student’s tuition payment, was used to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (REC) from the Tennessee Valley Authority through the Green Power Switch program. This aimed to help the University progress towards meeting the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment of carbon neutrality by 2030.

Later, in 2013, funding was funneled away from RECs and towards a reforestation/carbon offset shade-coffee startup in Haiti called Zanmi Kafe. This project aimed to empower local populations in Haiti to reforest their lands and grow coffee while sequestering carbon. To calculate the amount of carbon sequestered, The Haiti Institute in Sewanee would take students on an outreach trip where they would perform annual tree examinations. This data would be used to calculate carbon payments to the Haitian farms and measure our progress toward our net-zero goal. 

These carbon payments were sourced from the Green Fund and the McNeil Fellowship for $5,000 annually for roughly six years. According to the Green Fund’s website, the first round of payments was doled out in May 2015 to 45 families. Despite ending payments from the Green Fund in 2022, research and outreach involvement has continued in Haiti.

Currently, Caroline Lively (C ’24) is chair of the Green Fund. Through an interview with the Sustain Sewanee Newsletter, she said the organization was dormant until Sustainability Coordinator Sara McIntyre brought it up during a presentation in Lively’s Introduction to Environmental Studies class. Since then, progress has been made to restart the fund, which had  tapered off in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This work has mostly consisted of rewriting bylaws, restructuring the fund, and meeting with applicants.

The Green Fund currently has $28,000 and plans to spend around $15,000 this academic year. One recently approved project includes a $5,000 allotment to the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (OESS) for research into converting Sewanee’s van fleet to electric vehicles. If successful, this will lower Sewanne’s carbon footprint and will be a step toward meeting the University’s commitment to carbon neutrality. 

Another project is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Eric Ezell’s plan to make student research grant proposals (RGPs) a reality. In his class, The Science of Sustainability, students must create a complete RGP for a project of their choice. 

Instead of completing the proposal just for the grade, students can submit proposals for consideration in the Sustainability Fellows Grant Program. This grant program, sponsored by the Green Fund and the McNeil Fellowship, offers up to $7,500 dollars to make students’ research projects possible. Ezell says, “This big project gives you the opportunity to (1) showcase your research prowess, expertise, and capabilities in sustainability-related projects while (2) poising you strategically for your next steps at Sewanee & beyond.” All students are welcome to apply for this grant and any questions should be addressed to Sara McIntyre or Eric Ezell.

The Green Fund is accepting applications for new projects and board members. Both the executive and regular board have vacancies. Lively encourages interested students to reach out to her. More information can be found on the Sewanee Green Fund website, or in the second edition of the Sustain Sewanee Newsletter. 

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