USF Moves Closer to Passing a Student Green Energy Fund on their Campus

December 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

USF Students score a big victory for the Student Green Energy Fund Campaign!

Yesterday the University of South Florida’s (USF) Board of Trustees voted to approve a Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) for USF. The SGEF is, in short, a maximum fee of $1.00 per credit hour that would fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects on campus. On the Tampa campus alone this would generate approximately $1,000,000 dollars annually, and all of the money must be spent on energy saving measures or clean energy on campus.

From here, the SGEF proposal for USF moves onto the Board of Governors where, if passed, students will be able to vote in the Spring on whether to enact this fee. The fee would then take effect in the fall. This would make USF, a school generally lacking in sustainability, one of the first Universities in Florida with a SGEF!

The SGEF is really the campaign from which the youth climate movement began for Florida, and it is very close to my heart. The need for a state network became apparent to Florida youth while working on the SGEF campaign, starting in 2007. With a state network, after we won the SGEF campaign, we would still work together to conquer other pressing issues in the area. Now, thanks in large part to this campaign, Florida has an active state network, called the FL YES Coalition, which connects campuses across the state to tackle other pressing environmental issues.

Running a campaign from beginning to end has been a good experience for me. I am a senior at USF, and when I graduate I want to be able to say that while I was here, I took part in something meaningful that will tangibly affect the lives of future students at USF. The past couple of years have been trying for our movement. There was not a meaningful international agreement at Copenhagen, and the U.S. has still not passed legislation to address climate change. This has weighed heavily on me and caused me to question the possibility of us affecting change at all. However, the Student Green Energy Fund has made me realize that there is still a great amount of power in organizing.

Change is possible right now: the key is to focus on things that you can directly affect on a local scale. Winning these smaller scale campaigns helps us build our movement so that one day, our legislators and public officials will look around and realize that they are the only ones left refusing to switch over to a clean energy economy and address climate change.  And although they refused to listen to us, we continued on without them.

While passing the SGEF at USF is a local initiative, it has the potential to have rippling effects throughout the state. Students attending a school that invests in clean energy and efficiency will participate in a culture of sustainability, and they will be better prepared for the future marketplace of clean energy jobs. The University is meant to be a window into the future for how our society will function. For Florida to have all of its major universities invest in clean energy sends a clear signal to legislators that it is time to catch up with the youth of America and make investments for our future.

- Karissa Gerhke is a Senior at the University of South Florida, President of the Students Environmental Association and an active member of the FL YES Coalition.

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