Proposed Patriot Green Fund Would Support Sustainability at Mason

Posted: March 6, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

The Office of Sustainability and the student-led Environmental Awareness Group are attempting to launch the Patriot Green Fund, a student-initiated and student-run campaign designed to have a positive effect on the environmental friendliness of Mason’s campuses.

The Patriot Green Fund campaign calls for student fees to increase slightly to support sustainability initiatives: $5 for every full-time student and $2 for every part-time student per semester. All money collected from this student fee would go directly into the Patriot Green Fund and be used only for sustainability projects, research and improvements that will benefit Mason’s environment and the community as a whole.

But first, approval from the student body is needed. A referendum will be held this month for students to vote for or against the implementation of the Patriot Green Fund. If the majority of Mason students vote in favor of the Patriot Green Fund, the proposal will go to the Board of Visitors (BOV) for its approval. And if the BOV approves, it will go into effect immediately.

Money collected from the sustainability student fee would be allocated for three specific purposes. The first 10 percent would be dedicated to student projects and research that have an environmental component. Students could apply for funding to conduct research or to implement completed research.

“There could be someone here at Mason who has a great idea, and all they need is a little bit of funding to get the project going,” says Colin Bennett, sustainability assistant in the Office of Sustainability. “Or maybe someone wants to conduct research to make the technology that creates electricity from water, who knows? Hopefully, this will inspire those folks to actually go out and do it.”

The next 40 percent of the money would go to capital improvements and investments at Mason to help things operate more efficiently. Improvements such as installing energy-efficient windows or adding solar panels to supplement the electricity Mason purchases from the grid are examples. Ultimately, this money could be spent on any project that helps Mason make environmental strides.

The remaining 50 percent would be put into a “green endowment.” Over the years, the money collected from the sustainability student fee would be invested in this endowment, with a goal of reaching $1 million. Once the goal is met, the $1 million would be kept in the endowment and the interest it accrues every year would be spent on capital improvement and investments at Mason.

“This money will serve as the source to fund other great projects that Mason has going on,” explains Bennett. “Our electricity comes from burning coal, and burning coal causes all kinds of pollution like mercury, nitrous-oxide and carbon pollution. If we produce our own electricity through things like solar panels instead of burning coal, that would be reducing the amount of coal being burned, hence lowering the amount of emissions that we are responsible for through that purchase of electricity.”

Lauren Peery, freshman global and environmental affairs major, thinks the Patriot Fund is a great idea.

She explains, “I’m new at Mason and haven’t been that active in student activities so far, so I was looking for something that really interests me and that I can go forward with. Five dollars per student does not sound like very much, but if you think about all the students that Mason has collectively, it adds up to enough where it is a significant amount of money that we can invest in Mason.”

Some popular ideas for potential improvements are installing solar panels, replacing all lights with LED bulbs, growing an on-campus garden or farm and creating a bicycle share program. Anyone at Mason who has an idea to help make Mason greener can contribute their ideas for consideration and development.

“Implementing the Patriot Green Fund is the first step. Everyone cares about the environment, but now we need to do something about it,” says Bennett.

“We are trying to put this on the fast track because the longer we wait, the worse things are going to get in terms of the environment. Air pollution, water pollution and global warming are just increasing. The time to take action is now, and if the students vote in favor of this, then that means that they recognize that now is the time to act.”

Patriot Green Fund kiosks will be set up in the Johnson Center on Monday, March.16, from 1 to 4 p.m.; Tuesday, March 17, from 10 a.m. to noon; Wednesday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to noon; and Thursday, March 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about the Patriot Green Fund, see the Sustainability web site or call 703-993-4426.

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