Clean Energy Fund announces sustainability projects

As the ecological fabric of our environment unravels around us, some students are taking initiative and progressing toward a sustainable coexistence with the environment.However, every UVM student, many without even knowing, is involved in the development of sustainability values through the UVM’s Clean Energy Fund (CEF).”Each student is charged $10 a semester for the Clean Energy Fund,” Office of Sustainability Director Gioia Thompson said. “This money is [used] to make things happen that wouldn’t have otherwise happened in the regular budget.”This year’s approved CEF projects include:Solar panel installations”Campus Dashboard” — a real-time energy monitor of four buildings (University Heights North and South, Votey and Given) and five renewable energy installations Addition of two sustainability- related courses Research on “Smart Grid” — an electronically monitored system for efficiently delivering energyThanks to federal stimulus dollars, Vermont will be the first state to have a fully integrated smart grid system by the end of 2012, Thompson said.The CEF committee approved $256,669 to be spent on this year’s projects out of the $452,613 accumulated in two years.  The Vermont Clean Energy Fund will match some of this money, Thompson said.”This is an effort to incorporate sustainability values into the institution’s business,” she said. “We’re trying to build a program that will support meaningful student engagement in the long run.”These real-time displays show how much energy is being consumed and produced, and include useful conversions that help put energy into relatable terms.According to research, real-time displays make a huge difference in motivating both awareness and response when it comes to energy consumption, Thompson said.”We’re interested in showing not just how much energy we use, but how difficult it is to produce all the energy we need,” she said.The Davis Center, another student-proposed initiative, was the first student center in the United States to earn Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification, and it was one of the first buildings to install a real-time energy meter, Thompson said.”We’re far from real sustainability — the illusive goal — but we’re trying to move in a way that makes it possible to progress to the future,” she said.Students are working to make strides toward sustainability on their own as well.Sophomore Máire Lenihan said she noticed a problem with excessive trash at the Marche. As part of a class project, she is running a trial where select students are given reusable to-go boxes made from recycled plastics. “I wanted to do something that would better the community and reduce trash.” Lenihan said. “The tough part is getting people to actually reuse the reusable containers.”According to Vermont’s strict health codes, Lenihan says, students are not allowed to use their own reusable containers making it difficult to promote this kind of sustainability.”Sustainability is about the survival of our species,” the Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP) Vice President Mikayla McDonald said. “Most indicators say we won’t be able to sustain the path we’re on forever.” VSTEP, a student-run organization dedicated to spreading environmental awareness, has led the campaign against the sale of bottled water on campus.”Love has to be the general motivation for trying to preserve the environment,” McDonald said, “How do you get people to love?”