Sustainability fund bolsters initiatives

Marina Boyle, Staff writer

The Mercyhurst University Sustainability Fund is a financial source that is used to advance the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability. It can be used to fund any project that will improve campus and its involvement in global affairs.

The fund provides investment to ecologically focused proposals such as carbon neutrality, alternative energy and environmental research.

This generous allocation of money is an underused advantage that has great potential. Every member of the Erie campus community — including students, faculty, administrators and staff — can initiate a project and submit proposals for recommendation. The process is as simple as filling out a proposal form that describes the project in full.

Individuals with an idea that is less focused can meet with Sarah Bennett, lecturer of Biology and Sustainability Officer, for assistance with the idea.

Bennett will help narrow the focus by discussing practicalities such as location, maintenance, budget and the proposed timeline.

Projects that have been funded so far include the purchase of wind power, the green roof on the Zurn Hall Ceramics lab, recycling bins across campus and the solar-powered emergency blue lights.

The recently purchased carbon REC’s and carbon offsets increase the global responsibility of the Erie campus, and 40 percent of their total cost came from the Sustainability Fund. There is a huge scope for the implementation of other ideas as the fund can provide aid ranging anywhere from $1,000 up to $25,000.

The allocation of money is overseen by a Sustainability Fund Review Board, consisting of a coordinator, faculty and staff, an administrator and student representatives.

The fund receives its money from a $5 donation per student per semester, taken directly from tuition.

While this may seem like an insignificant sum, the increasing student body at Mercyhurst allows the fund to garner larger sums of money each semester and provide significant aid to those with viable project ideas.

Effective use of this service, which is paid for by each student, can continue to improve campus.

In order to make submitting a proposal even easier, guidance is available to those who need help refining their idea. Each student who proposes a plan is required to have a project supervisor, who can be any faculty or staff member. The proposal is then evaluated based on criteria such as innovation, feasibility, schedule and consistency with the strategic vision and the mission of Mercyhurst as an institution.

The goal of the fund is to advance the university’s commitment to global sustainability with regard to the environment, education, student recruitment and public relations. All project initiators should bear this in mind.

“The Sustainability Fund allows Mercyhurst to push sustainable initiatives forward, leading to a healthier and more environmentally friendly campus, which is better for everyone. Additionally, it is a resource that allows students to take ownership of campus projects and an opportunity to leave their mark on the campus that will last for many years after they graduate,” Bennett said.

Other institutions with similar ‘Green Funds’ have implemented alternative energy usage on campus, sustainability research and development, energy efficient vehicles, recycling initiatives and energy efficient lighting. The fund at Mercyhurst is an asset to the school and the global environment and it is hoped that more people will take advantage of it in the future.