The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Senate addressed on-campus sustainability initiatives in its first full senate meeting this school year.
At the meeting Wednesday, ASUNM Sen. Earl Shank, who is also the student government’s sustainability coordinator, discussed a resolution about the proposed Green Fund.
A resolution in support of the Green Fund, which aims to encourage environmentally friendly programs at UNM, was introduced in the ASUNM senate in the spring semester. The fund would support efforts that are part of the University’s Climate Action Plan, which former UNM President David Schmidly signed in 2009.
The plan includes ideas on how to reduce waste and energy usage on campus, Shank said. He said part of the plan is to have the University conserve natural resources to decrease its carbon emission by 80 percent by 2030 and to become 100 percent climate neutral by 2050.
Shank said the University has welcomed student initiatives that support sustainability in the past, such as installing a solar system at the University Stadium and selling recycled energy back to PNM Resources, the company that provides electricity to UNM. Shank said the fund would also promote student participation to conserve energy usage on campus.
“There is limited funding for initiatives on campus around sustainability,” he said. “But through the Green Fund, which is mostly student-operated, there is some administrative oversight because there is student turnover. And we would want that knowledge to stay within the Green Fund Committee.”
At an ASUNM senate meeting in April, former Student Regent Jacob Wellman said that once the fund is created, $13 of every student’s fees would go to it, and will help finance student-led sustainability projects at the University. These include bike-share programs, solar panel installations, a campus farm and an upgraded recycling system, he said.
In Shank’s presentation, he said students’ contribution to conserving energy on campus will determine UNM’s progress with its sustainability initiatives.
“We can do all these interesting things on campus, but it ultimately comes down to the behavior of students,” Shank said.
“We can save output of greenhouse gases via the installation of new systems, but should students realize that if you turn off a light when you exit a room, don’t leave the sink running, or turn off the air conditioning, then those effects are just as important.”
Shank said solar systems will cost the University a lot of money, so ASUNM’s Green Fund Committee will focus on projects that save money and energy use at the same time. He said that although solar systems are great sustainability options for the University, there are other inexpensive ways to conserve energy on campus.
“We have a limited amount of funding via the state and the institution, and for us, there are ways for us to make more meaningful change with the dollars that we do have,” Shank said. “Solar (systems) are very expensive, and it is great technology. But for the time being, we’re working to improve our infrastructure to modernize it, and then go back to solar after we’ve made those improvements.”
ASUNM Sen. Liliana Benitez De Luna said she is working with the Green Fund Committee. She said student participation is important for the committee to move projects forward.
“It’s going to be crucial,” Benitez De Luna said. “It’s something that we stress a lot to students as senators. We can’t do our job unless we have support from the students.”