Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Mason wasn’t kidding when it said it was committed to becoming more sustainable. Recently, university administration approved the Patriot Green Fund (PGF), an innovative student-led initiative to accelerate George Mason University’s sustainability transformation and commitment to climate neutrality via the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The fund was established to foster an environment where Mason can flourish academically through the practice of environmental, social, and economic stewardship. Beginning in the fall of 2011, the PGF will provide $100,000 annually to finance projects that have a high value in all three of these areas of sustainability. The fund will also work to raise awareness of and support for building a culture of sustainability on campus and in our communities. The PGF will empower students by providing them with an unprecedented opportunity to lead and direct projects that will create positive change.
Lenna Storm, University Sustainability Manager, is excited about the new program, “This is an unprecedented opportunity for students to make a visible and direct impact on sustainability at Mason, and it would not have happened without the dedication of the campus’ environmentally-minded students.” Students, faculty, and staff will be able to submit applications for funding starting in fall 2011. For the Mason community that was involved in this effort to get the green fund passed, the significance of the achievement can’t be understated.
In 2008, members of the Environmental Action Group (EAG) developed a strong desire to raise additional funds to speed up Mason’s commitment to advancing sustainability and achieving climate neutrality. “In spring 2009, our group had a frank discussion, and realized that if we were really going to walk the walk, we’d have to do more than host a few campus cleanups a semester. Then we got to work, and haven’t slowed down since,” said Alexandra Tyson, a rising senior involved with the PGF campaign since her freshman year.
According to Jason Von-Kundra, who became involved with the PGF campaign in 2009, what really stirred him up about the campaign was how innovative it is. “This fund will give students the opportunity to design projects that will create positive environmental, social, and economic impacts. For example, a student could conduct an original research project, or create a program to increase composting on campus. This will enhance student research and engagement throughout campus, which in turn, will help Mason fulfill our commitment to achieve climate neutrality” said Von-Kundra, referring to Mason’s pledge to emit net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.
Over the course of the campaign, the EAG collected 2,012 signatures from members of the student body who pledged to support the fund. The symbolism of the number isn’t lost on the group. “It’s pretty funny. A lot of people have been speculating that in 2012, the earth is supposed to undergo a new beginning. Well, we see the PGF as part of this shift; it’s a stepping stone in the path to a clean energy future,” said Anartia Gamboa, one of the PGF campaign’s coordinator.
Presently, the Office of Sustainability (OoS) and PGF Committee are working to develop the governing documents for the PGF, as well as the PGF application forms, application guidelines, and samples. The OoS is planning to promote the PGF heavily. Ce Garrison, an intern at the Office of Sustainability, is planning to hit the streets. “We believe people are more inclined to remember a face than an email. PGF projects will require working with a diverse group of people throughout Mason, and we want to show students that they’ll have a ton of support if they decide to get involved.”
For more information on the PGF, application deadlines and how to apply for funding please go to pgf.gmu.edu.
GMU Student Lauren Peery showing her support for the Patriot Green Fund. Photo Credit: Colin Bennett