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UVM sustainability fund helps create change on campus

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 8:10 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A special fund at the University of Vermont encourages students to propose and create real change on campus and within the community when it comes to sustainability and clean energy.

The Sustainable Campus Fund is supported by a $10 fee paid by each student and is then offered back to students through funding for projects as long as they meet certain criteria. And although projects have been sporadic, officials say it’s gaining traction.

“This fund increases agency for the students,” said Elizabeth Palchak, the fund’s coordinator.

She says when it comes to sustainability and climate change, UVM is about taking action.

“If it meets the criteria of the fund and supports the vision of the Sustainable Campus Fund, I think the group is willing to see a well-thought-out, well-developed proposal on just about anything,” Palchak said.

The fund has been around for years under different names and leadership. It was most recently known as the Clean Energy Fund before a name switch in 2020 intended to broaden the program’s scope.

“Through social media and social networking we are getting more of the word out, we are trying to reach a cross-section of the university,” said Claire Burlingham, the chair of the Investing Advisory Council, who acts as the liaison between the fund and the administration.

She says the board decides which projects to fund, looks for innovation, environmental impact and infrastructure.

“To make sure that we have the most impact with the students’ money, because we are very conscientious of the fact that this is student money,” Burlingham said.

Students are responsible for going through the proposal process, ensuring all parties on campus that need to be are involved and officials say they gain valuable life and career experience.

“We think of UVM as a campus or a lab. So, we can use the UVM campus to test these ideas, using this funding that the university has allocated, which is a very progressive concept. And some of these ideas can be shared with other campuses, may have relevance beyond our campus to the city or the state level,” said Palchak.

While projects like bike-sharing, environmental podcasting and electric vehicle charging stations pop up, it keeps UVM looking forward.

“Do something innovative on our campus that may be applicable to the city of Burlington, or maybe the University of New Hampshire borrows our idea,” said Palchak.

Burlingham says as it grows, she is confident the university will stand behind it and continue to use it as a place for students to learn and the university to grow.

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