Campus green fund plans for 10 more years of sustainability projects

Anna Sapozhnikov/Staff

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The Green Initiative Fund, UC Berkeley’s campus sustainability fund, was founded in 2007 by a student fee referendum championed by UC Berkeley students passionate about environmentalism and student empowerment. These students recognized a lack of reliable funding for campus sustainability from UC Berkeley’s administration and sought to create tangible, hands-on opportunities for students to take on ambitious, necessary projects that reduce the campus’s impact on the environment.

Initially created from a $5 semesterly student fee, The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF as it’s become affectionately known, has granted more than $2 million to student-led, campus-focused sustainability projects.

This year, TGIF presented a referendum to the student body asking for a fee renewal from 2017 to 2027. After months of planning and two weeks of hard campaigning, the TGIF team was thrilled to find out that UC Berkeley students voted to renew the fee with a 68 percent “yes” vote. Now that TGIF has been renewed, TGIF’s staff and partner departments are excited to see another 10 years’ worth of student sustainability projects.

Almost every student has interacted with a TGIF project during their time here at Berkeley. From the water bottle refill stations across campus to the Berkeley Student Food Collective to compost and recycling bins in Wurster Hall to the vegetables grown at the UC Berkeley Student Organic Garden, TGIF works in areas of campus sustainability falling under seven major project themes.

In the past year, TGIF funded $215,722.07 combined through its 2015 fall mini-grant and 2016 spring grant cycles, providing $4,731.50 in the fall and $210,990.57 in the spring. Mini-grants provide opportunities for smaller projects, as the amount requested from TGIF must be between $500 and $2,000, while spring projects are larger, with a minimum $2,000 required.

Last fall, the TGIF Committee funded three mini-grant projects: one waste diversion and reduction project, and two habitat restoration and native landscaping projects focusing on Strawberry Creek and the Blake Garden in Kensington, California.

This spring, TGIF chose to fund 11 new projects for the campus, featuring four agriculture and food justice projects, three energy conservation and efficiency projects, two transportation and urban development projects and one project in each of the categories of water conservation and education and behavioral change.

TGIF has more than 40 active projects, with 15 projects awarded in spring 2015. The Bulk Bin project introduced bulk food dispensers in three campus retail locations, Bear Market, Cub Market and the Golden Bear Cafe, in addition to working to provide compostable rather than plastic bags. The Berkeley Parklets, Bike Corrals and Art Lots project includes UC Berkeley students and affiliated adjunct faculty as leaders in a community effort to create sustainable alternatives to automobile-centric transportation by designing and building an affordable parklet. The Bicycle Parking Improvement Project added about 76 additional bicycle parking spaces in central areas of campus and created signage aimed primarily at teaching proper bike locking. Students piloted a dual flush toilet system in a cooperative house and worked toward a recycling and composting system in the Clark Kerr Campus, Foothill, and Stern residence halls, an e-bike share program for staff and a green lab supplies and equipment award program. One of TGIF’s projects, Tiny House in My Backyard, aims to design an innovative, affordable and sustainable tiny house that would serve as a seed for a neighborhood of similarly minded projects, and some of the team even attended a portion of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. All of these projects were awarded just last year and have accomplished so much already.

Each of these unique projects only skims the surface of what TGIF has provided for the UC Berkeley campus. Moving forward, TGIF promises to rethink and modernize its mission as it prepares for the next 10 years of grant funding. Just as students were a pivotal influence in both TGIF’s initial and renewal campaigns, they have been the backbone of TGIF by taking on leadership roles in the sustainability community. Students are invited to continue their involvement with TGIF by applying for new, creative projects to make manifest the principles of sustainability and environmental justice on the Berkeley campus.

Sharon Daraphonhdeth, Brian Gialketsis, Lauren Murphy and Jimmy Dunn are staff members at The Green Initiative Fund.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The Green Initiative Fund granted $211,991.11 in funds in spring 2016. In fact, TGIF granted $210,990.57.