The Green Initiative Fund: Granting environmentally friendly projects funds

Saya Coronado/Staff

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The ASUC’s Sustainability Commission, or STeam, is working on a project to create a mobile hydroponic garden, which is a garden grown in liquid without soil — one of the many projects funded by The Green Initiative Fund.

The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF, collects $8 of the nearly $1,400 in campus fees paid by students — TGIF came to be in a student referendum first passed in 2007 that allocates funds to campus environmental initiatives in the form of grants.

The original TGIF fee of $5 was set to expire in 2017, but was increased by a 2016 renewal referendum, according to an email co-written by campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff and TGIF interim coordinator Brian Gialketsis. TGIF fees are set to increase by $1 every three years, expiring in 2027 at the price of $10.

ASUC Sustainability Commission co-chair and campus sophomore Jaron Kaplan noted that the importance of TGIF lies in its power to support less-recognized initiatives.

“It funds projects that are focused on sustainability and making campus more environmentally friendly,” Kaplan said. “It’s really important, because funding for environmental things is difficult to come by.”

When asked about how TGIF interacts with STeam, Kaplan said TGIF assists in funding specific projects — unlike the ASUC, which contributes to the general maintenance of the team.

The mobile hydroponic garden is one such project — Kaplan said it combines engineering and environmentalism to promote nontraditional forms of farming. TGIF provided STeam with $2,000 this semester to advance this project, according to Kaplan.

TGIF also funds the ASUC’s internal department of sustainability, or IDS, which gives funding to clubs that put forward an effort to promote sustainability within the internal frameworks of their organizations, according to Kaplan. The financial support TGIF provides to the IDS is “integral to how they work and how they function,” according to Kaplan.

“It’s really important in funding projects that are focused on funding more activism,” said Kaplan, citing Herbicide-Free Cal’s recent project to remove pesticides from campus that was made possible by TGIF.

According to Ratliff and Gialketsis, TGIF hosts a mini-grant cycle in the fall semester, distributing up to $2,000 in grant funding, and a larger grant cycle in the spring, with awards starting at $2,000. After the projects are reviewed by the TGIF committee, the TGIF coordinator and student program associates work with the grantees to distribute the funds.

In spring 2017, TGIF awarded 10 projects with funds totaling to $238,065. Such projects included the zero waste certification of Connie and Kevin Chou Hall, the Gill Tract Community Farm Student Coalition and a project team advocating for free menstrual products on campus.

“Since 2008, TGIF has funded over $2.5 million towards campus sustainability projects … and has been an instrumental program towards advancing sustainability initiatives on campus,” Ratliff said in an email.

Contact Francesca Munsayac and Janani Natarajan at [email protected].