Go Green Alliance and the Birth of the Green Fee
In 2008, students of the Go Green Alliance newly formed Go Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental student organizations, launched The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) campaign to fund an Office of Sustainability at UGA through a self-imposed $3 per semester “student green fee.”
Navigating the Mandatory Fees Process was a significant undertaking, but UGA students organized an effective campaign to promote campus sustainability. The Go Green Alliance used the proposed green fee and potential creation of an Office of Sustainability as a rallying cry to unite multiple organizations. They developed a campaign model based on UC Berkley’s The Green Initiative Fund. Students used creative marketing, talking up the Green Fee in classrooms and to anyone who would listen. They produced a petition with over 1000 student signatures in favor of the Green Fee, and developed relationships with faculty, staff and administrators as allies in the process.
With significant support, a referendum made it onto the Student Government Association ballot and efforts shifted to earning student votes. Students hosted tabling events to educate other students, continued classroom engagement, hosted parties, and even made coffee cup sleeves urging everyone to vote on the day of the ballot. The vote was historic and the green fee referendum passed overwhelmingly. Overall, 21% of the student body turned out to vote—the largest voter response at UGA in over a decade—and the Green Fee referendum was passed by an overwhelming 4-1 margin, receiving 4,698 votes in favor.
Members of the Go Green Alliance then focused to develop common ground with the University Mandatory Fees Committee which still had to recommend to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents that the green fee be established. They demonstrated its value to senior administration through careful research of similar efforts at other universities, feasible budget development for UGA, and by garnering purposeful and positive press. The Board of Regents ultimately approved the Green Fee, even at a time when there was a moratorium on new student fees, due to a clause stating “unless significant student support is demonstrated.”
Creation of the Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability was established on February 1, 2010 as part of a strategic directive to enhance conservation of resources and long-term sustainability at the University of Georgia. President Michael F. Adams established the Office in response to campus-wide recommendations and student-led initiatives, including the 2009 Report of the Working Group on Sustainability at the University of Georgia and The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) student-led campaign. The office was placed within the UGA Facilities Management Division to foster a culture of sustainability rooted in campus operations. Student green fee funds to support the office and other sustainability initiatives at UGA were first collected as part of tuition payments for Fall 2010.
Continued Support for the Office of Sustainability
During Fall 2013, the UGA student body voted in favor of a $1 increase in the Green Fee, but the increase was denied by the Mandatory Fees Committee because the Regents would not consider new or increased mandatory fees, the original referendum stated that the Green Fee would be re-evaluated in five years which would be August 2015, and the voter turnout (1,771) was insufficient to demonstrate campus-wide student interest.
Following a formal review of the effectiveness of the Office of Sustainability in Spring 2015, UGA President Jere W. Morehead announced increased institutional support for the Office of Sustainability in the amount of $80,000 per year starting in FY16. This support, equivalent to the proposed $1/student increase, effectively expanded funding for sustainability initiatives at UGA without increasing student fees.