The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

CERF emerges as environmental leader

By Annie Lewine

A group on campus is coordinating the purchase of a wind turbine in Stevens County, Minn., that will be able to generate two megawatts of power. The same group is supporting efforts on campus to convert Café Mac’s used cooking oil into biodiesel. And that same group, managed by two students, a faculty member, an administrator, a trustee and an alumnus, is also planning to convert a house into an environmentally sustainable student residence.The group, newly established this semester, is the Clean Energy Revolving Fund, or CERF. It is financing many of Macalester’s latest environmental initiatives. The fund’s projects boost campus sustainability while providing a distinct economic advantage.

“The basic idea is to create a fund that can be used to finance sustainability projects here on campus,” said Environmental Studies professor Chris Wells, currently the chair of CERF. “What makes it interesting and important is that it’s designed as a revolving fund which means that it’s self-replenishing.”

A revolving fund replenishes itself through revenue generated from its own activities. CERF replenishes itself by investing in more energy-efficient technology or equipment for the school in order to promote campus sustainability; CERF has a mechanism to capture the energy savings in a way that will pay back the investment.

CERF is managed by a board of one trustee, one college administrator, one faculty member, one alumnus and two students. The Campus Environmental Issues Committee and the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) each appoint a student to the board.

The CERF board meets three times a year while depending on the student organization Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society (MacCARES) to foster discussion and develop new projects.

“Similar things have been done before. The problem is that they don’t really encourage the students to participate,” said Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09, one of the student board members. “We wanted to create something with the same economic advantages which also takes the needs and ideas of students into account.”

“I’m really excited about the innovative nature of this project, especially because it’s student-led,” said Jake Levy-Pollans ’09, the MCSG-appointed student board member. “It’s a great way to go about promoting sustainability.”

Asa Diebolt ’09 and Den Herder-Thomas began working on the charter for CERF last spring and the fund began receiving MCSG funding this fall. The charter states that the fund’s mission is to “encourage global sustainability on campus and in the community by funding innovative projects [and] empower students to build a sustainable community.”

Many hope that CERF’s projects at Macalester will serve as an example for other college campuses nationwide. Den Herder-Thomas and Diebolt are currently drafting a “how-to manual” for other schools through the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE ).

Den Herder-Thomas said that he hopes the ideas behind CERF will spread outside of higher education to reach neighborhoods, businesses and other communities as well.

“Students can come up with these ideas, so can everyday people” Den Herder-Thomas said. “It can be done anywhere and is something that can be grasped by neighborhoods.”

Some initiatives students are working on now include finding more energy-efficient lighting for dorms and school buildings, encouraging water conservation, and introducing “vending-misers,” vending machines that turn on and off in response to motion sensors.

“The vending-misers are an example of a smaller project, but they actually have been shown to both save energy and increase sales, so we’re looking into that,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

“It’s all about student initiatives so if anyone has any ideas they should let us know. They can think big, it just might take a while,” he said.

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