Green group gets boost in energy funds

By Emily Howland

A new fund started by MacCARES to raise money for environmental initiatives will benefit from a $20,000 grant allocated by Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) at the meeting of the Legislative Body Tuesday night.

MacCARES members Richard Graves ’06 and Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 presented their proposal for the money as part of a larger campaign to raise $100,000 as a central funding source for future investments in energy efficiency, clean energy and environmental leadership.

The fund will provide a financial foundation to support the increased number of environmental projects at Macalester, like the green roof on top of the fishbowl which students installed April 14, a new wind turbine, and provisions for a green athletics facility.

MacCARES members said they hope the fund can indirectly combat rising tuition by improving energy efficiency.

As the cost of energy increases by 10 percent each year, tuition rises, Graves said. Two years ago the college spent $600,000 on energy costs, while this year energy costs are up to $1.2 million.

“Facilities Management received half a million dollars in rebates from energy companies over the last 15 years for their efforts in energy conservation but the increased energy prices have made it impossible for them to be efficient,” Graves said.

The first major investment of the fund would be a community-based wind turbine in which the college would pay for one percent, or $27,000, of the $27 million cost. A larger company would raise the rest of the money and the college would offset fossil fuel use with the wind energy in power grid.

Other projects the fund would support are weatherized windows in college buildings for better insulation, more efficient lighting, and a biodiesel project in which oil waste from the cafeteria would be used for car fuel and sold to students and professors.

MacCARES received a $7,000 contribution from the Environmental Studies department for the fund and applied for a $2,000 grant from Patagonia, which Graves said he is confident the organization will get.

The group expects to draw the remaining money to reach $100,000 from the college’s budget surplus and overage. The budget surplus from the 2005-2006 academic year, the money left over in the college’s budget at the end of the year, is allocated in October.

The overage is undistributed money meant to compensate for a greater number of students on campus in the fall.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll get close to $100,000 [for the fund] by the end of next year,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

MCSG President Ben Johnson said he was the only person to vote against the MacCARES proposal because he was concerned they wouldn’t get the planned $70,000 from the administration.

“The idea is good, but the way that it’s structured now, and the extent to which the project has been developed and the number of people that are on board, I don’t think it’s ready to be a success yet,” Johnson said.

Graves, however, said the support he has received so far for the fund sends a strong message to the administration.