A lighting retrofit for the Santa Cruz Wharf, a bike generator for local youth and an energy dashboard to provoke behavior change are just some of the student projects chosen by the Carbon Fund committee last year. Now entering its fourth year, the Carbon Fund has supported 20 projects since its start in 2010.
The Carbon Fund aims for a sustainable future by reaching out to UC Santa Cruz students and encouraging them to create projects mitigating carbon emissions, all while conducting research, educating or striving to enact behavioral changes toward sustainability.
“The Carbon Fund is definitely trying to expand its horizons through the directions it goes in. We care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Carbon Fund outreach coordinator Anna Barclay. “However, there are other co-benefits we look at when we are evaluating projects so they could hopefully include education and engagement.”
The Carbon Fund has supported projects such as the Energy Dashboard and Behavior Change and Bike Generator for At Risk Youth, which were both selected last year.
According to the 2012-13 annual report, the Energy Dashboard and Behavior Change project aims to promote behavior change by monitoring energy usage. The Bike Generator for At Risk Youth project works with students and staff at Natural Bridges High School, and seeks to educate students about energy using a human-powered bike electricity generator.
Projects like the bike generator begin when students attend an information session about applying for and creating the types of projects the committee is looking for.
“We had a huge turnout this year,” Barclay said. “There were about 35 to 40 people there and about 25 or so were students, so it was really exciting.”
After the initial meeting, students have time to construct and plan their proposals, which they will submit to the Carbon Fund committee. After all submissions are received, the proposals undergo a review process, and students should expect to hear the results within three weeks.
The Carbon Fund began when UCSC students passed Measure 26 in 2006, which allocates additional student fees to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). These aid in offsetting the climate impact of campus electricity purchases.
Facilities such as wind or solar farms, which produce energy through renewable means, generate RECs other institutions can then purchase, according to Renewable Choice Energy’s website.
When UCSC purchases these RECs with Measure 26 funds, the campus directly funds the growth of sustainable energy by offsetting less sustainable campus electricity practices, such as burning coal.
In 2010, UCSC students voted to pass Measure 44, which changed the Carbon Fund using the money previously generated by Measure 26. The funds now support student-created, renewable and energy-efficient projects that would directly reduce the campus’s carbon footprint.
Although other campuses in the University of California have similar student fees supporting sustainability projects, UCSC is the only campus with a fund specific to reducing carbon emissions, said Carbon Fund committee climate action manager Chrissy Thomure.
“Each UC campus is striving toward similar sustainability goals — zero waste, zero emissions, et cetera — but all are approaching the issue from slightly different perspectives,” Thomure said. “UCSC’s strengths are around student engagement and grass-roots level action.”
The Carbon Fund conveys its commitment to student engagement by reaching out to all parts of the student body at UCSC trying to achieve creative expression of carbon emission reduction.
“I would like students from disciplines who aren’t primarily focused on the environment to find creative ways to integrate carbon reduction projects into their academic applications,” Thomure said.
While the committee wants to focus mainly on the campus because of the student fees, the Carbon Fund extends beyond UCSC into the community in the form of the wharf project, one of the selected proposals. UCSC researchers work with wharf supervisor and climate action coordinator to retrofit the wharf lighting from sodium halide bulbs to LED lighting.
As this year’s abstract proposal deadline draws near, Thomure is excited about the growth of participants and the future of the Carbon Fund on UCSC’s campus.
“The fee measure does not have a sunset date,” Thomure said, “so as long as students support it, [the Carbon Fund] will continue to be a resource for funding projects on campus and in the community seeking to reduce carbon emissions.”