Editorial: As Pitt becomes more green, students should pay attention

By Staff Editorial

Have you ever off-handedly complained about any of the following: Student Government Board, the… Have you ever off-handedly complained about any of the following: Student Government Board, the environment, Pitt’s administration or that nasty stench outside of Towers patio?

In attempt to make Pitt a greener institution, a group of student organizations proposed the creation of a new environmental project called the Green Fund.

This isn’t just another mundane Student Government Board endeavor. It’s a very simple idea that could make a very big impact on Pitt’s environmental footprint. But at the same time, it will also raise your semesterly fees and set quite the precedent for future pet projects.

In short, you should actually care about this one.

If initiated, the Green Fund would be run by a new student organization called the Student Sustainable Projects Committee — catchy, we know — a group composed of nine students who oversee how the group’s funding is spent. That funding, by the way, would come primarily from a new $5 per semester fee that every Pitt student would have to pay. That’s about $160,000 per year, for those of you playing along at home.

With the blessings of SGB and a few administrative bodies, the project could be underway by this fall.

There’s this report called the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report Card. Essentially, it serves to evaluate and compare college’s environmental efforts. To keep things interesting, the report gives each school a letter grade.

For the past three years, Pitt has received a “C,” another “C” and a “C-.” Too bad it couldn’t take this one pass/fail.

In comparison, Carnegie Mellon and Penn State both received B’s this year.

While these grades certainly aren’t the be-all, end-all of sustainability evaluation, they serve as a general indicator that Pitt has some ground to make up in the whole going-green department.

Whereas creating this fund could help Pitt become more environmentally friendly, it presents some questions in the early stage in which it currently exists: If we allow student fees to be increased for this idea, where do we draw the line on future projects? Should an environmentally friendly university be a responsibility — and expense — of its students? How will these student leaders be selected? And is it really best for SGB to create this project externally, without its own funding or personnel?

What we have is a pretty good idea, but an unfinished one. So don’t wait until this fund is created to off-handedly complain about it. Now is the time to actually go to an SGB meeting — they’re Tuesdays at 8:45 p.m. in Nordy’s Place — or e-mail president Charlie Shull with your thoughts — his address is [email protected] — on how this can be created the right way, if it should be created at all.