Tufts allocates inaugural round of Green Fund money

This summer, three projects dedicated towards campus sustainability received the first-ever round of funding from Tufts’ Campus Sustainability Fund, also known as the Green Fund.

The fund will award $40,000 annually to sustainability-related projects proposed by the Tufts community, according to Tina Woolston, program director at Tufts’ Office of Sustainability.

The Green Fund receives money from the endowment payout of the university’s Sustainable Investment Fund, Woolston said.

Woolston, who is also part of the Green Fund committee that manages the funding, explained that the committee decided that the $40,000 available in the fund could be allocated to any number of projects.

“We only have $40,000 a year to give away, so if there’s one project that’s really amazing and it costs $40,000, then we can decide to just fund that one project,” Woolston said. “But there are tons of projects that only cost a few thousand dollars or less, so there’s opportunity to fund more than one interesting project.”

Woolston explained that since this is the first year of Green Fund funding, the committee decided to do a soft launch to test out their system.

“We wanted to start small and advertise this to people we know were interested, and then we’ll build from this experience,” Woolston said.

The committee chose three project proposals this past spring to share the $10,000 that made up the Green Fund’s soft launch, leaving another $30,000 available for the remainder of this academic year.

The proposal to install a solar charging station at Hodgdon Hall was awarded the most funding through the soft launch, receiving $6,500. A proposal to install a water bottle filling station at the School of Dental Medicine received $3,000 and $500 was awarded to improve composting efforts on the university’s Boston Health Sciences Campus, according to Woolston.

Tufts Energy Group (TEG) proposed the solar charging station project, according to group member Ryan Biette.

Biette, a senior, said that TEG’s solar project has been in the works for over three years. The project previously received a $10,000 grant from Arlington-based company SunBug Solar in 2013, but had needed additional funding to be realized.

“I was looking to get any more funding sources [for the project],” Biette said.

Biette said he learned about the Green Fund through Woolston.

“There were a lot of really great submission ideas,” he said. “We were probably one of the more expensive ones, but I think the return on investment will be very good.”

The solar charging station will include solar panels on the south side wall of Hodgdon Hall and solar-powered outlets both on the outdoor patio and in the Hodgdon common room, according to Biette.

“There’s also going to be a lot of signage to explain the process to people about how solar works and where this energy is coming from,” Biette added.

Biette explained that TEG and Facilities Services electricians determined that since the Hodgdon patio is only usable for a few months out of the year due to weather, the solar energy will be wired to the Hodgdon common room so that the energy can be used during the winter.

“Sometime during the fall, we’ll switch where the energy is going to so that people can continue to use it throughout the year,” Biette said.

Hodgdon Hall was chosen to be the location of the solar charging station because of its patio access and solar-friendly location, according to Biette.

“Using solar radiance data and other diagnostic tools, we looked at hotspots on campus of what would work best. Hodgdon ended up being that place that had good radiance data and also permission from Tufts,” he said.

Currently, SunBug and Tufts are in the final round of negotiations over the contract and construction specifics, according to Biette. While a construction date has not been set yet, Biette hopes that the project can be completed this fall.

Woolston explained that the three winning proposals emerged from a field of around 30 submissions.

“We looked for projects that were on one of the Tufts campuses and would impact as many students and community members as possible,” Woolston said. “A lot of decisions were based on which projects will have the maximum impact and affect the largest amount of people.”

Olivia Ireland, one of three undergraduate students who served on the first Green Fund committee, explained that the committee would like to choose future undergraduate members from across the Tufts student body.

“All three [students] were from the School of Arts and Sciences, so in the future they’re trying to get more of a diversity of perspectives with the students and have graduate students get involved as well,” Ireland, a junior, said.

Project submissions for the remaining $30,000 in funding will open after students return for the fall semester, Ireland added.

“We want to do it as students come back to campus because there wouldn’t be as much response over the summer, so we want to really get people involved and get a lot of good applications and ideas,” Ireland said.

Woolston expressed that there had been desire for something like the Green Fund for many years, and its formation will now help to fund many future sustainability projects.

“We’re going to need everyone’s involvement to reach carbon neutrality, so finding ways to come up with better ideas is something we’ve been interested in seeing happen for a long time,” Woolston said.