The We Mean Green Fund committee is currently hosting a StormDrain Artscape Design contest.
Oct. 26, 2016
Athletic programs at the University of North Texas have long been known for their “Mean Green” teams. Now UNT students use the slogan to show they’re serious about sustainability.
In 2010, the UNT student government initiated the We Mean Green Fund program by popular vote. Students now pay a mandatory $5 fee in the spring and fall designated for environmental improvement at UNT.
The Natural Dye Garden at UNT was funded by the We Mean Green Fund.
Gary Cocke, UNT sustainability coordinator, says that the We Mean Green Fund provides for two environmentally-minded goals.
“We want to have the greatest possible impact on UNT, but we also want to provide leadership and educational opportunities for students with the projects that we take on,” he says. “Students are focused on student involvement from beginning to end with a focus on leadership.”
The We Mean Green Fund committee is comprised of 10 students and three faculty or staff members, who evaluate proposals for sustainability projects received from the UNT community. They've recommended funding of approved projects such as the school's Natural Dye Garden, bike promotion and reusable water bottle giveaway. The Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Council each appoint one representative to the committee; all other spots are filled through open recruitment and application.
“We are unique in keeping the community focused on students,” Cocke says.
He adds that students learn a lot of theory about why we think environmentally and develop a passion for it.
“If they [students] want to pursue a career in sustainability, that requires project leadership and technical skills that are not covered in classrooms,” he informs. “Working in my office, they apply those skills when they apply for a project and actually lead. They demonstrate results. Some of my experience before UNT came from municipal government, and I was expected to have project experience.”
The Bike Safety Committee worked through the We Mean Green Fund Committee to receive funding for their efforts to address bike safety at UNT and encourage biking to, from and around UNT.
Cocke shares that the We Mean Green Fund is administered as a student affairs initiative with the mission of implementing projects that make UNT more environmentally friendly and provide leadership opportunities for students. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 13 projects have been approved for funding and implementation, with the most recent being the Storm Drain Artscapes.
The committee is seeking artists to design and paint storm drains to raise awareness about storm drain pollution.
“I hope that we will raise awareness among students that our actions impact our aquatic resources,” he says. “Specifically, basically anywhere you’re standing, you are in a water feed, and if we’re littering, that litter later enters a waterway.”
He further explains that what that does is take water and anything in the water to our local lakes, eventually draining into the Gulf of Mexico. He notes that it starts with somebody throwing trash on the ground, and the issue he is trying to address is that he wants students to know that litter on campus has a much larger impact. It effects the quality of our drinking water, our aquatic ecology, and becomes an even larger issue as it drains into the Gulf of Mexico.
“I don’t think that a lot of people connect the dots when we litter,” Cocke says. “Essentially, the goal is to engage people. It will be an educational tool, and art school students will have a valuable role in the project. Art students are invaluable toward communicating issues, so to have artists care about this issue is key.”
According to PrincetonReview.com, based on a review of more than 2,000 colleges, there are 361 U.S. schools with an overall commitment to sustainability, and UNT, along with University of Texas at Dallas and Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, made the list.
In 2016, the We Mean Green Fund funded the purchase of 3,000 reusable bottles that were distributed at EarthFest.
Cocke says that recognition in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges is an honor for UNT as it acknowledges efforts that make the university environmentally friendly and enriches the student experience.
“Sustainability is a core value of UNT, and is engrained in everything the university does. From the LEED certified buildings to the Mean Greens Vegan Dining Hall to EarthFest to the sustainability-focused degree programs – every department incorporates this core value,” he says. “The We Mean Green Fund seeks to plug students into sustainability projects that allow departments to be progressive with sustainability efforts. The success of the We Mean Green Fund is attributable to many sustainability-focused partners who work with our students as they work toward an environmentally-friendly campus."