The Clean Energy Campaign was initiated by a group of students who wanted to address the need for renewable energy on campus. These students led a campaign that pushed Evergreen into a leading role in the sustainability movement of higher education. In the winter of 2005, an overwhelming majority of the voting students approved the Clean Energy Initiative.

Polls closed on January 7th, 2005, with a voter turnout of 28% and a majority of 91% in favor of the Clean Energy Fee.  The campaign was spearheaded by Brad Bishop, and combined the efforts of several student groups, including WashPIRG, Students at Evergreen for Ecological Design (SEED), the Environmental Resource Center (ERC), Developing Ecological Agriculture Practices (DEAP), and Greener Futures.

Beginning in the fall of 2005, students began to pay a $1 per credit Clean Energy Fee. Since then, the students have been purchasing renewable energy credits to offset 100% of the electricity consumed by the college. The fee is structured: 90% of the fund for renewable energy credits for the college, and 10% for on-campus renewable energy projects. The original vision for the Clean Energy Committee was to increase Evergreen’s academic role in generating its own clean energy and research in this field. The idea is that school would become self-sufficient and eliminate the need to purchase energy offsets.

With the increase of energy efficiency on campus, and the declining cost of Green Tags through Puget Sound Energy, roughly 50% of the fee is needed to cover the cost of renewable energy credits. The remaining funds are reserved for on-campus projects, and are allocated by the Clean Energy Committee.

Students have funded renewable energy projects on campus, including electric vehicles, the student-run Biodiesel Project, the solar cell array on top of the library, and the Bike Share Program. In 2009, Evergreen took a bold move in the direction of renewable energy research when students funded one third of a biomass gasification feasibility study to replace the use of natural gas on campus.

Many students were interested in other projects that relate to Evergreen’s sustainability goals that did not align with the topic of clean energy. In the fall of 2009, another student election was held to amend the Clean Energy Initiative.  Students voted to expand the scope of the Clean Energy Committee to include resource conservation. Since then, the committee has funded an edible forest garden,  a wetland restoration project, an efficient dishwasher for the Flaming Eggplant, a food sovereignty film series, and Synergy: Evergreen’s annual sustainable living conference.

Thank you students! Evergreen has a rare financial resource committed to sustainability on campus, creating opportunities for everyone to be involved.