Southside is one of many facilities on campus that embraces the green revolution. One proposal calls for the facility to use leftover vegetable oil as biofuel. Photo by Stephen Kline

Three years in the making, the Patriot Green Fund is the product of the hard work and persistence of the George Mason University Environmental Action Group and the Office of Sustainability. It will fund projects with the goal of promoting environmental awareness and sustainability in the Mason community.

Each year it will provide $80,000 to make upgrades to infrastructure that would reduce Mason’s impact on the environment. Another $20,000 will go toward projects with a focus on research.

“The most exciting thing about it is that it’s been student-led,” said Mason Sustainability Fellow Dann Sklarew, a member of the PGF committee. One proposal would create a green roof for the School of Public Policy in the Arlington campus. Another would recycle food waste from Southside, for example, using leftover vegetable oil as bio-fuel.

“The oil that our french fries are boiled in could be running our shuttles the next day,” Sklarew said.

Even with overwhelming student support, the initial proposal was met with some resistance. The campaign for the PGF began in 2008 when some members of the EAG proposed having a Green Fee of $5 per semester for full-time students to fund sustainability efforts around school. It was based on the Harvard Green Campus Loan Fund, which actually has saved their university just under $900,000 dollars in energy costs. It also saved millions of gallons of water and tons of waste. However, when the PGF was proposed to the Student Government in October 2008, some didn’t want another fee when tuition was already expected to increase by 10 percent. Others thought it was just a ploy to get funding for the EAG.

“It was really quite unfortunate, what, with the overwhelming student support,” said Collin Bennett, who worked for the Office of Sustainability at that time.

New members of the EAG sat down to negotiate with the school administration last school year. The group found funding within its own budget to pay for the fund. The PGF was approved over the summer, although without a fee and with a much smaller budget. “It’s a good first step,” Bennett said. He hopes that when people see how successful the PGF is, they will be willing to pay the $5 fee so they can do larger projects, like switching to renewable resources to power the campus, which currently gets much of its electricity from coal-fired power plants.

“We signed the President’s Climate Commitment in 2007. President Merten essentially committed George Mason to being climate neutral by 2050,” said senior global affairs major Anartia Gamboa, a prominent member of the EAG. “This year is really important. It will really make or break whether the Patriot Green Fund will be around [later].”

Bennett agrees that the student support needs to manifest as student action. “I hope that students will step up and do their part,” Bennett said.

Anyone from the Mason community can submit a proposal to make the campus more sustainable.

Students can also apply for research funding under the guidance of a faculty member. The PGF committee also helps to develop ideas into projects. Although the preliminary deadline is Oct. 1, final applications, pending approval, are due Oct. 31.

Interested parties can apply through the Office of Sustainability or by going to