UCI News

Earth first

For Max Broad '09 and undergraduate Alexis Kim, The Green Initiative Fund brings new meaning to TGIF.

June 15, 2009
Earth first
UCI undergraduate Alexis Kim (left) and alumnus Max Broad ’09 waged an all-out campaign on campus and the Internet to win student support for The Green Initiative Fund. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

It’s not easy being green.

Just ask Max Broad ’09 and undergraduate Alexis Kim, who this year headed a campaign for The Green Initiative Fund, a student-led referendum supporting campus sustainability. To get their peers to agree to the $3.50-per-quarter fee in an era of shrinking budgets and rising tuition, Broad — then a social ecology major — and Kim used modern methods.

“We could not have done this without Facebook,” Kim says. They promoted the fund on the popular social networking site and created a TGIF Web site, video, logo and catchy slogan: “Vote TGIF … Because sustainability doesn’t grow on trees.”

In one pitch, they asked: “Do you want UCI’s legacy to be ‘Planet of the Apes’?” referring to the cult movie filmed on campus in the ’60s. Given the choice between a sci-fi simian wasteland and an expanded role in the environmental movement, students chose the planet Earth.

Approved in April, TGIF will raise more than $160,000 a year for projects that fight global climate change and shrink UCI’s carbon footprint. Students can apply for grants of up to $50,000, and their proposals are reviewed by a committee of five undergraduates.

“It puts power in the students’ hands and lets them take control of green projects,” says Kim, a second-year Earth and environmental sciences major.

TGIF, the brainchild of the California Student Sustainability Coalition, is already in place at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and other universities, and it has funded such green projects as waterless urinals, solar power panels, organic gardens and sustainability awareness campaigns. UCI hopes to launch its first TGIF project in 2010.

“UCI’s administration has done a lot for the environment. TGIF enables students to step up and make an impact,” Broad says. “It’s an educational opportunity for them to become familiar with implementing green projects.”

Kim, Broad and half a dozen other volunteers spent 10 to 20 hours a week during winter and spring quarters trying to convince students of the initiative’s importance.

“TGIF was accomplished only with many meetings, hundreds of e-mails and late hours,” Broad says. “The final week, every hour we were awake and not in class was centered on TGIF.”

Student representatives on the UCI Sustainability Committee, Kim and Broad are also active in other green efforts. Kim is a member of Students for Sustainability, the UCI chapter of the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

“I’m from San Francisco, and you can’t grow up there and not care about the environment — the issue comes up so much,” she says. “In UCI’s Earth science program, we learn about global warming and know we have to do something. I definitely want to devote my life to this cause.”

Broad was project manager for Green Campus, a student group dedicated to energy conservation. “I used to be a psychology major, but when I took a class in environmental analysis and design, something clicked,” he says.

After graduating this month, Broad plans to attend graduate school in environmental policy, volunteer with AmeriCorps and perhaps enter politics.

But TGIF ensures that commitment to the environment won’t diminish when those passionate about conservation leave UCI.

“TGIF will always be there to empower and motivate students,” Broad says. “It has ramifications beyond UCI, because it educates students to practice green living. Then they’ll go out into the workplace and influence others to do the same. They can effect great change.”