WCU EcoCATS turn to students to help with their cause

The Western Carolina University EcoCATS were out in force on the Quad by the fountain this afternoon to gain support for a renewable energy petition as well as spreading awareness for the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI).

EcoCats members look for students to sign their petition to make Duke Energy use more renewable energy. Photo by Ceillie Simkiss

Their petition is for Duke Energy, the leading provider of utilities in the WCU area, to put more emphasis on renewable energy. Duke Energy’s current goal is to have 3% of their energy be from renewable sources by 2028 according to their 2013 annual filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. (For more info, click here)

“The UNC system adopted the goal of 30 percent energy reduction by 2015. We think Duke can do better, and we think it’s Duke’s responsibility as the number one utility in this area to provide us with more renewable energy,” said Adam Cometti, speaking for the EcoCATS.

WCU reduced energy usage this year by 37 percent, and was the first UNC school to reach (and surpass) the goal of 30 percent energy reduction, according to Cometti, which earned the school a leadership award. The EcoCATS want to continue this environmentally friendly trend by having the SEI passed by the North Carolina Board of Governors.

The initiative passed through the administration after gaining sufficient petition signatures from members of the student body. The initiative is for a $5 additional fee per student per semester.

“I know another fee sounds bad, but it’s very small. It’s $5 per student per semester, so about the price of a coffee that you get at Starbucks every day,” said Cometti about the SEI,

“What that money’s going to do is it’s going to go into a green fund where the money would be used to go towards making the campus more sustainable, energy-wise. It would be a bank, basically for students to propose their own projects. If they wanted to put solar panels on top of our roofs to try and generate some of our own energy, that money would be there if the project proposal was right. It’s also gonna go towards internships through the Office of Sustainability, which promotes generally the same thing but on more of a hands-on note.”

The NC Board of Governors is meeting this week to vote on the SEI, and the EcoCATS are all hoping for a positive outcome for the initiative that they have been working on for several years.

Update: Based on a Feb. 21 post by Lauren Bishop on the Sustainable WCU Facebook page, the SEI seems to has passed. Her post states, “I would like to inform you that WCU’s Sustainable Energy Initiative was approved by the UNC Board of Governors this morning and will go into effect fall 2014. This accomplishment has been no small feat for our student leaders and it all started back in 2006 with Eco CATS President McKenzie Dillingham. Words cannot express how proud I am of our student leaders that made this effort possible, which included countless hours, signatures, tabling, classroom announcements, peer-to-peer discussions, marketing, etc.
“In particular, I would like to thank the ECO CATS, Audra Begg (2013 OSEM GA), McKenzie Dillingham, and SGA President Ryan Hermance for supporting this initiative. Many good things will come out of the SEI, most importantly the benefit to our students, campus, and community. Now the real work begins!”

To find out more about the EcoCATS, interested students can go to their Facebook page or visit the Office of Sustainability website.



About Ceillie Simkiss

Ceillie Simkiss is a senior at Western Carolina University in the Communications program focusing on Journalism, with a minor in art. Currently enrolled in Features and Magazine Writing, she works as Editor-in-Chief for The Western Carolina Journalist. She also works for the Western Carolinian as a Photographer and News Designer. She can be found on Facebook (Ceillie Simkiss), Twitter (@CandidCeillie) and LinkedIn (Ceillie Simkiss).