Student Commission officially announced on Monday through a Facebook post that the Kalamazoo College Biodiesel Co-op would be awarded this year’s Innovation Fund. This was decided after a series of voting among the 25 members of the general commission.
The Innovation Fund is a $5,000 grant awarded to a project aimed to improve the campus community. The Biodiesel Co-op was selected because it plans to make the College more environmental friendly by cutting fuel costs, such as with Facilities Management vehicles (FacMan).
“Biodiesel has lower emissions, its sustainable, and since we can make more than enough of it, it will save the school on costs,” said Braeden Rodriguez ’16, one of the members of the Biodiesel Co-op. According to Rodriguez, the College has used just over 200 gallons of diesel since July. He said it is very feasible they can consistently produce 400 gallons of biodiesel a year with the Innovation Fund money. That is more than the average amount of fuel used by the College in a year.
The Biodiesel Co-op also includes Harrison Parkes ’17, Ariah Lacey ’16, Conrad Hipkins ’16, and group leader Steven Sexton ’16. Now that they have been awarded the Innovation Fund, they are trying to recruit more students to their team to help with the project going forward. “It’s just like cooking,” said Sexton. “It’s so simple anyone from any background can help with our project.”
Since they have been awarded the Innovation Fund, the plans for the Biodiesel Co-op now include bringing their processor over from WMU and setting up a space in FacMan’s garage. They will then begin making test batches and work their way up to full batches. “Currently the estimates are that the [Innovation Fund] money will last us at least four years,” said Sexton. “But we hope once we get started we can make that money last possibly 10 years.”
The Biodiesel Co-op was awarded the Innovation Fund over its competitors because it offers engagement and sustainability. “[The Biodiesel Co-op] offers engagements with students, professors and faculty, administration and communities outside of K,” said Student Commissioner Jasmine Kyon ’17. She worked with fellow Student Commissioner Amanda Johnson ’17 as the leaders of the Financial Policies Committee, and together they spearheaded the Innovation Fund selection.
According to Kyon, the selection process really came down to which application was the strongest overall, including budget plans, campus support and ease of implementation. The Biodiesel Co-op offered a very strong application because the members were able to eliminate the most expensive item on their budget. “WMU used to have a program like this but it shut down, so they gave us their processor,” said Sexton. Since they already had a processor, the Biodiesel Co-op could focus the Innovation Fund money on purchasing more supplies spread out over a longer period of time. Kyon said that this made their budget more itemized and stronger.
Although only one project could be selected as the recipient of the Innovation Fund, Kyon was impressed by all the applicants. She said all the other projects were strong candidates, and this was illustrated by a survey of the student body. Of the 248 students that voted, 30 percent selected that the Innovation Fund should have gone to the TEDx project while only 27 percent voted for the Biodiesel Co-op.
Kyon did not see this as a sign of discrepancy, but instead a compliment to the strength of each project submitted. She said, “Every project submitted for the Innovation Fund goes through the President’s Community Council, so even if they don’t win it still gets seen by administration.” Kyon said this raises the chances of the College eventually implementing the other projects at a later time.