Green Store Requests Special Fees

As part of a larger request made by ASSU Executive’s Student Services Division (SSD), The Green Store, an initiative of SSD, has applied to receive Special Fees for next year.  This means students will petition for and vote to determine whether or not they will grant the store the $7,165 in student-based funding it requested according to the online petition.

According to ASSU policies, all groups receiving Special Fee funding must offer their services free to all undergraduate students, unless explicitly given an exception by the Senate Appropriation Committee. The Green Store and the Airport Shuttle Bus programs, however, both offer their services to students at a price.

The Green Store acts as a business, selling cups, eco-friendly laundry detergent, and power strips to the student body.  The Green Store began selling its eco-friendly products in 2008. Since then it has grown in both the number of costumers and number of products sold. Customers can order products online and the Green Store will deliver the products to the customer’s door.

While much of the Green Store’s expenses are covered by revenues from selling these products, the store still requests funding for its operations, largely because it subsidizes its cup sales to incentivize students to use the cups.  Several senators, however, have voiced concern over the business model of the store.

In the past two years, the store’s subsidy has been appropriated by the ASSU Senate from the General Fee Reserve Fund.  Last year, the Green Store’s expenses were significantly less than its revenue, meaning that it only used $1,354.65 of the $5,000 subsidy it received from the General Fee Reserve. At the end of the year, the extra funds were returned to the Reserve to be dispersed by the Senate.

After learning about the store’s business practices, Undergraduate Senator and Review Executive Editor Alex Katz stated, “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to charge people twice.” He also raised concerns over the Green Store buying their products before they had costumers for them.

“I don’t fully understand the business practice,” stated Katz.  “It sounds like a smaller subsidy would be sufficient for the Green Store to continue to operate.” This would require that the Green Store use revenue from sales to purchase their products, rather than investing in products at the beginning of the year with student fee money.

Green Store Director Susie Choi explained the store’s practice by saying, “We have to spend money on new products as well as materials and equipment.”  The store “needs to invest in product stock before it can begin selling,” she said.

The store’s request for $7,665 for next year comes as an increase to the $6,365.98 the store received for this year. Choi explained that the increase this year comes from the need to have enough money set aside to subsidize bulk cup orders, which have been increasing.

Choi stated that “becoming economically sustainable is not the goal of Green Store.” The goal is to “encourage sustainable living on campus by providing eco-friendly products at the lowest prices we can and by making these green alternatives accessible to students.”

Senator Anton Zietsman, chair of the Appropriations Committee, was skeptical of the store’s business plan as well. He stated, “The Green Store provides a valuable service, but I definitely don’t think the way its run now is sustainable in the long term.”

Next year, if SSD receives their requested Special Fees, any extra funds will not go back into the General Fee Reserve at the end of the year; they will be put into an SSD-specific Special Fee reserve fund.

ASSU President David Gobaud believed that any left over funds put into a SSD reserve fund would be reused by the Green Store in subsequent years. He stated, “My guess would be that in future years instead of requesting the money from the student body you would pull it from the reserves.”

It will be possible, however, for left over funds to be used in an SSD division other than the Green Store in future years.  Zietsman explained that if the Senate approves a budget modification proposal by the SSD Financial Officer, then excess funds that were initially voted by students to fund the Green Store in 2010 could be appropriated to another SSD venture like the Airport Shuttle Bus program or the Wellness Room.

Choi certainly believes that the Green Store is important to Stanford. She cited the 40,000 cups sold last year as evidence, saying, “it has established a presence on campus.”

Ultimately, the student body will determine what is more important to them, promoting environmentally sustainable lifestyles or requiring sustainable business practices. Zietsman reminded readers, “It’s up to the students, it’s going to be students’ money if it goes on Special Fees.”

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