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Undergraduate students vote yes to Embark levy increase

Just over 63 percent of students voted yes to increase the levy that undergraduate students provide to Embark, SFU’s independent environmental sustainability organization. This includes increasing the levy for full-time students from $2 to $3.50, and $1.50 to $1.75 for part-time students.

According to Embark’s website, “The referendum that was [previously] passed did not account for rising costs over time related to inflation and program expansion.” The increased levy would allow Embark to make a greater commitment to sustainability for students studying at all three campuses.

Deven Azevedo, chair of the board of directors for Embark, explained to The Peak that expanding and improving services on the Vancouver and Surrey campuses would be a key part of their plan to increase the not-for-profit organization’s effect.

Azevedo added that “The work that [Embark] do[es] is valuable to students,” in regards to the positive outcome of the referendum. He stressed, however, that with the lower voter turnout — just 200 votes over what would constitute approval of the referendum — that “we need to be mindful that there are other students that may not feel the same way.” He added that the organization plans to prove to the 36.6 percent of students who voted “no” that they will benefit from the increased levy.

Now that the referendum has been approved, Azevedo explained that they are in the strategic planning phase to improve the organization. He told The Peak that while Embark is still in the planning stages, they intend to hire a communications coordinator to increase “advocacy efforts and ensure effective advocacy takes place for our programs.” These programs include over 95 no-cost events, as well as the Food Rescue Program, Zero-Waste initiative, Learning Garden, and a peer education program.

Embark also provides two sustainability grants which encourage social innovation and sustainable community projects. Any SFU student can apply for the Sustainable Community Grant and Social Innovation Grant. However, Azevedo explained that the organization has in the past had difficulty meeting the demands of these grants.

“We will now be able to meet those demands” that these grants require, he said.

Embark will also be holding a referendum with the Graduate Student Society, where graduate students are invited to vote between November 29 at 8 a.m. to December 1 at 11:30 a.m.