The Billion Dollar Green Challenge Launches

Credit: Michael Drazdzinski

Solar panels adorning the tops of Harvard buildings. A bright, towering wind turbine on the St. Olaf campus. Libraries and dormitories chock full of blue recycling options and even composting bins inside the dining halls, at the University of Washington.

Campus sustainability has come into its own over the last decade, with renewable energy, tray-less dining, and sustainability director jobs popping up at campuses across the country. While many colleges and universities can implement some or all of these programs to reduce their carbon footprint, many projects are done piecemeal, without a regular source of funding or the institutional support to make it the first step in a larger commitment.

Being a sustainable campus can be so much more than just a green garden or showcase project. Sustainability projects can often reduce the overall operating costs for the campus, saving energy and money, keeping tuition low. But high upfront costs can be a barrier to administrators experiencing steep budget cuts and rising energy costs.

One way for any college or university to achieve these results is through a sustainability financing mechanism called the Green Revolving Fund.

On the main stage at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s national conference in Pittsburgh, PA, the Billion Dollar Green Challenge will be launched in front of the largest gathering, to date, on sustainability in higher education. The Challenge is inviting colleges to establish green revolving funds to invest in significant energy efficiency upgrades on campus.

At the time of the launch, 32 institutions have joined the Challenge’s Founding Circle. Founding Circle participants range in size from large institutions such as Arizona State, Harvard and Stanford, to small and innovative institutions such as Northland College, Green Mountain College and Unity College.

Green revolving fund projects are diverse and versatile, and can be easily adapted to a school’s priorities. Have an active student body? Consider operating a student-driven fund, like at Oberlin College’s EDGE Fund, where students work with faculty and staff to initiative sustainability projects. Want to retrofit your campus buildings? Take a page from the University of Pennsylvania’s Energy Reduction Fund, which reduces energy through building upgrades.

Existing green revolving funds prove that sustainability efforts can be profitable and even fund larger and more ambitious projects, as they have an average return on investment of 32 percent annually.

Clearly, the benefits of joining the Challenge and operating a green revolving fund are numerous. They are a bright spot in a rocky economy, helping to create green jobs in campus communities while substantially reducing operating costs. The Challenge is a broad network of like-minded institutions focused on improving campus sustainability throughout their operations.

For participating institutions, it will be a best practice forum for what kinds of projects have proven successful, what programs have had difficulties, and what programs you should consider on your own campus, based on real-life examples.

As energy prices rise and concerns about resource scarcity increase, it is a risky venture to not invest in environmental initiatives on campus. By joining the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, institutions can both save energy and grow money.

Visit GreenBillion.org for more information and see if your school might be a good fit.

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Mark Orlowski is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) and Emily Flynn is Manager of Special Projects at SEI.

New College Sustainability Report Card 2008 released

College Sustainability Report Card

The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) just released our new College Sustainability Report Card 2008.

The new Report Card found more than two out of three schools are showing improvement from the last edition. Thanks in large part to the Campus Climate Challenge and other student driven initiatives, a “green groundswell” is happening on campuses, with nearly 45 percent of colleges committing to fight climate change through cutting carbon emissions.

High-performance green building standards guide new construction at 59 percent of schools, while 42 percent are using hybrid or electric vehicles in transportation fleets. Notably, 37 percent of schools purchase renewable energy and 30 percent produce their own wind or solar energy. A substantial 70 percent buy food from local farms and 64 percent serve fair trade coffee.

More fun facts include:
-More than one in three schools have full-time staff dedicated to sustainability.
– Two in three schools have a campus advisory committee on sustainability.
– Three in five schools have green building projects.
– Biodiesel is made and/or used at 31 percent of schools.
– Reduced-fare passes for public transit are offered at 38 percent of schools.
– Bicycle-sharing programs have been instituted at 23 percent of schools.
– Car-sharing programs are available at 17 percent of schools.

For more facts and detailed profiles of each of the 200 schools, check out full College Sustainability Report Card at www.endowmentinstitute.org.

Much work still remains as the average overall grade for the 200 schools was a “C.” The good news is…. Continue reading ‘New College Sustainability Report Card 2008 released’

2008 College Sustainability Report Card and the Sustainability Innovator Awards

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has just created the Sustainability Innovator Awards. The nomination process is now open and everyone is invited to nominate a college or university for its outstanding performance in campus and/or endowment sustainability initiatives.

Those selected will be recognized in the 2008 College Sustainability Report Card. Colleges and universities eligible for nomination are those not among the 200 schools already included the 2008 College Sustainability Report Card. To see if a school will be included, please visit our website.

If you don’t see a school on the list, please nominate it! Just visit the Institute website and follow the instructions. Due to publication deadlines, entries must be received by October 1, 2007.

Live blog from the Maine Climate Change Summit

climate_summit.jpg

Greetings from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. This weekend, the college is host to the Maine Climate Change Summit that has brought together more than 100 youth and other cool folks from across Maine and beyond. In addition to a fantastic agenda full of inspiring speakers, there are outside activities that explore beautiful Mount Desert Island.

View

Also, don’t forget to check out the official It’s Getting Hot in Here dance performed by summit participants on Saturdy after lunch.

Here is the instructional video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZKJyU4iWSoo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

And here is the video with all the summit participants:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/PujprjeQz_0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Guster and the Campus Consciousness Tour — Spring 2007

Picture this: a high profile national tour of 20 universities that is a combination environmental awareness campaign and rock show.

The Campus Consciousness Tour fuses these worlds with an afternoon of activities and an evening concert headlined by Guster.

Watch a short video recapping last year’s Campus Consciousness Tour.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/J3fHKU7jhUA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Check out the current schedule to see when Guster and the tour might be rolling onto your campus.

You might even be able to bring Guster and the Campus Consciousness Tour to your school! The dates that are currently open are April 15-19, 2007 anywhere on the East Coast and April 22-25, 2007 anywhere in New England.

To learn more about the Campus Consciousness Tour and see tour dates continue reading…

Continue reading ‘Guster and the Campus Consciousness Tour — Spring 2007′

Stanford.edu homepage and CNN Money feature Sustainability Report Card…

I wasn’t expecting this. Look at the Stanford University homepage.

http://www.stanford.edu

Also, CNN Money just published a fun story on the Report Card.

think.MTV.com features College Sustainability Report Card

think.mtv.com features the College Sustainability Report Card. The MTV article plugs the Challenge and offers this advice….

“So, if your college is leaning on you about your grades, check out its own score. And if you still haven’t decided which school to go to in the fall, this report card could help you make your decision — especially if you’re studying to work in a green profession. If your school isn’t included in the report but you want it to start implementing environmentally sound practices, join the Campus Climate Challenge and help stop global warming. See if you can’t help your school get an A.”

College Sustainability Report Card released

College Sustainability Report Card

The Sustainable Endowment Institute‘s new College Sustainability Report Card is being released today and there is quite a buzz in the press.

The Report Card examines and grades 100 schools across the United States and Canada on criteria including climate change policies, green building, and investment practices.

Schools are assessed in seven main categories and given a letter grade of “A” to “F” for each category. The grades are then calculated into a GPA on a 4.0 scale and an overall grade is determined based on that GPA.

Sound vaguely familiar to any students out there?

To read the full 120-page Report Card go here or to just see how your school performed, go here. For those that like reading articles….here are a few of the press hits as of 8:45am:

Colleges graded on environmental practicesUSA Today

Colleges hit for lack of openness in investingBoston Globe

Media attention also includes Tree Hugger and the Chronicle of Higher Education…. Continue reading ‘College Sustainability Report Card released’

Building a Clean Energy Future

Cover

Today, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released a new report:

Building a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Students and University Endowments (850kb PDF)

The report is one outcome of the Building a Clean Energy Future conference held earlier thisBilly Parish (Energy Action) and Dave Byer (Vermont Law School) year.

The conference brought together students and other representatives of 30 colleges, universities and nonprofits at United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC.

Morning speakers included Senator Tim Wirth (President, United Nations Foundations), Mindy Lubber (President, Ceres), Aimée Christensen (now with Google.org), and me (Mark Orlowski).
Tim Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation
The afternoon was highlighted by great presentation from Billy Parish (Energy Action), Liz Veazey (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy), Sam Arons (University of California, Berkeley) and David Byer (Vermont Law School). The afternoon also included a lively discussion about strategy and direction of future efforts in mobilizing student efforts towards sustainable investing of university endowment money.

The highlight of the day was clearly the group doing the It’s Getting Hot in Here dance. If you’d like to learn the dance at home, check out the instructional photos below. If there is enough interest, I may post the the audio that goes along with these photos.

For all the details on the conference, download the full report in PDF or check out the brief summary. Continue reading ‘Building a Clean Energy Future’

Building a Clean Energy Future

Cover

Today, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released a new report:

Building a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Students and University Endowments (850kb PDF)

The report is one outcome of the Building a Clean Energy Future conference held earlier thisBilly Parish (Energy Action) and Dave Byer (Vermont Law School) year.

The conference brought together students and other representatives of 30 colleges, universities and nonprofits at United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC.

Morning speakers included Senator Tim Wirth (President, United Nations Foundations), Mindy Lubber (President, Ceres), Aimée Christensen (now with Google.org), and me (Mark Orlowski).
Tim Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation
The afternoon was highlighted by great presentation from Billy Parish (Energy Action), Liz Veazey (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy), Sam Arons (University of California, Berkeley) and David Byer (Vermont Law School). The afternoon also included a lively discussion about strategy and direction of future efforts in mobilizing student efforts towards sustainable investing of university endowment money.

The highlight of the day was clearly the group doing the It’s Getting Hot in Here dance. If you’d like to learn the dance at home, check out the instructional photos below. If there is enough interest, I may post the the audio that goes along with these photos.

For all the details on the conference, download the full report in PDF or check out the brief summary. Continue reading ‘Building a Clean Energy Future’


MarkOrlowski


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