Friday, October 14, 2011

Schools Investing in Green and Creating Sustainable Jobs

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge invites colleges, universities and other nonprofits to invest a total of one billion dollars in self-managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency upgrades. The goal is to save energy, and grow money.

The Challenge is inspired by the exceptional performance of existing green revolving funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32%, as documented by Greening The Bottom Line, a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. This is an extraordinary rate of return in an otherwise bleak economy.

These investment transform energy efficiency upgrades from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities. These investments create green jobs in campus communities, while lowering operating costs on college and university campuses.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge launched publicly on October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Pittsburgh. With more than 2,500 participants, the conference is the largest gathering to date on higher education sustainability.

“The Billion Dollar Green Challenge asks our higher education systems to invest in green revolving funds to support the campus sustainability movement. AASHE supports The Challenge in that these funds will help institutions become more sustainable and will help the higher education community understand the commitment they are making to a just and sustainable future” said Paul Rowland, Executive Director, of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Even before the launch 32 institutions had already joined The Challenge’s Founding Circle by committing to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million in green revolving funds. In addition to Harvard, Stanford and ASU, other Founding Circle institutions include Caltech, Dartmouth, George Washington, Middlebury, the University of British Columbia, and Weber State University. (See complete list in the appendix.)

Harvard’s Office for Sustainability Director Heather Henriksen said, “The Green Loan Fund has generated high returns on investment, while improving Harvard’s environmental impact and our bottom line.” Endowment investments, operating funds and alumni donations have all been used to establish green revolving funds at institutions across the country.

Guided by a 34-member expert advisory council, The Billion Dollar Green Challenge offers technical assistance, best practices sharing, access to an advanced web-based tool for managing green revolving funds, peer institutions’ project-specific data and invitations to specialized webinars and conferences.

At Stanford, Office of Sustainability Associate Director Fahmida Ahmed said, “Our fund has already financed over 200 small and large efficiency projects on campus, with an average simple payback period of just four years.”

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge has received financial support from the David Rockefeller Fund, HOK, John Merck Fund, Kresge Foundation, Merck Family Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Roy A. Hunt Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, and the Wallace Global Fund.

Fifteen partner organizations have played a pivotal role in developing and launching The Challenge: American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Clean Air-Cool Planet, Clinton Climate Initiative, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology, Net Impact National Association of Environmental Law Societies, New England Board of Higher Education, Rocky Mountain Institute, Second Nature, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Building Green Initiative, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

Click here for more information.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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