Many colleges have made real progress towards campus sustainability, but in my opinion we can and should do more — and you should make sure your people realize that investing in sustainability make a dramatic improvement in your budget!
The three initiatives covered below are critical because they create an environment that empowers sustainability projects — and they save money and enhance the institution’s competitive position at the same time! It’s especially important to know that sustainability efforts are even more important if you face budget concerns.
We’ve been looking at what colleges around the country are doing, and a well-known expert on energy, GHG management, & sustainability projects worked with me to propose three complementary efforts that will save money and increase endowment earnings—and help attract new students at the same time!
- Establish a modest ‘green revolving fund’ to encourage and fund sustainability projects from students;
- Invest endowment funds in sustainability projects – major energy-saving retrofits reduce energy costs and GHG while paying a higher return than current investments; and
- Publicly commit to becoming a leader in sustainability to help establish a positive image to attract new students and to energize the community.
Last year, a math & economics major at a local campus did a study of lighting in one building and calculated that a simple change would eliminate about 66 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year and save over $13,000/year, all for an investment of less than $3,000. This project would be free (since the cost would be covered by lower electricity bills in the same year), so this seemed like a no-brainer to many of us. Unfortunately, the student was unable to get action from the administration or facilities management.
This is a great example of a straightforward project that could be funded through a ‘Green Revolving Fund’ with clear criteria and a simple, speedy proposal process. It would already have paid for itself!
Alumni, students, faculty, and staff: Please let people at your college or university know that sustainability is important to you and that they should implement these projects! Your voice can help people realize they should make an all-out commitment to sustainability. It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s a good way to save money and increase appeal for new students. It’s essential, of course, to start all these initiatives as soon as possible, so the benefits start rolling in.
Make sure that anyone you contact understands that the budget challenges make these actions all the more important, because they will reduce expenses, increase the income from endowment funds, and help attract new students! If you’re not sure who to contact, consider the President’s Office, Board of Trustees, VP of Institutional Advancement, Provost, Admissions Office, and your class officers.
If you are in a position to encourage your college to start a ‘green revolving fund’ with a donation dedicated to that purpose—in any amount—be sure to let them know!