Green Investment, Green Return - Press Release

March 5, 1998

New Environmental Study Suggests Potential Multi-Billion Dollar Savings for Nation's Campuses

Colleges and universities across America are sending a powerful message that what's good for the environment is also good for the bottom-line. A new report, Green Investment, Green Return: How Practical Conservation Projects Save Millions on America's Campuses, released by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) today at a Washington, D.C. news conference, reveals that big savings are being achieved through environmental initiatives on campuses nationwide, even as college adminisrators are facing tough economic constraints.

"This study proves that you don't have to choose between a healthy environment and healthy bottom line," said NWF President Mark Van Putten. "The fact is, the actions being taken on these campuses are actually improving the environment and the financial condition of the institution, often in very dramatic ways."

Green Investment, Green Return, sponsored by NWF's Campus Ecology program, highlights 23 cost-saving conservation initiatives at 15 public and private postsecondary institutions across the United States. Savings per project ranged from little more than $1,000 to a staggering $9 million, the study found. And the total savings across the 23 projects were $16.8 million, which represents an average of $728,500 per campus.

"The implications of this study are incredible," Van Putten said. "When the average annual campus savings are multiplied across the remaining 3,685 campuses nationwide, the potential for savings is in the billions. This represents real benefits for the economy and the environment."

The 23 projects--which address issues of transportation, energy and water conservation, materials re-use and redistribution, composting, recycling and management of hazardous chemicals--are merely a sampling of a much broader universe of campus conservation intitiatives underway nationwide, each delivering big environmental benefits along with their financial returns.

Examples in the study include:

  • The State University of New York-Buffalo saved over $9 million with a variety of creative energy-saving strategies, and in the process prevented 63.4 million pounds of emissions of carbon dioxide, 140,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 214,000 pounds of nitrous oxide.
  • Cornell University saved over $3 million by "getting students out of the car," and wound up saving 417,000 gallons of gas and preventing the emissions of 6.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • Brevard Community College saved more than $2 million and, dubbed "the energy miracle" by the local utility company Florida Power & Light, the campus saved 257 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
  • By implementing new toilets and water fixtures, Columbia University saved $235,000 in addition to 80,000 hundred cubic feet of water.
  • The University of Colorado recycled 9,880 tons of paper and other materials.
  • The University of Washington reduced 1,000 pounds of hazardous waste.

As microcosms of society, the nation's college campuses have incredible potential for making positive impacts on the environment and the economy. By instituting even simple, commonsense conservation practices--like recycling, using native plants when landscaping, running atmospherically safe transportation systems, creating fertilizer from kitchen food waste, selling surplus property and maintaining university vehicles with re-refined motor oil--colleges and universities are making major strides toward improving the Earth and their financial conditions.

"We were very surprised at what we were able to achieve, economically and environmentally," said Walter Simpson, Energy officer at the State University of New York - Buffalo. "It was exciting to see that there is a real eagerness among administrators, faculty, students and staff to make a positive difference on campus and in the larger community."

In addition, campus conservation efforts yield extraordinary educational dividends, said Julian Keniry, NWF's Manager of Campus Outreach, who co-authored the report with David J. Eagan, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin. "Many of our future leaders are on these campuses," she said. "They will be the ones who make decisions that affect the whole planet. What better place to learn how to be financially and environmentally responsible than in college?"

Green Investment, Green Return was co-sponsored by 16 other organizations that work with NWF to promote environmental awareness, education, and stewardship in institutions of higher learning.

National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program was established in 1989 to work with the college campus community (students, faculty, administrators, and managers) to promote ecological stewardship on campuses and in their surrounding communities. Since 1989, Campus Ecology has worked with more than a third of the nation's colleges and universities.

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