NWF-Supported ‘Billion Dollar Challenge’ to Boost Colleges’ Green Investments

‘Founding Circle’ schools and organizations have already committed $65 million in advance of official launch

10-17-2011 // Max Greenberg
Green Mountain College solar panel

At a time when many colleges are struggling with budget cuts and rising energy costs, return-oriented “green revolving funds” are growing in popularity partly for their potential in financing energy efficiency upgrades.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge, a higher education initiative to help create green jobs and lower campus operating costs, aims to encourage that trend.

The Challenge, launched under the coordination of the Sustainable Endowments Institute with support from the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program and other organizations, invites colleges, universities and non-profits to invest a combined total of one billion dollars in such funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32% according to Greening The Bottom Line, a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

“We are proud of campuses for taking the next step in sustainability leadership and of the Sustainable Endowments Institute and fellow partner organizations for helping them do this,” said Julian Keniry, senior director of Campus and Community Leadership at National Wildlife Federation. “Green revolving loan funds provide an important incentive for achieving carbon pollution reduction goals on campuses and can yield an exceptional return on investment.”

Green is a Good Bet

The report found that annual returns for green revolving funds may reach more than 47%, as in the case of Western Michigan University, and that schools need not be unusually wealthy to join in—about 35% of green revolving funds are $100,000 or less, and over one-third of participating colleges and universities have endowment assets of less than $250 million.

In advance of the launch, 32 institutions have already joined The Challenge’s Founding Circle by committing to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million in green revolving funds. Schools in that group include Harvard, Stanford, Caltech, Dartmouth, George Washington University and Arizona State University.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge provides an opportunity for schools advance the goals that that the majority of institutions of higher education have already embraced, greening their physical infrastructure and student educational experience. In a similar vein, NWF has organized national green campus competitions for more than six years and, with partners, Lucid Design and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), recently announced the launch of Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN) 2012, a nationwide electricity and water use reduction competition among colleges and universities.

To learn more about the program, visit GreenBillion.org.

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