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Sustainable Endowments Institute Launches Billion Dollar Green Challenge

The Sustainable Endowments Institute, along with 15 partner organizations, has launched the Billion Dollar Green Challenge to encourage higher education and nonprofit institutions to invest a total of $1 billion in green revolving funds to finance energy efficiency improvements.

Green revolving funds are internal loans made to specific projects that later repay the money through utilities savings. As the loans are repaid, the money is then reinvested in other efficiency projects.

A founding circle of 32 institutions has already joined the challenge, launched publicly October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference In Pittsburgh, PA, by committing more than $65 million in self-managed funds.

According to information released by the institute, "The Challenge is inspired by the exceptional performance of existing green revolving funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32 percent, as documented by 'Greening the Bottom Line,' a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute."

"We’re transforming energy efficiency upgrades from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities," said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the institute.

Overseen by a 34-member advisory council, the challenge offers several resources for participating institutions, such as the green revolving investment tracking system (GRITS). GRITS is an account-based Web tool designed to help institutions manage their green revolving funds through "aggregate and project-specific financial and efficiency performance" tracking according to information on the challenge's website. It allows administrators to grant access to individuals involved in fund management and identify and benchmark successful programs at other member institutions.

Other resources include:

  • Technical assistance;
  • Best practices sharing;
  • An implementation guide;
  • Case studies;
  • An investment primer;
  • Project-specific data from peer institutions; and
  • Invitations to specialized webinars and conferences.

"The Billion Dollar Green Challenge asks our higher education systems to invest in green revolving funds to support the campus sustainability movement," said AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland. "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."

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About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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