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Catawba College Joins Billion-Dollar Green Challenge

08/06/12 by Guest Writer 

Catawba College upped its institutional commitment to sustainability recently by agreeing to create a green revolving fund that will loan money to finance on-campus investments in clean energy and efficiency projects. With this commitment, Catawba joins 41 other institutions, mainly colleges and universities, in the U.S. and Canada that are part of the Billion-Dollar Green Challenge.

Through The Challenge, the Sustainable Endowments Institute is advocating for institutions to create green revolving funds (GRFs), an energy-efficiency financing tool that was found to have annual return on investments averaging 32 percent in the 2011 Greening The Bottom Line report. GRFs capture the savings from lower utility bills, using that money to reinvest in more energy-efficiency projects, continuing the cycle of energy savings.

Institutions that join The Challenge are able to turn energy-efficiency projects into long-term financial investments, doing green and earning green. Smaller utility bills will lead to a decrease in operating costs while simultaneously bolstering the green building and sustainability industries from additional business.

Over the next four years, the college will set aside $400,000 in funds that will provide the principal for the Catawba Green Revolving Fund. This fund will be managed by a committee of campus community members. By joining the Billion-Dollar Green Challenge, Catawba will have access to an advanced web-based tool for managing its GRF, called GRITS (Green Revolving Investment Tracking System), access to peer institutions’ project-specific data to use for benchmarking and analysis, and invitations to in-depth webinars and conferences about GRFs.

Catawba, which was also a 2007 signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, has made public through its climate action plan its goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2030. According to Catawba President Brien Lewis, creation of the Catawba Green Revolving Fund is a major step in reaching this goal.

“Establishment of this fund will help bring all of Catawba’s stakeholders to the table and make us more deliberate and conscious about the clean energy and sustainability projects we undertake on campus,” Lewis says.  “It won’t just be the job of facilities department to bear the sustainability flag; it will become everyone’s business, and I think the future campus projects that will be considered for funding will become more diverse because of this.”

The popularity of GRFs is growing quickly, as indicated by a 50 percent increase in the number of funds over the past year in the preliminary data from the Greening the Bottom Line 2012 report. With the addition of 10 Charter Institutions to The Challenge last month, including Catawba, an additional $22 million was invested in GRFs. This brings the total amount invested in GRFs from The Challenge to $90 million.

The Challenge is guided by a 34-member expert advisory council, has 13 partner organizations, and 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.

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About the Sustainable Endowments Institute

The Sustainable Endowments Institute was founded in 2005 as a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Cambridge-based nonprofit organization has pioneered research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.

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