In keeping with its dedication to energy conservation and sustainability, Burlington College has joined with 32 other leading academic institutions of higher learning to launch the Billion Dollar Green Challenge.
As the Challenge’s Founding Circle, these colleges and universities have come together to invest a total of one billion dollars in self-managed green revolving funds toward financing energy-efficiency upgrades on campuses across the country and in Canada.
The Founding Circle has already committed to investing a cumulative total of more than $65 million dollars in green revolving funds. Burlington College’s commitment totals a minimum investment of $25,000 over four years.
The College joins two other Vermont institutions, Middlebury College and Green Mountain College. Other members include Boston University, California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, George Washington University, Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Hampshire and Western Michigan University.
“Burlington College is particularly excited to participate in this challenge, as our new campus is a perfect blank slate for sustainability projects,” Christine Plunkett, vice-president of administration and finance, said, referring to its historic buildings on 32 acres.
The Challenge was created as a result of the excellent performance of existing green revolving funds, with 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 Sustainable Endowments Institute, which is coordinating The Challenge in partnership with 13 other organizations. “Burlington College should be commended for rising to The Challenge and investing in energy-efficiency improvements on campus.”
The Challenge launches publicly on October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh, PA. With more than 2,500 participants, the conference is the largest gathering to date on higher education sustainability in the U.S.
Michael O’Malley, director of facilities at Burlington College, and Jeremy Wilson, a work-study student who hopes to major in Facilities Management and Sustainability, are in attendance at the conference this week (Oct. 9 - Oct. 12).
The College has already implemented significant energy-saving upgrades with the support of an ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) grant through the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, and a Vermont Department of Energy grant through AVIC (Association of Vermont Independent Colleges). They include the installation of a new lighting system incorporating dual infrared and ultrasonic sensing devices which is expected to reduce lighting energy use by 70 percent.
Energy credit refunds received from Vermont Gas and Burlington Electric Department for those projects will become part of the initial deposit into the Burlington College Green Revolving Fund, Plunkett said. A calculated portion of the annual cost savings from the current energy projects will likewise be deposited into the fund over time.
Plunkett and Michael Luck, vice president of institutional advancement, in concert with representatives from 12 other Vermont colleges, recently attended a day-long symposium, “Innovative Investments in Energy Efficiency: Exploring Green Revolving Funds for Vermont Institutions of Higher Education."
Plunkett said she is excited about the opportunities these funds offer, not only to the college, but to the broader community. Because the funds are college-designed and college-administered, there is flexibility in establishing policies relating to project proposals, investments and use of funds, she said. She cited as examples potential allocation to student-proposed energy initiatives and the implementation of projects for the benefit of the local neighborhood.
Due to the revolving nature of the fund, interested donors to the Green Revolving Fund will be assured that their gift not only benefits the college immediately through an increase in the revolving fund, but as those funds are used for energy projects, they will be replenished through subsequent savings.
Throughout the coming year, the College will continue its long-term plan for sustainable development of the new campus. A working group of students, faculty, staff and trustees will be formed to establish fund guidelines and operating procedures.