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Middlebury joins launch of $1 billion ‘Green Challenge’

October 10, 2011

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ― Middlebury College joined with 32 other leading institutions today to launch the Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The goal is for colleges and universities to invest a cumulative total of $1 billion in self-managed green revolving funds to finance energy efficiency upgrades on their campuses. The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), which is known for its annual College Sustainability Report Card, is coordinating the challenge along with 13 partner organizations. The challenge’s founding institutions, including Middlebury, have committed to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million.

Middlebury will start its fund, named the Green Revolving Loan Fund, with an initial $300,000 anonymous donation. Ultimately the fund will total $1 million, with the college raising an additional $700,000 from a possible combination of donations, capital budget allocations, and endowment investments. Early in 2012, offices and departments at the college may begin applying for loans for projects that will reduce negative effects on the environment, from energy and water use to greenhouse gas emissions.

“This initiative makes sense for Middlebury as the college has long been committed to environmental leadership both in terms of academics and operations,” said Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz. “We especially look forward to class projects that result in applications to the loan fund.”

As an early participant in the challenge, Middlebury is working with Efficiency Vermont, the energy efficiency utility, and SEI on a pilot program to demonstrate the positive effects of a statewide approach. Three of the initiative’s founding schools — Middlebury, Burlington College and Green Mountain College — are Vermont institutions.

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 SEI.

A bright spot in a rocky economy, these profitable investments are helping create green jobs in campus communities, while lowering operating costs on college and university campuses.

“We’re transforming energy efficiency upgrades from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities,” said Mark Orlowski, SEI’s executive director. “Middlebury College should be commended for its willingness to invest in energy efficiency improvements on campus.”

“The Green Revolving Loan Fund will reframe our approach to capital-intensive, energy-efficient projects that have longer payback periods,” said Nan Jenks-Jay, Middlebury College dean of environmental affairs. “These critically important improvements will be part of the renovation and construction planning process, and save the college money over time.”

SEI launched the Billion Dollar Green Challenge today at a conference for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Pittsburgh. With more than 2,500 participants, including representatives of Middlebury College, the conference is the largest gathering to date on higher education sustainability.

In addition to Middlebury, Harvard, Stanford and ASU, other Founding Circle institutions include Caltech, Dartmouth, George Washington, the University of British Columbia, and Weber State University. (See complete list in the appendix.)

Several Founding Circle schools have already established funds and are enthusiastic about the benefits. Harvard’s Office for Sustainability Director Heather Henriksen said, “The Green Loan Fund has generated high returns on investment, while improving Harvard’s environmental impact and our bottom line.”

Guided by a 34-member expert advisory council, the Billion Dollar Green Challenge offers technical assistance, best practices sharing, access to an advanced Web-based tool for managing green revolving funds, peer institutions’ project-specific data and invitations to specialized webinars and conferences.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge 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.

For more information, visit www.GreenBillion.org.

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.

APPENDIX: Billion Dollar Green Challenge - Founding Circle institutions
Agnes Scott College
Arizona State University
Bellevue College
Berkshire School
Bethany College
Boston University
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Burlington College
California Institute of Technology
Daemen College
Dartmouth College
Denison University
Edgewood College
George Washington University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Green Mountain College
Hampshire College
Harvard University
Mars Hill College
Middlebury College
Northland College
Oregon State University
St. Lawrence University
Stanford University
Thompson Rivers University
Unity College
University of Arizona
University of British Columbia
University of Minnesota
University of New Hampshire
University of Oregon
Weber State University
Western Michigan University