Investing in the Future of Campus Sustainability

By: Laura Diez | March 29, 2013

More universities are investing funds in sustainability efforts that eventually pay for themselves. The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) has launched an initiative to help boost these efforts, and the organization is looking for a talented Research Fellow on Net Impact's pilot Projects for Good platform. Emily Flynn, Manager of Special Projects, shares the details. 

Laura: Can you tell me about the Sustainable Endowments Institute?

Emily: The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) has worked since 2005 to advance sustainability on college and university campuses in the United States and Canada. SEI created the first-ever sustainability survey in higher education, The Green Report Card, which graded schools on many different categories, including climate change and energy initiatives, food and dining projects, sustainability policies on campus, and student activism. Most recently, we launched The Billion Dollar Green Challenge to encourage universities to invest in energy efficiency and resource efficiency projects on campus [through green revolving funds].

So what exactly is a green revolving fund, and what's their role in the future of campus sustainability?

A green revolving fund (often referred to as a GRF, green revolving loan, or sustainability loan fund) is a special account designated for investment in on-campus projects that improve energy efficiency, decrease resource and material use, reduce operating expenses, and cut environmental impact. The cost savings from these projects are then used to replenish the GRF. Once the fund is replenished, money can be redeployed to finance new projects.College and university campuses are increasingly focused on weaving sustainability into the everyday operations of a campus, and GRFs achieve that while also creating inter-departmental and interdisciplinary opportunities for campus community members, like students, faculty, and staff.

And how does the Research Fellow position that you've posted on Projects for Good fit into these initiatives?

While much attention has been given to four-year schools and their sustainability efforts, there are more than 1,700 two-year institutions in the U.S. yet very few resources that look into their environmental impact.

We hope to see green revolving funds adopted at more and more campuses as they help schools reduce their environmental impact and save money by introducing new sustainability projects on campus. While much attention has been given to four-year schools and their sustainability efforts, there are more than 1,700 two-year institutions in the U.S. yet very few resources that look into their environmental impact and sustainability on campus. The Research Fellow will investigate energy efficiency and resource reduction projects at community colleges and other two-year institutions. We're looking for someone with a strong interest in environmental research, and strong writing and interpersonal skills, to lead interviews.

What can SEI and the selected Fellow hope to achieve with this project?Depending on the outcome, we hope to publish this research on our website and GreenBillion.org, where we publish reports and papers for free to the general public. The outcomes of this research will also help advise SEI as it expands The Billion Dollar Green Challenge.

What made you decide that Projects for Good was the right venue to fill this opportunity?Many of us at SEI started our time as undergraduate or graduate-level researchers. We admire the creativity and perspective that students bring to the conversation. We're looking for self-motivated students who are keen to conduct original research and provide the content that we need to make our programs and initiatives as successful as possible. Projects for Good is a natural fit for what we're looking for!

SEI Research Fellow at a glance

  • Purpose: Investigate the viability of Green Revolving Funds (a campus sustainability financing tool) on community college and 2-year institutions.
  • Are you a fit? If you're a savvy, analytical student looking to get some hands-on sustainability experience, look no further.
  • Location: Offices in Cambridge, MA; position can be filled remotely
  • Duration: 3-5 hours/week through May/June 2013

Interested in this position, or have a project to fill? Explore Projects for Good, now in pilot mode.

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