Mars Hill College joined with 32 other leading institutions October 11 to launch the Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The goal is to invest a cumulative total of one billion dollars in self-managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency upgrades on campus.
As part of the Founding Circle, Mars Hill College has the distinction of being the only institution in North Carolina to take the lead in making this commitment. The Challenge is inspired by the exceptional performance of existing green revolving funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32%, as documented by Greening The Bottom Line, a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
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, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which is coordinating The Challenge along with 13 partner organizations. “Mars Hill College should be commended for rising to The Challenge and investing in energy efficiency improvements on campus.”
The Billion Dollar Green Challenge launched publicly on October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Pittsburgh. With more than 2,500 participants, including representatives of Mars Hill College, the conference is the largest gathering to date on higher education sustainability.
“The Billion Dollar Green Challenge asks our higher education systems to invest in green revolving funds to support the campus sustainability movement. 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” said Paul Rowland, Executive Director, of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Mars Hill College signed an agreement on October 1, 2011 to join the Founding Circle of members in the Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The College is establishing a self-managed Green Revolving Fund, with $200,000 in the first year, to help finance a variety of campus energy efficiency improvements. Some of the improvements needed across campus include replacement of fuel oil heating units, lighting replacement (from T-12 to T-8 or to LED), and water conservation in bathrooms. Other projects and priorities will be determined by upcoming energy audits.
Mars Hill College President Dan Lunsford said: “Mars Hill College has undertaken an energy study, with the goal of being more efficient in our energy consumption. Since we were already involved in that effort, it seemed to be a logical step to join the Green Challenge initiative.”
In addition to Harvard, Stanford and ASU, other Founding Circle institutions include Caltech, Dartmouth, George Washington, Middlebury, the University of British Columbia, and Weber State University. (See complete list in the appendix below.)
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.
Please visit www.GreenBillion.org for more information.