AASHE Releases Guide for Funding Campus Sustainability Projects

When it comes to implementing major sustainability projects on campus, colleges and universities encounter one of the same dilemmas as individuals and families: how to pay the often substantial upfront costs. Sure, renewable power technologies, energy-efficient transportation and campus conservation programs will pay for themselves over the long run, but administrators may still balk at the initial outlay required. Last week, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education published its how-to guide, Creating a Campus Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund: A Guide for Students, in order to show student leaders a powerful means of overcoming the funding challenge.

The guide, written by two sophomores at Macalester College, draws on their experience creating a revolving loan fund. According to AASHE's press release,

The high initial cost of many sustainability projects can often deter campuses from implementing them, despite the fact that such projects often have long-term cost savings. A revolving loan fund helps overcome this challenge by providing zero or low interest loans to fund money-saving sustainability projects. A portion of the savings generated from these projects is then reinvested into the fund until the loan has been paid off. The guide provides step-by-step directions for establishing such a fund,...

"We wanted to ensure that, in addition to helping finance sustainability projects on campus, the fund would educate and empower students, said Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, one of the authors. "Our guide is specifically targeted to help students at other campuses establish revolving loan funds that include substantial student involvement."

The 22-page guide lays out the process used by these students in creating Macalester's Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF); AASHE Associate Director Julian Dautremont-Smith contributed a section highlighting the handful of revolving loan programs in existence at Harvard, the University of Michigan, Connecticut College, and other campuses.

Though the term in never used in the guide, the authors and AASHE demonstrate how students can take advantage of the concept of "negawatts" to fund sustainability projects. With this knowledge, students can make a practical case for campus greening in a language that cost-conscious administrators and boards of directors can appreciate. We think that's a lesson worth teaching! ::Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education