AASHE Project Helps Campuses Fund Sustainability Projects

AASHE Project Helps Campuses Fund Sustainability Projects

A new guide released by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education will help campuses overcome a major barrier to implementing sustainability projects.

The how-to manual, entitled "Creating a Campus Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund: A Guide for Students," describes an innovative and powerful mechanism for financing sustainability projects, such as energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy installations, on campus.

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, based on the experiences of the authors in setting up a revolving loan fund at Macalester College.

The guide was created by Timothy Den Herder-Thomas and Asa Diebolt, both sophomores at Macalester, led the effort to create the College's Clean Energy Revolving Fund. CERF is distinct from most other campus sustainability revolving loan funds in that students sit on the board that administers the fund and evaluate project proposals.

"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. "Our guide is specifically targeted to help students at other campuses establish revolving loan funds that include substantial student involvement."

The guide provides several examples of how institutions have used revolving loan funds to fund sustainability projects. Most notably, Harvard's Green Campus Loan Fund has invested almost $9 million in over 160 projects and achieved an average return on investment of over 30 percent.

"Despite the promise of revolving loan funds to advance sustainability on campus, only a handful of campuses have actually created such funds," said Tom Kimmerer, AASHE's Executive Director. "We hope this guide will enable many more campuses to establish campus sustainability revolving loan funds."

The guide is available for download from GreenBiz. For more information about AASHE, visit AASHE.org.