Just as organizations in the corporate sector have realized, U.S. universities are discovering that energy efficiency upgrades can have tremendous benefits, both in terms of environmental impact and financial success. Green additions such as solar power installations, building energy management systems and energy-efficient windows can allow colleges to reduce their annual overheads and set a constructive example for the future generation of leaders.
While the upfront installation costs of these features may deter university leaders from embracing them at first, the opportunities for financial savings in the long run could greatly outweigh their initial costs.
As Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, stated in a federal press release, "Investments in energy efficiency over the last four years alone are expected to save as much as $18 billion in energy costs over the life of the projects."
Developing a strategy for greater sustainability
Decision-makers at educational institutions do not have to go about designing green campus plans on their own. There is a number of organizations that aim to partner with universities to guide their eco-friendly efforts, encouraging them to meet goals pertaining to waste reduction as well as energy savings.
The U.S. Green Building Council has emerged as a leading force in the drive toward sustainability on college campuses. Its LEED program offers green certifications for universities that meet goals for eco-friendliness. When college facilities are retrofitted to reduce carbon emissions, they can earn recognition as LEED-certified buildings, which could help a university to enhance its reputation as a center that instills positive ideals for future generations.
Green initiatives offer new options for financial support
The Sustainable Endowments Institute launched the Billion Dollar Green Challenge with the goal of garnering a total of $1 billion in energy efficient investments among colleges. Universities that join the challenge could benefit from green revolving funds, which provide regenerating financial support for leaders to use toward future projects. SEI notes that institutions that implement green initiatives can also be assisted through endowment investments, operating funds and alumni contributions.
Thus, when a college decides to make energy efficiency a higher priority, it could open doors for economic improvement beyond the natural cost-saving opportunities of eco-friendly practices. And during a time of rising energy costs and budget reductions, these new means of financial support could provide much needed assistance for university leaders.