The University of La Verne is one of the only two universities in California to commit to the Billion Dollar Green Challenge to focus on funding sustainable and environmentally sound projects around campus.
The Billion Dollar Green Challenge, launched by the Sustainable Endowments Institute alongside 16 other organizations, encourages colleges, universities and other institutions to collectively raise $1 billion in self-managed funds that will directly finance energy efficiency improvements.
“We’ve always had a strong belief in sustainability if you look at our core values and our mission,” said Clive Houston-Brown, associate vice president of facility and technology services and the head of facilitating the Challenge.
“We believe in working with the community, working with making sure the planet is healthy, and so the more we can reduce our carbon footprint, the better it is for us, our students, the community and the environment.”
The University has committed $400,000 in a Green Revolving Fund that will be built over the next six years.
“The Green Revolving Fund has to be specifically for projects that are going to result in a reduced cost, and we take the savings of that and feed it back into the project,” Houston-Brown said.
For example, if a project costs $200,000, the payback from that project will go back into the fund so that the fund is always revolving.
Over the summer, the University has changed the parking lot lights to LED lights, which use far less energy compared to the old ones. Future projects include replacing air conditioning units and funding a solar project.
Although changing the parking lot lights is not a super visible change on campus, electricity costs drop dramatically, Houston-Brown said.
“We want the population to know that the campus is taking very significant and positive steps towards sustainability,” he said.
Houston-Brown co-chairs the Sustainability Campus Consortium alongside Professor of Biology Christine Broussard.
The SCC, which is made up of students, faculty and staff who promote sustainability and environmentally conscious practices on campus, unanimously approved the challenge proposal.
“Ultimately, the University makes the decision about where funds will be spent,” Broussard said. “But we can endorse proposals that are sustainable, and of course, only those proposals can take funds from the green revolving fund.”
To promote awareness of the Challenge and sustainability in general, the SCC plans to release sustainability surveys around campus and plans to propose a sustainability element to the general education curriculum.
“With the involvement of the SCC, we have opportunities to get more people involved in those sustainable initiatives as well, because one of the things that we emphasized in our endorsement of the Green Revolving Fund was that students and faculty be incorporated and involved in those initiatives,” Broussard said.
Other environmental groups at the University, such as Students Engaged in Environmental Discussion and Service, or SEEDS, hope to get students more engaged in environmentally friendly causes around campus.
“I know (the Challenge) is a step in the right direction as far as the school goes because we try to be green, but no one really knows how to exactly go about it,” said Eduardo Fernandez, senior biology major and president of SEEDS.
Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry, said that the University has been so far behind in making the school more environmentally sound, so participating in the challenge will help it move forward.
“To be quite honest, we should have done this a long time ago,” Jones said.
“If we really cared for the environment, then we need to be proactive about these kinds of things.”
Jones said the revolving fund is good, but he hopes that the University will not limit itself from being even greener by just the amount of money in the fund.
“I would think that we’d look at our values, and we’d let our actions express those values rather than we bound to some kind of a monetary restriction,” he said.
“Because in the bottom line, if we only do things that can save us money, then what does that say? That says money is the most important thing, not necessarily the decisions that we make that have a bigger impact on ourselves and the rest of the world.”
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.