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Unity College Joins Launch of $1 Billion "Green Challenge"

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One of the most energy efficient colleges in the United States has signed on to one of the most ambitious initiatives in “green” history.

Unity College joined with 31 other leading institutions today 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.

Unity College, Harvard, Stanford, Arizona State, and other leading colleges committed a total of $65 million to innovative energy efficiency financing initiatives.

As part of the Founding Circle, Unity College has the distinction of being the only institution in Maine 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, www.GreeningTheBottomLine.org, a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

Photo Above: TarraHaus is Unity's newest residence hall. Opened in September and built to the Passive House standard, it is a one-of-a-kind residence hall on an American college campus. Read more about TerraHaus.

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. “Unity College should be commended for rising to The Challenge and investing in energy efficiency improvements on campus.”

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge launches publicly on October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh. With more than 2,500 participants, including representatives of Unity 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,” said Paul Rowland, Executive Director of AASHE.   “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”

In advance of the launch, 32 institutions, including Unity College, have already joined The Challenge’s Founding Circle by committing to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million in green revolving funds. 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.)

Several Founding Circle schools have already established funds and are enthusiastic about the benefits. Harvard’s Office for Sustainability Director Heather Henriksen said, “The Green Loan Fund has generated high returns on investment, while improving Harvard's environmental impact and our bottom line." Endowment investments, operating funds and alumni donations have all been used to establish green revolving funds at institutions across the country.

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.

Starting October 11, please visit www.GreenBillion.org for more information.

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

In 2011, Unity College was named to the top 30 of the Washington Monthly college rankings, and was one of eighteen U.S. colleges and universities named to The Princeton Review’s 2010 Green Rating Honor Roll.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011