The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)

A Green Revolving Fund

Sparked by a student-led research project, the University of Dayton (Ohio) created a Green Revolving Fund with $1 million that is reimagining the entire campus as a laboratory, classroom and testing ground for energy-saving ideas.

Initially funded in part from rebates from the Dayton Power and Light Company (DP&L) and other organizations for already-implemented measures to save electricity, here’s how the fund works:

  • Ideas for projects can come from anyone on campus — students, faculty, staff or researchers. They then work with facilities management to identify opportunities and develop projects.
  • Projects are given the green light based on projected savings in operational costs and are encouraged to include an educational component.
  • When the project is up and running, energy savings are tracked, and those savings are credited back to the Green Revolving Fund to seed the next endeavor.

First Steps

Still in its infancy, the fund already has supported upgrades for air handlers in three buildings on campus, plus funded the replacement of high-energy lighting with low-energy LED lighting in five buildings and three parking lots. Early returns show the projects are paying for themselves in both energy savings and DP&L rebates.

“Since 2009, we have made a concerted effort to become a greener, more sustainable campus,” University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina says. “Countless people have contributed to this effort — facilities management, our renewable and clean energy graduate program, finance and administration, students who channel their entrepreneurial spirit to find the next idea to help the environment and those on campus who make conscious efforts to turn off lights and adjust their thermostats. Every effort counts.”

The Green Revolving Fund is just one in a decade of sustainability initiatives at the University of Dayton (UD), which have led to a 5 percent reduction in the university’s carbon footprint and helped accumulate the DP&L rebates. In addition to the Green Revolving Fund, the university’s efforts include:

  • Divesting coal and fossil fuels from the university’s $670 million investment pool. UD is believed to be the first Catholic university in the nation to take this step.
  • Striving for all renovated and new buildings on campus to be at least LEED Silver-certified or an equivalent status.
  • Instituting one of the largest university food composting efforts in the nation. The university diverts more than 200 tons of waste away from landfills annually.
  • Becoming a Fair Trade Campaigns Fair Trade University. “Fair trade” refers to an economic system of equitable trading partnerships for farmers, artisans and workers. It is evidence to consumers that products they purchase were grown, harvested, crafted and traded in ways that improve lives and protect the environment.
  • Installing solar panels and electric car charging stations on campus.
  • Creating the Move Out recycling program for students to donate unwanted items to local charities. Students have donated more than 100 tons of items to charities such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Social Services and the University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program. To put it into perspective, 100 tons equals about 14 elephants, 50 cars or 40,000 bricks.

Among the Greenest

The initiatives have earned the university a spot among The Princeton Review’s list of green colleges. But there is more work to be done for the university to fulfill the Second Nature Carbon Commitment, a nationwide initiative by university presidents committing their schools to being carbon-neutral by 2025. In labs and classrooms across campus, faculty and student research will continue to focus on wind power, fuel cells and batteries, algae, coal-to-liquid fuels and other clean, alternative energy sources.

The University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute oversees and is a catalyst for much of this work. Established in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from the foundation of George Hanley (’77) and Amanda Hanley — the single largest gift in university history — the Hanleys challenged the university to become a national leader for innovation in sustainability education. Since the Institute’s launch, students have been involved in every aspect of its operation, from staffing and administration to project conception and execution, in keeping with its educational mission.

“We must build upon our cross-university strengths in energy efficiency, biofuels, batteries, energy integration and management and energy informatics,” Spina says. “We will pay special attention to opportunities where we can advance the common good, prepare students to be leaders in improving standards of living and create a more sustainable environment.

“Success in these areas cannot be measured by technological achievement alone, but also by the impact our work will have on the common destiny of all.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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To help foster innovation, many colleges and universities have opened business incubators, helping students and others in their community to help make their innovative dreams a reality. Has your institution established a business incubator on (or near) your campus?



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