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Green Revolving Fund

Agnes Scott College initiated the college’s Green Revolving Fund (GRF) in 2011 as a practical solution to a common challenge shared by colleges and universities that have committed to a goal of climate neutrality. How can a campus achieve aggressive reductions in energy use, and reduce its carbon footprint, through efficiency upgrades while faced with a limited operating budget? By 2015 Agnes Scott’s GRF had become a model for meeting this sustainability challenge, especially for schools with 5,000 or fewer students, by revolving more than $1 million to support energy capture and efficiency and water fixture retrofits campus wide. In addition, Agnes Scott was the first college in the nation to create a GRF through donor support, thus engaging the broader college community and setting an example for other institutions to follow. Moreover, the fund, established initially through major gifts from alumnae and has subsequently captured the attention of individual donors and several foundations beyond the college. And along the way, the GRF created an even greater sense of trust and community around sustainability on campus than anticipated. It contributed greatly to the college’s overall success at sustainability.

Now, five years after that first major goal was met, the Agnes Scott GRF has supported efficiency retrofits totaling close to $2 million, including direct support for several large scale, innovative projects. Most notably, 10% of the college’s 1 million square feet of building space gained geothermal heat and air conditioning with support from the GRF. In addition, this fund has proven not only to be an incredibly effective tool to finance efficiency projects, it has also been a key element in advancing two other campus sustainability objectives: engaging our students in research to solve “real world” sustainability challenges, and creating a campus culture that supports the goal of advancing climate neutral initiatives and that exists from the college administrators to the students.

The basic concept of a green revolving fund is to establish a pool of financial resources dedicated to funding energy efficient and sustainable projects that generate cost savings. The money saved through these energy efficiency projects is then recycled back into the fund for future projects, resulting in an efficient and sustainable funding source for climate neutrality efforts. At Agnes Scott the GRF was designed to strengthen the college’s institutional capacity for building upgrades while ensuring that the campus will be more energy efficient. It was also designed to be managed by the campus community rather than by one department.

Agnes Scott was recently named a finalist for the 2020 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Awards. We received recognition in the Campus Sustainability Achievement category for the project titled “Building Trust and Community: The Transformative Experience of the Green Revolving Fund.” Click here to read about the case study.