Green Revolving Fund Committee Spurs Ideas, Funds, Action
June 23, 2013
One sustainable project is already under way on the Catawba College campus, with more on the horizon, thanks to the work of Catawba's Green Revolving Fund Committee.
The college has taken steps to compost all the food waste from the dining hall with the help of Gallins Family Farm of Mocksville, which provides the bins and picks up the food waste every week. A cooperative venture of Gallins, Chartwells dining service and the Catawba Facilities Department, the composting project will help the college save money from landfill costs and waste hauling fees. It will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which Catawba trustees adopted in 2007. David Najarian, supervisor of environmental services, submitted the proposal.
The committee has received other proposals as well, including ones that call for 1) reducing the consumption of electricity used in lighting both the nave and chancel of Omwake-Dearborn Chapel by reconfiguring the electric panel so that lights can be turned on in the chancel only during choir rehearsals; and 2) replacing the current lighting in the gym with LED lights, which will reduce energy usage by 80 percent, lessen the amount of heat produced by the lights and eliminate the need to replace bulbs every six months.
Students have also made a number of suggestions – everything from using compost to fertilize the lawns and installing mini-solar panels to power the exterior lighting on campus to installing water-conserving shower heads and putting recycling containers on each floor of the residence halls.
The college created the Green Revolving Fund (GRF) last fall to finance on-campus investments in clean energy and resource reduction. Catawba President Brien Lewis learned about GRFs at a Presidents' Climate Commitment Conference in Washington, D.C., last summer. "It seemed to me to be the perfect mechanism in that it already had a structure that we could quickly adopt and build around and report to as part of the national effort," he says, "so in no way did we feel we were operating alone."
Catawba is one of 42 institutions, mainly colleges and universities, in the United States and Canada that are employing this method of funding sustainable projects. GRFs capture the savings from lower utility bills and other resource reduction programs, using that money to reinvest in more projects that reduce the college's ecological footprint. The college has already received a gift of $100,000 toward its goal of raising $400,000 over four years to provide the principal for the Green Revolving Fund.
The GRF Committee, co-chaired by Lewis and Center for the Environment Executive Director John Wear, is made up of representatives from diverse areas of the college: Trustees Greg Alcorn and Charles Taylor; Center for the Environment board member Mark Sieffel; community member Bill Wagoner; faculty Jay Bolin and Chris Zink; staff Eric Nianouris, Carl Beaver, Sharon Miller, David Najarian and Rodney Rymer; and students Kyra Thurow and Sarah Wike.
Lewis points to a book by a college classmate – The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki – to explain why people from different areas were selected to serve on the committee. "The basic premise of the book is that you're going to get a broader and more accurate understanding of an issue if you have people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences at the table," he says. "We wanted to have a breadth and depth of views because none of us has a monopoly on good ideas."
Lewis is pleased with the progress the Green Revolving Fund Committee has made in such a short time. "I'm very excited about where we are at this stage, but I know it is just the beginning," he says. "It's the kind of venture in which success will breed success."
If students or faculty or staff members see their projects supported and implemented, that can serve as a motivation for others, Lewis says. "They can literally point to something and say, 'You see that. I got that started. You can get something started, too.'"
The Green Revolving Fund (GRF) is providing an additional benefit. The Center for the Environment is using this opportunity to engage students in the process, adding real-world experience to their classroom education.
"We at the Center want to offer more than administrative support to the GRF," says Dr. John Wear, Center executive director. "We are intentionally working to integrate the GRF into the academic life of the college and the research projects of our interns – both Catawba students and individuals from other institutions," he says.
The Center is also connecting Sustainable Catawba – an organization that brings together student groups that are engaged in activities to lessen the college's ecological footprint – to the Green Revolving Fund. "This provides a way to interface with the greater campus," Wear says. "Sustainable Catawba Lunch-and-Learn sessions offer opportunities for students to provide input on projects they think would advance sustainability on the campus. The meetings also serve to educate students, faculty and staff on everything from energy audits to environmental research projects."
Connecting the work of the GRF to the greater campus is second nature for the Center staff. "We are always looking for opportunities to offer value-added education for our students as we promote sustainable practices," Wear says. "This is a perfect opportunity to do that."