The Student Sustainability Task Force is a student-led club at RPI whose goal is to collaborate with other clubs, faculty, and administrators to increase sustainability efforts on campus. SSTF has worked on many projects in the past few years, from trying to get a campus greenhouse to compiling data on how sustainable RPI currently is today. Under new leadership, the club has grown significantly over the past semester, in both the number of members and the number of projects. SSTF allows new members to join in on currently established projects or gain support and aid in the formation of new projects. One of the newest projects to come to SSTF is called the Green Revolving Fund Project.
A green revolving fund, or a GRF, is a sustainability fund that creates a long-term budget for sustainability projects on campus. One of the hardest parts, if not the hardest part, of completing a sustainability project is finding the initial funding for it. A green revolving fund would solve this problem. In addition, it would create a bigger community for sustainability on campus because more people would be interested in helping if they knew something big could get done.
In a GRF, the money saved from one sustainability project is used to fund further sustainability projects. For example, if the initial project was $50,000 worth of solar panels that saved the school $10,000 a year, then the solar panels would pay themselves off in five years. After those five years, RPI would be saving $10,000 a year. A percentage of that $10,000 would go to RPI, and a percentage would go the GRF. The percentage that went to the GRF could be used for more sustainability projects, which would save RPI more money, which would increase the amount of money in the GRF that could be used for more projects. The green revolving fund creates a long-term and growing sustainability fund to enable students to work with faculty and administrators to complete amazing projects.
Green revolving funds are becoming very common in colleges and universities across the country. There are currently 79 funds in North America, amounting to about $111 million, according to GreenBillion.org. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University all have their own funds, with their own success stories. A large variety of projects have been done, including lighting upgrade projects, energy and water use reduction projects, renewable energy installations, composting, and setting up programs to incentivize students to use fewer resources. Any sustainability idea that saves money can be used. Generating electricity from ellipticals and treadmills is another interesting example of an idea that some students have had.
Currently, SSTF is trying to create a GRF proposal to present to RPI’s administration by the end of the fall semester. The members of SSTF are working on creating different sustainability project proposals, one of which will hopefully be chosen by the administration and completed if the GRF proposal is passed. A proposal for getting solar panels with the GRF is currently being worked on, but other project proposals need to be created before the presentation to the administration is made. Additionally, a lot more has to be done to complete the proposal, from further research on how other universities have done it to researching different funding sources. With some work, the GRF can become an incredibly successful program that will fund sustainability efforts for years to come.