It’s all too easy to forget that keeping the lights on or enjoying a long shower does have consequences. It’s especially easy for one person to overlook everyday actions in a public space, like a college campus, where it may feel like it doesn’t make much of a difference. However, one long shower adds up when multiplied campus-wide, and as the water consumption rises, so does the financial and environmental cost.
Cue Grants to Green, an initiative of the The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Grants to Green aims to improve nonprofits’ physical infrastructure, thereby leading to a shrinking environmental footprint and boosting the cost-efficiency of operations. Last summer, Grants to Green awarded Oglethorpe University with funding for a campus assessment, conducted by Southface, an Atlanta-based company that provides tools for organizations and communities to increase sustainability.
In response to this grant, Oglethorpe assembled a Green Team to work with Grants to Green and Southface to consider the university’s energy consumption and energy efficient options. The team includes representatives from the finance and development staff, facilities and maintenance, and faculty. In addition, students Matthew Roberson ’16 and Tyler Murphy ’16, both biology majors, participated in a day-long charrette in October 2015 to kick off the assessment.
The on-campus areas measured during the assessment were:
(1) BUILDINGS: inspection of energy and water systems of identified buildings;
(2) SITE: monitoring of non-building components, such as parking facilities, landscape and interstitial area, storm water management areas, site lighting; and
(3) OPERATIONS: review of practices such as waste management, purchasing, operations policies and occupant behaviors.
Among its many discoveries, Southface determined that changes to Oglethorpe’s infrastructure and equipment, like installing low-flow plumbing and improved HVAC systems, could save the university up to an estimated $147,695 annually and cut down on a $930,567 annual energy bill. But, that implementation itself comes at a price.
Moving forward, Oglethorpe has the opportunity to transform analysis into action. Grants to Green financially supports grant award winners by matching grants of up to $500,000 to implement projects identified in the assessment. Oglethorpe is currently in the process of applying for grants to help with the cost of implementation.
“We have selected five priority projects as a result of our Grants to Green assessment,” said Robyn Furness-Fallin, vice president for development and alumni relations. The first Implementation Grant application is for a building optimization systems (BAS) upgrade in Dempsey, one of the older residence halls. “We will then focus on LED upgrades for another older dorm and our athlete training area,” Furness-Fallin adds. “Our focus is on student-centered areas first. The remaining two projects are less student-centered so they will be completed as matching funds become available.”Oglethorpe recognizes the power of collective action and community living. As part of this community, students are encouraged to look beyond themselves to consider the bigger picture, both in their academic pursuits and daily experiences. One important lesson of learning to live in a community is acting responsibly and conscientiously towards one’s surrounding environment. In this spirit, the university is actively promoting green thinking—both financially and environmentally—as a part of being a member of the larger Atlanta community.