CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University and 32 other leading institutions announced this week the launch of a $1 billion "Green Challenge," in which they hope to develop funds to finance energy efficiency upgrades on their respective campuses.

OSU has been a leader in developing and managing these "green, revolving funds," according to university sustainability coordinator Brandon Trelstad. He credits student leadership at OSU with driving the new fund.

"OSU created the Sustainable Energy Revolving Loan Fund program in response to and in partnership with, our students," Trelstad said. "Past student leaders made creation of a revolving loan fund a priority, and the OSU Sustainability Office has worked to set up and administer this program.

"Thanks to student vision, we're a bit ahead of many of our colleagues in establishing a fund," Trelstad pointed out. "Our next step it to market the program to expand demand for its financing."

Institutions participating in the "Green Challenge," which is sponsored by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, have committed investments of more than $65 million in green revolving funds - which leaders hope to boost to a cumulative total of $1 billion over the next few years. In accordance with the challenge, OSU will target growing its fund to about $1 million over the next four years, Trelstad said.

Program organizers say these investments create jobs and have a high return on investment. They also are important to students on campus, says Brian Laird, co-director for OSU's Student Sustainability Initiative.

"Participation from OSU in the challenge is important to students because the development of the Sustainable Energy Revolving Loan Fund on campus was largely a student-driven effort, and continues to be funded by student fee dollars to this day," Laird said. "It's also incredibly important because it clearly demonstrates the economic component of sustainability, in addition to the environmental one.

"It allows programs like these that can greatly further sustainability efforts by appealing to a wider range of audiences," he added.

Student interest in sustainability issues at OSU is strong, Trelstad said. In 2007, students assessed themselves a fee to fund the purchase of renewable energy on campus, and two years later, OSU became one of the first universities in the country to harness the energy of its students, staff and faculty by hooking up elliptical machines in Dixon Recreation Center to create power and return it to the grid.

The university recently brought on-line its new $55 million energy center, which is capable of burning renewable fuels and replaces a decades-old steam plant.

OSU has received widespread recognition for its sustainability efforts, including these citations:

  • Oregon State University is the second larger purchaser of green power of any college or university in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • OSU was named to the Princeton Review's 2012 Green Rating Honor Roll - the only university in Oregon to achieve that distinction;
  • The Sierra Club ranked OSU as a "Cool School" for its sustainability efforts, ranking it No. 1 in the state and No. 24 in the nation;
  • Kaplan's College Guide lists OSU as one of the nation's top 25 "Green Colleges";
  • Country Home magazine listed Corvallis as the greenest city in America, primarily because of the OSU's presence and collaboration with the city on sustainability initiatives.

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307