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The Olin Revolving Green Fund Grows Up

The first project financed by the year-old Olin College Revolving Green Fund is now complete.

At the request of two students, Linnea Laux and Tommy Weir, Olin’s energy manager, Claire Rodgers, initiated a light usage study in the Olin College Academic Center. After determining that Rooms 113, 126 and 228 incurred the highest energy usage, Rodgers used about half of the funds from the Green Fund – about $20,000 - to purchase and install new energy efficient LED lights. The current lights will use 68 percent less energy.

“We were interested in this project because replacing lights with LEDs is an easy way to save energy and cost, but also because the flourescent lighting in the AC is a nuisance to students. The old lights flicker and make a high-pitched buzzing noise, causing headaches and making it hard to learn for people with sensory problems,” said Laux. “We hoped that replacing the lights in a few rooms would start a conversation in the community about both sustainability and the classroom experience. I hope that all the lighting in the AC can be switched over in the next few years.” 

The Green Fund was set up a year ago to provide a continuous source of funding and support for sustainability projects. The Fund helps promote Olin’s commitment to sustainability and encourage community members to pursue creative ideas and explore emerging technologies in the sustainability realm. As the fund grows in size, it will provide a financial mechanism for Olin College to explore sustainability projects with higher capital costs and a longer payback timeframe than is currently possible within existing budgets.

In order to keep the Fund financially viable, three levels of projects are considered: projects with a capital cost of $2,500 or less and no payback period, projects with a payback period of less than five years and projects with a payback period of greater than or equal to five years. All projects must also:

  • Reduce environmental impact, such as lowered energy or water usage, reduced waste,or reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Have educational aspects, such as signage or programming to educate the larger community on environmental concern

The switch to LED lights in these three rooms will save Olin about $3,300 per year, of which 75 percent will go back into the Green Fund to continue funding new projects. The payback period for the project is just under 6 years and it will take an additional two years to pay back the funds to the Revolving Green Fund, although the light bulbs will continue to provide a savings beyond that time resulting in a net gain for the Fund. A small plaque has been posted on a wall in each room to mark the location of the Green Fund project.

"I am thrilled to see the first green fund project completed. It is great that we can both reduce energy and costs as well as engage the students and community in the process so that all stakeholders have the ability to make a change,” said Rodgers.