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Open a revolving alumni fund for campus sustainability projects, that roll proceeds forward to do more projects.



There are so many ideas are already flowing into this site from the MIT community at large. How will we decide which ones to do? From a practical perspective how will we fund them?

The idea is simple. Establish a fund to provide the capital investment for carbon reducing measures. Apply the savings achieved to do more projects. Why does this work? Many sustainability projects not only reduce carbon, they reduce cost. The fund would initially prioritize projects with the best payback.

In fact, it is such a good idea MIT already has one!

"The Facilities Engineering Energy Team is aggressively pursuing energy reduction projects across the campus. Since 2006, the Energy Team has designated over $2M to energy reduction projects for our buildings and systems on campus. To date, these projects have returned a simple payback of fewer than two years.

Funding for some of these projects was allotted by the Office of the Executive Vice President. In addition, two donors have made generous gifts: Mr. David desJardins and Mr. Jeffrey Silverman. The gift from Mr. Silverman founded the Silverman Evergreen Energy Fund."

Ask most MIT alums and I bet they didn't know this existed.  So why not open this fund up to more Alumni who want to contribute? Why should this fund be closed, or limited to only this one gift?  Certainly nobody on campus has said that there are no more cost effective projects to do. Perhaps there are fewer 2-3 yr. payback opportunities, but the 4-5 yr. ones are still meaningful.

Add the revolving green fund as a method of giving for Alumni, and allow funding by project or by payback threshold.

What actions do you propose?

Alumni would be able to donate to campus energy projects, and see the corresponding carbon impact of their investment.

How can MIT do it differently?

1) First make the existing green fund open to new investment via

2) Create a Post a list of projects. Alumni can choose either to contribute to the general fund, or to a specific project.

3) For projects that meet a certain threshold the endowment could even match alumni investments.


Combating a few objections; Part of the reason that idea has not been enacted before are a few perceptions.

  • Alumni are not interested in funding “maintenance”: We can already see some important counter-examples

  • MIT has bigger and better things to ask for: Campus sustainability is an issue that matters to the students, alumni and community.

  • There are not enough projects that pay back: While most of the campus is still covered in single pane windows this is hard to imagine.

  • The money gets greater returns in other endowment investments; this may be true to but campus energy projects are often lower risk.

  • Measurement and verification: One of the most challenging elements is figuring out how to apply the savings back into the fund. If there is any institution that can figure this out, I’m sure MIT can.


Incentives and Limits: There was some great feedback from the judges that is definitely worth addressing...

  • Are there other incentives you could include to spark interest or reward donors? Yes! Calculate the cumulative savings and display it publicly in the student center with a list of donors. I would find that very rewarding...
  • Is there a point at which additional resources would need to be allocated to fund management? Perhaps, but most of the resources are already in place with the wonderful campus sustainability and EHS staff as well as giving@MIT. 
  • Are there an unlimited number of sustainability projects, or at some point, could giving outpace implementation? There are certainly limits to sustainability projects. The goal of this campaign will be to test those limits. There will be declining marginal returns for each project to the point where giving may truly be charitable (as in no ROI). In other, words returns will asymptotically approach zero. Alternatively, once we complete all projects under a 10-yr return the remaining funds could be used to throw a (zero waste) sustainable celebration for all the donors.