Financially, the College is extremely reliant for its operating expenses on tuition dollars, because its endowment is relatively small and its alumni are new to a culture of giving. So there isn't as much unrestricted money to spend on things that would enhance the College's sustainability profile as might be hoped.
One tremendous boost came this spring (see box, facing page). Fund-raising will continue to play a key role in the College's strategies, both for this long-term commitment to sustainability and for other institutional priorities. In the meantime, many of the abovementioned events and programs have been self-supporting, grant-supported, or relatively inexpensive. REMP projects have saved the College money, and implementing steps such as buying hybrid vehicles for the fleet when old vehicles need replacing will do so in both the short and long term.
Not everything costs as much as a new building, and as Ruth Abramson, director of the sustainability office at the University of British Columbia, explained at IC's Summit on Sustainability this spring, many of the programs she and her staff have put in place made her office self-sustaining just a few years after its creation -- because of the amount of money it saves the university. Another summit presenter, Bob Bech told, president of Harbec Plastics, a progressive injection molding company, makes a compelling case for the value of "eco-economics." Harbec has a wind turbine and a cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP), project. As the company's electricity is produced, the thermal exhaust byproduct is harnessed to meet all its heating and cooling needs. The company has replaced old vehicles in its fleet with energy-saving hybrid, solar, and natural gas vehicles. These innovations, Bechtel explains, have saved Harbec many thousands of dollars while simultaneously cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. "They save us money and allow us to be more competitive," he says. "So this good for our company, our customers, and the planet. Any company in the private sector should actively pursue eco-business practices. As should any institution."
Environmental studies major David Ross '04 worked on a comprehensive survey of the College's electrical use and costs during his senior year, making recommendations for improvements. He determined that the College uses 58,639,598 kilowatt hours per year to power the campus, at a cost of $2,280,403.33. "We use too much power," he says. "And there currently is no energy metering for any but the newest buildings, which means that no one is held accountable for excessive and/or wasteful use of energy." Ross, who worked with Sustain able Tompkins, demonstrated that a combination of campus education and new efficiencies would lead to substantial money savings, as well as reductions in the College's pollution contribution and improvements to air quality.