Planning to Build Green, Clark Atlanta University Taps EDF Climate Corps
This is a guest post from Savitha Sridharan, a 2nd year MBA at Babson College and EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Clark Atlanta University. Savitha has been invited to visit The White House to attend The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) face a set of issues similar to other higher education institutions in the US. The majority of campuses must address persistent shortfalls in funding that delay needed capital expenditures and hinder the accomplishment of their missions. Under such frugal conditions, it becomes far more important to make use of available resources more efficiently. Energy efficiency is definitely one of them. Collaborative thinking, creative innovation and focused leadership are key elements that are helping HBCUs to become centers of sustainability.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF)’s Building Green Initiative (BGI) at HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) is working to transform 20th-century campus infrastructures into living, learning laboratories that promote academic excellence and technological solutions needed to address complex social, economic and environmental problems. The Building Green Initiative established by UNCF is now based at Clark Atlanta University with the UNCF now a partner like EDF! Felicia Davis is the BGI Director and Dr. Olatidoye is the principal investigator. They both report to President Carlton Brown. Under the leadership of Felicia Davis, the initiative has tapped multiple organizations to expand their MSI focused sustainability activities, including the resources available through the EDF Climate Corps program. In fact, Clark Atlanta University, a Building Green Initiative and EDF Climate Corps participant, were able to focus on improving their energy use this summer, thanks to the support of a grant funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation.
EDF has played an active role in helping to advance energy management practices at Clark Atlanta University. This is the second time the school has tapped the talents of an EDF Climate Corp fellow to improve energy efficiency at CAU. Under the supervision of CAU’s principal investigator, Dr. Olu Olatidoye, my focus this summer has been to build an energy management decision tool for the school’s Thomas Cole Research Center of Science and Technology. The tool is a centralized database that consists of energy audit information, utility bills, rebates and tax incentives, a financial analysis calculator and an inventory of all devices that consume electricity on campus.
The energy management decision tool will help faculty navigate and utilize energy data and information and guide leaders in making recommendations. The tool also will help faculty easily identify cost-savings to cushion funding for the research center’s energy efficiency projects.
Contributing to CAU’s energy management planning has been a fulfilling professional experience, so you can imagine how excited I was to participate in the larger Building Green Initiative planning workshop, held at CAU in July.
The Building Green Initiative is currently in the strategic planning process and building out the next phase of its development. The planning workshop aimed to identify goals, objectives and major strategies. EDF Climate Corp staff and Brian Cabezas, another EDF Climate Corps fellow servicing an MSI this summer, traveled down to Atlanta to participate in the BGI planning workshop.
During this meeting, EDF’s Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency gained a lot of attention. In an optimized organization, all five components of the “Virtuous Cycle” function at full capacity, enabling organizations to improve energy performance, and generate maximum financial and environmental returns. The group referenced the cycle in the development of four main goals that were identified at the meeting, including reducing carbon emissions on HBCU and MSI campuses and pinpointing a focus on strengthening organizational infrastructure, financial resources, partnerships and networks to further advance the initiative. To take things a step further, the group established four focus groups to help kick the BGI goals into gear. The focus groups will look into the development of student-run green ambassador programs, green revolving loan funds, marketing green initiatives and energy efficiency retrofit programs.
As Clark Atlanta and the Building Green initiative continue to move forward, I’m glad to have helped to shape the initial resources that will work to sustain their energy efficiency efforts and work towards becoming centers of sustainability. During the National HBCU Week (Sept 23- 27), Felicia Davis and I will be at The White House to attend The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to join the effort in continuing to make HBCUs into vibrant centers of intellectual inquiry and engines of scientific discovery and innovation.