Remember Captain Planet, that loveable yet fiercely determined green-tinged superhero and advocate for protecting the earth who was the brainchild of mogul Ted Turner (he of TBS and TNT) and ran in Captain Planet and the Planeteers in syndication in the early 1990s? With an army of multicultural adolescents as eager as he to save the earth from pollution, poachers, and other threats to human existence, Captain Planet influenced kid-based audiences of the 90s and capitalized on a growing interest in reforms that manifested in such events as Earth Day. Twenty years later, the seeds sown by Turner and his band of earth-invested heroes are now being reaped by those same early 90s audiences, kids now grown who maintain their interest in a greener tomorrow.
Some of the fruit yielded by this interest in “going green” involves leading American universities such as Harvard and Stanford, as well as a growing other number of schools whose objective to finance energy efficiency upgrades on their campuses has led them to invest in the $1 Billion Dollar University Green Challenge, launched on October 11 by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference that took place in Pittsburgh, where 2,500 participants gathered to learn about methods of sustainability in higher education. Schools and other nonprofits are challenged to invest a billion dollars into a revolving fund that would provide those necessary upgrades to thereby increase the desired energy efficiency and lower operating costs on campuses. Certainly alumni are getting into the act, as their donations have been used to establish green revolving funds as well.
Because the economy is still shaky and unstable, these investments provide a glowing opportunity for university communities by offering green jobs and lowering operating costs on campus. According to Harvard’s Office for Sustainability, the Green Loan Fund has already generated high returns on the investment. The Challenge also offers a number of services, including technological help, sharing of “best practices,” an advanced web-based tool to help manage green revolving funds, and invitations to web-seminars and conferences. Thirty-three institutions of higher learning have already joined the Challenge’s Founding Circle, including Harvard and Stanford.
If you’re a grammar checker in a university English department who thinks that grammar rules (or even just your everyday faculty member or student with concerns about actual definitions or usages of the ways that “green, green, green” has been thrown around as of late), you’ll be pleased to note that all this talk of “going green” is not just hyperbole: it will generate revenue for your department and the university as a whole, as well as providing methods for your school to ensure sustainability with an average payback period of four years, as reported by Stanford.
Generous revenue and payback is definitely a plus, as are the jobs created in a market that continues to flounder, but as Stanford also notes, the Challenge’s impact on the environment is the primary concern for the institutions involved. Captain Planet and the Planeteers would certainly be proud.