Measuring Sustainability Savings at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Executive Summary:
Green Investment Green Return, written in 2004 by Ric O'Connell and Will Toor, attempts to quantify the fiscal impacts of environmental programs at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  In studying the programs on the CU Boulder campus, three distinct categories of programs emerged:  demand side management, green operations, and green purchasing.  Demand side management programs included transportation demand management, energy and water conservation, green building, and the campus printing initiative ("pay-for-print").  These programs focused on reducing the demand, instead of the traditional focus on supply, and were responsible for significant cost reductions.  Green operations are programs such as recycling, integrated pest management and composting that "green" existing processes such as waste and pest management.  Green operations programs produced economic savings partially through innovative labor practices, and partially by reducing expenditures on unnecessary inputs or waste disposal costs.  Green purchasing programs, such as environmentally preferable purchasing and renewable energy purchases, are designed to change the procurement processes on campus to include environmental goals.  These programs were not intended to reduce costs, but they were able to produce significant benefits at low cost. Our results demonstrated that environmental programs provide the University millions of dollars in avoided cost each year, as well as producing significant environmental benefits and enhancing the curriculum and relations with the community.

Download the CU Boulder Green Investment Green Return publication by clicking here.

This 2004 CU Boulder report was modeled after the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology 1998 publication Green Investment, Green Return, which revealed big savings acheived by practical conservation programs on college and university campuses across America.