Brandeis asks for donations for sustainability fund

August 23, 2019

Brandeis parents, alumni, grandparents and donors received emails this June asking for donations for the Brandeis Fund for Green Initiatives and Campus Sustainability, a fund dedicated to improving carbon-footprint initiatives at Brandeis.

The fund was created in June to exclusively support initiatives that reduce Brandeis’ carbon footprint, according to Vice President for Administration and Operations at the Office of Institutional Advancement Elizabeth Crabtree. 

The letter that was distributed was signed by University President Ronald Liebowitz and listed examples including renovations, replacing lighting fixtures and educating the Brandeis community as initiatives Brandeis has undertaken to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

“Over the past two-plus years, I have heard from a number of you asking about the university’s commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and lessening our impact on climate change,” the letter began. “I am writing to share some of our progress and to ask you to consider participating in a new program…a fund dedicated exclusively to support carbon-footprint reducing initiatives at Brandeis.”

The fund is overseen by the Office of Institutional Advancement, wrote Crabtree to The Brandeis Hoot. Though Crabtree did not respond before press time what specific projects the fund will support for the 2019-2020 academic year, she did say that the fund is part of an ongoing effort to improve campus sustainability.  

“Support for this fund will help move forward energy efficient projects, such as the introduction of solar panels, upgrading lighting, insulation and HVAC systems and educating students and faculty about proactive conservation,” wrote Crabtree to The Hoot. “Anyone can make a gift to this fund of any size and at any time via the online giving form.”

In the letter sent out to potential donors, Liebowitz stated that Brandeis had reduced its carbon footprint 12.6 percent since 2015, but much more remains to be done.

“At our Board of Trustees meeting in November, I committed to convening a group of interested faculty, staff and students during the 2019-2020 academic year to update the campus sustainability study and provide a new set of recommendations that will build upon our recent successes in carbon emissions,” the letter read. “In the meantime, we will continue pursuing an upgrade of our campus facilities and energy use policies to minimize our role in climate change.”

The Office of Sustainability is not involved in the fund, but some of the initiatives mentioned in the letter that have helped to reduce Brandeis’ carbon footprint—such as the lighting projects and education programs—can be attributed to the office. 

In the summer of 2018, lighting fixtures in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) were replaced with LED bulbs in a $200,000 project to provide more light to the building and improve the SCC’s energy efficiency, according to an earlier Hoot article

The project was estimated to reduce 60 tons of carbon production per year, or 0.3 percent reduction in the Brandeis campus’ carbon footprint, said Manager of Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer in an earlier article. The project was also estimated to save Brandeis $40,000 a year in electricity costs, meaning the project will pay for itself in just under five years. 

And as for education programs, a series of information sessions called “Let’s Talk Trash” endeavored to educate Brandeis students about how to properly recycle and to correct some myths about recycling at Brandeis, according to an earlier Hoot article.

The Green fund comes after Brandeis partially divested from fossil fuels after a Board of Trustees vote in late 2018. Brandeis will no longer directly invest endowment funds in companies and partnerships whose “principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation,” as part of the university’s new policy, according to an earlier Hoot article.

While campus activists for divestment found the new policy to be a good first step, the policy was not full divestment, and Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) continued to protest the university in May 2019 by hanging a banner outside of Gosman Athletic Center in May 2019, read an earlier Hoot article. The banner read, “Fo$$il Fuel$ or Our Future” with the hashtags “#divest” and “#reinvest.”

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