Appalachian State University graduate Jon Ruth holds a jar of biodiesel made at the university during the first National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall May 10, 2006 in Washington, DC.
Appalachian State University graduate Jon Ruth holds a jar of biodiesel made at the university during the first National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall May 10, 2006 in Washington, DC. - 
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Marketplace

Amid all the Sturm und Drang of mergers and markets, we like to track compelling ideas on Marketplace.

How about if colleges and universities could grow, rather than subtract, from their endowment money by making their campuses more environmentally friendly? 

Mark Orlowski is founder and executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute. He has an online system to help schools track ways that they can get financial returns, not just through stock and bond markets, but through energy efficiency.

His project, the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, and online platform (GRITS) help universities take their operating cash or endowment, upgrade the energy efficiency of campus buildings, and get a bigger return in savings than the stock market would earn them.

The Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS 1.0) is designed to manage every aspect of an institution's green revolving fund (GRF), including aggregate and project-specific financial, energy, and carbon data. It also helps track and manage projects, as well as reports on environmental benefits and financial return.

How's that for compelling?

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Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio