With over $1 million in university funding allocated for 83 student-requested sustainability projects on campus under the program, the positive impacts of the Office of Sustainability’s Green Request for Proposals Program (Green RFP) can be felt across the Virginia Tech campus – and even far beyond.

As far away as Denver, in fact.

The Office of Sustainability recently received national recognition for the Green RFP Program from APPA, Leadership in Educational Facilities, earning the 2019 Sustainability Innovation Award for Facilities Management at the APPA Excellence in 2019 Awards Program in Denver.

The Green RFP was established in 2010 to give students an opportunity to trailblaze Virginia Tech’s sustainability efforts.

LED lighting, reusable to-go food containers, water bottle refill stations, solar-powered charging tables, energy-efficient plumbing, and bike racks are among the countless student-generated Green RFP projects in action across the Virginia Tech campus today.

Sustainability Director Denny Cochrane sat down with the Division of Operations communication team to discuss sustainability at Virginia Tech and the popular Green RFP program.

Q: You’ve led Virginia Tech’s sustainability program for a while now. What’s been most exciting about being a part of the sustainability movement at the university?

Cochrane: I’ve served in a sustainability-focused role the last 12 years. Seeing the palpable impact students have had in advancing sustainability at Virginia Tech has been truly exciting.

In 2006-07, students really started asking the university to make sustainability a priority. Subsequently, in 2009, the university approved the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment (VTCAC), which serves as a cornerstone for guiding the university toward a greener, more sustainable future. It touches on all aspects of university sustainability and energy efficiency across campus operations, engagement, curriculum, and research.

Shortly after, the Office of Sustainability was established to carry out the VTCAC and Sustainability Plan. We’ve been proud to deliver a multitude of programs that provide students with opportunities to become change agents for sustainability on campus — and beyond.

Q: What are the origins of the Green RFP program?

Cochrane: The Green RFP program was launched by the university during academic year 2010-11 as an alternative to a student green fee. Proposals that promoted campus sustainability in support of the VTCAC were sought from student organizations. The university established a fast track formal review and approval process with the goal of having the results announced and implementation initiated in the same academic year. The same process is still utilized today. Remarkably, over $1 million in university funds have been allocated to the program to this day; that is quite the milestone.

Q: What do you think is driving the program’s continued success?

Cochrane: I think students’ ability to make a tangible impact on sustainability is a big factor. Momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing either. We received a record 66 proposals in fall 2018 with a record 18 being approved and funded. Our students believe in the program and appreciate university senior leader support.

Q: Does the Green RFP program offer students professional development opportunities?

Cochrane: Throughout the process, students acquire real-world experiences that will serve them not only in the sustainability field, but in almost every sector. In crafting proposals, students gain first-hand project management, business writing, and budgeting experience. They also get mentorship from faculty subject matter experts who volunteer their time to help students fine-tune their proposals. The program also provides a firsthand look into university policymaking.

Q: What are some of the most memorable Green RFP projects in action on campus?

Cochrane: Every project continues to impact the university community in a positive way. The water bottle refill station is my favorite and you can see them now in almost every building on campus. The solar charging tables across campus are really unique. Even our winged-friends are getting in on the program with the pollinator habitats in Hahn Garden that have been built; there will even be a bat box installed at the Duck Pond to foster bat species growth. Last year we spent a lot of time advancing the $202,000 LED lighting and HVAC upgrade proposal for the Math Emporium because the project pays for itself in just over two years, and nearly every Virginia Tech student utilizes that facility.  

Q: Beyond the Green RFP Program, what other ways can students to get involved in sustainability at Virginia Tech?

Cochrane: With football season almost upon us, we are always looking for volunteers to join the Game Day Green Team which collects bottles and cans from Virginia Tech football tailgates, hands out recycling bags, and spreads recycling awareness. Initiatives like Sustainability Week, hosted in September in partnership with the Town of Blacksburg, are always looking for volunteers. There’s also our popular, award-winning Student Internship Program that accepts applications each spring.

Click here to learn more about the Office of Sustainability. Contact the sustainability team at 540-231-4300 or sustainability@vt.edu.

APPA award
APPA Award Ceremony Photo
Jon Clark Teglas (second from right), chief of staff to the associate vice president and chief facilities officer, accepted the award on behalf of the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability at the APPA Excellence in 2019 Awards in Denver.

Gallery of Green RFP projects in action across campus:

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