Starting in 2009 with a single partnership—Babson College—GreenerU began when a couple of Davids and a man named Rob came together. Each had experience in the world of energy and felt there was an unmet need for a firm to focus almost exclusively on educational institutions.
David Adamian, Dave Kopans, and Rob Pratt were energy industry veterans who knew that colleges and universities were unlike the commercial sector. Educational campuses are places of ideas, where research is performed and discoveries are made, where issues are debated and students are encouraged to explore new ideas.
Education’s unique place in society meant that a different approach was required—one with a strong focus on engagement, sensitive project management, creative financial solutions, and an eye toward supporting schools in their leadership efforts on climate change.
A contract before a company
During GreenerU’s start-up phase, the founders were trying to raise capital with this new and interesting concept of fulfilling the unique needs of educational institutions. There were many conversations with potential investors, but an even better opportunity came up: someone offered to introduce the founders to an acquaintance of his, President Len Schlesinger of Babson College.
“We hadn’t even incorporated as a company yet,” says Adamian. “We pitched what was essentially a deep energy retrofit of Babson’s campus, financing and all.”
President Schlesinger loved the idea. But it was the behavior change element that grabbed him the most. “Babson basically multiplied the sustainability management portion of our proposal by tenfold, which led to the establishment of the school’s first sustainability office.” GreenerU went on to manage that program for eight years. (As for the potential investor, however, he never came on board.)
Following Babson College was Clark University, and the company was off to the races. We soon expanded to interesting engagements with Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Brandeis University, which helped the fledgling start-up gain its footing.
On becoming GreenerU
GreenerU was originally called EnergyClimate Solutions, a forgettable name that was too easily distilled to the TLA (three-letter acronym) “ECS.”
“We hired a branding consultant, who said he almost never recommends name changes,” said co-founder and past president and CEO David Adamian. “He recommended we change our name.”
The small staff and consultant team generated a list of 44 possible new names, each listing their top five. “GreenerU” was not on the top of anyone’s list. The team debated their initial preferences and went through several rounds, canceling out each other’s top preferences, and—eventually—GreenerU emerged as the preferred (really only) choice.
Today, it’s hard to imagine GreenerU by any other name. The simplicity of our name certainly feels better than “Greener By Degrees” or “U Conserve,” or especially this mouthful: “Sustainability and Energy Services for Universities” (sez u?).
The two-year mark became a turning point for GreenerU: we signed a major contract with Brown University, and with further projects developing at Babson, Clark, Dartmouth, and elsewhere, the company effectively doubled in size to 14 people. That necessitated a move to a larger office space (which was, conveniently, across the hall).
WPI was an example of a school that began partnering with GreenerU thanks to SynergE Worcester, a program we developed with National Grid to help advance major energy efficiency initiatives on campus. SynergE Worcester was a direct collaboration with three campuses: WPI, College of the Holy Cross, and Clark.
In 2013, GreenerU launched Campus Efficiency Now in collaboration with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (now the Connecticut Green Bank) and the Connecticut Conference for Independent Colleges for campuses in Connecticut. In 2014, we began work on a similar program in Massachusetts called Mass College Green, which was done in collaboration with MassDevelopment and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. These two initiatives helped kickstart efficiency efforts at seven additional New England colleges.
The GreenerU Way
In 2014, we were proud to receive the “Breakout Company of the Year” award from the Northeast Clean Energy Council. The following year, David Adamian became President and CEO.
A new tradition unfolded at the first quarterly all-hands staff meeting of 2016: the Golden Clamp Award to recognize exceptional work.
The rules are fairly simple. The award rotates every quarter. The current awardee chooses the next recipient. Any GreenerU staff member is eligible, and the award can be given to the same person more than once (but awarding it to yourself is in poor taste).
“The idea behind the Golden Clamp is that your colleagues often see more of your work than your direct manager,” says Dallase Scott, former Vice President of Change Management. “It is a way to show appreciation for the little things that take place on a day-to-day basis. These are undercurrent contributions that make a strong team and a meaningful culture in which to work.”
Scott was also behind the procurement of a giant clamp—from a hardware store—and spray-painting it. “We haven’t stated explicitly to staff that the clamp is not solid 14-karat gold,” she adds. “I think most of them know.”
What was also cemented in 2016 was the GreenerU Way, a set of values to help staff clearly understand how their performance would be measured and the type of atmosphere we wanted to establish in the workplace. A culture of excellence is at the heart of the GreenerU Way, and this desire to do our best is at the heart of everything we do. We also manage to have a good time.
“What I’m proudest of is the staff we’ve assembled,” says Adamian. “I love the culture here. The environment has always been friendly and supportive. We have people who are dedicated to doing really great work and believe in what we’re doing, and that shows in the quality of the work they do.”
Looking back, looking forward
In 2017, Brooks School worked with GreenerU and a construction company to build a state-of-the-art Center for the Arts. GreenerU worked side-by-side with Brooks staff, the architect, engineer, and the construction company during the engineering and construction phase to ensure that the building would not only look great; it would function properly and be comfortable for its occupants and energy efficient in its use.
In 2018 we hit another major milestone, surpassing the 50-client mark. As we approached our 10th anniversary, we turned our eyes toward the future by establishing a 2029 vision and a 2019–2021 strategic plan. This staff-driven plan helped us create a set of goals to strengthen our culture, map out business development, and cement our internal processes to best serve our partners.
The pandemic of 2020 created challenges for everyone, particularly those in the education sector. GreenerU put together a series of webinars to provide a sounding board and expertise in topics ranging from safe building operations to facilitating remote meetings. This time period also gave us an opportunity to reflect on and clarify our vision and mission, which is to help our clients achieve climate neutrality through planning, engineering, and implementation. And we updated our strategic plan in 2021 with a focus on the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.
In 2022, Adamian retired, and Rob Durning took on the role of CEO, with a simple philosophy of service that boils down to helping people. “At the end of the day, it’s about relationships,” says Durning. “It takes herculean efforts by dedicated people like you to make positive change in the world—and it’s you we care about.”