“Isn’t global warming a red herring? Wouldn’t we do the kinds of things we are proposing here, such as improving energy efficiency and reducing waste, anyway?”
Students had just finished reporting on ways the university could curb emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions through innovative projects that touched on everything from energy, to the landscape, to commuting and they’d cited benefits to the community such as saving money, reducing congestion and creating jobs. The professor seemed to believe that reducing waste was worthwhile, but was skeptical about the urgency and scale of the task.
He was not alone. At that time, universities and other research centers all across the world were working to improve the ability to monitor and interpret data as well as to foster collaboration among scientists and gather their opinions.
Today, scientists overwhelmingly agree that the earth is warming due to human activity, and universities have played a central part in this understanding. With each of the five successive reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) between 1990 and 2013, the picture has gotten clearer and the consensus has grown.
Higher education is at the center of the climate science, advancing studies of hundreds of dimensions from the cryosphere to the oceans to the atmosphere. Of the 209 lead authors and 50 review editors from 39 countries and more than 600 contributing authors from 32 countries who contributed to the preparation of the IPCC’s Working Group I AR5, nearly half are university-based scientists. Notable examples include:
In addition to the science, higher education is also contributing to the climate solutions. In the U.S., 677 college and university presidents have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality through the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). More than 500 of those have created climate action plans and nearly 2,000 colleges and universities have created greenhouse gas emissions inventories.
South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do Association for Green Campus Initiative (GAGCI) is convening university leaders each year from countries through Europe and the East to explore latest best practices for higher education leadership to reduce industrial carbon pollution.
Forming partnerships with the surrounding community or region to coordinate strategies such as transit oriented development and even training for green jobs is another tack many colleges and universities are taking. Among leaders in this approach are Oberlin College in Ohio, Occidental College in California, University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program and several others that NWF is documenting in a new guide to campus-community partnerships for sustainability.
Beyond the shifts in campus operations and business practices, however, relatively little is known about the academic uptake of climate science information across disciplines in the U.S.. The faculty member at UGA who expressed skepticism was not alone in 1989, but today, we believe instructors are quietly taking the science to heart, revising courses, and helping their students learn about impacts and solutions and how their disciplines and careers contribute to both.
My colleagues and I are hoping that this short linked survey will provide a snapshot of some of the ways faculty are boosting students’ career preparedness for a new climate. We will share the findings in spring of 2014 before the presentation of the full report in Copenhagen, Denmark, October 27-31, 2014. We hope the poll will illustrate support for the work of the IPCC, document some examples and inspire others.]]>
Several NYC Eco-Schools are already leading the rooftop revolution. In late 2011, MS442 – The Carroll Gardens School for Innovation – in Brooklyn installed about 4,200 square feet of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on its rooftops. The system produces about 47.6 kilowatts (kW) or 152 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity per day. For 365 days per year, this corresponds to 55,597 kWh per year. Assuming a current electricity rate for NYC DOE of about $0.18/kWh, and according to Sunny Portal, MS442’s PV system offsets over $10,000 in electricity costs per year and has so far prevented the release of over 148,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers at the Brandeis campus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan has an equally impressive 47 kw solar PV installation, installed in early 2012, that generates an average of 48,000 kwh of electricity per year, has saved close to $9,000 in electricity costs per year, and has prevented the release of over 140,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. At Regis High School in Manhattan, a 22 kw solar panel array on the school’s 22,000 square foot green roof, installed in June 2007, generates 3,730 kwh of electricity per year and provides 5% of the school’s electricity. The panels have thus far prevented the release of 40,528 pounds of carbon dioxide and generated enough energy to power 650 homes for one day. These stats are monitored through the school’s website. In 2012, Regis also replaced all of its lights with LED (light-emitting diode) fixtures, reducing electric use by more than half (and costs as well). Faculty and students have learned about vampire loads and have stepped up recycling efforts throughout the facility.
At PS41 in Manhattan, a three-panel solar array lives on the school’s 15,000 square foot green roof. PS41’s panels are not grid connected but are hooked up to a battery and used for educational purposes. The battery is housed in a box, so the students can view it. An outlet mounted on the outside of the box allows for easy plug-in demonstrations of solar/wind power. Science teachers Vicki Sando and Joaquin Rodriguez integrate the panels into classroom activities with the school’s Urban Eco-Club. Students build small solar cars and wind turbine units to understand the concepts behind renewable energy. They test them, and Sando and Rodriguez discuss how renewable energy works on a larger scale, such as on wind farms and large solar installations.
Thanks to a partnership with Divvy Solar, a solar crowd-funding startup, Bronx Design and Construction Academy’s solar research project – designed to prove that green roofs improve the efficiency of solar panels – was fully funded. The panels should be installed in the Spring of 2014.PS/IS 276, The Battery Park City School is Manhattan’s first green school building. The vertical 8-story building – a showcase for sustainable design and energy efficiency – was conceived by John Woelfling, a LEED AP and principal at Dattner Architects. The school features three solar PV installations, for a total of 50kw. The first is on the school’s entry canopy: a handful of panels with transparent glazing, spaced out on a platform.
The second array, is on the roof and part of an outdoor classroom where the children grow tomatoes, basil, radishes and monitor the amount of energy generated by the solar panels in a weather station. The third array is the largest and in the same general area. Woelfling is currently working on three large solar school projects for the NYC Department of Education, in collaboration with the School Construction Authority. The projects are due to be completed by mid-2014.The Town School’s 2008 graduating class raised $10,000 to purchase 28 solar PV modules; these were installed in 2009 and provide 6.048kw of power for the school – enough to power both the upper and lower science classrooms, including lights and computers. In 2012, Town also installed a wind turbine – the first at a New York City school.
In December of 2011, a 4.84 kW solar-electric system was installed over the rooftop playground at Lycée Français de New York. The project, which includes a weather monitoring station, was funded through a combination of public and private donations.
Schools have a range of options to choose from, to teach their students about renewable energy. NWF’s Cool School Challenge engages schools in practical strategies to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions school-wide. Students build STEM skills as they learn to conduct energy audits, calculate their impact, and create an action plan to shrink their carbon footprint. An interactive carbon calculator helps to evaluate progress, graph results and cost-savings. Schools doing the Cool School Challenge can address Eco-Schools USA’s Energy and Climate Change Pathways and apply for awards through the program. Solar One’s Green Design Lab curriculum engages students in hands-on activities, uses the school building as a model for exploring topics of sustainability, and gives students the knowledge and tools to solve real-world problems. The Alliance for Climate Education offers exciting in-school assemblies that aim to inspire students to take action on climate change. The Green Schools Alliance’s (GSA’s) Green Cup Challenge engages schools in an annual energy conservation competition. GSA, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, has also launched the Green Schools Renewable Energy Purchasing Consortium. The purpose of the Consortium is to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy by K-12 schools by aggregating demand and reducing administrative burdens. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently launched a “Solar Schools” initiative, aimed at establishing pilot solar school projects across the U.S. to build support for solar schools more generally.
Does your school have a solar installation? If so, send me your pictures and let me know if/how you integrate your facility into your curriculum, or join our Facebook group page and post them there. If your school is interested in a solar installation, consider posting a project with our partners at Divvy Solar. Have a solar question? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
Under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street beginning in 1792, men gathered to exchange the stocks of the day. On the first evening of the 2013 NYC Climate Week and nearing the 1st anniversary of super storm Sandy, corporate America gathered on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to trade ideas and thoughts about climate change, environmental conservation and the business of sustainability. Buy and sell orders were replaced with drink orders to celebrate the S&P 500 Climate Change Report launched by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit who has become the global standard for institutional carbon emission and sustainability reporting. The report, written by Pricewaterhouse Cooper, demonstrates how the business sector is addressing climate change and realizing opportunities that contribute to increased company valuation. Environmental sustainability is emerging as a mainstay of business success, no longer just a surface effort to show a green side. Corporate America has discovered that implementing sustainability principles into business practices need not be a head wind to success. The CDP report indicates carbon emissions reductions can be decoupled from growth: Data show a 6.3% reduction in emissions from 2012, while S&P 500 company growth and US GDP grew 15.8% and 2.8%, respectively.
The recent UN IPCC report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming. Climate change has become a serious factor in long term business planning and made a front burner topic by super storm Sandy. 77% of CDP respondents report risks related to climate change and a survey with Accenture showed that 70 percent of the 2,415 companies polled believed their revenue would be significantly affected by a changing climate. Rising sea levels, changing crop seasons, storm damage, power supply disruption, water security; a short list of factors for company risk management.
With crisis come opportunity, 78% of CDP respondents cited business opportunities related to climate change. Support for climate policy is focused: 80% of respondents (up from 70% in 2012) are engaging in climate change policy; of those that are in support, the majority favor energy efficiency and clean energy generation. In the words of Sir Richard Branson, who knows something about making money, “Climate change is a huge opportunity…..the fight against greenhouse gases offers huge opportunities for profit.” Increased focus on corporate sustainability is a long term investment in fighting and living with climate change.
For any company wanting a cost effective way to expand their contribution to sustainability, look no further than educating children on the subject. For each child that learns about environmental conservation there is a multiplier effect. As a school kid is educated on the subject, she changes her personal habits as the normal (and sustainable) way to live; unplugging not in use electronics, recycling, not buying disposable water bottles, etc. At home she will question her parents on what she learned at school; “why did you leave the light on? ….. Why is the car running while we sit in the parking lot?” The family changes their habits and carbon footprint. A company that commits to supporting school sustainability education will have new momentum to re-evaluate and invigorate their own environmental initiatives and daily actions. A company supporting sustainability in schools is a long term investment in fighting and living with climate change.
Eco-Schools USA is a program that integrates sustainability principles into K-12 schools and curriculum. Through the Eco-Schools program National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to forwarding and expanding the initiatives of environmental responsibility, STEM education and sustainability. This program is designed to educate the next generation of conservation leaders. The Eco-Schools outline overlays very well with most corporate sustainability initiatives; energy, recycling, water conservation, transportation, composting, waste reduction, etc. In 2300 schools across America, Eco-Schools reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 53 million pounds in 2012. NWF is partnering with companies to support school sustainability education. To a corporate partner it is a long term investment opportunity to fight climate change, expand sustainability footprints and develop the next environmental leaders.
Chris Parker email@example.com @nycwildlife 646-502-7097]]>
Smart Grid to Battery Storage:
These were among the topics deliberated by 45 national workforce and education thought leaders who convened this week at the Pew Conference Center in Washington, DC for “Sustainability Skills Matter,” a meeting hosted by the Greenforce Initiative, a joint-program of the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program and Jobs for the Future with support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The meeting was co-sponsored by the American Association of Community College’s SEED Center and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).
“We are seeing a shift in the economy,” observed Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training at the National Wildlife Federation, but it is in its infancy; we need to be prepared across multiple sectors and our leaders need to be educated. A smarter grid is one example: $150 billion per year is lost on power outages across the grid. Battery storage, transportation- will also change soon.”
Brenda Dan-Messier, assistant secretary United States Department of Education, noted that efforts such as this convening help the US “implement President Obama’s inaugural statement that, ‘We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”‘
Linking Colleges and Strengthening Credentials:
“Connecting community colleges via public transport to the local town or city would be a key way to reduce CO2 emissions and congestion,” explained architect and transportation planner, Susan Herre. “It would also introduce young people early on to the walk-transit lifestyle, making them more discerning consumers of neighborhood types as they choose where to work and live after graduation.”
To effectively advance projects like these along with students’ skill sets, Jane Weissman, president and CEO of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), encouraged community colleges to offer industry-vetted credentials.
State and System-wide Skills Evaluation:
In addition to offering credentials in specialized industries, Rob Holsten, dean of continuing education and sustainability at Wilson Community College in North Carolina, described the “system-wide curriculum review process undertaken in North Carolina to better align education across multiple disciplines with today’s economy, including adding employer competencies and creating a common core for all technical programs.”
Workforce Priorities for Sustainability Emerge:
Employers, industry association, higher education and ngo leaders from agriculture, renewable energy, manufacturing and transportation sectors, developed more than 150 ideas in nine categories, including ways to deepen engagement with employers, support community college capacity, link the classroom to real-world project experience, increase awareness to expand demand for sustainability skills and improve labor market information.
Eight key recommendations emerged through an on-line comment, prioritization and voting system administered by FacilitatePro. Among these were:
“Ultimately, with the help of our community colleges and employers,” said Coyle, “values and attitudes will change and we will have a kinder, gentler and cleaner world.”
On the 19th of February, the Student Environmental Association (SEA) led an on campus march at the University of South Florida (USF) to rally for environmentally friendly legislative change. Protesters united and called for the enactment of laws that were both relevant to climate change and consistent on addressing the issue. Students brought positive energy, large signs, and loud voices in order to get this point across, chanting “No coal / No oil / We don’t want our world to boil!,” and “Hey hey / ho ho / Keystone Pipeline’s got to go!,” as well as my personal favorite: “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama!”We began with a small press conference outside a major student hub on campus, telling fellow students and news organizations our goals for the protest and the environment as a whole. Everyone then marched across campus to Marco Rubio’s office, where we were hoping to give a letter to the Senator’s staff that detailed our needs and desires for environmental legislative support for Obama.
As the protesters and cameras crammed into the hallway outside his office, a representative invited us in and offered to meet with us. A dozen student activists poured into the cramped meeting room as we delivered the letter and made our case. Kendall Donahue spoke on behalf of the protesters, telling the representative that Rubio’s constituents were calling for environmental legislative support for President Obama. She asked that Rubio come forth and openly declare climate change as a real and detrimental problem, as well as support Congressional legislative change to help resolve this serious concern.The staff member, although very welcoming and polite to our protesters, promised to pass on the request to Rubio but did not seem supportive of our cause in the slightest. He stated that climate change was something some “believed in,” but that others did not. The staffer also tried to push the problem onto India and China, saying that they were just as guilty in assaulting the environment but doing nothing about promoting climate policy. At this point in the meeting, Donahue and fellow activist Shaza Hussein stated that the United States, as a world leader, needs to set forth an example and take the initiative of making this a global concern. Even Sierra Club representative Phil Compton jumped in, pointing out that sea level rise, the consequence of climate change perhaps most feared in Florida, would actually destroy most of Rubio’s home counties. Overall, the USF protesters communicated the need for environmental legislative support quiet well, defending the validity and threats of climate change for our state. The meeting concluded with a sense of accomplishment and polite handshakes, allowing for the rest of the march to continue.
From here, protesters marched to the Patel Center, where the National Climate Assessment Town Hall Meeting was taking place. We concluded the march with a few final chants outside the building, as well as a discussion amongst the students about future opportunities of activism. Our successful march and rally that day is just one component of making sure our voices are heard. Many more demonstrations will have to occur for positive change, but we are all for putting that effort out there. We are students. We are activists. We care about our environmental legacy. And that, my friends, is what democracy looks like.
Victoria Griener is a junior at the University of South Florida studying Anthropology and Environmental Policy. She is a tour guide at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, where she educates people about nature conservation in relation to biodiversity loss, and is a member of the school’s Student Environmental Association (SEA). She hopes to specifically go into the fields of primatology and primate conservation, but the entire field of wildlife protection fascinates her. Victoria has a personal nature photoblog at sunshineraeee.tumblr.com. See more coverage of the student protest in Creative Loafing.]]>
As educators, we have looked to teachable moments throughout our time in the classroom to effectively communicate our content in real time and help students make connections to their own lives. Examples include, the attacks on the World Trade Center, the declassification of Pluto as a planet, the Gulf oil spill, the election of the first African American president of the United States, the spread of the Influenza A virus H1N1, and the 2012 presidential election.Coverage of these events runs the gamut of emotions for both teachers and students, from fear, anger, surprise, happiness, concern and many more. As educators we are charged to—without bias—explain the facts, provide evidence and allow students to formulate their own thoughts, but probably the most important aspect of teachable moments is our ability to help students deal with and provide appropriate outlets for their emotions.
Superstorm Sandy provides teachers the unique opportunity to calm students’ overwhelming fears, concerns, and sadness related to the events that have so greatly impacted the East Coast’s landscape, communities and wildlife.
Teaching students about weather patterns and how changes in our climate system are impacting these natural events will lead to better understanding of our Earth system; and with understanding emotions can be soothed.
Climate change is and will continue to impact our nation and the world in which we live, therefore, it is important to arm students with actions they can take to feel empowered.
Eco-Schools USA is proud to offer educators and their students with a wealth of free resources that include ways to help students cope with catastrophic events, curricular connections, and ways to take real action.
Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World is Parish’s new book, released earlier this year. Parish, co-founder of the Energy Action Coalition, and currently working to create solar energy through Solar Mosaic, pushed students in the audience to think critically about why they are doing the work they are doing to create a more sustainable world. Using his key findings from his book, he gave the audience three valuable tools to help us unleash our purpose.
Across the country, students are working hard to make their campuses and communities sustainable. This summit was a great way for students to learn, share and develop new relationships to push them toward success in their projects and campaigns.To find out more about how the NWF Campus Ecology program has been working for 24 years to assist students, staff and faculty in reaching their campus sustainability goals, visit us at the CampusEcology.org.]]>
The Conference was geared towards kicking off GCSN’s new year and new momentum. The session topics included energy usage amongst campus facilities, curriculum, funding and green fees, and student engagement. In each of these sessions, presentations were made by participants with significant success and experience in these areas. They were able to highlight how they went about executing their projects and how others could do the same. Additionally, there was a presentation from executive board members of the student network, Georgia Youth for Environmental Solutions (GA YES!)Among the attendees, there were 53 students and 14 faculty members, and 29 other administrators and staff members.Additionally, we had a host of people from other organizations wanting to work with schools in order to help them attain their campus sustainability goals. Each of the participants has a passion for improving the environmental efforts on their campuses; whether that is through the physical infrastructure of their buildings, curriculum and education, or student organizing. Additionally, there is obvious interest in finding diverse ways to fund these projects such as small “green fees” implanted in the activity fees paid by each student.
Everyone left the conference with new ideas and contacts on how to drive their sustainable agenda on campus such as GA Yes’s invite to students to be part of their action teams promoting sustainable change across GA’s public institutions and resources to do internal campus energy assessments. The steering committee was especially pleased with the great turn-out of students that attended. That has been a struggle of GCSN; to engage students to the point they are not only inspired to change the carbon footprint of their campus, but also impact public campaigns regarding environmental matters state and nationwide.]]>
It was a watershed moment for campus and other sustainability enthusiasts because it illustrated just how far college and university leaders have come since financing tools were limited, when simple payback was the primary measure of the value of campus sustainability projects, and when savings from energy efficiency and conservation projects were generally lost to campuses’ or organizations’ general fund.
Green revolving loan funds will help correct some of the unnecessary financial disincentives to conserve natural resources, it is expected, while adding a relatively new approach to the financial toolkit. So far, results are promising.
Last year, SEI released the report, Greening the Bottom Line, illustrating how 52 colleges and universities of all types and sizes all across the US are revolving savings from energy efficiency and other green campus efforts back into funds that finance additional conservation initiatives. Green revolving loan funds (GRFs) replenish through savings that are captured and reinvested in additional conservation programs.
SEI also found that students, administrators and facilities were about equally likely to serve as the initial promoters and champions of the existing GRFs and that both student fees (generated through referenda in which students vote generate a few dollars per term to campus sustainability activities) and administrative funding played leading roles in starting many of the funds.
Mark Orlowski, founder and Executive Director of SEI, shared with summit attendees that “thirty-five higher education institutions have so far collectively pledged $83 million to their green revolving funds as part of the “Billion Dollar Green Challenge,” a new campaign SEI launched at the AASHE conference in October 2011.”
Among them is Agnes Scott College (my alma mater), which has committed to securing $1 million for its green fund. During her keynote presentation, Agnes Scott College President, Elizabeth Kiss, shared how support from SEI with implementation of a green revolving loan could help colleges advance sustainability objectives, particularly through help from consultation, case studies and tracking software.
SEI representatives demonstrated the new Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS), which is designed to help manage the many projects involved in green revolving fund, and will be made available to campus members of the “Billion Dollar Challenge.” Background on this campaign, case studies on successful green revolving funds at nine colleges and universities, an implementation guide and an investment primer are available on SEI’s website.
New Financing Tools Help Push for Green Campuses (review of Financing Sustainability on Campus by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, NACUBO)
Reflections on the Financing the Future of Energy Efficiency Summit by sustainability leader, Mitchell Thomashow
Harvard Leads Green Challenge with $12 Million, by Alyza J. Sebenius, quotes Harvard Sustainability Director, Heather Henriksen
(NWF’s Campus Ecology Program proudly joins more than one dozen organizations in co-sponsoring the Greening the Bottom Line report and in serving on the invitation committee for the Financing the Future of Energy Efficiency Summit. Our work is made possible through generous donations from NWF members, The Kendeda Fund, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, NASA and private donors. NWF’s Campus Ecology Program empowers student leaders to advance sustainability across the higher education curriculum, operations, and wider community.)]]>
When asked, “What green campus issues matter to you?” students identified three priority topics: sustainable use of water, clean energy and reducing waste. For each of the three topics, at least one student rated his or her campus as making an excellent effort in that area, allowing students to identify and partner with one another to strengthen projects. We placed ourselves physically along an imaginary “sustainability continuum” to help visualize the status of various efforts, to encourage movement and diversify the workshop format.
The workshop aimed to give SAIGE student leaders a deeper understanding of:
Judging from the discussion, most of the student participants were unaware of just how boldly some of their peers are leading. For example, they learned about clean energy innovation at Blackfeet Community College in Browning, MT, which is generating 50% of its electricity from wind and efforts at College of Menominee Nation, where all students take a course on sustainable development (See: Kuslikis and Beau Mitchell for additional information) as part of their general education requirement and where a position is dedicated to facilitating cross-campus sustainability initiatives.
(A note: This workshop was an offering of NWF’s Campus Ecology Program which empowers student leaders to green their curricula, campuses and communities).