By Anne Sjolander, on behalf of Second Nature team
The first time I heard the grid mentioned it sounded rather ominous to me. The concept reminded me of the movie The Matrix. Just as Neo takes the red pill and awakes to find that in reality he is being used as an energy source, I awoke to find that I have been dependent on the grid since birth.
The phrase "going off the grid" has recently been popping up within the field of energy conservation and sustainability. Living off the grid essentially means living in a way that does not rely on some or all public utilities, such as the municipal water supply, electricity, sewage treatment, etc.
I can easily say that I have never gone a day of my life completely "off the grid". Whether it is water from the faucet, my currently charging computer or microwaving a hot pocket, I am ALWAYS stuck to the grid.
When I heard that Butte College, an ACUPCC Signatory, in Oroville, California has not only gone "off the grid", but has become the first institution to become grid positive, I was, needless to say, very impressed.
Surrounded by a 928 acre wildlife refuge, Butte College has a long history of sustainability efforts and environmental awareness on campus. As President Diana Van Der Ploeg emphasized, going grid positive is really the culmination of years of sustainability and energy efficiency efforts.1
With the installment of 25,000 photovoltaic panels on campus, Butte College has eliminated the need for outside energy sources and is capable of sending clean energy back to the grid. The solar panels will generate “6.5-million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.” According to Campus Technology that is enough to power more than 9,000 US homes.2
Not only does this benefit the environment, it also aids the students and the campus economy. Students will gain first hand experience with green technology, opening the doors to green jobs, while the school benefits from an estimated 50 to 75 million dollars saved in the next 15 years.3
Kudos to you Butte College for soaking up that California sunshine.
By Anne Sjolander, on behalf of Second Nature team
Apathy has become a common word used to characterize the generation Y, college crowd. As the older generations question our dedication and activism in the political realm, there is one subject we can strongly say youth is leading, the green movement. Whether it is bringing local food on campus, establishing sustainability clubs, installing wind turbines, or constructing LEED certified buildings, College students are thinking creatively to reform their institutional frameworks. As individual schools work towards sustainability, the question becomes, how can we learn from each other’s experience and knowledge to unite College and University efforts towards sustainability?
One way Colleges and Universities can stay connected is through the National Wildlife Federation, Campus Ecology Case Study database. The National Wildlife Federation, Campus Ecology sector has annually accepted and collected Case Studies from schools across the nation since 1997. The Campus Ecology division of the National Wildlife Federation began in 1989 when the organization challenged Colleges and Universities to begin environmental movements on their campuses. They began the program and the case study database in order to “reduce the need to reinvent the wheel”.1
Examples from the 2009-2010 school year include American University’s installment of LED lights in parking garages and campus pathways, the College of Menominee Nation’s establishment of a pilot wind power generator, and Duke’s promotion of carbon neutral travel for students and staff.
With the close of the 2011 school year, The National Wildlife Federation: Campus Ecology division is accepting Case Studies from the 2010 to 2011 school year. As NWF states, the Case Studies are “well-publicized as a valuable resource of sustainability practices and has been featured in the Princeton Review and other national, local, and campus newspapers.”2 By sharing with the public your College or Universities’ efforts towards sustainability, we can all celebrate each other’s accomplishments, learn and build off of each other’s examples, and motivate one another to continue to strive towards sustainability on campuses throughout the coming 2011-2012 school year.
Case Studies will be accepted until August 20,2011 and the illustrated reports will be published in the coming Fall. To apply and submit your case studies visit the NWF Campus Ecology Case Study Database website.
By Second Nature
In March of 2008, six British Columbian University presidents created and signed the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action. On June 30, 2011, the Canadian Ministry of the Environment announced carbon neutrality for British Columbia’s entire public sector.
Originally inspired by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), British Columbia’s higher education sector (made up of 11 public Universities and 4 private Universities) has given a whole new meaning to “climate action”. The first signatures of the action plan came hand in hand with an incredibly comprehensive provincial program launched by the Canadian government to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout B.C’s entire public sector (which comprises of schools, post-secondary institutions, government offices, government-owned [Crown] corporations, and hospitals), a feat the United States has yet to achieve. The combination of these two initiatives has sparked action across the entire country, from urban carbon neutrality projects in Toronto, to schools signing on in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
The 23 nationwide “Statement of Action” signatories, which includes 22 public Universities and one private University have been working with one another, public and private sector partners, and the Canadian government to accelerate this achievement. This has by far proven the efficiency of collaboration when presented with an issue that requires participation from all fronts. Below are a few accomplishments from the six original creators and signatories.
- University of British Columbia, Vancouver
In 2011, the most sustainable living building in North America will be completed on UBC’s campus. The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) will be serving as a living laboratory through solar, wind, geothermal, and rainwater systems. The campus is also converting its entire steam-heating system to a hot water-based system, cutting its energy use by 24% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 22%. In addition, a new clean energy project will allow the first biomass-fueled, heat-and-power generation system of its kind to eliminate up to 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
- Simon Fraser University
Comprised of three different campuses, SFU has combinedly initiated a “U-Pass”, free student transportation program for the greater region, a green labs program, an energy management revamp program at its Burnaby Campus and a green buildings project for its Vancouver campus in the heart of the city.
- Royal Roads University
Closely tracking its GHG emissions through SMARTTool, the University has set up a Sustainability Action for the Environment Fund which is used directly to support campus programs that offset, reduce or eliminate GHGs. It has also partnered with ride-share to offer students a cheap and energy efficient solution for transportation in the area.
- University of Victoria
The University offers an across-the-board bicycle program that includes renting out recycled bicycles, it has installed more than 175 solar panels on campus buildings, parking ticket dispensers and transit stops. UVic also designed an innovative water-to-water heat pump system to supplement four of the campus’ building’s energy requirements.
- Thompson Rivers University
TRU hosts four LEED certified buildings on its campus. Its energy efficiency initiatives also include a Smart Bar – Surge Protector system installed across the campus, which detects when a computer is asleep or off, automatically turning off any other surrounding appliances or systems (monitor, scanner, printer, desk lamp, chargers, etc).
- University of Northern British Columbia
Winner of AASHE’s top campus project sustainability award in North America, UNBC is deemed “Canada’s Green University”. Its bioenergy project has saved 140 tonnes of CO2e per year and offset 85% of previous fuel consumption. A U-Pass system has also been set up, providing students with discounted rates to move about in the region and to different campuses, of which the Quesnel campus is entirely LEED Gold certified.
“If you want to go fast, walk alone, but if you want go far, walk with others.” Similar to a marathon, the road towards global carbon neutrality requires shared leadership. Although marathon runners do compete, we often forget the importance and amount of teamwork and collaboration they actually partake in during their race. Alternating and sharing leadership in long distance journeys is not a fortuitous phenomenon; it is vital for motivation, for ideas, for hope, and for success. It is exciting to see the success of the ACUPCC being modeled and expanded with similar initiatives in Peru, Scotland and Canada — and nascent efforts underway across the globe. Our common commitment is inspiring and necessary for achieving climate neutrality and sustainability as quickly as possible.
By Anne Sjolander, on behalf of Second Nature team
I very, distinctly remember my first school lunch….
It was the end of Kindergarten. I nervously sat awaiting my meal. A plate of “Chicken StiX” was handed to me. For those of you who don’t know, “Chicken Stix” are a chicken product related to chicken tenders, chicken patties, and chicken nuggets; however, as the name implies they are in stick form. The entire experience went down the drain (quite literally) when I bit into a Chicken Stix, was greeted by a piece of hard, fat and ran to the bathroom to spit it out.
Although we all agree that dining hall food is nasty, we often overlook the other harms caused by our institutions’ food purchases. Not only does it taste bad, but it also harms the consumer, producer, and the environment. Currently, agricultural production occupies more than 50% of habitable land. The processes that guide this food from farm to plate cause 30% of global green house gasses, 70% of global deforestation, and uses 70% of global fresh water. Of course, not all food production is a bad thing. The harm associated with the industrially produced food served in our cafeterias can be easily alleviated through better food purchases.1
As a Kindergartener I did not have the ability to protest the food that was being provided to me by my school system. However, as I progressed to higher education, I began to see that University and College students had the power to take matters into their own hands. As the food debate has come to the forefront of our culture, University and College students have become leaders in challenging their institutions’ food systems.
Across the nation, students have begun to organize on campus to make food sustainability a priority in their communities. The Sustainability Club at Eastern Washington University, an ACUPCC signatory school, has successfully moved a local farmer’s market on campus and is now working towards committing 20% of the university budget to local food and creating a campus garden. As the founder of the club Alex Silgar explained, their efforts on campus are to remind students that, “every food item has a connection to someone.”2
Students at Paul Quinn College, Texas’ oldest historically black college, has transformed their unused football field into an urban farm. President Michael Sorrell described this effort as a way, “To teach our students to solve problems that face our community."3 After being turned down by local grocers who were unwilling to invest in the underserved southern Dallas urban farm project, President Michael Sorrell reached out to the Sustainable Food Project at Yale for assistance. In return for Yale’s guidance, Paul Quinn students traveled to New Haven, Connecticut where they worked in community gardens in underserved neighborhoods.4
Although many Colleges and Universities are working towards food sustainability on campus, connecting the knowledge and efforts of students across the nation has become a daunting task. One of the leading organizations in this movement is The Real Food Challenge. Through creating a network of students on campuses throughout the United States, The Real Food Challenge aims to unite students towards, “the procurement of real food on college and university campuses, with the national goal of 20% real food by 2020”.5 You may be wondering how one would define “Real Food”. The Real Food Challenge has defined it as “food that truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth. It is a food system--from seed to plate--that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.”6
With support from the network of students and regional liaisons created by the Real Food Challenge, students organize and campaign on campus with the goal of informing students about the origins of the food they eat, its impacts on the earth and the efforts being made to better it. Through programs such as the Real Food Challenge, Colleges and University students have been empowered with the tools necessary to guide their tuition towards food that comes from “local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane” sources.7 Over 300 schools have joined The Challenge and the movement is growing. To get your school involved in the challenge visit the Real Food Challenge Website.
1Henry, Margaret. "Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility." Farm to Campus: The Successes and Challenges of Sourcing Local and Sustainable Food. Webinar. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/node/7248.
By Adrien Tofighi, on behalf of Second Nature team
“Sustainability” has, for a while now, become the new hit word from the supermarket to the classroom. Throwing it around has never been easier, and with so little knowledge in mainstream culture about what it actually means, it has slowly been engulfed under a pile of distorted definitions. Sustainability is simple. There is no need for speedy delivery pizza and oversized trash bag boxes from Costco, but it is “convenient”. There is no need for paper plates and plastic cups from Dunkin Donuts, but that is “convenient” too. As EF Schumacher titled his book, small is beautiful, and to add to the movement, slow is beautiful too! The only way to understand the true value of this is by changing the face of convenience, so how do we do so?
Convenience: [noun] a thing that contributes to an easy and effortless way of life1.
Every morning I see escalators in the subway station, in Boston these run for about 20 hours a day, seven days a week, with several of them in more than 30 stations. Although I don’t know everyone’s physical condition, I know for sure that more than half of the individuals who take an escalator can also easily walk up a flight a stairs. But, it is convenient, right? The problem with convenience is that it has no limits, no restrictions, and most of all, there is rarely any incentive not to use something that is convenient. Yet this word seems to have brought about many of our current environmental problems. On-demand escalators run in few places around the world, and can cut up to 52% of energy use2. Furthermore, if individuals really needed to use an escalator instead of stairs, wouldn’t it be fair to offer them on-demand individual seating, similar to that of a ski lift? Keeping these at regular escalator speed, or even slower, we’ve already created two incentives not to take the escalator; not only would I, as a 21 year old male, look lazy on it, but I would see the others flying by me on the staircase as I remain seated!
So, how did convenience ever shift from “easy to use” to “easy to use regardless of the consequences”? Where are the restrictions on plastic cups from Starbucks, and most of all, where are the incentives to bring your own mug from home (which you already bought)? This is not a revolutionary concept, in fact it’s not even a new concept, but we’ve thrown a new word on it. Yes it is “sustainable” to bring your own mug to the coffee shop, but it is also common sense. So where did our notion of common sense go?
I was reading a story about a cashier telling an old woman at a store that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment, she apologized and said “We didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in my day”. The story continues with examples on how it was, “back in the day”; milk and coke bottles were returned to stores, everyone used stairs, baby nappies were washable and re-usable (as opposed to the throw-away ones), solar and wind energy dried your clothes on a clothesline, you could refill your pen with ink or replace your razor blade, instead of buying a whole new one, and exercising was a product of all this work, not something to pay for at the health club you drive to, but as the story goes, “she’s right, they didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in her day”3. Yet much of this lifestyle is not that far “back in the day”, it has only vanished in the regions where “sustainability” and “green” have become big hit words (picture a gradient interactive map of the world showing what regions use these words the most, and where this “back in the day” lifestyle still remains, the contrast will then be obvious). People from the other regions of the world (from Wyoming to Malaysia) may scratch their head after hearing the word “sustainable”, and yet they will be the first in line at the shoe-repair shop.
Sure, the scenario above is not that surprising, what we need to take into account however is where education lies in all of this. More specifically, where is higher education, literally, and where is it taking us? Out of the first 30 schools ranked in the World’s Best Universities from U.S News & World Report, three are in suburb settings and two are in rural settings, while the rest remain in major cities4.
How can we be preparing students to better the world in an environment that has lost much common sense in the name of convenience? Of course, these schools are amazing knowledge hubs, with vast resources, and brilliant students – but not many classes will teach you why you should be taking the stairs instead of the escalator. Educating our students for sustainability means providing them with a sense of wonder for what is simple, slow, small, and efficient. Educating our students about sustainability means refining their wisdom (or, common sense) as well as their knowledge. Such education is the foundation for holistic thinking, and thus holistic solutions. There are too many aspects of humanity which cannot be measured by the calculator or the ruler, but only by the mind and sometimes a mere sense of logic, and if our parents cannot teach us how to put value on these aspects, than it is the role of higher education to do so, especially if it claims to fully prepare students for the world.
***(I suggest you to perform a study, asking 50 healthy [no lower body or cardiac problems] escalator-riders ages 15-40 if they hold a gym membership, and please respond with your result).