Sustainability

AMS Climate Course To Reach 100 More Minority-Serving Institutions

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This is a re-blog of a post by The American Meteorological Society. See the original post here.

The AMS Education Program has been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement the AMS Climate Studies course at 100 minority-serving institutions (MSIs) over a five-year period. The project will focus on introducing and enhancing geoscience coursework at MSIs nationwide, especially those that are signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and/or members of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation. AMS is partnering with Second Nature, the non-profit organization administering the ACUPCC.

“This national network involves more than 670 colleges and universities who are committed to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations by promoting the education and research needed for the rest of society to do the same,” explains Jim Brey, director of the AMS Education Program. “AMS and Second Nature will work together to demonstrate to current and potential MSI signatories how AMS Climate Studies introduces or enhances sustainability-focused curricula.”

In the first four years of the project, AMS will hold a weeklong AMS Climate Studies course implementation workshops for about 25 MSI faculty members. The annual workshops will feature scientists from NOAA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Maryland, Howard University, George Mason University, and other Washington, DC area institutions. Faculty will initially offer AMS Climate Studies in the year following workshop attendance and colleges that successfully implement AMS Climate Studies will be encouraged to build a focused geoscience curricula area by also offering AMS Weather Studies and AMS Ocean Studies.

“The major outcomes of this project will be a large network of faculty trained as change agents in their institutions, sustained offering of AMS undergraduate courses within MSIs, and the introduction of thousands of MSI students to the geosciences,” comments Brey. He notes that this project builds on the success of similar NSF-supported programs for MSI faculty implementing the AMS Weather Studies and AMS Ocean Studies courses, which together have reached 200 MSIs and over 18,000 MSI students. “We’re looking forward to working with Second Nature to continue to expand the climate course and the education that it represents.”

Higher education leadership helps British Columbia achieve public sector carbon neutrality

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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.

“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.

 

USGBC Center for Green Schools

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This is a re-blog of a post by Amy Hattan, Chief Operating Officer, Fore Solutions.  See the original post here.

The USGBC’s Center for Green Schools may be new, but there are already numerous programs underway. In a recent call with the USGBC, we heard about the many ways that green building consultants and others could get involved in the buzz.

The web site is very informative, and a good first stop to learn about the many facets of the Center. The programs are categorized according to K12 and Higher Education, and they focus on more than buildings. The Center is also working to improve curriculum and to engage the broader community by facilitating conversation at the local level.

A lot of the work is happening at the local level with the USGBC Chapters. Many of the Chapters now have a Green Schools Committee. Committee membership is one of the best ways to get involved at the K12 level. The Center hosts a monthly webcast for the committees on a variety of topics.

The Center is also approaching their mission of “provide every child in America with a green school within this generation” from the advocacy angle. The Center has a staff member who serves as the Schools Advocacy Lead, and the Coalition for Green Schools helps to advance the advocacy agenda. Membership is free.

A new fellowship program places sustainability professionals into school districts, where they work for three years to advance the broad array of sustainability issues including green building in these K12 institutions. Currently, the Center has funding for two fellowships but is looking for sponsorship for expansion.

On the higher education side, the USGBC Students program continues to play an important role as a national network grows. National chairs have been selected to guide this work, and currently there’s a call out for regional chairs.

Research is an important mission of higher education, and it plays a role in the Center as well. The Research to Practice Program supports teams of students, faculty, and other research contributors studying various topics of interest. The Center is providing tools for assessment and small grants to the top teams.

And – very cool – USGBC is working on developing a GIS mapping system that will allow users to search for LEED projects all over the country, learn details about the projects, and to find other information such as locating all the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment signatories. The USGBC is holding a webinar on June 16 for more details.

This isn’t all….many other good things are happening. I would particularly like to point out that the Center is working to advance green building at under-resourced schools like community colleges and minority serving institutions. (This interest of the USGBC is directly connected to the prior work conducted by Second Nature – where I previously worked – on capacity building at under-resourced schools.)

While there are many entry points in this valuable effort by the USGBC, our contact says, “Perhaps the best place for consultants to help is through gap analysis, focusing on efforts like assisting the campus-wide approach of EB:O&M and Climate Action Planning.”

Sustainability or Common Sense?

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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).

 

1 http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/convenience
2 http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/on-demand-escalators-can-cut-energy-use-by-up-to-52-video/
3 http://100daystochangetheworld.com/?p=667
4 http://www.usnews.com/education/worlds-best-universities/articles/2010/09/21/worlds-best-universities-top-400-
 

Finding What We Need to Ask Why

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By Vanessa Santos, on behalf of Second Nature team

As a recent college graduate with just one year of experience in the “real world,” I have a lot of questions I tend to ask myself on a daily basis.

Amid that unknown abyss that faces most fresh college graduates, I find most of my questions start with the word “what:” What can I do with my college degree? What can I afford to buy and eat for dinner tonight? And most importantly for me, what can I do that will make a positive and lasting impact on our society and the world?

Admittedly, these aren’t easy questions for anyone to answer. A few months before graduating Boston University in 2010, I made a one-year commitment to an internship at Second Nature, deciding that this would be the first small professional step I would take to being able to answer all these questions.

Before stepping into the Second Nature office for the first time in February of 2010, my knowledge of sustainability was pretty limited. Though I was eager to learn more, in my mind, the vague concept was associated with phrases like: “global warming,” “saving the planet,” and “sounds cool.” Sure, I recycled, tried to conserve energy for a lower monthly bill, and believed in social equity for all groups of people, but how does this all tie together and what does this have to do with sustainability?...Read more.

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