Student Engagement in Climate Action Planning

September 8, 2011

Engaging students in the process of fulfilling the ACUPCC is a great way to get things done - completing greenhouse gas inventories, creating a climate action plan, implementing specific projects, and reporting on progress.  But more importantly, it provides a variety of excellent experiential education opportunities, exposing students processes and systems that will be in growing demand in workplace.

Students can gain marketable technical skills related to carbon accounting, reporting, renewable energy systems, green building, and more. There are also a whole host of relevant disciplines where students can earn valuable experience, such as economics and financing, law and policy, and strategic planning and management.  Maybe most important, it's a chance to experience firsthand how organizations work, and the exciting challenges of managing complex change.

The Campus Climate Neutral project from the National Association of Environmental Law Societies (NAELS) has helped many schools engage students in climate action planning process, including UC Santa Barbara, Tulane, Bard, and the University of Arizona.  The Climate Corps Public Sector program from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is also training students and placing them in internships on campuses to conduct energy audits and make cost-saving recommendations for energy reductions.

There are hundreds of examples of ACUPCC institutions that have engaged students in this exciting process in one way or another.  Here are just a few:

Agnes Scott College: Student interns have been integrally involved in every stage of Agnes Scott’s climate neutrality efforts. A biology student conducted the GHG emissions inventory in 2008 and several students contributed to the CAP and are working on a broader sustainability plan.

Allegheny College: In Spring Semester 2007 students in an Environmental Science junior seminar conducted a preliminary inventory for 2000-2006. Two students from that class continued work during Summer, 2007.

Bergen Community College: Student researchers conducted the emissions inventory under the guidance and review of a sustainability officer.

Cabrillo College: Faculty and students involved in Career Work Experience Education (CWEE) and Energy Academy projects helped complete the GHG inventory. Partnerships among faculty, students, administration and staff greatly strengthened Cabrillo’s ability to conduct an emissions inventory. Highly technical, and creative, faculty-led student projects provided important GHG reduction strategies.

Colby-Sawyer College: During the 2006-2007 academic year a group of third-year students in the Environmental Studies Department's “Community-Based Research Project” class formed GreenROUTES and recommended that their president sign the ACUPCC. In 2008-2009 another group of students revisited the GreenROUTES project with specific focus on the ACUPCC. These students completed the college's first GHG Inventory, a comprehensive sustainability analysis using the STARS assessment tool (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) and developed a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to reduce the college's carbon footprint. Both reports served as a foundation for the Climate Action Plan.

Community College of Denver: Following work done on emissions inventories in a class setting, the Auraria Higher Education Center hired a student from that class to conduct the emissions inventory for the institutions on the Auraria Campus. The student worked directly with AHEC's Planning Department and Facilities Management to gather data related to the emissions of the campus. The student then analyzed the data and prepared the report. Professor Ramaswami, who leads UC Denver's Sustainable Infrastructure program, was used as resource for the student in preparing the report.

Macalester College:  Students conducted a greenhouse gas emission inventory, analyzed findings and presented information to the college community and ACUPCC committee. The next year's Environmental Studies senior seminar class made recommendations for the climate action plan.

Ohio University: Twelve graduate and undergraduate students contributed to compiling a GHG inventory for OU. Their work was the result of OU's first "environmental studies learning seminar." The class also created a "solutions team" to examine how possible alternatives to OU's current facilities could reduce the school's greenhouse-gas emissions.

Portland Community College: A detailed GHG audit was completed by a Rock Creek Student Leadership Team under the guidance of the Sustainability Coordinator and the Director of Physical Plant.

Shoreline Community College: The GHG  inventory was completed as a class project which was supervised by Professor Tim Payne. The students were responsible for gathering copies of the billing statements each month, analyzing and calculating the informaiton needed for the report using the carbon calculator.  Staff then completed subsequent GHG inventories following the process developed by students.

Warren Wilson College: Student researchers are utilized as part of the Warren Wilson College work program, in which all resident students work 15 hours a week for the college in some form. One or more members of the Campus Greening Crew, a part of the Environmental Leadership Center at Warren Wilson, are responsible for compiling the Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the college each year (starting with a 2004-2005 school year report). Data is gathered from other work crews, staff, faculty, and from the natural gas and electricity bills. The process is organized and directed by the sustainability office staff.

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