Moving Beyond the Payback

September 7, 2011

By David McInally, Executive Vice President and Treasurer, Allegheny College

(This article appears in the September, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Many colleges and universities have rightly celebrated the success of their first-generation sustainability efforts. Now that these initiatives have matured, the time has come for integrating them fully into institutional planning and financial systems, rather than relying primarily on arguments about economic paybacks.

Making the case for integration is relatively straightforward. Grass-roots efforts generally depend on individual champions, leading to uneven progress as campus leadership changes. Enthusiastic supporters may not be located in essential areas such as the budget, physical plant, or planning offices. Competition for resources can mean wavering commitment in times of scarcity.

These potential obstacles become real threats for institutions that have relied too heavily on payback models. Rather than integrating sustainability fully into the organization’s strategic plan—where the goals are clearly stated and understood by the wider community—many colleges and universities have promoted sustainability as an initiative that pays for itself. This approach is an effective way to open the door for energy-reducing investments, but its limitations become apparent as soon as the fast-payback initiatives are completed.

Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative – August 2011

August 30, 2011

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the August 2011 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, a monthly update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Climate Showcase Community Projects Move Forward

EcoVillage at Ithaca celebrates its 20th anniversary next month.

As we all know, Tompkins County has taken a bold stance on climate change by committing itself to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of 20% reduction by 2020. But how does a community get from a vision to the reality of a sustainable future?

One strategy the county is using to reach these goals is teaming up with the internationally acclaimed, local EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) to establish the county as a national exemplar of smart growth and sustainable development.

Tompkins County is one of 49 communities from across the United States to be chosen by the EPA as a recipient of a Climate Showcase Communities grant. The aim of the EPA program is to “create replicable models of cost-effective and persistent greenhouse gas reductions that will catalyze broader local and tribal government actions to stabilize the climate and improve environmental, economic, health, and social conditions.”

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Butte College Becomes First in US to Go Grid Positive

August 29, 2011

Above - Butte College Solar Panels - courtesy Butte College

Second Nature intern Anne Sjolander writes about this tremendous achievement over on the the Campus Green Builder blog:

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.

Anne’s post in its entirety is here, read the official Butte College news release here, and find out more about Butte College’s sustainability efforts on their sustainability webpage.

Colleges Collaborate through TCCPI

August 22, 2011

The Ithaca Journal in New York ran an article last week titled “Local colleges take measures to reduce carbon footprints” written by Dan Roth, Marian Brown and In Shik Lee.  The piece provides an overview of how three institutions are working together to reduce their climate impact and fulfill the ACUPCC through their engagement with the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative(TCCPI).  They write:

The “Big Three” — the Tompkins County higher educational institutions — have each adopted the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations. Cornell University and Ithaca College have each pledged to meet a goal of 100 percent emissions reductions by 2050 and are currently implementing their Climate Action Plans. Tompkins Cortland Community College has submitted the first draft of its Climate Action Plan.

Cornell University reports that, over this past winter, new programmable digital heating and cooling controls were installed in the Cornell Campus Store. They are projected to cut energy costs by as much as $75,000 each year, about 49 percent of the store’s energy bill. The upgrade is just one of dozens stemming from Cornell’s increased investment in an Energy Conservation Initiative that aims to reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2015…

Read the Full Article.

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Students' Choice

August 14, 2011

A nice note from one of our stakeholders, we couldn't help sharing:

"I wanted to thank you for your work on the Presidents' Climate Commitment. Not only has the project influenced the operations of colleges and universities across the country, but it has also influenced the lens through which many high school juniors and seniors view their potential school choices."

-- Hilary Platt, Middlebury College Student & WWF Intern

Thanks Hilary!

ACUPCC Progress Report Content Announced

August 11, 2011

By January 15, 2012 nearly 400 ACUPCC signatories will submit a progress report on their Climate Action Plan (CAP). The contents of the Progress Report form are now available for review.

This reporting milestone marks an important stage in ongoing, unprecedented efforts of this network to publicly report on activities to eliminate operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to provide the education, research, and community engagement to enable the rest of society to do the same. Because of these tremendous efforts that the ACUPCC Reporting Systemnow includes more than 400 CAPs and almost 1300 GHG reports available for public viewing! Further solidifying higher education’s leadership to educate and transform society to a just, healthy, and low – carbon future.

Goals of the New Progress Report Form

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Ray Anderson: A Planetary Hero and a Legacy of Leadership

August 9, 2011

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature

Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, great leader, mentor and friend passed away this week after a long bout with cancer at age 77. He was and continues to be the icon of what a successful business must look like to survive indefinitely and lead society on a more healthy, fair and sustainable path.

Sodexo Helps Hobart and William Smith Colleges Go Climate Neutral

August 4, 2011

By Rachel Sylvan, Director, Sustainability & CSR, Sodexo North America and Bianca Mazzarella, Consultant, Context America

(This article appears in the August, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

On the shores of the pristine Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes in northern New York, environmental sustainability is on everyone’s mind. Enjoying nature and the outdoors are a part of life here, and residents want to keep it that way.

So when Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in Geneva, New York, decided to expand their student population, administrators wanted to ensure that the campus grew sustainably.

In September 2007, HWS signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an effort by a network of colleges and universities to accelerate sustainability by pursuing climate neutrality. This involves finding ways to ensure a campus produces no net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by, for example, using renewable energy and conserving energy.

Signing the commitment formalized the institution’s obligation to cut carbon emissions, and in January 2010, HWS went a step further and published their Climate Action Plan, putting a 2025 deadline on campus climate neutrality. This is a tough target.

Sodexo, a long-time provider of dining services and facilities management to HWS, is helping HWS achieve that goal. Since 2008, we have worked with HWS to reduce energy consumption by 10%, and GHG emissions by 6%, as the student population has grown.

“We have a great working relationship with Sodexo,” said Jamie Landi, Sustainability Coordinator at HWS. “We don’t think of them as a separate entity on campus. We’re on the same team, and we both view sustainability as a top priority.”

Organica Offers ACUPCC Signatories an Opportunity to Advance Their Commitment to Sustainability

August 4, 2011

By Melissa McDonald, Business Development, Organica Water and Jonathan Lanciani, President & CEO, Organica Water

(This article appears in the August, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Signatories of the ACUPCC recognize that global warming is a real issue and have created substantial progress in the energy arena. Another crisis looms: the quality and quantity of water. Water and energy are interdependent and interrelated, and the vast majority of energy produced today relies on water. Extracting oil, natural gas and generating electricity are all water intensive processes. At the same time, treating and distributing water is energy intensive. In many cities, the distribution of water is the largest user of energy. In order to make a significant impact on lowering energy, we must look at how we use water. Since campuses are some of the largest consumers of water and energy within communities, we are eager to help with this mission.

Organica is pledging to construct and operate several $1.5 million BlueHouse pilot projects, valued at $1.5 million, for ACUPCC institutions which will provide immediate cost savings on campus. These projects, which require no upfront capital, focus on issues surrounding water reclamation, reuse and energy problems associated with sustainable water management.

Organica plant in Shenzhen, China

Smart Technologies Mean Smart Campuses

August 4, 2011

By Jim Simpson, Director, Higher Education Energy Solutions, North America, Johnson Controls

(This article appears in the August, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Students often are taught that knowledge is power. Now campus school administrators are learning it for themselves. Smart building technologies tied together through control systems and monitored through simple dashboards are helping educational institutions make better decisions. The result? Saving money, increasing efficiency of operations, and improving campus comfort.

Many multi-building campuses have control systems spitting out mounds of data. According to the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator, a global survey of 4,000 building executives, more than eight in ten organizations measure and record data on a weekly or monthly basis.

Screen capture of the kiosk at Milwaukee Area Technical College

But everybody’s busy. The research shows that although they have greater access to energy data, few take advantage of it: Less than two in ten sites review and analyze that data at least weekly.

With a dashboard approach, administrators can take real-time, quality data and cross-reference it to whatever metrics they choose so they can make sound decisions. The dashboard can graphically report elements such as energy and water use, carbon intensity, infrastructure conditions, capital needs, real estate assets and more.

Siemens Conserv™ Program Environmentally Conscious and Capital Efficient

August 4, 2011

By Joe Berkemeyer, Director, Financial Services and Steve Hoiberg, Global Market Manager, Higher Education, Siemens Industry Inc.

(This article appears in the August, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Capital restriction is one of the greatest impediments to making energy efficiency and facility infrastructure improvements. Siemens Industry, Inc., has developed a comprehensive program that eliminates that hurdle. Conserv™ allows private higher education customers to enhance their properties without allocating capital. The contract is structured as a services agreement that meets U.S. and international accounting standards.

Funding Energy Conservation Projects

In the past decade colleges and universities have set high standards for environmental and sustainability goals; in many cases, numerous energy efficiency measures with quick paybacks have already been implemented. As such, institutions are now asking themselves how to accomplish the next round of energy efficiency measures, those that will allow them to achieve 100% of their sustainability/energy/green goals. This next level of improvements, often involving longer paybacks, puts additional pressure on already strained capital funding. The mandate remains “do more with less.” As a result, administrators are challenged with allocating capital to conservation projects though the demand for capital resources continues to grow. Siemens Industry, Inc., has developed a program that enables private colleges and universities to realize the benefits of investing in sustainability and meeting their environmental goals while mitigating the impact the investments have on capital budgets.

Second Nature Presidential Fellows

August 3, 2011

Transforming the way higher education teaches, learns, and operates is a necessary, often overlooked, leverage point in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society. Colleges and universities must produce the graduates and knowledge needed to create an economy that can meet the needs of the 7 billion people on the planet today – and the 9 billion expected by 2050 – without undermining the social and ecological systems upon which we depend.  Higher education has begun to lead in this arena.  Through the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it is the first sector in which a critical mass has set the goal of climate neutrality and is actively working towards that goal.

To support this shift in higher education, Second Nature has launched the Presidential Fellows program, which will engage recently retired college and university presidents on a part-time basis, as mentors and ambassadors to support the ACUPCC.  We expect to grant at least four Fellowships during this academic year, representing a diverse range in terms of institution types (location, size, public/private, 2-yr/4-yr) and constituencies (gender and ethnic balance in Fellows group).

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Higher Education Leadership Helps British Columbia Achieve Public Sector Carbon Neutrality

July 25, 2011

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.

The Year Ahead for the ACUPCC

July 7, 2011

By Timothy P. White, Chancellor of University of California, Riverside and Co-Chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee

(This article appears in the July, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

In February 2012, the ACUPCC will turn five years old. At this time five years ago, the initiative was an idea, just starting to build momentum. That momentum has now propelled the initial idea into one of the most important climate change initiatives in the world.

Timothy P. WhiteThe higher education sector in the US is responsible for many of the world’s most influential ideas, values, and leaders. With a critical mass of these institutions — nearly 700 strong, representing 6 million students — now making real progress towards climate neutrality, the ACUPCC is laying an important foundation in creating the clean, green economy.

Looking ahead to the next academic year, the ACUPCC Steering Committee has identified three key ideas about how to build new momentum for this critical initiative.

First, we aim to ensure that all ACUPCC institutions are fulfilling their pledge, and realizing the benefits of a proactive climate action plan. In practice, the best metric for measuring fulfillment is the reporting rate — the percentage of ACUPCC schools that are up-to-date in publicly submitting their greenhouse gas inventories, climate action plans, and progress updates. At present, 66% of the network is in good standing with their reporting. We have a goal of increasing that number to at least 80% within the next twelve months.

Second Nature Briefing Paper Series #3: The Ultimate Stakes: Climate Change and the Fate of Civilization

July 7, 2011

By Dianne Dumanoski, Author and Environmental Journalist

(This article appears in the July, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Download the PDF of the briefing paper.

Even for scientists, the challenge of global warming can be mind-boggling and complex, but the bottom line is both simple and clear. The change is already under way and hitting harder and faster than expected.[1] And what is ultimately at stake is the human way of life we call civilization.

Despite two decades of research and debate, the notion persists that climate disruption is primarily anenvironmental hazard — a dangerous misconception that continues to be widely perpetuated by those who urge action on climate change to “save the planet.” This plea, repeated even by Nobel laureates and editorial writers in the New York Times, belies the true nature of the danger. Based on what scientists now know about our planet’s eventful history, it is a safe bet that Earth itself will survive fossil fuels and industrial civilization just as it has endured previous calamities —asteroid hits, a catastrophic oxygen pollution crisis, and even the deep freeze of “snowball Earth”.

2011 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summary Highlights

July 7, 2011

By Steve Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature

(This article appears in the July, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Download the 2011 Climate Leadership Summary Highlights PDF

The 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit took place June 23-24 in Washington, DC at The George Washington University. The campus venue was a great success, and signatory institutions will host all Summits in the future. Presidents, provosts, and business officers, mark your calendars: American University will host the 2012 Summit June 21-22, 2012.

Keynote Speaker

Frank Sesno delivering his keynote speech at the 2011 Summit

Carbon Nation Film Focuses on Solutions to the Climate Crisis

July 7, 2011

By Peter Byck, Director + Producer, Carbon Nation

(This article appears in the July, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

carbon nation, a climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change, is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non- partisan, big tent film that shows tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment.

As campus sustainability programs aim to enlist the support of all students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors, carbon nation is a fun and fast-paced energy efficiency and clean energy primer that leaves the politics at the door. Whether one doubts the severity of climate change or just doesn’t buy it at all, carbon nation is still compelling and relevant, filled with a host of entertaining and endearing characters along the way.

carbon nation’s optimism is appealing across the political spectrum. While other good films have been about problems, blame and guilt,carbon nation is a film that celebrates solutions, inspiration and action.

Getting to Grid Positive: What it Took and Why It’s Important

July 1, 2011

by Diana Van Der Ploeg, President of Butte College.  This blog article was originally published on the AASHE blog

My eight-year tenure as President of Butte College ends this week on an exciting note: Butte College is now the first college in the history of the U.S. to go grid positive, meaning that we will generate more power from onsite renewable energy than our campus consumes. We are, in effect, our own renewable power plant.

At Butte College – located in Oroville, California, about 75 miles from Sacramento – we began installing solar panels on campus several years ago, and we now have 25,000 of them. Thanks in part to a generally sunny climate in our part of California, our solar panels will generate a combined 6.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to power over 900 homes or take over 600 cars off the road.Butte Solar

Our solar project was completed in three phases – the first concluded in 2005; the second in 2009; and the third this week. In order to get financing on the best possible terms, we relied on lease revenue bonds, where energy cost savings are used to satisfy the debt obligation, for phase one. We relied on bank financing for phase two. For phase three, the largest phase, we used a combination of federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and our own funds.

Higher Education's Role in Adapting to Climate Disruption

June 30, 2011

Second Nature recently convened the Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee, composed of ACUPCC presidents and other experts in higher education and adaptation.  The Committee will evaluate the role of higher education in ensuring that society is equipped to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate disruption – such as rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, prolonged droughts, more flooding, etc.

Pedestrians scurry on Library Mall as inches of torrential rain deluge the UW-Madison campus, causing nearby streets and walkways to flood. Photo: Jeff Miller

The Adaptation Committee will develop a white paper, to be released later this year, that looks at how colleges and universities are adapting their own physical plant, and in what ways they are incorporating adaptation into their education, research, and community engagement activities.

We have completed a (very) preliminary scan of current climate adaptation initiatives, and are looking for more examples — particularly of actual projects or plans for the campus physical plant upgrades that are in direct response to new or expected impacts driven by climate change. Also, if your institution has courses, research initiatives, or community engagement projects focused on climate adaptation we would love to know about them as well.  Please share any examples you are involved with or know about in the comments and/or send to Georges Dyer at 

Here are a few examples we’ve been able to find so far:

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