Carbon Offset Research & Education

February 3, 2011

By Tim Stumhofer, Senior Program Associate, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute

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

There is no shortage of opinions on the concept and application of carbon offsets. The fervent debate these wonky mitigation instruments whip up runs an impressive multidisciplinary gamut from questions of morality to marginal cost of abatement. But while offsets have spurred a prodigious volume of discussion, there is a striking dearth of plain English analysis breaking down the complex commodities. Correspondingly there are startlingly few resources that dig beneath the veneer of marketing statements or go beyond a simple rehashing of basic concepts and statistics. In the face of this information shortfall, researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) have shown notable leadership. Over the past few years SEI has published a valuable catalogue of clear, accessible, and rigorous reports on the technical bits (e.g., greenhouse gas accounting and other programmatic rules) that underpin offset programs. In an effort to make this information even more user-friendly and digestible, SEI translated these materials into an interactive website: Carbon Offset Research & Education (CORE).

Carbon Offsets 101: What colleges and universities can learn – and teach – about GHG offset quality

February 3, 2011

By David Antonioli, CEO, Voluntary Carbon Standard Association

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

Curbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is an environmental challenge, but it is also an opportunity to enhance American security and economic competitiveness through innovation and change. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to help drive the innovation that is required. As institutions, they are responsible for GHG emissions themselves. But more importantly, they are engines of research, innovation and social change. They serve a youthful demographic that is eager to engage in the challenges of the 21st century and to extend U.S. health and competitiveness beyond our own timelines.

Policymakers increasingly recognize that offsets are necessary to drive the scale of research and innovation required. Offsets allow us to harvest the most affordable GHG reductions first while also incentivizing investment in low-carbon innovation. However, offsets have been met with skepticism in some circles, either because of doubts about their environmental quality or because of worries that it is unethical to pay others to lower one’s own emissions.

This article describes important recent advances made in voluntary carbon markets to ensure the quality and integrity of GHG offsets.

What is a quality carbon offset?

Entrepreneurs have been developing offsets and businesses and governments have been buying them for over a decade. This experience has generated valuable lessons and strengthened our ability to measure and monitor the quality of GHG offsets and the systems we use to issue and trade them.

Support Federal Funding for Higher Ed Sustainability Programs

February 3, 2011

By Jim Elder, Director, Campaign for Environmental Literacy
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCWinter brings the beginning of the annual federal budget battles, and we are again seeking help and leadership from college and university presidents.  You were instrumental in convincing Congress to create and partially fund a new grant program for sustainability in higher education (the University Sustainability Program, or USP), and now it is time to move the ball the last few yards over the goal line and get USP funded as a standalone program.

Nearly 300 ACUPCC presidents endorsed the original bill proposing USP, a major factor leading to passage of that bill in 2008. Last year, 150 presidents signed on to letters to Congress requesting that this new program be funded.

These letters were organized by state, and led by Rick Torgerson (Luther College), Diane Harrison (CAL State, Monterey Bay), Kevin Reilly (UWisconsin System), Marvin Krislov (Oberlin College), Ronald Thomas (U of Puget Sound), Mary Cantor (Syracuse University), and Thomas Purce (Evergreen State).  These presidents led the process to garner signatures from other presidents in their state, demonstrating to their members of Congress the broad support and need for this kind of funding.  We are particularly grateful for their leadership.

Carbon Nation - A Climate Change Solutions Movie

January 24, 2011

By Nick Braica, Communications Intern, Second Nature

Coming in February, Carbon Nation is “a climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” The documentary explores the impact that climate change has on other social, economic, and national security issues, even if you refuse to believe that climate change is something to be concerned about. Carbon Nation also features former CIA director and2010 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit keynote speaker James Woolsey discussing how our nation’s addiction to oil and how it is threatening our national security.

Visit the official movie website at to support and learn more about the film.

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What Carbon-Cutting Projects Pay for Themselves if Your Electricity Costs Only a Nickel?

January 7, 2011

By Wendell Brase, Vice Chancellor, University of California, Irvine and Chair, University of California Climate Solutions Steering Group

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

Wendell Brase

Is your institution lagging compared to colleges and universities you read about when it comes to aggressive energy-saving or renewable energy projects?  (Such projects represent a major fraction of most climate action plans.)  If your energy mix derives primarily from coal or hydro, don’t blame your chief financial officer, who is probably under governing board pressure to maintain fiscal stability despite unprecedented economic conditions.  Suppose that your electricity costs 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and the governing board expects all energy project investments to at least break even.  What can you do?

By contrast, if your electricity costs were nominally 10 cents/kWh and your state has an incentive program that subsidizes energy-retrofit projects, you would probably be installing daylight sensors, “smart lab” controls, constant-volume to variable-volume conversions, “smart” lighting controls and fixtures, and refrigerator and freezer replacements.  But what if your energy cost is 5 cents/kWh and you do not have an incentive rebate program to help underwrite energy projects?

Celebrating the Advancing Green Building in Higher Education Initiative

January 7, 2011

By Ashka Naik, Director of Capacity Building, Second Nature
(This article appears in the January, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


Two years ago Second Nature undertook an extensive research project to understand the needs and challenges faced by the U.S. higher education institutions that were disenfranchised from the mainstream “Green Building” movement for a myriad of reasons.  This inquiry, funded by the The Kresge Foundation, offered an in-depth look into the unique demographic, physical and economic as well as knowledge-based hurdles confronted by these institutions while pursuing sustainable building practices on their campuses.

Bioneers Launches Formal Education Program Focused on Town-Gown Collaboration for Systemic Change

January 7, 2011

By Kenny Ausubel, CO-CEO and Founder, Bioneers

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

In the words of filmmaker Tom Shadyac, “The shift is about to hit the fan.” We’re experiencing the dawn of a revolutionary transformation. This awkward ‘tween’ state marks the end of pre-history – the sunset of an ecologically illiterate civilization. The revolution has begun – but in fits and starts. The challenge is that it’s one minute to midnight – too late to avoid large-scale destruction. We have to fan the shift to ecoliterate societies at sufficient speed and scale to dodge irretrievable cataclysm.

Anthony Cortese Second Nature Bioneers 2010As H.G. Wells presciently said over a century ago, “We’re in a race between education and catastrophe.” The urgent question today is what education means in the context of catalyzing the widespread mobilization and action needed to accelerate this transition effectively in the shortest period of time.

Reflections on COP-16 and the Outlook for Colleges and Universities

January 7, 2011

By Michael Jay Walsh, Ph.D. Candidate and Member of Cornell University’s COP-16 Delegation

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

The Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-16) could have been a eulogy for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The failure to obtain a long-term legally binding agreement at COP-15 in Copenhagen substantially lowered expectations that a deal to manage global greenhouse gas emissions could be worked out by the UNFCCC. However the 2010 Conference closed on a high note with consensus being achieved on several important agreements, in forestry, financing and technology transfer.


UNCF and Second Nature hosted a side event at COP-16 on the ACUPCC as a framework for advancing sustainability

At the onset of the conference, tensions were elevated as numerous countries expressed misgivings about the backroom process that lead to COP-15’s political, yet non-official, Copenhagen Accord. Trying to alleviate these concerns, the President of COP-16, Mexican Minster of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, continuously pledged transparency as agreements were drafted.

Anthony Cortese at Bioneers 2010: From Leonardo da Vinci to Higher Education

December 15, 2010

Second Nature President Anthony Cortese delivered an inspiring speech at the 2010 Bioneers Conference on the role that higher education must play in addressing climate change. Watch the video below as Dr. Cortese surveys some of the most promising developments in education such as the ACUPCC, and what still needs to happen.

Direct link to video on

Sharing Vision and Perspective with Campus Leaders from Across the Nation

December 7, 2010

By Christopher Blake, President, Mount Mercy University

(This article appears in the December, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Positions of leadership, whether within a multi-billion dollar company or a tiny non-profit, require a level of perspective that encompasses a 360-degree angle. Administrators must have vision for multiple demographics, constituents and audiences – but most importantly, view their organization in the broader context of humanity. This vision must speak to the masses, yet resonate with small departments.

While attending the ACUPCC Summit in Denver, I was witness to remarkable vision and perspective that showcased the level of commitment and commonality that too often goes without recognition in higher education. While networking with colleagues from institutions throughout the country – all of which have  differing student demographics, academic programs, enrollment, and alumni engagement levels – it can be all-too-easy to feel as if we are “one man upon an island” when it comes to issues facing our respective colleges and universities.

However, after meeting with my counterparts, it is obvious that we share an overarching commonality –sustainability. I was struck by the strength of the common will between the institutions. Sustainability is an issue affecting all of us, regardless of the institution, resources, leadership, or size. And with this perspective of commonality comes new vision, renewed motivation and a greater appreciation for the task ahead.

Sharing Stories on Behalf of the ACUPCC - Campus Sustainability Leaders Are Paying It Forward

December 7, 2010

By Ulli Klein, Director of Communications and Operations, Second Nature

(This article appears in the December, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

“I am a college president for one reason only: I have such passion for sustainability and environmental conservation,” says Mitch Thomashow, President of Unity College in a new video lesson seriesSecond Nature produced during the 2010 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit. He goes on to explain how he was inspired to do work on sustainability issues when he saw the cover of a book that featured a photograph of our planet in a bookstore in downtown New York City during the 60s.

Unity College President Mitch Thomashow

Telling stories is one of the best ways to communicate and share best practices and ideas.  We had the fortunate opportunity to interview nine senior sustainability leaders from across the country during this year’s ACUPCC summit in Denver and ask them to share their lessons and experiences about sustainability and the ACUPCC on their campuses. The people interviewed represent a variety of school types, e.g., Arizona State University’s President, Michael Crow, and Delaware State University’s Associate Vice President for Development, Vita Pickrum.

The ACUPCC: Creating Leaders for a Carbon Free Society

December 7, 2010

By Judith Groleau, Vice President of Development, Second Nature

(This article appears in the December, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

A highly visible undertaking such as the ACUPCC must demonstrate the commitment of its members through their participation in fundraising efforts, as this is an important tool for encouraging donors to invest in new programs and special projects that help to achieve the goals of the ACUPCC.  Just as each college and university works hard to achieve that level of participation from its alumni and board for a giving program, we too seek to have that level of participation from ACUPCC signatories through our membership dues program.

Bowen Close

Institutions that step up to pay Leadership Level dues make a vote of confidence in the initiative that not only supports program management efforts but also brings a host of other benefits.  In October, during the 2010 Climate Leadership Summit, I learned that Pomona College made a Leadership Level dues contribution to the ACUPCC to acknowledge the high profile work done by their Implementation Liaison, Bowen Close, on behalf of the ACUPCC.   This is an extraordinary way for an institution to acknowledge the accomplishments of one of its own on campus.

The ACUPCC and Second Nature: Accelerating Education for Sustainability

December 7, 2010

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature

(This article appears in the December, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

As you know, Second Nature is a non-profit organization whose mission is to transform the education, research, practice and community engagement of higher education in order to foster a healthy, just and sustainable society for all now and in the future. Senator John Kerry, Teresa Heinz and I founded Second Nature in 1993 to help lead this transformation.  Our view of “sustainability” includes and goes well beyond the environmental dimension to embrace the bigger questions of how we create a world in which all current and futurehumans are healthy, live in secure, thriving communities and have economic opportunity on a finite planet whose capacity to support life becomes more precarious daily.

We did this because of three beliefs.  First, despite heroic efforts on public health and environmental protection in the last 40 years, society was and continues to be on an unhealthy, inequitable and unsustainable path that threatens the viability of a complex modern civilization.  Secondly, we need transformative change in the mindset and actions of individuals and institutions that must be led by higher education.  And thirdly, the current structure and direction of higher education is largely (though unintentionally) reinforcing the unhealthy, inequitable and unsustainable path that society is pursuing.

ACUPCC Signs R20 Charter

November 19, 2010

We can’t afford to wait for national and international movement. Action is needed now, and action is what we’re taking with R20. — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Earlier this week the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) signed the R20 Charter as an academic partner at UC Davis during the 3rd Governor’s Global Climate Summit.  R20 – Regions of Climate Action is an alliance of subnational governments and non-governmental partners that will collaborate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate the implementation of clean energy, drive innovation, and influence national and international policy.

The 3rd Governor's Global Climate Summit hosted at UC Davis drew over 1500 participants from over 80 states.

The group aims to demonstrate that cutting emissions 75% by 2020 is possible at zero net-cost, while growing the green economy and creating jobs.  Readthis press release from the Governor’s office for more information.

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Cornell Receives $80 Million for Sustainability

November 10, 2010

Recently Cornell announced that alum David Atkinson ’60 and his wife Patricia are giving $80 million to fund the Center for a Sustainable Future.  It is the largest gift the Ithaca campus has ever received from an individual.

It shows that a strong commitment to education for sustainability — often mis-percieved as necessarily increasing costs — can open up new and significant opportunities for funding.  The Center, which was established with a $3 million gift from Atkinson three years ago, had already attracted over $55 million in funding from other sources.

The Center’s director, Frank DiSalvo, has a tremendous opportunity to help

Patricia and David Atkinson | credit: Jason Koski/University Photography

higher education lead the way in creating a sustainable society. In his post about the gift, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Scott Carlson quotes DiSalvo as saying:

“My view of universities in the last century is that we focused on developing really strong disciplines, and that much of the focus has been disciplinary,” Mr. DiSalvo said. “The problems of this century are going to require that we cut across disciplines to bring together teams with a variety of expertise to address these problems.”

2010 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit Facilitates Dialogue and Engagement

November 4, 2010

By Steve Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature

(This article appears in the November, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The 4th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit met October 12-13 in Denver, CO. The nearly 200 participants got right to work sharing challenges and best practices and outlining the future direction of the commitment. Highlights from the Summit follow.

James WoolseyJames Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton, provided the opening keynote address. Mr. Woolsey’s presentation focused on the impending threats to national security that are being posed by an increasingly unstable climate. His perspective creatively threaded the current and future social and environmental implications of our reigning energy policy as well as provided some promising existing mechanisms to scale renewable energy production. Note: Mr. Woolsey’s presentation and all Summit presentations will be available on the ACUPCC website soon.

The Greenforce Initiative Supports Workforce Development and Sustainability Practices at Community Colleges

November 4, 2010

By Kevin Coyle, Vice President of Education and Training, National Wildlife Federation and Maria Flynn, Vice President of Building Economic Opportunity, Jobs for the Future

(This article appears in the November, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

As the national unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent, the United States must address climate change and rebuild the economy.

Community colleges can be a driver in creating local clean energy sector “workforce partnerships,” bringing together employers, workforce development organizations, unions, and other community stakeholders.  Such partnerships are key to ensuring that workers gain skills that lead to the clean energy careers they want and employers need. In addition, the investments community colleges make in “greening” their campuses provide opportunities for students to get hands-on training.

Greenforce InitiativeWith support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation and Jobs for the Future have come together to formThe Greenforce InitiativeThis two-year program will strengthen workforce development and sustainability practices at community colleges, supporting pathways to employment for lower skilled adults.

The initiative was highlighted as a feature commitment at the April 2010 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in Miami.

America’s Community Colleges Unite to Train Students for Jobs in the Green Economy-Over 300 Schools Join Leadership Initiative to Create More Competitive U.S. Workforce

November 4, 2010

By Todd Cohen, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, American Association of Community Colleges

(This article appears in the November, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

To lead in the accelerating green economy, America needs millions of new skilled workers for jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building and sustainability. To meet this demand, America’s community colleges are joining the first nationwide initiative to collaborate on and implement programs to train students with the education and skills needed to succeed.

The SEED Center ( is a leadership initiative, free resource center, and online sharing environment for community colleges to dramatically scale up programs to educate America’s 21st century workforce to compete in the green economy. Designed to support various AASHE and Second Nature tools, SEED – Sustainability Education and Economic Development – is a landmark effort by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and ecoAmerica to assist the nation’s 1,200 two-year colleges in the critical task of preparing the American workforce with the skills needed to succeed in sustainable, clean tech and other green economy jobs.

Pasadena City College Recognized for Climate Leadership

October 12, 2010

Pasadena City College receives Second Nature’s 1st Annual Climate Leadership Award for Institutional Excellence in Climate Leadership. Award recipients were recognized at the 4th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment(ACUPCC) Summit in Denver, CO on October 12th.

Since 2007, Pasadena City College (PCC) has diverted more than 86% of its waste including paper, vegetation, electronic devices, and construction debris from the landfill. To reduce transportation emissions, PCC has partnered with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to offer low-cost transportation passes to 9,200 students. The campus also has four bus stops serving three different companies and operates a shuttle van service to the Gold Line light rail station in order to encourage students to use the train service.

Recently, “nano-wraps” were installed on main gas lines, which have resulted in a forty-percent savings on gas usage.  Over the past two years, PCC has reduced its water consumption by more than 28% through a combination of projects—including ultra-low flow urinals, changes in landscaping, and irrigation efficiency improvement. And over the past decade, several acres of asphalt have been replaced with walkways, sitting areas, landscaping, water features and more than 500 trees have been planted.


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