ACUPCC Implementer

The U.S. National Climate Assessment

December 7, 2011

By Jim Buizer, Deputy Director for Climate Adaptation and International Development, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona and Member, Executive Secretariat, NCADAC
(This article appears in the December, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Adapting to the impacts of climate changes already underway, and projected to continue to increase over this century, is critical to ensuring that our nation's social and economic sectors can be resilient to these impacts. In recognition of the significance of climate change to the long-term wellbeing of the United States, the Federal Government is currently conducting the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA).  The NCA is Congressionally mandated under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and is to be undertaken approximately every 4 years.  Administered by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and with support from the 18-Agency U.S. Global Change Research Program, the NCA is based on both peer-reviewed, scientifically produced knowledge and verifiable experiential knowledge coming from outside the research community.  Due at the end of 2013, the report will be a snapshot of what is known about climate change science and impacts.  It will shed light on options for adaptation to impacts of climate change; it will also recognize and communicate mitigation activities underway across the nation in order to prevent even greater climatic changes.

An NCA Office in Washington, D.C. coordinates the activities, and manages the advice and input of a Development and Advisory Committee (NCADAC), consisting of 60 experts appointed and chartered by the Secretary of Commerce, and drawn from academia, federal and state governments, industry and non-governmental associations.  In addition to the NCADAC, the Office will rely heavily on input from across the country.

ACUPCC Committee Publishes Report on Preparing for and Responding to Climate Change

December 7, 2011

By David A. Caruso, President, Antioch University New England and Member, Higher Education Climate Adaption Committee and Abigail Abrash Walton, Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice, Antioch University New England

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

As we sat down to write this article, we reflected on the climate change indicators we have witnessed right here in Keene, NH, where Antioch University New England (AUNE) is located.  The most noticeable of these is increased intensity and frequency of storm events.  Indeed, of the 15 largest flood events recorded in New Hampshire since 1934, eight have occurred in just the last five years.  These changes pose compelling challenges for our campus and surrounding communities and have motivated our faculty, students, staff, and community partners to begin to prepare for the risks of climate disruption and to pioneer new models of resiliency.

The University of Arizona Provides Local Climate Adaptation Assessment & Planning Support

December 7, 2011

By Joe Abraham, Director, University of Arizona Office of Sustainability and Leslie Ethen, Director, City of Tucson Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development

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

The World Meteorological Organization recently reported global atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) levels rose to new record levels in 2010, with the rate of increase on the rise. The steep upward trend in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations is due in large part to a lack of coherent and committed national and international institutions and policy addressing major emissions sources including fossil fuels, deforestation, and certain land use practices.

To counter this trend, many local and regional governments in the U.S. have begun implementing plans to reduce GHG emissions. Nevertheless, even if we could magically stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at year 2000 levels, the earth would be committed to some temperature increases, due to the long residence time of GHGs in the atmosphere. Consequently, some local and state governments are taking active measures to plan and prepare for inevitable changes, and to make the most of possible opportunities presented by climate change, by identifying options to adapt to projected climate impacts and to increase the resilience of environmental and social systems.

UA students participate in the design and installation of passive water harvesting features into the UA campus landscape

CAP Planning Process at Rochester Institute of Technology

November 3, 2011

By Witold Bujak, Sustainability Manager and Enid Cardinal, Senior Sustainability Advisor to the President, RIT

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

Preparing the first Climate Action Plan (CAP) can be a difficult task.  With this in mind, Witold Bujak, Sustainability Manager at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) offered to approach it in a systematic way by dividing the assignment into separate, easy-to-manage tasks.

Task One – Understand the Assignment.  This was relatively easy, thanks to the vast resources available on the web. The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) website reveals the Commitment’s protocol and reporting instructions. But the real treasure is in the online reporting system, a quick reading of just a few reports from other universities shows a variety of campus responses to the same challenge of reporting, planning and creating a long term approach that would achieve neutrality and sustain financial resources. 

CA-CP Collaborates to Develop a Web-based Calculator

November 3, 2011

By Claire Roby, Carbon Accounting Manager, Clean Air-Cool Planet

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

At the recent 2011 AASHE conference, Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) unveiled the next phase of the Campus Carbon Calculator™ evolution: we’ve partnered with Sightlines, LLC, to redevelop the Campus Carbon Calculator as a dynamic, web-based solution.  The goal: to streamline the transition from analysis to action with a simpler, more powerful tool.


Back in 2001, CA-CP partnered with the University of New Hampshire to develop a template for campus greenhouse gas tracking. That Excel-based template — better known as the Campus Carbon Calculator™ — has since become the most widely-used carbon management tool in higher education, evolving with user needs to become increasingly comprehensive while remaining transparent, customizable and free.

Measuring Sustainability Performance at the University of Maryland

November 3, 2011

By Sally DeLeon, Sustainability Measurement Coordinator, UMD College Park

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

To lead in the transformation to a sustainable society, institutions of higher education need to clearly articulate their own sustainability objectives and show progress toward meeting their goals. A set of regularly updated sustainability metrics is one important tool that can help keep stakeholders engaged and encouraged to focus on continual improvement. Internal performance metrics and external public reporting are growing areas of importance for sustainability in higher education. Some campuses are reorganizing or expanding their sustainability teams to include positions that focus specifically on measuring and reporting progress.

STARS & the ACUPCC: A History of Collaboration

November 3, 2011

By Meghan Fay Zahniser, STARS Program Manager, AASHE

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

Five years ago AASHE was called upon to develop a consistent way to measure campus sustainability efforts, and the idea for STARS – the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System – was born. In January 2010, after a year-long pilot program and several public comment periods, AASHE launched the first version of STARS where institutions could register to participate and receive a rating. In addition, the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) celebrates the 5th year anniversary of the initiative and the upcoming first round of Progress Reports on Climate Action Planning. Public reporting is an important component of the transformation of higher education as it allows us to track, assess, and learn from our progress toward sustainability. How has the process of reporting developed throughout the history of the campus sustainability movement?

Let’s take a trip back in time to the early years of the campus sustainability movement to learn how the development of both the ACUPCC and STARS reporting systems have developed for the benefit of campuses nationwide.

Creating an Environment for Growing Green Jobs

October 6, 2011

By Todd Cohen, Director, SEED Initiative, American Association of Community Colleges

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

Engaging with the community to build sustainable and thriving regional economies is an important pursuit for higher education. For community colleges, in particular, this quest is also a fundamental part of what they are and who they serve.

Community colleges were founded on the principle of service to the community. Most community college students are local residents who stay in the region. Sustainability practices learned at the college, therefore, are likely to be applied locally as those students become part of the fabric of that community. Colleges also serve thousands of local residents and businesses through continuing education, small business support services, and workforce programs. These are critical vehicles that colleges are using to inform the public (i.e. local consumers) about the importance of environmental stewardship and how to take advantage of green technologies like solar panels or sustainable building products. In addition, outside the campus, colleges are key stakeholders in a growing number of regional climate and energy partnership initiatives to reduce community energy consumption or advocate for revised local environmental policies.

What Do We Stand for Now? The Oberlin Project

October 6, 2011

By David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Senior Adviser to the President, Oberlin College

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

Adapted from the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Fall 2011

Historian Geoff Blodgett once wrote that “Oberlin has always been preoccupied with the moral issues of the day.” That legacy is evident, notably, in Oberlin’s leadership in race-blind admissions and co-education. In the 21st century moral issues will be far more daunting and difficult than ever before, but mendacity, confusion, evasion, and paralysis are rampant in high places. In the summer of 2009 the College reconceptualized and joined four otherwise disparate objectives as an overarching initiative, the Oberlin Project. In affiliation with the City, we aim to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture and forestry, and use the entire effort as an educational laboratory applicable in virtually every discipline.

Leadership by Example: Campus-Community Collaboration on Climate Protection

October 6, 2011

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

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

TCCPI, a project of Second Nature, is generously supported by the Park Foundation

Embedded in the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is the notion of leadership by example. By committing their institutions to the goal of carbon neutrality, the presidents who are signatories to the ACUPCC underscore the critical role of higher education in meeting the challenge of climate change and building a more sustainable future.

Universities and colleges in the United States have historically been crucibles of social change and laboratories for new ideas and creative solutions to some of society’s toughest problems. In this sense, the ACUPCC is part of a long tradition in our country. What is new, however, is the scale of the problem and the threat it poses to human civilization. Simply providing a model of sustainability will not suffice this time around. Campuses can only truly become sustainable if the communities around them are sustainable. In this sense, implicit in the ACUPCC is the commitment to not only dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the university or college, but also collaborate with the larger community in doing so.

UNCF Building Green Helps Minority-Serving Institutions Achieve Sustainability Objectives

September 7, 2011

By Felicia Davis, Director, Facilities & Infrastructure Enhancement, Institute for Capacity Building, United Negro College Fund
(This article appears in the September, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The UNCF Building Green at Minority-Serving Institutions Initiative has emerged as the coordinating collective for sustainability efforts targeting historically black, tribal, Hispanic-serving and Asian American Pacific Islander, public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities. This visionary Initiative is funded by the Kresge Foundation and has been strategically supported by our partners. The Building Green Initiative partnership includes the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Second Nature. The Initiative also works with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Asian American Pacific Islander College Fund and American Association of Community Colleges SEED program to advance campus-wide sustainability at minority-serving institutions.

Increasing signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and LEED building are two specific program objectives. The Building Green Initiative hosts learning institutes, workshops and webinars that provide education and training for administrators, faculty and students engaged in advancing campus sustainability. UNCF seeks opportunities to partner in ways that leverage available resources to build capacity within partner organizations and their membership as a core partnership principle and Initiative goal.

Gathering the Green When Going Green

September 7, 2011

By Scott D. Miller, President, Bethany College
(This article appears in the September, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Financing has been identified as a key barrier to implementing sustainability projects on campus. The ACUPCC Financing Sustainability Committee has been meeting since January 2011 to address the lack of information about available financing resources and to discuss strategies to encourage the federal government, and other funding sources, to increase support to signatories for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

During the ACUPCC Steering Committee Meeting at the June 2011 Washington, D.C., Annual Summit, two central, specific goals around financing were affirmed: 1) To help a specified percentage of the higher education community reduce on-campus energy consumption by 50% and achieve 100% renewable energy use within a decade; and 2) to move colleges and universities away from the notion that efficient and renewable energy projects have to pay for themselves—rather, we urge our fellow institutions to allocate funding for sustainability initiatives as part of their strategic planning process. A third goal is to develop resources on the ACUPCC website to enhance its effectiveness as a clearinghouse for information to identify and secure financing opportunities for sustainability initiatives.

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.

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.

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


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