ACUPCC Implementer

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.

Harnessing The Power of Dialogue from Your Desk

June 8, 2011

By Fuzz Hogan, Executive Producer, Planet Forward

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

What if you could start an ongoing dialogue from your office, connecting top scientists, industry leaders and policy makers with your students, administrators and faculty? A 24/7 sustainability seminar, where you could hear what’s on the cutting edge of research, help spur implementation of the best ideas and motivate critical stake-holders to take action.

That’s what we’re creating here at Planet Forward, a project of the Center for Innovative Media at the George Washington University. Created by Frank Sesno, who will keynote the ACUPCC summit in June, Planet Forward is a dynamic public square that allows citizens from diverse backgrounds to engage directly with experts, decision-makers, business leaders and each other. We’re leveraging the power of new media platforms and user-generated content, challenging the conventional top-down format of traditional media and rewarding contributors by giving their ideas increasing levels of public exposure, including broadcast television.

What does that mean? It means we’re creating that dialogue — to help bring solutions from the innovators to the decision-makers, to connect the enthusiasm of our youth with the expertise of top industry leaders.

How does it work? Let me give you two examples.

Earth Day is Every Day at Delaware State University

June 8, 2011

By Harry L. Williams, President, Delaware State University

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

In Delaware State University’s climate neutrality and sustainability pursuits, engagement has been a key concept. It is not a process in which we simply tell people what we want to do regarding sustainability initiatives at DSU, but it is critically important to engage them intellectually and actively in the process. There are many jobs to do in such an endeavor, and we would be neglectfully remiss and not very effective if we did not fully engage members of the DSU community in this work. From the very beginning, we have understood that the significant reduction of the carbon footprint of DSU could not be effectively done without the participation of all segments of the DSU campus and community at-large.

Dr. Harry L. Williams, President, and Amir Mohammadi, Vice President of Finance and Administration, receive a recyclable mug from Chanel Paul, a DSU Green Ambassador

That is why upon committing to be a part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in August 2009, we immediately embarked on the establishment of a campus-wideGo Green Sustainability Committee.

Using Sustainability to Promote Collaboration between Competing Institutions

June 8, 2011

By Debera Johnson, Academic Director of Sustainability, Pratt Institute

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

In 2008 Pratt received a four-year, federal grant to “green” their academic programs and make the link between academics and operations. This institutionalized my role as the Academic Director of Sustainability (ADoS) at Pratt and helped fund program development throughout the institute. The role of the ADoS was established by Dr. Thomas Schutte, President of Pratt Institute and one of the first 50 signatories of the ACUPCC. Dr. Schutte recognized the importance of a holistic approach that linked facilities with academics. This seemed especially relevant at a school of art, design and architecture where students have opportunities to practice the sustainable best practices of their profession and have a direct impact on changing the campus environment. The outcome has been to naturalize sustainability as a critical layer of thinking within each of our programs and throughout operations.

Over a series of campus visits nation-wide to share our work and learn from our peers, I realized that independent art and design schools have a unique set of issues and limited resources– it became clear that it was going to take forever for each of us to make change one by one. It occurred to me that if we could find a way to work together, we had the opportunity to shift from incremental to transformative change.

Experiential Learning and Empowerment as the Channel for Behavioral Change

June 8, 2011

By Stephanie H. Blake, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
(This article appears in the June, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


As public relations practitioners and educators know, the only initiative more difficult than changing opinions is changing behavior. To add to the challenge, changing opinions does not necessarily result in changed behavior. So, we can hope, but not assume, that educating our students about the consequences of climate change will cause them be more aware and to turn off the lights when they leave a campus classroom, for example. Since ACUPCC signatories commit to not only educating their campuses, but also changing behaviors by way of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions, how do we talk to students about climate change in ways that will result in behavioral change? In other words, what messages are most likely to persuade, and what channels are most likely to effectively deliver the messages that lead to change?

During the spring and fall semesters of 2010, as a faculty member in the Communication Department of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), I partnered with the campus’s Office of Sustainability, the unit tasked with educating about climate change and facilitating behavior change, to determine the messages and tactics that might be most effective in reaching the UCCS student body.

The Department of Energy’s ‘Energy Literacy Initiative’

May 5, 2011

By Matthew Inman, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy 
(This article appears in the May, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

To better educate Americans, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is leading a collaborative effort, the Energy Literacy Initiative (ELI), to define and promote energy literacy. If more people had a basic understanding of energy, resources, generation and efficiency, families and businesses could make more informed decisions on ways to save money by saving energy. More broadly, people would better understand the energy landscape, allowing them to better understand local, national and international energy policy. Current national and global issues such as safeguarding the environment and our nation’s energy security highlight the need for energy education. The U.S. is behind in the global movement toward clean energy. We must become a leader in this movement to lead the 21st century global economy. The need for energy education has never been more pertinent.

Assessing Sustainability Education and Student Learning at Green Mountain College

May 5, 2011

By Meriel Brooks, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Environmental Liberal Arts Program, Green Mountain College

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

Over the last 3 years, supported by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, the faculty at Green Mountain College (GMC) has restructured an innovative environmentally-focused general education curriculum (the Environmental Liberal Arts program or ELA), revised or created 53 sustainability related or focused courses, and created a system for assessment-driven program revision. With the project nearing completion, what have we accomplished, what have we learned, and what is next?

What should our graduates know and be able to do in order to contribute to a more sustainable world? For 2 days in May of 2008, 45 GMC faculty members brainstormed and debated this question before arriving at an answer in the form of 5 broad goals:

The Climate Curricular Conundrum

May 5, 2011

By Mark S. McCaffrey, Associate Scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder

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

If tested on their knowledge about the basics of climate, energy or the relationship between them, most Americans would score a D or an F according to two recent national studies[1]. The reasons for this lack of literacy are numerous and complex. Both climate and energy tend to fall through disciplinary gaps in traditional elementary and secondary science education, with climate occasionally tagged at the end of a unit on weather and energy being taught, if at all, in physics, or indirectly in other disciplines.

Climate and energy are multifaceted topics, with the science involved often being non-intuitive and difficult to master. Both topics tend to be blurred by misconceptions, misrepresentations and/or misinformation. And both can become lightening rods for ideological, political and even generational passions. Both are issues that are creating a perfect storm of confusion that, to mix metaphors, leads to a climate of inertia, in part because as a society we have yet to really have an adult conversation about either.

 Facts & Our Future” 2004

Modified from the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences’ “Global Warming: Facts & Our Future” 2004

Creating Finance Tools for Energy Efficiency Projects for the ACUPCC Network

April 7, 2011

By Arah Schuur, Director of the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, Clinton Climate Initiative
(This article appears in the April, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

“How do we pay for this?” More and more, that is one of the first questions that public and private sector building partners ask before undertaking energy efficiency improvements to their buildings. Through the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, we provide pro bono advisory support to building owners around the world to help address this very issue, helping to plan, develop and implement large-scale energy efficiency projects. For almost every building owner, regardless of real estate sector and geography, finding or justifying the up-front capital for large energy efficiency projects is increasingly challenging as internal finances get tighter and the quick-payback projects are exhausted.

To address capital availability barriers, CCI works with financial institutions and other providers of capital to adapt existing and create new financial products that are specifically tailored to building energy efficiency projects. CCI typically assists in convening stakeholders; assessing market demand from building owners and financial institutions; identifying legal and accounting related issues; and developing and executing work plans. At a project level, we help building owners with financial modeling and to assess financing options in the local market; solicit interest from capital providers; review proposals and term sheets; and assist, where appropriate, in the negotiation process.

Don't Blame Your CFO if Progress is Slowing

April 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 April, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

We’ve relamped practically every fixture on campus, installed occupancy sensors and flow-restrictors, adopted green cleaning practices, increased our landfill diversion rate, made LEED Gold our policy, converted to “thin client” computing and installed power management software, increased our AVR, and completed dozens of other, significant green actions. We “walk the talk,” yet our carbon footprint has only declined about ten percent. What now?

Our progress seems to be slowing down or, worse yet, topping out! We are beginning to understand the necessity for major capital investment in order to attack the remaining nine-tenths of our carbon footprint. We need large-scale changes in the way we consume energy and source it.

How do we make the transition from fast-payback projects and low-investment behavioral changes to projects with sufficient scale to, say, cut our carbon footprint in half by 2020? Such a milestone would surely be consistent with our commitment to attain carbon-neutrality “as soon as possible.”

What can we do to foster the new thinking and ramping-up that needs to occur?

Financing the Future of Energy Efficiency: How to Fund Your Carbon Emissions Reductions

April 7, 2011

By Mark Orlowski, Founder & Executive Director, Sustainable Endowments Institute

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

Facing rising energy costs and steep budget cuts, many colleges are grappling with how to finance urgently needed carbon emissions reductions. In response, more schools are tapping a new option for financing energy efficiency improvements, while earning a high return on investment. Their successful methods are revealed in Greening the Bottom Line: The Trend toward Green Revolving Funds on Campus.

The Cambridge-based Sustainable Endowments Institute (a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors) published the report in collaboration with 11 partner organizations including the ACUPCC, AASHE, Second Nature, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership.

Based on the first survey ever conducted about green revolving funds (GRFs) in higher education,Greening the Bottom Line details how GRFs help cut operating expenses and greenhouse gas emissions at 52 schools. The number of green revolving funds has more than quadrupled since 2008. A major incentive is the financial benefit–a median annual return on investment of 32 percent. The breakthrough in this approach is using the substantial cost savings to replenish the fund for investment in the next round of green upgrades.

Sustainability Training in the Classroom and the Field

March 8, 2011

By Anouk Bertner, Emerging Leaders Manager, The Natural Step Canada
(This article appears in the March, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCDuring a recent speaking trip to North America, The Natural Step’s Founder, Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, when asked about the most serious sustainability impact of colleges, replied: “The worst emission from colleges is ignorant students.”

Institutionalizing Sustainability: Shifting Gears, Shifting Culture

March 8, 2011

By Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State University

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

RIGHT - PSU President Wim Wiewel (r) and Portland Mayor Sam Adams (l) bike to work

On my first day at Portland State University back in August 2008, I rode my bike to work alongside Portland Mayor-elect Sam Adams. The ride symbolized Portland State University’s partnership with the city, and both Portland and PSU’s commitment to sustainability. I haven’t stopped pedaling since.

How we think about and implement sustainability at Portland State University reflects that ride. Our region provides more than just background and scenery—it gives us a context for the work that we do, as well as a broad array of public, private, and nonprofit partners willing to tackle our common challenges.

Sustainability as the Goal of Higher Education

March 8, 2011

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature
(This article appears in the March, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCWith this issue of The ACUPCC Implementer we will begin a more focused effort to help all higher education institutions institutionalize sustainability as a core goal through the lens of the ACUPCC, and to help signatory schools meet the Commitment as comprehensively as possible. In the accompanying articles you can see how a president of a major research university views his role in helping higher education lead this effort, what strategies and resources are available for presidents and other senior leaders to lead these institutional efforts and an important framework, the Natural Step, for understanding and taking action on societal sustainability.

Sustainability in the Walls

March 8, 2011

By Georges Dyer, Vice President of Programs, Second Nature

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

After the initial excitement and enthusiasm of a commitment to sustainability starts to fade, organizations often find themselves facing a long, steady climb to integrate sustainability into all of their activities, so it is simply second nature.

Doing so requires engaging employees and other stakeholders so everyone is on the same page about what sustainability means, understands how everyday decisions contribute to achieving the end goals, and is empowered to work across departments and traditional boundaries to overcome barriers.

To really embed sustainability in the walls of an organization, leaders at all levels must work tirelessly to create and hold a clear vision; establish tangible goals; communicate objectives and progress; build capacity throughout the organization; establish metrics; and celebrate successes.In 2009, a group of ACUPCC presidents developed a resource calledLeading Profound Change, which explores the president’s role in ensuring the institution maximizes its contribution to creating a sustainable society.  They laid out three tenets to accelerate progress:

What You Need to Know about Carbon Offsets

February 3, 2011

By Joel Levin, Vice President for Business Development, Climate Action Reserve

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

I once heard a speaker at a conference define a carbon offset as the absence of a colorless, odorless gas. Try explaining that to your grandmother! No wonder there is so much confusion and doubt surrounding offsets.

Offsets can be a real way for universities and others to make cost effective GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions with an impact that goes beyond the facilities over which they have direct control. In buying a carbon offset, you are investing money in a third-party project that reduces GHG emissions. Universities can participate in carbon offset markets, either as buyers or as project developers (i.e. originators and sellers of offsets.) [1]

Because it is generally not possible for the buyer of an offset to fully investigate and understand the project that he or she invests in, highly credible independent registries have been established that can offer buyers confidence in the offsets they purchase.

For anyone considering participating in the offsets market, either as a project developer or a buyer, there are five concepts that are critical to understand.

ACUPCC Program Planning for 2011

February 3, 2011

By Toni Nelson, ACUPCC Program Director, Second Nature
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCThe support team at Second Nature has developed a plan for 2011 that will provide information and resources on key topics related to the implementation of climate action planning and sustainability education, as well as opportunities for signatories to gather in person to discuss challenges, opportunities, and ways to overcome barriers to these goals.  Second Nature is introducing a briefing paper series, “Viewpoints on Sustainability,” to provide information and resources on specific topics in a concise format that will highlight important concepts and related resources. A website redesign is also in the works, with a re-organized resources section that will group information by topic and thus make it easier to find information on specific topics of interest to the signatories.

Key Topics for 2011

Topics to be addressed through briefing papers, the ACUPCC Implementer, and webinars and other in-person events such as training workshops will include how to institutionalize sustainability at your institution, financing resources and opportunities, outreach to and engagement of the campus and local community, higher education’s role in adapting to climate change, and education for sustainability.


The Carbon Offset Potential of Campus Forests and Other Land

February 3, 2011

By Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning and Integration, Clean Air-Cool Planet
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCOne of the questions that CA-CP still gets quite often as we support schools in their GHG inventories and climate action plans is, “What about our forests?  Can’t we count them as offsets, since they are sequestering carbon?”  You can read the initial response to that question in this article, previously printed in the Implementer.  We have since worked with Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA) and the US Forest Service to explore in more detail the role campus forest or other green space might play in the journey toward carbon neutrality.

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).


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