Second Nature Blog Newsletter

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.

Stepping Up for Sustainability: Second Nature’s Kresge Fellows Get Going When the Going Gets Tough

December 15, 2010

By Vanessa Santos, Advancing Green Building Intern, Second Nature

When the economy takes a turn for the worse, all organizations, especially those within the education sector, suffer. However, under-resourced and minority-serving colleges and universities are stepping up to prove that ambition, useful information and timely opportunities can overcome the financial concerns that are often associated with pursuing a sustainability agenda on campus.

Second Nature’s Kresge Fellowship Program – as part of its Advancing Green Building Initiative –awarded 40 fellowships total in 2009 and 2010 to senior-level executives at under-resourced colleges and universities. With these fellowships, the 40 executives attended a green building conference where they were able to network with each other and professionals in their field as well as to learn more about sustainability and green building on college and university campuses.

Second Nature's Ashka Naik with the 2010 Kresge Fellows at this year's AASHE Summit

University of Montana President Recognized for Climate Leadership

October 12, 2010

University of Montana President, George Dennsion receives Second Nature’s 1st Annual Climate Leadership Award for Outstanding Individual Climate Leadership. Award recipients were recognized at the 4th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Summit in Denver, CO on October 12th.

New Report Highlights the Best Practices for Creating a Climate Action Plan

October 6, 2010

By Sargon deJesus, Science Writer and Analyst,Anthony Amato, Senior Climate and Energy Analyst, and Robyn Liska, Climate and Energy Analyst, Eastern Research Group

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

When signatories take the first step of self-discovery by starting to craft a Climate Action Plan (CAP), many discover that the journey is more of a grueling uphill climb. Every school faces challenges that set back their climate action planning – entrenched operations, cost, lack of community buy-in, constraints on staff time. What can your school do to avoid these obstacles? To help answer this, a new report byEastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG) details important best practices in creating a CAP by analyzing completed reports and speaking with schools directly. Through the support of EPA, the recently released study “Climate Action Planning: A Review of Best Practices, Key Elements, and Common Climate Strategies ” identifies helpful approaches that any signatory can start using for their first CAP or future update.

What is the best way to structure my CAP development process? Who should be involved in making decisions? How do I present or share information with key people? What do I include in the CAP? What metrics do I use to track my school’s progress? The report surveyed 50 completed CAPs and conducted two dozen interviews with school representatives about their unique experiences to answer critical questions such as those.

The ACUPCC Network: Collaborative Action Creates Multiplier Effect

October 6, 2010

By Georges Dyer, Vice President of Programs, Second Nature

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


A core concept in the field of systems thinking is that in any system, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”   The relationships between the components of a system are vital to understanding the system as a whole, and it is impossible to really understand a system by only studying its components in isolation from one another and in isolation from other systems.

This concept is illustrated through the ACUPCC network.  This group of over 670 colleges and universities with top-level commitments to promote education and research on climate and sustainability, and ‘walk the talk’ by pursuing climate neutrality in their operations is poised to have a great impact on humanity’s quest to break our fossil fuel addiction and preserve a safe, livable future.To date, 535 institutions have submitted greenhouse gas inventories and 320 have submitted climate action plans - all publicly available so students, faculty and staff can learn about where their institutions stand and what strategies other institutions are trying.  As the results of preliminary analysis of this data become available, some trends are emerging.

Leveraging the Private Sector to Advance the ACUPCC

August 4, 2010

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature and Andrea Putman, Director of Corporate Partnerships, Second Nature
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


The ACUPCC represents a courageous and unprecedented form of leadership by higher education to lead society to a climate neutral and environmentally sustainable state in order to meet the individual, social and economic needs of all humans in the present and in the future.  Signatory schools have committed to be a model for climate neutrality and sustainability and ensure that their graduates will have the knowledge and skills to help all of society do the same.

One of the most exciting developments of this focus by higher education institutions has been the cultural shift that is taking place on many campuses.  Presidents and other campus leaders have recognized that achieving these goals requires the focus, involvement and collaboration of all parts of the institution - administrators, faculty, staff, students and trustees – in deep and synergistic ways.  They have told Second Nature and others that the Commitment has accelerated efforts to integrate academic, research, operational and community outreach actions into a holistic approach to sustainability and that it has done more to build a vibrant community and a sense of shared purpose across the institutions than any other initiative in recent memory.  Collectively, the ACUPCC network has become an important learning community and is helping to encourage all of higher education to make this commitment.

Purchasing Green Power: Best Practices and Unique Higher Education Opportunities

June 3, 2010

by Blaine Collison, Program Director, Green Power Partnership, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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

The fundamental economic, environmental and security importance of dramatically increasing the United States’ portion of renewable electricity generation portfolio cannot be overstated.  American colleges and universities have compelling and unique abilities to help drive this series of changes through immediate and concrete action; this is Tangible Action 5 of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

This article will review some of the key issues in voluntary green power purchasing, touch on best practices, and briefly consider the enormous potential impact colleges and universities can have on the development of U.S. renewable energy.

Ninety-six colleges and universities are participating in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership (GPP), a voluntary program that offers technical support, best practices, and communications resources.  The schools are purchasing almost 1.5 billion kWh of green electricity.  All told, the GPP includes more than 1,200 organizations which are collectively buying almost 17 billion kWh of green power annually.

U.S. Voluntary Market Sales

U.S. Voluntary Market Sales

Source: NREL/TP-6A2-46581, September 2009


Getting Ready for Charting Emissions from Food Services (CHEFS)

April 5, 2010

by Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning and Coordination, Clean Air-Cool Planet®

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

You want to reduce the carbon footprint of campus dining—but first you need to have a better understanding of what that impact is, and what is driving it.  What’s worse: the ever-present macaroni and cheese, or the even-more-ubiquitous pizza?  Users of Clean Air-Cool Planet’s Campus Carbon Calculator™ have always known that “you have to measure to manage;” and since it’s potentially expensive, inconvenient, controversial, or even downright impractical to adopt every “green” option you can think of for food purchase, food service and waste management, it’s important to have solid information at hand to help your campus prioritize and make best use of its resources.

From presentation by Leana Houser Pitkevits at AASHE2008

To meet this need, CA-CP is getting ready to release its highly-anticipated new CHEFS tool.  The Charting Emissions from Food Services (CHEFS) calculator is different from the Campus Carbon Calculator™ in that it adopts a life-cycle rather than a strictly entity- level carbon accounting approach—but it is similar in that it aims to provide a standardized, quantitative tool for decision-makers working to find the most effective ways to lower campus carbon emissions.

The Digital Cathedral

April 1, 2010

by Georges Dyer, Second Nature

Peter Bardaglio, Second Nature Senior Fellow, author of Boldly Sustainable, and coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, has just published a very interesting article on the evolution of social media and democratic sustainability A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments.

Peter Bardaglio

How can the digital revolution and the new social media it has spawned nurture the development of democratic sustainability? By democratic sustainability I mean a social and political process that engages citizens as active agents of social change in the complex task of balancing economic prosperity, effective environmental stewardship, and social justice. Moving toward democratic sustainability has less to do with technology than a massive change in human consciousness, one that encourages systems thinking and transforms the relations of people to each other and to natural world

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Michael Crow to Moderate Forum on New Energy

March 31, 2010

Tomorrow, April 1st, Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and Co-Chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee, will moderate a forum (with free webcast), addressing the question: Is Energy Independence Possible in Our Lifetime?

The panelists include:

  • Arum Majumdar, Director, Advanced Research Projects, US Department of Energy
  • James E. Rogers, Chairman, President, and CEO, Duke Energy
  • Sunil Paul, Founder, Gigaton Throwdown Project
  • John A. “Skip” Laitner, Director of Economic and Social Analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Lisa Marginello, Director, Energy Policy Initiative, New America Foundation
  • Gary Dirks, Director, Arizona State LightWorks, Former President BP Asia-Pacific and BP China

“The promise of abundant, clean, renewable energy is now facing the reality of markets, technology limitations, and a disjointed policy environment. Can we scale existing or near term technologies to meet even a small fraction of our domestic electrical and liquid fuel needs? What are the revolutionary ideas on the horizon that have a chance of turning the hype into reality? Come hear a group of industry, research, and policy experts discuss the important topic.”

The live webcast can be viewed for free at:

The event is sponsored by Arizona State University and the New America Foundation.

"It's 21st century common sense."

March 26, 2010

by Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

In tandem with the dedication of its Shi Center for Sustainability earlier this month, Furman University hosted a panel discussion entitled “Greening Our World: Sustainable Colleges, Corporations, and Communities.” It was moderated by New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin and, in addition to former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, featured four Second Nature board members:

George Bandy, Jr., Vice President for Sustainability Strategy and Diversity at InterfaceFLOR
David Hales
, President of the College of the Atlantic
Nilda Mesa
, Assistant Vice President for Environmental Stewardship at Columbia University
David Shi
, President of Furman University



The absorbing discussion kicks off with Revkin asking each panelist to definesustainability. Here are some excerpts from their answers:

Help Your School Win the Green Bracket Competition

March 5, 2010

by Gina Coplon-Newfield, Director of Communications and Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

GreenBrackets.comThe much-anticipated Division I College Basketball Tournament is right around the corner, and we expect a high percentage of the schools competing in the men’s and women’s division I games to be ACUPCC signatories. If you and others from your school send in enough great photos, videos, and stories about sustainability and athletics on your campus, your school just might win the Green Bracket Competition. The Second Nature team will be posting the best images and stories online in the effort to generate some friendly competition and publicity for green schools as well as highlight progress on the greening of athletics programs.

The competition runs now through April 7.  You do not have to be affiliated with a school that’s in the Division I college basketball tournament or that is part of the ACUPCC to participate. And submissions can pertain to basketball or any other college sport or athletics program that incorporate sustainability. For more on the game rules, click here.

Submissions and questions go to for more information.

Good luck, and may the most enthusiastic green team win!

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Shopping Isn't Easy

October 19, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

I went to Shaw's yesterday and walked out with a Pyrex bowl. That was pretty much it. There really isn't much local food to buy there, especially at my Shaw's, because it's not really catering to people who try to shop local. At all.

In other news:


That would be one of my countless re-usable bags with a bio-degradable trash bag (hey, I am not going to toss my teabags into it) for my trash collection this week.

I am somewhat amazed at how far behind the US is with some of this stuff. My parents in Germany have 4 containers in front of their house. A huge blue "trash can" that gets picked up every 4-6 weeks for paper only, a yellow one for aluminum and plastic, a brown one (if you don't compost, that's the one for bio stuff) and then a black one for residual trash.

All are free except for the black one. The black trash can is taxed by # of people in the household. The trashcan actually has a second bottom, so my parents actually have very little room each week for their residual trash. This forces people to recycle, because, like good Germans, we actually have people walking around giving tickets if you don't. And if you overfill you residual trash can regularly, you will be given more space, but that will get taxed higher.

Works great. Oh, and every village and town has a glass collection site. Containers for brown, green and white glass. I remember being 6 years old and thinking how cool it was to throw bottles in there and hear them shatter. That was always one of my favorite trips.

Would be nice to see that here.


October 18, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

After successfully stuffing all of my home trash into one popcorn bag last week, I decided that that is a worthy repeat goal. Maybe even less trash.

This morning I was asked to join friends for brunch. Instead I decided to make my own breakfast. That's what I do anyway, as I find brunch a waste on me. I always eat the typical breakfast food anyway, but it actually felt good to tell them why I will not join them.

Later today, when and if the rain ever stops, I will walk to my local store to get a few things.  I was nifty yesterday and went to a local East Boston bakery called Spinelli's. I had to dodge a few "family members" (no joke) on my way, but I bought a fairly large bag of home-made whole wheat pasta. That should last the entire week for possible lunch/dinner options.

My goal this week is to keep my entire grocery budget under $50. This will include going to the Farmer's Market at Government Center which is at least a $20 trip because I am stocking up on bread for winter time.

As I am typing this, I realize that I am pretty confident I can go to the store today and not spend more than $25 for groceries this week......

...this may require me to do something I rarely do and don't particularly enjoy: turning on the stove and planning my meals. No quick Kashi or Lean Cuisine frozen dinners this week. Zip. Zero. I will, um, finally do some cooking.

Starting Off Right....

October 16, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

No Impact Week is coming up and our entire office is going to join forces and see what happens, it might even be a friendly competition. We do have some empathy for the few staff members who will be on an airplane next week (sorry guys, you may come in last).

In preparation for No Impact Week, I was actually watching my trash output this week ran out of bio-degradable trash bags at home and am fairly please to report that I can fit all of my trash into one popcorn bag.

I am looking forward to seeing how next week will look, but more importantly at work as we are going to apply No Impact Week to work and home.

It's all about thinking before printing.

That's one motto I am going to channel. And I might actually have to cook real food and bring it with me to the quick jog down the street to get a sandwich. All in all, we are all pretty excited to see what we will experience next week.  Even if you just join for one day, you really should!


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