<b>Community colleges are spreading the sustainability message and putting smart practices to use.</b>
IN 2005-WHEN AL GORE was still most well known as the candidate who lost to George W. Bush and the tipping point for national awareness on sustainability hadn't yet passed-staff at Miami Dade College's Earth Ethics Institute decided to hold a conference on green building. Miami and the greater South Florida region had not been particularly aggressive in integrating sustainability into architecture and building operations, and the institute, which provides resources for MDC and the South Florida community to integrate knowledge, values, and skills for sustainable practices, could play a motivating role.
The problem was that MDC-like so many community colleges-didn't have tons of money to throw around. Passionate about the environment and about promoting sustainability, the institute's director, Colleen Ahern-Hettich, started compiling a list of people who might be interested in sponsoring the conference, or in donating time or services.
In the winter of 2006, the "Tropical Green" conference stormed South Florida, giving hundreds of people an opportunity to hear from such prominent speakers as Rick Fedrizzi, founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, and Chad Oppenheim, a buzzworthy architect in the region. "I often don't have the money to bring in people," says Ahern-Hettich, who works with an administrative assistant and one other part-time employee as well as volunteers throughout MDC to run the institute. "We had a $300,000 conference for nothing. We had it for 500 people in the community; the college had 70 faculty attend. That's what a community college could do."
Okay, so the Harvards and Dukes of higher ed have the lock on sustainability research. But what about Miami Dade? Or Nicolet Area Technical College (Wis.)? Or Cape Cod Community College (Mass.)? These institutions, as well as a growing number of their two-year peers, are aggressively pursuing sustainability through operations, workforce development, academics, and community events.
In the AASHE Digest 2006 (put out by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), 35 community colleges were noted for their initiatives, compared to 13 in the year prior. The board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has passed a resolution in support of education for sustainable development, and the association has joined the nascent Higher Education Associations' Sustainability Consortium. What's more, community college presidents have been among the first higher ed leaders to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, which provides a framework and support for America's colleges and universities to reduce and ultimately neutralize greenhouse gas emissions on campus.
Community colleges that don't have their own programs or sustainability coordinators can build opportunities through partnerships.
"It's about taking action, not just sitting around and saying we're worried," says Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and a professor at Oakland Community College (Mich.).
Community colleges are undoubtedly pushing the sustainability movement forward. Here's why they make ideal institutions for creating a better, healthier existence on the planet.
As emerging industries such as alternative energy, green building, and sustainable landscaping grow and fl ourish, community colleges are training a new generation of skilled workers. "We try to keep on top of what the changing needs of business and industry are," says Noelle Studer, sustainability coordinator at Portland Community College. PCC is part of an innovative new consortium that is honing sustainability education in Oregon, "working on how we get our instructors up to speed and provide really rich educational experiences for our students so that they leave with the skills they need," says Studer.
Beyond the consortium, PCC professors integrate sustainability principles into classroom lessons. Credit and noncredit courses related to sustainability are offered in such fields as building construction technology, architectural drafting, interior design, landscape technology, environmental studies, and social sciences. Students can also choose from an array of environmental service learning opportunities with such organizations as the Community Cycling Center, which provides bicycling programs for low-income youth and adults and sells refurbished bikes.
Work-study provides another way for students to pick up skills, as well as a way for Studer to get help. Several work-study students have been analyzing data and crunching numbers to complete a carbon emissions audit of the college. "We're providing really good research and hands-on learning opportunities," says Studer.
At Lane Community College, a few hours south of Portland in Eugene, Ore., students can complete a two-year professional technical degree in energy management or a two-year degree in renewable energy technology. "As energy prices continue to rise and the public becomes more concerned about conservation and climate change, there will be many more job opportunities," says Jennifer Hayward, the college's sustainability coordinator. Those jobs will be in fields such as energy management, water conservation, recycling, green construction, and sustainability coordination. "Many community colleges are well positioned to train this workforce of the future, and some are already doing it," Hayward adds.
Community colleges that don't have their own programs or sustainability coordinators can build opportunities through partnerships and resources. The Partnership for Environmental Technology Education, or PETE, connects community and technical colleges with the resources of industry, business, and government to assist in the development of curricula for training environmental health and safety technicians. And the Consortium for Education in Renewable Energy Technology has developed online courses that institutions can use to build their own offerings on campus or through distance learning.
Volunteer faculty, staff, and students can turn a one-person sustainability department into a collegewide movement.
Partnerships with four-year colleges and universities also make sense. According to Carolyn Teich, senior program associate for workforce development at AACC, Arizona State University has teamed up with community colleges to provide a seamless education for sustainable energy.
There are approximately 1,200 community colleges (and about 400 more branch campuses) in the United States, educating 11.6 million students at any given time. These institutions have enormous buying power and use a vast amount of energy.
The Los Angeles Community College District is a great example of how a community college can have a major impact. The district runs nine colleges educating more than 140,000 students a year. That's a lot of power. And as the district grows, it will need even more. LACCD is in the midst of a building campaign adding about 3 million more square feet to its campuses.
LACCD is using sustainable principles to make smart building and energy decisions. All new and retrofi tted buildings will meet LEED standards, thanks to a resolution from the district's board of trustees. Due to a tight budget, the district does not have an operations budget for the new space. The solution? Install photovoltaic, or solar, panels that produce electricity for each campus.
The new panels will cover parking spots or go on rooftops and will generate enough power for the district to use during the day without having to buy power from any utility. The district is also incorporating cutting- edge electrical storage technology that will store energy captured during the day to power classrooms and buildings at night.
While installing photovoltaic panels can be expensive, LACCD is using a package of tax credits and incentives to reduce the total price from about $9 million to between $900,000 and $1.8 million. Beyond the first couple of years, the panels will have paid for themselves, generating cost savings that will also cover building operations expenses, says Larry Eisenberg, executive director for facilities planning and development for the district.
LACCD is also using its influence to promote sustainability in business and industry. When Eisenberg's department put together a centralized procurement program to purchase new furnishings, it integrated environmentally friendly practices into its requests. "We put out a bid to the national furniture community and said we would only buy things that are recyclable, encouraging maximum use of recycled content in the product, and guaranteed take back at the end of useful life so nothing will go to a landfill," says Eisenberg. The district got what it wanted and even came in $40 million under budget. Two major furniture manufacturers-KI and Hayward-changed their factories entirely to meet the district's standards and then began using those standards for all customers.
Strapped by tight budgets, community college administrators and staff are used to working within constraints. They are finding creative ways to finance sustainability initiatives and to illuminate how sustainable operations can save money.
Studer has found that volunteer faculty, staff , and students can turn a one-person sustainability department into a collegewide movement. Working without a budget, she networks with teams of volunteers and existing programs and also identifies point people in each division of the college to help meet important goals and share knowledge. "There are lots of people who are deeply concerned, and rather than start panicking about things, this gives them an outlet so they can do something," she says.
"Green Teams" at fi ve PCC locations take signifi cant responsibility for projects, education, and outreach, and for integrating the college's sustainability vision into many aspects of campus life. The Sylvania campus Green Team recently completed a waste audit, partnering with the city of Portland to determine how much trash on campus is actually recyclable.
At Lane Community College, sustainable practices have saved big money. The college-which is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050-decreased its energy usage last year by 16 percent, began purchasing 10 percent wind energy from its electric utility, and installed 1.4 kilowatts of solar electric power, according to Hayward. While Lane is facing a potential cut of more than 10 percent of its budget overthe next two years, the Sustainability Office has been responsible for about $240,000 in energy savings and $60,000 in savings from recycling during the 2005-2006 fiscal year. These savings pay for the three fulltime salaries in the Sustainability Office, says Hayward.
All higher ed institutions network with their neighbors. But for community colleges, educating and serving the community comprise their primary reasons for being. As the movement to integrate sustainability into everything we do grows, community colleges can have a considerable impact.
"Community colleges play a crucial role, not only in educating the technicians and designers
that we need to make this transition but also in educating the general public," says OCC's Rowe. "This won't happen unless the public gets informed and demands different kinds of products and processes."
Eisenberg of LACCD also believes twoyear institutions can have major influence. "The goal is to transform our society so that sustainability is just something everybody does," he says. "Community colleges are really well positioned to handle that goal."
<em>Caryn Meyers Fliegler is a former editor at</em> University Business
<b>The people behind IHE sustainability initiatives work within diverse organizational structures. Equally diverse are the talents they bring to the job.</b>
On CAMPUSES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, sustainability initiatives are tearing down walls. That may seem counter to what you'd expect from initiatives that champion sustainability. But those tumbling walls aren't the bricks and mortar of old campus landmarks. Rather, they're the invisible but often real barriers between higher ed institutions' operations and academic sides.
"On many campuses, the operations side acts like a landlord, and the academic side acts like a tenant," says Tom Kimmerer, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. "Those walls have to be broken down" to ensure sustainability efforts engage all segments of an institution. "If you start pulling the threads to see what sustainability affects," he says, "you fi nd it aff ects the entire institution. Everything."
As pervasive as sustainability initiatives must be, college and university leaders still have to decide where-within the organizational structure and on campus-to put them. Institutions of higher ed are devising various answers. But a recurring theme is that effective sustainability initiatives are grassroots by nature.
At the University of Florida, 10 years of grassroots work preceded hiring Dedee DeLongpre as director of the Office of Sustainability in 2006. "If a sustainability initiative just comes from the top," she says, "you'd have to do a tricky dance to get all the folks, including the students and faculty who make up an institution, to play along."
Terry Link, director of the Office of Sustainability at Michigan State University, agrees. "I think there's a lot of value in homegrownness," he says. "You have to grow into your own place. There is no one right way to do this." Indeed, a sustainability program's ultimate structure, placement, and function depend largely on how it began.
MSU's Office of Sustainability opened up shop in 2000, thanks to efforts of the University Committee for a Sustainable Campus (UCSC), a group of students, staff, and faculty. "After trying to do all we thought needed to be done using only volunteers," says Link, "we thought we needed a paid position." An Environmental Protection Agency grant funded the sustainability office for its first three years.
Today Link still works closely with the UCSC. "It oversees the general thrust of the work this office tackles," he says. He sees his role as "connector, facilitator, and networker."
The program at Berea College (Ky.), stems from student initiatives of the late 1980s, says Tammy Clemons, sustainability coordinator. Those initiatives got a boost in 1994 when incoming President Larry Shinn brought along a commitment to sustainability.
From there, sustainability got worked into a collaborative model.
Several positions now tie into this model, including a director and two professors of the Sustainability and Environmental Studies academic program; a recycling coordinator; the coordinator of Ecovillage (a sustainable residential/learning complex); and the sustainability coordinator. "I'm the connect-the-dots person," says Clemons.
Yet Clemons was the last to join the team, in 2005. The impetus for her job sprang from a campuswide meeting. "There was consensus that we had achieved enough momentum such that a sustainability coordinator was necessary to take this to the next level," she says.
Portland State University (Ore.) follows another model, with two sustainability coordinators: Dresden Skees-Gregory on the operations side and David Ervin covering academics. Ervin, also an Environmental Studies professor, directs the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices, which facilitates sustainability research and teaching collaborations on campus and with community partners.
His background is in environmental management and policy in the academic, government, and nonprofit sectors.
PSU's sustainability campaign began in the late 1990s, when students called for improved recycling and other sustainable practices. They backed their demand by allocating student fees to hire a sustainability coordinator. The administration matched those dollars, and Michelle Krim (Skees-Gregory's predecessor) became sustainability coordinator in 2001. Ervin chaired the search committee.
About a year later, Ervin and some peers proposed a second coordinator. Sustainability teaching and research were happening all over campus, but people didn't know about each other. "We needed somebody who would wake up every day, and the first thing he or she would think about is how the sustainability programs were running on the academic side," says Ervin.
Approaches vary in where sustainability programs are placed within the campus system. But there's agreement on one point: Housing a program in an out-of-the-way spot is sure to undermine it. "That would be a reflection of the campus leadership not understanding the interrelatedness of everything on campus," says DeLongpre.
Her office is within UF's office of the VP of Finance and Administration, to whom she reports. The provost's and president's offi ces are down the hall, putting DeLongpre "in the decision-making center of the university," she says.
But Tom Kelly, director of the Office of Sustainability at the University of New Hampshire since 1997, feels there's value in being in a multiuse academic building rather than in the administration's quarters. "Universities at their best are driven by the academic mission. There's something to be said for being located amongst the faculty," he says. Still, he has direct access to UNH's top administrators. Kelly's offi ce is financed by an endowment from an alumni donor.
At Portland State, Ervin feels it's critical for him to be located in the administration building and to report to the provost and vice provost for Research and Graduate Studies. "I can't be seen as being captive to any academic department," he says. "I had to overcome that the first two years. People thought I was representing my tenure home, rather than the whole campus."
Perrin Pellegrin occupies a different kind of niche at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she's been sustainability manager since 2002. Her office is in a Facilities management department building, refl ecting the roots of her job. "The culture at Facilities had already been sustainability-minded," Pellegrin explains. With several campus conservation and green-building projects completed, "it made sense to hire a sustainability manager."
Pellegrin's duties have expanded over the years. For instance, she's now the project manager for the Campus Sustainability Plan, developed by a committee of faculty, staff , and students in 2005. Still, her position and office reside where she started: Facilities Management.
Just as the forms and functions of sustainability programs differ, so do the backgrounds of the program overseers. Pellegrin, whose academic background is in political science and biology, started out working on green-building policies. From there, she says, "my education in sustainability has been through on-the-job training."
Clemons is a Berea alumna who, after completing graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School, returned as executive assistant to Berea's president. There she learned the ropes on the administrative side of her alma mater. As sustainability coordinator, she says, "my experience as a student and in the president's office have been instrumental. I already knew everybody and how the institution works."
Link says that being a "generalist by nature" is the key qualification he brings to his job. Before becoming sustainability director, he was an MSU librarian specializing in environmental public policy, among other areas. He also has a geography degree. And he's active in local government, serving as a county commissioner, which ties into his job as well. "I'm a student in how process works," he says.
"What does democracy really mean at the grassroots level?"
Kelly's background also is "eclectic," as he sees it. But he came into his post at UNH from the outside. He has a PhD from Tufts University (Mass.) in international affairs, focusing on international environmental policy. He later directed Tufts' University Leaders for a Sustainable Future network and ran interdisciplinary faculty development workshops in the United States and Latin America.
Besides that, he has a music background, with a master's in conducting. There's an element of conducting in being a sustainability director, he points out. "I need to engage the administration, deans, faculty, operations, students ... everybody," Kelly says.
DeLongpre is one of the few with an academic degree in sustainability-an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management, San Francisco. Academic credentials were key in candidate selection at UF, says Kim Tanzer, chair of the Faculty Senate when the Office of Sustainability was created.
But managing sustainability takes more than credentials, Tanzer emphasizes. "It's essential for anybody in this job to be an ambassador," she says. "Dedee is very good at gently explaining to people that they may be missing the big picture. She educates people on almost a minute-by-minute basis."
<em>Dianne Molvig is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis.</em>
<b>An open-letter call to action from Arizona State University's president.</b>
WE ARE APPROACHING WHAT I would term a critical inflection point in the evolution of global society. Such inflection points occur when new advances in our understanding converge in some meaningful way with our existing social, cultural, economic, and historical circumstances and practices, allowing us to glimpse new opportunities. Sustainability is a term that is easily applied to so many things that we constantly risk diluting its power as a concept, but without doubt it represents nothing less than a reconceptualization of our relationship with both the planet and the community.
The task for scholars and administrators in our nation's colleges and universities is to register the significance of this inf ection point and to consider how best to refigure institutions to accommodate and advance the new transdisciplinary teaching and research critical to our collective well-being.
With a global population of 6.5 billion that is projected to increase to 8.5 billion by mid-century, we face challenges of unimaginable complexity, both as a species and, more narrowly, in terms of our American standard of living and quality of life as a nation. The increasing interconnectedness and integration of societies and economies worldwide makes us interdependent, but we are all wholly dependent on the dynamic and interactive system of complex biogeochemical cycles that makes life on earth possible in the first place.
Yet despite our eff orts to advance our understanding, there remain both incomprehension and complacency regarding the extent to which the Earth is falling increasingly under our influence as the dominant life-form.
As we impinge more and more on natural systems-with our planet falling increasingly under the domination of a single species with the capacity to modify natural systems, extract and consume resources, and generate waste on a scale that even in the recent past would have been unimaginable-we must assume challenges that remain beyond our historic and present capacity to solve.
We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of our relationship to the environment, and universities must take the lead in addressing issues of sustainability.
Nations are falling further behind, both in terms of developing the basic infrastructure necessary to maintain quality of life and an adequate standard of living for all citizens, and in balancing the needs of humanity with the long-term consequences of human impact on environmental systems.
The concept of sustainability, sometimes mistakenly equated with an exclusive focus on the environment, is at once straightforward and far more complex than one might suspect. Sustainability embraces environmental concerns, certainly, but its implications are far richer, spanning issues intrinsic to economic development, health care, environmental planning and urbanization, energy, chemicals, materials, agriculture, national security, business, industry, and government-in short, all the concerns of daily life in societies around the globe. Sustainability acknowledges the needs of human societies but in its framing seeks a balance between social values, including equity and justice, and the environment.
We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of our relationship to the environment-the long-term sustainability of our nation and even our planet remains in doubt-and universities must take the lead in addressing issues of sustainability. Academic communities cannot be removed from the front lines of social change, and our universities must serve as a forum for cultural, economic, political, and social reform. Universities are transformational catalysts for societal change and perform functions essential to our collective survival, but we must confront the fact that we do not fully understand the implications of human impact on the environment and are not adequately prepared to advance policies regarding the optimal intersection of human and natural systems.
The central question that confronts us is whether we will be able to choose wisely among alternative future trajectories, and in this sense our academic institutions are the keepers of the keys. Our colleges and universities generate the knowledge necessary both in terms of scientific and technological knowledge and the ability to wisely govern the world that we have made.
But universities are a thousand-year-old institutional form and change very slowly, maintaining their existing organizational structures and core cultures unaltered whenever possible. While we do not understand the long-term effects of our impact on the planet, we have even less knowledge about how to organize our academic institutions to confront this challenge.
At Arizona State University we are in the midst of an effort both to reconceptualize a public metropolitan research university and to redefine public higher education through the creation of a prototype solution-focused institution that combines the highest level of academic excellence, maximum societal impact, and inclusiveness to as broad a demographic as possible.
The paradigm is conceptually framed as the "New American University," and because the institution is predicated on excellence, access, and impact, I believe that it has relevance for colleges and universities both in this nation and abroad. Sustainability is at the core of this conception, not simply because interdisciplinary research on human-dominated environmental systems has long been one of the strengths of the university, but because we made an explicit institutional commitment to sustainability.
The problems that we face require multiple approaches and an integration of disciplines. Thus, as our front line of engagement in sustainability, we conceived an academic entity construed across disciplinary boundaries, bringing together scientists, engineers, and scholars from a broad community of disciplines, engaging the expertise and infl uence of leaders from business, industry, and government to develop solutions to pressing real-world problems.
With a planning gift of $25 million from Julie Ann Wrigley, president and CEO of the Julie Ann Wrigley Foundation (a philanthropic foundation committed to the environment, health care, and education), the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) was launched in November 2004 to catalyze and advance interdisciplinary research on environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
If academic institutions are to succeed, each must leverage its strengths. ASU was already uniquely positioned to play a central role in providing science-based solutions to address the challenges of sustainable development, especially as these bear on the burgeoning Phoenix megalopolis, including:
the impacts of rapid growth on a semiarid ecosystem;
human health and well-being;
ecosystem viability; and
Leveraging our growing prominence in earth-system sciences, we decided to deploy our capacity to apply authoritative insight, prototype decision-support tools, and institutional mechanisms to improve the relationship between social and ecological systems through a continuum of understanding, prediction, adjustment, and adaptation. Together with resource managers, industry leaders, and local, regional, and state policymakers, ASU has positioned itself to tackle complex issues associated with sustainability.
Our sustainability initiative also provides a framework to connect the university to institutions similarly interested in collaborating on applications relevant to the global community. GIOS thus has developed productive partnerships with a number of premier institutions around the world, including Stanford University, Harvard University, MIT, the University of Washington, the Instituto Tecnol?gico de Monterrey (Mexico), Cambridge University (U.K.), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.
ASU's sustainability initiative provides a framework to connect the university to institutions similarly interested in collaborating on applications relevant to the global community.
To prepare students capable of integrating a broad range of disciplines in a rapidly changing world, we have conceptualized and launched the School of Sustainability, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. With both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, the school is educating a new generation of leaders through collaborative, transdisciplinary, and problem-oriented training that addresses the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-fi rst century. Teaching and research in the school seeks adaptive solutions to such issues as rapid urbanization, water quality and scarcity, habitat transformations and the loss of biodiversity, and the development of sustainable energy, materials, and technologies.
There is much at stake, and now is the time for academic leaders to commit their institutions to advancing what is nothing less than an evolutionary transformation in our collective consciousness. The world is not yet on a trajectory that is sustainable, and thus it is incumbent on academic communities to demonstrate persuasively that the advancement of social interests is wholly compatible with sound environmental stewardship.
If we are to harness our knowledge to address the complex challenges we face in reconciling development goals with the environmental limits of the planet, academic leaders must be willing to rethink and reconfigure their institutions to foster teaching and research that seek to guide a conscious transition towards a more sustainable relationship with the Earth.
Sustainability has every potential to become a new principle for organizing knowledge production and application and for reorganizing our institutions. Sustainability is a concept with as much transformative potential as justice, liberty, and equality, and we must foster its discourse and implementation in our academic institutions.
Inflection points such as this are rare, and given what is at stake we must not hesitate to make the necessary investment. We are in the critical early stages of the advancement of a sector critical to the well-being of human society and ultimately crucial to our continued economic development. At this stage there is everything to win and everything to lose in the effort to advance sustainability, and we must maintain our focus if we are not to lose our way.
<em>Michael Crow is president of Arizona State University.</em>
What to do with a roof that needs repair? That was the question pondered in 2001 by a group of staffers and students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. They decided on an alternate route when considering the fixups needed for the south roof of Hamerschlag Hall. A group of students, along with Bob Bingham, professor of art, pushed for the university to create a "living roof," otherwise known as a green roof.
They formed the Green Roof Initiative and three undergraduate students were awarded a $1,000 grant. Initial funds allowed them to investigate and present the benefits of green roofs. Studies show these roofs reduce the rate of stormwater runoff (sometimes a problem in Pittsburgh) and help with insulation. They're also pretty to look at, notes Bingham, ever a champion of better aesthetics. The group met with facilities administrators in 2002 to design the roof and enlisted specialists to help with the construction.
The initiative took three years and about $170,000 to complete, but by spring 2005 Carnegie Mellon's green roof was open, affording a bit of sanctuary on campus. Student volunteers gathered to plant the 4,000 sedums, 70 grasses, and 1,000 other plants. A camera mounted nearby keeps constant watch on the green roof and allows students and researchers to monitor growth.
On a recent spring day, while visiting journalists had lunch on the green roof, Bingham gave a tour of the grasses and perennials, noting efforts to bring more green roofs to campus. -<em>Jean Marie Angelo</em>
Who hasn't had a discussion about campus facilities onstruction recently that didn't at some point involve the acronym LEED? The U.S. Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System as a performance benchmark for buildings. It demonstrates that your institution's commitment to a sustainable future is more than a catchy slogan, and makes you eligible for state and local government incentives for energy savings.
LEED encompasses nearly every phase of construction, from environmental impact and building materials to heating and cooling systems and, often, furnishings. Take the Wolf Law Building at the University of Colorado at Boulder as an example. It recently earned a LEED Gold rating, one of the nation's highest for green building design. The 180,000-square-foot building features high-efficiency lighting, CO2 monitoring, low-flow water fixtures, waterless urinals, a high-efficiency cooling system, and central steam heat. Ninety-one percent of the materials from demolition and construction were recycled. The building is also powered by 100 percent renewable energy through wind energy credits.
Fine, you say, next time we plan to construct a 180,000-square-foot law school, we'll think about LEED, but what about our older buildings?
The USGBC has you covered. Older facilities can qualify for LEED-EB (Existing Building) certification. LEED-EB standards address whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues, indoor air quality, energy and water efficiency, recycling programs, exterior maintenance, and systems upgrades to meet green building performance standards. True, applying for LEED certification is not a simple task, and it can be both time and money intensive. But balanced against skyrocketing fuel costs, depleting natural resources, and environmental concerns, we'd say it's an investment worth making. Find out more at www.usgbc.org. -<em>Tim Goral</em>
As anyone who works on a college or university campus has no doubt seen firsthand, college students often meet and exceed the challenge when called upon to envision innovative solutions to the world's problems. Sustainability issues are no exception.
In late 2006, the mtvU GE ecomagination Challenge gave students the chance to develop creative new ways to green their campuses.
More than 100 applications later, student voting and input from sponsors (television network mtvU and GE) determined a grand prize winner from among 10 finalists, whose ideas were profiled online and aired by mtvU. This spring the $25,000 grant for execution of the winning idea-Biodiesel @ MIT-was announced. The project uses a solarpowered processor to convert waste vegetable oil to biodiesel in an effort to reduce energy costs and the university's environmental footprint. MIT students were treated to an mtvU Earth Day Concert headlined by the group Angels & Airways.
Others in the running for that grand prize were:
<b>Connecticut College</b>, for a solar-powered composting program to cycle nutrients back into the Earth and educate cafeteria diners
<b>Northeastern University</b> (Mass.), for plans to install green roofs and implement other projects to reduce urban stormwater runoff
<b>University of Maryland</b>, for a solarpowered trash and recycling compactor that would decrease the volume of waste on campus
<b>University of Massachusetts</b>, for a device that would capture and convert mechanical energy generated by stationary bikes and rowing machines in the campus fitness center so students could charge laptops and other portable devices
<b>University of Michigan</b>, for a modular green roof on the highly visible outdoor activities center building
<b>University of Southern California</b>, for Sustainacaf?, a campus sustainability and demo site for innovative technology and programs
<b>University of Wisconsin-Stout</b>, for a process that would compost large quantities of food waste with a minimum of energy and labor For more details on each of the finalists, see www.ecocollegechallenge.com. -<em>Melissa Ezarik</em>
<b>The sustainability movement reaches the kitchen on college and university campuses.</b>
HAVING TO EAT YOUR VEGETABLES takes on a whole new meaning when you start thinking about the process involved in getting them to your plate. Whether the produce is local or imported, the conditions the farm workers labored under and whether or not chemicals were used on the crops are all factors to consider.
As students become savvier both nutritionally and politically, fi nding a balance between what's healthy, what tastes good, and and what works for the environment becomes trickier for campus dining services. "Duke recognized the food we bring on campus has a huge impact," says Tavey McDaniel Capps, environmental sustainability coordinator at the university. "We want to minimize that impact."
There are two strands to sustainable dining: organic and local. Although not mutually exclusive, there can be some tension between them. Organic is good for your health and the environment because fewer or no chemicals and pesticides are used to grow such crops, but when organic produce is shipped around the world the environmental benefi ts are reduced. Local produce, on the other hand, might be grown with chemicals, but it has a small "carbon footprint" because it is transported shorter distances and its purchase supports the local economy.
Sold on local organic produce being the ideal? Then go for the salad bar at the University of California, Berkeley. The California Certified Organic Farmers certified the salad bar and kitchen at Crossroads, the largest dining hall on campus, as organic in April 2006. Offering an organic salad bar was a logical choice because of year-round availability in California, explains Chuck Davies, associate director of Residential Dining. The campus' other three dining halls went through the same process and now have certified organic salad bars, as well.
'We're not going to give up coffee and chocolate and things that come from elsewhere.'-Philip Ackerman-Leist, Green Mountain College
The salad bars require a separate prep station to maintain the organic integrity. Because of that, organic vegetables are not usually mixed into other meals. As part of the certification, the facility is audited annually. "We felt it was an educational opportunity for staff and students," Davies says.
There are from 24 to 30 items available on the salad bar daily, Davies says, with the "vast majority" coming from a 150-mile radius. The self-operated dining service currently purchases produce through food service marketer and distributor SYSCO, but Davies is looking into working with more local farmers.
Coming down on the local side of the argument is Kenyon College (Ohio). "We're trying to turn the dining room into a classroom," says Howard Sacks, director of the Rural Life Center. A local foods initiative has been in place in the dining hall for four years, but the roots go back to 1994 when Sacks conducted the "Family Farm Project" to explore the relation of family farms to the community. At the same time, Knox County, where Kenyon is located, was starting to address urban sprawl.
The two projects came together in Food for Th ought (http://rurallife.kenyon.edu), a program to support local farmers. Now 28 percent of the food used at Kenyon is purchased locally, including meat, dairy, vegetables, and fruit. Large institutional purchasers are the best support for local producers, Sacks points out. He says the school's food service vendor, Ohio-based AVI Foodsystems, has been "extraordinarily supportive" of their efforts, a necessary ingredient of having a sustainable dining initiative work.
McDaniel Capps says Duke has 17 contractors running 32 eateries on campus, so local and organic efforts vary by location. The freshman dining hall is managed by Bon App?tit, a company that focuses on using local products. The Refectory, located at the Divinity School, uses 20 percent organic and anywhere from 35 to 70 percent local products. Guidelines are being developed to reward locations that increase their green eff orts. "We have to be patient," McDaniel Capps says. "It's not something you can change overnight."
An impediment to a buy-local initiative can be what Sacks calls the "credibility hump." "A lot of colleges have trouble finding local producers," he explains, because farmers need to know the relationship will be long-term. The Family Farm Project helped Kenyon over that hump, and ongoing educational efforts have kept communication channels open. If a largescale research project isn't in the works, the Community Food Security Coalition is an organization that acts as a middleman to bring interested parties to the table.
Availability is another obstacle. Gail Babcock, executive chef at the University of Idaho, says she would like to use more local produce, but when she needs 250 pounds of potatoes for dinner, it can put a strain on local resources.
Sacks points out that it is easier for a dining hall manager to order produce online from a major vendor than it is to work out details with a farmer down the street.
Ensuring consistent quality and quantity is another challenge that must be addressed. Philip Ackerman-Leist, director of the Green Mountain College (Vt.) Farm and Food Project (www.greenmtn.edu/farm_food), points out that menus based on local products are often more limited because of seasonality, which can lead to diner rebellion. "We're not going to give up coffee and chocolate and things that come from elsewhere," he says, "but we have to consider appropriate sources."
'If you are going to sacrifice quantity, you have to nail it on quality.'-John Turenne, Sustainable Food Systems
GMC has a robust student-run campus farm, and the dining hall uses up to 13 percent local products, including ones from the campus farm, which keeps about $60,000 in the local economy. A plan to increase this amount to 25 to 30 percent over the next three years was recently approved.
Unlike at UC Berkeley, GMC officials are not currently considering organic certification because it would limit their options too much. Students felt that people already know how the farm is being managed and that it is exceeding the regulations in some ways, Ackerman-Leist explains.
Babcock, who works for Sodexho, also has access to studentgrown produce. She likes to feature the "Soil Stewards" produce during presidential functions to maximize the impact. The students are looking into growing edible flowers for her. "It's turned into a really neat project," she says.
Changing to a local or organic menu for campus dining is easier said than done. Kenyon and GMC both started by introducing occasional local meals. The rave reviews allowed the programs to expand. "If you are going to sacrifi ce quantity, you have to nail it on quality," advises John Turenne, owner of Sustainable Food Systems and the former executive chef at Yale. He says the freshness of the ingredients give simple recipes an edge over mass produced meals.
Turenne confirms that changing to a sustainable dining hall is a slow process. "You don't end one semester and open the next with a different method," he says. "You have to lead them along, seduce their palate."
<b>Sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.</b> This high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate research and educational efforts to equip society to restabilize the earth's climate, involves creating an emissions inventory and action plan. Making the action plan, inventory, and progress reports publicly available is an integral part of the commitment. www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org
<b>Apply for a Campus Sustainability Leadership Award</b>. Launched in 2006 by the association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, this annual award is given to one institution in each of four enrollment categories that has made the greatest overall commitment to sustainability as demonstrated in its governance and administration, curriculum and research, operations, campus culture, and community outreach. A Student Sustainability Leadership Award is also part of the program. www.aashe.org/programs/awards.php
<b>Participate in Campus Sustainability Day</b> Since 2003, the Society for College and University Planning has celebrated sustainability in higher ed by designating a day for colleges and universities to create events on campus and elsewhere that draw participants for the exchange of ideas and knowledge among faculty, staff, and students as well as the larger community. www.scup.org/csd
<b>Be a part of RecycleMania</b>. In 2007, more than 200 colleges and universities throughout the United States competed to increase recycling and reduce waste on their campuses. RecycleMania has started a MySpace page to facilitate networking between participating schools. www.recyclemania.org
<b>Join a Campaign for Environmental Literacy advocacy campaign</b>. The CEL exists to support the work of organizations providing or supporting environmental education in the United States. Several colleges and universities, plus higher education organizations, have gotten involved in efforts, such as restoring funding to these programs, since 2005. www.fundee.org
<b>Get your group involved in the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium</b>. HEASC is an informal network of groups with a commitment to advancing sustainability within their constituencies and within the broader system of higher education. www.aashe.org/heasc
<b>Join the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development</b>. USPDESD partners are individuals, organizations, and institutions dedicated to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which since 2003 has been calling for sustainable development to be fully integrated into education and learning. www.uspartnership.org