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Archive for November, 2011

By Witold Bujak, Sustainability Manager and Enid Cardinal, Senior Sustainability Advisor to the President, RIT
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

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

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

Task Two – Create the Climate Task Force. To maximize the chances of successfully implementing the Commitment, five champions were selected from the campus community to chair subcommittees of the Climate Task Force (CTF), representing the education, research, community outreach, facilities, and purchasing activities of the campus, with the role of overall CTF coordination performed by the RIT Sustainability Manager. Although these individuals have diverse roles at the University each has been dedicated to the common goal of charting a successful path toward climate neutrality. Each subcommittee was charged with preparing a proposal that fulfilled the following general criteria: (more…)

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By Claire Roby, Carbon Accounting Manager, Clean Air-Cool Planet
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

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

History

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

The decision to move from Excel to a web-based platform is based on a number of factors. The Calculator’s size and complexity long ago began stretching the limits of Excel. In addition, user needs continue to evolve: users are tracking an expanding list of metrics and reporting their performance to a widening variety of organizations. Users want to spend less time analyzing sustainability and greenhouse gas projects, and more time doing them. It is clear to CA-CP that a better solution is needed.

Development

Development of the new tool began long before the AASHE 2011 Conference. It started with insights from CA-CP’s decade of experience with the Calculator—the questions and suggestions received from countless workshops and trainings, and one-on-one interaction with thousands of users.  It continued with Sightlines contributions: perspective informed by 10 years of providing colleges and universities with qualified data, benchmarks, and insight into campus trends and best practices, as well as direct use of the Calculator to generate and benchmark annual inventories for over 55 institutions.  This past spring, the project team consulted with other leading organizations working on campus sustainability and contracted a user interface specialist to complete 20 hours of user testing.  The culmination of this research was unveiled at the AASHE conference, giving attendees a preview of what to expect from the improved tool. (more…)

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By Sally DeLeon, Sustainability Measurement Coordinator, UMD College Park
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

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

I am the Measurement Coordinator in the University of Maryland’s Office of Sustainability. I was hired to support, refine and expand the ways that the University tracks and reports progress on its strategic sustainability goals and targets. “This year was the right time to hire a measurement coordinator because we needed someone who could proactively manage assessment and reporting related to the Climate Action Plan, and effectively ensure that key campus stakeholders stay informed and engaged in the process of moving toward a more sustainable campus,” says Scott Lupin, the Director of UMD’s Office of Sustainability (the Office). UMD’s sustainability metrics program has reached a point where there is a solid base load of work to get done every year, and there is also plenty of room to refine the indicators, expand our assessment methods, and harness select metrics to facilitate planning and goal-setting through the University Sustainability Council. I look forward to continuing relationships with people all over campus as we cooperate to advance our progress toward carbon neutrality, innovate deeper sustainability goals and targets, identify and correct weaknesses, and celebrate our incremental progress as a community.

At UMD, transparent, thorough, public reporting is already a cornerstone of the Office of Sustainability’s programs. UMD is a charter signatory of the ACUPCC. Each year since signing the commitment, UMD has published a detailed Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory Report. These annual reports include assessments of trends for all campus GHG source activities, both against the 2005 baseline year and against the previous reporting year. In 2008, the Office began working to develop a standard, easily understood, set of measurable indicators that would give a wide-ranging picture of UMD’s environmental and social performance from year to year. After a year of research and collaboration with campus stakeholders, UMD’s first annual Sustainability Metrics Report was completed in 2010 (the 2011 Report will be released this month). The value of this report is three-fold. First, campus departments become partners in assessing UMD’s progress toward sustainability through the reporting process. Second, the Metrics Report helps the University Sustainability Council determine short-term and long-term priorities. Finally, the Report serves as a concise, neatly packaged snapshot of our progress that can be used to inform and empower the campus community and the general public.

Most of the indicators included in the Metrics Report were the product of a two-phase process. In the first phase, a multi-disciplinary student team—from UMD’s QUEST program—completed a benchmarking study of sustainability metrics programs from AASHE, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and select leading campuses. From this process, a preliminary list of recommended indicators was developed, including several that were based on credits from the pilot phase of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The Office also collaborated with stakeholders all over campus to refine the indicators, assess data availability and feasibility of regular measurement, and generate buy-in for annual reporting. The published set of metrics focuses more heavily on UMD’s environmental performance than on social performance because campus leadership viewed environmental goal-setting as the first strategic step in growing UMD’s sustainability programs (at the time when UMD’s sustainability program was created, the institution was already well-known for its outstanding equity and diversity efforts).

The metrics are organized into the four categories that comprise the Office of Sustainability’s framework for program development: Campus, Culture, Curriculum, and Community. Campus metrics relate to developing a carbon-neutral and resource-efficient campus infrastructure. Culture metrics relate to fostering an environment where people are empowered to practice sustainable behaviors. Curriculum metrics relate to integrating sustainability into the content of teaching and research across disciplines. Community metrics relate to engaging with the region and the world on sustainability challenges through education and outreach.

UMD’s set of sustainability performance metrics is a work in progress. This year we are looking more closely at STARS and may use relevant STARS credits to guide our development of stronger metrics on education and research, as well as on public engagement. I will also be working with our Department of Transportation Services to develop better indicators for commuter behaviors. In general, I see UMD’s Sustainability Metrics Report as user-friendly tool for public communication and annual performance assessment. It is not a substitute for the type of sector-wide benchmarking that STARS attempts to provide, but it is an important guidepost to assess our progress, weaknesses and priorities. After all, we are trying to ignite widespread participation in a transformation to a more sustainable society. We can’t expect people to participate year after year if they don’t have the tools to easily identify our collective goals and communicate about the progress they are making together.

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By Meghan Fay Zahniser, STARS Program Manager, AASHE
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

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

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

The ACUPCC originated from a planning session at AASHE’s inaugural conference October of 2006 which included a group of college and university presidents and representatives from Second Nature, ecoAmerica and AASHE, and was officially launched to the public in 2007.  The mission of the ACUPCC was, and remains, to accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability by empowering the higher education sector to educate students, create solutions, and provide leadership-by-example for the rest of society. This is accomplished by presidential and chancellor-level commitment to the elimination of net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, and the promotion of research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate. (more…)

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