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By Adrien Tofighi, Program Assistant, Second Nature
(Review the symposium agenda, or download a PDF Summary of this post).

ACUPCC Logo

The 2012 ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium took place at Agnes Scott College, November 7-8th, 2012. ACUPCC Regional Symposiums are working sessions to foster dialogue and collaboration among ACUPCC signatories who are facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions.

The conference garnered participation from 45 colleges and universities, representing states throughout the Southeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and the creation of new solutions to Climate Action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues. This conference marked the third regional symposium hosted by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

David E. Shi, President Emeritus, Furman University

Opening Speakers

After a warm welcome by Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss, David E. Shi, President Emeritus of Furman University, opened the symposium on Wednesday evening. The keynote presentation, entitled “Sustainability in the South: An Oxymoron?” addressed some of the region’s most pressing questions regarding conservation, sustainability, and climate leadership.

Dr. Shi posed the questions: How can conservation thrive in a conservative culture, and how can higher education be the vanguard of cultural change? His talk shared statistics on the southeastern colleges and universities progress on climate and sustainability initiatives, and reviewed the need for campuses to move from singular sustainability projects to a centralized “hub” for large-scale transformational change.

Symposium Sessions

World Café: From Planning to Action

Participants kicked off the first full day of the conference with dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on leveraging campus resources in order to implement climate action planning solutions. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, the session focused around key themes related to communicating and engaging with the campus community.

Campus Sustainability Case Studies

Case studies from eight different institutions in three concurrent sessions were presented as a means to address the topically and geographically relevant problems that many campuses face, and share how these issues are being dealt with.

The first track, Financing, highlighted three institutions from North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. A team from Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) including Cassidy Cannon, Sustainability Director, Robert Gaines, Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Charles Hall, Director of Design & Construction, Dennis Leary, Facilities Director, and Kent Anson, Vice President of Higher Education for Honeywell Building Solutions presented on the campus’s experience leveraging a comprehensive energy savings program to address deferred maintenance, energy costs, and sustainability goals. Howard Wertheimer, Director of Capital Planning & Space also discussed the lessons learned in building the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (CNES), and Mitchell H. Payne, Associate Vice President for Business Affairs at the University of Louisville provided an overview of financing energy efficiency through energy savings performance contracting.

Hands-on learning at Furman University’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability

In the second track, Sustainable Food and Community Engagement, Furman University’s Katherine Kransteuber, Program Coordinator at the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability shared the interdisciplinary faculty-student research initiative designed to study and further sustainable agriculture on campus and in the Carolinas. Stephanie Sims, Implementation Coordinator at Office of Sustainability at the University of Florida provided an overview of UF’s broad approach to involving stakeholders and addressing challenges and opportunities in food systems through partnerships and innovative programming, which included strategies such as “Food for Thought” outreach campaigns and University extension efforts and the Office of Sustainability at the regional and state level.

The third track, Addressing the Challenge of Coal began with a presentation by Susan Kidd, Director of Sustainability at Agnes Scott College, discussing the institutional challenge of cheap coal, and the college’s focus on funding options for energy efficiency and renewable energy,. Matt Earnest, Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Bridgemont Community and Technical College showcased how the institution’s Sustainability Institute is bringing together multiple organizations with varying viewpoints to promote sustainability through workforce education, academic enhancement, and community development. Gordie Bennett, Sustainability Manager at the University of Tennessee Knoxville also provided examples of their institutional path to a cleaner campus by converting the nearly 50-year old UT Knoxville Steam Plant to 100% natural gas and fuel oil, with a focus on the decision making process that weighed the social and economic implications of going coal free in the Tennessee Valley.

Lunch with the President’s Panel

Second Nature President David Hales moderated the President’s Panel which included Elizabeth Kiss from Agnes Scott College (GA), Kenneth Peacock, Chancellor of Appalachian State University (NC), and Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College (GA), in a dialogue on how higher education in the Southeast can lead the way to a clean, green, and sustainable economy. Participants followed the discussion with a question and answer session on the challenges facing presidential leadership in supporting sustainability initiatives on campus.

Sustainability as a Pedagogical Process

To conclude the event, Tom Kelly, Director of the Sustainability Academy at the University of New Hampshire, facilitated a session to remind attendees of the broader goal of “educating for sustainability.” With the campus as a learning platform, every building, the food eaten, classes attended, grounds and landscaping, etc. “count as an opportunity to cultivate a global sustainability outlook.” This session presented a pedagogical process that considers building case studies from campus to guide the learning community to ask good questions, investigate, and find sustainable solutions.

Summary: Collaborating for Success

The ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium attendees created new strategies for climate leadership, shared the steps necessary for putting a plan to action in a region where sustainability can be challenging, and learned from both campus and industry leaders that the work they do is more vital than ever.

By providing tangible resources, contacts, and ideas to support both Presidents and their staff’s efforts on campus, with a regional focus highlighting the unique issues associated with electricity rates, government policies, energy supply, and public opinion of the region, institutions were empowered to create beneficial partnerships that will support their mutual development in the coming years. Participating sustainability teams made significant headway in overcoming the obstacles to fulfilling the Commitment, and creating lasting regional connections.

84 college and university, industry, and non-profit representatives participated in the Symposium, with attendance from Presidents and Chancellors, sustainability coordinators, facilities directors, faculty, students, and ACUPCC Corporate Sponsors.  Click here to view the list of attendees.

Thank You!

Second Nature would like to thank the staff of Agnes Scott College for their partnership in hosting the event, and Aramark for providing food for the event.  And a special thanks to all attendees who found exciting new opportunities for creating and implementing their Climate Action Plans, as well as creative solutions to the challenges of creating a sustainable campus.  Well done!

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For more information on upcoming ACUPCC events, visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org/news-events

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The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is celebrating five years of higher education’s leadership on the critical issues of our time, with new data from signatories’ public reports showing unprecedented success and innovation in renewable energy, curriculum, energy efficiency, green building, and financial savings. 202 institutions have submitted Progress Reports on their implementation of the commitment in the first five years, showing the following results, which are indicative of progress throughout the network.  While reports are still coming in and numbers are subject to change, preliminary analysis of the latest data shows:

  • Collectively, the ACUPCC represents the 3rd largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in the United States, with 156 Signatories purchasing a total of 1,279,765,254 kWh RECs.
  • 175 signatories report current curriculum offerings include 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 67% of signatories affirmed that their Climate Action Plan has saved their institution money.  Generating total savings of $100 million dollars.
  • The 406 institutions that have submitted more than one GHG inventory have reduced cumulative annual CO2e emissions by approximately 384,000 metric tons — an average of 970 tons per year per institution
  • Reporting signatories show a total renewable energy output of 170,000,000 kwh — the equivalent of powering 14,617 American households electricity for one year.

Through the ACUPCC, higher education has become the only sector in the U.S. with a critical mass committed to the scientifically necessary goal of climate neutrality.  During the first 5 years of the initiative, over 700 colleges and universities in the US signed the ACUPCC, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every type of public and private institution (2-year, 4-year, research university).  6 million students attend ACUPCC institutions – approximately one-third of all college and university students in the United States. International initiatives modeled after the ACUPCC have launched in Scotland and Peru, and similar initiatives are being explored in Taiwan, Australia, and Hungary.

It is a rare example of a voluntary initiative that includes accountability through the ongoing public reporting process, to which all ACUPCC signatories agree.  All public reports are available on the ACUPCC Reporting System at rs.acupcc.org.

Measuring Success

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Reposted from Switchboard: The National Resource Defense Council Staff Blog.
By Kelly Henderson, Climate Center Program Assistant, NRDC

These days, it’s tough to be an environmentalist on the national level. The current “Right-heavy” House pays little to no attention to the health impacts related to air pollution and is too focused on tying EPA’s hands when it comes to regulating toxics and other air pollutants from prominent sources such as power plants. Those Representatives mindlessly claim that supporting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would kill jobs and cause further harm to an already weakened economy – parroting unproven rhetoric. If you do much of any related reading, you’d know they’re wrong. As a youth advocate for living sustainably and helping to curb the effects of climate change, it can be an especially frustrating and challenging situation as you may feel your voice is not being heard on the Hill. Many students and members of the millennial generation are facing this challenge every day.

Even though the federal government is in complete disagreement over how to progress with enacting legislation that would help ease the effects of climate change and allow for more sustainable initiatives throughout the country, there is still hope! Some state and local governments have grabbed the reins and decided to enact their own Climate Change Action Plans (CCAP). A CCAP lays out a strategy, including specific policy recommendations that a local government will use to address climate change and reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” Many of these plans anticipate similar outcomes including but not limited to: increasing water and energy efficiency, improving air quality and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, setting standards for renewable vehicles percentages and an overall “greening” of the specific city, county or district.

What’s even more exciting is that many of these cities that have established their own CCAP are fueled by the energy of thousands of environmentally passionate students at large, sustainably-committed universities in those very same cities. The American College and University President’s Climate Commitment
(ACUPCC)
is a method that is leading the way for several hundred colleges and universities across the country to become more sustainable by eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions and promoting educational strides in an effort to address global warming and climate change.
To read more about what exactly the commitment is, what it does and to see a full list of college presidents who have signed it, read my previous blog here.

Let’s take a brief look at the CCAP in five cities across that country and the universities that are located in those cities who have signed the President’s Climate Commitment:

1.       Pima County, Arizona: home to ACUPCC Signatory Arizona State University and over 70,440 green-minded students.

Pima County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a sustainability initiative on May 1, 2007 which set specific goals to be achieved on set deadlines on everything from alternative-fuel vehicles to green building to land and water management and conservation to waste reduction. All of these sustainability goals are set on a five year action plan with incremental changes marked for each fiscal year.

In addition to Pima County’s initiatives, Arizona State University has taken the lead on advancing an unparalleled effort to install nearly 20MW of solar power across its four campuses by 2014.

2.       Los Angeles, California: home of UCLA, California State University and over 73,010 green-minded students.

 The city of Los Angeles released its climate action plan, Green LA: An Action Plan to Lead the Nation in Fighting Global Warming, in May 2007. The Plan sets forth a goal of reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions to 35% below 1990 levels by the year 2030, one of the most aggressive goals of any big city in the U.S.

In addition to Los Angeles’ Green LA program, students at UCLA have a Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) that raises $200,000 per year for UCLA sustainability projects. Additionally, starting in 2009, all new construction and major renovations at UCLA must be certified LEED Silver or higher.

Click here to continue reading this article….

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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(Download the symposium agenda, or a PDF version of this summary here.)

The ACUPCC

The first American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Regional Collaborative Symposium – the 2012 Northeast Regional Symposium – took place at Bunker Hill Community College November 3-4, 2011. The Regional Symposiums focus on fostering collaboration among ACUPCC signatories facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions. This inaugural conference garnered participation from 36 universities in 19 states throughout the Northeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and solutions to climate action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues.

Jennifer Andrews Clean Air Cool PlanetPre-Conference Change Agent Forum

This pre-conference event offered new signatories and schools striving to be compliant with ACUPCC requirements and their pledge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions a series of “Climate Clinics” presented by representatives of colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and private consulting companies.

Symposium Sessions

Opening Speakers
Dr. Anthony Cortese, President of Second Nature, opened the Symposium evening of November 3 with David Hales, President Emeritus, College of the Atlantic and Chairman of the Second Nature Board of Directors, and Dianne Dumanoski, Environmental Journalist, with a discussion of the ever- increasing need for leadership in higher education to teach innovative, bold, and necessary climate and sustainability theory. The November 4 sessions were opened by Philip Giudice, the former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy.

World Café: Moving Beyond the Climate Action Plan
Participants delved into dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on the planning process, how to move the campus forward by assigning priorities, key stakeholders, and core values, and engaging with regional partnerships and initiatives. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, discussion reflected the need for institutionalizing engagement, the importance of connecting long-term climate planning to the needs of the local community and regional partners, and the potential for creating campus engagement with the Climate Action Plan as a living and strategic institutional document.

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PA Treasurer Rob McCord announces the Campus Energy Efficiency Fund at Drexel

On Wednesday, at Drexel University, Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Rob McCord announced the launch of the Campus Energy Efficiency Fund.  Drexel, which recently signed the ACUPCC, will be the first university to participate in the Fund.  A description from the press release states:

The Campus Energy Efficiency Fund is a first-of-its-kind investment that can generate as much as $45 million in improvements at as many as 12 schools through projects creating more than 700 new jobs. Over the 20-year useful life of these projects, schools are expected to save $150 million in utility costs and reduce their carbon dioxide footprint by 1.4 million tons – or the equivalent annual emissions of 250,000 cars.

Blue Hill Partners will manage the Fund, which offers a promising model for ramping up energy efficiency efforts, and driving down energy consumption – saving money, reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs.

This approach has great potential to help ACUPCC institutions meet their goals, and leverage the power of the critical mass the ACUPCC network represents. Working with trusted partners and ramping up scale can help reduce risk, and overcome some of the common barriers to making these projects happened, such as those discussed in our recent post on Innovations in Energy Efficiency Finance.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge, which will officially launch next week will help individual institutions realize significant savings, and leverage returns for reinvestment in future projects by establishing Green Revolving Funds — an excellent strategy for moving closer to climate neutrality.  By scaling such a model up through consortia of many institutions leveraging the capital of many investors, higher education can go further, faster. These kinds of strategies for cost containment are crucial in minimizing tuition and improving access and affordability.

Read the full press release from the PA Campus Energy Efficiency Fund launch here.

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Georges DyerEarlier this week I had the pleasure of attending an excellent event co-hosted by Citi and EDF on Innovations in Energy Efficiency Finance.  As you can see from the agenda below, it was a fully-packed day with an all-star cast of panelists diving deep into the barriers and solutions to financing energy efficiency projects.

Upfront it was acknowledged that huge potential exist from energy efficiency.  As this EDF blog post recently noted: “Using data from a 2009 McKinsey study, EDF estimates that there are at least $40 billion of investment opportunities for EE projects in commercial buildings that will provide annual returns in excess of 20%.” 

Panelists said financing was the biggest barrier to energy efficiency.  This is the same message we hear consistently from colleges and universities, which has led us to create the ACUPCC Financing Committee, and financing webpage on the topic.

Key take-aways included that this challenge is not new, we’ve been working on it for 30+ years; and while significant progress has been made in improving energy efficiency, tough barriers remain.  Many of those challenges revolve around risk.  In this low interest rate environment, the returns on energy efficiency are strong and clear, but risk can still inhibit projects from getting done.  Financing groups like Citi are creating new mechanisms for reducing risk, and are working with rating agencies and partnering (e.g. with the Better Buildings Initiative) to make progress.

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

The ACUPCC

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

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

In January 2012 the Building Green Initiative will enter its third year and is working to establish goals, objectives and funding for the next phase. During phase one of the program, 16 new Minority Serving Institutions signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Working with Second Nature to increase MSI signatories and following up with new and prospective signatories, we have determined that it is critical to establish a foundation or “institutional readiness” for advancing sustainability initiatives as a first step on the sustainability path. It is also important to educate campus leadership about the goals, expectations and costs associated with becoming a signatory to the ACUPCC. This will help to ensure that the university goals and timelines are in alignment with ACUPCC reporting requirements when the Commitment is signed. (more…)

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