Posts Tagged ‘Focus the Nation’

By Anne Bertucio, Business & Community Relations Coordinator, Focus the Nation
(This article appears in the October, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerStudent involvement, ideas, and innovation have been and continue to be a driving force behind sustainability successes on college and university campuses.  In 2008, Focus the Nation (FTN) launched a national teach-in campaign to empower students through education, civic engagement, and action to advance a clean energy future. In turn, the ACUPCC has provided a terrific opportunity for students through their FTN training to play an integral role in the development and implementation of their campus’ Climate Action Plan’s.

Currently FTN offers the ForumstoAction (F2A) program providing students with leadership skills, energy literacy, experiential learning and professional development. The F2A program benefits both the student and campus as it provides a framework for interdisciplinary collaboration, academic engagement with industry experts and elected officials, and an opportunity to apply existing campus resources to urgent sustainability issues in the community, to name a few. F2A participants at the University of Utah and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have already made an impact. Their efforts show how valuable student leadership in implementing the climate action plan can be to the institution’s carbon footprint, and the capacity of students to prepare for a changing economy by shaping their institution’s climate and sustainability initiatives.

University of Utah solar ivy panels

University of Utah student Tom Melburn holds a prototype of a photovoltaic panel that will be part of a “solar ivy” installation

At the University of Utah, one portion of their Climate Action Plan focuses on meeting their net neutrality goal through interdisciplinary collaboration. F2A student team leader Tom Melburn used Focus the Nation’s (FTN) unique collaboration framework (the FTN Collaboration Quadrants) to bring multiple university departments and academic disciplines together to fund the first Solar Ivy installation in North America on the University of Utah campus.

Placed in a high foot-traffic area of campus, the Solar Ivy installation demonstrates new, innovative clean energy solutions to students, visitors, and faculty. But F2A leader Tom hasn’t stopped there. Inspired by other F2A student teams across the country, Tom used the F2A program to generate interest in a sustainable financing mechanism, called a green revolving fund, for student-led renewable energy projects. Tom is now installing solar on a second campus building through the fund. Through these projects Tom has gained skills in project management, stakeholder engagement, fundraising, and public speaking, all while increasing his energy literacy.

One of the F2A student teams Tom collaborated with was the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The UTK F2A team is working with administrators to sign the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, a nationwide initiative for universities to establish a revolving fund and collectively raise one billion dollars towards energy efficiency projects. Through their work with Focus the Nation’s leadership development staff, the UTK team hosted an event called “Getting’ Green, Savin’ Green: Energy Efficiency at UT” to bring together the numerous stakeholders involved in their campus’ energy story. One of those stakeholders is the utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

UTK is the largest purchaser of renewable power from TVA, but thanks to the FTN event, UTK is now partnering with TVA to become their most energy efficient customer. Both the Billion Dollar Green Challenge signatory and the TVA partnership progress the goals of UTK’s Climate Action Plan. Like Tom, the UTK student team grew as leaders and developed skills they will take beyond graduation.

The collaboration and innovation of these two student teams captures the spirit of Campus Sustainability Day and the power of higher education to move sustainability forward. By engaging in a continuing dialogue as part of the CSD conversation this year, the campus community can reflect together on these successes, using their regional or campus conversations as a platform for discussing new challenges and opportunities to ensure students are prepared for a changing climate and economy through integration and support of the campuses’ climate neutrality goals.

To launch an F2A team on your college campus and learn career skills while being part of the clean energy solution, contact Focus the Nation at info@focusthenation.org or call 503-224-9440.

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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the October, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerThe celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Campus Sustainability Day (CSD) needed a topic appropriate to a moment in time when campuses have shown that the impossible is possible – changing the way they teach, operate, build, and plan in order to reduce emissions and prepare students to lead a just and sustainable future – while recognizing the challenges and opportunities still present in their journey to integrating deep sustainability education. This year, Second Nature and the CSD supporting organizations, including AASHE, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), The Society for College & University Planning (SCUP), USGBC, Focus the Nation, Tree Campus USA, the SEED Center, and IDEAS, are calling on campuses to participate in a national day of dialogue around a critical question which invites conversation on both success and continued roadblocks: How is higher education preparing students for a changing climate?

Campuses across the country are organizing discussions to gather input from students, faculty, and staff on the best practices and remaining challenges for providing students with the skills and experiences they need to prepare for a changing climate, society, and economy, using three guiding questions to form a common national dialogue.

Campus Sustainability Day 2012

Here’s how to participate:

#1: Screen the Keynote Broadcast on Your Campus
October 24th 2012, 2pm – 3:30pm EST
Join thought leaders in campus sustainability as they discuss best practices and challenges for preparing students for a changing climate, with an emphasis on curriculum, research, and experiential learning.

Featuring Geoffrey Chase, leader of the Ponderosa Project, Julie Elzanati, Director of the Illinois Green Economy Network, Julian Keniry, Senior Director of Campus and Community Leadership National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Program, Neil Weissman, Provost of Dickinson College, and Debera Johnson, founder of the Partnership for Leadership in Sustainability, this panel invites questions from the audience to discuss best practices for creating ecological curriculum, advancing experiential and living laboratory learning, and engaging faculty and the surrounding community in meaningful and critical education.

This is a live, interactive event!  Panelists will base their discussion on questions provided by you – the audience – during the panel, and will be screened using live video in Google+ Hangouts on Air.  The panel will be screened live to Youtube – no special login or software is necessary to watch, and you will be provided with the link after registration.  To ask questions, you will need a Google or YouTube login to leave comments on the video as a question for the panelists.  Institutions are encouraged to participate in the keynote broadcast as a way to jumpstart regional conversations.

#2: Host or Participate in a Regional Conversation 
October 22nd – October 26th 2012, Times and dates vary by region
Register or learn more here

How are you preparing students for a changing climate?  We want to hear from campuses across the country, and gather input from students, faculty, and staff on the best practices and remaining challenges for providing students with the skills and experiences they need.  Host a conversation on campus, gather for a virtual conversation with campuses in your region, or tune-in to one of the regional conversations organized in your area.  

Use these questions to guide the conversation:

  1. What is your college/region doing to prepare students for a changing climate?
  2. Where do challenges still exist for your campus/region in creating successful sustainability and climate programs, and what are the solutions to these challenges?
  3. How can your campus/region ensure that all students acquire the skills and education necessary to prepare for a changing climate, society, and economy, regardless of their course of study or career goals?

Be sure to appoint a student liaison to take notes – your conversations will be turned into a national guiding document on “Best Practices for Preparing Students for a Changing Climate.”

For questions about Campus Sustainability Day, please contact Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature at sbrylinsky@secondnature.org.

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By Bill Barnes, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at the University of Portland.  Second Nature awarded a posthumous Visionary Leadership Award to Ray Anderson during the 2012 Climate Leadership Awards at American University, June 21-22nd, 2012.


The first Industrial Revolution is flawed; it is not working; it is unsustainable; it is the mistake.  And we must move on to another, and better, Industrial Revolution, and get it right this time. -The late Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface Global, the world’s largest modular carpet manufacturer

Ray Anderson, Founder and CEO of Interface Global

The most refreshing thing about Ray Anderson was his transparency.  When he spoke as a representative of the business community, his sheer honesty and humility would typically astonish, bringing the audience to tears.  His main message was simple and powerful: we must change, and we can change. And he would typically build his case by detailing how Interface learned to continually monitor and improve the life cycle impacts of modular carpet, and how to make money doing it.

According to Anderson, increasing consumer awareness was the initial key to the conversion of Interface in the mid 1990s.

Customers – you and I – began questioning what Interface was doing to the environment and how it could be changed.

This is also the key to our 21st century climate challenge: demanding transparency, working to understand the true costs of our status quo behavior, and seizing the opportunities unleashed when we put it all on the table.

There is perhaps no greater opportunity than in the energy industries, given their current state and the impact they have on the climate. And yet the typical person in the U.S. today doesn’t think twice when they flip on a light switch or turn up the thermostat. How is your electricity produced, and what is the impact?  A 2001 National Environmental Education and Training Foundation study found that only 12 percent of Americans could pass a basic quiz on energy knowledge – questions like how most of our electricity is generated, and how clean our energy production is. Although this annual survey was discontinued, there is no reason to believe things have substantially changed in the past decade.A low energy IQ has a steep price. The “mother of all externalities” – emission of greenhouse gases – is not yet mentioned in the energy-sector equivalent of a surgeon general’s warning or a food nutrition label. We are on our own to understand what is happening, subject to the whims of our education and our many distractions. Without awareness built in through numerous channels relentless in their consistency and creativity, we keep on smoking (fossil fuels mostly).

Focus the Nation, a national energy leadership organization, and Ben Jervey, a former writer for Good Magazine, are aiming to help change this. With The WATT?: An Energy 101 Primer,* they have teamed up to produce a continually evolving resource that makes energy exciting – with clear and straightforward logical flow, easy to understand graphics, and a host of applications and ideas for more exploration. The results so far are promising and empowering, with students and others exposed to the first edition of the primer telling us they love this resource.

As awareness increases, the potential for positive real change also increases. Education sharpens the ask and helps to illuminate the challenges and pathways for progress, and yes, creates new jobs and business for all types of organizations. Greater energy literacy is inevitably coming; the science of climate and the depletion of nonrenewables will force our hand. It’s not a “whether” question, it’s a “when” question.

Why not get in front?  As students continue to graduate into an uncertain job market and into a political environment rife with disinformation, it behooves all of us to find new and creative ways to educate ourselves about energy and the true costs of our current economic arrangements. Putting it on the table is the right thing to do, and it will open up more opportunities than it will shut down.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Ray Anderson would agree.


Bill Barnes, PhD, is Associate Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon. He is on the board of Focus the Nation.

Focus the Nation is the country’s premier clean energy leadership development organization and supports rising leaders in launching careers that accelerate the transition to clean energy in all fifty states. Since 2008, the organization has helped more 300,000 young people engage in direct dialogue with business and elected leaders around energy solutions.  For more information about Focus the Nation and “The Watt” visit www.focusthenation.org.

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