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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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A team of students and faculty from Alfred State College pose with electric car at AASHE 2011.*

The 2011 AASHE Conference, held in Pittsburgh Oct. 9-12, was a great success.  Second Nature was very involved, delivering plenary talks, panel sessions, and more, that highlighted our work supporting the ACUPCC.

The following members of the Second Nature staff, fellows and board were in attendance: Peter Bardaglio, Sarah Brylinsky, Tony Cortese, Georges Dyer, Bill Johnson, Nilda Mesa, Steve Muzzy, Toni Nelson, Andrea Putman, and Mitchell Thomashow.  As were our friends from the following ACUPCC Sponsor organizations: Organica, Siemens, Trane, Waste ManagementGreenerU and the American Meteorological Society.

Below are brief summaries of Second Nature’s main activities at the conference.  And here are links to presentations from some of Second Nature’s sessions:

Sunday, Oct. 9

Student Summit: The 2011 AASHE Student Summit hosted more than 600 attendees with a keynote from Bill McKibben founder of 350.org, and several motivating peer-to-peer presentation sessions.  Sarah Brylinsky represented the Second Nature team by facilitating breakout discussion groups for networking and action planning with the students, and provided an overview of the ACUPCC to students interested in climate action and sustainability education work on campus. Sarah also led a breakout networking session Tuesday evening with Steve Muzzy and members of the AASHE team for 30-40 students, focused explicitly on connecting students working on similar issues, including signing the ACUPCC and regional climate action.

(more…)

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By Steve Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature

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

The ACUPCC

The 4th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit met October 12-13 in Denver, CO. The nearly 200 participants got right to work sharing challenges and best practices and outlining the future direction of the commitment. Highlights from the Summit follow.

James WoolseyJames Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton, provided the opening keynote address. Mr. Woolsey’s presentation focused on the impending threats to national security that are being posed by an increasingly unstable climate. His perspective creatively threaded the current and future social and environmental implications of our reigning energy policy as well as provided some promising existing mechanisms to scale renewable energy production. Note: Mr. Woolsey’s presentation and all Summit presentations will be available on the ACUPCC website soon. (more…)

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by Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

Last month, Second Nature’s President Anthony Cortese delivered a rousing talk entitled, “Stable Climate: Thriving World?” at TEDx Greenville.

Some of the highlights from Dr. Cortese’s speech:

1:05 Staggering statistics about population growth, energy consumption, declining living systems, and political and economic instability worldwide.

3:57 “How did we get here?”

11:43 Dr. Cortese highlights the measurable impact of several ACUPCC signatory schools’ Climate Action Plans, including those of Ball State University, Los Angeles Community College District, Clemson University, and Greenville’s own Furman University.

View the speech in its entirety here.

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by Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

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

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

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

“It’s 21st century common sense. It’s the 21st century version of not eating your seed crop.” –David Hales

“As a business, Interface has decided to take the approach that it’s no longer okay for us to privatize the wealth and socialize the risk.” –George Bandy

“To be able to provide for the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.” –Nilda Mesa (paraphrasing the Brundtland Commission‘s definition)

“It’s how to live today to ensure tomorrow. Paraphrasing the Native American saying, we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children.” –Christine Todd Whiteman

“Sustainability is a value that should penetrate virtually all of our endeavors […] It’s the pursuit of happiness… but in ways that think about the future’s opportunity for happiness, rather than just our own.” –David Shi

Watch the entire panel here.

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While the US government and the global community have been slow to address severe climate disruption, colleges and universities are stepping in to boldly slash their carbon emissions, research and develop new technologies, and prepare students to create a safer, clean energy economy.

According to a new annual report (PDF) released today by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), the participating schools are working to cut a combined estimated 33+ million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.  The ACUPCC, launched in early 2007, is currently comprised of 677 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia – representing nearly six million students and about one third of the US higher education student population.

David Shi, President of Furman University and Co-Chair of the ACUPCC, noted, “Sustainability is one of the few enterprises that fosters collaboration among institutions.  That so many schools have embraced the climate commitment is unprecedented.  Such bold action on such a broad scale provides a model for the rest of society to emulate.”

Recently, more than 300,000 individuals called their Senators as part of a coordinated effort promoted by dozens of advocacy groups urging the US government to pass comprehensive climate legislation.  But the higher education sector is not waiting for uncertain government action.

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by Richard J. Cook, President Emeritus of Allegheny College and Second Nature Education for Sustainability Fellow

The ACUPCCIn slightly over two years the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) has grown from a compelling idea into a nationwide phenomenon. Almost 700 institutions of higher learning are now ACUPCC signatories. And many others are eager to learn more about the effort. Interest in the ACUPCC was widespread at the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) annual Presidents’ Institute in early January 2010 on Marco Island, Florida.

Presidents representing four ACUPCC signatory colleges participated in a panel discussion entitled “Presidential Leadership in Climate Change and Sustainability.” President Marvalene Hughes described an inspirational commitment made by Dillard University to rebuild its campus on the principle of carbon neutrality in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Rosalind Reichard, president of Emory & Henry College, described the challenges of pursuing climate neutrality on a campus situated amid a coal-based economy and culture. Paul Fonteyn, president of Green Mountain College, told of his small college’s rapid journey to carbon-neutrality, and the way in which such an audacious commitment has helped galvanize the entire campus community behind a unifying ideal. For my part, I discussed my efforts to generate institution-wide engagement with the climate commitment and described the financial and branding benefits of the effort.

“The ACUPCC has become the most ambitious collective effort by higher education since the Second World War.”

(more…)

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