Posts Tagged ‘Georges Dyer’

By Georges Dyer, Vice President of Programs, Second Nature

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


A core concept in the field of systems thinking is that in any system, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”   The relationships between the components of a system are vital to understanding the system as a whole, and it is impossible to really understand a system by only studying its components in isolation from one another and in isolation from other systems.

This concept is illustrated through the ACUPCC network.  This group of over 670 colleges and universities with top-level commitments to promote education and research on climate and sustainability, and ‘walk the talk’ by pursuing climate neutrality in their operations is poised to have a great impact on humanity’s quest to break our fossil fuel addiction and preserve a safe, livable future. (more…)

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by Georges Dyer, Second Nature

Georges Dyer

The April issue of the College Planning & Management is once again focused on sustainability this year and provides a wealth of information and examples on green building and sustainable campus planning.

Topics covered include education for sustainability at UC San Diego (“Learning Green” by Rex Graham); repurposed materials for buildings at Johnson State College (“A New Use for Old Wood Bleachers” by Tonya West); and green IT at campuses across the country (“IT Is Easy Being Green” by Rhonda Morin).

Tony Cortese and I also had the opportunity to submit an article titled “The Commitment to Change” on the importance of leadership from senior administrators (in addition to all of the tremendous and necessary leadership from students, faculty, and staff) in really embedding a sustainability perspective into the culture of the institution.

In it we discuss how the 675 (now 684) signatory presidents of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment are demonstrating the leadership-by-example needed on the institutional level, but also for the higher education sector as whole, to create a low-carbon, sustainable future.  We stress the importance of continued active involvement and leadership by presidents and other senior administrators after the piece of paper is signed.  Last year, members of the ACUPCC Steering Committee developed a document called Leading Profound Change to lays out strategies and examples for doing just that.  Finally, we touch on how the ACUPCC, while nominally focused on the challenge of climate disruption, inevitably brings institutions to confront the broader and inter-related sustainability challenges – and how higher education’s leadership is vital to creating a healthy, just, and sustainable society.

It is great to see the focus on sustainability continue to grow in these types of professional periodicals.  Of course, we’re still working towards the day when we won’t need ‘green issues’ because planning, management, and professional development will have a sustainability perspective as a matter of course, but these are important and forward-looking steps towards that day.  To stay up to date on the latest news and resources on campus green building, visit the new Campus Green Builder web-portal developed by Second Nature: www.campusgreenbuilder.org.

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by Georges Dyer, Second Nature

Georges DyerYesterday I was up at Phillips Exeter Academy talking to a group of ‘e-proctors’ – sustainability champions in each dorm who help green initiatives run smoothly from ensuring dorm-mates put materials in the proper recycling bin to getting the word out about visiting lectures and campus-wide events.

Most were juniors (“uppers” in Exeter-speak) and seniors with sights set on college – still, it was a bit surprising (and very exciting) to see so many high school kids engaged and enthusiastic about hearing the story of Second Nature and the status of education for sustainability in higher education.

Photo by Dr. James Garner Williams

They had great questions, and some of the seniors made it clear that they questioned their prospective colleges’ commitments to sustainability at every step of the admissions process – a powerful way to send the signal that this critical issue for incoming students (Princeton Review found this was the case for a good two-thirds of applicants and parents in 2009).

Jennifer Wilhelm, the Sustainability Education Coordinator, who has been doing a great job accelerating progress toward sustainability on campus, gave me a quick rundown of all of the things they’ve been doing – completing a campus sustainability audit, working on the greenhouse gas emissions inventory, signing the Green Schools Alliance Climate Commitment, teaching a senior seminar on sustainability, piloting a sustainability assessment program, and much more.

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by Georges Dyer, Second Nature

Georges Dyer

Bowdoin is gearing up for Climate Days – a series of lectures, art installations, and performances that will engage the entire campus community in the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bowdoin College - Carbon Neutral by 2020

Bowdoin has submitted its climate action plan to the ACUPCC and is aiming to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 through a combination of on-site reduction, supporting grid improvements, addressing commuting and investing in renewable energy credits and offsets appropriately.

Any institution addressing climate disruption, and proactively driving innovative solutions, will need input and cooperation across departments and groups, and Bowdoin is certainly taking this approach, as the Climate Days news release explains:

Climate Days, an ongoing interdisciplinary effort, are sponsored by an array of groups, including the President’s Climate Commitment Advisory Committee, Africana Studies, Arctic Studies, Athletics, Bowdoin Architecture and Design Association, Coastal Studies Center, Common Hour, English Department, Environmental Studies, Evergreens, Gender and Women’s Studies, Green Global Initiatives, History Department, McKeen Center for the Common Good, Music Department, Santagata Lecture Series and Sustainable Bowdoin.

Bowdoin also has a new blog – Global Change: Intersection of Nature and Culture – written by Philip Camill, Rusack Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Bowdoin.  Camill plans to “analyze environmental change by focusing on the interaction between nature and culture, showcasing big ideas from all disciplines,” – and he’s off to a great start, covering topics of climate disruption, climate denial, communications, food security, environmental literacy and much more.

The Climate Days initiative, the Global Change blog, the climate action plan, the recent Sustainability Institute Bowdoin students helped organize – taken all together, these steps demonstrate what a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to sustainability Bowdoin is taking, and you can get a sense of the excitement it is generating on campus, just from reading about it.

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by Georges Dyer, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Georges DyerThe Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) is the most recent member of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) network.

This video shows MATC instructor and Green Energy Summit Chairperson Dr. George Stone introducing MATC President Dr. Michael L. Burke, who signs the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment on March 24, 2010:

The depth of MATC’s commitment and seriously with which they enter into this network are clear from level of engagement of faculty, administrators, and trustees in the decision-making process.  It’s also clear from the investments they’ve already planned.

MATC has partnered with Johnson Controls (an ACUPCC sponsor) to develop the state’s largest PV solar array – a $6.9 million “solar education farm” that will help train technicians.  The 2,500 panels will general 411 kw of electricity and save $70,000 per year.  It will also be total portable.

This is a great demonstration of leadership by President Burke and the entire MATC community -congratulations and welcome to the ACUPCC network!

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by Georges Dyer, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Georges DyerOver the past 20 years as nations, communities, businesses, schools, non-profits, and individuals have searched for innovative and effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – in attempts to minimize the negative impacts of climate disruptions – one of the most controversial methods to emerge has been carbon offsetting.

Most of us are familiar with the concept at this point – an organization pays for offset credits that can count against their own emissions inventory that they can’t or won’t avoid at that time for whatever reason.  The credits are generated from projects that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions elsewhere.   Project types run the gambit from energy efficiency to renewable energy, landfill gas, tree planting, traffic-light optimization, fuel switching, and the list goes on.

At their best, investments in carbon offsets result in real, measurable, verified emissions reductions that would not have happened otherwise, and achieve a greater reduction in tons per dollar than would have occurred by investing in internal carbon reductions.  The emission reductions are permanent, the projects are transparent, raise awareness, and result in ancillary social and environmental benefits without negative side effects, and the credits are not double counted or resold.

At their worst, investments in fraudulent offset projects might generate no emissions reductions, introduce artificial drivers into the market, create confusion, and generate a counter-productive, false sense of satisfaction that dampens ongoing efforts to reduce internal emissions.

There have been scores of excellent efforts to promote offset quality, and to ensure that these investments are as close to their best as possible and never near their worst.  These include the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism, the Gold Standard, the Voluntary Carbon Standard, the Offset Quality Initiative, and many more.  I had the privilege of helping to bring a collective voice from leaders in the higher education community to this work by coordinating the development of the ACUPCC Voluntary Offset Protocol.

Regardless of quality, one thing these investments always do is internalize at least some portion of the true cost of greenhouse gas emissions. I believe this is a value attribute inherent to any offsets.  Sending a price signal – even if self-imposed – to your organization and departments within your organization can be a powerful driver of real emissions reductions.


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by Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

American College & University Presidents' Climate CommitmentThe theme of the recently released American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment 2009 Annual Report carries through in the latest Second Nature article published by Fast Company: Leadership for a Thriving, Sustainable World.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by Second Nature President Anthony Cortese and Senior Fellow Georges Dyer:

“The Copenhagen negotiations in December failed to deliver a concrete, binding international treaty on climate disruption.  The Senate is at an impasse on creating meaningful federal legislation that can sufficiently address the climate challenge while rebuilding a better economy. […] But leadership happens at all levels within organizations and within communities. […] In the case of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, colleges and universities have formed the tip of the spear, forging ahead towards climate neutrality. Through the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) network, 675 institutions have come together pledging to take immediate actions, create longer-term plans, and publicly report their progress toward net-zero emissions.”

Read more about how the US Higher Education sector is leading the way, here.

Second Nature has published four articles as part of Fast Company’s Inspired Ethonomics series:

Higher Education’s Purpose: A Healthy, Just, and Sustainable Society
Making a Sustainability Perspective Second Nature in Education
The Campus as Living Laboratory
Leadership for a Thriving, Sustainable World

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