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By Jairo Garcia, Kresge Implementation Fellow, Second Nature (This article appears in the February, 2013 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerMy name is Jairo Garcia and I am thrilled to be part of the Second Nature team as the ACUPCC Implementation Fellow. My primary responsibilities are to assist and support Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Under-Resourced Institutions (URIs) signatories of the ACUPCC to advance your institution’s commitment to carbon neutrality, implement sustainability practices in curricular initiatives and support your community partnerships. Also joining the Second Nature team is Axum Teferra. Axum is the ACUPCC Recruitment Fellow, and will be sharing responsibilities in providing implementation support. Our positions were made possible by The Kresge Foundation through Second Nature’s “Sustainability Leadership, Capacity Building and Diversity Initiative”.

I would like to share my journey that has led to my passion for education for sustainability. I grew up in an garciaeconomically challenged neighborhood in Bogota, Colombia, surrounded by drug dealers and violence. I vividly remember the sole tree almost a mile from my house and the Bogota River, infamously recognized for being one of the most polluted rivers in the world. These were my only two contacts with nature in the middle of Bogota’s ever-expanding urban metropolis. To escape from the glooms of my reality, I submerged myself in books and dreamed about a better world where we all could live and prosper with dignity and in harmony with nature. 

My family had little opportunity to finish high school, much less college, and perhaps this was the reason for not being supportive when I told them about my desire to study physics after being accepted at the National University in Colombia. They believed that physics was a futile profession and our economic situation was too precarious to pursue years of study. My only option at that time was to enroll in a technical institute. After obtaining a technical degree, I was able to find a full-time job and make enough money to help my family and to enroll in a big university to further my education in engineering.

My graduation thesis at the technical institute received prestigious recognitions and after completing my engineering degree, I was offered the opportunity to work for a Colombian company in New York City. To obtain USA professional credentials, I pursued in evenings a Telecommunications Certification program at La Guardia Community College. This program allowed me to find a job with a multinational organization in the heart of Manhattan. A few years later, I completed a Master’s in Network Management from Syracuse University. In 2000, I moved to Atlanta, GA for a consulting position with a Fortune 100 company. For almost a decade, I worked as an engineering consultant, managing projects in more than 25 countries.

It was through these numerous travels that I came to the realization that environmental degradation is not limited to Bogota or New York, but it is evident across the globe; polluted air, rivers, and oceans, species pushed to extinction, thousands of acres of land turned into deserts, and noticeable extreme poverty even in the wealthiest countries. The breaking point occurred while visiting a beverage plant in Lima, Peru. Their installation, protected by guards in military uniforms with machine guns, was located next to a waterless river packed with garbage. The closeness of that beverage plant to a dry river was a surreal image that brought flashbacks from my childhood and changed my mind forever. I decided to become part of the solution by dedicating my professional efforts to making contributions for the construction of a just and sustainable society.

During this time I was pursuing a doctorate in technology, but after my trip to Peru, I switched my topic to sustainability in higher education. My focus was on universities in Costa Rica because of their leading role in sustainability education in developing countries. As a byproduct of my research, I was able to create awareness at many universities in Costa Rica about the critical need to prioritize resources for sustainability in education. I was able to present the results of my research at the AASHE Annual Conference in 2010.

Although sustainability should be taught at all levels of education, the critical condition of our planet requires immediate action. Higher education institutions are in a privileged position because of their intrinsic function to form our next generation of scientists, educators, and decision makers. As such, these institutions play a fundamental role in changing our path from degradation to a sustainable future, in which all humans should be able to live and prosper in harmony with each other and with the rest of the natural world; however, this education must be carefully designed. David Orr, distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, stated that without significant precaution, “education can equip people merely to be more effective vandals of the earth”. This education, according to Orr, must include principles of social-economic and environmental values and ethics, “a commitment for the preservation of life and an attachment to health, harmony, balance, diversity, peace, participation, and justice”.

My passion for sustainability in education lead me to the Earth Institute at Columbia University as a Research Intern Associate. One of my functions was to assist the Institute in the development of curricula in the areas of sustainability metrics and climate change adaptation. I also completed a Masters of Science degree in Sustainability Management, served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Student Association, was employed as a teaching assistant for two Earth Institute graduate classes, was co-founder and special advisor for the Columbia University Coalition for Sustainable Development, collaborated in the organization of the New York+20 conference, and worked closely with Earth Charter International, for which I presented a webinar about sustainability education and the ethics of sustainability.

Last year, I was the recipient of the Columbia University Innovation Scholarship Award, which is awarded only to those who have demonstrated a commitment “to transform knowledge and understanding in service of the greater good, defined as a just, sustainable, and compassionate global society”.

It is clear to me, that this professional journey could not have been possible without the support of those small and under-resourced institutions that helped me in the moments when I needed them the most. I truly feel a moral obligation to give back to them. Thanks to the Kresge Foundation grant, the Recruitment Fellow and I will be able to fully dedicate our time in providing capacity building opportunities and implementation guidance to these institutions in their efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. We will also be able to assist these institutions with implementing programs in sustainability in order to provide their students with the tools, knowledge, and ethics necessary to construct a just and sustainable future for all.

Please feel free to contact me at any time at jgarcia@secondnature.org.

 

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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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Happy New Year! We’re thrilled to kick off 2012 with the newly redesigned Resources & Support section of the ACUPCC website. Watch the video below for a quick tour, then visit the website to browse the resources in a new, user-friendly way.

ACUPCC resources are always free for signatories of the commitment.

Send your feedback, suggestions, and comments to rmulla@secondnature.org.

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Share Your Stories

In celebration of Campus Sustainability Day we invite you to share your responses to our event  – Campus Conversations – by posting your feedback, comments, stories, and ideas on the conversation topic – sustainability in admissions, retention, and educational value.

Watch the Campus Sustainability Day Webcast
A Useful Education: Sustainability in Admissions, Retention, and Educational Value 

Participate in an interactive video conversation
Ask a question of one of our Campus Sustainability Day participants

Share Your Thoughts and Stories
In a time of increasing focus on the value and use of a college education, how are sustainability and climate programs offering prospective students and their families, as well as enrolled students, the opportunity to engage in a useful, innovative, and valued educational experience? Sustainability programs, and curricular opportunities, offer a variety of ways for students to engage in transforming their campus and learning about their world, society, and place in it.

Do these opportunities make for a more engaged student body?  Do they attract students to a university?

Do you think that students at your campus are interested in sustainability as part of their education, and are prospective students going to be looking for sustainability when they visit campus?

Share your thoughts!

Leave a comment with your name and institution below.

If you haven’t already, visit the Campus Conversations website for more information.

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As we launch the second phase of our effort to advance the capacity of minority-serving and under-served institutions to commit to sustainability, we’re looking for an exceptional individual to come on board as our Program Associate.

Do you know someone whose education and experience fit the bill? Please refer them to the position announcement on our website and have them email us at careers@secondnature.org. Applications will be accepted through September 16.

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By Nick Braica, Communications Intern, Second Nature

Coming in February, Carbon Nation is “a climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” The documentary explores the impact that climate change has on other social, economic, and national security issues, even if you refuse to believe that climate change is something to be concerned about. Carbon Nation also features former CIA director and 2010 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit keynote speaker James Woolsey discussing how our nation’s addiction to oil and how it is threatening our national security.

Visit the official movie website at CarbonNation.com to support and learn more about the film.

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By Kent Anson, Vice President of Energy Solutions, Honeywell
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

Although battery-powered cars and green fuel tend to dominate the headlines, one of the largest targets for meaningful conservation is sitting right in schools’ backyards. Literally.

Across the globe, buildings account for nearly 40 percent of all energy and 70 percent of electricity use. With more than 4,000 campuses in the United States, colleges and universities are well positioned to have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions simply by making their facilities more energy efficient and sustainable.

However, with rising energy costs, tight operating budgets and increasing competitive pressures, finding the resources to implement the necessary changes has been a challenge for administrators.

If there is a choice between a state-of-the-art science lab and making energy-efficient upgrades, for example, the new facility usually wins. Financing tools like energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) give schools the opportunity to do both, which adds to their long-term sustainability.

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