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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the October-November 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo Credit: Wrexie Bardaglio

Student Divestment Movement at Cornell and IC Heats Up

By K.C. Alvey, TCCPI Assistant Coordinator and 350.0rg Field Organizer

As part of a national 20-city tour called “Do the Math,” Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and other well-known speakers have hit the road this fall to call attention to what McKibben calls “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” As McKibben wrote in his now famous Rolling Stone article this past July, the fossil fuel industry currently has 2,795 gigatons of carbon in proven coal, oil, and gas reserves, five times more than the maximum 565 gigatons the world can emit and keep warming below 2°C, a target scientists widely agree is necessary to prevent runaway climate change.

Cornell students call on the university to divest from fossil fuels.
Photo Credit: K.C. Alvey

In the lead-up to “Do the Math,” students across the country launched fossil fuel divestment campaigns at over 30 college campuses, taking campus sustainability to the next level. Here

in Tompkins County, Cornell University and Ithaca College students are joining the movement to leverage nearly $400 billion in university endowments across the country to take on the climate crisis. As part of a national movement, students are calling for trustees and administrators to commit to 100 percent divestment from the fossil fuel industry and to reinvest these funds in sustainable, socially responsible investments.

At At both Cornell and Ithaca College, student groups have been working hard this fall to build student support and raise awareness about this important campaign. Through teach-ins, petitioning, social media, letters to the editor, and actions at their respective board of trustees meetings, students are making the moral urgency of this campaign clear.

Cornell’s student group KyotoNOW is calling for 100 percent fossil fuel divestment for the university’s $5 billion endowment by 2020. According to Madeline Tingle, Cornell ’16, “It is critical that the trustees begin this transition to more responsible investments now to maintain the endowment’s long-term financial sustainability and to reflect Cornell’s commitments to carbon neutrality.” She observed that the endowment is intended to provide support for the university’s educational mission, which includes public service and responsible stewardship.

With an endowment of over $200 million, Ithaca College’s Environmental Leadership & Actions Network has set a goal of complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry by 2015, full transparency regarding IC’s endowment and investments, and the creation of a task force to monitor socially responsible investment. Jessie Braverman, Ithaca College ’16 said that she felt “confident that we can change the world, starting with this crucial step of influencing Ithaca College and other schools across the country to divest from fossil fuels.”

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By Kate Gordon, Director of Advanced Energy & Sustainability at the Center for the Next Generation, and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
(This article appears in the October, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerI’ve spent many years making the case that transitioning to a greener, more advanced energy economy will create jobs, spur economic growth and put America on a path toward global technological leadership. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ve placed too much emphasis on the stuff side of this equation—the need for investment in the products that make up the greener economy, like the wind farms, smart grid systems and efficient cars—and not enough on the people side—the high-quality workforce that can actually dream up, make, and install all that stuff. What does America need provided in advanced education, experience, and skills in order to prepare a workforce of students to meet the needs of the new green economy?

My colleague, Ann O’Leary, tends to focus her work on people more than on stuff, and she knows well that education and training are absolutely fundamental to any strategy for economic growth.  She has a new report out, jointly produced and co-authored by The Center for the Next Generation and the Center for American Progress (CAP), showing that our primary international competitors, China and India, are gearing up to seize a larger share of the future economy through greater investments in education. That report, “The Competition That Really Matters,” compares U.S., Chinese and Indian investments in the next-generation workforce. The research shows that a highly ambitious commitment to education is the heart of economic revitalization in China and India, leading them to expand the number of children enrolled at all levels of the education system, producing up to five times as many college graduates each year.

Meanwhile, approximately 44 percent of American workers do not have any education beyond high school. By 2018, only 36 percent of jobs will be open to workers with a high school diploma, while 63 percent will require at least some form of post-secondary education. The math is simple. At this pace, we will fall well behind the competition—and forfeit lucrative jobs in the process.  What does this mean? Americans run the risk of consigning another generation to low-skill, low-wage jobs—and higher rates of poverty.

Given these sobering results, Ann and her co-authors, Donna Cooper and Adam Hersh, argue that the American education system needs a shot in the arm. They contend that we need to make human capital investments, especially in young people—and that investing in education will yield the highest rate of return.

I think they’re right, but I also think that for a green economy, we need to go a step further.

The emerging advanced energy economy worldwide is already creating millions of jobs and generating trillions of dollars in economic activity. These jobs run the gamut — research and development, engineering, architecture, advanced manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance. They provide well-paid opportunities for low-, middle- and high-skill workers.

Figure 1: From “Preparing America’s Workforce for Jobs in the Green Economy: A Case for Technical Literacy”, Center for American Progress April 2011

But is the American higher education system educating and training Americans to be able to access these jobs?  Talk to employers across the advanced energy spectrum, and they’ll tell you we don’t have a workforce capable of matching job needs, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, which comprise nearly half of the new energy economy. Not only do we need to provide better access to educate our children, we need to better prepare our future workforce for highly technical and skill-based jobs in the emerging energy sector.

In the past, we’ve addressed this issue in large part by splitting up our educational goals and our workforce training goals.  Different federal agencies work on K-12 education (Department of Education) and on training programs for specific industries and occupations (Department of Labor).  In the schools that have tried to incorporate both, we’ve too often seen a split between the “academic” tracks and the “vocational” tracks, forcing students to choose between hands-on careers and academic studies even before they’ve had a chance to show their own particular interests or potential.

There has to be a better way.  We need our graduates with skills to become journeyman electricians installing large solar arrays as well as with the intellectual tools for a career as a Ph.D. engineer designing new and more efficient future projects.

My former CAP colleagues, Louis Soares and Stephen Stiegleder, and I call this foundational knowledge “technical literacy,” and we talk about how to get there in a new paper for the green economy symposium of the Duke Forum for Law & Social Change.  “Preparing America’s Workforce for Jobs in the Green Economy: A Case for Technical Literacy” argues that the clean energy revolution will be more capital and labor intensive than the high-tech or biotech revolutions. It will also require more workers, nearly half of whom will need technical skills in traditionally “middle-skill” jobs like construction, and manufacturing.

This vision of a more technically literate workforce requires that all students get an education that is both academic and practical.  If campuses are concerned about providing a “sustainable” education, their curriculum must reflect the economic changes forecasted to our jobs and necessary skill-set. Higher education has begun the transformation (and comingling) of campus and curriculum to create  “living laboratories” to address these needs, investing student time into campus energy projects such as designing solar arrays for residential buildings, and assessing the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies.

But these programs take time to implement, and require a re-thinking of faculty time, classroom learning objectives, and campus planning.  Are campuses doing enough to prepare students with these opportunities?

Moreover, while individual campuses may be pursuing solutions, what about the big picture for American education?  Is the current system flexible enough to accommodate the needs of our students and workers? The two primary federal programs aimed at providing technical workforce training are underfunded and short-sighted; and public and private workforce training schemes are disjointed.

The key to creating a more coherent post-secondary education system that delivers technical literacy is for business and education leaders to leverage their knowledge of labor markets, skills and pedagogy to build new curriculum and instructional models.

Community colleges, situated as they are at the crossroads of higher education and workforce training, are an ideal starting point. The Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) and the Greenforce Initiative, as well as the Sustainability Education and Economic Development (SEED) Center, provide excellent examples of their successful programs.  Other initiatives have been successful in creating partnerships which link community needs with educational output, including the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), which links local colleges, school districts, and community partners together in join climate-action initiatives which provide ample opportunity for hands-on skill (and leadership) development for students.

Beyond them, my co-authors and I recommend two approaches to promote and expand innovative community-college–industry partnerships. The first is to use existing federal, state and local funds to promote innovation and use more research to identify best practices. The second is to use these partnerships for large-scale experiments, supported by a federal grant program, to demonstrate that they’re achievable.

Campuses with living laboratory and community or corporate partnerships are ahead of the curve.  Those already preparing students for a changing economy will remain competitive in the coming years, as the foundation of American education is changed by increasingly unsustainable financial obligations and demand for appropriate skills and education.   But for these efforts to translate into real jobs for America’s next generation, our national policymakers need to make a clear commitment to a more advanced and sustainable energy future and a skilled workforce to maintain it. Otherwise, we will risk putting training dollars into ossified programs that will prepare workers for jobs that simply do not exist.

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About The Center for the Next Generation: The Center for the Next Generation works to shape national dialogue around two major challenges that affect the prospects of America’s Next Generation – advancing a sustainable energy future and improving opportunities for children and families. As a nonpartisan organization, the Center generates original strategies that advance these goals through research, policy development and strategic communications. In our home state of California, the Center works to create ground-tested solutions that demonstrate success to the rest of the nation.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the June-July 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo credit: MJM Creative Commons.

Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Heats Up

Karim Beers took over direction of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins (GYGBT) last month and hit the ground running, making sure that the county’s energy saving campaign did not miss a beat. Karim just received his masters degree in regional planning at Cornell University and brings with him a wealth of experience in education, community development, and planning. He has coordinated community education programs in Columbia and Spain, and taught social studies in the Philadelphia public school system.

Karim Beers

Karim Beers

As the campaign coordinator for GYGBT, Beers has laid out ambitious plans to inspire community members to take steps to save energy and money in the areas of food, building heat and lighting, transportation, and waster. Having started out with transportation as the focus in May, GYGBT declared June as “Waste Reduction Month” and the “Step of the Month” is to Buy Used.

Over a dozen stores around the county have joined the “Second Hand Saves” campaign by offering special discounts and raffle prizes to customers who shop second hand in the month of June. “Second hand shopping makes sense for your pocketbook and the planet,” Karim points out. “Used goods can be purchased at a fraction of the price of new items because the cost no longer includes production and long-distance shipping.”

Buying used goods reduces the need to use natural resources and keeps items out of the landfills. According to the Finger Lakes ReUse Center in the Triphammer Mall, 90 percent of what we throw away can be reused.

The Finger Lakes ReUse Center opened in 1995. Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Reuse Center.

Another advantage of second hand shopping, Beers notes, is that it keeps money in the local economy. Almost all reuse and resale shops are locally owned and provide jobs in their communities. Mama Goose, a second hand children’s clothing store located in Ithaca’s West End, reports that $84 out of every $100 spent at their store stays local.

Reuse also helps to support a number of not-for-profit service organizations. SewGreen, which runs a reuse sewing store in downtown Ithaca, is a perfect example. The store’s proceeds help support a free teen apprenticeship program and job training for lower income and at-risk youth.

For more information on Second Hand Saves and other energy and money saving ideas, go to getyourgreenback.org.

Student Energy Corps Hits the Streets for 4th Summer

Tompkins County Energy Conservation Corps (TECC) has just entered its fourth summer of promoting home energy efficiency upgrades across the county. Led by recent Cornell graduates and community energy educators Shawn Lindabury and Dana Hills, the Energy Corps program has demonstrated the enormous potential of energy efficiency to create lasting jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide savings to homeowners.

According to “Upgrade Upstate,” New Yorkers spend on average $2,600 per year for home heating, electricity, and hot water. By upgrading their homes, households can save between 20 and 60% – up to $1,500 a year.

TCCPI worked closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County to launch the Energy Corps, which consists primarily of students from Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Energy Corps offers outreach programs to help residents take advantage of incentive programs and provides personalized support to help people make upgrades.

The Tompkins Energy Corps has raised the awareness of county residents about the importance of home energy efficiency. Photo credit: Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Initially, Energy Corps focused on creating a network of 125 community leaders who understood the benefits of energy efficiency, starting with their own homes. In 2010, the Energy Corps shifted its focus to on door-to-door CFL distribution programs, including “Lighten Up Tompkins” (fall 2010) and “Lighten Up Ithaca” (fall 2011). Together 900 volunteers from Cornell University distributed 17,000 energy saving bags to residents throughout Tompkins County, the largest CFL distributions in New York State history.

Most recently, the Energy Corps has developed innovative community education programs, including social marketing initiatives with the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins campaigns, giving community presentations, collecting video testimonials, organizing Energy Teams, and hosting “Tighten Up” events, in which neighbors share information about energy upgrades over potluck dinners.

Rather than focusing on negative messaging about the threat of climate change, the Energy Corps has tapped into the positive aspects of energy efficiency such as strengthening community, saving money, making homes more comfortable, and supporting a local green economy, in order to inspire community-wide action. Energy Corps also guides community members through the energy upgrade process and acts as neutral third party between customers and energy contractors.

Over the past few years, the Energy Corps has trained more than 60 student interns, providing them with valuable leadership skills and practical experience in home energy efficiency that lead to good jobs after graduation. As Energy Corps coordinator, Dana Hills explains, “Not only have we impacted Tompkins County residents, but students from nearby schools have become an integral part of the county’s energy and economic future.”

For more information about getting a low-cost energy assessment, please visit: http://www.upgradeupstate.org/home

To learn more about the Tompkins Energy Corps, please visit: http://ccetompkins.org/energy/programs-workshops/energycorps.

K.C. Alvey, Assistant Coordinator, TCCPI

One Last Thing

This month’s reports on Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and the Tompkins County Energy Corps underscore the strength of the collaboration between our campuses and the larger community in building a more resilient infrastructure for all county residents. Given the degree of adaptation likely to be required in the years ahead as global warming accelerates and our energy system shifts, this ongoing work is critical.

A recent article in a United Nations University publication, “Universities Co-Creating Urban Sustainability,” examines how higher education institutions are collaborating “with diverse social actors to trigger and then drive the sustainable transformation of a specific region, city or community.” It highlights 13 different initiatives along these lines from around the world, including TCCPI, that are “driving the transition to more resilient and environmentally sustainable towns and cities.”

TCCPI received additional recognition at this year’s American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick and I had the opportunity to participate in a luncheon panel discussion on “Uniting Higher Education and Communities for a Sustainable Future.” It was a lively discussion and, based on the number of questions from the audience of presidents and other senior higher education leaders as well as interested individuals who approached us afterwards, there is increasing recognition of how working together can help us move beyond the constraints of the traditional town-gown paradigm.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the April – May 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

NY Students Rally in Albany for a Clean Energy Economy

Young people from around New York state headed to the Capitol at the end of April to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and lead the state toward a clean energy economy.

The Green Umbrella, a network of high school and college students fighting climate change, held a conference in Albany over the weekend of April 27-29. Speakers at Power Shift NY included Bill McKibben, Josh Fox, Sandra Steingraber, and Dominic Frongillo.

On Monday morning, the students gathered on the banks of the Hudson River at Albany’s Corning Preserve and then marched to the Capitol. Along the way, they engaged in some attention-grabbing street theater, including a mock “wedding” between gas companies and politicians.

Green Umbrella students at Power Shift NY in Albany on April 30.
Photo credit: Energy Action Coalition.

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By Georges Dyer, Vice President, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer and originally appeared in The New England Journal of Higher Education on May 21, 2012 )

The ACUPCC

Preparedness. Opportunity. Innovation. These words capture the essence of higher education’s critical role in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society. Leaders in higher education are standing up to the greatest challenge of our time by providing education for sustainability and preparing graduates to create a sustainable economy. They are providing the opportunity for more students to access higher education by reigning in costs through energy efficiency and smart building. And by demonstrating sustainability solutions on campus, through research, and in partnership with local communities, they are driving the innovation needed for a true and lasting economic recovery.

Five years ago, a small group of visionary college and university presidents gathered to initiate the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to make a significant commitment to climate and sustainability action for the sake of their students and society.

As the ACUPCC celebrates its fifth anniversary, 677 colleges and universities are currently active members of this dynamic network, representing more than one-third of U.S. college and university students. These institutions across the country have completed hundreds of projects to reduce energy use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money in the process—demonstrating powerful and necessary leadership-by-example for the rest of society.

At the same time, higher education is in crisis. Challenges of accountability, affordability, workforce preparation and relevance are sweeping the sector. The volatile global economy remains unpredictable, with ramifications for every campus. And despite our best efforts, the climate issue becomes more daunting daily.

This month, presidents, provosts and business officers will gather at American University in Washington D.C. for the 5th Anniversary ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit. The summit will directly respond to these challenges with a theme of Economic Renewal: Jump-Starting a Sustainable Economy Through the ACUPCC.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the February – March 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Community Coalition Launches Energy Savings Campaign

A coalition of over 70 local organizations officially kicked off the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins” campaign at a public launch party on February 29 at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, NY. The campaign aims to inspire all 42,000 households and every business in Tompkins County to take at least one new energy and money-saving step in their transportation, energy, waste, and food choices in the next year, saving money, creating jobs, and bringing the county closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Get Your GreenBack Launch Party- Photo Credit: Vanessa Dunn

Since late October, with the help of 600 Cornell students and other community volunteers, the campaign has distributed 12,000 compact florescent light bulbs and information packets that outline ways to save money on energy across four sectors: energy efficiency, transportation, food, and waste. Also included was an application for a home energy assessment worth over $400.

According to Mike Koplinka-Loehr, co-coordinator of the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins” campaign, the replacement of incandescent bulbs with the 12,000 CFLs would represent a savings of about $589,000 and a reduction in carbon emissions equal to taking 553 cars off the road.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the January 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Ithaca Companies to Pioneer Deep Home Energy Savings

Two TCCPI members, Taitem Engineering and Snug Planet, have been awarded a $300,000 contract by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The Ithaca-based companies will seek to examine and test technologies to dramatically improve the energy performance of existing homes.

Uninsulated walls through a thermal imaging camera. Photo credit: Snug Planet.

The contract is based on the “deep energy retrofit” approach.  Deep energy retrofits involve adding a layer of rigid insulation or spray foam to a home’s exterior walls to reduce air leakage and heat loss. Attics and basements are also sealed and insulated to levels well above building code. New windows may be installed, and heating, ventilation, and hot water systems may be upgraded.

Deep energy retrofit pilot projects in New York and other Northeastern states have reduced heating energy use by 60 to 75%. The cost of the work, however, remains a barrier for many homeowners. Adding exterior foam insulation to walls, which also requires replacing siding and modifying window and door trim, is typically the most expensive part of a deep energy retrofit. The team will seek ways to reduce this cost using products from Dow Building Solutions, including insulation board, tapes, and flashing systems.

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