Portland schools tried to change how they teach climate change — and ignited a firestorm

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

This winter, a small group of advocates, teachers, parents and students began meeting each week at a church in Portland, Ore., to figure out how their schools could do a better job of preparing the next generation to fight climate change.

Together, they wrote a resolution that, with some changes, was unanimously adopted by the Portland Public School Board on May 17. The district, the board resolved, “will abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.”

But a few days after the vote, the story took on a life of its own, mostly outside Portland: Some websites called the move a “ban” on specific books, while another claimed that the district would scan its libraries and remove all books that weren’t up to snuff. One of the advocates fielded emails calling him an “idiot” and a “d-bag.”

Paducah Students Turn Water Conservation into Art

Read the full story at WKMS.

A local conservation organization is putting an artistic spin on sustainable water practices. The Jackson Purchase Foundation partnered with the City of Paducah, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, and students at Paducah Tilghman High School to implement Water Smarter! The Artistic Rain Barrel Partnership Project. The students designed and painted rain barrels that will be auctioned off tonight at the Clemens Fine Arts Center.

Exploring Energy Efficiency: A Multi-Sector Survey on Energy Efficiency Tracking Platforms

Download the document.

As inclusion of greater sustainability practices and operational policies to reduce  energy use takes root in buildings and campuses across the country, there is a growing need to better track, manage, and share the results that these projects produce. Numerous platforms and tools exist to help organizations across all sectors accomplish these goals, but there is little information examining what users prioritize and what platforms provide them across different sectors. To that end, the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) sought to study how various organizations track their energy efficiency projects by conducting a multi-sector survey to assess the benefits and weaknesses of energy efficiency platforms.
SEI developed this brief report to encourage stakeholders to evaluate their own institution’s needs as well as compare against peers in their own field. By examining the five different sectors of healthcare, higher education, K-12 school systems, municipalities, and corporations, SEI sought to examine the overarching commonalities for organizations appearing to prioritize reducing energy use, reducing operational costs, and more closely aligning with institutional environmental and carbon reduction goals.

The University of Michigan shows how “green” blue can be

Read the full interview at MLive.

With growing scientific concern over rising global temperatures, Michiganders can take pride in knowing institutions within their own state are working toward greater sustainability. The University of Michigan is one of the nation’s leaders evolving into a sustainable campus for the future. After a 100 million dollar investment, U of M received a gold star rating from the Association for Advancement in Sustainability in Higher Education.

The university recently released its Sustainability Progress Report for 2015.

To learn more about the university’s environmental achievements and goals, the Greening of the Great Lakes host, Kirk Heinze, speaks with Drew Horning, who works to promote sustainability on campus. Horning is deputy director and chief of staff at the Graham Sustainability Institute at U of M. He explains how the institution can attribute its success in sustainability to the M Planet Blue initiative.

Funding Opportunity for the 2016-2017 Tribal ecoAmbassadors Grant Program

Due date: Jun 17, 2016
View the full RFP here.

The purpose of EPA’s Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program is to support environmental projects at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and partner the TCU participants of these projects with EPA scientists to study the environmental problems most important to the participating TCUs’ tribal communities. The focus of these projects may include, but are not limited to climate change, environmental health, traditional ecological knowledge, environmental sustainability, ecological adaptation, bio-diversity, and/or pollution. TCU applicants apply to this program for funding to support these student operated environmental projects.

Webinar: Making Climate Change Communication Stick with Framing

Monday, May 2nd at 6:30 pm CDT
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/123672342419364097

Have you ever wondered what would be the best way to talk about climate change? Have you felt unsure if your message is clear and connects to your students or audiences? If so, then this webinar is for you! Effectively communicating complex issues involves sound science and an element of artistry. The FrameWorks Institute interviewed over 18,000 Americans and conducted multiple experiments on the topic of communicating climate chanage to identify the “frames” or messaging strategies, which are most likely to help the public understand that:

  • fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change
  • our ocean is part of the climate change story
  • we need alternative energy solutions at the community-based level
  • these are all issues that we can and should tackle

Find out how you can use these simple, clear, and effective messages to communicate climate change in your classroom and beyond.

EPA Honors Winners of 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the winners of its fourth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a design competition created to engage college and university students in reinventing our nation’s water infrastructure and developing green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Student teams proposed innovative green infrastructure designs help aid in the development of more sustainable communities.

Stormwater is one of the nation’s most widespread challenges to water quality. Large volumes of stormwater pollute our nation’s streams, rivers and lakes, posing a threat to human health and the environment and contribute to downstream flooding. The Campus RainWorks Challenge engages students and faculty members at colleges and universities to apply green infrastructure principles and design, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on campuses across the nation.

“Our Campus RainWorks Challenge winners inspire the next generation of green infrastructure designers and planners,” said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “All the submissions included innovative approaches to stormwater management. I want to congratulate the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Maryland for their winning submissions.” Mr. Beauvais announced the winners of the Challenge at an event at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday, April 21.

EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories — the Master Plan category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a broad area of a school’s campus, and the Demonstration Project category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a particular site on the team’s campus. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students, working with a faculty advisor, developed innovative green infrastructure designs in one of the categories, showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.

The 2015 challenge winners are:

University of Texas at Arlington (1st Place, Master Plan category) – The team’s design concept, titled, “Eco-Flow: A Water-Sensitive Placemaking Response to Climate Change,” transforms the campus through green infrastructure placed in relation to the natural water flow of Trading House Creek. The creek flows from northwest to south connecting the campus. The plan proposes to increase biodiversity, restore soil quality and watershed hydrology, and implement photovoltaic cells to supply alternative energy. The plan has the potential to reduce stormwater runoff 25 inches annually, generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours each year, increase campus tree coverage 89 percent, and mitigate 5,000 tons of CO2.

University of Maryland, College Park (1st Place, Demonstration Project category) – The design is centered on reimagining a major, five-acre parking lot to retrofit it for improved stormwater management. The design features reduce 40 percent of impervious surface; add over 17,000 square feet of new vegetation space, 56 new trees for shaded parking spaces, and 8,640 square feet of pedestrian space; and, reduce 12.3 metric tons of CO2 annually. The team’s design has good potential for implementing on other campuses.

Stevens Institute of Technology (2nd Place, Master Plan category) – The team proposed the first stormwater management plan for the Stevens’ campus, “The Living Laboratory.” The design includes 29 green infrastructure techniques, which have been applied to problem areas to reduce runoff, contaminant discharge and potable water usage. The Living Laboratory provides a practical example for urban campus green infrastructure and introduces classroom and community educational opportunities. The team worked with Stevens Facilities and Events Management to ensure the proposed design is aligned with future growth of campus, can be maintained, is aesthetically pleasing and economically responsible.

University of California, Berkeley (2nd Place, Demonstration Project category) – The team chose a creek site on campus that was the university’s first botanical garden with many artificial landscape features that cause drainage problems. While it is home to a legacy of exotic plants, the site lacks habitat conducive to supporting native species and reducing runoff. The team proposes a design that will store 37,000 cubic feet of stormwater runoff, increase pervious surface are by 33 percent and increase native plant species. The design has potential to reduce flooding and restore the ecological diversity of the area.

EPA also recognized teams from the University of Texas at Arlington (Master Plan category) and Northeastern University (Demonstration Project category) as honorable mentions for their entries.

EPA will announce the fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the summer of 2016.

Green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems. Utilizing these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/2015-campus-rainworks-challenge