Request for Comment: AASHE STARS 3.0: Procurement & Waste

As part of the development process for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) 3.0, AASHE is seeking public comment on a Procurement and Waste section slated for inclusion in the new version (projected release is currently fourth quarter of 2023). AASHE encourages feedback from stakeholders who may have relevant expertise or interest in participating. Public comment is open through Oct. 31.

Students protest in climate strike demanding UI fossil fuel divestment

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

Organized by the Students with Environmental Concerns RSO, students converged by Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday as part of a climate strike that aimed to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand that the University divest from its economic holdings in fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy.

Campuses are offering therapy for anxiety over climate change

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

There is a critical need among young people for climate stress counseling services, psychological experts say, especially in university settings. But many therapists and counselors aren’t trained to provide students with this specific type of support, in part because of a lack of research about climate stress as a distinct phenomenon. Still, several universities across the United States are beginning to fill this gap: Some are starting to offer climate stress therapy for students in the form of pilot programs, while others are discussing what might be possible through existing campus counseling services.

Eco-anxiety is commonly used to describe people’s concerns about climate change, but psychologists say it is better to use more general terms such as “climate stress” and “climate distress” — terms that encompass the array of feelings someone may have in response to climate change. Climate stress therapy, experts say, is an effort to validate these emotions, help clients process their responses to climate change and provide coping strategies.

Subsurface Characterization, Monitoring, and Modeling of a Geothermal Exchange Borefield for the Campus Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Download the document.

This report presents the outcome of research in geothermal energy, specifically geothermal exchange, conducted by geologists, hydrogeologists, and engineers at the Illinois State Geological Survey and Illinois Water Resources Center in partnership with engineering faculty and students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (U of I), who are members of the newly-formed Illinois Geothermal Coalition. This effort brought together a multi-disciplinary and multiorganizational team of scientists and engineers who are focused on advancing the application of geothermal energy technologies for district heating and cooling systems that allow energy end users to meet net carbon neutrality, renewable energy, and grid resilience goals.

The research specifically supported the design and operation of a shallow geothermal exchange system for the U of I and its private partners at the Campus Instructional Facility (CIF) that just recently came online in April 2021. As academic campuses aggressively pursue renewable and sustainable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprints and enhance operational resiliency, geothermal energy has increasingly garnered more interest and is considered an uninterruptible source of heating and cooling, offering greater dependability in supplying a constant energy load with the least impact on the energy grid. Geothermal energy is very attractive because of its long-term environmental and economic benefits, especially since heating, cooling, and dehumidification systems in buildings are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and are estimated to consume more than 40% of the nation’s electricity.

At the U of I, the administration and students are pursuing an aggressive strategy to obtain a sustainable campus environment and become carbon neutral by eliminating or offsetting GHG emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050. At the CIF, the goal is to exceed the per-building metrics proposed in the 2020 Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) by connecting the geothermal exchange system with radiant heating and cooling as part of an energy-efficient design that is expected to save ~2,839 million Btu (MMBtu) of energy per year and reduce GHG emissions by >70% compared to similarsized buildings. Nearly 65% of that energy load (~135 tons of heating and cooling capacity) will be supplied by the geothermal exchange system.

Unlike in western regions of the U.S. where hot fluids and steam in volcanic rocks are used to generate electricity or for direct heating, in the Midwest region geothermal energy systems typically use thermal exchange technologies that take advantage of the thermal energy stored in the Earth’s subsurface (typically within the upper 100–150 m [~330–500 ft]). Using geothermal heat pumps, refrigerant fluid or water is circulated through boreholes allowing heat to be absorbed or released to the ground (e.g., Lund 2002). The geothermal exchange system takes advantage of the constant ground temperature throughout the year below depths of ~10 m (~33 feet). The ground temperature below this depth is not impacted by seasonal changes in atmospheric conditions, and thus ground-based heating and cooling systems run more efficiently. Furthermore, geographic areas such as the U.S. Midwest region have a consistently variable climate (e.g., cold winters and hot summers), which can maximize the benefits offered by utilizing the natural thermal energy from the ground.

SIU research team wins $1.33M NSF grant to train sustainability-focused geoscientists

An interdisciplinary research team at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is creating a scholarship program aimed at bringing a sustainability mindset together with science and engineering training to target low-income transfer students who will become the next generation of geoscientists. The team members, left to right, include Justin Schoof, Leslie Duram, Ruopu Li, Harvey Henson, and Wendell Williams. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

Source: Southern Illinois University

by Tim Crosby, Southern Illinois University

Sustainability is for everyone, and a Southern Illinois University Carbondale research team is creating a scholarship program aimed at bringing that mindset together with science and engineering training to target low-income transfer students who will become the next generation of geoscientists.

Led by Ruopu Li, associate professor in the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability, the team has secured a $1.33 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a project “Converging Earth Science and Sustainability Education and Experience to Prepare Next-Generation Geoscientists.” Li and the rest of the team will use the grant to fund Earth-Sustainability Scholarships of up to $10,000 each for at least 40 low-income transfer students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in geography and environmental resources, and geology. The students will also receive research-based support services, and may be eligible to develop their own grant-funded sustainability projects.

“It’s an exciting education research experiment that is expected to support four cohorts of sustainability-minded next-generation geoscientists,” Li said. “If successful, this project may be used as a model for earth science education in the U.S. and the rest of the world.”

The program runs for five years, from this coming January to December 2027.

Leadership for the future

Li said a sustainability-minded STEM workforce is vital for the nation as it attempts to strategically develop natural resources, promote economic growth and make informed decisions in a rapidly changing world.

“Our project will develop an educational pipeline to broaden the participation of low-income students by reducing financial pressure and improving learning opportunities and outcomes at SIU,” Li said. “We also hope it will establish an educational prototype that supports academically talented and low-income transfer students to become sustainability-focused earth science degree graduates.”

Geoscientists will need to apply their knowledge and techniques to solve pressing environmental issues by creating and evaluating various options and approaches, Li said.

“Nowadays, sustainability is often promoted as a strong organizing principle for modern education programs,” Li said. “But historically, there has been a disconnect between sustainability and earth science training in our postsecondary education. That prevents future generations from recognizing the important issues and opportunities with sustainable development and responsible use of natural resources.”

Support services for student success

Students in the program not only will receive significant financial aid, but they also will get strong, structured support services including cohort building, leadership development, multilevel mentoring networks, and research and experiential learning. Such an approach requires all students to pursue problem-based research projects under the supervision of a faculty mentor on sustainability capstone projects, for example.

The program also will allow the SIU team to create a mini-grant program for students, with up to 10 awards to cover costs for creative earth science projects in faculty mentors’ labs each year.

A psychological model geared for success

The team also includes co-principal investigators Harvey Henson, associate professor in the School of Education and the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability; Leslie Duram, professor in the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability, Justin Schoof, professor and director in the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability, and Wendell Williams, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management. The STEM Education Research Center assisted with the grant funding.

The researchers will govern the entire approach using the psychological theory of planned behavior, or TPB. Under this theory, which seeks to link beliefs to behaviors, researchers adopt the view that three core components – positive attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control – largely shape an individual’s intentions and actions in pursuing goals. The researchers will use services and activities associated with TPB’s core components to drive students toward graduation.

Overall, the grant will promote research and teaching excellence as it seeks to bring together social science, Earth science and sustainability as an exemplar for a next-generation science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

SIU poised for success

The project directly supports the university’s strategic plan, Imagine 2030, and its pillars for sustainability and research and innovation. Li said it also provides an important collaborative opportunity for faculty.

Schoof said the interdisciplinary nature of the grant will bring added strength to the project.

“It will bridge faculty from the Geography and Environmental Resources and Geology programs in the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability to work together for better Earth science education, while also increasing overall student enrollment,” he said.

U.S. EPA announces Phase 1 winners of Environmental Justice Video Challenge for Students

U.S. EPA recently announced the Phase 1 winners of the Environmental Justice (EJ) Video Challenge for Students. The challenge is intended to enhance communities’ capacity to address environmental and public health inequities. Its goals are to: 

  1. Inspire students at accredited colleges and universities in the United States and its territories to work directly with communities in the identification and characterization of EJ challenges using data and publicly available tools, and
  2. Help communities (including residents and other stakeholders) address EJ challenges and/or vulnerabilities to environmental and public health hazards using data and publicly available tools. 

In Phase 1 of the competition, students created a video to demonstrate innovative approaches to identify and characterize an EJ issue(s) in a select community using data and publicly available tools.

Phase 2 of the challenge will be open to eligible applicants (with at least one student participating from Phase 1 per team) and is expected to launch in September 2022. Phase 2 will focus on enhancing communities’ capacity to address the EJ issue identified in Phase 1. Students will work collaboratively with community-based organizations to develop a strategy that demonstrates effective community engagement and advocacy and/or a proposal to address the EJ issue.

Watch the winning Phase 1 videos.

City-university partnerships are a win-win. Here’s how they can best work together to fight climate change and adopt new tech.

Read the full story at Business Insider.

When cities work together with local universities, they can achieve more than they could alone. Colleges have knowledge, expertise, and research capabilities to tackle issues like climate change. They also sometimes bring funding to the table, which can help when city budgets are stretched thin.

This article is part of a series focused on American cities building a better tomorrow called “Advancing Cities.”

Has the ‘great resignation’ hit academia?

Read the full story in Nature.

A wave of departures, many of them by mid-career scientists, calls attention to widespread discontent in universities.

USC chemists create greener research labs

Read the full story from the University of Southern California.

Professors are implementing sustainable processes and using equipment that generates less heat — and that’s just the start.

Undergraduates produce usable data for scientists

Read the full story at Inside Higher Ed.

Roosevelt University undergraduates engaged in a community science project that produced usable data for scientists at Chicago’s Field Museum.