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

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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.

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

How Sustainable Practices at Three U.S. Universities are Reducing Waste

Read the full story at Waste360.

Many U.S. colleges have pledged to work toward carbon neutral campuses and are making changes in how they build new buildings, where and how they generate power and what they are sending to landfills.

Take a look at what three universities are doing to reduce waste and build sustainable practices in and around campus.

Science.gov Is Hosting New Interagency Microsites Listing STEM Education and Training Opportunities for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Read the full story from Science.gov.

Two new federal interagency websites designed to connect undergraduate and graduate students with education and training opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have been launched on Science.gov, the portal to U.S. government science information.

The two microsites, STEMUndergrads.science.gov and STEMGradStudents.science.gov, were created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science in collaboration with participating agencies in the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education and the Science.gov Alliance, which governs Science.gov.

Festival to feature music on instruments made from found materials

Read the full story at Inside Illinois.

Ken Butler, a New York City-based artist and musician, is the featured performer at the Sonified Sustainability Festival on the University of Illinois campus. Butler makes hybrid musical instruments from all sorts of everyday objects. His creations have been exhibited in galleries and museums, and he also plays music on some of the instruments he makes.

The festival will also feature a waste sculpture that incorporates approximately 2,304 plastic bottles, which represents the number of bottles consumed in the US every 1.45 seconds. According to Ban The Bottle, the US consumes ~50 billion plastic bottles/year. The waste sculpture was constructed by students, overseen by my colleague Joy Scrogum, as part of a grant from the University of Illinois’ Student Sustainability Committee to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.