Friday, August 29, 2008

Greenbuild 2008

Any college student with interest in sustainability and green building should click on the following link and sign up to volunteer for the U.S. Greenbuilding Council's Greenbuild 2008 Conference and Expo. The conference is coming to Boston in November and it is an opportunity that students should not let pass by. By committing to 8 hours of volunteer service, students and professionals under the age of 25 can attend the conference for free including breakfast and lunch!

If free food isn't enough motivation then take a look the scheduled program for the conference. Students can hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, deliver the opening keynote address. Students might also be interested in hearing from biologist E.O. Wilson, a leader in international biodiversity conservation efforts. Bill McKibben, Majora Carter, and Kevin Klose are just a few of the other incredible speakers that will be presenting.

In addition to hearing from dynamic leaders attendees at the conference have the opportunity to attend Educational Sessions. In these sessions participants can learn about a vast range of issues and ideas in the green building industry. Here students can pick up training and skills that will be critical as they enter the job market in the coming years. If that is not enough, the conference offers Off Site Educational Sessions that showcase green buildings and campuses in the Boston area.

This is an incredible opportunity and the faculty and staff at Lasell College need to rally to encourage students to volunteer. Whether motivation comes from extra credit in class, through the Service Learning Office, or out of interest in the Green Campus Initiative, faculty and staff should push hard to make sure students take advantage of this opportunity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Act of Congress

While we were away relaxing in the sun this summer Congress was busy debating campus sustainability. Congress was debating the Higher Education Sustainability Act as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HR 4137). Congressed passed all provisions of the Act and on August 13th, President Bush signed the provisions into law. In addition to the sustainability provisions, college students may be interested in reading about other provisions that address textbook costs, complicated FAFSA forms, and rising tuition.

How will this act of Congress affect sustainability and teaching on the campus of Lasell College? Let's look at the provisions addressing sustainability.

First, the Act creates a "University Sustainability Grants Program." The purpose of this competitive grant program is to help colleges offer more academic programs that address sustainability. It also may provide funds to help campuses increase energy-efficiency.

Second, the Act calls for the Department of Education to convene a national sustainability summit. The summit will bring together experts from higher education, federal agencies, non-profits, and business with a goal of identifying best practices in curriculum development and campus management.

It is really too early to tell how the Higher Education Sustainability Act will affect Lasell College students. We will certainly consider submitting applications to the grant program once that opens. We are launching our environmental studies major in the fall and we could use all the support we can get to make our students successful in the emerging green economy. We also have over 40 buildings on campus which could all use improvements in energy efficiency.

The national summit also has the potential to have an impact on Lasell. I would expect the summit to generate documents on best practices for campus operations. I would also expect there to be lengthy discussion of curriculum. What should we be teaching our students to prepare them to lead the new green economy? This would be helpful as we shape our new Environmental Studies Major.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Commitment

There has been quite a gap since my last post. I put the computer down for the past month. It was a nice chance to move away from the computer screen and engage more with the outside world. I talked, visited, volunteered, read, and measured but I limited my emailing, blogging, and surfing. It was a nice break and now I feel energized.

The fall semester is about to start and it is time to really focus sustainability efforts on the campus of Lasell College. In April, the Green Campus Task Force submitted their report to President Alexander which included a list of recommendations. The Task Force recommended President Alexander sign the President's Climate Commitment and commit to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. I am happy to say that President Alexander agreed with this recommendation and has signed the commitment. Lasell College joins 564 other colleges and universities in committing to take steps toward climate neutrality.

Reaching this goal is certainly going to be challenging. President Alexander has called for the creation of an Environmental Sustainability Committee. I am honored and excited to have been asked to serve as the first chair of this committee. In the coming weeks I will need to build a committee which will include undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and a Lasell Village resident. Very quickly we need to set specific goals and develop procedures to assess progress. We will also need to develop a comprehensive plan and establish sustainability policies.

Reaching an 80% reduction is going to be challenging especially given our heating needs. However I am confident that we can reach a 20% reduction in a relatively short period of time. Changes to buildings and houses will take time and money to implement but changing the behavior of students, faculty, and staff can have an immediate impact. As the first chair of this committee, I will focus efforts on changing behavior and work to create a culture of green living and working on our campus. Colleges and universities are centers for creativity and leadership. We will find ways to meet the goal of climate neutrality.