Solar Planes & Sustainability

The NAU Green Fund is an integral part of our campus’s sustainability community. However, it needs student participation in order to thrive! The idea of submitting a project proposal can seem rather daunting, but in reality the Green Fund is here to help out in any way they can! A great example of a past proposal success involves a group of engineering students, solar panels, and the power of flight.

In 2016, a group of Engineering majors came to the Green Fund with an idea. Their goal was to create an Ultra-Lightweight Solar Aircraft, controlled by remote and able to fly by only utilizing power from photovoltaic solar panels. The plane was also equipped with the technology to record energy production and consumption rates from the solar cells! The capstone group put together a website that expands onto the more intricate details of designing and building this solar plane.

That being said, the Green Fund is open to project ideas of all kinds! From this solar plane project in 2016 to the OZZI reusable container system being implemented on campus next year, the Green Fund is an ideal place for student innovation. Sustainability is a broad concept, and the Green Fund is here to help make student dreams for a greener world a reality. To submit a proposal, check out the Green Fund website!

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NAZPHI Accomplished First Goal – 10 Gardens Away from Second Goal!

The Northern Arizona Pollinator Habitat Initiative (NAZPHI) began in January, 2017 with big plans for their first year! They defined their mission as promoting the creation, protection, and registration of pollinator habitat across Northern Arizona and set multiple goals to accomplish their vision.

Their first goal was to create two more pollinator gardens in the community. They have officially established a garden at NAU’s student-run SNAIL garden, and with help from a APS grant, a garden on APS’s substation on E Pine Knoll Drive.

Their second goal for this year is to increase the number of registered pollinator gardens within the greater Flagstaff area by a factor of ten, all the while working to reverse the plight of pollinators. At the start of the year, only five gardens were registered at the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and now there are 40!

With your help, NAZPHI can reach its goal by the end of year – register in three minutes today at!

Help NAZPHI reach its goals by registering your pollinator garden today!


After securing start-up grants from both APS and NAU’s Green Fund, NAZPHI is happy to announce that they’ve just been awarded an Arizona Community Foundation grant to fund their director Tyler Linner’s part-time wages through summer 2018. This has made possible exciting new possibilities, including achieving their ultimate goal of creating a replicable Pollinator Regional Plan which includes important resources such as a pollinator commitment and a “Pollination Information Station” website that is now in early development.

NAZPHI has gotten involved in hands-on projects as well. On top of building several pollinator gardens here in Flagstaff, they’ve distributed native wildflower seed packets provided by the Flagstaff Arboretum to help community members attract pollinating friends to their own gardens. The NAU-led gridLESS micro-dwelling team will be debuting their pollinator-friendly sustainable mobile meeting space next February in Scottsdale. They are also discussing creating a pollinator corridor right in Flagstaff in cooperation with Terra BIRDS.

On the horizon NAZPHI is planning a pollinator related event in the summer of 2018. They are looking to include everything from expert speakers to hands-on workshops.

Wondering why everyone’s been talking about pollinators lately?

Pollinator insects, such as domesticated and native bees, butterflies and moths, play an essential role in the US food supply. Many commodity crops could not exist without them; in fact, insect pollination makes possible a third of our food! Therefore, threats to pollinators, such as poor nutrition, loss of forage lands, and pesticides threaten the entire food system.

Such threats contributed to devastating recent losses of commercial honey bee colonies and a dramatic 90% population loss of Monarch butterflies in the last 20 years. Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand local and regional efforts to help restore populations to healthy levels. Increasing the area and quality of pollinator habitats is a crucial step in solving several of these problems.

Keep up with NAZPHI on Facebook under “Northern Arizona Pollinator Habitat Initiative” or email us at to join our listserv.

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Landscape Master Plan

Did you know that NAU has sustainable landscaping tactics to keep our campus green in every sense of the word? I had a chance to talk with Janel Wilcox, one of the people behind the Landscape Master Plan.  She explained the plan to me, with particular focus on how this plan contributes to the culture of sustainability on campus! The goal of the Landscape Master Plan is four-fold; its guiding principles are landscape architectural design, sustainability, winter considerations, and accessibility. These factors each contribute to the overall aesthetic and function of the landscape you see across the NAU campus, including plant life, benches, and the multi-modal pedways.

 Tallgrass native meadow at Babbitt Admin bldg. (in South Mountain Campus zone), installed one year ago. AZ Fescue is the primary grass in this mix

The Landscape Master Plan considers the sustainability aspects in each of its individual projects. In terms of plant life, each species is chosen based on water intensity, overall appearance, and locality. Most of the plants on campus are native to the Northern Arizona region, and some are even chosen for campus in order to support preservation efforts. Ponderosa pines are a great example; they are ideally suited for a low-rainfall climate, are native to the area, and need a little extra love. Aside from regional inspiration, some of the campus plants are chosen and placed to serve alternative purposes. The ornamental grasses outside of Campbell Hall were designed to enhance the landscape’s appearance as well as to mitigate flooding during heavy storms and snowmelt periods. This way, the storm water can be collected and used as a resource instead of being wasted.

Ornamental grass swales at Campbell Hall, designed to be a landscape feature as well as mitigate flooding and treat stormwater as a resource

Along the same vein, building materials and features are selected with the same care as the campus plants. Part of the Landscape Master Plan involves limiting the amount of stark gravel areas around campus, with the intention of decreasing the heat island effect (link to a definition) and increasing beauty. The materials used to build benches, tables, and chairs around campus are selected with environmental impact in mind. Many of the new standard benches on campus are crafted using sustainably harvested bamboo wood, rather than wood sourced from rainforests! Not only does this help NAU pursue its sustainability goals, it helps save our natural world.

Bamboo bench at Liberal Arts, which is one of our new standard benches. It was chosen partially because it is made out of sustainable bamboo rather than rainforest sourced Ipe.

NAU is committed to sustainability in many ways across campus. If you have any questions about the Landscape Master Plan, email Janel Wilcox at Interested in seeing us feature a specific topic on the blog? Email with your requests and suggestions!

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#FLGTreeTag Project Raises Awareness About Varied Benefits of Trees

NAU’s Tree Campus Advisory Committee and the City of Flagstaff’s Open Space Program and  have partnered for the #FLGTreeTags project, an educational installation aimed at raising awareness about the many values urban trees provide to our community. This installation will run from Oct. 9 – 16, 2017 and include 23 price tags in Wheeler Park and NAU’s North Quad that will describe the financial contributions these trees provide as a result of their various ecosystem services and health benefits.

Trent DeBeare, a Forestry graduate student and member of NAU’s Tree Campus Advisory Committee is excited about the project, “NAU already has such a well-regarded forestry tradition. The Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation represents the next chapter in that tradition, and the Tree City designation shows that the Flagstaff community appreciates the role forestry plays in shaping our culture and environmental stewardship.”

Forestry student Michael Daugherty and Sustainable Communities student Laurel Westendorf place tree tags up on N. Quad.



In addition to purifying our air and water, trees provide valuable wildlife habitat, sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and provide important human health benefits in terms of reducing stress and increasing creativity.

Betsy Emery, Open Space Specialist with the City of Flagstaff, expressed her enthusiasm for the project, stating, “…these types of projects are great opportunities to enhance the public’s understanding of the many benefits natural resources provide to our community. Flagstaff is surrounded by incredible natural landscapes, but our quality of life is also greatly enhanced by the natural resources available within our City limits, including our urban trees.”

Follow our Facebook pages @FlagstaffOpenSpace and @GreenNAU for more detailed information about these benefits and updates about the project. Don’t forget to share your #FLGTreeTag photos and posts with us on social media.Learn more about the benefits neighborhood trees provide by using the National Tree Benefit Calculator at

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GMO’s – Where Do You Stand?

Genetically modified organisms are a popular environmental topic, but many people are on the fence of how to feel about them. Are GMO’s bad for the planet, or are they the solution to our food- related problems? With World Food Day coming up this month, Green NAU decided now would be an excellent time to showcase this important issue. In order to help people figure out their stance, 2 of this year’s 4 Better World Film Series events will be dedicated to GMO-related films. Later in the month, the Green Jacks will be hosting a community debate about GMO’s. By learning about both sides, our hope is to promote a more thorough understanding of genetic engineering and the way it impacts our food systems. If you’re interested in joining us on this educational journey, check out all three of our GMO focused events:

Oct 4: Food Evolution // 6:00pm // NAU International Pavilion

Oct 11: GMO OMG // 6:00pm // NAU International Pavilion

Oct 23: GMO Community Debate // 6:00pm // NAU International Pavilion

Make sure to check out the rest of the Better World Film Series, happening through the rest of October!



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NAU Wins Award of Merit at Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards!

At Arizona Forward’s 37th Environmental Excellence Awards NAU presented education awards and received the Award of Merit in the category of Innovation.

President Cheng presenting at the ceremony.

President Cheng presenting the NAU Environmental Education & Communications (Public & Private Sectors) to the Recyclery project at the i.d.e.a. Museum.

NAU sponsored two education/communication awards, one for the public and private sectors and one for educators, students, and nonprofits. President Cheng presented the awards, highlighting the importance of providing recognition for innovative and successful projects in this field.

To compete in the awards, NAU’s Office of Sustainability partnered with a graduate student in the Climate Science and Solutions program and the Green Fund to install an innovative Phase Change Material in the Blome building.

All of these groups are constantly looking for innovative ways to help the university move towards a clean energy future. Multiple classes have assessed the potential for reducing campus emissions and all of their analysis has come to the same conclusion: We have multiple options for cleaning up our electrical load (like solar and wind) but not as many viable options for reducing our natural gas heating demands.

Sitting at 7,000 feet at the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff has a huge heating load! People across the nation are always surprised to hear how cold we get here in Arizona, especially because our desert like environment gets warm during the day and cooler during the night, particularly during one of our 266 days of sunshine. The students poised to themselves a very difficult question: How can we utilize the heat of the day to offset the cold at night or utilize the night’s cold to cool the heat of the day. After extensive research into energy and heat storing technologies, Green NAU was ecstatic to find an innovative technology that economically met this challenge.

Infinite-R is a toxic free, non-flammable, easy to install, and economical, energy storage phase change material (PCM) that has demonstrated¹ dramatic energy savings in buildings (up to 50%). By absorbing excess daytime heat and radiating that energy in the evening, combined with the ability to perform the opposite cycle in warmer climes, peak temperatures can be eliminated and dramatically reduce the load on existing HVAC systems. More specifically, projected results include: 1) Optimize the benefit of solar gain 2) smooth out fluctuations in internal temperatures to increase occupant comfort 3) reduce heating energy by 25% or more 4) reduce energy for cooling by 50%, or even eliminate need for AC 5) delay peak temperatures in offices and classrooms until occupants have left 6) help adapt buildings for climate change.



My office is in one of the oldest buildings on the NAU campus and does not actually have heat. Before the PCM installation, my office was an ice chest and I was dependent on an electric space heater to be able to work.  Following the install, my office is now a consistent 72 degrees, benefiting from sun capture in the morning and steady all day!

Sheila Margaret Anders
Director, Center for International Education
Blome Building, NAU



Those skilled in the metrics of renewable energy payback will understand the attraction to a technology which can be fully installed for less than $0.12 per watt of automatic, zero maintenance energy absorption/radiation with paybacks in the 2-4 year time-frame.

The ease and economics of retrofitting this temperature balancing technology into existing buildings looks to be a game changer for reducing fossil energy use and associated GHG emissions for NAU and all universities across the country.

At last year’s awards, the Green Fund sponsored Solar Hot Air Heaters on the new Engineering Laboratory won the Crescordia award for Innovation.


(1) NREL and US Military studies available upon request

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NAU Launches Sustainable Citizen Program

Green Jacks at Grand CanyonNAU’s Sustainable Citizen Program (SCP) offers students in any department an opportunity to learn about sustainability, gain a great credential, and make a difference.

Sustainability and climate change are issues that will require the engagement of all citizens in order to move toward solutions. This program’s vision is a day when every Lumberjack understands basic climate science and the tenets of sustainability and with that knowledge acts according to their own moral compass. They aim to build a culture whose positive impacts ripple through individuals, campus, and society and promote a more just and sustainable world.

Through the program you’ll join with other students to learn skills, earn recognition, have fun, and make a difference. The program prepares students to take on sustainability challenges as individuals, community-members, and professionals. Students who successfully complete the program will have a new credential for their resume and the know-how to tackle issues of sustainability in their future profession and life.

After piloting the project with select students over the 2016/17 academic year, the program is now up and running in full force! To learn more about the SCP path and to register visit Green NAU’s Sustainable Citizen Program page.

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“A Call to Life: Variations on a Theme of Extinction”: Unique Pianist/Philosopher NAU Earth Day Performance Calls for Action on Extinction

Words alone cannot express the urgency of saving the planet’s great diversity of plants and animals from extinction, philosopher/writer Kathleen Dean Moore and concert pianist Rachel McCabe believe. So they have turned to music, joining forces to create a dual performance, “A Call to Life: Variations on a Theme of Extinction.”

For the project, Moore weaves a call to safeguard Earth’s abundance into McCabe’s performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Variations on a Theme of Corelli.” The synergy of words and music creates what an audience member called “as powerful a message as one could imagine.”  “It is at once devastating and inspiring, despairing and hopeful,” wrote ocean conservationist Mark Hixon, who heard the performance in Hawaii.

The performance takes place Monday April 24 from 7:00-8:00pm at Ardrey Auditorium on NAU’s campus. Free tickets are available at the NAU Box Office and at the door. Complimentary parking in lot P13 behind Cline library. For permits go to: manage-my-parking/.

Rachel McCabe, left, and Kathleen Dean Moore. Photo by Zachary Person.

Rachel McCabe, left, and Kathleen Dean Moore. Photo by Zachary Person.

The unusual creative collaboration began when Moore spoke in despair from the podium at Oregon State University several years ago. “If these rates of extinction continue,” she said, “I will die in a world that is half as abundantly beautiful as the one I was born into.  My children will tear out half the pages in their field guides and throw them away. They won’t need them ever again.”

Listening from the audience, concert pianist Rachelle McCabe nodded in agreement. “Words can’t do it,” she thought.  “But music has that power. And words and music together?”  As Moore left the stage, McCabe stopped her in the aisle and suggested a collaboration.

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Green Office Certification is Launched!

GOC Picture

The Energy Mentor program is NAU’s premiere energy-conservation behavior change activity. Since the Office of Sustainability has enacted this program in 2012, more than 120 faculty and staff have become Energy Mentors! And the momentum hasn’t stopped there. Many Energy Mentors have encouraged their colleagues to get certified and have spread the word about simple and effective ways to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Building off the success of the Energy Mentor program, the Office has decided to take it up a notch by launching the Green Office Certification program!

The Green Office Certification was developed after it became clear that existing Energy Mentors wanted a path to challenge themselves and engage even further with their peers. The program lays out a foundation for your office to make a positive impact on campus. Like the green building LEED system, the Green Office Certification program have four levels of green ratings, starting with Level One: Mars Hill and ending on Level Four: Humphrey’s Peak. Whether it’s an office of one cubicle or an entire building, the Green Office Certification provides an excellent way to take your Energy Mentor training to the next level. Get started with the Green Office Certification with the following steps.

Green Your Office In Two Easy Steps!

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Facility Services Demonstrates Strides in Sustainability

NAU’s Facility Services department installs a sustainability display case highlighting the multiple sustainable actions taken throughout each shop. From the Paint department’s specific recycling station to Transportation’s recycled motor oil to Custodial’s use of green cleaning products, ever shop is taking some action to help make NAU a safer and more sustainable place for students and employees.

FS Sust Display Case Picture

In the display case, there’s a small story about what each shop is doing to help the campus community. Click here: Sustainability Display Case or visit the Office of Sustainability and Facility Services (bld 77) to read each of the shops’ statements.

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