Archive for category Student Groups and Organizations

(Sustainable) Food for Thought

How does the absence of trays and trash cans in the dining halls indicate forward thinking by NAU Dining Services? And what is this stunning machine pictured below? Both are indicators of how Dining Services is making leaps and bounds when it comes to sustainability.

It looks innocent enough, but this powerhouse of a machine, pulps, grinds and dehydrates every bit of food waste from the NAU dining halls preparing it to become compost.

Meal production, from planning to cleanup, can have big impacts on the environment. Estimates put food waste in America at 30-40%. That means ordering a pizza and immediately throwing away two delicious cheesy hot slices. Painful, no?

And there’s a resource-rich history behind each of those pizza slices. Energy, water, animal feed, fertilizer, pesticides, transportation – these are all parts of food production. By reducing food waste, we conserve those resources. In addition, wasted food decomposes in landfills releasing methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming.

NAU Dining Services employs several sustainable practices to help reduce food waste on campus and promote sustainability.

Sunizona Farms is one of many Arizona farms that NAU Dining Services sources its local produce.

  • Local sourcing: During the past academic year Dining Services sourced 31% of its produce from Arizona farms reducing transportation miles and fuel.


  • Prep reduction: Dining Services utilizes a tracking program called LeanPath which helps kitchen staff reduce food waste during food prep. In its first year, staff reduced food waste by 20% during meal prep.


  • Feed people, not landfills: Through the Food Recovery Network student volunteers work with kitchen staff at the Hot Spot, Einstein’s, Starbucks and catering to package food that was not prepared butnot served during the lunch hour. They transport trays to local food kitchens. During the past academic year almost 9500 lbs. of food were donated to local food kitchens who in turn served it to Flagstaff’s most needy.

NAU student volunteers package up food daily to be donated to local shelters as part of the Food Recovery Network

  • Go trayless: Both campus dining halls not embrace trayless dining. This allows students to eat their fill but avoids the tendency to fill a tray with more food than can be consumed resulting in food waste.
Compost pile on south campus

A compost pile ‘seasons’ on south campus before being ready to be used in local landscaping.

  • Compost: If you have eaten at either dining hall recently, you may have noticed there are no trashcans. This is because every food scrap that is not consumed is pulped, ground, dehydrated and turned into compost thanks to the two recently installed SOMAT machines. After resting for a few months on south campus, this nutrient dense compost is ready for use both in campus landscaping and at local elementary schools. With the second SOMAT machine installed, NAU hopes to divert 200,000 lbs. of food waste from the landfill over next year and turn it into sweet, sweet compost.

A big round of applause to NAU Dining Services for their work towards making NAU sustainable. Check out Campus Dining’s website to learn about other programs they offer that contribute to both healthy people and a healthy planet.

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What’s an Eco-Rep?

Eco-Rep peer education programs are becoming increasing popular at universities around the country. Usually, the goal of these programs is to teach students who live on campus about various issues related to sustainability and encourage them to adopt more sustainable living behaviors. This is accomplished by teaching the Eco-Reps about the various topics and training them to be effective communicators so that they can share the information they learn with their friends and neighbors in their residence hall and encourage behavior change.

The Eco-Rep program at NAU is modeled after some of the most successful and popular programs, such as the one at the University of Vermont. Most of the Eco-Reps at NAU do not have sustainability as a focus in their professional goals, but they have gained other valuable skills they know will help them in the future. The students who participate as Eco-Reps report they develop leadership and communication skills and learn a lot about sustainability and environmental issues. They have fun interacting with their peers and sharing their knowledge, and they like knowing they are making a difference.
We would love to have you join our team and help us make a difference, too! We are currently recruiting Eco-Reps for the 2013-14 year. The only requirement is that you must live in a residence hall as you must have access to the hall to complete the program requirements. Although applicants will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis, the priority deadline is September 18 so that participants don’t miss out on important trainings. Go to for additional information and the application.

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GNEI Overview Video

After a couple of weeks of hard work, our brand new video is available for your viewing pleasure! The GNEI Overview Video is a short promo featuring the Green NAU Energy Initiative. Check out what we are up to!

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No Impact Jack and Eco R.A. Programs

The No Impact Jack and Eco R.A. programs are a great way to begin to learn how to live more sustainably in the Residence Halls on campus. For more information visit!

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Medicinal Plants Study Group

Medicinal PlantInterested in learning about Medicinal Plants? Check out the Medicinal Plants Study Group brought to you by the Applied Indigenous Studies and Sustainable Communities programs. This study group is for dedicated and serious students to learn and share knowledge of medicinal plants, their healing properties, and native traditional recipes and stories. Each session we will focus on a different plant. both undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to join!

Where: SBS West Room 9
When: Every other Friday starting Jan. 27th from 1 – 3:30pm

For further information, please contact:
Marina Vasquez, Traditional Knowledge Scholar,
Martha James, SUS Graduate ARTs co-coordinator,
Katherine Golfinopoulos, SUS Graduate ARTs co-coordinator,

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Creating a Full Spectrum of Sustainability

Who is participating in the switch to sustainability?  In the fall of last semester, the Student Environmental Caucus changed their identity to the “Green Jacks” in hopes of framing sustainability in a way that inspires school spirit (NAU Lumberjacks) and expands the spectrum of sustainability at NAU.  The group went to tailgates and sporting events wearing our Earth Week T-shirts while handing out sustainably produced wine and recycling literature to the student and alumni tailgaters.  Along with WACBAT (the Weatherization and Community Building Action Team), we hosted a solar panel crowd-funding event for the local Murdoc Community Center, which communicated the relationships between renewable energy and the liberty of Flagstaff as a community.  So, sustainability issues inherently relate to us all.  This semester, the Green Jacks hope to take that idea and work towards an equal representation and participation of the student body when it comes down to the topic of NAU’s commitment to carbon neutrality.

One focus right now is Earth Week 2012 — which just so happens to coincide with International Week and International Volunteer Week.  We just started hosting weekly meetings in the NAU Health and Learning Center every Friday at 2:30pm (rm 2405/7).  Everyone is invited to attend, and in the first two weeks we’ve had representatives from NAU’s Learning Communities, the City of Flagstaff, and NAU Civic Service Institute — among other diverse attendees.  But that’s not enough.  The Green Jacks are fostering relationships with NAU faculty, staff and administration which can be maintained and strengthen as the university reaches for it’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2020.

Particularly, WACBAT is organizing an event on 4/20 called “Blackout Day.”  The idea is that various buildings and dorms on campus will shut off their power for a few hours — and everyone bikes/walks/buses down to a solar-powered concert.  We want the Greek community, all the dorms, and the ASNAU student government (and more groups) to sponsor the event – in addition to other Arizona universities (ASU, UofA, and Prescott College) hosting similar events at the same date and time!  The goal is not to just host an event, but to build on the notion that engagement as a student at the university level can foster effective civic engagemnt in Flagstaff and beyond.

There is a lot to say about full-spectrum sustainability and NAU’s goals, but fostering a broader group of participation this semester will hopefully defy the stereotype of mutual exclusivity pertaining to sustainability, and all else.

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Free Compliments Phase II

As a student ambassador of sustainability at the notoriously green Northern Arizona University, I am regularly exposed to the ideas of sustainability. This exposure and the large sustainability community involved has moved me to think in depth about the next level of campus sustainability. There is only so much that can be achieved by a core group of green students that are dedicated to sustainability. I imagine a healthy campus where there is no division between the green students and the student athletes, Greek life, ROTC students, etc. Our mission is thus to creatively include the uninvolved. Based loosely on the ideas expressed by Volkswagen’s Fun Theory we strive to find ways to “preach to the non-choir.” The first initiative currently in play is known as Free Compliments.

Free ComplimentsWhile it is, in our eyes, largely an experiment, the idea is sound. The idea, on its most basic level, is that a compliment while walking to class early in the morning might spark a better day and a healthier campus in the long run. A healthier campus, ideally might lead to a more sustainable campus. Secondarily, we have developed a space in which open conversation is encouraged and people can find out about other campus sustainability news and information.

As the project has moved on, other personal benefits have developed. For example, I’ve been told some very moving things and been involved in some very moving conversations with people I would never have otherwise conversed with. This last Wednesday, one fellow (whose name I wish I knew) waltzed up and started, “Hey man, I have dealt with anxiety and depression my entire life and…” We were thinking ‘oh no, we are making people depressed.’ To our surprise, he then finished “its stuff like what you guys are doing that help me deal with it.” Things like this, which are not uncommon, are what make it so easy to meet the sunrise every Wednesday and battle the chill of Flagstaff’s winter.

This week the project entered Phase II. Phase II means we have free hot beverages for students on their way to class who have their own reusable container. While the free beverages were not emptied this week, the word has been spread! We are hoping that there is greater public participation as the weeks progress.

See you on the University Union pedway next Wednesday from 8:15 to 9:15 AM with your reusable mug!

-Alex Gaynor


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Wind for Schools and the NAU Green Fund Collaborate to Install Wind Turbine

The turbine was donated by Southwest Windpower, as was a 45’ tower. SWWP also had four staff members provide technical assistance for the entire day of the installation. The Facility Services department (formerly Capital Assets) at NAU did considerable work managing the project at no charge. Shaum Electric donated some of their labor. GLHN design from Tucson donated the design work including work on the electrical drawings. Time lapse footage by Christopher Ray.

The data for the turbine will be used by the Wind for Schools project, and will be uploaded to the Idaho National Labs site so schools nationwide have access to it. It will also be used locally in the Wind Energy and Renewable Energy classes in the Mechanical Engineering department, and may be used in individual student research projects.

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