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NAU Installs Novel Solar Thermal

Rachelle SolarThermix

The Green Fund awarded employee Rachelle Berry $10,352 for her solar hot air heating proposal

 

NAU is excited to announce the installation of its first on-campus solar thermal air panel system. This installation supports the University’s long-standing commitment to decreasing fossil fuel use and creating a culture of sustainability. The 12kW, six-panel system was installed on the Property Surplus warehouse on the main campus. The wall-mounted system is 24 feet wide by 8 feet high and can generate more than 40,000 BTUs per hour of fossil-free heat energy. As a side benefit, this single installation reduces CO2e by over 3 tons per year.

Rachelle Berry, Office of Sustainability Americorps Member, worked with NAU’s Green Fund to propose and fund the solar thermal air panel system. “I was very impressed with the initial product demonstrations and believed this solar thermal solution deserved a serious evaluation on campus. It’s really a very simple technology and the economics are great.”

NAU already has a 163 kW solar photovoltaic installation; several wind turbines, and multiple installations of solar hot water heaters across campus. “With Flagstaff’s rank as one of the sunniest cities in the US combined with its substantial heat demand, the high efficiencies and economics of solar thermal air heating are particularly well suited to offset fossil fuel on campus,” said Ellen Vaughan, NAU’s Manager of Sustainability. “There’s a lot of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy options like solar and wind that can help reduce our electrical use, but there’s really not many options for reducing our heating or natural gas use.”

Eric Marcus, Director of the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI) of Flagstaff, introduced SolarThermiX, LLC, the manufacturer of the new solar air heaters, to key NAU sustainability personnel. “As an Arizona company, it is rewarding to be working within our own state to promote cost-effective renewable energy technologies and we appreciate the NAU opportunity facilitated through SEDI,” said Michael Corridan, Co-Founder of Phoenix-based SolarThermiX.  “We initially thought that Colorado and New Mexico opportunities would come easier, but the encouragement we have received from SEDI and NAU has opened our eyes to the potential in our own back yard. I hope this pilot installation accelerates consideration by the Governor’s Office of Renewable Energy and the US Department of Energy to further assist adoption of this renewable energy technology, particularly for academic institutions and Native American housing in Northern Arizona.” added Corridan.

“It’s great to participate in developing and completing a project like this on campus” added Rachelle, “I would encourage all members of the NAU community to personally experience the performance of this system at Property Surplus. I also need to thank the Green Fund for funding this project and recommend anyone with a sustainable project idea to attend one of their workshops.”

Property Surplus is open to the public Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To learn more about the Green Fund visit: http://nau.edu/Green-NAU/NAU-Green-Fund/

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GREEN THUMBS GOING GREEN

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Sustainable gardening teaches responsibility and sustainability on campus

Across the Northern Arizona University campus, students are making a big impact on three important sustainable gardening initiatives—the SSLUGSNAIL, and Shand gardens. While these gardens differ in their individual missions, they are united by a common thread: enabling students to work toward greater sustainability by minimizing their gardens’ dependence on city water and fossil fuel, and minimizing inorganic chemicals in the environment.

SSLUG Garden

The Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening (SSLUG) Garden is the largest gardening effort on campus. Student volunteers work to blend native plants with traditional fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Professors also use the garden as a teaching tool in a broad spectrum of classes by educating students about sustainability, local food production, and the value of community service.

Jan Busco, Northern Arizona University’s Campus Organic Gardener and the caretaker of the SSLUG Garden, says the student volunteers receive more out of the experience than just food.

“A lot of the students work with others in the garden who have different perspectives from themselves, and they learn from each other,” Busco explains. “And then there’s the empowerment that comes from growing your own food.”

The food grown by students in the SSLUG Garden is made available to the NAU community. Extra food is donated to both the Louie’s Cupboard food bank, which serves university students, and the Flagstaff Family Food Center, which provides meals to underserved members of the Flagstaff community.

SNAIL Garden

The members of the Students Nurturing Alternatives in Landscaping (SNAIL) club maintain their very own sustainable garden. The SNAIL Garden is a completely student-run enterprise, where members act cooperatively for the good of the garden. When a plant yields food, it is harvested and divided among the group based on labor.

In addition to the club, students ranging from freshmen to graduate students use the garden as a study tool. Senior biology major and president of SNAIL, Joel Thomas, says that the club is a great way for students to learn about sustainability.

“It’s perfect for students who want to know where their food is coming from and what is going into the production of that produce,” Thomas explains. “Students also get a sense of teamwork and responsibility out of it.”

Shand Garden

The Shand Garden, named for late NAU biology Professor Richard Shand, is a teaching and research-focused garden. Students enrolled in the sustainable botany course through the Biology Department maintain the garden and use it as an active lab. In the class, students learn the theoretical aspects of plant life, and then witness those concepts first-hand.

Students also conduct research projects in the garden. For example, one project involves growing plants in bales of straw instead of soil, which can shed light on the process of growing food in urban environments where space is limited, natural soil is scarce, and potting soil is expensive.

Dr. Peggy Pollak, who teaches the sustainable botany course and cares for the Shand Garden, receives a lot of positive feedback from students who work in the garden.

“Every semester, I ask my students, ‘Why garden?’” Pollak says. “Satisfaction, pride in producing something yourself, getting your hands dirty, and having a lasting, positive impact on NAU. These are all things students love, and that’s what sustainable gardening can provide.”

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NAU Gets New Wind Turbine!

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NAU is excited to announce the installation of its fourth on-campus wind turbine. This installation supports the University’s long-standing commitment to decreasing fossil fuel use and creating a culture of sustainability. The 2.4 kW SkyStream 3.7 turbine was installed next to the Hotel and Restaurant Management building on north campus. The tower is approximately 45 feet high and can produce about as much energy as would be needed to power a home.

The turbine was paid for by NAU’s Green Fund and the department of Finance and Administration. “We’re excited to have yet another visual example of renewable energy on campus that will help off-set our fossil fuel use and will symbolize NAU’s commitment to sustainable leadership” said Jennus Burton, Vice President of Finance and Administration. “This installation helps to demonstrate how sustainability is part of our culture here at NAU and a top priority,” Burton adds.

NAU already has two wind turbines at the “Solar Shack” (NAU’s laboratory and test facility for renewable energy) and one turbine outside the LEED Platinum Applied Research and Development building. The University also has multiple installations of solar hot water heaters and a 163 kW solar photovoltaic installation on south campus.

The wind turbine originated as a Green Fund proposal from students working on the Arizona Wind for Schools project. This project is housed at NAU and partners with K-12 teachers across the state to support wind and other energy education in the classroom. This marks the 17th turbine installed through the project, which has worked directly with more than 5,000 K-12 teachers, parents and students in promoting energy literacy in Arizona. Data from the turbines installed at NAU is available on a website hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for use by students and teachers across the country.

“It’s really great to see a big project like this with actual, measurable environmental benefits materialize” said Caryn Massy, past student Green Fund committee chair who helped approve the proposal. “It’s really a great visual cue to all members of the NAU community that our actions here on campus consume energy and we all have to do our parts to be more sustainable.”

The wind turbine is part of NAU’s continuous efforts to decrease fossil fuel use. NAU’s overall energy use is remaining steady, as the University is managing its energy use exceptionally well through a period of growth in square footage and student population increase. Thanks to aggressive energy efficiency measures and green building practices, NAU has seen an overall reduction in energy use per square foot of 27% since 2002. During that same time the student population has increased by 6,750 and campus square footage has increased 50%.

Wind for Schools is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy’s WindExchange program.

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Recycling at Home Football Events

For the first-time ever NAU recycled at their home football tailgating events. For each game this season a group of volunteers handed out recycling bags and discussed recycling best-practices with attendees. By the end of the season tailgaters were waiting for their recycling bags. The Environmental Caucus’ Waste Minimization Team led the effort.

Volunteer groups were made up of students from a First-Year Seminar on Waste, the resident housing eco-reps, the Green Jacks, and other recycling supporters.

Recycling Blog

Green “Axe Me about Recycling” t-shirts could be seen on many students at the tailgating events this season.  Above you can see the recycling symbol on the front and on the back they say axe me about recycling.

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EPA RECOGNIZES NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY FOR LEADING GREEN POWER USE

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Northern Arizona University reduces carbon footprint with green power use

Northern Arizona University has officially been purchasing Green Power for one year and has received recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from joining their Green Power Partnership. Northern Arizona Universityis using more than 8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power this year, which is enough green power to meet 13 percent of the organization’s electricity use. Northern Arizona University is buying a combination of renewable energy certificates (RECs) and utility green power products from Arizona Public Service and Renewable Choice Energy. In addition, Northern Arizona University is generating green power from on-site renewable energy systems, including their 163 wWh solar field. This demonstrates a proactive choice to switch away from traditional sources of electricity generation and support cleaner renewable energy alternatives.

“This is a huge honor and we are proud to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said John Morris, Assistant Vice President of Facility Services, “Using green power helps our organization become more sustainable and is an essential choice in reducing fossil fuel pollution and mitigating climate risk.”

Last year, the Green Fund surveyed students to see how important they thought purchasing renewable energy was and found that 47.86% believed it to be “very important”, 37.41% think it’s “somewhat important”, and 10.91% said “a little important.” Only 3.82% thought it was “not at all important.”

Green power is electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, eligible biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydro. Using green power helps accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

According to the U.S. EPA, Northern Arizona University’sgreen power use of more than 8 million kWh is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of nearly 1,200 passenger vehicles per year, or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 800 average American homes annually.

NAU does hundreds of other things to decrease its environmental footprint, such as building all new construction to LEED silver standards, installing energy efficient fixtures and appliances, organizing multiple conservation campaigns, being a Bike Friendly Campus, composting our food, and so much more. Visit nau.edu/Green-NAU/ to learn more and find opportunities to get involved and become part of NAU’s culture of sustainability.

About EPA’s Green Power Partnership

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use. The Partnership currently has more than 1,300 Partner organizations voluntarily using billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a wide variety of leading organizations such as Fortune 500® companies, small and medium sized businesses, local, state, and federal governments, and colleges and universities. For additional information, please visit http://www.epa.gov/greenpower.

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Northern Arizona University received its 9th LEED Certification

Northern Arizona University’s Liberal Arts building was recently awarded LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating system is the foremost certification program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

“Making our buildings more efficient and healthier for its occupants is a top priority here at NAU,” said NAU’s lead project manager Josh Spears. “Using our resources more efficiently through green building will help protect ecosystems and biodiversity, improve air and water quality, and help mitigate climate change, all while lowering operating costs.”

The Liberal Arts building includes the departments of History and English as well as University Writing Programs. The renovations were started in May 2011 and conducted by Kinney Construction Services (KCS). The project was funded by the SPEED package from the state of Arizona. Apart from some minor upgrades to the third floor a few years ago, this is the first renovation of the Liberal Arts building since it was built in 1963.

The design team Bustamante Kelly Collaborative paired up with LEED consultant Ronald Hand of E/FECT Sustainable Design Solutions to make the certification happen.  Renovations of the building included new HVAC and sprinkler systems, two exterior stairwells, fire and safety upgrades, new audio/visual equipment for each classroom, and two new lecture rooms, including a new cinema screening space that will house 200 people. Cosmetic upgrades include new carpet, paint, wood paneling, tile floors, updated bathrooms and a student lounge with a flat-screen television and vending machines. Liberal Arts Building Apart from the updated classroom and office space provided by the expansion and renovation of the Liberal Arts Building, energy and water efficiency were other key components of this project. Although LEED certification was not in the original renovation plan, Spears and NAU’s Planning Designing and Construction department were confident it could be achieved with of the following add-on building characteristics.

Energy efficiency

  • Reduced lighting power density to 15 percent below normal optimizes energy performance.
  • Lighting control allows for more responsible use of energy.
  • Control of efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and equipment within the building.

Construction

  • Up to 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
  • Up to 20 percent of the total materials used in the construction came from recycled content.
  • Up to 20 percent of the total materials were manufactured regionally.

Reduced building impact

  • Works within the space allotted to the existing building to create a denser development area.
  • Maintains 40 percent of interior non-structural components.
  • Materials with low-emission of chemicals and pollutants were used for sealants, paints, carpet systems, or wood/laminate adhesives.

Water efficiency

  • Water usage within the building was reduced by at least 30 percent.

Technology

  • Lighting, temperature and ventilation, compliance, and monitoring systems are all fully controllable to allow for appropriate usage of these systems depending on the time of year and day.

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The NAU Sustainability Course Directory Has Been Launched!

The NAU Office of Sustainability is excited to introduce the NAU Sustainability Course Directory – a new online database system for all the courses from any department that are focused on sustainability or simply have a sustainability component in them. Both undergraduate and graduate students can now enjoy a constantly updated list of classes that cover a wide range of topics related to environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability.

The courses are submitted by their instructors using a specially designated online form. After being approved by our administrator, the course appears in the online database and can be looked up using a convenient search engine that provides 3 criteria options that helps a student find a better fit.

The challenge of spreading awareness about sustainability and creating an environmentally conscious behavior always comes down to nurturing eco-literacy. In order to provide a deeper understanding of the global climate change challenges we face nowadays, NAU is attempting to ease an access to the list of classes that serve as an educational tool about that issue and offers diverse strategies of addressing it. The introduction of this course listing system is a great step towards creating a culture of sustainability in the Northern Arizona University, bringing a better understanding of the need for a more environmentally responsible behavior to its students.

Useful links:
For NAU students - NAU Sustainability Course Directory
For course instructors - Sustainability Course Submission

The list of classes is constantly being updated so make sure to check back regularly!

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3 Environmental Stewardship Positions Are to be Filled!

NAU Civic Service Institute is excited to announce the three full-time AmeriCorps positions that are to be filled by the beginning of August. Please see below for their brief descriptions or click on each title for a detailed information about each of the NAU’s Environmental Stewardship positions:

The Bicycle Program Coordinator at Northern Arizona University would be responsible for promoting transportation on campus, primarily bicycle usage, to reduce drive-alone commute trips in an effort to improve access to and mobility through campus, reduce vehicular congestion, and improve/maintain student safety.

The purpose of this position is to help the Green NAU Energy Initiative improve waste minimization infrastructure and processes. This involves working with various university stakeholders on many facets of the recycling and waste system. The position will work to inspire and motivate campus users to recognize the importance and need for resource conservation and reduce, reuse, recycle principles.

This coordinator will work with multiple environmental offices, departments, and clubs across campus and the community to spread awareness and increase participation in the diverse variety of existing sustainable clubs and initiatives. The coordinator will use NAU’s recently revised Sustainable Action Plan as a guide book to improving and promoting initiatives pertaining to Recycling and Waste Minimization, Transportation, Operations, Procurement, Water, Energy and Climate Change, Academics, and Research.

Learn more about Flagstaff AmeriCorp: http://nau.edu/SBS/CSI/AmeriCorps/
Learn more about NAU’s three Environmental Stewardship positions: http://nau.edu/Green-NAU/

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It’s Time to Leave Green!

Leave GreenNow that the end of the semester is rapidly approaching, many students who live in the residence halls will be moving out in a few short days. What do you do with those perfectly good items? Don’t throw them away! Donate your unwanted goods and Leave Green!

Donation bins can be found in the main lobby of your building or in the clubhouse/office for the apartment areas. Make sure the food you donate has not expired. We cannot accept futon mattresses, mattress toppers, or hangers.

The clothing, furniture, book, and household items donations will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. The non-perishable food donations will benefit Sunshine Rescue Mission. Since the Leave Green program started in 2010, students have donated over 130,000 pounds of items. Last year was our biggest year ever with over 44,000 pounds of donations!

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News That Goes Against the Original Paradigm

Check out what NAU has found out!

Link: http://news.nau.edu/study-finds-accelerated-soil-carbon-loss-increasing-rate-climate-change/#.U2FYOK1dV8t

Article:

Research published inScience found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.

Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

“Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”

In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra COin the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.

“We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”

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