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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.
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. 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.
- 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.
- 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 usage within the building was reduced by at least 30 percent.
- 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.
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.
The list of classes is constantly being updated so make sure to check back regularly!
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.
Now 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!
Check out what NAU has found out!
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 CO2 in 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.”
Check out this article about what the students are doing on NAU’s campus! So proud to be a Lumberjack!
In a flurry of deadline-driven design, analysis, data collection and testing, two teams of engineering and business students from vastly different perspectives converged on a straightforward idea: If you can build this, we can sell it.
What the five mechanical engineering seniors have built is an ultra-low cost water heating system—a product that five MBA students are convinced “could hit the market and work.” They will present their findings as Northern Arizona University’s entry in the P3 National Sustainable Design Expoand competition this weekend in Washington, D.C. The event is being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and hosted by the USA Science and Engineering Festival.
The opportunity arose after a $15,000 People, Prosperity and the Planet grant was awarded last year to Brent Nelson, NAU assistant professor of mechanical engineering. His proposal for a solar water heater became a student project, and now NAU is joining teams from across the country to vie for a grant of up to $90,000 to take their completed design to the world.
One of the engineers, Austin Chott, said he and his capstone team members—Christopher Allen Heine,Thomas Griffin, Matt Beckham and Saleh Alsadiq—spent the fall “designing, analyzing and predicting” before building and testing in early 2014. They had a working model the first week of March.
“It went pretty well, almost exactly as we had predicted during our theoretical analysis,” Chott said. “We’re impressed with the performance in a residential setting.“
Chott said the engineering team used previously designed concepts for the solar collectors, but they were “built from the ground up” using less-expensive parts.
That focus on cost savings proved to be the initial obstacle for Jesse Ocana and his MBA teammates—Shuo Li, Kaila Cacal, Devin Woodruff and Joe Caton—who worked under the guidance of Kathy Savage, professor in the W.A. Franke College of Business, to resolve cost effectiveness with marketability.
“You could see a dichotomy right away between the way the engineers saw it and the way we saw it,” Ocana said. “So we thought, ‘Where do we drive value for the customer while still making an attractive proposition for them?’ ”
While the engineers focused on the physics of heat transfer, the business students turned to target costing, conducted surveys of potential customers and plugged data into various business models.
“The way we went through it is the way you do any startup,” Ocana said. “If you skip any of the steps we went through, you’re going to fail.”
The result is a system targeted for do-it-yourself homeowners who have the time and motivation to save on their water heating costs. The system preheats 50-60 gallons of water so that a home’s gas or electric water heater has far less work to do, potentially resulting in hundreds of dollars in cost savings.
While judges at the competition will draw their own conclusions, the students already know they have come away with valuable experience in their respective fields and some insights about working across disciplines.
As Chott put it, “The biggest challenge was for the two teams to work out a communication system. It was a matter of meeting their needs while meeting ours, so we learned we couldn’t just give them an engineering answer.”
A collaboration focused on harnessing wind energy will launch in May, with support from Northern Arizona University, Utah Clean Energy and Interwest Energy Alliance.
The Four Corners Wind Energy Regional Resource Center, one of six recently established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is designed to increase wind literacy and provide support to regional policymakers engaged in decisions about the future of wind energy in the West.
NAU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions will play a key role in outreach, education, consultation and delivery of research.
NAU’s role in the project will focus on initiatives with Arizona’s state, county and tribal decision-makers targeting areas that have the most promise for wind energy development.
“This resource center supports our university effort to be a solid, reliable partner in our community and the state,” said Karin Wadsack, project director for the Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions. “It will allow the wind research and outreach initiatives at NAU to make a greater contribution to wind development in the Southwest.”
Wind energy development in the Western United States has steadily increased over the past 10 years and provides numerous economic benefits to local communities, Wadsack said. The wind resource centers will better connect NAU with partners in the wind industry and national laboratories to identify gaps in knowledge and collaborate on research.
Dominique Bain, doctoral candidate in earth sciences and environmental sustainability, will focus her dissertation on performing production cost modeling of electricity systems across the West to identify the best grid integration practices that can decrease the cost of using renewables like wind.
“Being a part of this center will allow the work we’re doing to have an even greater impact,” Bain said. “Grid integration is an area of research that has huge implications that we just don’t think about.”
A compelling new film about climate change, produced by NAU’s IDEA Lab, will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Cline Library Assembly Hall.
The screening of Taking Earth’s Temperature: Delving into Climate’s Past is free and open to the public.
Filmmakers Dan Boone, Ryan Belnap and Peter Friedericias well as NAU researchers featured in the film—Scott Anderson, David Fortin,Debra Huntzinger, Darrell Kaufman and Nicholas McKay—will be on hand to answer questions from the audience.
The one-hour documentary, with footage from both the field and laboratories in the United States and Europe, showcases scientific discoveries about climate change. Because the Earth’s climate fluctuates over vast time spans, the scientists are looking for a long-term view that transcends daily experiences.
“By looking to the past, we can put the present in perspective and think more clearly about the future,” said Kaufman, an NAU Regents professor.
Taking Earth’s Temperature follows Kaufman and his research team as they travel to a remote Arctic lake to gather samples of lake-bottom mud that hold records of past climate changes. It also shows how scientists from around the world have collaborated to paint a new and detailed picture of the last two millennia of the Earth’s temperature history.
By comparing records from different parts of the world, scientists have been able to come to a much more intricate understanding of why those patterns change, to recognize variations that are not natural, and to test and improve predictive climate models. If those models can accurately explain past changes, then they may also provide today’s best possible look at what will happen to Earth’s climate in the future.
Where? NAU Liberal Arts (Bldg. 18) Rm: 120
When? April 22nd from 3:30-5 PM
Purpose? The purpose of the campus sustainability awards is to recognize those who have enhanced the culture of sustainability on the NAU campus and surrounding community. A sustainability award nominee should undertake significant actions resulting in positive impacts to the sustainability our local community. Participation is open to any member of the local community.
- NAU Student – Hooper Sustainability Cash Prize (up to $2500)
- NAU Organization
- NAU Faculty/Staff
- Leadership Award
- Flagstaff Community Person or Organization
Application deadline: April 1st
Letters of nomination should be submitted to email@example.com include a statement describing the nominee’s role and activities, and the impact of their activities on the sustainability of our community.
Good Luck and nominate someone as soon as possible! April 1st is right around the corner!!