Arbor Day Foundation Honors Northern Arizona University with 2015 Tree Campus USA® Recognition

Flagstaff, AZ – April, 22, 2016 – The Office of Sustainability is excited to announce that NAU has been honored with 2015 Tree Campus USA® recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

“NAU Grounds department has been working on a variety of sustainable initiatives to improve our campus environment,” said Ralph Padilla, manager of NAU’s Grounds department. “From vastly expanding our composting program to utilizing sustainable landscaping practices we’re always looking for opportunities to improve our operations. Participating in Tree Campus USA is a great opportunity to help make sure we’re always conscious of best tree management and to help educate students about the benefits of our tree campus canopy.”

Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Northern Arizona University achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Currently there are 254 campus across the United States with this recognition.

The Green Fund wanted to support this great accomplishment and has purchased dozens of Tree Campus USA hats for the Grounds department.

Landscape Arbor Day 2015

Phil Patterson gives his annual arboretum tree walk on North Quad

Phil Patterson, manager of the Research Greenhouse explains the next steps for the committee, “An important aspect of the Tree Campus USA designation for NAU is the completion of a campus-wide tree inventory. While the inventory was not a necessary part of the five core standards for Tree Campus designation, it is important for sustaining the Tree Campus status in at least two important ways. First the inventory will make the tree-care plan more effective by tracking needed care for individual trees in a database that will allow prioritization of tasks. It will also allow the ability to track expenditure for each tree or group of trees. Secondly, the inventory will be a tool for ongoing student service-learning projects. The inventory will encompass the NAU Arboretum which is used for student and community tours. Also, we hope to enlist the aid of students to complete the inventory over the next year. Long term there is the possibility of students using the database for undergraduate and graduate research of trees in the urban environment.”

Through the efforts of the NAU Grounds Department approximately 40 percent of the campus has been inventoried. The advisory committee is currently preparing to apply for grant funding from the TREE Grant Program run by the Arizona State Forestry Division to assist in completing the inventory. The committee is also developing a plan to inventory the more natural ponderosa pine vegetation on campus with the assistance of the School of Forestry and Professor Tom Kolb.

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $36.8 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available at

About the Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is a million member nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. More information is available at

For more information contact any member of the Tree Committee listed on NAU’s Tree Campus USA page:

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Lights for Yellow Bikes – Now Available!


All students and employees can now get lights on their Yellow Bikes for free at the Union!

The Yellow Bike program at NAU enables students to check out bikes for free to travel on and off campus, and Lights for Yellow Bikes campaigned raised more than $6,500 to outfit every one of these Yellow Bikes with a set of front and rear lights.

The culture of bike-riding is heavily ingrained in the Flagstaff community. The town’s dedicated cycling lanes, emphasis on sustainability, and variety of engaging outdoor activities make it an ideal location for cyclists to commute to class, enjoy some exercise, or just contribute to improving the environment.

In fact, the city estimates that nine percent of all commutes are made on bicycles, compared to the national average of 0.8 percent, its clear Flagstaff residents, and Northern Arizona University Students, love to ride.

However, night riding and inclement weather can sometimes present less than ideal situations regarding bike safety. To address this problem, and to ensure students are riding as safely as possible, the university launched the Lights for Yellow Bikes microgiving campaign last year.

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NAU is a Regional EPA Award Winner for the Food Recovery Challenge!

Food Challenge

NAU Campus Dining continues to reduce campus food waste and made new strides during the 2014-2015 academic year. In line with the university’s Climate Action Plan, Dining regularly maintains waste reduction tracking system LeanPath, the on-campus compost program and supports campus waste reduction initiatives such as BYOC: an educational campaign to encourage reusable containers with an incentive from Dining of a 50 cent discount for bringing your own mug and football tailgate recycling. Highlights from the 2014-2015 academic year include the launch of The Food Recovery Network NAU Chapter, NAU Dining presenting for EPA’s Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit webinar series, winning an on campus funding award for post-consumer composting machinery, and NAU Athletics participation in the EPA Game Day Challenge fall 2015.

In October 2014, NAU became the first Arizona college or university chapter of the Food Recovery Network. Through student volunteers, NAU runs donations five days a week to two local food banks in the Flagstaff community. The Food Recovery Network donated over 8,000 pounds of food its first year.

The Office of Sustainability, NAU’s Waste Minimization Team, Dining and Athletics coordinated the first NAU Green Game for the EPA Game Day Challenge for the October 31, 2015 home game, named “Hallo-Green Game.” Concessions utilized compostable items and Eco-Reps helped fans sort waste properly between, recycling, compost and landfill.

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Green Fund is Calling All Applicants!

The Green Fund is looking for student applications, both undergraduate and graduate in all majors, for the 2016-2017 academic year to fill the positions of Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice Chair. Make a difference on campus by joining the committee and voting on how the campus Green Fee is utilized!
The Green Fund is committed to helping students get involved with sustainability at NAU and beyond. This year’s committee has funded numerous impact-producing projects, including implementing tablets into Facility Services operations and funding a sustainable citizen program. All projects funded in 2015 can be found here. Additionally, the Green Fund is extensively involved in Earth Week planning and is in the midst of a campaign to increase the Green Fee.
Please fill out an application found here (under the drop down menu labeled Forms/Applications). Send your application and resume to Members will be required to work 3-5 hours a week and will be compensated a $500 stipend at the end of the semester if all responsibilities are completed. 
Applications are due no later than Friday, April 8. Following the application submission, applicants will take part in a two-part interview with the Green Fund committee. 

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Green Fund Moves Up Application Deadline!

In 2015, the NAU Green Fund allocated half its budget ($100,000 for 10 years) to get a large solar array on the San Francisco parking garage. Operating with half their budget, the Fund is coming close to allocating all of its funds for this academic year. To ensure all proposals are given equal opportunity for funding, the Green Fund is requesting that all applicants submit their proposals one month earlier than originally planned. The new deadline for proposal submission is March 15th, 2016. Applications will be accepted after this date on a rolling bases and will be granted funding within the context of available resources. Please see the Green Fund website to find all applications and information for gaining funding.


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Green Fund 2015 Accomplishments

2015 marked a pivotal year for Northern Arizona University’s Green Fund! The Green Fund is a committee governed by both student and faculty members and is made possible by the university’s green fee. The Green Fund holds the primary vision of creating a culture of sustainability on campus, increasing student engagement, and boosting energy and water efficiency on campus. All of which gets NAU closer to achieving its goal of carbon neutrality by 2020 and in creating a more sustainable world for all of us.

In the last year, the fund approved projects that led to many groundbreaking university-wide improvements Including our largest project to date!

2015 accomplishments include:

The Post-Consumer Composting project was funded for $30,000 and will be used in the Hot Spot dining hall. This state of the art system utilizes the waste from both the back of house food preparation facilities as well as the student plate scraping area. This installation allows NAU Dining Services to dramatically reduce its landfill waste, make significant strides toward NAU’s Carbon Neutrality goals, and showcase collaboration between multiple stakeholders including NAU Campus Dining, Campus Services & Activities, the Green Fund, and the campus community.


A Residence Hall Cookbook was put together by the Health FYS and funded for $573. This cookbook was funded to provide students with access to reasonably priced, healthy food options that they can prepare in their own residence halls. The recipes are affordable for students, can be easily prepared, and promote the use of local, fresh produce. By supporting more local food suppliers, the large carbon footprint created by the transportation of food will be minimized.

International Pavilion solar-tubes were funded for $10,000 and placed on the International Pavilion to reduce the need to turn on lights during the day.

Solar Tubes

The Alternative Spring Break proposal was for $2,047 to support Project Give’s Alternative Spring Break trips. Volunteers will spend time in the experimental Centennial Forest, the Grand Canyon, and Nogales, AZ building trails, cleaning up the environment, and supporting humanitarian initiatives. Those who participate will have a measurable environmental and justice impact on the area in which they are working for the week, and will return to campus with new skills and knowledge to share with fellow students, NAU, and the Flagstaff community. As part of the expectation on their return, or their “reorientation” they will be encouraged to propose new projects and ways to engage here locally based on their experiences and learning on the trip.

Cline Library is installing ten combination water bottle refill station-water fountains for $6,626

Solar Optimization for $3,336 The south campus solar array’s solar panels were permanently repositioned to a tilt of 5° resulting in an estimated increase in annual kWh by 68,071, or $2,723 in savings a year. This project is estimated to have a short payback period of approximately 1.22 years.

Solar Op

Garter snake Vivarium for $55,105 This project funds the rescue of Northern Arizona’s threatened Garter snake native to Oak Creek canyon. The Vivarium creates a refuge for the Garter snakes and promotes both undergraduate and graduate student’s involvement by providing opportunities to experience fieldwork and hands-on research.


At Its Roots Podcast is a $371 project available to the public on Dropbox that features interviews with environmental groups on campus. These podcasts will work to keep the students informed on the various sustainable initiatives on campus and will encourage their involvement in them.

Inspector Tablets 12 computer tablets, for a total of $7,097, were bought for Facility Services inspectors to decrease the amount of paper used for their jobs. By using tablets in the field they were able to minimize and in some cases eliminate the printing of as many as a dozen different plans a week that are measured at 3’ by 4’ for the 12 different inspectors. That is 144 different site plans each week and almost 600 a month that no longer need to be printed due to digital access to the blueprints. Read the original blog post here.


Above, inspector Lloyd Drinkard shows the difference between his new tablet and the regular reams of paper


IT Thin Clients will be installed for $11,508 in place of desktop computers by The Facility Services ITS department and will upgrade servers to reduce electricity consumption. Read the original blog post here.

Thin Clients

The NAU Sustainable Citizen Program is a program for $8,406 in development that sets the goal of involving students from all backgrounds and disciplines in sustainability for the length of their time at NAU. Students who choose to participate will be joining a new community and engaging in topics of climate change and sustainability to see how they and their work are part of the bigger picture. The program will connect students, introduce them to NAU’s diverse array of sustainability classes, lectures, talks, and service events, and ask them to set goals and consider how their own behavior can make a difference.  Students who complete the program will receive recognition at graduation, be able to understand complex sustainability issues as they relate to personal and professional life, and be prepared to make the world a better place.

The San Francisco and Native American Cultural Center Solar Project is the Green Fund’s largest project yet! For an investment of $100,000 a year for 10 years the Green Fund was able to make possible the installation of solar panels on both the San Francisco parking garage and the Native American Cultural Center. The system will be over 700kwhs – almost four times bigger than our existing solar south field.

In the last year the fund has gone to great lengths to improve energy efficiency on campus and in exploring new ways to engage students in the culture of sustainability at NAU. All of the projects accepted in the last year have worked to reduce the environmental impact of NAU and in engaging students and faculty in what sustainability means for the future of Northern Arizona University.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Green Fund in 2016. With the San Francisco and Native American Cultural Center Solar Project effectively taking half of our budget for the next 10 years, the fund will have much less funding for the proposals 2016. Luckily a petition headed by the Green Jacks and Green Fund is well underway to raise the Green Fee to $25. The Green Fund views this as a necessary next step in ensuring that sustainability remains a high priority at NAU and in reaching our goals of climate neutrality.


Submit a project proposal and/or apply to be on next year’s committee by visiting NAU.EDU/GREENFUND.

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Approved Green Fund Project: Inspector Tablet Green Funds Project

Facility Services Operations: Inspector Tablet Green Funds Project

In the last decade Facility Services has been utilizing inspectors to ensure contractors do a good job when building and remodeling on our campus. We employ inspectors for every piece of construction necessary on campus to include: Electrical Inspectors, HVAC Inspectors, Plumbing Inspectors, Gas Inspectors, Building Inspectors, ADA Inspectors, Fire Life Safety Inspectors, Sprinklers Systems Inspectors, Structural Inspectors, Roof Inspectors, Blue Stake Inspectors, Building Access Inspectors, Landscape Inspectors, Utility Inspectors, Fire Marshall, and Code Authority Inspector. These inspectors use many reels of paper to look at different blueprint plans that change on a regular basis.

This  Green Fund project entailed implementing 12 tablets for the management inspectors to decrease the amount of paper used for their jobs. Going forward FS Operations hopes to also utilize these devices to allow inspectors to digitally sign off on plans instead of using carbon sheets. By using tablets in the field we minimized and in some cases eliminated the printing of as many as a dozen different plans a week that are measured at 3’ by 4’ for the 12 different inspectors. That is 144 different site plans each week and almost 600 a month that no longer need to be printed due to digital access to the blueprints. An additional efficiency we have seen is with the reduction in back and forth driving trips to the office to print new plans.

Thanks to the Green Funds and these tablets, the Facility Services department is furthering sustainable goals across campus by empowering the inspectors to use less paper, reduce fuel consumption, and create more efficient processes. Without the support and reimbursement from the Green Funds this project would not have been possible.


Lloyd Drinkard, Facility Services inspector demonstrating the difference in paper usage on one project.

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Approved Green Fund Project: Thin Client Green Funds Project

Facility Services IT: Thin Client Green Funds Project

This project consisted of two green initiatives involving technology and student worker development within the Facility Services department, namely the implementation of Thin Client desktop computers and increased server virtualization. Both of these items have quantifiable metrics in terms of energy consumption reduction and furthering the sustainability goals established on campus. In addition to lowering energy usage, these reductions represent a lessened carbon footprint, waste minimization, and ongoing cost savings to the department and institution. Hands-on involvement of the two existing Facility Services IT (FIT) student workers was a critical component to this project, as is the outreach and awareness generated as part of the work.Thin client graph

The primary impact from these units will be in the amount of energy saved as well as the longevity of the devices. Over the expected life span of 10 years, the direct energy savings of each device will be approximately 1145.8 Kw/hr, or $100.83. Additional capital savings of roughly $1,821.43 per device is also expected due to a traditional desktop being replaced twice within the life span of a Thin Client. These projected savings are multiplied with the initial deployment of 12 devices made possible with the Green Funds. The sustainable gains for the server portion of the project is just as considerable with a projected savings of 180,500 Kw/hr, or roughly $15,887.84, over the six year life cycle of the equipment.

This project also provided a proof of concept for further deployments in that we ascertained the usefulness of the Thin Client for a variety of different workloads, from light administrative and managerial to intensive data entry. Based on the success of this implementation, the ongoing goal will be to find further departmental funding to transition additional users to the Thin Client plat form. This will continue the trend of reducing consumption across the department and allow FIT staff to more easily maintain equipment.

Thin Client Students

*Note that students shown are both well over 6 feet tall!

Thanks to the opportunity afforded us by the Green Fund Committee FIT was able to move forward with the implementation of the thin clients as well as the new host server. Without the support and reimbursement from the Green Funds this project would not have been possible. This project provided an exceptional learning opportunity for FIT student workers and allowed the department as a whole to continue to meet its sustainability goals.

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NAU’s Renewable Energy Certificates Explained


NAU is increasing its purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from 13% to 15% to help move towards climate neutrality and support the renewable energy industry. NAU will be working with 3Degrees to provide us the Certificates from a wind farm in Idaho. Jacob Dottle, Environmental Caucus communication aid, interviews Ellen Vaughan, NAU manager of sustainability, to better understand NAU’s purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

Jacob: So what are RECs?

Ellen: Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) were created to track renewable energy generation because, no matter how Green Power is produced, once an electron from a renewable facility is delivered to a power grid, that electron is indistinguishable from an electron generated at a fossil fuel plant. RECs represent the environmental attributes associated with the production of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy. There are two things happening when a wind, or solar, or other renewable energy installation produces electricity. First, electrons supplied from an installation are sent out over distribution lines to the nearest demand for that energy, like a town or city. These electrons, which again are indistinguishable from other electrons, are sold as grid-average electricity. Second, the Renewable Energy Certificate for one MWh of this green power has the ability to be sold on a national market. The RECs are a legal instrument, and essentially represent the ownership claim to the environmental benefits associated with the generation of renewable energy, which we have no way to convey through the physical electric gird.

Jacob: What does that do?

Ellen: Have you taken an Economics 101 class yet?

Jacob: I have, but a long time ago.

Ellen: That’s ok. Let’s see if you got one of the very basics. What happens when demand for a product starts to rise?

Jacob: The company can charge more money and they can make more money.

Ellen: Yes. Almost all of the time. What happens when other companies see that a product is in demand?

Jacob: They want to get in on it. They start making that product.

Ellen: Exactly, you remember what’s important from Economics 101! Increased demand leads to increased supply. This is exactly what the world needs, an increased supply of renewable energy. REC’s are a market signal to renewable energy developers and investors that there’s this additional source of income attached to renewable energy that will make their development or investment more competitive with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Environmentalists and humanitarians have been fighting for a policy that would act like this at the national level for decades. We know fossil fuels have billions of dollars’ worth of environmental and health related negative externalities so a simple solution would be to tax fossil fuels and use that money to subsidize clean renewable energy. Here at NAU, we recognize our electricity use has an unaccounted for societal cost associated with it so we’re offsetting 15% of our electrical consumption with RECs and remaining the Big Sky Conference Champion in EPA’S College & University Green Power Challenge.

Jacob: So that’s why NAU buy RECs?

Ellen: Definitely. It’s a great thing to do. NAU’s made a commitment to reach climate neutrality and this significantly helps reduce our emissions.

Jacob: So we’re offsetting our emissions, does this have anything to do with those projects that plant trees?

Ellen: No. Not at all. The key words in Renewable Energy Certificates are renewable energy. We are only supporting renewable energy that can be completely verifiable. There is a national standard for verifying RECs that’s called “Green-e Energy” certification. We made sure our RECs were certified, in our national grid, and produced from a specific, new renewable energy source. Specifically, we’re getting our RECs from a 100% wind farm called Meadow Creek in Bonneville, Idaho.

Jacob: Sounds good, why don’t we offset all our emissions with RECs?

Ellen: Well the one bummer about RECs is they don’t have any financial return on investment for the university. Although they provide a lot of positives to the renewable energy industry and climate change, I think it’d be everyone’s preference to invest in energy efficiencies and renewable energies on campus that provide us a financial return. Unfortunately, large scale, on campus projects take a large amount of upfront money that we don’t have right now. RECs are the perfect option for being able to move towards our goals economically.

Jacob: Thanks so much, I’m glad we’re doing it!

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Career Development and Environmental Caucus Preparing for Careers With Impact

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The third annual Careers With Impact event will occur on Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 and Career Development and the Environmental Caucus have been hard at work preparing for this year’s event. Here at NAU, we see sustainability as an interdisciplinary challenge that extends beyond the key environmental issues of our age, such as climate change, and into the realm of social and economic justice. Careers With Impact is meant to help students connect to careers in sustainability. Many students know what kinds of impacts they want to make, but they don’t know how to go about finding work that will allow them to do so after graduation. Some students might not know which direction they want to go, but with the help of professionals in these positions, we intend to increase awareness of sustainable jobs by introducing students to positions that have sustainable implications, but may not necessarily say ‘sustainability’ in the title. Careers With Impact is an event that is meant to bring students together with professionals from social, economic, and environmental backgrounds or experiences.

This year Career Development and the Environmental Caucus are expecting to see an increase in student participation and attendance and a significant increase in professionals attending. Students will be given the chance to ask these professionals questions about their career, to get advice for student’s own careers, and to network with professionals. If you know of a professional in the field who would want to participate, please contact

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