Rethinking Trash Cans

Rethinking and Repurposing Trash Cans

In the fall of 2014, Northern Arizona University invested 1 million dollars to provide about 130 “Big Belly” outdoor recycling and trash receptacles across campus.  This positive change provides outdoor recycling across campus and has established more efficient use of staff time for trash and recycling collection because the Big Bellies include internal trash compactors and provide electronic notification when they are full and need to be emptied.  However, this transition created a problem:  what to do with the 80 stone trash cans being replaced.  The creative reuse solution generated by Tom Yazzie, Residence Life Grounds Crew Chief, was to turn these into planters for summer landscaping.    Not only are we diverting potential waste from the landfill, but we continue to make NAU an even more beautiful campus and eliminate the need to purchase planters.  Currently, planters have been placed north of Allen Hall and by the Sechrist Hall entrance.  There are plans to continue identifying locations across campus to add these new planters.


The original containers


Ready to be painted, placed, and planted!


The final product, north of Allen Hall


From cigarette holder to cactus holder


A row of summer flowers


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NAU Reaches 100 Energy Mentors!

The Green NAU Energy Initiative is Excited to Announce it’s Trained 100 Energy Mentors!

Mark Crawford Energy Mentor

Energy Mentor Mark Crawford, Fiscal Operations Manager at Facility Services, happily turns off his light before leaving for lunch


The Green NAU Energy Initiative (GNEI) has recently reached its goal of having 100 trained Energy Mentors on the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Flagstaff campus! Energy Mentors are faculty and staff who volunteer to support and advance the culture of sustainability at NAU by advocating and promoting energy conservation habits among peers.

NAU has ambitious carbon neutrality goals, and as a major first step, Facility Services launched a large energy efficiency retrofit program in 2012 that seeks to reduce the cost and the environmental impacts associated with the University’s day-to-day operations. This project focuses on improving energy efficiency of campus buildings and it stands to save Northern Arizona University $1.5 million per year and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “However, upgrading buildings can only go so far” said Nick Koressel who is a GNEI program coordinator. “We need to improve the energy awareness of the entire university community”.

“Our Energy Mentors are doing great things” said Avi Henn who is the co-coordinator for GNEI. “From arranging events and mentoring fellow building users on energy conserving habits to obtaining Green Fund grants for projects that improve and make practices more sustainable”. The Environmental Caucus recently recognized a number of Energy Mentors during the Sustainability Awards Ceremony held as part of this year’s Earth Week.

“We need and can to do more” said Koressel. “We constantly recruit and train new Energy Mentors and we would like to see this great community grow”. Energy Mentor trainings are held frequently and only last about an hour and a half. Energy Mentors learn about the ins and outs of the University’s energy consumption and are given tools to help promote campus sustainability through energy conservation. To learn more about the Energy Mentor program or to become an Energy Mentor, email Avi Henn at

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NAU Designated CONFERENCE CHAMPION in EPA’S College & University Green Power Challenge

Northern Arizona University Recognized as the Big Sky’s Largest Green Power User!

NAU announced today that it was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a 2014-2015 Individual Conference Champion of the College & University Green Power Challenge for using more green power than any other school in the Big Sky.

Since April 2006, EPA’s Green Power Partnership has tracked and recognized the collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power use in the nation. The Individual Conference Champion Award recognizes the school that has the largest individual use of green power within a qualifying conference.

“NAU has many initiatives to conserve energy on campus, and we’ve just finished a huge, 18 million dollar investment in energy efficiency upgrades but we still recognize that we use a lot of energy, most of which comes from fossil fuels.” Explains Ellen Vaughan, NAU’s Manager of Sustainability. “I’m really proud that NAU has become a national leader in offsetting our carbon use by purchasing green power and spurring the renewable energy industry.”

Northern Arizona University beat its conference rivals by using more than 8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power, representing 13 percent of the school’s annual electricity usage. NAU is buying a combination of renewable energy certificates (RECs) and utility green power products from Arizona Public Service (APS) and Renewable Choice Energy. In addition, NAU is generating green power from an on-site renewable energy system using solar resources. This demonstrates a proactive choice to switch away from traditional sources of electricity generation and support cleaner renewable energy alternatives.

According to the U.S. EPA, Northern Arizona University’s green power use of more than 8 million kWh is equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 800 average American homes annually.

Thirty-nine collegiate conferences and 90 schools competed in the 2014-2015 challenge, collectively using nearly 2.4 billion kWh of green power. EPA will extend the College & University Green Power Challenge for a tenth year, to conclude in spring of 2016. EPA’s Green Power Challenge is open to all U.S. colleges, universities, and conferences. In order to qualify, a collegiate athletic conference must include at least one school that qualifies as a Green Power Partner, and the conference must collectively use at least 10 million kWh of green power. For more information, visit:

Green power is zero-emissions 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 users reduce their carbon footprints.

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 nearly 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

For more information about EPA’s College and University Green Power Challenge, visit the Challenge website at

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LEED Gold Awarded to the Native American Cultural Center


NAU’s Native American Cultural Center was recently awarded LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating system is an internationally recognized program that provides certification for buildings, communities, and homes with exceptional environmental and health performance demonstrated throughout the design, construction, and operational processes.

This project was completed in 2011, thanks to allocations from general university funds, and approximately $3 million in donations—including a $2 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The building integrated Native American design and sustainability principles provided by input from neighboring Native American tribes throughout the design and construction phases of development.

The original concept for the center was to create a space that serves a bigger purpose, and provides an avenue for individuals and groups to be educated about the traditional knowledge of Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. “This is reflected within the environmental elements of the center,” says Kathleen Frank, director of the Native American Cultural Center. “Preserve what is around you, and utilize the resources that surround you.”

The center is a one-of-a-kind gathering place for Native American students and organizations from all Arizona tribes. These students can visit the center to receive tribal mentorship, connect with their peers, and re-connect with their cultures and traditions. It is an important resource for the Flagstaff community and all students on campus.  Workspaces, computers, academic support resources, and meeting spaces are available to all students who visit the cultural center.

Some of the sustainable elements incorporated into the Native American Cultural Center are highlighted below.

Passive Solar Design

  • Exterior blinds and interior roller shades help to mitigate solar heat gain in the summer months.

Energy Efficiency

  • Daylighting throughout the building reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day.
  • High-efficiency light fixtures and occupancy-sensing technology optimizes lighting power density and energy use throughout the facility.


  • More than 75% of construction material waste was diverted from landfills.
  • Use of building materials with recycled content and that have been extracted, harvested, or recovered, as well as manufactured within 500 miles.

Indoor Environmental Air Quality

  • Fresh outdoor air is delivered to all regularly occupied spaces at levels 30% greater than building code requirements to maximize occupant comfort and reduce indoor pollutants.
  • Low VOC materials are used throughout the facility to maximize the indoor air quality.

Reduced Building Impact

  • In-house recycling programs divert building-occupant waste from landfills.
  • The site’s use of native vegetation complements a network of landscaping elements that capture rainwater to recharge the aquifer with naturally treated stormwater.

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Green Fund 2014 Accomplishments!

2014 was a busy year for Northern Arizona University’s Green Fund! The Green Fund, a campus committee supported by student fees and governed by both student and faculty members, holds the primary vision of creating a culture of sustainability on campus, increasing student engagement, and boosting energy and water efficiency on campus.

In the last year, the fund approved projects that led to many groundbreaking university-wide improvements.

2014 accomplishments include:

The Centralized Irrigation Project, a $53,626 project that supplements the universities efforts to increase resource efficiency and minimize unnecessary water use. This cutting edge technology monitors soil moisture levels to prevent overwatering.

“The purpose is to reduce the water consumption of NAU landscaping through the installation of a centralized irrigation system.” —Nick Koressel, Program Coordinator for Green NAU Energy Initiative

The Global Peace and Tolerance Garden to be constructed at the new International Pavilion, addresses the aspiration for civic engagement that is at the heart of the Green Fund’s mission. The $157,705 project supports this LEED Platinum building through the construction of a water efficient garden and installation of environmental signage.

“The idea is to engage students in a conversation about bringing down cultural barriers.” —Dylan Rust, Director of Global Student Life

The Solar Hot Air Heaters is a $10,352 project that funded a technology that supplements the traditional natural gas heating system. Located on Property Surplus, the six solar-powered hot air heaters reduce NAU’s CO2 emissions by 3 tons a year. This project is the start of a new renewable heating option for the campus.

“[This project is] a great step in lessening our dependence on fossil fuels for our heating needs.” —Scott Perelstein, Director of NAU Operations

The Eco-Reps serve as representatives for their peers and community by providing education on how to live a more sustainable life in campus residential buildings. This $24,085 project assists and encourages students in their everyday lifestyle choices and increases awareness on individual environmental impact.

“The goal is to promote behavior changes that will continue throughout their time at NAU and beyond the time they live on campus.” —Cori Cusker, Residence Life Sustainability Coordinator

Greening Supplemental Instruction is a $8,689 project that reduces the use of paper by limiting paper handouts  and providing digital information instead. The supplemental instruction program’s efforts to reduce paper acts as an environmental example across campus.

“[The] goal was to reduce paper usage by ⅓ in the first semester and we exceeded our goal by an additional third.” —Evin Deschamps, Assistant Director, Student Learning Centers

The Weigh Scales are scales added to trash trucks that measure the solid waste and recycling created on campus. This $78,771 project quantifies the amount of waste and renewables in order to strive for improvements for a better waste-reduction program.

“One of the major goals for being able to quantify solid waste and recycling is to improve our waste minimization strategies.” —Avi Henn, Program Coordinator for Green NAU Energy Initiative

The Oil Refinery uses containers and pumps to store most of Facility Service’s Transportation grades of oil allowing them to use a vendor that recycles the oil. This $3,500 project, requires less oil to be extracted, transported and thrown away; thus, contributing to the conservation of oil.

“What’s great about this project is that the oil is rerefined, so we can use it over and over again at the same quality.” —Susan Williams, Professor of Management Science

In the last two semesters the fund has made major strides towards reductions in energy consumption campus wide. The projects approved this year have been striving to make NAU a more sustainable campus and improve the campus’ environmental impact on the community. Perhaps more noteworthy is the achievement of actively engaging students and faculty in the conversation of what sustainability means for the future of Northern Arizona University.

What’s in store for the Green Fund in 2015? 2015 sparks the evolution of the NAU Green Fund from a static fund to a revolving fund mirroring the work of a hundred campus’ nationwide. The Green Fund sees the prospect of major solar projects in the near future. In order for the Green Fund to grow and continue to make progress they need students and faculty to participate in these important endeavors.

Green Fund Committee 2014

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

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NAU surpasses water reduction goal!

 Water jpeg

NAU has decreased its potable water usage by 30 percent, greater than the original goal of 20 percent announced when the university created its first Climate Action Plan.

In the water section of the plan created in 2010, NAU’s first goal was to “Reduce the gallons of potable water per square foot of building space used annually by 20 percent by 2015 (using 2002 as the baseline year).” In 2002, NAU used 261,559,640 gallons of potable water and in 2014 it used 182,045,145 gallons, a decrease of 30.4 percent.

We are very conscious that Flagstaff is in an arid region, and NAU has to lead by example in saving this precious resource,” NAU President Rita Cheng said. “Our investment in water-saving initiatives will pay dividends in multiple ways for years to come.”

NAU has been taking aggressive measures to save water. The university has implemented a campus-wide conservation campaign asking students to “Strive for Five,” which urges students to take shorter showers. Facility Services has also invested in a variety of water efficiency upgrades as part of a recent $18 million efficiency upgrade.

“It may not be noticeable to users, but by switching out old shower heads and installing aerators on faucets, we’re making a considerable dent in our water use” said John Morris, associate vice president for Facility Services. “With financial assistance from the Green Fund, we’re also switching over to a state-of-the-art irrigation system that will not only save water but also save staff time.”

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New Sustainability Internship Opportunity: Green Building/Materials Intern


Title: Green Building/Materials Intern
Department: Facility Services: Planning Design and Construction
Location: Northern Arizona Campus, Flagstaff AZ
Academic credit may be possible

This internship position will provide the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge on sustainable design elements. This individual will work closely with the Green Building Coordinator and Project Managers to identify design and material standards for future buildings on campus. In addition, the intern will gain exposure to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification and the AASHE STARS (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) program; two rating systems that provide recognition for Northern Arizona University for its leadership role in sustainability.

This position will assist Northern Arizona University in their efforts to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with building materials, and provide a student with an opportunity to become familiar with ecological design techniques, life-cycle analysis, and sustainable purchasing strategies. The materials analysis will be summarized and presented at the conclusion of the internship to provide recommendations for campus design standards.


  • Assist in green materials research and sourcing
  • Design and maintain a green building materials data base
  • Set up data reporting schemes for sustainable purchases
  • Coordinate with project managers and various trades staff
  • Carry out various tasks related to the certification process as needed


  • Must be an NAU student living in Flagstaff AZ
  • Majoring in Engineering, Construction Management, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies or similar.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Megan Burke at (

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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 six-panel system was installed on the Campus 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:

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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!



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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