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March 10, 2012 / or4green

Sustainability in Higher Ed Groups

A while back I wrote about the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an organization working to “neutralize campus GHG emissions and to accelerate the educational efforts to equip society to do the same.” and I appreciated their emphasis on incorporating sustainability into university and college curricula. The ACUPCC is supported by two organizations focused on increasing sustainability in higher education: Second Nature and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Their sites are worth checking out.

Second Nature has an interesting and comprehensive definition of sustainability, which I made use of when teaching the sustainability course last year. AASHE has an annual conference, a sustainability tracking system (STARS) and offers many other resources through its website. There is a page on sustainability research and from there a large database of student research papers. Some of these are worth checking out in their own right and for generation of new student research project ideas. Each year the AASHE hands out an award for best “Student Research on Campus Sustainability”. Recent winners were:

  • Annie Bezbatchenko, New York University (2011) – Student Attitudes and Behaviors related to Sustainability in College
  • Dallase Alisa Scott, Tufts University (2010) – Shifting from Saying to Doing: Evaluation of an Environmental Course Designed to Create Environmental Change Agents
  • Bethany Corcoran, D. Paul Golden, Kevin Larson, & Stephen Schneider, Stanford University (2009) – EVs with PVs: Analysis of Electric Vehicle Integration at Stanford University Using Solar PV Panels
  • Ryan Graunke, University of Florida (2008) – Food and Fuel: Biogas Potential at Broward Dining Hall

The works listed in the database and the award-winning papers appear to be from member institutions of the AASHE. A quick search lists 576 US 4-year colleges & universities among the members, with another 52 from outside the States (mostly in Canada).

Undergraduate research on sustainability is an extremely important way of reaching sustainability goals. Sometimes the work bears immediate fruit, as in a plan that can be implemented right away at a school. But more importantly, in working through an effectively constructed project, students can develop the essential tools required to become future leaders in sustainability.

I am now advising my fifth such project at the Coast Guard Academy. Most have been from the O.R. perspective. I and others in my department provide advice on the O.R., stats, and general project process, while we typically have a sponsor from the Academy’s Facilities Engineering Department help provide data and other pertinent information. I’ve written about a few already on this blog, though I am a bit behind on writing up the more recent ones. We are not a member of the AASHE (partly has to due with the fact that we are a federal government institution) and so you will not find our student work on the AASHE database. But I can send you abstracts and more information if you are interested. Here’s the list:

  1. Analyzing Waste Flow at the United States Coast Guard Academy: Minimizing Cost and Environmental Impact by E. Hartmann, N. Moyer, M. Tate, and M. Vanderslice,, 2008 (associated blog post about this)
  2. Tracking the Flow and Disposal of Hazardous Waste at the United States Coast Guard Academy by M. Harrison, J. Hollifield, C. Nilson, A. Shafovaloff, 2009
  3. Analyzing Light Optimization at the United States Coast Guard Academy: Minimizing Cost and Environmental Impact by T. Cassel, A. Donato, and R. Mozolic, 2010 (associated blog post about this)
  4. Monitoring and Optimizing Greenhouse Gas Emissions at the United States Coast Guard Academy by J. Barrett, I. Cristea, F. Hackett, and J. James, 2011
  5. Green Guardian 2 – Wind Data Analysis to Support Solar and Wind Installation at the United States Coast Guard Academy and Beyond, by E. Strathman, and D. Symanksy, 2012 – IN PROGRESS
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