American University has integrated sustainability into nearly 10% of their courses, spanning 39 academic departments. In many of these classes, faculty utilize campus as a living laboratory and showcase real world examples of managing power, waste, water, transportation, and grounds. An annual training, through the Ann Feran Conference, offers an opportunity to share methods for incorporating sustainability into the classroom with faculty. Faculty take sustainability outside the classroom with over 25% of faculty engaged in sustainability research on topics such as environmental filmmaking and environmental justice.
American University has a strong culture of community connectivity. One class that exemplifies this commitment is an environmental studies class that requires 20 hours of sustainability related community service with a single organization, fostering long lasting relationships and linking students to the greater climate leadership community. American University is also involved with the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and several events were held on campus this year allowing the campus community to connect with the regional community to learn about global environmental issues and solutions together.
Student Sustainability Educators serve a critical role in the Office of Sustainability by working with students across campus to expand sustainability awareness and increase engagement. These student leaders connect their peers with institutional sustainability initiatives and inspire personal behavior change. Events have included an educational screen on the green about urban agriculture, transportation fair, zero waste awareness basketball game, and waste education at various events to engage the AU community in all aspects of sustainability.
American University’s Environmental Collaborative (“ECOllaborative”) is a program for university community members who are working to advance environmental protection and societal prosperity during a period of rapid global environmental change. The efforts of the ECOllaborative pull together the diverse perspectives and talents of more than fifty faculty and numerous staff and students, united by considerations of justice, equity, and inclusion. The ECOllaborative colloquium series hosts panel discussions of faculty from diverse disciplines to present their sustainability related work. These monthly colloquia—organized around themes including water, climate, and sustainability—bring faculty, staff, and students together to consider one topic from multiple perspectives. This format has provided space for rich discussions of environmental problems, including conversations about supporting research between colleagues and brainstorming how faculty can integrate sustainability and behavioral change into the curriculum and campus sustainability plans.
Student Sustainability Educators planned and hosted the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference Student Summit in partnership with the University of Maryland. The day-long summit gathered 100 students from 23 universities to learn from one another and discuss solutions in the areas of “outreach,” “climate justice,” and “food, consumption, and the built environment.” The summit served as a forum for sharing implementable ideas to prepare and adapt to a changing climate.
In December 2015, American University hosted the DC Tree Summit, bringing together city agencies and non-profits to launch the city’s goal of expanding the tree canopy by 3000 trees in 2016. To support this initiative, AU planted the first 54 trees on campus.
In 2012, American University partnered with the District of Columbia city government and George Washington University to explore opportunities for offsite energy production. In 2013, the DC government opted to move in a different direction and George Washington University Hospital joined the Capital Partners Solar Project which ultimately selected a project that resulted in the installation of about 250,000 solar panels in North Carolina. This 54 MW installation generates enough electricity to provide each of the partner institutions with enough green power to supply 50% of the universities electricity needs. The partnership created the scale necessary to achieve the cost savings needed to make this project beneficial from both a greenhouse emissions perspective and financial perspective. At the time of completion it was the largest project of the type in the country. American University’s portion of the project came online in January 2016 and because the project is located within the regional electricity grid, we are proud to have expanded the use of local renewable energy sources.
In addition, American University has been purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) to complement 100% of their electricity use since 2010 and this project provides an appropriate next step through a creative partnership to expand our commitment to using and generating renewable energy as an institution. In addition to the use of RECs, AU owns and retains the RECs for a 27kw onsite solar installation and also has 505kw worth of onsite solar through a PPA for which AU does not currently retain the RECs.