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Sustainability Newsletter Header October 2012

October 2012

Director of Sustainability Chris O'Brien

How often do we think about the things we buy and use every day? As a campus community, we can make an incredible impact by making environmentally smart choices about what we buy, both individually and collectively. This edition of our newsletter is dedicated to highlighting how AU students, faculty, and staff are becoming ever more savvy green consumers. Learn about student clubs that promote the use of tap water and urban beekeeping, two alumni who started a soap business with society in mind, how the Green Office (GO!) program helps hundreds of faculty and staff green their workspaces, new awards we’ve won, and much more. From the moment when resources are extracted from the earth, to when we eventually discard a product, we all make choices that have an impact on the economy, society, and the environment. The stories below affect every part of that process, from extraction, to production, to use, and disposal. I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity of the AU community, and our commitment as an institution to fostering and promoting leadership in green purchasing reflects that. Whether you’re reading this on your computer at home, or on a portable device while on a shopping trip, we invite you to join us on our journey to sustainability this month.

-  Chris O’Brien, Director of Sustainability

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Green Eagles Cycle to Strong Start this Year

By Nathan Strauss, SOC '15

Green Eagles at the DC Green Living Festival

Green Eagles lead a trip to the DC Green Living Expo in early September

The Green Eagles pedaled off to a quick start this semester, as they encouraged students in the residence halls to green their commutes around campus and DC. Convening at the beginning of the month, the Green Eagles were tasked with getting their residence halls involved in a variety of sustainability events such as car-free day and the DC Green Living Expo at UDC (pictured left). A partnership with the AU Student Government helped to promote the free student-run bike-lending program, helping to amp up usage of this great service provided by AU students.

Green Eagles signed up more than 100 new users, quadrupling the size of the bike-lending program! The Bike Lending program will capitalize on this momentum by hosting bike tours throughout DC this month to coincide with the opening of four additional bike lockers outside of Leonard Hall. These lockers join eight existing bikes in the Letts-Anderson Quad, and all bikes are available for six-hour rentals and come with a helmet and lock. It’s not too late to get involved – follow the Bike Lending Program on facebook and click here to sign up online and join us for a bike ride.

Stay on the lookout for more from the Green Eagles in October, as they address the theme of being a green consumer. For more information on Green Eagles events, trips, and green living tips, follow @AUGreenEagles on twitter and join the AU Green Eaglets facebook group.

Nathan Strauss is a sophomore journalism major from Glenside, Pennsylvania, and a resident Green Eagle ecorep for McDowell Hall. His greatest sustainability concerns are management of stormwater, public health, and hydrofracking. Click here to learn more about Nathan and the rest of the Green Eagles, and find out who’s helping to green your residence hall.

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Green Office (GO!) Update

Green Office (GO!) tackles office supplies in October

More than thirty offices are participating in American University’s Green Office (GO!) program this year. Each month, they will focus on a different area of workplace sustainability, and complete actions to earn points toward a GO! rating of Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. In September, more than 500 staff members learned about ways to green their campus commute by using public transit, taking advantage of benefit programs, or finding a ride through AU’s private ridesharing network, Zimride.

Congratulations to the following offices for achieving high scores this month:

  • Music Library (Katzen Arts Center)
  • Kogod School of Business – which earned GO! Platinum Certification last year
  • AU Abroad (Rockwood Building)
  • Human Resources (3201 New Mexico Avenue)
  • SPA Dean’s Office (Ward Circle Building)

In October, offices will focus on greening their paper, ink, and other office supplies.

Click here for more information about GO!, including a list of participating offices, currently certified offices, and tips for going green in your workspace.

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AU Brings Sustainability to the Community

Green Apple Day of Service at Horace Mann School

Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe addresses volunteers at Horace Mann School

Green Apple Day of Service 

American University’s commitment to an active pursuit of sustainability extends past the borders of campus into the local community. There is no better example of this than AU’s partnership with the Center for Green Schools and neighboring Horace Mann Elementary School on Saturday, September 29 for the Green Apple Day of Service. This national effort seeks to improve health, sustainability, and access to nature in K-12 schools. Nearly seventy volunteers, including many AU students and staff, helped lead an array of events which accomplished the following:

  • Created trail maps for off-campus nature walks;
  • Helped Horace Mann rebuild and breathe new life into its rain garden;
  • Conducted a waste audit with students to create a better recycling and composting plan;
  • Relocated gardens to improve their maintenance and;
  • Planted trees and learned about the urban tree canopy.

“This was a great example of AU students and staff coming together with Horace Mann students, teachers, parents, and other community members”, said AU Sustainability Coordinator Emily Curley, who helped to plan the events of the day, “when we lend our time and our knowledge to make our neighbors more sustainable the whole community wins.”

Green Festival 2012

DC Green Festival

AU’s engagement extended far past Tenleytown the last weekend of September, as the Office of Sustainability and Kogod School of Business partnered to represent AU’s sustainability programs and initiatives at the DC Green Festival. More than 20,000 visitors, including many AU students, alumni, neighbors, and friends, attended the two-day showcase of the very best in sustainability in our nation’s capital. Hundreds sported distinctive Green WONK buttons, as visitors to AU’s booth enjoyed selecting from a range of buttons to declare their sustainability credentials, including “Local WONK”, “Climate WONK”, and “Green Biz WONK.” After selecting their button, visitors young and old learned about AU’s array of sustainability-focused academic programs, campus climate goals, and sustainability initiatives, policies, and commitments, and received an open invitation to visit our award-winning campus arboretum. Students, faculty, and staff showed their AU spirit while volunteering throughout the weekend, including the Green Eagles pictured above. Click here to see a photo album of from AU’s booth at the Green Festival.

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AU Alumni on a Sustainable Soapbox with New Business

By Ashley Goetz, SOC '13

The Soapbox Soaps team

Photo Courtesy David Simnick and Daniel Doll

Most college grads would be happy to land a nine-to-five job, but for two AU alumni that wasn’t enough. Meet David Simnick and Daniel Doll. Dave and Dan wanted to make a difference, and an entrepreneurship class became their catalyst. They worked across colleges with Dave’s longtime friend, Eric Vong (who was studying at Purdue), to develop a business with a core humanitarian mission: A bar of soap can save a life.

More than 22,000 children die every day from diseases like cholera and typhoid; 3,000 of those deaths could be prevented with access to a bar of soap. Dave, Dan and Eric recognized the need and created SoapBox Soaps, a company empowering consumers to change the world through everyday purchases.

SoapBox Soaps has made its way into 130 stores internationally, donating bars to people in Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Ecuador, Belize, Thailand, and the U.S. However, Dave stresses that they are still a startup. “We’ve overcome the small obstacles, but there are still big hurdles to surmount,” he said.

Click here to continue reading the original story on Stay current with Dave, Dan, and the rest of the Soapbox Soaps team with Soapbox Soaps on Facebook, and @SoapboxSoaps on Twitter.

Ashley Goetz will be graduating this December with a bachelors degree from the School of Communication. She is a frequent contributor to hercampus, and often writes on environmental, sustainability, and social justice topics. Click here to read more of her work.

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Local is the "Buzz"-word for AU's Own WONK Honey

Wonk Honey

Photo courtesy Annie Lyon

This semester, the AU Beekeeping Society celebrated two milestones - becoming an officially recognized student organization (although an intrepid group of student beekeepers has been meeting since January), and harvesting the first-ever batch of “WONK Honey” from AU’s campus beehives. The Society seeks to spread knowledge about the importance of bees and beekeeping through educational sessions on bee biology, bees in religion and culture, hands-on beekeeping, and other topics. A peer-learning model allows each club member to take ownership of what they want to learn.

This semester’s activities began with the harvest – a modest 15 lbs. to start, although AU’s four beehives can produce as much as 250 – 400 lbs. of honey each year if all goes well. The honey is placed in jars and shared among a 40-member honey co-op of students, faculty, and staff who all work on tending the hives. A bit of honey was also donated to DCist, so they could use local DC-produced honey in their attempt to recreate the White House’s honey ale (read about their attempt here), and a jar was entered in the DC State Fair in September. “We scored remarkably well for having such new hives and the judges loved our honey!” remarked Chase Freeman, a senior in SIS.
The hives have many benefits beyond supporting local agriculture. The bees pollinate AU’s campus arboretum, as well as a few kilometers around the campus as well. “Besides the ecological services that bees provide, the campus community gains exposure to bees and the culture of beekeeping,” says SIS PhD student Caroline Chumo. “I’m proud of newcomers who boldly pick up their first frame covered in bees,” adds junior Biology major and Society President Eli McComb. “My most proud moment was when I got the entire Society to look for potential nectar spots by shaking my butt in a waggle dance fashion.”

In addition to the student and staff beekeepers, the apiary, located on the second floor of the Mary Graydon Center on the north courtyard green roof, gets many visitors throughout the year, including groups of local elementary students on Campus Beautification Day. “It was absolutely great to see our campus become a place where the larger DC community can learn about sustainability”, says faculty adviser Eve Bratman. “It is a powerful thing to see such a diverse mix of people learning in hands-on ways together.”

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Student Campaign Seeks to Take Back the Tap

Take Back the Tap student leaders

Student leaders of the Take Back the Tap initiative staff the water table at the Race for Representation

"Drink Tap.” That’s the simple message being spread by Take Back the Tap (TBTP) initiative, the AU chapter of a nationwide campaign by nonprofit Food and Water Watch. Run by AU’s student environment club, EcoSense, TBTP promotes the environmental, monetary, and health benefits of drinking DC’s award-winning tap water. The benefits of drinking tap are many. Not only is access to clean, safe water a fundamental human right, but tap water is about a thousand times less expensive than bottled water. Avoiding single-use disposable bottles saves both water and fossil fuels required to produce them, and cuts down on waste as most are not recycled and end up in waterways and landfills where they remain.

“Our main goals this semester are continuing to mobilize student and faculty support for Take Back the Tap,” says student leader Kate Brunette. “And to bring all major players to the table for a discussion about banning bottled water on AU’s campus.” Such bans have already been implemented on many university campuses, including Brown University, Seattle University, and most recently Loyola University Chicago. TBTP has reached out across campus for support, most recently sponsoring a tap water table at the Women in Politics Race to Representation 5K, keeping runners both hydrated and educated about their positive impact.  

During the last week of October, TBTP will host a Water Week on campus. Watch for their information table on the quad. For more information on Water Week, the TBTP campaign, and other events to help you go bottle free and feel good about drinking tap, “like” the American University Take Back the Tap page on facebook.

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AU Receives EPA 2012 Green Power Leadership Award

EPA presents AU with energy award

AU Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien accepts the 2012 Green Power Leadership Award

American University received a 2012 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference. As one of only four universities nationwide to receive the award, AU was recognized as a leading green power purchaser for its commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the country’s voluntary green power market.

“We’re proud to receive this prestigious award from the EPA,” said Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien. “Purchasing green power helps us become more sustainable, meet our climate commitment, and set an example to others to support clean sources of electricity and help to fight climate change.”

Click here to read the full story.

View energy use in AU’s buildings in real-time using the American University Energy Dashboard. For more information on AU’s green power purchase and climate neutrality goal, visit the Office of Sustainability website.

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Tales from the Wasteland

Organic Waste Collection Coming Soon to a Waste Station Near You

By Helen Lee, Zero Waste Coordinator

Compost used to grow new life

Lunch at the campus Subway was delicious. As you ball up your mustard-covered sandwich wrapper, and poise NBA-style to launch it across the room into a landfill-bound trash can, you wonder, “Aren’t there better things I can do with my food waste?” You pause for a moment, and walk over to the landfill bin. Inside, half-eaten sandwiches, fruit, and other organic waste – things that were once alive – fill most of the bin. You’ve been a dedicated recycler of paper and plastic for years, but now, here at American University, you finally ask, “How can I reduce my waste footprint to zero? How can I make sure that I’m not contributing to our landfill problem?”

In just a few months, AU will have an answer that will bring our entire campus community much closer to our zero waste goal. During winter break this December, American University will partner with ARAMARK housekeeping to install containers dedicated to collect organic waste campus-wide. These newly designed bins will accept organic waste, including greasy pizza boxes, compostable cups and containers, napkins, paper towels, sandwich wrappers, paper cups and plates, chopsticks, coffee stirrers, and of course, food waste. Rather than spending decades in a landfill, these materials will be sent to an off-site composting facility where the waste will be transformed into a nutrient-rich soil, used in our own campus-wide arboretum to help grow new life. Talk about closing the loop! Based on campus waste audits, about two hundred tons of waste could be diverted from landfill every year by collecting AU’s organic waste for compost.

These new bins will be critical in helping AU reach its goal of sending nothing to landfill. Click here for more information about AU’s Zero Waste policy, and here for a helpful FAQ about campus organic waste collection. For questions or comments, e-mail or call 202-885-2351.

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Green the Dream at Home

Get Thrifty and Save Green

Save money by shopping at thrift stores

There’s something about the allure of a thrift store – the notion that an amazing, hidden deal could be found on a gently used item merely because it has already been owned. DC is dotted with these stores that give all kinds of items from clothing to furniture, electronics to fine artwork, a new life instead of being doomed to a landfill. Not only will you save green, but by shopping used, you’re going green as well. 

Click here for a list of thrift stores in DC, and happy bargain hunting.

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Food Day

Wednesday, October 24

Campus organizations will host events across campus to educate the AU community about issues surrounding food. For more information, as well as times and locations for these events, contact Eco-Sense President Stephen Fredericks at

E-Waste Collection Drive

Thursday, October 25 | 11 am - 3 pm

Quad Outside MGC

Have old computers, laptops, cell phones, batteries, televisions, monitors, video games, cables, printers, or other electronics you'd like to get rid of? Bring them to the e-waste drive and AU will safely recycle them for you free of charge. Get rid of your junk while keeping harmful chemicals out of landfills and our water. Only personal electronics will be accepted. For AU-owned electronics, e-mail to schedule a pickup. For more information, contact Zero Waste Coordinator Helen Lee at or 202-885-2351. RSVP on facebook.

Green Eagle Annual Halloween Costume Swap

Thursday, October 25 | 11 am - 5 pm

Quad Outside MGC

Need a Halloween costume? Looking to put the finishing touches on that perfect outfit? Bring your old costumes, accessories, and old clothing to the Halloween Costume Swap and exchange them for new ones, completely free. It's a great way to recycle your old costumes while finding the most spooktacular fashions of 2012. Drop off costumes and accessories between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m, and pick up new items from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The entire AU community is welcome. For more information, contact Green Eagle Student Coordinator Katherin Sibel at Hosted by AU's Green Eagle ecoreps. RSVP on facebook.

Eco-Sense Weekly Meeting

Every Thursday | 8 PM

Get involved with the premier environmental and sustainability club on campus. This year, Eco-Sense will work on maintaining the AU Community Garden, coordinating the Take Back the Tap initiative, fighting for global climate justice, and much more. Locations for each week's meeting can be found on Eco-Sense's website and facebook page.

Interested in taking on a leadership role? Eco-Sense planners' meetings are held every Monday from 8:00 - 9:30 PM in MGC 200.

Campus Sustainability Tours

Every Third Thursday of the Month | 1 pm

Meet in MGC Lobby

Join a professional staff member from the Office of Sustainability on a guided tour of the features that make AU one of the greenest campuses in the nation. You can also take a self-guided tour by downloading a campus sustainability map from our website. E-mail Joshua Kaplan at for more information.

Community Garden Workdays

Every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday | 10 AM - Noon

AU Community Garden (between Tennis Courts and Wesley Seminary)

Have a green thumb? Want to develop one? Join AU's student, faculty, and staff gardeners and help plant, weed, water, and maintain the garden and in return enjoy your own personal harvest. Connect with garden leaders by joining the AU Community Garden facebook group or e-mail Garden Coordinator Claire Williamson at

Submit Your Event

Have an upcoming sustainability event or meeting you'd like listed in the next newsletter in early November? E-mail with the date, time, location, and details.

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