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Sustainability Newsletter April 2013

April 2013

Director of Sustainability Chris O'Brien

Earth Month is one of my favorite times of the year because it brings together the university community to celebrate sustainability. AU’s commitment to “an active pursuit of sustainability” is set forth in the university’s strategic plan, the Office of Sustainability’s mission statement, and AU’s forthcoming Sustainability Plan. During Earth Month, we transform this lofty phrase drawn from planning documents into an verb, as people and groups from across campus engage in this very pursuit.

This year’s Earth Month schedule includes: high profile experts addressing the great issues facing our campus and our planet; an invasive species removal - our largest ever sustainability community service event; career opportunities in sustainability, activities for alumni to connect with AU’s sustainability programs; sustainable craft projects; community garden work days; Wall-E and other film screenings, and much more. For our keynote address, renowned green architect visionary William McDonough, who designed the School of International Service Building, will launch his new book (see below for details). Finally, we will celebrate our twentieth Campus Beautification Day as a cornerstone of Earth Month. Find a full schedule of events on our Earth Month website, at, and tweet throughout the month with #AUEarthMonth. Join fellow students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in the “active” part of our “pursuit of sustainability.”

Chris O’Brien,

Director of Sustainability

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William McDonough Keynotes AU Earth Month, Launches New Book on Designing for Abundance

William McDonough

Image from Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute

Earth Month 2013 will be highlighted by a visit from renowned sustainability visionary William McDonough. Speaking on Earth Day, Monday, April 22, in the SIS Founder’s Room, McDonough will speak about his expansive vision for a future of abundance, and share a special message with the American University community on how they can approach their studies and careers with such goals in mind.
Author of the consequential ecological manifesto Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, McDonough’s principles of sustainable design were formulated during his long career as a notable architect and designer. His architectural legacy exists on campus in the form of the School of International Service Building. McDonough’s latest book, The Upcycle, to be released on April 16, imagines a scenario in which humans transcend their role as stewards of the planet to become co-creators of the simplest invention ever: adundance. Everything from doorknobs to the Hoover Dam is reimagined in this vision.

Immediately following his talk, McDonough will host a book signing in the SIS atrium. Copies of Cradle to Cradle and The Upcycle will be available for sale. RSVP today:

View the full Earth Month calendar of events at:

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Help Make DC the Greenest College Town in America with AU’s Day of Sustainability Service

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Flora of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Image from National Park Service.

AU’s sustainability commitments don’t end at the boundaries of campus. Help give back to our community and make DC America’s Greenest College Town by participating in AU’s first-ever Day of Sustainability Service on Saturday, April 13. Students will be joining local community members from the Deanwood neighborhood to remove invasive species and litter from the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, part of the National Arboretum and one of DC’s ecological treasures. This wetland ecosystem provides critical environmental services to the city and injects green into a space where gray concrete is more common. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is easily metro accessible from the Deanwood station on the Orange Line.

Students will leave from the South Side shuttle stop at 9:00 a.m., and work will begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude by 2:00 p.m. Stay as long as you are able. Breakfast and lunch from Chipotle will be provided, as well as gloves to wear during the cleanup. Wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes and dress in layers as we never know what the weather in April will throw our way. Don’t forget your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!  

RSVP at the following link, and don’t forget to bring a friend:

View the full Earth Month calendar of events at:

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Campus Beautification Day Celebrates 20 Years of Tradition

Campus Beautification Day

Campus Beautification Day (CBD) is beautiful evidence of AU's culture of sustainability, and we are proud to celebrate its 20th year as an enduring campus tradition. Hundreds of campus members come together to beautify campus and leave a lasting legacy. This year CBD will be held on Tuesday, April 16. Volunteer work runs from 8 a.m. until noon at 14 planting sites across the main campus, WCL, and the Brandywine building (WAMU). Visit the registration table at any of these sites, including on the main quad outside the Mary Graydon Center, to select your project. You will receive a commemorative, 100 percent organic cotton, 20th anniversary CBD t-shirt when you register. After a morning of volunteering, come to the amphitheater at noon for a free barbeque to celebrate your hard work. As you eat, Provost Scott Bass will present AU's Green Teacher of the Year award, President Kerwin will give a short address, and the incoming and outgoing Presidents of the AU Student Government will host a raffle with fabulous prizes for all volunteers. Campus Beautification Day is open to all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends.

Click here for more information about CBD, including a complete list of work sites.

View the full Earth Month calendar of events at:

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Green Eagles Go Meatless on Mondays

Green Eagles collect Meatless Monday pledges in TDR

Green Eagles collect Meatless Monday pledges in TDR

Have you seen the Green Eagles in TDR recently? If so, you probably were asked to sign a pledge to cut the meat out of your Mondays. Going without meat just one day a week can make a huge difference in reducing your carbon footprint and improving your health. It takes four times as much energy and water to produce one pound of red meat as it does the equivalent in grains, and reductions in red meat consumption have been shown to reduce high blood pressure and other heart conditions. You still can sign the pledge even without running into a Green Eagle. Click here to take the Meatless Monday pledge.

That’s not all the Green Eagles have been up to this month. Tackling the themes of food and water sustainability, our intrepid sustainability peer educators have been promoting the Tap-A-Palooza competition, recruiting volunteers for AU’s new Food Recovery Network, and trying out new low-flow shower heads to help reduce our water consumption. Click here to find out who your Green Eagle is in your residence hall.

Do you have a passion for sustainability and want to enact change on campus? Click here to learn about opportunities to work for the Office of Sustainability in the 2013-14 school year.

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Bender Library at Cutting Edge of Zero Waste

Organic Waste

Organic waste collection bins soon will be placed throughout AU Library near the existing stations for trash and recycling. Students who live on campus already are using the new orange bins in their residence halls for compostable waste that previously was sent to landfills. Following up on the success of collecting compostables in the halls, the university will add these bins to academic and administrative buildings across campus. The library is at the forefront of this next step towards achieving zero waste on campus.

Click here to read more.

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A Bin For Every Day of the Week

A Bin for Every Day of the Week

With the smashing success of our brand new orange bins for organic waste making their way across campus this semester, the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management are proud to announce that very soon American University will be the first school in the nation to feature a different colored bin for each day of the week. Here’s the breakdown:

•  Monday: Blue bins will remind you not to be blue at the beginning of the week
•  Tuesday: Red bins will provide a splash of color
•  Wednesday: Green bins will remind us that the week is only half over, but we can always be green
•  Thursday: Purple bins will combine the best of Monday and Tuesday, at least according to one staff member’s third grade art class
•  Friday: Red bins will help give the campus community boundless energy for the weekend
•  Saturday: Chartreuse bins will help expand our color vocabulary even when we’re not in class
•  Sunday: Orange you glad we have all of these new bins?

Previous uses for color-coding the bins, such as separating plastic, paper, and organic waste from landfill-bound trash, will cease immediately once the new bins are installed. “We feel that in order to truly innovate, we need to take the concept of having multiple bins to a level no one else has explored,” says Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien with a chuckle, “Every time someone sees all seven bins arrayed in a hallway or classroom, they will truly see a rainbow of possibility. Plus, recycling is so 2009.”

The Office of Sustainability takes its job very seriously, but wishes you a happy April Fool's Day!

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Now Hiring: Make Sustainability Your Active Pursuit in 2013-14

Green Eagles

Interested in promoting sustainability on campus? The Office of Sustainability is now hiring for two exciting student positions for the 2013-14 school year.

Green Eagle sustainability peer educators work in the residence halls in which they live to educate their peers about living sustainably. This position requires a five hour/week time commitment, including mandatory weekly training sessions. 12 positions (one to two per residence hall) are available.

Green Office Interns work with professional faculty and staff to go green by helping to administer AU’s Green Office (GO!) program. This position requires a 15-hour/week time commitment, including mandatory bi-weekly training sessions. Five positions are available.

Both positions are paid $10/hour, and run from August through May. We are looking for high-energy, creative students who are passionate about environmental issues. To apply, visit and search for “Sustainability” to view both applications. Applications are due by April 22. A current resume and cover letter explaining your greatest sustainability concern are required. Please contact the Office of Sustainability at with any questions.

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Take the Green Graduation Pledge

Green Graduation Pledge

Our active pursuit of sustainability doesn’t end when we don our caps and gowns at commencement. Take a moment to sign the Green Graduation Pledge, a national initiative promoting sustainability awareness after graduation. As the future leaders of our nation, American University graduates have a huge impact on our nation and the world. Click here to sign the pledge. All pledge takers will receive a green ribbon to wear at commencement that can be picked up in the Bender Arena lobby that day. You do not need to be a graduating senior to sign the pledge.

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Drink Tap and Help AU Win Tap-A-Palooza


Green Eagle Duncan Gilchrist poses with DC Water’s Wendell the Water Drop on the quad while collecting pledges. Picture courtesy AU Take Back the Tap.

AU is participating in Tap-A-Palooza, a national competition among colleges and universities to gain the most pledges to drink clean, delicious tap water. Being in DC, where the seven-times-filtered tap water has won national awards in recent years, this should be a piece of cake. Take the pledge today online using your e-mail address or on your smartphone with the “Tap Buddy” app for iOS and Android. The app also will display real-time stats on who is on top. At the time of this writing, AU sits in fourth place with more than 70 pledges. The winning school will receive $1,000 for a new hydration station.

For more information about Tap-A-Palooza, please contact Meagan Lyle.

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Like to Bike? Help Improve Campus Infrastructure for Two Wheels

By Joshua Wayland

Take the Bike Survey

Like bikes? Even if you don't, please take just five to ten minutes to complete this questionnaire and tell us about your cycling habits (or lack thereof). Your responses will be used to help the Office of the University Architect and the Office of Sustainability develop a comprehensive bike program for American University. Responses are anonymous and only will be used in the aggregate. With your help, we hope to make AU a model bike-friendly campus. If you would like more information about this survey or the bike program, please contact Michael Mastrota at

Take the survey:

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Students Explore Fracking on Alternative Spring Break Trip

Fracking Alternative Break Trip

Students visit a lake-water cooling plant at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY as part of their trip.

What did you do over spring break this year? Some students visited family and friends, some migrated to warmer climates, and others caught up on homework, reading, and their favorite television shows. For some AU students, however, spring break was a time to travel the world and give back to communities through the Alternative Spring Break program. Participating in one of these trips, AU Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien and a group of AU students spent the week traveling through New York and rural Pennsylvania to get a first-hand perspective on issues surrounding the practice of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation. Students met with local government leaders, academics, activists, students, industry leaders, and residents who live near fracking sites. “I think I can speak for the group when I say I am ready and willing to bring this reality back to AU,” writes student Alex Hitchins on the trip’s official blog, “I have gained a ridiculous amount of perspective from this alternative break.”

Read about all of the student’s perspectives, discoveries, and lessons about where our energy comes from at

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Green the Dream at Home 

Project Move Out

Project Move Out

Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Want to help AU achieve its goal of sending zero waste to landfill? Housing and Dining Programs needs volunteers for the annual Project Move-Out community yard sale.

Volunteer Details
Campus residents are needed to assist at donation collection stations inside of the residence halls from April 27- May 2. Faculty, staff, and off-campus students are needed to assist at the "Pod on the Quad" collection station on the quad on May 2-3. Additionally, volunteers are needed to assist with pre-sorting the donations on the night before the sale (May 3), and to help during sale day (May 4).

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Some donations may be messy, so please dress accordingly. To apply to volunteer, please visit the Project Move-out volunteer website.

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Upcoming Events

Earth Month 2013

View the full calendar of events for Earth Month 2013: An Active Pursuit of Sustainability at

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