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The American Dream is Green Newsletter Summer 2013

Director's Message

Director of Sustainability Chris O'Brien

Phew, it’s hot out there! Along with those high temperatures, however, comes the Office of Sustainability's high energy for greening the American dream. Below, learn about how we are getting closer to carbon neutrality and winning awards for energy efficiency and for sustainability in the Kogod School of Business, plus exciting summer trips, new scholarship opportunities, and stories from students on the sustainability front lines. American University was founded on principles of service and practical idealism and those values run deeply to the present day. As we look forward to a new academic year in just a few weeks, we invite you to join us on our journey to sustainability. Please, keep in touch, and we look forward to working with you to green the American Dream.

Chris O’Brien,

Director of Sustainability

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Costa Rican Forest Helps AU Catch Carbon Neutrality by 2020

Costa Rican Rainforest

Photo Credit: Dirk van der Made

AU’s ambitious plan to be free of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade is more important than ever. This year, we are hitting another important milestone toward our goal with a major investment in protecting forests in Costa Rica. The forests sequester 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide, offsetting the amount emitted through off-campus activities like the plane travel associated with AU’s top-ranked study abroad program. In keeping with AU’s spirit of hands-on education, the project will provide opportunities for students, such as those in AU’s Natural Resources and Sustainable Development masters program, to assist with the forestry effort.

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Read past editions of The American Dream is Green Newsletter in the Archive

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Offsets are just one component of AU’s carbon neutrality plan. Other ways that AU is kicking the carbon habit include increasing energy efficiency, such as the award-winning lighting upgrade in Bender Arena, and on-site renewable energy, seen in one of DC’s largest solar panel arrays atop ten campus buildings. Additionally, all of AU’s electricity is supported by wind energy. Click here to read AU’s full carbon neutrality plan.

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Will Your Office Be Green in 2013-14?

GO! Participants

How are you GO!-ing green in your office this year? The Green Office (GO!) program, now in its third year, is one of the fastest-growing opportunities to engage your entire office in AU’s nationally ranked sustainability initiatives. By completing a series of actions around topics including alternative transportation, energy efficiency, zero waste, sustainable food and kitchen, and more, offices can earn points and compete for top prizes as they earn an official GO! Certification from the Office of Sustainability.

In 2012-13, 33 offices with more than 600 faculty and staff members earned a GO! Certification, and nearly all will be participating again to improve their scores, become ever greener, and try to top two-time reigning champion the University Library. After earning GO! Platinum status for two consecutive years, thanks to the efforts of the library’s hard-working Green Team, a new campus tree will be planted in their honor early this fall.

Benefits of GO! include improved resource and material efficiency, office cohesion and spirit, and contributing to one of AU’s strategic goals. What new heights will your office reach this year? Click here for more information about GO! and a list of past participants, and to register your office for 2013-14. Please contact Joshua Kaplan, Sustainability Outreach Specialist, with any questions at or x6262.

Let’s GO!

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We’re Hiring: Help Green AU in 2013-14

Green Eagles

Are you looking for a campus job where you can:

  • Make a difference on campus;
  • Develop in-demand sustainability leadership skills;
  • Be part of an innovative and collaborative team of outgoing, creative, and motivated students;
  • Play with garbage, use (real) lasers, eat Fair Trade chocolate, plant trees, defend AU's RecycleMania national championship, and give Macklemore a run for his thrift shopping money?

If you answered yes to the above questions, apply to be a Green Eagle sustainability peer educator in 2013-14. Multiple positions are available, and all AU students are eligible to apply.

Apply: Visit and search for "sustainability." A complete application includes a current resume and cover letter outlining your greatest sustainability concern.

Watch: Click here to watch Green Eagle testimonials and see a sample of exciting projects and engagement opportunities.

Time Commitment: 5-10 hours per week at $10/hour; flexible schedule.

Who are the Green Eagles: Part-time, paid student interns hired to educate campus members to affect behavior changes that support sustainability. Some Green Eagles focus on the campus community at large, including students, faculty, and staff, while others live in, and focus specifically on students living in, residence halls.

Questions: Contact Joshua Kaplan, Sustainability Outreach Specialist, at or (202) 885-6262.

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Summer Sustainability Snapshots

Summer is a hot time for sustainability at American University. See what's happening on campus and where our students are taking their studies around the world with this slideshow.

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Team Capitol DC Nearly Ready to Launch for Solar Decathlon

Team Capitol DC at the Harvest Home

Team Capitol DC in front of the metal framework of Harvest Home during the ground breaking ceremony on February 27. Photo Credit: Larry Engel.

Team Capitol DC, the District’s first Solar Decathlon team, brings together students from AU, the Catholic University of America, and George Washington University to design and build a sustainable concept home. One of 20 teams from around the world gearing up for the 2013 Decathlon, to be held on October 3-13 in Irvine, CA, the team’s Harvest Home is taking shape and already looks like a winner.

Drawing from the theme of a harvest, the home's reused and recycled materials and renewable energy systems will embrace the natural cycle of renewal. The team is partnering with the Wounded Warriors Project to donate the home to wounded veterans after the competition. American University students from the School of Communication are contributing their skills in photography, video production, public communication, web design, marketing, and social media to the project, which has been in the planning stages since early 2011.

Support the Team: Currently, Harvest Home sits in first place in the communications category, in which it will be judged in such areas as number of social media followers. Help the team and stay up-to-date with this exciting project by “liking” Team Capitol DC on Facebook and Twitter. After you follow both accounts, ask five friends to follow the team as well. If we all can get five friends to join in, Team Capitol DC will claim victory in this important category.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost effective, energy efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Click here to learn more about Harvest House, meet the team members, view a live webcam of the construction, and more. If you would like to join us for the official media launch of the House on Wednesday, August 28, before it begins its journey to California, please e-mail Joshua Kaplan.

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Student Spotlight: Summer Research in Guam

By Megan Clark

Meaghan Cuddy snorkels with corals in Guam

Meaghan Cuddy gets up close and personal with the coral. Photo Credit: Kiho Kim.

Meaghan Cuddy, CAS ‘15, is taking her study of environmental science out of the classroom. For two and a half weeks this summer, Meaghan traveled with Environmental Science Professor Kiho Kim to Guam, as part of a project studying how the island’s wastewater treatment infrastructure affects organisms such as seagrass. 

Click here to read the full story or here to see more pictures of Meaghan’s trip in our summer Sustainability Snapshot.

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Sustainability Theme of New AU Scholarships

Kristina Bell and William K. Reilly

Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly poses with Kristina Bell, a previous recipient of the Reilly Scholarship.

This spring, two new scholarships were launched at American University to recognize students engaging in cutting-edge sustainability research and inquiry. Learn more about the scholarships and the winners, who are sure to be the next generation of environmental and sustainability leaders in their respective fields.

The School of Public Affairs’ Center for Environmental Policy joined with corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations to establish the William K. Reilly Fund for Environmental Governance and Leadership. This new initiative, in honor of one of the most respected environmental leaders in the nation, supports a student scholarship, an annual lecture series, core program development activities for the Center, and an award to recognize leaders in environmental governance and problem solving. After launching with a well-attended campus ceremony on April 23 featuring former EPA Administrator and Fund namesake William K. Reilly, three SPA graduate students became the inaugural Reilly Scholarship recipients. Congratulations to Kristina Bell, MPA’14, Samuel Cramer, MPP’14, and Zachary Rbarczyk, MPP’14 on their work in environmental governance and public administration and policy. Click here for more information about the Center for Environmental Policy and Reilly Fund.

In the School of Communication, Professor Chris Palmer and his wife Gail Shearer established the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship through a $50,000 donation to establish an endowment to support scholarship in environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Sarah Gulick and Erin Finicane, both outstanding SOC MFA students, were named the inaugural recipients of the scholarship in July. Both students have fellowships through SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking with the National Park Service, and are completing their thesis work in partnership with the NPS. They have developed an award-winning web film series titled America's Wilderness that celebrates the diversity of ecological values and human experiences within wilderness designated areas, the highest level of federal land protection in this country. To see films from the ongoing series, visit Click here for more information about the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship.

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Video Feature: Bill McDonough's Upcycle

Earth Day was extra special at American University this year, as the campus hosted visionary green architect, designer of the SIS Building, and author, Bill McDonough, to talk about his new book, The Upcycle. Watch his full presentation above, or click here for a photo album from the talk.

AU Wins Energy Efficiency Award

NEEP Award

The Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) has recognized American University as a 2013 Business Leader in Energy Efficiency. Nominated by the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU), AU was honored for its green building policies and continued efforts to advance campus-wide energy efficiency.

With assistance from the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), AU completed a major lighting retrofit to modernize Bender Arena, home to the university's NCAA athletics programs and host to commencement exercises, concerts, and world renowned speakers. Click here to read the full story.

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Tales from the Wasteland: Orange Fever

By Helen Lee

Orange organic waste bins in MGC

Although campus is quieter, “Orange fever” for organic waste collection continues to spread at American University during the summer season. This past spring, AU’s residence halls installed more than one hundred and fifty new organic materials containers in lounges and kitchens. The containers have begun to appear in academic and administrative buildings as well.

Next time you walk into Bender Library or the School of International Service building, you will be greeted by familiar green and blue bins, now joined by a brand-new orange bin at every Zero Waste station. These stations – consisting of four bins with a brand-new, easy-to-use design - have been placed conveniently in all major traffic areas for students, faculty, and staff to dispose their leftover lunch, napkins, or that empty coffee cup from the Davenport. Ensuring that all of these once-living items, which form a large amount of our total waste, are disposed of properly will help keep landfills small and our sustainability practices on the cutting-edge.

The schedule for implementing campus-wide organic materials collection has been staggered to ensure a smooth transition with housekeeping. Expect the orange bins to appear in more buildings this fall as we make our way to Zero Waste. Thank you to everyone in the campus community, and particularly our housekeeping, grounds, and facilities staff, for making this innovative effort possible on such a large scale.

Click here for more information about AU's Zero Waste initiative.

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AU Alumni Pledge to Go Green

Graduates wearing green ribbons

More than 250 graduating students took the Green Graduation Pledge before walking across the stage at Commencement in May. The Pledge, which states that graduates will consider social and environmental consequences of their actions in whichever post-graduation path they pursue, is part of a national effort to produce the next generation of sustainability leaders across all fields and professions. Pledge-takers received a green ribbon to wear on their regalia, announcing their commitment to all in attendance. Nearly a third of those who took the pledge this year received graduate degrees, a noteworthy milestone.

Click here to learn more about the Green Graduation Pledge, and get a head start on next year’s Commencement – the Pledge can be signed at any time by any student with a commitment to sustainability!

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Kogod Ranked #1 for Sustainability

By Laura Herring

Students helping to install Kogod's green roof

Students install Kogod's green roof. Photo Credit: Jeff Watts.

The Kogod School of Business has moved up to No. 1 on the annual Bloomberg BusinessWeek "Best Undergraduate B-Schools" list in the "Best in Sustainability" category. Kogod moved to first after placing No. 5 in 2012, becoming the only school in the D.C. area to be in the top ten for sustainability. Click here to read the full story.

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Biofuels Power New-Look AU Shuttles

By Kerry O'Leary

New shuttle buses run on biofuels

Photo Credit: Paul Davis

Three new shuttle buses recently have hit the road and are touting AU’s sustainability and energy programs—along with some points of pride—through bold and bright designs. All of AU’s shuttle buses now are fueled with lower-emissions B20 biodiesel. Click here to read the full story.

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Green the Dream at Home – Reduce A/C

Cut Cooling Costs

It’s hot out there this summer! Did you know that the middle of a hot summer afternoon puts the highest strain on power plants, as they struggle to provide enough energy to everyone cranking up the A/C to stay cool? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can chill out, save energy, and cut some digits off of your energy bill.

  • Change your air filter every three months at minimum to improve air flow;
  • Tune up the rest of your HVAC equipment annually;
  • Install a programmable thermostat and save as much as $180 a year by programming different settings for when you aren’t at home;
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts to improve the efficiency of your HVAC system by as much as 20 percent and;
  • Use ENERGY STAR-qualified heating and cooling equipment, especially if you have an older system that is ready to be replaced.

For more tips, in-depth and user-friendly guides, and more information, visit ENERGY STAR’s heating and cooling webpage.

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Upcoming Events

Explore Your Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City this Welcome Week

Sustainability Welcome Week Tour

Students on the inaugural Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City program take a sustainability tour of campus.

The Office of Sustainability is excited for the return of the signature Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City Explore DC program this Welcome Week. On August 21 and 22, twenty first-year Eagles will become acquainted with AU’s award-winning green campus, and then extend that knowledge of sustainability to the amazing city that we call home. By meeting with AU faculty and alumni experts, exploring DC’s natural treasures (including an interpretive canoe trip along the Anacostia River), assisting with the launch of Team Capitol DC’s Harvest Home, and touring AU’s sustainability features, students will gain appreciation and understanding of attending school in what is coming to be known as America’s Greenest College Town. At the end of the program, students will build their own solar-powered battery chargers so they can take a small piece of sustainability with them as they begin their American University journeys.

There is still time to register for Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City. To participate in this Explore DC program, log on to the portal with your user ID and password, and click on the links as follows: Life@AU, then New Students, then New First-Year Student Checklist, then Register for a Welcome Week Program. E-mail Joshua Kaplan with any questions about the program.

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Sustainability 2013-14 Calendar

Staff Council Calendar

Throughout the year the Office of Sustainability hosts a variety of programs, activities, and competitions for the campus community. View the full calendar of events for the fall semester and beyond.

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