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Sustainability Newsletter

April 2015 - AU Earth Month

Get Involved with AU Earth Month

Earth Month 2015 is the continuation of a tradition that brings the AU community together to celebrate Earth Day throughout the month of April with a schedule of exciting events from across the university. Visit for a full schedule of events, and use #AUEarthMonth on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join in the celebration whether you're with us on campus or across the globe.

Some exciting events to look out for:

Earth is Bae: ECOlympics Closing Concert

Monday, April 6 | 9 - 10 pm | Kay Spiritual Life Center

Conversations with Good Company: Sustainability in the Federal Government with Thomas Day, Chief Sustainability Officer of the US Postal Service

Wednesday, April 8 | 5:30 - 7 pm | Kogod Student Lounge

22nd Annual Campus Beautification Day

Tuesday, April 14 | 8 am - 1 pm | Quad outside MGC, WCL, Brandywine, and 4100 CT Ave

Earth Month Keynote: The State of the District Environment with DDOE Director Tommy Wells

Monday, April 20 | 2 - 3 pm | Amphitheatre (rainsite: Kay Spiritual Life Center)

Earth Day Faculty Forum

Wednesday, April 22 | 6 - 7:30 pm | SIS Founders' Room

Earth Month Film Series

Every Thursday (4/2, 4/9, 4/16, 4/23) | 8 - 10 pm | The Perch, Centennial Hall

Environmental Justice Week

April 12 - 17 | Events Across Campus - see full schedule on

22nd Annual Campus Beautification Day

Campus Beautification Day 2015

Campus Beautification Day (CBD) is beautiful evidence of AU's culture of sustainability, now in its 22nd year. Hundreds of campus members come together to beautify campus and leave a lasting legacy. Volunteer work runs from 8 AM until noon at planting sites across the main campus, WCL, the Brandywine building, and 4401 Connecticut Avenue (WAMU). Visit the registration table at any of these sites, including on the main quad outside the Mary Graydon Center, to select a project and receive a CBD t-shirt.

Come to the amphitheater at noon for a free barbeque. 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.

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Have an "Aha Moment" this Earth Month

By Samantha Kenny

Daniel Neiger

Photo courtesy of Daniel Neiger

This Earth Month, the 'Aha Moment' Series will highlight a different environmental leader on the AU campus. Check the American University Sustainability Facebook page throughout April to learn what sparked an interest in sustainability among student, faculty, and staff leaders on campus. 

Daniel Neiger, CAS/'15

Daniel is a senior Environmental Studies major. He currently participates in the AU Club Hockey Team, sits on the "beeboard" of the American University Beekeeping Society, and is a brother of the Pre-Law Professional Co-ed Fraternity Phi Alpha Delta.  

"I've always loved walking in nature but the first time I felt that I wanted to make an impact was shortly after Hurricane Katrina. I had been learning in my earth science class about why the hurricane had been so destructive and how wetlands had been receding from years of sea level rise from global climate change. I felt as though choices I made everyday had some part in this tragedy. Every time I drove or ate a high carbon meal I felt guilty that there was an impact somewhere else. I wanted to change, to live by what I believed in. So I went with some friends to New Orleans and got my hands a little dirty and I was finally happy to be living deliberately."

Spark your interest in sustainability by participating in AU Earth Month. Learn more at

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ECOlympics Challenges Students to Live Sustainably

ECOlympics Logo

On March 16, The American University Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management kicked off ECOlympics, a three-week inter-residence hall competition that challenges students to reduce their waste and energy usage. 

Students are challenged to sign the ECOlympian pledge, committing to an action that will reduce their energy or consumption over the three-week period. Halls' energy reductions will be assessed using the building dashboard, and two waste audits will be conducted to evaluate waste diversion. Students can track their halls' performance at

Click here to read the full story.

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2014-2015 American University Commuter Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took the commuter survey in November and contributed to a 30% response rate from the campus community! We learned that about 35% of respondents' trips are carbon free because they use biking or walking. Another 31% of trips use public transportation or carpools. American University offers many transportation programs to help you find the commuting option that is right for you and the environment.

Commuting Survey Results

Congratulations to the winners of the survey raffle! JimShir Harris, Alexa Lang, Melissa Pasos, Jessica Townsend, John Calabrese, Kimberly Cornaggia, Thomas Daley, Sonia Gerstenfield, John Calabrese, Nicole Tanoue, Brittany Jones, Glen Arnold

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Green Eagles Jump Into Spring

By Brooke Evans, The Eagle, 4/1/15

Green Eagles Eco Carnival

Green Eagle Miguel Codinera welcomes students to the ECOlympics Carnival held in the Tavern on 3/24. Photo Credit: Veronica Yow

With a new internal structure and programing, the student-run Green Eagle sustainability advocacy program is moving its outreach from the residence halls to the entire campus.

Since its start in 2010, the Office of Sustainability's Green Eagle program, which employs about 18 students as staff, has advocated for decreasing students' ecological footprints, focusing on teaching sustainable practices that can be incorporated in everyday life in the residence halls.

Read the full article in The Eagle.

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Planting Another SEED: AU Hosts 2nd Annual Conference for Student Environmental Educators

SEED Attendees

SEED attendees come together to make unique bracelets out of sustainable materials during breaks between sessions.

This year's Student Environmental Educators' Discussion (SEED) welcomed familiar faces and plenty of new faces on Nov 22nd 2014 to swap peer education stories and strategies at the region's premier conference for student sustainability educators. Eco-Reps and representatives from environmental student clubs of George Washington University, Loyola University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Towson University, West Chester University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Richmond and University of the District of Columbia were all part of SEED 2014. 

Speakers featured were Alex Freid from Post-Landfill Action Network, sharing his experience on how he created a network of student leaders across the country working towards zero waste, and Julian Keniry from National Wildlife Federation (NWF) who unveiled NWF's new EcoLeaders online community platform. Student leaders from the different universities hosted workshops on topics ranging from tips on 'How to Start A Ripple Effect' to challenges faced as peer educators in 'It's Not Easy Being Green'. 

Click here to view presentations from the SEED workshops.

According to attendee feedback, participants were most appreciative of the opportunity to meet students from other schools and learn ideas to improve existing programs on their campus. Berenice Leung, an Eco-Rep from University of Pennsylvania shared, "SEED 2014 was a great way to engage with students also committed to promoting environmental sustainability at their respective college campus. I was able to meet many passionate people and left the conference feeling even more motivated to continue promoting environmentally conscious behavior." The Green Eagles are already preparing to welcome students from across the region to SEED 2015 this November.

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2nd Annual Sustainability Awareness Basketball Game

By Ravi Raman and Joshua Kaplan

Students at the 2nd Annual Sustainability Basketball Game

Photo Credit: AU Blue Crew Leadership Council Film Production Crew and Photographer Davis Owens

American University's Second Annual Sustainability Awareness men's basketball game on February 4 resulted in a 64 –49 win over the Eagles' Patriot League rivals, Loyola University (MD). Meant to celebrate and bring greater awareness to the AU community's commitment to sustainability, the event and game helped to educate fans about AU's commitments to zero waste, carbon neutrality, and energy efficiency. The event was a collaborative effort between AU's Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management, and the Department of Athletics and Recreation.

Click here to read more about this big win for green and the Eagles.

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Holiday Shutdown Saves Tons of Energy

By Josey Schwartz and Ravi Raman

Holiday Curtailment Energy Reduction Shown by Dip in Graph

Holiday Curtailment Energy Reduction Shown by Dip in Graph

While many of us expended energy enjoying family and friends during American University's recent annual winter holiday break, the university conserved tons of energy by closing down - 315 tons (coal equivalent) to be exact. The reduction was the result of the Facilities Management department's Energy Curtailment program which was conducted between December 24 and January 2.

Click here to read more about AU's energy curtailment program.

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New Book from SIS Professors Helps Students Examine Global Environmental Policy

Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet

SIS Global Environmental Politics Faculty Simon Nicholson and Paul Wapner recently launched a new edited volume, Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet, that brings together pieces from innovative thinkers to help educate students of global environmental affairs. The Office of Sustainability spoke to both Nicholson and Wapner about their new book and the impact they expect it to have on their field of study - and the students who may one day lead the solutions to some of the world's most wicked problems.

What part of your academic work and research inspired you to collect the readings that comprise this book? 

Nicholson: There are lots of ways to try to make sense of global environmental concerns. Paul and I wanted to offer a new, and, we hope, useful approach that focuses on what each of us can do to respond to the world's mounting environmental challenges.

Wapner: The book represents the conjunction of all my research concerns. The text aims to analyze environmental challenges and identify paths for people to make a difference in addressing them. This involves thought, ethics, and activism. One without the others is insufficient for the task at hand.

Did you have any of your AU classes in mind for this text? Would any new courses develop around it here or elsewhere?

N: The course is already being used in some of our global environmental politics courses on campus. There has also been lots of interest in the book from people in other places teaching all manner of environmental studies courses.

W: I am currently using it as the core text for the course: Environmental Sustainability and Global Health.

What is the number one thing a student would take away from reading this text? 

N: A sense that there are real and effective forms of action available to us.  

W: That environmental issues are complex but that one has the ability to understand them and devise a meaningful and effective way to engage them.

Do you think it's possible to be optimistic in the face of global climate challenges?

N: Yes. In fact, optimism is an imperative. As my GEP colleague Ken Conca is fond of saying, students and faculty who have the privilege of working on environmental matters at a place like American University don't have the luxury of pessimism. There is good and hard work that needs to be done, and we need optimism to drive us forward. 

W: Optimism may not be the best word. I would suggest that we can all be hopeful. Hope involves not standing aside waiting for something to happen, but inserting oneself into the process of environmental protection in deep, genuine ways.

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Greening the Dream Across Campus 

The following stories are contributed by offices and departments across campus who are integrating sustainability into their teaching, research, and work at AU. If you have news you'd like to share in the next issue of The American Dream is Green Newsletter, please e-mail us at

Gift Endows New Event Series on Environmental Issues

Trees in the amphitheatre

Dean James Goldgeier announced that the School of International Service (SIS) has received a pledged gift of $100,000 to establish an annual lecture series highlighting critical environmental issues. The Nancy Weiser Ignatius Lectureship on the Environment is endowed by the Ignatius family and friends of the family. Nancy Weiser Ignatius is an SIS alumna, SIS/MA '69. The first event of the lecture series is planned for fall 2015.

Click here to read more about the gift and lecture series.

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AU 2030: Karen Knee

By Gregg Sangillo

Karen Knee (center) teaching high school students in rural Ecuador about stream ecology.

Karen Knee (center) teaching high school students in rural Ecuador about stream ecology.

*This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the AU 2030 project. American University has invested significant resources in key subject areas that cut across schools and departments. AU professor Karen Knee conducts research in the field of environmental science.

In work and in life, Karen Knee has embraced variety. That's one reason why her chosen field, environmental science, has been such a good fit. Among other disciplines, it incorporates chemistry, biology, geology, physics, and public policy. And for Knee, in some ways, it is science with a social conscience. "What I like about environmental science is the fact that it is science that directly relates to real and pressing problems that we have as a species," she says.

At American University, Knee is an assistant professor of environmental science in the College of Arts and Sciences. Read more about Knee's work.

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Center for Environmental Filmmaking Director Pulls Back the Curtain in New Book


"Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in An Industry Where Ratings Are King" will be released in March 2015!

AU Center for Environmental Filmmaking Director Chris Palmer launched his new book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings are King, late last month. The book, featuring a foreward by Jane Goodall, pulls back the curtain on the environmental filmmaking industry and highlights some of its shortcomings in an effort to inspire and empower the next generation of filmmakers. The book was launched on March 24th in the School of Communication's Malsi Doyle and Michael Foreman Theater along with the winners of the Center's annual Eco-Comedy Video Competition. Click here to learn more about the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Palmer's book is now available for purchase at Amazon or your favorite bookseller.

"I am writing this book to try to change the industry by being open about my own challenges and failings as a human being and as a filmmaker. I want to show the complexities of making wildlife films in an ethical manner. It is not easy to pull back the curtain on the industry's failures—and even harder to reveal my own—but I believe the time has come for wildlife filmmaking to move in a healthier direction." —Preface from the author, Chris Palmer

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Center for Environmental Policy Names Reilly Award Winners and Scholarship Recipients

Ben Grumbles, William K. Reilly Award Winner 2015

The Center for Environmental Policy named Ben Grumbles, Maryland Secretary of Environment, and Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), recipients of the 2015 William K. Reilly Environmental Leadership Awards. This award recognizes individuals in environmental careers in the public and non-profit/private sectors who demonstrate qualities of leadership, innovation, engagement of diverse interests, effective problem solving and contributions to future generations of environmental leaders. These awards, named in honor of one of the most respected leaders in U.S. environmental policy, were given at a ceremony at American University on March 26.

2015 William K. Reilly Scholars

Amy Purpura, left, and Jennifer Hatch, right

The Center for Environmental Policy congratulates Jennifer Hatch, SPA/MPA ’16, and Amy Purpura, SPA/MPP ’16, on being selected as the 2015 William K. Reilly Scholars. This merit scholarship is awarded annually to MPA and MPP students in the School of Public Affairs who demonstrate a commitment to a career in environmental or energy policy as well as academic achievement. Jennifer and Amy received their awards at the third annual William K. Reilly Environmental Leadership Awards event that took place on March 26.

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