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September 2012 Sustainability Newsletter

September 2012

Director of Sustainability Chris O'Brien

Welcome back! The 2012-13 academic year promises to be an exciting one; a presidential election is on the horizon, two new green residence halls are rising on campus, and AU’s journey toward sustainability will hit many important milestones. As we focus this month on the theme of transportation, our iconic campus shuttle buses will be making the switch to biodiesel. We began our defense of our national RecycleMania championship with our first-ever “Project Move-In”, and we are expanding compost collection points around campus. Our outreach programs, including the Green Eagle ecorep program and the campus-wide launch of Green Office (GO!), will engage and inform the campus community more than ever before. National publications, including the Princeton Review and the Morton Register of Arboreta, have lauded our accomplishments and awarded us new accreditations. We will also be increasing our off-campus outreach through service projects, answering Mayor Vincent Gray’s call to make DC “America’s Greenest College Town.” Read about these and other exciting happenings below, stay in the know by following us on facebook and twitter, and keep in touch by e-mailing us at We can’t wait to work with you, whether it’s in the classroom, on a campus tour, or digging in the soil on Campus Beautification Day and greening the American dream.


Chris O'Brien, Director of Sustainability

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Green Team Grows: Meet the 2012-13 Green Eagles & Sustainability Interns

Student sustainability staff tour campus green features

Student sustainability staff tour campus green features

As the fall semester dawns, the Office of Sustainability is excited to welcome over twenty students to the sustainability team. These students, chosen from a pool of highly qualified applicants, all have a great passion for working toward environmental and social change that will help them effectively Green the American Dream.

Thirteen students will be serving as Green Eagle ecoreps and working in all ten of AU’s residence halls, where they live. This program, now in its third year, seeks to engage the nearly 3,500 residents of main and Tenley campuses in sustainability, helping them to live greener lifestyles and enhance the sense of community and spirit that exists in the halls. The work of the Green Eagles has contributed toward residence halls reducing electricity use by as much as 30% in certain months and last year’s number one championship finish in the nationwide RecycleMania competition. Do you live on campus? Click here to find out who your Green Eagle is and their top sustainability tips.

An additional nine students, both graduate and advanced undergraduate, will be working with the nearly fifty campus offices and departments participating in the Green Office (GO!) program, available campus-wide for the first time this year. More information about GO! can be found later in the newsletter. These student interns will also be working closely with the Office of Sustainability on projects related to green buildings, energy efficiency, and will begin planning for AU’s campus-wide events surrounding Earth Day 2013. Click here to learn more about these students and the work they will be doing to help us achieve our highest aspirations for a sustainable campus.

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Nils Dennis Cuts Carbon from 100-mile Campus Commute

Nils Dennis and his Chevy Volt

While many members of the AU community bike, walk, or metro to campus every day, there are others whose commutes can’t accommodate any of these fun, healthy, and cheap ways to get around. One such Eagle is SIS graduate student Nils Dennis, whose round-trip commute to Tenleytown from New Windsor, MD is 112 miles. To green this exceptional journey to class, Nils uses a plugin-hybrid Chevy Volt. The Volt is powered entirely by an electric battery, although it does have a small gasoline-powered engine that can power the battery. Fortunately, Nils has only filled his gas tank once, and even then only with 3 gallons of gas, since purchasing the car 5 months ago, thanks to the electric vehicle charging station available free-of-charge to the public in the Katzen Arts Center parking garage (pictured above). “I’m really impressed with the progressiveness of the AU community”, says Dennis, “having a charging station available on campus allows me to get a full charge during class and commute home almost entirely on renewable energy."

Electric vehicles aren’t the only way that Nils, who when not taking courses toward his Master of International Service (MIS) degree in SIS manages an astounding five businesses, has gone green. After learning about AU’s purchase of 100% wind power in 2011, Nils purchased renewable energy credits for his own home. Now, 100% of the electricity powering Nils’ Volt is sourced from wind power, truly making his 112-mile commute to campus carbon-free. We salute you, Nils!

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AU's Vehicle Fleet Drives Away from Carbon

Alef Worku poses with the Coda electric vehicle

Did part of your commute this morning involve riding the AU shuttle? Soon, you can feel even better about this part of your trip. This semester, a tank is set to be installed near the Osborn building that will allow all of AU’s shuttles to fill up with biodiesel. Switching from traditional diesel fuel to a mixture of 50% or 20% bio-based fuel, depending on the season, will reduce the emissions from the shuttles’ tailpipes equivalent to removing seven cars from AU's vehicle fleet*.

Speaking of cars, the small vehicular denizens of campus will be undergoing an even bigger change when they are replaced with vehicles that run on no liquid fuel at all! Sparky, AU’s first street-legal all-electric vehicle, debuted on campus in 2010 and was quickly adopted by the campus community who had the opportunity to name the vehicle on AU’s Sustainability Facebook Page. This summer, AU began testing even more advanced models of electric vehicles, including the Coda model pictured above, which can travel 200 miles on a single charge.

This is all part of AU’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2020. Learn more by reading AU’s Carbon Action Plan.

*calculated using Climate Change Central's E3 Fleet Biodiesel Calculator and the US EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator

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Green Office (GO!) Program Kicks Off Campus-Wide

Green Office Logo

Do you work in a Green Office? The university’s new Green Office (GO!) program is now available to all faculty and staff, and provides an ideal opportunity to improve efficiency, reduce waste, enhance cohesion and spirit, and allow your office to meet AU’s strategic goals at the same time.

So far nearly fifty offices, departments, divisions, centers, and programs are participating. Each office designates a GO! liaison, who attends a monthly one-hour training session on various green office topics such as waste, transportation, energy, food, and more. Trained students provide each office with direct support in how to implement greening activities using a simple tool based in Excel. Offices will score points for these activities, and each month a list of campus leaders will be published and fun, green prizes awarded, with the grand champions being named at the end of the year and a tree of their choosing planted in the American University Arboretum and Gardens in their honor. Each participating office will work toward earning a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum GO! Certification that they can proudly display as evidence of their green leadership on campus.

Don’t get left in the green dust. E-mail to register your office for GO! today.

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Campus Subway Becomes First Bagless Franchise in USA

Subway Sandwich with new sticker

Over the summer, campus mainstays including the Campus Store, Eagles Nest convenience store, and Subway said their final farewell to plastic bags. Building off of a bill passed by the Student Government in Spring 2012, petroleum-based plastic bags have been replaced by a selection of reusable canvas totes and paper bags. Subway has introduced adhesive labels as a means of securing sandwich wrappers and eliminating the need for bags. This is the first time this innovative, new waste-saving technology is being introduced in the U.S. at a Subway franchise location.

Click here to read the full story.

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Summer Heat Brings Waves of Recognition

William Suter and Emily Curley hold the award plaque from APPA presented to AU

Emily Curley (far right) and William Suter (second from right) accepted APPA's award to AU at the Denver annual convention

This summer, the Princeton Review named AU to its Green Honor Roll for the second year in a row. The Green Honor Roll recognizes campuses that have earned the Review’s highest possible “green score” of 99. Only 21 schools from over 800 surveyed achieved this score.

New Professional Sustainability Award: Recently, American University’s Facilities Management department received APPA’s inaugural sustainability award for the integration of green ideas and practices throughout the university. Willy Suter, director of Facilities Management and sustainability coordinator Emily Curley were on hand to accept the award at APPA’s annual conference in Denver, CO. This new award by a national organization dedicated to educational facilities management extends beyond individual projects to recognize the integration of green ideas and practices throughout all aspects of the university. Click here to read the full story.

Arboretum Level II Accreditation: Recently, AU’s Arboretum and Gardens was awarded a Level II Accreditation through the ArbNet program. AU’s Arboretum is now recognized among other professional public gardens in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a comprehensive nationwide list of organizations that collect and display trees, shrubs, and other woody plants for the benefit of the public, science, and conservation. Click here to read the full story.

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Service an Integral Part of AU's Sustainability Mission

Group photo at a picnic lunch in Battery-Kemble Park

Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City participants enjoy a picnic lunch in Battery-Kemble Park

At American University, our most sustainable resource is the people that make up our community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and many others. Not only are Eagles incredibly bright, but their propensity to give back to their communities is truly a hallmark of the AU experience, and a key element of our sustainability goals.

To help welcome the Class of 2016 to our community, the Office of Sustainability hosted its first-ever Welcome Week program: Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City. This two-day program allowed twenty students new to both AU and the District to learn first-hand what sustainability means to us on campus, and as part of the city that DC Mayor Vincent Gray called “America’s Greenest College Town” at AU this past February. The students engaged in service, working with the District Department of the Environment to label over 75 storm drain catchments in the Brookland neighborhood with “no dumping” signs. In addition to this project, the students got to take a sustainability tour of campus, hear from AU’s award-winning faculty members, learn about volunteer opportunities with the nonprofit Casey Trees, and meet AU alumni who work in sustainability throughout the District. To learn more about Sustainable Campus, Sustainable City, click here to read the full story.

Campus was quieter during the summer, but the Office of Sustainability was hard at work. On July 14th, AU staff assisted members of the DC Watersheds Stewards academy in constructing a rain garden in the parking lot of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church across the street from AU. The garden will help keep rainwater from running off of the church’s parking lot and overloading the city’s sewer system during rain storms. Two similar gardens exist on the north and south ends of the School of International Service building right across Nebraska Avenue, forming a stormwater-fighting garden trifecta. “Helping to build this rain garden was a great chance to take something we’ve become very good at on campus, and through providing some extra sets of hands share that with the local community”, remarked Sustainability Outreach Specialist Joshua Kaplan, who attended the event, “it was great fun to get out, get dirty, and meet people from the community who care deeply about protecting the streams and rivers from polluted stormwater runoff. The new garden looks great and I’m proud that AU was able to play a small part in its creation.”

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One Month Left to Get Money to Advance Campus Sustainability

Professor Eve Bratman holds a frame of AU's campus bees

SIS Professor Eve Bratman used a Sustainability Fund grant to bring beehives to campus

Have an idea for improving campus sustainability? There’s one month left to apply for between $500 to $1,500 to help make it a reality! Any member of the university community, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni, can submit a proposal for a project that has a research or implementation component on the AU campus or within the nearby community. Funds may be used for:

  • Materials or products required to implement the project
  • Professional work, installation, or design
  • Research and testing or monitoring equipment
  • Student wages

Applications are due by October 13th, 2012, and will be reviewed by a committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Click here for the easy online application, and click here to see a list of 2011-2012 award winners and their projects.

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Tales from the Wasteland

Project Move-In Helps Boxes and Peanuts See New Life

By Helen Lee, Zero Waste Coordinator

Project Move-In Map

Locations of the yellow cardboard bins on campus

While AU's Class of 2016 were busy unpacking boxes in AU's residence halls for the first time, new efforts, dubbed "Project Move-In", were undertaken to collect and recycle all of the cardboard boxes that come with the big move. Cardboard is the single largest waste stream produced during student move-in, and in the past most of it wasn't ending up in the blue paper and cardboard recycling bins. Surely students and parents have many things on their minds while moving into the residence halls, but we know that properly sorting cardboard may not be one of them. To help, new large, yellow open top containers labeled in English and Spanish were dedicated solely to cardboard recycling. ARAMARK housekeeping staff did a wonderful job sorting out unwanted cardboard into these bins so that it can see a new life as new cardboard products

Styrofoam peanuts were also collected in the lobby of each residence hall through a partnership with the on-campus UPS Store, which reused the peanuts in its packaging services. Thanks to all of the new and returning students as well as their siblings, parents, and all of those involved in move-in for helping us green the American dream better than ever before.

As the new semester progresses, AU's Zero Waste team is working hard to implement campus-wide collection of organic waste by January 2013. Stay tuned for more updates in the next issue of The American Dream is Green newsletter!

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Green Dream on Your Way to Work

Tips to Go Green and $ave Green on Your Daily Commute

Capital Bikeshare station on Massachusetts Avenue

Did you know that over 300 AU faculty and staff members use a commuter benefit to save money on their commute? If your primary method of commuting to campus is public transit or a bike, take advantage of the benefits AU has available to you. Metrorail commuters can add up to $125 in pre-tax funds to their SmarTrip cards, while campus bicylists can receive a $20 voucher each month to put toward bicycle supplies and repair. Click here for more information on commuter benefits.

If you're a student, you have an exciting, and free, option available as well – the student bike lending program through the AU Student Government (AUSG). Bicycles are located near the north and south residence hall complexes and can be taken out for eight hours at a time, and come with a helmet and bike lock. Explore DC, save money on metro fare, and fight the "freshman 15" at the same time. It doesn't get much better than that! Register for AU Bike Lending today on AUSG's website.

If you commute to campus by car, don't miss out on sharing your ride with Zimride. Whether you're looking for a ride to the airport, a road trip home for fall break, a quick dash to the grocery store, or a regular commute to campus, use AU's private online community for students, faculty, and staff to share rides and coordinate carpools. Sign up for free at, post where you're headed, if you're looking for or offering a ride, and you'll be matched up with someone going the same way. Save gas, reduce vehicle maintenance and congestion, and help AU become carbon-neutral by greening your commute today! For more information, contact us at

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Upcoming Events

Metro DC Car Free Day

Saturday, September 22

Can you go car free for a day? Take the online pledge to use alternative forms of transportation for a single day and learn about healthy, fun, and cost-saving ways to get around while helping the DC metro area reduce traffic congestion and air pollutants and create a more livable city. AU is competing with other area universities to see who can get the most campus community members to register, so make sure to take the pledge with your e-mail address to be counted in the competition. AU is the defending Car Free Day champion, so help us maintain our DC sustainability reputation!

Pesticides, Politics... and Progress? A Conversation on the 50th Anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Thursday, September 27

SIS Building

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's seminal book that sparked the environmental movement. Two films and a panel discussion featuring experts on pesticide justice and advocacy will help evaluate the progress made since 1962, and how far we still have to go. View the full schedule online. Sponsored by the Global Environmental Politics Program, American University Library, Zenful Bites, Eco-Sense, and Kay Spiritual Life Center.

Green Apple Day of Service

Saturday, September 29 | 12:30 pm - 4 pm

Horace Mann Elementary School | 4430 Newark Street NW (off of New Mexico Ave behind SIS Building)

AU is partnering with neighboring Horace Mann Elementary school on the Green Apple Day of Service, a national effort to help make schools more sustainable, healthier, and have better access to nature. Help create exploratory trail maps, plant a rain garden, sort waste, and relocate the school's vegetable garden. Come for part or all of the day as you are able, and engage in active education and service while helping the littlest members of our community go green. Register online here.

AU at the DC Green Festival

Saturday, September 29 & Sunday, September 30

Walter E Washington Convention Center

Come visit AU at the DC Green Festival in booth 1544! We will be giving out information on our academic programs, campus sustainability accomplishments, and inviting visitors to visit campus and tour our Arboretum. The DC Green Festival is one of the nation's largest sustainability events, full of renowned speakers, leaders, and educators; how-to workshops; cutting-edge films; fun activities for kids; organic beer and wine; delicious vegetarian cuisine and diverse live music. A unique marketplace features more than 300 eco-friendly businesses. Click here for more information about the DC Green Festival.

Eco-Sense Weekly Meeting

September 21, 28, & Every Thursday | 8 PM

Get involved with the premier environmental and sustainability club on campus. This year, Eco-Sense will be working 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.

Campus Sustainability Tours

September 23 & 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.

Submit Your Event

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

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