The American Dream is Green Newsletter

April 2012 Sustainability Newsletter - Earth Week 2012

Earth Weeks 2012

We are incredibly excited to announce Earth Weeks 2012: Building A Sustainable U, April 16th - 27th. As our biggest outreach event of the year, Earth Week is a chance to engage the entire campus community. Since Earth Week 2011, we have seen tremendous growth in our campus sustainability infrastructure, whether it's the installation of DC's largest solar array or beginning our first comprehensive sustainability planing process. So far over 30 campus clubs, departments, and units have planned nearly 50 events throughout Earth Week, looking to top last year's record. From a murder mystery to a poetry slam, test-driving an electric car to participating in Campus Beautification Day, Earth Week is a tradition that grows every year along with our campus community. Join us as we take the next step in Building A Sustainable U. Find a full schedule of events and more on our Earth Weeks website.

Is D.C. America's Greenest College Town?

President Kerwin signing the Mayor's College and University Sustainability Pledge

President Neil Kerwin signs the Mayor's College and University Sustainability Pledge while Mayor Vincent Gray looks on.

On February 29th, the presidents of all nine major universities in the District of Columbia joined Mayor Vincent Gray in signing the Mayor's College and University Sustainability Pledge (CUSP). The formal signing ceremony was held in AU's LEED-Gold certified School of International Service. The pledge is the first of its kind in the nation to bring together the entire higher education sector to work hand-in-hand with a city government on common sustainability goals.

Under the CUSP, the universities, including AU, have publicly affirmed their commitment to sustainability. Within a year, they will select specific sustainability targets and create and publish a sustainability plan, a process that is already underway at AU with inputs from stakeholder groups across campus. All nine institutions will attend quarterly meetings until collective achievements are reported in August, 2014.

The CUSP is designed to be meaningful yet flexible, aspirational in vision yet intended to produce tangible benefits for our local environment and our community. Not only does it set an example for other industries in our city to adopt sustainable practices, but it helps solidify DC's reputation as America's Greenest College Town. For more information about the CUSP, please visit our website.

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Newsletter Archive

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


Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, to Keynote AU Earth Week

Earth Week 2012 Logo

Building on the great success of Earth Week 2011: Green Campus, Green Communities, American University will again host a full schedule of exciting Earth Day events. From April 16th – 27nd, departments, clubs, and offices throughout campus will be contributing to the fun-filled and educational celebration, themed "Building A Sustainable U."

This year’s theme recognizes the ambition and drive of the AU community to live sustainably, and will feature events and activities focused on building the skills necessary to be responsible environmental stewards.

Earth Week kicks into high gear on Tuesday, April 17th with Campus Beautification Day. Highlights throughout the week include speakers such as Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, and Director of the Natural History Museum's Arctic Studies Center, Bill Fitzhugh. Both popular models of electric car currently on the market, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, will be available to test drive. Workshops on everything from beekeeping to organic cooking will help sharpen your sustainability skillset. Serve our community by participating in a major storm drain labeling project with the District Department of the Environment. When you're done, sit back, relax, and catch some movies including the BBC's spectacular Planet Earth.

Don't forget, of course, about fabulous prizes. Tell us in 6 words or less what "Building A Sustainable U" means to you using our easy online form.  Your submission enters you to win a New iPad, a solar messenger bag, and more. Winners will be announced after our closing event on Friday, April 27th, and the best entries will be passed on to the committee formulating AU's first comprehensive Sustainability Plan.

Earth Day celebrations extend into a second week this year and will close on Friday, April 27th with our keynote event, a Town Hall with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Come out to the SIS Founders' Room at 10:30 on Friday to ask the Administrator your questions. We won't be done yet, as an academic symposium on the Farm Bill currently moving through Congress featuring more than 20 high-profile and exciting speakers will follow later that afternoon.

Find more information, including a full schedule of events with details on all of the events mentioned above on our Earth Week website.

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April Fools...Almost


We take our work seriously in the Office of Sustainability but we hope you will get a chuckle from some tongue-in-cheek April Fools Day sustainability headlines.

  • Gas Discovered on Campus, Fracking to Begin on Quad
  • Campus Squirrels Earn Coveted Green Eagle Award
  • Green Eagles Discover Secret to Cold Fusion in McDowell Hall Storage Closet
  • Office of Sustainability Being Renamed "Office of Sunshine and Good Feelings"
  • Al Gore Names AU "Most PowerPoint-Friendly University"
  • Earth Week to Feature Troupe of Dancing Polar Bears
  • All Campus Lights to Be Turned Off During Final Exams for New "Green Finals Program"

Post your own favorite April Fools headlines on our facebook page. Or put them into six words and enter to win a New iPad and other great prizes as part of our Six Words for #AUEarthWeek project! 

Get Your Green Thumb Ready for Campus Beautification Day

Campus Beautification Day 2012

Campus Beautification Day (CBD) is beautiful evidence of AU's tradition of sustainability. Each year, hundreds of campus members come together to beautify campus and leave a lasting legacy. This year CBD will be held during Earth Week, on Tuesday, April 17th. Volunteer work runs from 8 AM until noon at 19 planting sites across the main campus, Tenley Campus, 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 participate in projects that include planting a rain garden at the Hamilton Building, fruit trees (donated by Casey Trees) at the new AU Community Garden, and at the Child Development Center garden. You will receive this year's edition of the classic CBD t-shirt when you register. After a morning of volunteer work, come to the amphitheater at noon for a free barbeque to celebrate your hard work and to help kick off Earth Week with a bang. As you eat, AU's Green Teacher of the Year will be announced and an electric Chevy Volt will be available to test drive (click here to pre-register to test drive the Volt).

Click here for more information about CBD, including a complete list of work sites. Please note that if you would like to participate in the Casey Trees-sponsored fruit tree planting at the AU Community Garden, you must RSVP in advance by filling out this quick online form. Breakfast will be provided to registered volunteers at this planting site.  

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Submit Your Photos to the Earth Day Photography Contest

Library Earth Day Photo Contest

Submit your best nature photographs for a chance to have your work become an enduring part of AU Library décor. The contest is open to all members of the university community, and all skill levels are encouraged to submit their original photos. All entries must be submitted by April 13, 2012. Please visit the library's website for more information on how to submit your photo and complete contest rules. 

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Green Offices GO! Organic

Photo by williamcho

The fifteen offices participating in the Office of Sustainability's Green Office (GO!) Program spent the month of March focusing on something we all think about many times each day - food. Not only did the more than 300 staff members in these offices work toward ensuring that as much of their food as possible was fresh, local, organic, fair trade, and/or biodynamic, but they cut down on waste packaging and even took a pledge to go meatless on Mondays.

In March, GO! offices achieved the following:

  • 80% of GO! offices do not purchase any bottled water
  • 80% of GO! offices use reusable diningware in common areas
  • Two thirds of GO! offices purchased kitchen items such as sugar in bulk, cutting down on wasteful packaging
  • Nearly half of GO! offices used exclusively fair trade or organic food supplies such as coffee
  • Fifty three staff members in GO! offices took the pledge to refrain from eating meat on Mondays, reducing their carbon footprints and reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Eighteen events held by GO! offices in the past 6 months have used reusable plates, cups, napkins, and silverware

Congratulations to the Kogod School of Business for being crowned the Green Champion for March, and to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations for coming in a very close second! These offices are well on their way to earning GO! Platinum Certification as the year-long program draws to a close for the 2011-12 academic year. Stay tuned for information on how your office can be involved next year and earn GO! Certification.

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Project Move Out Needs Volunteers

Tag sale in the Tavern

From TVs to shoes, the sale had something for everyone. Proceeds from the event and the remaining unsold items were donated to four local charities.

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 4. Faculty, staff and off-campus students are needed to assist at other donation collection stations on April 17-18 and May 2-4. Additionally, volunteers are needed to assist with pre-sorting the donations on the night before the sale (May 4), and to help during sale day (May 5).

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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A Grand Award for our Campus Landscape

By Michael Mastrota

Landscape fronting the Massachusetts Avenue entrance to the Kogod School of Business

Top and Bottom: Landscape fronting the Massachusetts Avenue entrance to the Kogod School of Business

A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of The Facilities Visionary Newsletter

For those of you who have known AU for a long time, you probably recall the parking lot on Massachusetts Avenue adjacent to the university’s main entrance. For many years, this two-acre parking area greeted visitors as they entered the campus.

Three years ago, in conjunction with the expansion of the Kogod School of Business, this site was transformed into a graceful park-like setting that now offers a warm welcome, inviting visitors onto AU's campus arboretum. The Kogod Gardens now feature handicap-accessible walkways and promenades, two green roofs, a rain garden, a large central lawn, and extensively planted landscaping.

This rejuvenated landscape was recently recognized and selected for a Grand Award from the local chapter of the Landscape Contractor’s Association (LCA). It was the only university project selected by LCA this year, and was featured on their website and in their magazine "Groundworks." 

Congratulations to landscape architect Paul Davis, who designed the project and spent many hours on-site managing the construction. Davis now recalls one exceptional story from the transformation of the former lot. During construction, Davis would often talk with a gentleman who would walk his dog by the site every day. This man, usually dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, would ask Davis questions about the project and it was evident that he had a growing interest in the transformation that was taking place before his eyes. It turns out his interest really was sincere as he contacted the development office and pledged a $50,000 donation to the campus arboretum to have a walkway named in recognition of his parents. The lesson learned, as Davis says: “Always be kind to strangers.”

If you would like to be directly involved in the continued growth and transformation of AU's award-winning campus arboretum, be sure to participate in Campus Beautification Day on Tuesday, April 17th. This AU tradition, part of Earth Week 2012, will feature nineteen planting sites around campus, including expansion of the rain garden that is part of the Kogod Gardens. For more information about Campus Beautification Day 2012, please visit our website.

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Get in the Loop -- Join AU's New Sustainability Mailing List

Sustainability Listserv

Looking to stay current with all of the sustainability news, events, job and internship opportunities, and more on campus and throughout DC? Subscribe to the new AU Sustainability Mailing List, and get all of this delivered straight to your inbox. 

To subscribe, send an e-mail to with the text Subscribe AUSUSTAINABILITY-L Firstname Lastname (Firstname and Lastname should be your first and last name). 

For more information about the AU Sustainability Mailing List, including instructions for optional functions such as receiving a digest, suspending messages, or using the list's web interface, visit the AU Sustainability Mailing List website.

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Sustainability Course Spotlight

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Literature

Professor of Physics Nathan Harshman

Chair of the Department of Physics Nathan Harshman

Sustainability is taught in many classrooms at AU, including some that might be unexpected. This year, the General Education Program debuted new sophomore seminars, innovative courses co-taught by faculty members from different disciplines. The first of these courses, The Two Cultures (GNED-2125), taught by Physics Chair Nathan Harshman and Professor of Literature Richard Sha, links the fields of literature and the natural sciences in unusual ways.

The class is structured around four scientific areas: Electricity and Magnetism, Thermodynamics and Chaos, Logic and Positivism, and Brain and Consciousness. For each of those four topics, there is a signature piece of literature: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley; Arcadia by Tom Stoppard; Logicomix by Christos Papadimitriou and Apostolos Doxiadis; and The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.

The students in the course, who hail from across all five undergraduate schools and colleges, "learn that words like 'nature' and 'green' are much more complicated than they appear on the surface," according to Professor Harshman,  "The environmental and sustainability movements are fraught with simple answers to complicated questions that can conceal misconceptions about science, nature, and history, and distort the human's role in this story.  What we call 'nature', and what we aspire to with 'green' policy changes, changes with new science, but also with fashion."

For students interested in exploring issues of science and materiality in new ways, Harshman recommends the course PHYS-230: Changing Views of the Universe, that traces how scientific developments have reshaped how humans have understood the universe and our role in it. In fact, the fundamental role of energy as both a human resource as well as a "figure of merit" in physical and biologic processes is a theme across all 100- and 200-level course offerings in the Department of Physics.

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Green Dream on the Way to Work

Register for Bike to Work Day - Friday, May 18th

From left: Eve Bratman, Anna Olsson, Phil Brannen, Cathy Schaeff, Emily Curley, and Jeff Watts. (Photo: Jeff Watts)

Registration is now open for Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 18th. Last year over 20 faculty and staff members biked from their homes to campus, including Provost Scott Bass. Bikers who choose to travel to campus on two wheels on May 18th will be able to take advantage of DC's more than one hundred miles of bike lanes and paths, joining over 10,000 other bike commuters in the city. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association will provide free Bike to Work Day T-shirts, food, drinks, and a chance at winning bicycles and other great raffle prizes to those who register and stop by one of 50 regional pit stops across the DC area on their way to work. Register online at and read about AU faculty and staff who regularly commute by bike on our website.

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Upcoming Events

Find a full schedule of events for Earth Week and the month of April on our Earth Week website.

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