Champions of Sustainability in Communities Awards
A growing number of colleges and universities are reaching beyond their campus boundaries to partner with their local communities in advancing collective sustainability goals. For the College Sustainability Report Card 2009, the Sustainable Endowments Institute solicited nominations to recognize exceptional collaborations, celebrate their successes, and inspire new project ideas.
Nominations detailed cooperative efforts in sustainability between institutions of higher education and local community organizations, businesses, and government. These partnerships showcase innovative projects in any area of sustainability. Any campus in the United States or Canada was eligible for the award. For more details on the nomination and selection process, please refer to Methods.
After reviewing nominations, the Sustainable Endowments Institute chose five winners for the 2009 Champions of Sustainability in Communities Awards:
Due to the large number of applicants, and the exceptional quality of the nominations, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has also selected Honorable Mentions for the award. The Honorable Mentions are for nominations that have potential to grow into high-impact sustainability partnerships. Honorable mentions for the 2009 Champions of Sustainability in Communities Awards were given to:
2009 Champions of Sustainability in Communities
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The Dalhousie University Eco-Efficiency Centre is an established nonprofit extension service that engages large organizations as well as small and medium-sized enterprises in improving their environmental and economic sustainability through education, research, and service. The centre works with its partners on mutual projects such as energy efficiency assessments, materials exchange, and anti-idling programs by providing concrete services and programs, organizing annual events and awards, and promoting information sharing and research.
Since its inception ten years ago, the Eco-Efficiency Centre has developed long-term program relationships with government, community organizations, and business. During this time, it has received national and provincial awards for innovation and business education. The centre has undertaken hundreds of environmental and energy reviews in multiple sectors and engaged 55 businesses in the Eco-Efficiency Program for Manufacturers. In the process, it has identified more than $5,500,000 in potential savings, diagnosed tens of thousands of gigajoules of energy savings, and found thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduction opportunities. In addition, the centre has trained more than 60 commerce and engineering co-op students, written more than 160 educational columns and articles in newspapers and magazines, and hosted visitors from more than 25 countries.
University of Chicago
Sustainability Partners is an environmental and social action network in Chicago that gives individuals and groups a voice and helps build the capacity of their organizations. The network is part of the Civic Knowledge Project (CKP), a community connections branch of the Humanities Division at the University of Chicago. CKP aims to overcome the social, economic, and racial divisions among various communities on the South Side of Chicago.
The network was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and the Leave No Child Inside Initiative and recognizes the crucial importance of sustainability, environmentalism, and biodiversity. The CKP is positioned to help articulate and advance the philosophical fundamentals underlying the Green Belt Movement, the Leave No Child Inside Initiative, the movement to protect Biodiversity through Biophilia, and many other projects devoted to fostering a larger sense of justice.
To accomplish these goals, the CKP promotes effective educational tools and activities to help all age levels learn about environmental sustainability. Through everything from bicycle clubs to food awareness programs to planting and beautification projects to professional development courses and workshops, Sustainability Partners is helping to demonstrate how the South Side of Chicago could move to the forefront as a site for creative and innovative green initiatives.
University of Minnesota
Since 1997, the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (Regional Partnerships) have played a unique role in identifying and implementing solutions to complex community issues facing greater Minnesota under the guiding principles of sustainability. The Regional Partnerships’ commitment to sustainable communities is based on a belief that a public research university, coupled with civic creativity and leadership, can produce long-lasting, positive benefits across the state. The six citizen-led boards serve a catalyzing role by linking local needs and innovation with university expertise and broad multi-sector/multi-agency partnerships.
One of the most prominent, successful, and award-winning programs—the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)—addresses conservation, efficiency, renewable energy, and regional energy self-reliance with strong involvement from grassroots communities, local institutions, and key public agencies and nonprofits. CERTs, formed in 2002, exemplify the Regional Partnerships model of serving as a public space and innovation incubator, providing resources to combine the best of local and academic knowledge in solving community-articulated energy issues.
CERT members, like those involved with the Regional Partnerships, draw upon the university, state agencies, and partnering nonprofits as resources, but also influence the university’s agendas through convening citizen voices to articulate their needs to facilitate clean energy solutions for rural Minnesota communities.
University of New Hampshire
Durham, New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Farm to School (NHFTS) Program, a project of the University of New Hampshire’s Food & Society Initiative, connects New Hampshire farms and schools by integrating agricultural production, school food procurement, and school curriculum.
The vision of NHFTS is to develop a healthy, community-based, community-supported school food system by (1) facilitating simple, affordable systems for purchase of New Hampshire grown and produced foods by K-12 schools, or food service management companies that serve those schools; (2) creating, collecting, and distributing support and educational materials tailored for individual stakeholders to help them integrate farm to school connections into curriculum and school policies; and (3) working with stakeholders to enhance the visibility and effectiveness of farm to school efforts. To date, over half of the K-12 schools in New Hampshire are participating in the Farm to School Program.
In addition to the Farm to School Program, the University of New Hampshire also partners to host to a number of other food-related sustainability efforts including the New Hampshire Center for a Food Secure Future and an Organic Dairy Research Farm.
University of Oregon–Eugene
The University of Oregon’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment has developed Climate Masters, a successful and replicable model for educating citizens about climate change and engaging them in activities in their households and communities to help resolve the issue of climate change. The program vastly increases climate literacy among a core group of people who reach out to friends and strangers to share knowledge and tools for stabilizing the climate. Climate Masters consists of a 30-hour, train-the-trainer program, which participants pay for with an equivalent amount of volunteer outreach.
In the training, community members learn from local experts how to incorporate climate action into daily life by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the home/yard, food, transportation, and general consumption choices, along with outreach strategies to share that information with others. Their volunteer time consists of conducting climate consultations, tabling, public speaking, and other activities to educate and motivate individuals at all levels of interest.
During its pilot year, Climate Masters resulted in average annual greenhouse gas emission reductions of two tons per person. Participants also experienced an increased sense of well-being and empowerment, with some saying the program changed their lives and added a “climate filter” to their decision-making process.
Students at Brandeis University began their partnership with the Prospect Hill Tenants Association and other community groups with the intention of developing community gardens with low-income families. In the process, students learned that a community garden was not what the community needed, and subsequently redesigned the initiative to focus on smaller gardening projects closer to residents' homes. These efforts were integrated into an environmental education experience for the community’s after-school program. The collaboration highlighted how community-guided sustainability efforts have the most potential for impact, and, as a result, the collaboration has the strength to grow in new directions.
In May 2008, after three years of planning, fundraising, designing, and building, Drury University faculty, students, and staff completed a “sustainable house” for the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Springfield, Missouri. Through extraordinary leadership and vision, the house, built for a single mother and her four children, earned a LEED for Homes Platinum certification. It became the first LEED Platinum home designed and built by students and the first LEED Platinum home for Habitat for Humanity. Next steps at Drury University include evaluating existing low-income housing for green retrofits.
New Orleans, Louisiana
GREENbuild 1 is an affordable house designed and built by Tulane University, Tulane City Center, and the Neighborhood Housing Service of New Orleans. The house provides a model for sustainable rebuilding and demonstrates the potential of sustainable prefab/modular construction. In addition to being sold to a prequalified, low- to median-income, first-time home buyer, the house has also been utilized as a teaching tool for residents of New Orleans looking to incorporate green building strategies into their own post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding projects. Three more housing prototypes will be completed over the next three years.
University of Oregon
Design Bridge is a student-run organization at the University of Oregon that offers environmentally friendly, community-based design-build services to the Eugene/Springfield area. Utilizing resources from the School of Architecture, other campus departments, and Eugene/Springfield community businesses, Design Bridge has worked on a variety of service projects, including a seedling greenhouse for Northwest Youth Corps and a bike shelter for Edison Elementary School. Additional projects are being planned to provide educational opportunities to University of Oregon students, while improving the larger community.