WSES, Part 2

The WSES concluded successfully Sunday evening with the presentation of our Outcomes Report and the formal announcement that Tübingen University in Germany will host the 2010 summit.  The preceding days were packed with discussions and experience exchange.

I was looking forward to the second theme, University Sustainability, and speaker Leith Sharp did not disappoint.  Leith, who directed Harvard’s Green Campus Initiative from 2000 until 2008, described her experience designing and implementing Harvard’s sustainability plan.  I found it really interesting to see how a similar school organized its early steps toward sustainability.  Although some of the challenges that Harvard faced were different from those I have seen at Yale—and very different that other delegates may face at their schools—most delegates found Leith’s message about the importance of finding people in the university who can be agents of change to be a theme that resonated.

I found discussions on this day to be highly revealing of the differences the delegates face as students and the various obstacles to facilitating institutional change.  On one hand, the discussion times were a great chance to learn about other students’ experiences.  I heard about campuses that have banned bottled water and schools with programs simultaneously to attract indigenous students and impart indigenous knowledge to “mainstream” students (there were also disheartening stories about schools that are still struggling to get recycled paper or to get students to use trash cans, let alone to recycle).  On the other hand, the discussions made me realize that our diversity of situations might make university cooperation as difficult as international political cooperation!  I was one of the few delegates from a private university, and my experiences differed markedly from many of the other delegates’.  Other students described their public state and provincial universities as often lacking in resources or motivation.  The prospects for universities to cooperate look dim when schools worldwide seem most concerned with their mandate to provide education, but as always, leverage points exist.  One anecdote that disheartened me was some of the Australian delegates’ description of the way that public Australian universities are struggling to attract students.  Hopefully, this situation could provide both an opportunity for students to pressure schools to meet their demands from below and leaders like Yale (perhaps through connections like IARU) to apply pressure from above.

-Julia Meisel, 2010

Sustainability in the Land Down Under: Welcome (virtually) to Canberra!

The ANU Green Office

The ANU Green Office

After 3 days of travel, including two car rides, two flights, and a three hour bus trip – I’ve made it to Canberra, Australia for a six week Sustainability Fellowship sponsored by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). At the heart of my exploration while I’m here at Australia National University (ANU) is one seriously pressing institutional sustainability issue: what is so different about us? This line of inquiry is prompted by the reality that too often in international discussions of institutional sustainability, variety in calculation methods, organizational structures, geographic or climate differences and a number of other challenges leave us wringing our hands and delaying action because we can’t seem to nail down how we might make the next sustainability driven leap on our campus. In an effort to dispel some of this inertia, while I’m here in Australia I’ll be working to highlight some of the similarities between ANU and Yale in hopes that by highlighting similarities these international comparison conversations can have some more productive ground to grow on. Although this writing will focus on similarities, to be complete I’ll also highlight issues that may make translation of solutions between settings more difficult. So read on over the next few weeks to learn more about what I find!

To set the stage, it seems only polite to introduce you to my temporary home – the City of Canberra and ANU. Canberra is located three hours south of Sydney, seven hours Northeast of Melbourne and a two hour drive from the coast. It is truly an island of a city in a vast expanse of native woodland and grassland. The area was selected as the Australian capital in 1908 and American Walter Burley Griffin was commissioned to plan the city. Comprised of many distinct neighborhoods, each with unique character and composition, Canberra has the feeling of a much smaller city. Today, the lake that bears Burley Griffin’s name is the centrepiece of an active and outdoorsy capital city which is home to 340,000 Australians.

With 32 tons of greenhouse gasses emitted annually per Australian – one of the highest per capita rates in the world – transportation is a key consideration here in Canberra. As a frequent user of the Farmington Canal Rail Trail in New Haven, I have been overjoyed to see how thickly integrated into transit bicycling is here. The city is full of bicycle trails and bicycle lanes (see a map here). It is a popular commuting choice in this city whose annual precipitation of 24.7 inches and whose average temperature ranges from 40 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (this compared to New Haven’s 52.62 inches of precipitation annually and temperatures from -2 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit) lends itself easily to a bicycling lifestyle. I’ve personally been loving the climate here which feels just like Halloween to me – cool and crisp.

As the national capital, Canberra is a cultural center too – home to the National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library and Archives, and of course, ANU. Established by an act of Federal Parliament in 1946, the ANU is the preeminent research university in Australia. The campus is comprised of over 200 buildings and covers 145 hectares in downtown Canberra – a region known as Civic. The campus itself is very green with over 10,000 trees including many endangered species. The university houses seven academic colleges which serve all 14,365 students, however only a small proportion of these students actually live on campus. The student population is quite diverse, with 3,379 international students from 106 countries in attendance.

While here I’ll be working at the ANU Green Office which is the operational counterpart to Yale’s Office of Sustainability. The ANU Green office has been in place for 10 years and thus has almost twice the history of Yale’s Office of Sustainability. The office has a staff of 14 enthusiastic people who have introduced me to the campus and Canberra very graciously. The only issue I’ve taken with them is that so far – their kangaroo spotting advice has left a lot to be desired – but don’t worry, I’m not giving up!

View of Canberra from Mt. Ainslie

View of Canberra from Mt. Ainslie

Also of Note:

Days in Australia without a kangaroo sighting: 11 😦

Terrapass has helped me to offset the 19,474 miles of air travel for my adventure for the low bargain price of $53.52

From the World Student Environmental Summit, Part 1

I’m currently writing from the second annual World Student Environmental Summit, this year at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  Here, 50 student delegates from over 25 universities and 15 countries have gathered to discuss the most pressing environmental issues and how we, as students, can take action both in our universities and beyond.  This year, we are focussing on energy and waste, university sustainability, and global response to climate change.

Each day is really packed to the brim with activity! To welcome us, we heard from Mark Stoibel, a former advertising exec who now runs Change Advertising, which helps start-ups brand themselves as green. The theme of the first day was climate and energy, so we heard from Dr. Andrew Weaver and Guy Dauncey, about climate science and energy solutions, respectively.  All of the speakers were, thankfully, extremely engaging and gave us plenty of fodder for discussion.  Personally, I felt that it was difficult to trust someone from the advertising world about the fact that his new clients really wanted to make “meaningful” changes to their businesses, especially when the word greenwashing was never even mentioned.  As for Dauncey, it was really exciting to hear a whole list of possible heating, transportation, and food solutions, but I definitely have concerns about his lack of attention to the new set of externalities that diving into technologies like solar and geothermal could create.

The delegates then spent the afternoon in discussion.  We broke up into three rooms based on theme: create, conserve, and collaborate.  What great discussions! As one of my fellow delegates brought to my attention, even if the discussions were not always purely on topic, there was a distinct lack of negativity.  No one spent the whole time bemoaning climate change.  The focus on potential solutions was really refreshing!

-Julia Meisel, 2010

Eli Exchange Extravaganza! Saturday 11-3

This Saturday April 11 from 11 to 3, come out to Old Campus for the eagerly-awaited Eli Exchange Extravaganza! This is the day to give and take clothing that is unwanted but still in good condition.  This is always a blast, come out, join us, and give/get free clothes!

Sustainability Summit and T-Shirt Design Contest

Hey all! Just wanted to spread the word that Yale’s Sustainability Summit is hosting a T-Shirt Design Contest!

The Yale Sustainability Summit is a weeklong campus symposium with tons of great green events. The winning T-Shirt designer gets a $100 gift certificate to Campus Customs, and their shirt will be printed for free on any light-colored t-shirt students bring to Campus Customs on Monday, March 30.

Designs are due soon: Monday, March 23! Get designing!

Join us on Facebook!!!

Events and tons of other cool stuff will be posted on our new Facebook Page.

Join now!

2009 IARU Summer Exchange Fellowships

2009 Summer Exchange Fellowships now available through the Yale Office of Sustainability

The Yale Office of Sustainability is accepting applications for summer exchange fellowships through membership in the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Four Sustainability Fellows will spend the summer working on targeted campus sustainability projects at participating IARU institutions around the world. While projects will be institution-specific, they are developed with the intention that lessons learned that can be applied at both the home and the host institution. Student foci can cover a broad range of disciplines ranging from the arts to engineering.

Participating Institutions

– Australia National University
– ETH Zurich
– University of Copenhagen
– Oxford University
– University of Singapore
– University of Tokyo

Timeline

March 1 Applications due
March 30 Fellows selected
June 1 – August 1 Fellowships abroad

Funding

The fellowship includes a stipend to cover the cost of airfare and food. Housing is provided by the host institution. Fellows are expected to join the Office of Sustainability team as research assistants for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Eligibility

The fellowship is open to Yale undergraduate and graduate students who will return for the full 2009-2010 academic year.

Application process

Interested applicants should submit a résumé, cover letter, and essay (500 words or less) describing how this opportunity fits into their studies and will add to the work being done by the Yale Office of Sustainability. Top candidates will be granted interviews. Finalists will be matched with projects and institutions based upon skills, interests, and background. Please submit application materials to sustainability@yale.edu. Please call 203.436.3571 with questions or concerns.

Undergraduates who are eligible for financial aid may qualify for additional funding through the international summer award: http://www.yale.edu/yalecollege/international/funding/isa/index.html