Tue, 15 Oct 2013 16:29:00 CDT — by: Charlotte Henderson, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow
Sewanee is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and was able to bring a large number of students, staff, and faculty to the conference. Held close by in Nashville, TN, the conference was a huge success with many great presentations given, especially by Sewanee folks.
Two weekends ago, several Sewanee students, staff, and faculty journeyed to Nashville, TN, to participate in the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference. This conference focuses on empowering attendees to enact positive change at their institutions and elsewhere. Attendees gained valuable tools, knowledge, and ideas for implementing goals to reach a higher level of sustainability. An expo, showcasing more than thirty companies and organizations, allowed viewers to see the latest in environmentally friendly products and new ideas for management, networking, and more. There was a plethora of keynote speakers, panelists, presenters, workshops, student summits, and networking opportunities. On Sunday, twenty-four students attended the student summit, gaining insight about what other colleges are doing with their sustainability initiatives and also meeting other like-minded students.
Clesi Bennett (post-baccalaureate fellow) and Marvin Pate (Director of Sustainability) presented a poster on the internship program, Power Save Interns that has been in place at Sewanee for the past several years. As last year was the final year of the program, Bennett and Pate were able to display the results and report on the successes of the program. The presentation was on a case study about what works in achieving energy conservation by student interns at Sewanee. Two groups of five interns over the last two years, one group in summer and one group during the school terms have worked with an experienced energy engineer (Pate) to achieve very significant savings. The poster highlighted a lighting retrofit regimen that is saving between 30 and 50% of lighting energy in buildings; a voluntary green office certification program; an HVAC temperature and scheduling policy --- all developed and executed principally by student interns. Also included were a water conservation regimen, a laundry energy optimization program and a dining hall energy audit and retrofit.
Charlotte Henderson (post-baccalaureate fellow), Linnea Carver (senior, Ecology/Biodiversity major), and Elizabeth Sega (junior, Biology major), presented on Zanmi Café, a project in Haiti. The project is a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) partnership with farmers in the rural village of Bois Jolie and a Haitian NGO, Zamni Agrikol (Partners in Agriculture), and Sewanee: The University of the South. The project seeks to alleviate some of the challenges faced by Haitian smallholders (farmers farming on small plots of land) by utilizing carbon offsets in agroforestry systems to improve livelihoods and integrate the program in sustainability education for both Haitian and Sewanee students. Primary objectives of the project are to help increase tree planting in Haiti to restore degraded lands, improve livelihoods with a shade-coffee agroforestry system, partner with farmers to offset Sewanee’s carbon emissions, and in doing so, provide hands-on environmental problem solving for Haitian and Sewanee students.
After the presentation, Henderson gave a poster presentation on a more targeted part of the project, Sewanee’s purchasing of carbon credits to offset carbon emissions due to air travel. 50% of Sewanee’s Student Green Fee has been dedicated to purchasing these offsets due to study abroad, athletics, or outreach. The funds are channeled to Haitian farmers to incentivize planting and maintaining trees on their land. These trees would otherwise be cut down for fuel and income. However, with the purchasing of carbon offsets, Haitian farmers have the additional income to leave the trees standing. With the maintenance of the trees not only comes carbon sequestration that allows for carbon offsetting, but also many ecosystem benefits like erosion prevention, water filtration, nutrient cycle restoration, etc. The allocation of the Student Green Fee funds to this project allows students the dictation of their funds and also the educational opportunity to see the cause and effect of their actions. Those who travel to Haiti on outreach trips, are able to see where their Student Green Fee funds actually go, and are able to relay this information to others, educating the larger community.
Professor Jon Evans also gave some great presentations. In collaboration with Furman and Dickinson, Evans represented Sewanee in a presentation about integrating sustainability into higher education curriculum. Evans gave another presentation on how institutions of higher education can use their forested holdings for carbon offsets and other sustainability opportunities.
The 2013 AASHE conference was a huge success. Attendees gained many ideas, inspiration, and excitement. Connections were made that will lead to further advancements and partnerships. The goal of sustainability is more possible than ever with the insight and communication attained at this conference!