Eight U.S. Colleges Win National Award For Campus Climate Innovations

Economic and Environmental Savings Common Theme in 2009 Winning Chill Out Submissions

04-15-2009 // Jennifer Fournelle

Eight colleges and universities from across the United States have won national recognition in the National Wildlife Federation's annual competition Chill Out: Campus Solutions to Global Warming. This award program is the nation's only campus competition to promote sustainability and honor U.S. schools that are advancing creative solutions to global warming on their campuses.

Environmental visionaries and advocates from higher education and the entertainment industry have come together to celebrate the leadership of these campuses in Wednesday's webcast, which can be viewed at the Chill Out - Campus Solutions to Global Warming site. The colleges will also receive a monetary award from the National Wildlife Federation.

"The scientific consensus points overwhelmingly to the need to dramatically curb our global warming pollution in the U.S. by 80 percent or more by 2050 or sooner," said Julian Keniry, Director of Campus and Community Leadership for the National Wildlife Federation. "We applaud these campuses for innovating the technical, design and behavioral shifts necessary to meet this daunting goal. Policy solutions alone are not enough; they must be informed by the unique melding of applied research, student energy, and willingness to experiment, all characteristic of our nation's best colleges and universities."

Chill Out participants have demonstrated effective solutions to global warming. Some treat the campus as a student laboratory for green education and training; others reach out to form supportive relationships with the surrounding community, green their transportation systems, and offer incentives to students to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"This competition and the creativity it represents will be a key part of how we can create a better world: a world with a vibrant, sustainable economy and a healthy earth for all future generations," said former Vice President and Nobel Laureate, Al Gore.

Grand Prize Winner: Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, MA runs the Lead by Example Sustainability Initiative, aimed at setting the standard for responsible management of non-renewable resources. The Academy has introduced sustainability issues into the curriculum and students learn proven strategies for reducing energy use both in the classroom and in real life. One of the school's many green initiatives is a 242-foot tall wind turbine, expected to generate 25 percent of the school's electricity needs and translate to a savings of $300,000 per year.

The Chancellor's Office of the California State University system: The state of California has partnered with energy provider SunEdison to bring affordable solar power to the California State University system. These installations will create a zero-emission, 8 MW solar photovoltaic power system, estimated to cut 9,485 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to removing 48,000 cars from the road over the life of the energy contract. The California State University system also purchases up to 20 percent of its electricity from green sources.

California State University--Northridge has a 1 MW fuel cell power plant--the largest such installation at any university in the world. The ultra-clean plant produces 18 percent of the campus' electricity, and simultaneously eliminates associated heating, cooling, and maintenance costs. Because fuel cell technology is combustion-free, it produces nearly zero particulate emissions. Energy performance gains made possible by the fuel cell installation will also save operational expenses and reduce the campus' environmental impact for many years.

Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA has made alternative transportation a viable option. One of the university's most helpful and innovative projects is the "Jack Pass," an unlimited-ride bus pass for Humboldt students. Since implementing Jack Pass, the Redwood Transit Service announced a 30 percent increase in ridership, which translates to huge reductions in the county's carbon footprint. After the introduction of the Jack Pass, 526 fewer parking permits were sold on the campus, eliminating the need to construct a new multilevel parking structure.

Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT--In response to student activism, the college's Board of Trustees set an ambitious goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2016. Middlebury has reduced its carbon footprint by constructing a biomass gasification generator fueled by local, sustainably harvested woodchips, which will pay for itself halfway through its 25 year life expectancy. The biomass plant will help the campus cut CO2 output by 40 percent and will reduce fuel oil use by 50 percent.

Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH has used its climate neutral mandate to forge novel alliances between students, college activists, and local citizens. The school has worked to offset 13 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions, saving $715,000 in utility bills. Oberlin spearheaded a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) exchange called the "Light Bulb Brigade." With the help of a donation of 10,000 CFLs and project preparation in an environmental studies course, the campus exchanged bulbs with dorm rooms, local high schools, and 650 community member's homes to achieve an estimated total reduction of 6,400 tons of carbon dioxide.

Longwood University and University of California, San Diego won video awards for their green initiatives and programs. This year's video contest was hosted by GoGreenTube.com, a new online video site that is focused solely on environmental and green videos. The winners were selected by the online community through a voting process. GoGreenTube.com partners with Carbon Fund to offset one pound of CO2 for each video that is watched by a logged-in user, via a carbon credit donation.

Longwood University in Farmville, VA created a video entitled "Longwood...Creating A Sustainable Future." The school uses a steam plant that burns waste sawdust from local sawmills, providing 80 percent of its heat and hot water. Longwood's trayless dining hall reduces food waste by 2 tons per month, and the school's health and fitness center is LEED Gold certified. One of Longwood's most inventive waste reduction measures: the press boxes along the athletic fields are made from recycled shipping containers. To view the whole video, visit the Go Green Tube - Longwood...Creating A Sustainable Future page.

University of California, San Diego created a video entitled "UC San Diego: A Living Laboratory for Real-World Solutions," detailing how the campus saves $12 million annually through energy efficiency measures. Among the many innovations on campus are specialized climate-controlled boxes for housing computers and servers, and student-built weather stations used as data collectors to increase climate control efficiency. The school is currently researching algae as a biofuel source. To view the whole video, visit the Go Green Tube - UC San Diego A Living Laboratory for Real-World Solutions page.

"I am so proud of these pioneering students who are not only creating real solutions to confront climate change, but are keeping California on the cutting edge of innovation," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "The fact that half the winners from this nationwide contest are from California proves once again that we are home to some of the brightest minds in the world who are spurring new technologies while helping to create a better environment for future generations."

Young adults across the nation are speaking out about the need for greenhouse gas reductions, and Chill Out is the third event this school year that demonstrates how they are making their voices heard. The National Teach-In, held on February 5, 2009, engaged campus and community members at 750 colleges and universities around the country in a teach-in on global warming solutions. This event brought members of Congress face-to-face via video conferencing with their constituents to discuss global warming solutions. National Wildlife Federation is also a member of the coalition behind PowerShift, the youth-led movement that brought 12,000 young activists to Washington, D.C to express their message of bold, comprehensive federal climate action to Capitol Hill.

"This is a time of big ideas and big changes. It's a time for new energy and a whole new American industry. Most importantly it's a time for action and [this year's winners] are at the heart of it all. What you've made happen on your campuses is something that you can now take out into your communities, and if it happens in your communities then we can join together to make it happen all across the country," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

The 2009 Chill Out campaign was shot by world-renowned cinematographer Eric Adkins ("Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow"), directed by Melissa Balin ("Green Means Go"), and produced by Melinda Esquibel of Mundo Maravilla, Carey Stanton of National Wildlife Federation, and Balin.

The webcast features an all-star cast of students, faculty and staff from the winning campuses and a broad range of advocates and activists in today's environmental movement, including: Academy Award-Winning producer Lawrence Bender; actor Courtney Gains ("Sibling Rivalry"); musician and composer Ethan Gold; comedian and host of Planet Green's "Wa$ted" Annabelle Gurwitch; musician Nick Jago, Actor Efren Ramirez ("Napoleon Dynamite"); actor Alisa Reyes (Nick's "All That"); Founder and CEO of Karmaloop.com Greg Selkoe; director, screenwriter and actress Angela Shelton; actor and stuntman Isaac Singleton Jr.; producer, first president of eBay and founder of Participant Media Jeff Skoll; Tony-Award-winning poet "Poetri" Smith; actor Douglas Spain (HBO's "Walkabout"); actor Michael Welch ("Twilight"); actor Jose Yenque ("Traffic"); and actor Shawn-Caulin Young ("Dreams and Shadows"), and music by Austin band The Steps.

The webcast is a low carbon footprint production, going well beyond the industry's sustainable filmmaking guidelines, and has been recognized by the Environmental Media Association's Green Seal Program for using the film industry's best environmental practices. The production used the Red Camera--a 4K camera system that is filmless and tapeless, cabling directly into a hard drive, eliminating wasted film, tape, and chemicals. The lighting was Lite Panels' LED system, and the lights and production were powered by solar energy thanks to a solar generator provided by Pure Power Distribution and a portable solar-capturing tent from FTL Solar. Even the teleprompters were made from recycled materials! Campuses around the country are encouraged to host events to watch the green webcast. The program will be part of Earth Day-related events scheduled at more than 275 college campuses, high schools, and organizations nationwide and abroad.

Chill Out: Campus Solutions to Global Warming is proudly supported by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, ClimateCounts.org, Discovery's Planet Green, and Playing in Traffic. Join students and faculty to register for and view the webcast, and learn how to take action throughout the year, at the Campus Chillout website.

National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program has been an integral part of the campus greening movement since 1989. The nation's 4,100 colleges and universities educate more than 15 million students in any given year making these schools important laboratories for creativity and innovation—keys to tackling a monumental crisis like global warming.

National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children's future. www.nwf.org.

Contact: Jennifer Fournelle at 703-438-6002 or fournellej@nwf.org.