Antioch University New England's (AUNE) Green Guru program
Antioch University New England (AUNE) recently achieved participation from 100 percent of its employees in the Green Guru program, an initiative to make office spaces at the University more sustainable. Abigail Abrash Walton (image to the right), Assistant to the President for Sustainability & Social Justice, and Rachel Brett (image to the left), the current Green Guru, talk to AASHE about the inner-workings of the program. Learn more about AUNE's Green Guru program here.
To see AASHE's list of other school's green office programs, click here.
What are the primary goals of the Green Guru program? How large of a focus is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and specifically those from electricity usage?
The Green Guru program was developed based on a recommendation by Antioch University New England’s 2006 Energy & Climate Action Task Force, which set the target for AUNE to reach 100% carbon neutrality by 2020. The purpose of the program is to conduct outreach and education to our campus community and the general public about effective strategies for greenhouse gas reduction. The Green Guru program highlights initiatives that AUNE is taking at an institutional level as well as ways that individuals can reduce their own carbon footprint, both on campus and at home.
The Green Guru program uses one-to-one Office Energy-Efficiency workspace audits as a primary outreach and education method. Through this approach, the Green Guru meets personally with every faculty, staff and administrator who has workspace on campus. Electricity usage is a major focus of the audits, but is only one part of our efforts; the audits also deal with other elements like campus composting and resource recovery (a.k.a. recycling!). Additionally, as Green Guru, I've also been working extensively to help reduce our emissions from transportation and commuting, again by one-on-one outreach but also through general education programs and carpooling/biking initiatives on campus.
As this article mentions, AUNE achieved an impressive rate of participation (100%) of which many campuses are surely envious. How did you motivate and get such high levels of participation? What suggestions do you have for other campuses working to increase engagement?
The primary way that we have achieved such high levels of participation is one-to-one outreach. The Green Guru contacts each faculty, staff or administrator directly, either through a personal email or by visiting offices in person, to arrange each audit. The audits are usually brief (although some have turned into extensive conversations!), and people generally have been responsive and happy to participate. University employees are very busy people, so the key has been to make it as easy as possible to be involved. During the start-up phase of the program, the Green Guru also awarded prizes to those who participated in the initial education and outreach survey we did, as well as to “early adopter” participants in the audits. The key is taking a personal approach, keeping it light, and simply going to people one at a time and on an individual level. It's not hard work—in fact, it's fun and it gave me the chance to get a much more diverse perspective and meet many people whom I otherwise would never have met. It does take time, but the impact, results and built social capital are definitely worth it.
In what ways are the members that enrolled during the first or second Green Guru’s term being kept up to date with information and encouraged to continue participating in the program?
We keep the campus community informed about our progress via our internal campus communications bulletin. We also organize an ongoing community-building education & action series called Carbon Counts: You Can Too, which features speakers from our campus community (including alumni). The series raises awareness about dimensions of climate change and what actions individuals and institutions can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate-change impacts. These events, which are open to the public, also provide us with an ongoing forum to report back to the campus community about our progress.
Now that we've just reached 100% participation with the office energy-efficiency audits, the next step is to update our “audit checklist,” because over the past few years (and even the past few months), certain aspects have changed. I plan to send it to every faculty, staff member and administrator, along with an individualized email thanking them for participating, offering check-ins if they would like, and attaching the checklist as a way that they can keep informed of the changes and updates. We will also continue to use our campus community bulletin to keep faculty and staff informed of the strides AUNE is taking and the ways in which they can be involved or contribute in their own actions.
How is the Green Guru at AUNE selected? Is there an application or training process for the Green Guru? If so, who administers these trainings and what kind of information does the Green Guru receive?
The Green Guru is a position that is always filled by a current AUNE graduate student. AUNE’s Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice hires, trains and supervises each Green Guru. There is a checklist for the office energy-efficiency audits that guides those one-on-ones and that is updated by each successive Green Guru, as needed. There is also a master list of all employees with campus work spaces, which the Green Guru uses for tracking outreach. One thing I will be doing before graduating in May is to put together a handbook of additional resources and tips for future Green Gurus after I'm gone.
Are there additional individuals as part of the Green Guru program that help to track the progress of the program (e.g. reduction in energy use, etc)?
As Green Guru, I report directly to the Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice, who works with me, other staff of AUNE’s Sustainability and Social Justice Committee, and campus facilities and administration staff to track AUNE's overall energy use on a quarterly basis. Through this tracking and analysis, we know, for example, that after peak campus electricity usage in FY 2006, AUNE has achieved a cumulative 34% reduction in electricity usage for the successive four fiscal years through the Green Guru office energy-efficiency audits as well as via other institutional changes as well, such as installing motion/sound-sensing lights in the restrooms.
Has the Green Guru program worked with university leadership in terms of institutionalizing certain office practices that the Green Gurus have been encouraging (e.g. buying 100% recycled papers, instituting an e-waste recycling policy)?
AUNE’s Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice is the primary point person on campus for facilitating institutionalization of the campus’s sustainability and social justice goals and action steps. She reports directly to AUNE’s campus president and serves on the president’s cabinet. AUNE’s sustainability initiatives are guided by the campus’s 2006 whole-systems Social Justice Audit and our 2010-2020 Climate Action Plan. Since developing these foundational plans, our campus community has achieved significant and concrete progress in terms of institutionalizing purchase of 100% recycled paper, instituting an e-waste recycling procedures, reducing campus paper printing, and a host of other sustainability measures. Campus leadership is committed to supporting and implementing these initiatives. One example among many others: in 2009, AUNE’s president adopted a comprehensive, cutting-edge Responsible Purchasing Policy that incorporates both sustainability and social justice dimensions. We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made together as a campus community.
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