This is the fourth Guest Blog from Walter Simpson,CEM, LEED AP, retired 26-year University at Buffalo Energy Officer and Director of UB Green. Walter will be posting blogs weekly that provide guidance on preparing a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to assist signatories of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. We encourage readers to post comments and questions for Walter. Read Walter's past weekly blogshere, here, and here.
Hello Campus Climateers!
This week I promised some remarks to help you energize your climate action planning team. After I do that, as a special bonus, I am providing a list of consultant selection criteria you can use or adapt if you have decided to hire a consultant to help you develop your CAP.
I am making an effort to get past the “soft stuff” and start providing more technical advice. I will go more technical starting next week with a discussion on greenhouse gas inventories – how to do them, who can do them, what to expect from them, and how to maximize their benefits. Soon after that I will share with you technical information about shrinking your carbon footprint through effective campus energy conservation, a favorite topic of mine.
Here are some ways to ENERGIZE your CAP team and its work:
1. Make sure you have an energized leader who is genuinely passionate about addressing the climate problem. This person needs to be inspiring and bring an abundance of positive energy, enthusiasm, and good personal relations to all aspects of your work. If you are your school’s CAP leader and can see that you do not fit this description, please pass the baton!
2. Be inclusive and invite onto your CAP team those who care the most about climate change and who bring the most positive energy to the work. Sorry to repeat myself about the importance of being inclusive but I think it is a key ingredient for success. Yes, you need certain people on your team because of their positions and who they represent. But it is as important to go beyond that cast of characters and make sure you include those who are most interested and motivated irrespective of their positions within the hierarchy. Energized people energize others! So open the door and invite these spark plugs onto your team.
3. Regularly remind your CAP team how important their work is by reviewing the critical nature and urgency of climate change while at the same time sharing positive developments.
This is all about merging “gloom and doom” with hope! Both can motivate – though either by itself is not very effective. Maybe start every meeting by having a different person on your CAP steering committee share an update on the latest scientific findings and prescriptions as well as some positive news describing efforts underway to constructively address the climate problem. Once a semester or once a year, host an expert speaker who will deliver these messages in a forceful and inspiring way. To stay up-to-date with the latest news on climate change, you may want to get the weekly news feed “Earth Equity News” from the Climate Crisis Coalition – founded by “climate crisis crusader” Ross Gelbspan among others. Sign up here: http://www.climatecrisiscoalition.org/
4. Don’t be afraid to delve into the emotional side of the climate change issue.
While your CAP meetings may need to be business-like, it’s important to find opportunities and venues where your team members and others on campus can get in touch with their emotions about climate change. The reality is that the great majority of us, even environmental activists, are in deep psychological denial about this threat. To some extent, denial or psychic numbing is a necessary coping mechanism. But denial is also a danger since it diminishes our perception of the problem and excuses a lack of effort or urgency in addressing it. Buddhist activist and deep ecologist Joanna Macy has spoken and written eloquently about a process she calls “grief work” or “the work that reconnects.” The idea is to create a safe space and use a variety of facilitated exercises to deliberately help people get in touch with and explore the fears, anger, hopelessness and grief they feel when contemplating the fate of the Earth and especially the looming climate crisis. By experiencing these emotions and better understanding their sources, we come to see that the pain we feel is the result of our love for others and for the planet itself. This heart-felt realization can increase the spiritual depth with which we undertake this work and put us in touch with positive sources of motivation like love and compassion which will keep us engaged and committed for the long-haul. If you are curious about Joanna Macy’s work, her website is http://www.joannamacy.net/index.html
. Her book “Coming Back to Life” contains many of the group process tools she uses.
5. Ask your president to regularly demonstrate interest and support. Regular visits by your campus president to see how your CAP work is progressing will do wonders to keep spirits and enthusiasm high. Providing the resources you need is also critical to CAP energy levels. It might make sense to schedule an informal get together with your president, say every six months, to share with him or her progress and problems-to-date and thus to invite his/her continued involvement, encouragement and support. Keeping your president personally engaged will help your CAP team stay personally engaged.
6. Develop a strategy to regularly roll out small victories (as well as occasional large ones). Climate neutrality is a huge undertaking and probably will take many years to achieve. To keep your climate action program stoked up during this period, you want to celebrate many smaller victories and achievements along the way. These small victories and your celebrations of them are so important that it makes sense to be very conscious and deliberate identifying them within your CAP and making plans ahead of time to announce and celebrate them. These celebrations are great occasions for bringing your entire extended CAP team together, inviting campus leadership to say a few words, and praising/rewarding those who did the most to make the accomplishment you are celebrating happen.
7. Have fun. Let’s face it: so much of what we do on campus is a grind and wears us down, especially when campus politics intervene. Your climate work is too important to let that happen. You need to be inspired agents of change! So finding ways to have fun along the way is very important.
Now let’s turn to the issue of CAP consultants. Your CAP team may be considering hiring a consultant because it believes you don’t have the organizational capacity or expertise to develop an effective, viable campus climate action plan yourself or because it believes a consultant will help you produce the best possible plan. While finding all of the qualifications listed below in one consultant may be difficult-to-impossible, you definitely want your consultant to embody those attributes you think are most important. Ideally, your consultant should demonstrate:
An extensive corporate commitment to sustainability
A thorough knowledge of the ACUPCC
Extensive experience with the ACUPCC’s primary greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies:
Energy conservation & efficiency
Power plant fuel conversions
On-site renewable energy project development and installation
Green power purchasing
Efficient space planning (to help you avoid or minimize new construction)
Super energy-efficient green building design
Sustainable transportation planning
Buying and/or creating carbon offsets consistent with the ACUPCC carbon offset protocol
Significant experience creating successful large, comprehensive, self-financing, campus energy projects
Knowledge of the barriers large organizations like colleges and universities face that prevent them from adequately addressing energy and climate issues – as well as knowledge about how to overcome these barriers
Experience working in a campus setting with diverse stakeholders that often have conflicting interests
Experience conducting and interpreting GHG inventories
Effective evaluative tools that would be used to prioritize and sequence projects and measures to reduce your carbon footprint
The ability to identify creative financing strategies
Skill in developing educational and promotional resources for outreach purposes
Also, ideally, the consultant you select should be able to show you one or more completed climate action plans that you judge to be of high quality. Of course, this is a new field and highly qualified firms might not be able to provide completed plans at this time – so you may have to rely on evidence from similar projects.
I hope at least some of this was helpful. I welcome your feedback.
‘till next week climateers!
Walter Simpson, CEM, LEED AP, retired 26 year University at Buffalo Energy Officer and director of UB Green, is working with AASHE and the American College & University President’s Commitment to develop a climate action plan wiki which is expected to be initially posted in March 2009.