By Conrad Lotze, PhD, Dean of Academic Services and School of Education
Editor’s Note: Dr. Wallace E. Boston, Chief Executive Officer, American Public Education, Inc. Sustainability and climate change are top of mind for many Americans. When APUS was asked to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), I did so thinking that conservation of materials, including recycling and minimizing an institution’s carbon footprint, was an excellent thing to do. Since then, we’ve encouraged carpooling and telecommuting, have instituted corporate recycling programs, and built or renovated our buildings to a minimum of LEED Silver standards. Rather than purchase carbon offset credits, we have sought opportunities to reduce our energy usage over time. As Dr. Lotze notes in his commentary which follows, recycling paper and electronic products and reducing energy consumption are best practices we share with local and regional partners with a goal of leading by example.
I recently attended the 2017 Climate Leadership Summit in Tempe, Ariz., where I was honored to represent APUS on behalf of our president, Dr. Karan Powell. I knew this was going to be a bit different from your ‘average’ conference when I saw that each day offered a guided meditation session option prior to breakfast. The speakers were all there to discuss various aspects of sustainability and, since that means different things to different people, it may be helpful to provide a bit more context.
The Summit [#ClimateSummit2017] was sponsored by Second Nature and included multiple speakers and panels presenting on topics such as the current political climate and what that might mean for the environment and leveraging public-private partnerships to do more with limited funds. In addition, it featured multiple member universities sharing best practices on their successful programs, including Arizona State University (ASU) and Middlebury College, who recently achieved carbon neutrality.
One particular highlight was the guided walking tour of the ASU campus, where we saw many of their sustainability efforts in action. They have managed to place solar panels just about everywhere! Rooftops, parking garages, and the usual spots, of course, but they have also created a really neat, elevated, “power parasol” shaded area on campus in a pedestrian-only zone which now serves as a protected area under which students can congregate, out from under the harsh Arizona sun. They have even gone so far as to outfit these structures with LED lights, and are adding speakers to create light and music shows which draw students to the area on a nightly basis. They also recently embarked on an ambitious project designed to divert grey water into building cooling systems to reduce overall consumption. Perhaps even more impressive is their construction of a new student center which, once complete in August, will be the first net-zero energy building of its kind on the campus.
For its part, APUS takes its responsibility seriously to limit our impact on the environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and promote, wherever possible, sustainable practices. We have, for example, the largest solar array in West Virginia, and our Academic Center and Finance and IT buildings were all built to meet or exceed LEED Gold standards, with our Finance Center having just recently received Platinum-level certification — the highest currently available. We are also in the process of installing a HVAC building management system which will potentially help us further reduce that building’s current energy consumption. APUS has been an active ACUPCC charter member and, as a result of such practices noted previously, been recognized for industry sustainability leadership.
I’m truly proud to be part of an organization committed to doing our part to reduce emissions, reduce energy consumption and promote sustainable practices.