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Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010

SCU Powers on ahead with Renewable Energy
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drill rig this past April demonstrates the unsustainable nature of the oil and gas industry and a desperate need for renewable energy. With a growing market for renewable energy, the School of Engineering has developed and implemented a 16-unit interdisciplinary graduate program, the Renewable Energy Certificate, focusing on the ever-changing sector.

The program will focus on solar, wind, hydropower, biofuel, and nuclear power, along with providing students a broad range of knowledge in the field as well as a sense of social responsibility. “As demand for alternative energy grows, so will the need for highly qualified engineers with hands on experience in designing engineering systems that use wind, solar, and geothermal heat,” says Godfrey Mungal, Dean of the School of Engineering. “For the first time, Santa Clara University is offering that opportunity to students with the help of our brilliant and talented faculty.”

In addition to the Renewable Energy Certificate, the School of Engineering will implement a masters degree in Sustainable Energy beginning in the fall of 2011.

Santa Clara bolsters its green credentials
Santa Clara University recently took a significant step forward with its Climate Neutrality Action Plan by purchasing 30,000 megawatt-hours of Renewable Energy Certificates, cementing itself as the largest purchaser of Santa Clara Green Power, a program centered around voluntary renewable energy by Silicon Valley Power (SVP).

According to the City of Santa Clara’s website, the University's purchase is the equivalent of “nine utility-scale wind turbines, or enough electricity to power approximately 4,200 California homes” and offsets a total of 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a figure equal to “taking over 4,100 cars off the road for one year.”

One of the goals of Santa Clara's Climate Neutrality Action Plan, which was conditionally adopted in January 2010, is to increase renewable energy use while leveling utility costs.

Along with limiting its impact on the environment, the University's purchase helps sustain the local Santa Clara economy. “Since the origin of our green power program, SCU has been a leading participant,” said Larry Owens, Manager of Customer Services at SVP. “We appreciate their ongoing and active participation in supporting renewable energy.”

How "green" is your wardrobe?
Of the 18 refrigerators Sears features on its website only four are lacking an Energy Star seal of approval. Contrast this with the 116 women's jeans on the Levi Strauss website, none of which advertise any sort of environmental blue ribbon, even though the company has taken significant steps lowering their carbon footprint. As soon as next month, however, buying clothing could become as environmentally friendly as buying a new kitchen appliance with the Eco Index.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on an emerging trend within the apparel industry; the calculation and use of an "Eco Index." A group that is now being called the “Eco Index coalition” consists of around 100 well-known apparel brands and retailers who are pioneering the use of a software tool designed to measure the environmental impact of their respective products. Like the Energy Star program, which certifies eco-efficient appliances and electronics, the Eco Index is designed to help shoppers compare how sustainable their clothes and shoes are by providing them with some sort of “eco-value tag.”

Like many eco-checklists to come before it, the coalition has failed to agree on several crucial elements like the the presentation on the value or if there should even be a tag at all. This is part of the reason the Eco Index has been slow to hit the public, even though it has been in the works for nearly three years.

Additionally, some critique the software program for involving too many estimates and not enough detail. On top of that, reliability is questionable since all of the information is self-reported, and no proof is required from the companies.

Still, the Eco Index software has already contributed to substantial sustainability-related improvements within the industry. Simply using the software has allowed a number of companies to become much more aware of how environmentally-friendly they are (or are not). As a result, companies such as Levi’s, Brooks, and Timberland have made significant changes in their manufacturing and retailing practices to increase their Eco Index scores. Levi’s alone reduced its carbon emissions by 700 metric tons by changing its transportation routes. Despite inter-coalition disputes and the lagging market release, companies are finding that use of the Eco Index software has been beneficial in a number of ways.

Many apparel manufacturers and retailers are hoping the roll-out of the Eco Index will open up new markets and customer demographics that are currently untapped. The Eco Index is expected to be unveiled next month at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City. More information about the Eco Index.

Prop 23 aims to suspend green legislation
In 2006, the landmark "Global Warming Solutions Act," also know as AB 32, was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. AB 32 is one of the most aggressive bills combating global warming, not just in the United States, but internationally as well. The legislation charges the California Air Resources Board to reduce the state's green house gas emmissions to 1990 levels, approximately 25% of current levels, by 2020 through new regualtions and market incentives.

While the mandatory emissions caps are slated to begin in 2012, the future of AB 32 is contigent upon the outcome of Proposition 23 in the upcoming November election. The passage of Prop 23 would mean the suspension of AB 32 until the state saw unemployment reduced to 5.5% for 12 consecutive months. In a state with 12% unemployment, the suspension would be indefinite.

Supporters of Prop 23, which is signifcantly funded by two Texas oil giants, see AB 32 as a jobs killer. Heavier polluting companies would pay higher taxes through cap and trade, a burden that many small businesses could not bear, especially in the current economic climate. Also, the passage of Prop 23 would most likely mean higher energy costs, and gas prices for California residents, all important issues for voters.

The passage of Prop 23 would significantly delay the effects of AB 32. Since California is often a leader in setting the example for federal regulation, opponents argue that the timetable for nationwide legislation curbbing green house gases would also be delayed. The suspension of AB 32 would make the state less appealing to green companies and slow the creation of green jobs. A hold on AB 32 would also perpetuate air pollution and the public health issues that arise from poor air quality.

The good news for proponents of AB 32 is that both gubernatorial candidates oppose the proposition. Meg Whitman, however, would suspend AB 32 for one year to make changes to the legislation before implementing it.

The November election is quickly approaching. Learn more about Prop 23 and other ballot measures before heading to the polls.

Campus to Congress - National Climate Seminar
Campus to Congress (C2C) is building a network of faculty, staff, students and citizens to fight for policies that can stabilize the climate, and create a just, prosperous and sustainable future.

To be a part of C2C, you need to make one commitment: Every year, for the next decade, help organize one meeting between a group of students or citizens, and key decisionmakers: in Congress, in Corporations, or in City Hall.

C2C will assist you in making that meeting happen-- with scheduling, background material, and skype and conference call support. Our goal:

  •  Every year, engage educators at 1,000 colleges, universities and high schools.
  • Every year, involve 50,000 students in direct video and conference-call dialogue with national leaders, on clean energy solutions to global warming.
  • Change the future.

Mark your calendars for this fall: The National Climate Seminar has a terrific line-up! Calls this year will be Wednesday at noon eastern. Assign the half-hour calls to your students, for a chance to hear top scientists, analysts and political leaders discuss climate and clean energy solutions.

  • Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth 8-Sep
  • David Orr, Environmental Studies, Oberlin College 22-Sep
  • Bill Snape, Senior Counsel, Center for Biological Diversity 20-Oct
  • TBA 6-Oct
  • Michael Mann, Dir., Earth Systems Science, Penn State 3-Nov
  • Bryan Walsh, Journalist, Time Magazine 17-Nov
  • Juliet Schor, Economist and author, Plentitude 1-Dec

Learn more about C2C.

2011 International Compost Awareness Week Poster Contest
For those of you who have always wanted to combine your composting enthusiasm with your artistic creativity, look no further. International Compost Awareness Week is the world’s largest educational composting event, held by the US Composting Council Board of Directors. To compliment this initiative, the Board is announcing a call for entries in its 2011 Poster Contest. Entries can be submitted until November 30, and the contest is open to anyone who wants to take part in promoting compost use.

This year’s theme is ‘Compost!...Reconnecting with Nature’. In addition to seeing their poster become the official 2011 International Compost Awareness Week poster, the overall winner will receive a $500 prize. Divisional winners (out of grades 3-7, grades 7-12, and college- adult) will each receive a $100 prize. Rules and application.  

Carnegie Council for Ethics student essay competition
How can you help to ensure that the interests of the environment, business, and society work together, not against each other? That's what the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs wants to know. As part of Sustainability Month, the organization is hosting its second annual Student Competition, which is being opened to teachers this year. The competition asks that students write an essay that answers the question: How would you improve your school so that it prepares future leaders to protect the planet? To enter, e-mail your essay  to no later than December 31, 2010. Include your full name, address, e-mail, age, and student affiliation.


  • Style: "Op-ed" style (not academic, foot-noted papers)
  • Length: 1,000 to 1,500 words
  • Format: Word document, or email. English language entries only.


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