Category Archives: EDF Climate Corps

Caught On Film: Watch How AT&T, QTS & New York City Housing Authority Saved Energy

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Business Blog

It sounds so simple:  saving energy saves money.  McKinsey & Company estimates that the U.S. could reduce its annual energy consumption 23 percent through efficiency measures, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by over a gigaton and saving both companies and consumers over a trillion dollars.

So why do we as a nation still waste so much energy?  And how do we stop? The fact is organizations face many barriers to implementing energy-saving projects, which have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with the way people make decisions.

One of the most common challenges is the lack of information.  So in the holiday spirit of sharing, we worked with three of our EDF Climate Corps hosts to tell the story of how they are capturing their piece of that trillion-dollar opportunity.

AT&T, QTS and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) welcomed EDF’s cameras into their facilities and spoke openly about the energy efficiency projects they’ve got in the works. Together, we compiled a series of videos spotlighting successful projects in lighting, cooling, heating and data centers.

Here’s a quick rundown of featured projects along with a link to each video:

  • AT&T worked with EDF Climate Corps to uncover potential savings of up to 50 percent associated with cooling costs at 250 of AT&T’s facilities by using a technique called “economizer mode” – a process in which cool external air replaces the need for mechanically chilled air during cool months.
  • AT&T also worked with EDF Climate Corps to find ways to cut its lighting energy use by 80 percent. A project that is now being rolled out across its 250 largest central offices.
  • Data center provider QTS worked with EDF Climate Corps to optimize efficiency in its LEED Gold datacenter and reduce annual costs by $4 million. The company plans to invest $10 million to implement these projects.
  • New York City Housing Authority worked with EDF Climate Corps to analyze the energy savings potential of installing Wireless Energy Modules across its portfolio. The EDF Climate Corps fellows found that the project would lead to more consistent, comfortable temperatures for residents, save $56 million in NYCHA’s annual costs and avoid 177,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.

AT&T, QTS and NYCHA have all helped get the word out about how they’re maximizing energy opportunities. AT&T recently shared insights on potential savings at 250 facilities; QTS announced a plan to invest $10 million in energy efficiency projects at the world’s second largest data center; and New York City Housing Authority announced its mission to spur public housing authorities and private landlords around the nation to make smart energy investments.

You can help share these lessons too. Send a video along to a company, city, or university you know, to help them cut costs and carbon emissions in a big way.  Or tell them about EDF Climate Corps, which has uncovered a billion dollars in energy savings for participating organizations in its first four years.  We're recruiting now for 2012 — visit edfclimatecorps.org to learn more.

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

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New York City Housing Authority Works With Environmental Defense Fund, Finds $56 Million In Cost Savings With New Technology

 This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Business Blog by Rory Christian, Director, Energy Department, New York City Housing Authority.

Though the first official day of winter isn’t until December 22, New York City is already well into heating season. And with over 178,000 apartments to keep warm, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) knows all too well that cranking up the heat means drastic spikes in energy bills. However, that is not the case for one of our Bronx developments.

This year NYCHA installed a new technology known as Wireless Energy Modules in the 14 buildings that make up Castle Hill Houses. This technology allows NYCHA to provide consistent, comfortable temperatures to our residents in the 2,023 Castle Hill apartments throughout the year, while actually saving money and energy. NYCHA worked with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on this effort. EDF is a national organization widely recognized for innovative solutions to tough problems, such as increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

With the help of EDF Climate Corps, NYCHA analyzed the potential of installing Wireless Energy Modules across our entire portfolio. We found that NYCHA could save $31 million in annual heating costs and up to $25 million in annual electric costs and avoid 177,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. Check out this two-minute video about the project and its savings potential.

What is even more exciting than the impressive savings opportunities is the power of scale the technology offers. The benefits of Wireless Energy Modules aren’t unique to NYCHA and can be realized by public housing authorities and private landlords across the nation. The ability to measure temperature at the apartment level and to heat buildings more consistently provides immense savings potential, as well as greater comfort for residents. 

At NYCHA we are eager to share what we've learned with our contacts across the country. This includes national and regional public housing authority associations, as well as our network of private landlords in our Section 8 program.  And you can help spread the word too. Please share the video  with public and private landlords who are interested in cutting their energy costs, avoiding CO2 emissions and keeping their residents comfortable during heating season.

If NYCHA can save $56 million and avoid tons of emissions each year  in New York City alone,  just think of the savings that would result from a national commitment from housing authorities and private landlords to improve energy efficiency.  Now that's a New Year’s resolution worth making, and keeping!

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Energy Efficiency Investments – The Reality Behind The ‘Job Killing’ Sound Bite

In letters to the President delivered yesterday, business groups as diverse as the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (representing major manufacturing sectors such as cement, paper, chemicals and steel), the Ohio Business Council for a Clean Economy, Ingersoll Rand and Recycled Energy Development all agree and are asking for the same  thing: EPA should make energy efficiency front and center as it adopts regulations to set greenhouse gas standards for power plants under the Clean Air Act

Given the existence of many positive return-on-investment energy efficiency options, including energy efficiency as a compliance strategy, is a no-brainer. In fact, McKinsey & Company's Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy shows the U.S. industrial sector alone can reduce annual energy consumption 18 percent by 2020 and save more than $442 billion in energy costs by investing in energy-efficiency opportunities that quickly pay for themselves (investments that have a positive NPV, or net present value). In the process, they also reduce greenhouse gases, which is what EPA wants. 

But energy efficiency goes beyond a cheap compliance strategy.  It pays returns in perpetuity:  Imagine if several years down the road when these investments have paid for themselves, this $442 billion savings is made available for investments in U.S. manufacturing. The job creation potential then takes off.  At conservative rates of four jobs per million dollars invested, that would create an estimated 1.75 million jobs.  

Typically, facilities can find 20-30 percent in energy efficiency opportunities that pay for themselves in less than two years. For example, EDF recently helped the IUE-CWA union conduct a three day “Treasure Hunt” to search for energy-saving opportunities at the Cobasys advanced battery manufacturing plant in Springboro, Ohio. Even at this state-of-the-art facility built in 2003, the team identified savings that would cut the plant’s energy bill by 18.5 percent and emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon) by 19 percent.

It’s hard to see how a regulation that asks facilities to implement these savings would “kill jobs” when the investments pay  back in less than two years, and provide the company with benefits from  cost savings in perpetuity.          

Once again, a careful look at how companies can comply with EPA regulations shows the “jobs killing” rhetoric to be simply scaremongering. Energy efficiency investments create 8.9 to 11.9 jobs for every $1 million in spending. (Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates 3.7 jobs (oil and gas) to 4.9 (coal) jobs per $1 million in spending.)  So, compliance isn’t a burden and the path forward is job intensive. 

It’s a nice added benefit that energy efficiency jobs can be found across the U.S. and across industry sectors.  For example, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America asked EPA to place special emphasis on industrial cogeneration, an energy efficiency solution also known as ‘combined heat and power’ or ‘waste heat recovery’. A value chain assessment of this solution by Duke University shows that it will increase demand for large equipment such as generators and turbines, all made in the U.S., and lots of new steel piping, good news for the steelworkers.

In sum, a dollar spent on energy efficiency provides triple returns: industrial facilities and building owners quickly see their investments generating annual cost savings (just 2-3 years out), power plants don’t need to build new capacity and raise rates to pay for it, and all the firms across the U.S. that supply energy efficiency solutions see new customers.  And, in the process, CEOs can also check off that “compliance with EPA regulation” box because greenhouse gas emissions will drop significantly.  “Job killing EPA regulations” is a great sound-bite but the experience of firms in the real-world doesn’t support the rhetoric.

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Envision Charlotte is Making the Queen City a Green City

Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, nicknamed the “Queen City” after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen-consort of King George III (okay, I’ll admit that I had to look that up).  I grew up nearby and over the years, I’ve watched in awe as the city has grown both upward, with high-rises housing the corporate headquarters of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, and outward, as the suburbs expand to accommodate the ever-growing population. 

Today, efforts are underway to make the Queen City a green city, as part of a major sustainability initiative announced last year.  Envision Charlotte was launched in September 2010 as part of the Clinton Global Initiative; partners include Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, the City of Charlotte, and many other corporate citizens.  This unique public-private partnership comprises volunteers from 28 different organizations, including EDF, that have come together to make Charlotte the most sustainable urban core in the nation.  The program focuses on four pillars to achieve this goal:

  1. energy efficiency,
  2. air quality,
  3. water reduction, and
  4. waste reduction. 

Last week, my colleague Michael Regan and I attended a public event in Uptown Charlotte to celebrate the installation of interactive displays, provided by Cisco, in almost 70 buildings.  These displays show how much energy is being consumed at any given moment in the city’s center, and provide tips on how to reduce that load.  The idea is to provide information to building workers and visitors on what they as individuals and collectively can do to use energy more wisely, and at no cost. 

It’s estimated that simple behavior changes, like turning off lights and computer monitors when not in use, can reduce 5% of the energy being used in the participating buildings. 

That’s impressive, but the overall energy goal for Envision Charlotte is more ambitious: to reduce energy by 20% in five years.  And that will require investments in building energy management systems, smart grid technologies and aggressive education efforts.  Making these investments will ultimately allow companies to save money by reducing what they spend on energy. 

And making these energy-saving improvements will save money for taxpayers too, since several local government buildings are participating in Envision Charlotte. 

EDF has contributed to this effort, by providing two Climate Corps fellows to Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located) this summer to identify low- and no-cost energy savings in county-owned buildings.  In reviewing three buildings, they found measures that could save the county more than $500,000 in five years. Imagine the impact of identifying and implementing similar energy efficiency measures in all city and county owned buildings! 

EDF will continue working with Envision Charlotte to make the energy savings goal a reality.  I have served for the past year on the Envision Charlotte steering committee, which is now a board of directors for the newly created non-profit entity.  And we will document the actions taken so that they can be replicated in other communities around the country.  Stay tuned!

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Cooling From The Outside In: AT&T And EDF Climate Corps Uncover Energy Savings Of Up To 50 Percent

By Mike McCarthy, 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellow at AT&T, MBA Candidate at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and John Schinter, Executive Director of Energy at AT&T.  This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Business Blog

I’ve always been interested in how energy efficiency projects can reduce operational costs and environmental impact. Not only are they a win-win for sustainability but I’d also like to focus my career on them when I graduate from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business next year. I was excited to learn that my EDF Climate Corps fellowship would be working with AT&T’s Corporate Real Estate (CRE) division this summer. I knew that AT&T was working aggressively to increase energy efficiency and had a goal for 2011 to reduce company electricity consumption relative to network data growth by 17 percent over 2010. I also knew that AT&T’s 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow helped the company identify opportunities to cut lighting energy use by 80% at its 250 largest central offices, a project that is currently underway in many of these locations. I looked forward to contributing to AT&T’s progress on energy efficiency. My project to evaluate the energy savings from optimizing the use of free-air cooling—as opposed to mechanical cooling systems—uncovered real and scalable results. Recently I sat down with my boss for the summer, John Schinter, AT&T executive director of energy, to chat about our key findings.

John: Mike, with your help, we accomplished a lot in the past three months of your EDF Climate Corps fellowship. The hard work certainly has paid off. What energy efficiency opportunities did you discover this summer?

Mike: It turns out that about a quarter of AT&T’s largest heat producing buildings are located in cool climates. Furthermore, their utility bills show a historic pattern that suggests that they can use more outside air for cooling instead of using air cooled by energy-consuming chiller units. It was an important first step to identify 250 buildings that could benefit from optimizing economizer mode, or free-air cooling.

John: Participant buy-in is fundamental to any successful program. Talk a little about how you helped ensure that the property managers were involved.

Mike: You’re right. Buy-in is critical here. Early in the process, we sent a quick email survey out to the property managers of all the buildings to determine how well they thought they were using free-air cooling. It was important to show that we were working with the property managers to secure funding for their buildings. These managers execute the day-to-day components of energy management so it was important to hear their voices from the outset of the project. It was amazing to watch as the responses came in. The property managers and building engineers have a lot of great ideas for energy savings projects. We just needed to help them build the business case for these investments.

John: The surveys made me confident that our data analysis technique was on to something big. Describe what you found.

Mike: Based on the responses to the surveys, AT&T could reduce its carbon footprint by over 50,000 metric tons of CO2/year by using this technology. That is equivalent to almost 9,000 cars removed from the road each year, according to the EPA greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

John: That’s great that the project uncovered a tangible way to help minimize environmental impact. But you also thought about the financial implications to AT&T. What were the highlights?

Mike: Yes. Looking at our database of existing energy audits to estimate costs at a high level, we found that on average, the free-air cooling building retrofit projects pay back in around two years. We’ve identified real potential savings in reducing the electricity used for cooling our buildings.

John: Your plan to identify energy savings projects in AT&T’s buildings using trends in utility bills and weather data really worked. In ten weeks, you helped us accomplish what would have taken years using site visits and third party energy audits. From an outside perspective, what do you think were the keys to success?

Mike: Sometimes making a breakthrough in energy efficiency requires a creative approach that combines thinking from several disciplines. We couldn’t have gotten to these results without using Six Sigma data analysis, statistics, geography, and engineering.

John: So the project found economic and environmental benefits of optimizing AT&T’s use of free-air cooling. What’s your recommendation on the future of free-air cooling at AT&T?

Mike: I designed the project with an ongoing monitoring mechanism that will be extremely useful to AT&T down the road. We can use the method of analyzing utility bill trends in the future to “flag” buildings in the system that could benefit from an upgrade. Because this project is scalable, the business case is that much stronger.

See a video case study on this free air-cooling project here and check out the video case study on AT&T’s lighting project mentioned above here.

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

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Reasons To Be Cheerful: EDF Climate Corps Finds $650 Million In Energy Savings

By: Victoria Mills, Managing Director of Corporate Partnerships for EDF, and Michael Regan, Director of Energy Efficiency, EDF

Recent headlines paint a gloomy picture of our economy, with its looming deficits and stubborn unemployment rate. And let’s not forget the steady stream of evidence that climate change is already happening.  But today, a ray of sunshine breaks through these cloudy skies:  the news that companies, cities and universities  have found ways to save millions of dollars while avoiding hundreds of thousands of metric tons of carbon pollution.  How did they do it?  EDF Climate Corps.

Today, EDF announced that this summer’s class of Climate Corps fellows uncovered efficiencies in lighting, computer equipment, and heating and cooling systems that can:

  • Cut 600 million kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 38,000 homes;
  • Avoid 440,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 87,000 passenger vehicles; and
  • Save $650 million in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.

Thanks to the work of our EDF Climate Corps fellows, organizations as diverse as McDonald’s, Target, the New York City Housing Authority, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University all found significant cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions through energy efficiency.  This is indeed cause for celebration.

But imagine how good the news would be if everyone reaped the full benefits of energy efficiency.  The opportunity is enormous:  McKinsey & Co. estimate that by 2020, the U.S. could reduce its energy consumption by 23 percent through energy efficiency measures, cutting CO2 emissions by over a gigaton and saving over a trillion dollars.

EDF created Climate Corps to cut carbon pollution by overcoming the barriers that prevent organizations from investing in energy efficiency.  Now in its fourth year, EDF Climate Corps has grown from 7 fellows in 2008 to 96 in 2011, and expanded to a nationwide program that spans corporate, academic and government sectors.  For us at EDF, the best news of all is our implementation rate:  to date, projects accounting for 86 percent of the energy savings identified by 2008-2010 EDF Climate Corps fellows are complete or underway.

We’d love to bring some of this good news to your organization.  Visit edfclimatecorps.org to learn how to hire an EDF Climate Corps fellow in 2012, or email us at info@edfclimatecorps.org.

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

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Just What The Doctor Ordered: Prescription For Green Savings

By: Martin Hill, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia; MPA Candidate 2012 at Clark Atlanta University

Morehouse School Of Medicine (MSM) continues to strive to be a world-class leader amongst medical institutions regarding “energy efficiency”. It is a small tucked-away medical institution in Atlanta, Georgia that serves the community in many capacities.  MSM continues to strive for a healthier world whether it is through personal care or environmental health.

MSM is no stranger to energy efficiency; Director of Facilities, Mr. Alonzo Jones, conducted an Energy and Water Conservation Audit identifying key energy saving projects to implement once funding becomes available. The Doctor’s prescription, if implemented, will save energy and money as well as reduce the institution’s carbon footprint by improving air quality through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Everyone on the facilities staff has been a doctor in their own way, which is evident in their high level of dedication displayed regarding energy efficiency projects from plumbing to the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system here at MSM. Furthermore, as I worked tirelessly with the Facilities Management Team, we discovered a cure to off-setting a few capital projects with rebates offered via Georgia Power, including incentives for lighting upgrades and energy efficient HVAC systems.

Morehouse School of Medicine has demonstrated the institution’s strong commitment to energy efficiency and serves as an example of environmental stewardship among other institutions in the medical field.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Catalyzing Change: Sustainability In A Southern Town – Part 2

By Kealy Devoy, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at the Town of Cary, NC; MEM Candidate at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working in the environmental arena, it is that change does not happen in a vacuum. We need to actively involve as many people in the organization as possible. Generating buy-in for workplace sustainability can be challenging, but with a few key strategies, we can start winning people over.

In my last post, I outlined seven core steps to catalyzing change within an organization, and talked about how the Town of Cary has implemented the first step. Those seven steps are:

  1. Make it official.
  2. Identify the changers.
  3. Change is not binary.
  4. Operate in parallel.
  5. The Rule of 7.
  6. Market internally and externally.
  7. Celebrate successes.

Steps two through four are about how to initiate change. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks:

#2: Identify The Changers

The changers are the people who are excited about sustainability. They have ideas, enthusiasm, and momentum. If the organization has many departments, finding changers in various parts of the organization will promote sustainability in each department. Through these changers, you can develop relationships with different individuals and departments on their terms. The initial focus should be on why sustainability is important, and what the benefits of pursuing it are.

One project I am working on focuses on energy efficiency improvements for the Town’s fire stations. The Fire Chief gave me a list of changers from each of the seven Cary Fire Stations who were chosen based on an interest in energy and environmental issues. Having someone at each station who is excited by sustainability has been exceedingly helpful in building buy-in.

#3: Change Is Not Binary

Sustainability is not simply green or not. There are many facets of sustainability, all of which are steps in the right direction. It is important to tackle only as many projects as your organization can handle. Start small, minimize risk, and pick the low-hanging fruit. You don’t need to be generating all of your power from solar panels by tomorrow in order to be sustainable.

Energy efficiency is a great way to get started. Many projects involve low-to-no cost, such as turning down temperatures on hot water heaters and enforcing thermostat temperature set points. Other projects have short payback periods, like upgrading exit signs to LEDs. Still more projects, like preventative maintenance of HVAC systems, have co-benefits including improved occupant comfort and better indoor air quality.

#4: Operate in Parallel

Because the route to a sustainable organization is ongoing and ever-evolving, we should use many simultaneous tools to catalyze change. These include comprehensive strategic plans, various investment structures, capital projects, maintenance programs, and more.

One important consideration here is the impact of these projects on the facilities and maintenance staff. The Town chooses to operate in parallel not only in pursuing projects, but also with how to implement these projects so that their facilities team does not get overwhelmed. Namely, they choose their in-house projects wisely, and hire contractors for the rest.

These three steps are an important part of initiating change within an organization. The next three steps are all about how to communicate this change effectively and efficiently. Check back soon for more on the remaining three steps!

This post reflects the personal opinions of Kealy Devoy, and does not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of the Town of Cary.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Just Do It: Sometimes Jumping In With Both Feet Is The Best Choice To Make

By Jen Weiss, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Shaw University, MEM Candidate, Nicolas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC

A few weeks ago, I found myself peering over the edge of a forty-two foot platform willing myself to take the leap – to tackle the Mega Jump.  Okay, maybe peering is not the right word.  I was gripping the side of the platform, looking out over the horizon, and wondering how I had ever gotten convinced to do this given my severe fear of heights.  But, there I was.  I decided to stop thinking about it.  Better to trust that it was all going to work out fine than analyze every detail.  I closed my eyes, released my grip, and jumped …

The next moment, I was on the ground.  I checked for breaks or cuts – nothing.  The only thing I felt was exhilaration – a feeling of success and accomplishment.  I had done it. And I had survived.

I get a similar sense of nervous anticipation with energy efficiency.  What’s that?  You don’t follow my leap?  Consider this …

I have just wrapped up my EDF Climate Corps Fellowship at Shaw University in downtown Raleigh.  My EDF partner, Eliza, and I have made recommendations that could save the university over $125,000 a year in annual energy savings.  And, some of these recommendations come at absolutely no cost:

  • Power management (sleep mode) for PCs and copiers
  • Summer setback temperatures for some of the dorms
  • Upgrading exit signs to LED versions
  • Upgrading the residence hall’s laundry services to more energy efficient washing machines
  • Consolidation of office equipment and mini-fridges

A few other recommendations have a small price of admission, but with Progress Energy rebates and very short payback periods, they can be done quickly and savings can be seen within six months:

  • Install vending misers on all vending machines
  • Upgrade lighting to more efficient T-8s
  • Install programmable thermostats (my personal favorite – the savings here are huge!)

Shaw is now standing on the edge of the platform waiting to jump.  The eager faces in the audience as Eliza and I presented these recommendations tell me that they have the desire and commitment to make the changes and lead Shaw into sustainability.  And they certainly have the experience and knowledge to get it done.  The next step is up to them. 

At this point, Shaw needs to take a leap of faith. They need to jump off the platform and feel the exhilaration that comes from saving the planet (and saving money).  There is absolutely nothing to lose and a tremendous amount to gain. My advice? 

Just Do It!

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Fulfilling The Spelman Legacy: A Choice To Change The World

By: Melissa Wise, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Spelman College; MBA candidate at Keller Graduate School of Management

Here I am back on Spelman’s campus.  It’s been eight years since the first time I walked through their gates as a student.  I never thought that I’d be back here so soon after graduation, living a dream that I once had out of desperation as a “freshwoman” trying to survive the non-air-conditioned dorms.  I had a vision of one day returning to the Spelman community as an Alumna and providing at least one dorm with the air-conditioning that it deserved.  It seemed to be a “rite of passage” at Spelman for first-year students to live in non-air-conditioned buildings. Those unbearable long summer seasons in “Hot-lanta” will never be forgotten.  So, I vowed that when I became a well-established businesswoman, it would be my gift to the school.  Being a fellow with EDF may make that dream come true a little sooner than planned.

 Here’s what I’ve learned upon my return:

  • The Suites, Spelman’s newest dormitory, received a silver-level certification from LEED.  This makes it the first of its kind for a residence hall on the campus of a historically Black university.
  • My office equipment inventory has shown that Spelman uses a very high percentage of Energy Star products including: copiers, fax machines, computers, and monitors. Spelman also has a high percentage of Energy Star vending and snack machines.
  • Lighting upgrades are well under way from T12 to T8 bulbs, along with many other energy efficient bulb choices.

 And the list just goes on at this pioneering institute.  Often, I find myself coming across an idea for a possible improvement, just to find out that it has already been considered or underway in future plans.  Spelman seems to have it all under control, so I’ll just have to keep on digging!  It is definitely hard to find fault behind these gates.

 Interesting quotes I frequently hear:

  • “It’s my choice, and I choose to change the world!” A line from Spelman’s theme song sung by our Glee Club.  I hear this song or see this phrase often around campus and in articles on the school website.
  • “Ahh, touché!” Friendly debates involving opposing views of equipment and upgrades.  For example, the campus mechanical “Mr. Fix –it” may feel that a heating/cooling unit needs to be replaced due to its extensive life cycle, while the Automatic Control System guru will say that it’s working just fine. Who is right?
  • “Hey, who turned out the lights?” The Director of Facilities Management and Services (my supervisor) will randomly make trips to areas around campus during peak demand hours and turn off lights in unoccupied areas.

Choosing to change the world may seem like a difficult task for such a small school, but Spelman is no stranger to leadership and service. Be it students, alumnae, faculty or staff, Spelman is dedicated to serving its community and making choices that will impact many generations to come.  I am proud to join the continuous, precious legacy of Spelman’s story that dates back to 1881. Needless to say, this opportunity is a dream come true.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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