Teens Discuss Climate Change

Students Produce Films About Global Warming

At the end of June, 15 middle and high school students from across southern Colorado and New Mexico journeyed to the University of Colorado Boulder to explore—in film—the effects of environmental change on their lives and in their communities. Through an immersive, CIRES-hosted science-education experience, these Upward Bound Math Science students took a deeper look at climate change topics, and used their new knowledge to create short, educational movies.

The Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST), targets students who may be the first in their families who are college-bound. The workshop asked them to think harder about the effects of climate change on their everyday lives. CIRES and Colorado Film School mentors worked closely with the students throughout the week, as they explored critical environmental issues through creative brainstorming, research, and film-making.

lens on climate change

Students split themselves into teams based on common interests. One team formed from a group of outdoors enthusiasts: all four team members shared a love for outdoor recreation like hiking, camping, and fishing. They also shared some key observations about local water sources in their individual communities, which span southern Colorado and New Mexico.

“I used to go fishing all the time, but things have changed over the past decade—there isn’t enough water to sustain the fish we used to catch,” said Erik Morales, a student from Gadsden High School in Anthony, New Mexico. Morales traveled over 600 miles to participate in the program.

Supported by two graduate students—CIRES’ Patrick Chandler (CU Boulder Environmental Science) and Catherine Sullivan (Colorado Film School)—the students put their observations under the spotlight to investigate the role of climate change on water resources and outdoor recreation in the West. They worked together to create a concept map and script for their film. The students interviewed CIRES scientist Jeff Lukas, a researcher in CIRES’ Western Water Assessment program. They also toured Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Bellvue Watson Fish Hatchery to learn about sustainable fishing practices.

“The students quickly found a topic that they all truly cared about and were not afraid to bring their emotion and vulnerability into the film,” said Chandler, a graduate researcher working with CIRES Fellow and CSTPR director Max Boykoff. “Although it would be admirable to see a group of any age do so, it was especially meaningful for a group of high school boys to come together and create something with open hearts and minds in order to produce the best film they could.”

To celebrate the students’ accomplishments, the LOCC team held a public film screening on Saturday, June 30. About 40 people, including mentors, students, and members of the community, watched the films the students had created. Topics ranged from water quality in Flint, Michigan to drought in the West. View the videos here.

“LOCC is about giving middle and high school kids the tools to investigate climate change effects in their community and start dialogues about those effects,” said Erin Leckey, program manager of LOCC. “We hope that through making their films that kids learn to be change makers and build resilience for their communities. The empowerment is as important as STEM skills they gain.”

The workshop was the first of three LOCC programs happening this summer. For the next sessions, the CIRES Education & Outreach team will travel to both the Coldharbour Institute in Gunnison, Colorado, and to Arecibo, Puerto Rico to educate and inspire local students.

Climate Change and Future Generations

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It specializes in health and environmental issues, including sustainable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Berkeley Rated Most Sustainable University In The World

Green Universities Lead To Greener Cities

By Rohit Kumar

Two years ago, I was in the market for an environmentally friendly toothbrush. I already used natural toothpaste and figured that some type of alternative to a daily use product like the plastic toothbrush had to exist. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a good one. In the process, I learned that upwards of 2 billion plastic toothbrushes are used every year — a major plastic waste stream. After much discussion with a friend of mine (who became my co-founder), we decided, why not try to create an ecological toothbrush? This was the birth of our company — Brush with Bamboo. We manufacture biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo.

The University of California at Berkeley and the City of Berkeley are both leaders in sustainability.
The University of California at Berkeley and the City of Berkeley are both leaders in sustainability.

Fast-forward to the present. Brush with Bamboo is a successful and growing business with products distributed across the country and internationally. My co-founder and namesake, Rohit Sahdev, is also an alum — we both recently finished our undergraduate degrees at Cal. I strongly believe that the Berkeley experience played a central role in shaping our growth and success in the sustainable business sector. In fact, across the spectrum of emerging socially and environmentally conscious ventures, I see Berkeley alums paving the way. As the paramount importance of sustainability becomes more evident, the UC Berkeley brand is becoming synonymous with excellence and leadership in this field.

It’s the unique ecosystem at Berkeley that’s helping to make this happen: the university, the city of Berkeley and the surrounding network of established businesses form a nexus that makes Berkeley the ideal place to start a social venture.

The university campus and faculty embrace sustainability, which plays a large role in inspiring students. A recent study published in the International Business Times ranked Berkeley as the greenest university in the world. The study noted how UC Berkeley has been able to significantly decrease its carbon emissions and water usage while increasing the number of students who commute to school by bike instead of car. Additionally, the university sponsors various initiatives that support and promote sustainable ventures.

One such program that helped us was The Green Initiative Fund. The TGIF program recently funded a full-time Berkeley graduate to work for us over the summer — something we would not have been able to afford on our own. Perhaps most importantly, the UC Berkeley faculty includes some of the world’s leading social and environmental advocates. In the study of sustainable food systems, for example, UC Berkeley scholars like Michael Pollan and Raj Patel are at the top of their fields.

For a student, being immersed in the rich culture of the city of Berkeley also has a profound influence. Mother Nature Network ranked the city of Berkeley among the top 10 greenest cities in America. Historically and politically, the city is world-renowned for its progressive views on human and civil rights, free speech and the environment as well as its commitment to equity and social justice. The city of Berkeley serves as a living example of sustainability and social responsibility. Simply by living in Berkeley, students are immersed in a stimulating and avant-garde context.

Finally, the surrounding network of businesses in Berkeley also plays a large role in making the university a hub for sustainable ventures. Many businesses in the city of Berkeley — and the larger Bay Area — are on the cutting edge of worldwide innovation in areas like Cleantech, natural products and organic agriculture.

The David Brower Center, for example, is one of the most advanced green buildings in America and is located just across the street from the UC Berkeley campus on Oxford Street. The Brower Center is home to many leading green-minded organizations and businesses. When we first started Brush with Bamboo, we rented a shared office space at an organization in the Brower Center called The HUB. The HUB is a home for socially conscious startup ventures and provides a space for the cross-pollination of ideas. The presence of many social businesses in Berkeley allows young ventures to easily learn from the mistakes of old ones. This helps them to get off the ground quicker.

Why do so many new sustainable businesses emerge from UC Berkeley? It’s the ecosystem that’s making it happen: the school, the city and the existing businesses create a web that keeps Berkeley students thinking creatively about sustainability. As the co-founder of my own social venture, I’m proud to have joined this ecosystem and look forward to the exciting possibilities in this highly important field.

For more information, visit: http://sustainability.berkeley.edu/

Rohit Kumar is a 2008 alumnus of UC Berkeley. He is the co-founder of Brush with Bamboo, a company that manufactures biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes.

Smart Cities Council Launched to Promote Smart, Sustainable Cities

Sustainable Cities Network

Cities around the world are under pressure. Budgets are tight. Growth is necessary. Demands and costs are escalating. Extreme weather is taking its toll. Efficiency and sustainability are priorities, but where should they start to balance the moving pieces? Civic leaders have a new resource in the fight to achieve prosperity and sustainability. More than a dozen top technology firms have formed the Smart Cities Council to provide cities with tools and best practices that can guide them in the right direction and save them time and money.

Greener Cities network

Operating under the theme “Livability, Workability, Sustainability,” the Council has gathered the world’s foremost firms in areas such as smart energy, water and transportation. These firms, which make up the Council’s Steering Committee, include Alstom, AT&T, Bechtel, Cisco, Electricite de France, General Electric, IBM, Itron, Microsoft, National Grid, Qualcomm, and S&C Electric.

In addition to lead partners, the Council’s associate partners include ABB, Alphinat, Grid2020, Invensys, MaxWest Environmental Systems, Opower, and Zipcar (a division of Avis).

According to Itron, the Smart Cities Council was formed to help address the unprecedented challenges facing the world’s cities, including accelerated population growth and constrained resources. The council aims to equip city leaders with fresh approaches to policy, governance, development and technology that enable long-term livability, workability and sustainability. Of course, resilience is an important part of the equation as well.

“People have built communities around energy and water for ages. Past generations have extracted more energy or more water to accommodate growing populations. This is simply not possible given the scale and urgency of today’s challenges. We must be more strategic, more resourceful and more innovative than ever before,” says Russ Vanos, Itron’s senior vice president of strategy and business development.

Mayors and city leaders can tap into this global hub to develop a comprehensive and collaborative road map for their city, to gain advice on the most effective ways to move forward, and to compare notes with like-minded leaders.

“All over the world, rapid urbanization is putting enormous stress on city resources and infrastructure,” explained founding Chairman Jesse Berst. “Cities are at a crossroads; many are nearing the point at which they could easily become overwhelmed by issues related to crime, congestion, and public health and safety. To prevent this, cities can use smart technologies to not just manage problems, but to usher in a new era of prosperity and sustainability.”

A “smart city” uses digital technology to deliver better, more efficient services to its citizens. It enables access to information via data collected from devices and sensors that are embedded in roadways, energy and water infrastructure, buildings and more. For example, smart power and water grids improve efficiency and reliability, as well as provide customers with detailed information to help them reduce their bills. For another example, a smart transportation network optimizes multi-modal travel throughout the city with real-time bus updates, taxi locations, and the ability to reserve parking spots.

Thousands of smart city projects are underway around the globe, but major hurdles remain. Cities have significant questions and challenges with regard to the four chief barriers of technology, financing, policy, and citizen engagement.

World’s first collaborative smart city guide

The Council was formed to lower these barriers to adoption through education, outreach, and tools for cities. One of the Smart Cities Council’s first initiatives is the development of the Readiness Guide, which will launch as a beta version at the 81st Annual United States Conference of Mayors next month.

The Readiness Guide will be the first collaborative and comprehensive vision of a smart city. It will provide city leaders with a conceptual technology roadmap to address growth strategies in an effective and systemic way, focusing on key issues such as energy, transportation, water, and public safety. The content of the Readiness Guide is greatly influenced by the expertise of the Council’s partners, as well as its Advisory Board, which is made up of independent experts from research, academia, and advocacy.

“Far too many cities are undertaking individual projects without an overall plan, and without considering the ways that different departments can share costs and data,” noted James Whittaker, Executive Director of the Smart Cities Council and a principal in Mercator XXI, a co-founder of the Council. “For the best results, it is essential to have a comprehensive, holistic vision — yet no such help exists today. The Readiness Guide is the first-ever collaborative, comprehensive resource.”

The Council also has initiatives underway to address financing, policy, and citizen engagement. To accomplish these important but challenging tasks, the Council has marshaled the world’s leading authorities. “It takes an ecosystem to build a smart city,” said Berst. “We salute our member organizations. They have demonstrated that they are not just leaders in innovation, but — equally important — in collaboration.”

About Smart Cities Council

The Smart Cities Council is comprised of the foremost experts and leading global companies in the smart technologies sector, who serve as advisors and resources. Its goal is to accelerate the growth of smart cities worldwide by providing city leaders with access to financial tools, policy frameworks, visibility campaigns, and advocacy. For more information, visit www.smartcitiescouncil.com.

Portland Hosts Conference On EcoDistricts and Cities

Sustainable City Network

Representatives from eight cities gathered at Portland’s Ecotrust building Tuesday for the start of a workshop designed to train municipal leaders on the art of neighborhood revitalization.


The group EcoDistricts, formerly known as the Portland Sustainability Institute, is hosting urban planners and community leaders hoping to learn a bit about sustainable city tenets. The three-day EcoDistricts Incubator event includes representatives from Bend, Burlington, Vt., Cambridge, Mass., Charleston, S.C., Denver, Oakland, Orlando, Fla. and San Diego. The event also hosted several federal government representatives from throughout the country.

The EcoDistricts Incubator will help each of the cities tackle a different EcoDistrict project. For instance, in Bend, city planners want a major couplet that connects the established downtown with the city’s historic residential neighborhoods and erstwhile industrial lands.

Several local leaders are playing leading roles at the event. For instance, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat, told attendees that notions of urban sustainability are in many ways a throwback to how cities operated in the past. Blumenauer, an avid cyclist, added that Portland has boosted its biking levels — its 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths helped it top Bicycling Magazine’s list of top cycling cities — organically.

“We have not framed it as a choice,” Blumenauer said. “We made it convenient, attractive and hip. We never actually declared war on the automobile, but this is a community that decided not to surrender to it.”

Source: http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2013/05/ecodistricts-gives-muni-counterparts.html

Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators Given to 11 US Teachers

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has announced the winners of the 2013 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Eleven teachers from around the country are being recognized for their exceptional work as leaders in the field of environmental education in formal school settings. Award recipients and their local education agencies will receive commemorative certificates and monetary awards to help support and encourage their use of environmental education in their classrooms and schools.

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“The men and woman who are receiving this prestigious award have taken innovative steps to educate students about environmental stewardship and civic responsibility, and their work is a critical part of creating a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “Thanks to their creative approaches to environmental education, students are developing a greater connection to the world around them – a skill that will benefit young people throughout their careers as they pursue the green jobs of the 21st century. At EPA, we are grateful to know that such exceptional educators are in American classrooms today.”

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers and their local education agencies across the United States for excellence in integrating environmental education into their lessons and connecting students with their communities and the natural world.

This program recognizes and supports teachers from both rural and urban education settings who make use of experiential and environmental opportunities that utilize creativity and community engagement to help students develop a sense of civic responsibility and stewardship in ecosystems. This year’s winning teachers’ programs range from students’ participation in watershed stewardship and civic engagement in Virginia, to creating recycling programs for an entire school in Kansas, to land stewardship practices in Idaho. Many teachers have inspired and empowered their students to create spaces for “green” clubs and special environmental science projects that include whole communities and businesses that help to create learning opportunities that students may otherwise not experience. These teachers demonstrate exceptional skill integrating learning outside their classrooms and making use of real-world issues to help students connect with, and participate in the world around them.


“This award recognizes the outstanding educators in our classrooms who are taking innovative approaches to helping students understand the impact they can have on our physical world,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “The teachers who have earned this award are inspiring our nation’s future leaders to be responsible stewards of our environment, and preparing them to excel in the 21st century economy.”
Recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators include:

•    Mary Marguerite Murphy,  Camden Hills Regional High School, Rockport, Maine
•    Mary Breslin, George Washington Middle School, Alexandria, Va.
•    Carolyn Ruos Thomas, Wildwood Middle School, Shenandoah Junction, W. Va.
•    Jeanna Burroughs Goodson, Maiden High School, Maiden, N. C.
•    Mary Catherine Padgett, Ford Elementary School, Acworth, Ga.
•    Anne Wiszowaty, North Shore Community School, Duluth, Minn.
•    Mike Todd, Ames High School, Ames, Iowa
•    Dominick S. DeRosa, F.L.Schlagle High School, Kansas City, Kan.
•    Dominique Evans-Bye, Clark Magnet High School, La Crescenta, Calif.
•    Ralph Harrison, Science and Math Institute, Tacoma, Wash.
•    Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel, Barbara Morgan Elementary, McCall, Idaho
More information about the winners and this program: http://www.epa.gov/education/teacheraward