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For over ten years, GW has made steady progress toward its vision for a sustainable university, striving to make a positive impact on the planet and its inhabitants, while equipping students with the skills and knowledge to contribute to a sustainable future. Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the planet and society, today and in the future. Further, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the enormous impact humans have on the environment, and the need for more inclusive and equitable structures in our society.

This week, based on recommendations from the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Responsibility Task Force of the Board of Trustees, GW has announced a renewed commitment to addressing climate change. The sustainability community at GW has consistently called on the university to take bold action to address climate change due to its impact on the planet and people. The Task Force took input from students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of GW. These voices are important in the shared governance of our university.

In the announcement GW renewed its commitment to addressing climate change, including divestment from fossil fuels. The university has committed to not make any new endowment investments in businesses that derive the majority of their revenue from the extraction of fossil fuels, and to eliminate 100 percent of all such investments from its endowment over the next five years.

Divestment is only the beginning of what is necessary. Leading institutions can amplify their efforts to address climate change if we reach back to remove our past, cumulative carbon emissions. As such, in addition to divestment, GW announced a commitment to remove all greenhouse gas emissions it has produced in its nearly 200 year history.

“In order to authentically commit to climate justice, we must look to the past to reclaim the future,” according to Peter Harrison, GW Trustee and Chair of the ESG Task Force. “Our moonshot approach to climate change takes responsibility for not just the university’s current carbon footprint, but also our historical emissions. We hope to inspire GW’s experts, partners, and peers to collaborate and emulate the pathway to historical decarbonization.”

The university will also accelerate plans to achieve carbon neutrality, release a plan for climate resilience for the university’s operations, phase out single use plastics on campus, capture stormwater, provide more outdoor green spaces to improve biodiversity, and convert university operated transportation to zero-emissions vehicles. Additionally, GW will develop a prominent transdisciplinary academic home, such as a Sustainability Institute, and ensure that every GW student has an opportunity for an academic experience that promotes innovative thinking in sustainability.

“Our students understand that their generation will bear the burdens of a changing climate, unless action is taken now,” said Dr. Tara Scully, Director of the Minor in Sustainability. “GW is not only addressing its own footprint, but also educating students to create a sustainable world.”

“Working through Sustainable GW, faculty across campus are developing transdisciplinary research projects to address some of the most complex problems facing society. These projects develop new technologies and also analyze public policy and social science to ensure that the technological solutions are effective,” said Robert Orttung, Director of Research for Sustainable GW.

While the ESG Task Force will now turn to social and governance matters, all three areas are interconnected. The social justice implications of climate change are real: disadvantaged groups suffer the most from environmental degradation.

“By curbing its contribution to climate change, GW intends to lead by example and show how institutions might help reduce the negative impact on populations around the globe,” said Meghan Chapple, Director of GW’s Office of Sustainability. “The comprehensive commitment to climate change was instigated years ago by GW Fossil Free students, now championed by Chair Grace Speights and Trustee Peter Harrison, and guided by faculty experts.”

While the Office of Sustainability will work with the GW community to deliver on these commitments, the progress GW has made in sustainability is due to the tireless efforts of students, faculty and staff across the university. Your contributions will be critical going forward, as well.

To learn more about the details of the announcement, see the resources below:

GW Today Story

ESG Task Force Website

ESG Task Force Report to Board of Trustees

By Francesca Edralin, Student Assistant for the Undergraduate Minor in Sustainability

On Thursday, April 16 Sustainable GW hosted a webinar titled “The Big Reframe: Shifting Your Focus to the Better Things”, led by Ayana Moore of GW Facilities Planning, Construction, and Management. While I was not sure what to expect when I signed up for the session, I was so glad that I ended up tuning in. The session was interactive, engaging, eye-opening, and taught me some valuable lessons on the importance of reframing your perspective during an unprecedented time like this.

No GW student or faculty could have anticipated a pandemic as severe as this. With a student body that is constantly “doing things” in the hustle and bustle of Foggy Bottom, many of us are used to an extremely fast-paced way of life. Walk around campus, and you’ll always find students on their way to their next class, their next club meeting, or their next interview. In such a lively and active environment, the thought of having to lose it all and go home likely never crossed anyone’s mind.

And then of course, the unimaginable happened. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, GW students have been kicked off of their bustling campus, and have been sent home to an environment likely far less exciting. This scenario is unprecedented, unimaginable, and undesired for many. But could there be a silver lining to all of this?

As the stereotypical GW student who thrives off of packing her schedule with e-board meetings, a work study job, five intensive classes, and an internship, “free time” was a foreign concept to me before the pandemic. It certainly took me some time to transition to this stationary way of life, but I’ve been able to make the most of it. I’ve been able to find meaning during these slower and more isolating times.

Honestly, a lot of it required me to shift my way of thinking. As Ayana Moore emphasized in her webinar, the key is always to reframe how you see your current situation. For me, this meant no longer blaming coronavirus for cutting my sophomore year short and canceling all my April and May plans. Instead, I’ve reframed the situation, accepting that this pandemic is an issue far bigger than myself, and that everyone is pausing their lives for the greater good.

Instead of hustling from one meeting to another, I can take this time to just “be”. No outside pressures, no time crunches - instead I am learning how to enjoy the simpler things in life and emerging as a more grateful and self-aware person. Now that I have much more free time on my hands, I’ve gotten back into old hobbies, like singing and songwriting, as well as taken on new hobbies, like baking and meditating. I’ve also been able to reconnect with my family members, who I felt so distant from when I was back in DC.

In life, things will sometimes be out of your control. This pandemic happens to be one of those things. Yet, reframing is a powerful tool to make the most of this situation - and see light when everyone else sees the darkness. During the webinar, one of the students reframed the situation so beautifully: “We will emerge out of this different and more united.” 

I couldn’t agree more. This is a difficult time for sure, but it is also a shared moment worldwide for learning, reflecting, and reframing. I am confident that once we overcome this chaos, humanity will emerge stronger, more grateful, and more unified than ever before.

 

Doing Social Science Research in a Disaster

By Dr. Robert Orttung, Research Director for Sustainable GW

Given the on-going COVID-19 crisis and the growing prevalence of hazards in the world, many GW faculty and researchers are launching projects that deal with disasters in various forms. While the pandemic is the most pressing problem at the moment, there is growing concern with fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and the overall effects of climate change. 

Some of the recent initiatives around GW include efforts to study the response to the pandemic in Eurasia, Michael Keidars work to develop new medical equipment, and endeavors to understand how the crisis is affecting the Arctic. Keidar recently  won a NSF RAPID award for his research to decontaminate the environment and to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

A key question for social scientists working with human research subjects is how to conduct research in crisis conditions. A couple of recent articles provide some good advice. 

In a recent contribution to Nature, J. C. Gaillard and Lori Peek offer a variety of ways to be sensitive to ethical dilemmas and power imbalances. Their main advice is to be sure that the research efforts keep the interests of the local population as the foremost priority. In proposing a code of conduct for researchers working in crisis conditions, they suggest: 

  1. Having a clear purpose
  2. Respecting local voices
  3. Coordinating locals and outsiders

Another recent article in Disasters by Kathryn Falb et al, offers five practical pieces of advice for Institutional Review Boards (IRB), the organizations on campus that authorize research work with human subjects. The authors offer advice on how to quickly obtain IRB approval for research, address the traumatic experience of participants, deal with difficulties in obtaining meaningful consent, and ensure reviews have sufficient knowledge of the population's needs.

In 2019, the National Academy of Sciences published a report on “Science during Crisis.” The authors argue that “a central, curated clearinghouse for data and scientific information can improve scientific collaboration, speed up analyses, and build public trust.” In other words, we will all benefit if everyone works together. 

Crisis communications play an important role in this effort. There is a lot of incorrect information circulating about the pandemic and leaders need to identify ways to make sure that people have the facts. Evidence from past infectious disease outbreaks shows that simple interventions with correct information do not always work and we need to find more effective solutions

Hopefully careful research will make it possible to provide helpful advice in addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic and other crises our society is currently facing.  

To learn more about GW’s sustainability efforts, visit sustainability.gwu.edu

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A message from Meghan Chapple, Office of Sustainability Director and Co-Director of Sustainable GW:

I hope you are staying safe, and finding some form of peace and wellness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

We are having a first-hand experience of global change. In the chaos we find confusion and anxiety. We can also find a learning moment to observe, reflect, and come to a deeper understanding.  How will the pandemic experience affect the way society sees the world, and the sustainability of our Earth systems to support human life? What can we learn from this to create a world that embodies the Sustainable Development Goals

Thus far, I have found that the pandemic reminds us of several key sustainability truths:

1)  We are all human, and we are all in this together.
We depend on our planet, and the local and global web of one another for goods, services, and social support. Starting today, let us acknowledge and show respect for these interconnections with one another and the Earth.

2)  We need to continue to create structures for equality across societal boundaries. While every human is susceptible to the novel coronavirus, unless we take immediate and creative action, the poor and disenfranchised will experience a more negative impact. Let this situation inspire us each to bring forward courage and creativity to support our fellow humans through our individual actions and our societal structures.

3) Trust, transparency, and connection enable us to work together across boundaries more effectively.  We have seen the disastrous effects of denial of scientific evidence and eroded international and domestic State relationships. With trust, transparency, and connection we can leverage one another’s strengths and resources for the greater good of all.

 4) We need to plan for what we can’t see. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the limits of the old adage “see it to believe it”. Our ability to prepare for global change – sudden like COVID-19 or gradual like climate change – is only limited by our willingness to imagine such scenarios, our courage to envision the world we want to see, and our ability to believe we can create it together.  We need to turn the adage around and “believe it to see it”.

Let’s explore these three abilities.

  • Can you imagine the scenario: a global pandemic in the midst of a natural disaster (flooding, hurricane, forest fires, extreme heat, drought, etc.)?
  • Can you envision a world we want to see: where we acknowledge scientific evidence to prevent the worst impacts of disease and climate change?
  • Can you believe in our collective ability: that we can act as an interconnected society that uses scientific evidence to plan and coordinate ingenuity and resources to address the problem, whether in the health care system or the global ecosystems?

I hope you will join me in using this time of crisis to learn, and to exercise these three abilities. Such practice is going to come in handy in the coming years to prepare for further global change. 

Follow this blog in the coming weeks for a deeper exploration into imagining possible scenarios, envisioning the world we want to see, and believing in our collective ability to create a sustainable future. 

Respectfully,
Meghan Chapple
Director, GW Office of Sustainability
Co-Director, Sustainable GW
For more information about sustainability at GW, visit sustainability.gwu.edu.

By Emma West

Do you commute to an internship each day? What’s your go-to off-campus hangout spot? How do you get around when you leave Foggy Bottom?

 

DC is a very walkable, bike-friendly city, but when it’s 90 degrees outside or you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you might ditch your bike (or scooter!) in favor of a Lyft, the free Circulator bus, or Metro. There are many ways to get around the city, some better for the environment than others—so let’s take a moment to think about how sustainability plays into your daily transportation habits. 

 

Metro customers waiting for Pentagon Express shuttle bus – Summer 2019

 

The transportation sector currently accounts for the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States at about 30%. Now more than ever, low-carbon transportation needs to be a priority as cities and states turn to real solutions to fight climate change. And there's no doubt that climate change is affecting all of us in the DC region. According to the EPA, "The region has warmed by more than two degrees (F) in the last century, hot days and heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and the tidal Potomac is rising about one inch every eight years." (To read more about the impact of climate change on the District, check out this fact sheet.)

 

But don’t get too discouraged: you can make a difference! The easiest and most impactful choice you can make each day to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to leave your car at home, forget about your ride-hailing app, and, instead, hop on a Capital Bikeshare bike, get some extra exercise by walking, or take Metro.

 

7000-series train pulling out of NoMa-Gallaudet U station

 

Did you know that each trip you take on Metrorail produces 40% less CO2 than taking the same trip in a car? Each year, Metro riders avoid emissions equal to 370,000 metric tons of CO2—an amount equivalent to the emissions from 41 million gallons of gasoline. 

 

And while public transit is already an efficient low-carbon mode of transportation, Metro is committed to making its internal operations even more sustainable. Since 2014, Metro has become approximately 6% more efficient, using less energy and fuel per vehicle mile.

 

Some exciting initiatives underway include:

  1. Lighting: Upgrading all station and facility lighting to energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED)
  2. Regenerative Braking: Integrating braking energy recovery into traction power upgrades 
  3. Service Improvements: Investing in modern fare payment technology, developing an electric bus strategy, and strengthening the regional bus network
  4. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): Designing all new and significantly renovated facilities to meet LEED Platinum standards
  5. Solar: Designating four station parking lots/garage rooftops for renewable energy development that will produce 7–9MW of power

 

About the Author: Emma West is an alumna of GWU and proud 2017 graduate of the Sustainability minor. Despite always having been passionate about environmental issues, it wasn’t until she landed an internship at Metro through the DC Sustainable Energy Utility that she truly embraced public transit for its role in fighting climate change. Emma works in the Office of Sustainability at Metro, tracking energy data and supporting project managers to quantify and implement energy efficiency projects across the organization. If you, like Emma, never knew Metro had a sustainability office and are interested in internship opportunities, or are just curious about what it is like to work in the transit industry, you can reach out by email at Metro_Sustainability@wmata.com

Welcome back G-Dub Green Hub.

Happy 2019! Here’s to a new year full of tons of opportunities and lots to look forward to at Sustainable GW. This post serves as a reminder that there are so many ways to get involved and we want YOU to contribute as much as you would like.

This space is here for you, and we are more than happy to help you generate published content that you can brag about while applying for jobs/internships/grad school/etc. Interested in making a post? Email us at sustaingw@gwu.edu and we can make it happen! If not, check back soon for more from us coming very soon

Sustainability at GW: Year in Review

So many exciting things have happened at the university in 2018, it’s hard to keep track. Here’s a round-up of sustainability related campus happenings at GW since the beginning of the year.

January:

  • Chef Jose Andres shared his story of making thousands of meals for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, hosted by GW and Food Policy Action
  • Sustainable GW and Campaign GW announced the official launch of the composting pilot
  • The GroW Garden set up the next semester’s worth of community supported agriculture (CSA), where students can get weekly shares of local produce using GWorld
  • GW cosponsored a talk on “Creating the Paris Path on Climate Change”
  • Bernie Sanders and Bill McKibben came to the university to talk about the future of renewable energy

February:

  • The first collection for the composting pilot occurred in the Mid-Campus Quad, with 80 pounds collected
  • Another group of sustainably-minded students applied to live in the Zero Waste housing affinity
  • Green GW’s annual Valentine’s Day succulent sale took place
  • The 2018 Food Tank Summit occurred with the GW Food Institute
  • Planet Forward hosted a salon with global parties
  • The GroW Garden had their first volunteer hours of the year
  • The $2 million Sustainable Investment Fund was announced

March:

  • The GW Environmental & Energy Law Association and the Environmental Law Institute hosted a symposium
  • Nutritionist Debbie Amster came to speak on how to eat a healthy diet in college
  • Campaign GW hosted Earth Hour for the entire university

April:

  • Sustainable GW and The Store hosted a clothing swap to combat the consequences of fast fashion
  • The Planet Forward Annual Summit began, and the Storyfest winner was announced
  • Sustainable GW took part in the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative
  • The Foggy Bottom Farmers Market reopened for the Spring Season
  • Green GW’s annual Trashion show occurred at the Georgetown Patagonia store
  • The Conscious College Road Tour made its stop at GW
  • GW Dining held an event called “Smoothies for Sustainability”
  • GW Campus Rec and Sustainable GW led an outdoor yoga session
  • An official “campus cleanup” occurred in honor of Earth Day
  • Four environmental film screenings took place
  • The university congregated in Kogan Plaza for the annual Earth Day Fair

May:

  • International Compost Awareness Week occurred, with GW’s compost pilot now averaging over 200 pounds collected per week
  • GW celebrated #BikeToWorkDay
  • GW was recognized as the largest green power user in the Atlantic 10 by the EPA Green Power Partnership
  • The Class of 2018 graduated, some of which had a minor in sustainability
  • The GW Commencement speaker, Marcia McNutt, was an oceanographer and president of the National Academy of Sciences
  • The Green Move-Out program collected and donated over 50,000 pounds of clothes, food and household goods

June:

  • Sustainable GW met the Class of 2022 at Colonial Inauguration
  • The first faculty planting of the summer took place at 2101 F Street, moving the university one step closer to meeting the GW Sustainable Landscape Guidelines
  • Several offices and departments re-certified their status as an official green office in the Green Office Network
  • G Street Park was surveyed and will be used for an upcoming sustainability project

July:

  • Sustainable GW’s first clothing repair workshop took place in collaboration with the Innovation Center
  • GW cheered on the This Is Zero Hour youth climate march on capitol hill

August:

  • Earth Overshoot Day occurred, and GW advocated for the #MoveTheDate initiative
  • GW announced the new dining vendor on the Mount Vernon Campus, SAGE, who focus on local food and other sustainability initiatives
  • Freshman moved in to their housing assignments, which were fitted with brand new recycling and trash signage
  • Sustainability at GW held their Welcome Week Open House to introduce first year students to the green community
  • The composting program expanded collection hours
  • The sustainability blog, G-Dub Green Hub, was officially launched

September:

  • The GroW Garden and Miriam’s Kitchen were featured in the Washington Post and on WTOP Radio
  • Freshman Day of Service took place and GW freshman engaged in the local community on a variety of projects, many of which are directly related to sustainability in DC
  • Many of the sustainability related student organizations hosted a joint info session for first year students, including Green GW, Fossil Free GW, the GroW Garden and GW Animal Advocates
  • GW’s Environmental & Energy Law Program hosted a presentation on sustainability and ecological management
  • A Carbon Pricing Toolkit that GW aided with was released
  • The GW Student Association and The Store hosted a Food Insecurity Town Hall
  • The GW Textile Museum hosted an event centering around the link between fashion and sustainability

October:

  • GW Campus Rec returned with another outdoor yoga session, reminding community members that wellbeing is an important part of sustainability
  • The first ever Green Roundtable occurred, bringing together sustainable student leaders from across the university
  • Student eco-representatives hosted a variety of events, including DIY workshops and a mend-a-thon
  • Sustainable GW announced the 2018 Duke Energy Innovation Fund winners
  • Green GW hosted GW alumni Patrick Realiza to talk about entering the sustainability field after graduation

November:

  • The Sustainable GW Leadership Team held a morning of ‘Coffee and Conversation’ with members of the university community
  • The DC Climathon at GW took place, which was a 24-hour hack-a-thon with the goal of hacking good food access
  • Sustainable GW hosted a Lead On Climate staff retreat
  • Director of Sustainability Research, Robert Orttung, spoke on 900 CHML radio about climate change in the United States

December:

  • The GW Sustainable Scholars Award continued to accept undergraduate research proposals, and will be giving out grants to students and staff
  • The compost program finished its final collections of the year, collecting over 2 tons of compost since the launch in January
  • Sustainable GW is hosting a holiday party and sustainability tour of the university to celebrate a successful year

August 23rd, 2018

Lucy Hummer

Welcome to G-Dub Green Hub

Hey everybody! Welcome to G-Dub Green Hub, GW’s brand new sustainability blog. This space is going to be for students, staff and anybody else to write about all things green, at the university and beyond.

My name is Lucy, I’m a junior at GW majoring in environmental studies and geography and minoring in sustainability. I’m also an intern for the Office of Sustainability. I’ll be contributing content regularly, but so will you! We’re excited for the variety of content and talents that GW students will be able to provide throughout the year. My hope is that this page can serve as a place for news, promo, outreach, entertainment, education, etc, etc, etc.

Our goal is to connect students not only to the school’s green programming, but also to one another. Sustainability intersects with almost every interest and hobby, even if you don’t realize it yet! Ultimately, we want to remind all of you that living a green life is easy, fun and impactful, especially here on the GW campus.

Check back soon for new posts, and feel free to contact us at sustaingw@gwu.edu or lucyhummer@gwu.edu if you have questions or would be interested in writing for us! We want to include as many voices as possible throughout the year.

Talk to you soon GW!

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