» Sustainability

WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities

WaterSense,® a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply. By transforming the market for water-efficient products, services, and practices, WaterSense is helping to address the increasing demand on the nation’s water supplies and reduce the strain on municipal water infrastructure across the country. WaterSense labeled products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models. In addition, WaterSense labeled new homes incorporate water-efficient products and designs, and WaterSense labeled certification programs focus on water-efficient practices by professionals. WaterSense has developed WaterSense at Work, a compilation of water-efficiency best management practices, to help commercial and institutional facility owners and managers understand and better manage their water use. WaterSense at Work is designed to provide guidance to help establish an effective facility water management program and identify projects and practices that can reduce facility water use. Read More

Greening EPA Initiative

Living Our Mission EPA implements a range of strategies to reduce the environmental impact of our facilities and operations, from building new, high-performance structures to improving the energy and water conservation of existing buildings. Read More

Scenario planning to leap-frog the Sustainable Development Goals: An adaptation pathways approach

Few studies have examined how to mainstream future climate change uncertainty into decision-making for poverty alleviation in developing countries. With potentially drastic climate change emerging later this century, there is an imperative to develop planning tools which can enable vulnerable rural communities to proactively build adaptive capacity and ‘leap-frog’ the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using an example from Indonesia, we present a novel participatory approach to achieve this. We applied scenario planning to operationalise four adaptation pathways principles: (1) consideration of climate change as a component of multi-scale social-ecological systems; (2) recognition of stakeholders’ competing values, goals and knowledge through co-learning; (3) coordination of responses across multiple decision-making levels; and (4) identification of strategies which are ‘no regrets’, incremental (tackling proximate drivers of community vulnerability) and transformative (tackling systemic drivers). Workshops with stakeholders from different administrative levels identified drivers of change, an aspirational vision and explorative scenarios for livelihoods in 2090, and utilised normative back-casting to design no regrets adaptation strategies needed to achieve the vision. The resulting ‘tapestry’ of strategies were predominantly incremental, and targeted conventional development needs. Few directly addressed current or possible future climate change impacts. A minority was transformative, and higher level stakeholders identified proportionately more transformative strategies than local level stakeholders. Whilst the vast majority of strategies were no regrets, some were potentially mal-adaptive, particularly for coastal areas and infrastructure. There were few examples of transformative innovations that could generate a step-change in linked human and environmental outcomes, hence leap-frogging the SDGs. We conclude that whilst effective at integrating future uncertainties into community development planning, our approach should place greater emphasis on analysing and addressing systemic drivers through extended learning cycles. Read More

Housing growth in and near United States protected areas limits their conservation value

Protected areas are crucial for biodiversity conservation because they provide safe havens for species threatened by land-use change and resulting habitat loss. However, protected areas are only effective when they stop habitat loss within their boundaries, and are connected via corridors to other wild areas. The effectiveness of protected areas is threatened by development; however, the extent of this threat is unknown. We compiled spatially-detailed housing growth data from 1940 to 2030, and quantified growth for each wilderness area, national park, and national forest in the conterminous United States. Our findings show that housing development in the United States may severely limit the ability of protected areas to function as a modern “Noah’s Ark.” Between 1940 and 2000, 28 million housing units were built within 50 km of protected areas, and 940,000 were built within national forests. Housing growth rates during the 1990s within 1 km of protected areas (20% per decade) outpaced the national average (13%). If long-term trends continue, another 17 million housing units will be built within 50 km of protected areas by 2030 (1 million within 1 km), greatly diminishing their conservation value. US protected areas are increasingly isolated, housing development in their surroundings is decreasing their effective size, and national forests are even threatened by habitat loss within their administrative boundaries. Protected areas in the United States are thus threatened similarly to those in developing countries. However, housing growth poses the main threat to protected areas in the United States whereas deforestation is the main threat in developing countries. Read More

Watch your language: Power words at the human–nature interface

Words are integral to thinking and communicating. Words also carry old baggage. The Anthropocene necessitates new thinking and communication at the human–nature interface. Words like progress, natural, and thresholds are pervasive in both scientific and policy discourse, but carry baggage that will likely slow understanding of the Anthropocene and appropriate adaptation. The dynamic systems thinking with emergent properties of ecology needs to replace the efficiency and growth framework of economics. Diversity and resilience are productive and less historically burdened words. Read More

The Nature Conservancy Global Solutions

We are optimists about Earth’s future. The Nature Conservancy envisions a world where people and nature thrive together. But today our world is at a crucial juncture. We will soon be nine billion people sharing one planet. A development boom is lifting billions out of poverty, but increasing demands for food, water and energy are stressing nature to its limits. We are trapped in a vicious cycle in which we over-exploit and degrade nature, in turn impoverishing life for people. We see another way forward – one that accounts for nature’s full value in all the decisions we make. It’s about creating a virtuous cycle, in which we take care of nature so that nature can continue to take care of us. Pursuing Global Solutions: In response to current Global Challenges, we will pursue Global Solutions at the intersection of nature’s and people’s needs. The Solutions are areas where we will develop specific strategies and link them to our place-based work at the system scale. These are the leverage points that take our work to a greater relevance beyond the acres we can conserve directly. Read More

The Innovation Bottom Line (MIT Sloan)

For the fourth year, MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group, conducted a global survey on sustainability, to which more than 4,000 executives and managers of all industries and regions responded. An analysis of the findings was published in the research report, “The Innovation Bottom Line.” Sustainability-Driven Innovators The global study found that many companies are profiting from their sustainability efforts and changing their business models to generate that profit. We call these respondents Sustainability-Driven Innovators (SDIs) and they comprise 23% of our survey respondents. These interactive charts explore what sets SDIs apart from the average respondent. Read More

NASA Sustainability Base

Imagine a working atmosphere designed in harmony with its environment. A building immersed in natural daylight and fresh air; one constructed to LEED Platinum standards and furnished with materials that are beneficial to your health. A building so smart and intuitive it knows exactly how much energy is consumed – and adapts itself based on weather, season and work patterns. NASA’s Sustainability Base is unlike any government building ever created. Using NASA innovations originally engineered for space travel and exploration, the 50,000 square-foot, lunar-shaped Sustainability Base is simultaneously a working office space, a showcase for NASA technology and an evolving exemplar for the future of buildings. Welcome to NASA’s latest mission on Earth. Read More

EPA Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz)

EPA has released a new web-based tool that helps local officials and other community members consider the benefits and uses of green infrastructure. The Green Infrastructure Wizard, or GIWiz, responds to growing community interest in using green infrastructure as a means of addressing water quality and a range of other local goals. Using a self-guided format, users can find EPA tools and resources to: * Learn the basics of green infrastructure; * Explore options for financing green infrastructure; * Visualize and design rain gardens, permeable pavement, and other types of green infrastructure; * Understand how other communities are using green infrastructure to revitalize neighborhoods and enhance land use; and * Develop green infrastructure public education and outreach campaigns. Read More

A National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability

This plan represents the perspectives of the leading minds and the strongest champions of Education for Sustainability, together with one voice committing to a series of actions that will ensure that by 2040, every student graduating from a U.S. K-12 school will be equipped to shape a more sustainable future. Read More

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu