Episode 21: Institutionalizing Sustainability for Real Change - Live at CHESC 2019

(top)  Jillian Buckholz, Mackenzie Crigger  (bottom)  Nurit Katz, Joseph Fullerton

(top) Jillian Buckholz, Mackenzie Crigger
(bottom) Nurit Katz, Joseph Fullerton


Jillian Buckholz
Director of Sustainability
California State University — East Bay
Mackenzie Crigger
Energy Conservation and Sustainability Manager
Chapman University
Nurit Katz
Chief Sustainability Officer
University of California — Los Angeles
Joseph Fullerton
Energy and Sustainability Manager
San Mateo County Community College District

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

Production Assistant: Kaia Findlay
Intern, Campus Energy and Sustainability Podcast

In this episode, you'll hear a live recording of a panel discussion at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, which took place earlier this summer at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  It was great to be back at this conference again. Regular listens may remember Episode 13 which we recorded at CHESC in 2018. While that episode focused on Aggressive Climate Action,  this year, we focused on the idea of institutionalizing sustainability. We tried to deconstruct some of the tactics, traits and tricks that our panelists, who are all rock star sustainability professionals, use to move beyond running pilot projects and underfunded awareness campaigns to leveraging the full power of the world-class institutions that they work within.


Episode Transcript:

The following is an automated transcription of this episode which will include errors and omissions. You can listen and follow along with the text here:


Dave Karlsgodt 0:00

Welcome to the campus energy and sustainability podcast. And each episode, we talked with leading campus professionals, thought leaders, engineers and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation to efficiency, to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems. We hope you're ready to learn, share and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave Karlsgodt, I'm a principal at Fovea, an energy, carbon and business planning firm.

Mackenzie Crigger 0:34

You know, if I just sent my CFO numbers all the time, he would not care. But when I show up in his office, and I tell him some funny story, then we can segueway that into a sustainability conversation and he will give me money.

Joseph Fullerton 0:45

You know, we really try to think very creatively using salsa as our analogy for how to engage our students. And so we have the mild, medium and spicy groups of students.

Nurit Katz 0:56

You know I hear tales, scary tales from some universities where it's very much a students versus administration. And really, our sustainability policy originated out of student and administration collaboration.

Jillian Buckholz 1:11

What was really tricky was working with people and saying, Okay, now we have to do these things.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:18

And this episode, you'll hear a live recording of a panel discussion at the California higher education sustainability conference, which took place earlier this summer at the University of California Santa Barbara. Regular listeners may remember Episode 13, focused on aggressive climate action, which we recorded at this conference in 2018. This year, we focused on the idea of institutionalizing sustainability. More specifically, we tried to deconstruct some of the strategies, traits and tricks of our panelists who are all rock star sustainability professionals in their own right. You'll hear some great stories, plenty of roadblocks, some ingenious tactics, and some powerful analogies each of our panelists have used to catalyze change. The moment you'll hear our moderator, Ann McCormick of Willdan, an energy and engineering solutions firm, introduce our four panelists. And without further ado, I hope you enjoyed this conversation recorded July 10 2019 as much as I did.

Ann McCormick 2:13

Welcome everybody. It's 2:10 we're gonna go ahead and get started with our session. And our session today is about decision making, how campuses make decisions for sustainability. It's been a real treat to work with each of the districts represented here today over many years, and to see all the progress that's been made. And I really appreciate the content of this session today, because it's really is about getting results and getting things done. And we have definitely some of the best here. We have each of the four systems represented. Jillian Buckholz, from Cal State East Bay, Joe Fullerton from San Mateo Community College District, Mackenzie Crigger from Chapman University private colleges represented. And we also have Nurit Katz from UCLA. But I'm going to go ahead and turn it over to our podcast host. And again, thank you, everyone for being here.

Dave Karlsgodt 3:09

Thanks again, my name is Dave Karlsgodt, as you mentioned, I'm with a company called Fovea, and we are a strategic planning firm that has the pleasure of working with the UC campuses on their carbon neutrality initiative and have had the chance to work with many campuses in California and around the country. Today I'm going to be wearing the different hat though I'm going to be the podcast host. So my role is going to be to kind of moderate our conversation here. I'll warm up first for you. And then I'm going to turn it over to you to ask some more difficult questions as we get along. There a couple of ground rules here. So first and foremost, we're going to try to ask them questions that will make them squirm. But but not get them fired. That's kind of a few of them. Yeah, you know, you know the line. And when I turn the questions over to you, you have to actually ask a question. So we're not talking about transportation in LA today, we're we're going to be trying to pull out the great knowledge they have about how decisions are made it these are a group of really creative people who have to navigate the bureaucracies that they work within. And somehow, given limited resources and barriers at every turn, they somehow figure out a way to get things done, despite all that. So I'm really here to learn with you. I work with campuses, but these are the experts that I'm trying to learn from. So this is going to be me learning, you can help me learn and will and we'll see where we go from there. What I'm going to need you guys to do is practice a little bit because you've never been a live audience, at least this specific group of people. So I've got a couple of things. So at some point, Joe might tell a joke, for example.

Joseph Fullerton 4:35

Yeah, like, why do pirates love recycling? Because they love the four R's.

Dave Karlsgodt 4:44

All right. All right. Good. Okay. All right. So Nurit, at some point, she might just surprise us all and come out with some brand new strategy that UCLA is going to go and we're going to call this the gaps and you are going to go Yeah, very good. Okay, that's good. That so Mackenzie, she's going to kind of stir up some controversy. And I'm going to call this one maybe the British Parliament gone awry. One, she's going to start talking about her new strategy to use use plastic straws to hook up to her rain garden system, and you guys are going to go nuts, and you're gonna go...all right. Alright, hey, we're gonna work on that going crazy part a little bit. And Jillian, at some point, is just going to get a groove on and just be passionately talking about how she connects sustainability to social justice, and you're gonna go all right. Okay, so I think you're ready. This is good. First round. And maybe just we'll start with you, Joe, can you just tell us who you are, where you're from a little bit about your campus. The next question will be about a key project you're working on. So if you want to give us like a laundry list, that's great.

Joe Fullerton 5:50

So I'm Joe Fullerton, and I'm the energy and sustainability manager at San Mateo County Community College District. We like to say that really fast to confuse people. My job consists mainly I work in the facilities Maintenance and Operations Division. Right now we're engaged in $500 million worth of new construction major modernization, so I'm responsible for all the fun LEED and sustainability, environmental health and safety and general project facilitation work within that, that scheme, and our meetings and operations work and the hundred and so folks that work in that division, custodians, engineers and our groundskeepers. So I have domain over water waste energy, curriculum, integration, climate action, all the normal stuff that a sustainability professional does. And I do that for three campuses with unique in challenging environments in themselves and try to feed those all into one cohesive strategy all together within a larger system of 114 schools across the community college system and trying to set a path and create rep school programs. So they can take and learn what we've done, do it better and give it back to us. And we can then continue to propel and accelerate the sustainability revolution that we know is necessary. So that's all I do.

Dave Karlsgodt 7:09

All right, before we go on, I also will note that Joe was here at our podcast recording last year and asked the first and last question and talked himself onto the panel because he mentioned we were missing community colleges. So we're glad to have you here, Joe.

Joseph Fullerton 7:20

Yeah, I basically kicked the door down. Yeah.

Nurit Katz 7:24

Well, hi, everyone. I'm Nurit Katz. I'm the chief Sustainability Officer for UCLA. And I've been in sustainability there for about a decade with similar to what Joe was sharing all of the different topics that we work on from energy, water, waste, procurement, transportation, all of it. I also more recently in the last couple years have taken on a more direct role within facilities management. So I also serve as the executive officer for facilities, which includes running our power plant custodian grounds and kind of everything physical about the campus. My role in sustainability as a dual report to have a dotted line to the academic side. And a big part of my role, just like many of us, is sort of facilitating the university as a living laboratory looking for applied research opportunities, ways in which we can test innovative technology and ideas in our physical operations and kind of further both the academic mission and our operational goals at the same time.

Mackenzie Crigger 8:16

I'm Mackenzie Crigger. I'm at Chapman University, and I'm the energy and sustainability manager there, not anything too different. We're all working on the same big sustainability goals, same topic areas. The one thing that I do do that's a little different that has provided me some good entry roads to, to the academic side is I teach in the College of environmental science and policy. And so that's been a really great and interesting experience, because it's really allowed us to get students more involved in what's happening from a facilities and sustainability perspective. Then, what they were able to do before that sort of just was a lucky, happy accident as I like to think of it, Bob Ross and I, we're on the same wavelength. Come on, guys. That was a joke. But again, you know, we all we're looking at wastewater, transportation, curriculum, procurement, basically anything that touches sustainability, I have my finger in at some point and as an office of one that gets overwhelming. So I'm really grateful for opportunities like this to come together and really see what's working for other people.

Jillian Buckholz 9:23

Hi, I'm Jillian Buckholz, Director of sustainability at Cal State East Bay, located in Hayward, California, about halfway between Oakland and San Jose, also an office of one. What makes me a little bit different from everybody else here is that I'm located in academic affairs, and I report directly to the provost. And my role is sort of twofold. About half of my time is spent facilitating and leading a student internship program I hire between 12 and 18 students a year to do on campus sustainability projects. And I was given that funding when I came into this position about five years ago. And then the other half of the work that I do is facilitating our campus sustainability committee, just co chaired by our provost and VP of finance, and admin. And essentially through that committee, I'm able to do things like climate action planning and greenhouse gas inventories. And STARS, we just got the email yesterday that we got a STARS rating we're bronze. Yeah, I'm very excited about that. Yeah, right. Clapping. Audience participation. So those are really the two areas that I work on. I don't have an official dotted line to facilities, but I do work with facilities. A lot on integrating sustainability into campus operations as well sort of serve as the environmental consultant for the campus is I tell the non-sustainability friends that I have.

Dave Karlsgodt 10:42

All right, very good. We're going to go We'll go backwards just to mix it up a little bit. This round, I'd like you to talk about a project that you've worked on where you were able to get decision makers to change their minds. I don't want to hear about a little pilot project, I want to hear about something that you've taken maybe from pilot all the way into there's a full budget line item, the CFO knows about it, and is as on board with it.

Jillian Buckholz 11:03

That's a good question. Our president signed second nature's carbon commitment in January 2015. And that was really great for me, because it allowed me to establish the campus sustainability committee with the stakeholders on campus who were organized and were able to get this position on campus, the director of stability position. And through that, too, we put together a Climate Action Plan. And as a first time this has ever been done at Cal State East Bay. And for those of you that have done climate action plans, it's not a very easy thing to do. But fortunately, I work a lot with faculty being an academic affairs, and have a really great faculty champion, Dr. Karina Garbesi in environmental studies, who worked with me in a senior seminar class to get the Climate Action Plan started. And then from there, we were able to snowball sort of that momentum, and hire a climate core fellow to help us write the Climate Action Plan, while we are working with stakeholders on the campus sustainability committee to get you know, different data points, right the plan. So once we wrote the plan, we had to get approval for it. And we had to vet it through faculty chemistry and ability Committee, which has to VP Sonic at presidential approval, sort of go through the entire chain of everyone that would have to be working on the different directives in the plan. And getting the approval was a lot easier than what we thought it would be. I'm not sure anyone read it. I hope they did. But what was really tricky was once it was approved people working with people and saying, Okay, now we have to do these things. And people were scared, and they thought it was additional work to what they do. And we had a really great moment with the procurement team. We sat down with them. And they said, We don't know anything about sustainability. What What do we do, we don't have funds for this, we don't have expertise. And just by meeting with those folks, one on one, they started to understand, oh, it's easy to go from paper processes to digital processes. It's easy to buy 100% recycled content paper. And then they started coming to us and saying, Can we put sustainability in our campus credit card policy? And I said, Yes. Can we stop allowing toner to be purchased on the campus credit card? And they're like, yeah, sure, we'll put that in our policy. So having the Climate Action Plan establishes sort of a long story from the President signed the commitments game, the Climate Action Plan, to working with procurement on the initiatives within it, but building the relationships, being able to establish those through that process has started to really change our procurement department, and it's been a big win for us.

Mackenzie Crigger 13:35

That's awesome. When I think about the things that we've been able to do on our campus that have really changed perspective, the first thing that comes to mind is when we transitioned our landscaping to native and California friendly and drought tolerant, if any of you have been to Chapman's campus, it is green and lush and beautiful. And things have to bloom all the time, even if it's not the right time for them to bloom. And so when I first got to the campus, I was like, we live in Southern California, it is a desert, like, do you people not know this? They're like, Oh, yeah, but everything grows here. And I'm like, well, just because everything grows here doesn't mean it should. But so through the environmental science and policy capstone course, that we were able to go through, we mapped the whole campus, we looked at what percentage of our campus was drought tolerant, California friendly native, and then proceeded to survey our campus, we managed to survey about 1500 people, our campus at that point only had about 6000 undergraduate students and about thousand graduate students about 600, faculty and staff. So that's a pretty big chunk of your campus, if you're able to get that but but having so much data to say, Hey, this is what people like, because we actually gave people pictures of potential California friendly plants that we could swap out within our landscaping, and going being able to go to our Vice President of facilities and campus planning and say, Look, the staff like this, the students like this, it will not be this ugly brown thing that you have in your mind, because that's what we're fighting against. There's this perception that for something to be drought tolerant, or California friendly, that had to be brown, it had to be ugly. And that started because a faculty member had started a campus drought tolerant garden, and it had not worked well, because the faculty member move, they left the university, this thing died. And so is just this legacy that was standing that had really been deeply ingrained into our administrators perspective on what what this could look like and what this could mean for our campus. And so when we were finally able to say, Okay, let's just do like, we'll just do a little test garden, and I did this test garden rod in front of their office, so they had to walk past it every day. I was like, Look, it's beautiful. Everything is blooming at different times, you have all these different colors, it looks great. And so then, you know, six months later, when nothing was dead, everything looks nice, they agreed to just basically transition our whole campus, there's only about 25% of our campus that hasn't been transitioned. And now it's just something that's normal. It's part of the process. Anytime we do a new construction or a building renovation, it's just the canvas standard. It's not anything special. It's not anything new. It's not anything different. And people are like, Oh, my goodness, this is beautiful. This looks so nice. We're in a historic district. And I regularly see people come in and like, take bits of our plants, and I see them, like pop up in the neighborhood around us, which I'm fine with. But occasionally I catch people and they're like, Is this okay? And I'm like, Yes, but I didn't tell you that. But it really did change how how our campus operated and how we integrated with the community. And sounds so cheesy to say, but it made people a little happier on campus. And it made them more proud. You know, I always hear students doing campus tours. And they make a note that, oh, this area is native or California friendly. And I'm like, how did they even know that like, I'm not going to our admissions folks and giving them this information. So it is really something that is trickling down through the university. And it's not not the crazy wild thing that everyone is anticipating it being.

Dave Karlsgodt 16:57

So what I'm hearing is control the credit card and put it in the front lawn of the administration that's the key takeaway so far, okay, go ahead Nurit.

Nurit Katz 17:06

I love it. So I'm going to take a slightly different bend and talk about governance structures. Because we, we've had a really active sustainability Committee for the last decade at UCLA that is really been a huge success of collaboration, faculty, staff, and students. And really a lot of the right decision makers there at the table, whether it's the head of transportation or facilities or areas like that. So the implementation is very much you know, the Associate Vice Chancellor's, etc. But as we approach our ambitious targets, like carbon neutrality by 2025, zero waste that is bearing down on us all now, the decision making that needed to happen was starting to be even higher scale, you know, multimillion dollar infrastructure projects. And so we went to the leadership and our Executive Vice Chancellor and said, we really need an executive committee Now, in addition to our main sustainability committee, and we made a case for it. And we were able to create this executive committee now that actually has the CFO of the university, the CEO of the university, the CEO of our health system, the chair of the Academic Senate, it's one of the hardest meetings to schedule, as you can imagine. But having that commitment from the university to have that cabinet level group get together quarterly to really look at these decisions was a huge win for us. And so I think it's been really successful so far, having that now additional higher level to bring things to from the main committee. So it's not so much one specific project, but it's something that I think is going to be helpful in transforming all of the projects we're considering right now.

Dave Karlsgodt 18:39

You've created a place in which to talk to the people that make the decisions, basically, you've you've institutionalized the decision making process, that's great.

Joseph Fullerton 18:47

Tough acts to follow. I'm kind of humbled to be up here. You know, when I started, six years ago, I was one of maybe two energy folks on community colleges, student count and the community college system, we're the largest, potentially in the world. When I came on, though I was I was an energy management coordinator. My job description basically meant that I was going to hit buttons on the BMS, and figure out where to save energy. I was like, that's not my job. First off, I don't want to do that. You like that? But you hired me. So let me tell you what I am going to do. It Sorry. I'm audacious. So I basically said, here's what we should do, we should think of energy as part of a larger strategic framework, we need to be talking about sustainability. And my boss is a 34 year military veteran. He has a good bark but a very gentle bite. And he said, What the hell? Basically, what are you talking about? And I'm watering down the language for the podcast.

Dave Karlsgodt 19:48

My mom, thanks you. Thank you.

Joseph Fullerton 19:49

Yeah, my mom, too. She won't listen don't worry. So anyway, he kind of begrudgingly was like, go ahead, as long as you're doing the energy work, it's fine. But about two days later, I recognize in order to accomplish this bigger strategic framework that I was going to need lots of help. What I did was I approached Pacific Gas electric, our our utility, and I said, Look, our largest sustainability problem is actually not energy, water waste, curriculum integration, or anything. It's human resources, we have a very large demographic shift, that's going to happen. And we need to hire sustainability professionals in these types of roles. People like me that can do work like me, and kick butt in this role. Because if we don't, we're destined to a whole nother generation of buildings, and don't do stuff the way they're supposed to do. And people that don't know how to properly manage technologically advanced super complex system, PG is like, Okay, so what do you want? Well, I need about $35,000, I'd like to hire somebody fellow to come in and help me out. So we're about three years improved the value of that fellowship, we got continuous grants from, from various resources, establish the fellowship and community colleges teams. After three years, we've accumulated about $400,000 worth of value in that program, through that fellowship calculated minus my administrative costs minus the computers that we had to buy, minus the training and professional development stuff that we sent them to. And they provided a lot of grants, a lot of other funds that brought brought into us, including energy saving consultant services, etc, that otherwise we had to pay for three years in, I said, well, boss, look, we're kicking butt here. How about we hire another person? Look, I got all the metrics here, we're saving a bunch of money. And you asked me to save, like, if I don't save enough money for my own job, like I'm supposed to get Can I did that a couple times over? And I said, and I'm saving enough for another person, plus, actually three more. So how about I build a team? And he said, Well, how about one, so we hired another person. And then two years later, another person. So now our team of three. And so this is the next generation of sustainability professionals that are coming into the role and we still keeping the fellows. And this year, finally, I got internal funding for a fellow whereas before, it was always from grants, and I had to like scrounge and work and be super resourceful, which is fun, but exhausting, the now have internal funding for that, to that is groundbreaking. That's what I'm really proud of.

Dave Karlsgodt 22:17

Alright, so get get hired under false pretenses, then find a cost center and roll your own, right. Is that ok? said it all right? Way over simplifying, of course. All right. Next one. What do you think is the secret sauce that's allowed you to do this? Like, whether what is it about you personally like? or What is it about, you know, the people around you or the organization you're in? I mean, you can answer that however you'd like. We'll start with Nurit. And we'll go this way.

Nurit Katz 22:43

Let's see. I'll answer both of your questions that this role and you know, UCLA, I think a lot of the success that UCLA has really been from this collaborative ground up approach. You know, I hear tales, scary tales from some universities, where it's very much as students versus administration, and really, at UC, at UCLA, and at UC more broadly, our sustainability policy originated out of student and administration collaboration. And a lot of what we do is built on that we have a fairly groundbreaking program within UC and at UCLA started as the education for Sustainable Living program. But the specific part I want to talk about at UCLA is called sustainability action research. And it's a two quarter long course, that's run by students with faculty advisors, and I've been serving as one of those. And basically, the students form teams, and they're paired with campus stakeholders, that could be the recycling coordinator, or it could be someone in athletics, and then they do hands on sustainability research that often leads to implementation even during the course. So the students get this concrete experience that when a lot of our alumni say is like the best part of their experience, and the most useful in terms of their career, because they learned project management and communication and all of these really good things skills, and this sort of client based project, and the university gets interesting data and support that we need. So it's an incredible program, and I think has created a sense among our students, that we're all part of a team here that you can work with the administration, none of our students for the most part are knocking on the Chancellor's door with petitions or, or yelling about what needs to get done, everyone, you know, is working in really constructive ways. So I think that's been a huge win for UCLA and a huge sort of secret sauce to our success. And then in terms of these types of roles, and I think everyone will probably agree with this, I think the Sustainability Officer role in particular, you have to be somewhat of a renaissance person, like a jack of all trades, master of none type human, because you're not all about transportation, or you're not all about procurement, you're juggling 10,000 projects. And, you know, when I'm giving career counseling to our students, I make sure they know that it takes a specific men to want to do that type of job, it's not for everybody. And there are a lot of more specialized focused roles available in the field, there's a lot of different ways to contribute to sustainability without having it in your title. So I think that's something important to understand.

Joseph Fullerton 25:15

So, I'm the middle of five, my name is Joe, which is about the most average name you could possibly have. I grew up in the middle class environment outside of Philadelphia, which is like the middle of like, all middle, so I mean, I'm like the middle of everything. And so I'm perfectly comfortable getting in the middle of conversations. Like there's a story of when, when I was when I was three, and my older brother was five, my little brother was one, I was negotiating, like a lawyer would on our front steps about how Tim, my older brother was supposed to give the toy back to Matt, who could barely hobble down the steps at one, right. So I had this like, ingrained in me. So as a sustainability professional and similar to what Maria was saying, having this negotiator bridge builder, facilitator, skilled, basically, like, drilled into me from every level is really critical to my role in my organization is what really has, I think, driven our success, and really helps me feel fulfilled. And I and I love telling stories. There's data and I like crunching data, but actually making that stories stick, right, numbers numb. So I really love telling stories, I love getting people's perspective on things, and putting people the heroes in my organization up on the pedestal that they deserve to be up on and stepping back and saying, hey, this, this person is really awesome. And they win the sustainability awesomeness prize of the universe.

Mackenzie Crigger 26:40

Ultimately, I think a lot of the success that I've been able to have at Chapman is number one, no one sounds like me. And so as soon as I call someone I show up in their office, they're like, oh, What is she saying? So it forces them to pay a little more attention. And it has also enabled me to make a ton of friends. Yeah, absolutely. We'll do accent coaching after. But so much of getting stuff done in this field is collaboration and finding partnerships. And if you can find a way to make friends with people and just build a little bit of rapport, they're much more willing to listen and talk with you. You know, if I just sent my CFO numbers all the time, he would not show up in my office, he would not care. But when I show up in his office, and I tell him some funny story, then we can segue that into a sustainability conversation, and He will give me money. So it, it does, it's all about finding what works for you and the environment where you are because of the same thing that works for me, it's not going to work for me, and potentially vice versa. Unfortunately, it it's situational. It's campus specific. And so find what works for y'all.

Jillian Buckholz 27:48

At East Bay, I think what has made the position successful, there has been the faculty, it was faculty that were pushing sustainability before I got there, it was faculty that wanted the position to be an active academic affairs. And it was faculty that when I got hired, said, here's the list of things we want you to do within the first five years. So I sort of had this five year plan put in front of me. And it's been faculty who have been pushing the academic side of things, your academic senate, and now have a committee on academic center for sustainability, which I'm an official member of as administrator and kind of the dark side. And I tried to like stay out of faculty stuff a little bit because I, you know, want them to move things along as they've been doing so well. So that's really been, I think, the secret to the success of the position there. And then kind of like Joe, when I was a kid, my dad put one of those can crushers on the wall of the basement, it was my job like crush the cans and put them in the recycle bin and take them to the curb and are taking back to the grocery store. Remember these up conveyor belts, and they're like back at the grocery store. And you can like, seal us up, go back there. And I mean, ever since then, I've just thought, how cool is recycling and how cool is the environment, it's all I can remember wanting to do is save the planet. I mean, when I went to college, I was a biology major. And everybody in my classes want to be a doctor. And I was like, maybe I'm in the wrong major. And so I switched environmental geography and it all worked out. But just being really passionate, there's a lot of bureaucracy where we work, and it's hard work, you don't always have support. But if you really care about these issues, I think we'll be all have in common is we want to do something that is right for the people and the planet. And that's what what drives me is one of the ingredients in the sauce.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:27

Very good, right? We've got lots of time. And if you don't ask questions, I'll ask more. But does anybody have a question to start right up front and you're in Joe's position last year, so be careful

Speaker 1 29:40

Love your stories. And I'm going to play off something Mackenzie said about the faculty member who did what you think of is a good thing. They planted native job talent plants that they didn't water because they left. That's an example of a good intention gone awry. Can you give other examples of good intentions gone awry and how to deal with that, because a lot of us want do good. Yet, if you don't do good in the right way, it may keep you from being able to do the good that you wanted to do.

Mackenzie Crigger 30:07

Unfortunately, on Chapman's campus, we have so many examples of good intentions gone awry. And a another one I walked into our storage unit the other day, and I have about 1000. And I'm not exaggerating, 1000 teeny tiny little recycling bins. I don't know where they came from. Turns out someone got them from a grant that they had applied for and was a faculty member. And then they realize that these bins are too little, they can't do anything with them. And so they're just sitting somewhere taking up space. And I think we all have examples like that across our campus. And so much of that could be avoided. If we just talked to one another, you just get out of your office and you walk down the hall or you walk across the campus and just say, Hey, this is what I'm thinking about, where are the holes? What thing is going to be wrong? It's a little harder for some reason to do that with faculty members. And I say that as someone who is technically a faculty member, we get in our own way a lot of the time. And so finding ways around that and just in you sort of have to remind people all the time, like, Hey, did you talk to someone so about this, or Hey, I know that this person has an expertise here. And you you you teach systems, so you know that better than anybody, there are all these things that that can influence and, you know, these unintended consequences that you're not even seeing in your system until you get out of your own way.

Nurit Katz 31:24

I can piggyback on that. And it's funny because I was gonna say the same sort of thing around systems, which it sounds like you're deeply familiar with.

Dave Karlsgodt 31:31

Who are we talking to, by the way, just because on the audio they can't see Daniel.

Speaker 1 31:37

I'm Dan Fernandez and I teach a class on systems thinking.

Dave Karlsgodt 31:37

Very good. Thank you.

Nurit Katz 31:38

Yes. So if you didn't hear that Dan Fernandez, who teaches systems thinking asked us a question about good intentions. And within systems, that's the understanding that you come to is all of these unintended consequences, feedback loops, things that we don't anticipate. We run into this all the time and sustainability. I think, right now, a lot of organizations are struggling with compostable plastic, so a lot of people have switched it, hear the groans. So a lot of people in trying to meet their Zero Waste targets did a lot of switching over to compostable plastics, and then find out that they aren't so easy to compost, and you have to have access to industrial composting. And ultimately, with all the issues that are going on, we really need to focus more on renewables as opposed to just the compostable. So there's a quote that I use in my class that I think is Oliver Wendell Holmes. And he said, I don't give a fig about the simplicity, this side of complexity. I think that was like early way of Well, you know what that saying, but he said, but I would give my arm I think he says, For the simplicity on the other side of complexity. And so acknowledging and understanding that we're dealing with complex systems and taking the time, before you finalize the decision to try to think of all the stakeholders that could be impacted all the unintended consequences, and all of that can really help avoid getting stuck with a bunch of stuff that you don't need, or an investment that's hard to reverse or anything like that.

Joseph Fullerton 33:00

So don't let the tail wag the dog, right. The opposite of system thinking for sustainability is random acts of sustainability, right? Like the road to heck, for Dave's mom is paved with good intention, right. And maybe will fit one more cliche into this sentence. So No, but seriously, the the random acts of sustainability thing is great, but how to really make sure those things are pointing in the right direction and are connected to larger goals as hard, making sure they actually have the intended consequences. And results is a whole nother level. There's the systemization of it, which is really important. But the individual impacts and the results of those have on individual who initiated them. And the timing of which the intervention actually happened, are all really critical elements to think about even the right size recycling bin, put in in the wrong way at the wrong time for the wrong person is not going to go right.

Jillian Buckholz 33:59

I'd just add that I've learned through working with the diversity officers on campus about thinking about intention versus impact. And can you align the two and make sure that, you know your intention might be go bigger impact might not be? And can you see that before you implement something?

Dave Karlsgodt 34:17

All right, go ahead Ann.

Ann McCormick 34:19

Great. Thank you. And I keep having this thought is I'm hearing you answer these questions about the most valuable resource that you all have. And that's the students and how you funnel the students good intentions and enthusiasm. We've worked with campuses who have so many different student organizations and so much great energy. And I know it's particularly issue at the community colleges when you've got two years, right, and they're moving on. So can you give examples about how you've gotten impact from students, you know, beyond just the few interns, but how you get them up to speed fast and channel their energy and a really valuable direction,

Dave Karlsgodt 34:56

Like at the student body level. Okay.

Nurit Katz 34:59

I'm sure we all have a stories for this one. The sustainability action research program that I mentioned is it's been a really powerful tool for showing students not only the students who participate in the program, but then as we talked about, and share those projects, it really gives students a sense that they can be part of implementation. But another really important tool we've had is, for many years, we have like kind of the opposite challenge sometimes of some colleges where people are passing through really quickly, we have a lot of enthusiasm. So we have 40 different student groups on campus focused on sustainability. Yeah, it's a lot. There's one that's just about bees and ones that that's about oceans and, and they keep growing. And so years ago, I started what I think originally was called the green Council. Now we call it the student sustainability Leadership Council. And basically, I bring together the leaders of all the student groups regularly so that we can try to encourage and foster collaboration across the group. So we don't have five different groups calling our office saying we want to do X, Y, Z, Zero waste project. And we're like, oh, well, did you know these guys are doing that. So trying to create a some opportunities for larger collaborations and projects among all these different student groups. But it also helps our office stay on top of what's going on with all the students and and engage them in a broader way. So that's been a really good tool. And then there's lots more in but there's lots more people in this podcast. So who's next>

Dave Karlsgodt 36:16

l like that enthusiasm clearing house, I suppose, right? There you go.

Jillian Buckholz 36:20

In the internship program that I run, I try to focus the beginning of the fall semester on professional development. I'm not sure about all of you. But I didn't really know how to write an email to an administrator. When I graduated college, I didn't know how to work with someone who technically was higher above me in a work situation. So I didn't know time management, any of that stuff. So I try to be really deliberate about teaching them professional development skills right off the bat. And then I give them uniforms, a casual uniform, like a T shirt, and then the Polo, so that they can feel a little bit more professional. And I let them take full rein on what their project with giving them a little bit of background and usually have some rollover students so they can kind of help with that. But then I told them, it's okay to fail, like this is college fail all over the place, this is the time to do it. And then I will try and help you learn how to not fail when you graduate and get a real job and finger quotations. The fact that they have autonomy, they can't usually handle it at first. And they're, they're like, I've never had a job, or somebody told me exactly what to do. And I can do whatever I want. I'm like, yeah, sure, go for it also, because I'm very busy. And I can always be looking over their shoulder. So it's helpful for me too. But then by the end of it, the feedback I always get is this is the best job ever, because I got to plan the position for myself, and I got to figure it out on my own. And it really gives them the confidence, I think and experience that when they're applying for internships or fellowships, or they get a job, they can say, Yes, I ran this program. Yes, I designed it on my own. And it's just, it's empowering. So that's been what's worked.

Joseph Fullerton 38:04

So at community colleges is a little, we don't have 40 student groups focused on bees and flowers, I don't envy that that challenge. The challenge we have is very permeable barriers, right. And we have students, literally from the age of nine, all the way up to 90 something on our campuses, all education levels, all shapes, sizes, religions, sexual orientations, backgrounds, etc. and anybody can come on to our campus from the community at any point and take any number of classes or not. Right. So, you know, we really try to think very creatively using salsa as our analogy for how to engage our students. And so we have the mild, medium and spicy groups of students. I didn't grow to be the size by being picky about food and sauces. One of my favorites. On the mild side, this is the folks that do maybe have a little bit of time, there part of a class, maybe a larger class, they could do an assessment, something like that very basic, you know, the medium is part of a smaller group, they have maybe a couple hours during a week, or you know, the little bit more focused on a specific thing. Maybe it's a group of folks. And then on the spicy side, and we also have super spicy like habanero ghost pepper, spicy, spicy side, basic, spicy side, we have like, like an honor student. And honestly, our honor students often happen to be our high school students. They're in high school on our campus taking college credits. And they are, they are really the outcast of their high school environments, because they're so bright, so motivated and so mature for their age that they just don't fit in with their high schools. That was it mean High School, that's for sure. So I really admire that cape capacity. So our process for engaging them and really empowering them and then enriching them. And we do use this three E's as kind of part of our brand is to support them with whatever way they need. And sometimes that means that when their grandpa dies, that we don't make sure they have, I'm thinking of somebody specific, that we give them, sorry. Excuse me, but they that we make sure they have the wraparound services that they need, like that student, if they don't have food, like there's all those basic things that come into play for our students. And that's where we go, right, we go to those places with them and give them what they need for whatever time that we have with them. We have students that have gone through our programs, in our fellowship, and in our model medium and spicy salsa analogies, let's bring back some some light to this conversation in they have gone through that and have changed their major, you know, I think ones even maybe even in this room right now, those are really points of pride for me and are engaged and help me stay engaged and empowered and enriched as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:57

It's not the first bit of tears I've seen about that relationship. I saw somebody from UCLA with one of your colleagues having a tearful departure after leaving the conference yesterday. So it's really fun to see how much I mean that this is why we do it. Right. This is it's our future. That's great. All right, so who's got an upper for us?

Speaker 2 41:17

Maybe, I don't know.

Dave Karlsgodt 41:18

Or you can take us really dark.

Speaker 2 41:21

Well, a few of you guys have alluded to enough success, like having a champion for a project, whether that's a faculty member or one of yourselves. And so I'm curious how you would handle or if you have examples of what you would do if you lose that champion. If it's kind of you know, sustainability isn't entrenched, already in the institution.

Dave Karlsgodt 41:43

Yeah, that is kind of a dark question. I think that's good.

Jillian Buckholz 41:45

So, at Cal State East Bay, our chief diversity officer just recently retired. And I had been working with her the whole entire time that I'd been on campus to try and deliberately enter diversity and sustainability into the fabric of our campus. Cal State East Bay has the most diverse student population of any campus in the United States on the continent. Apparently, we're number five if you include Hawaii. So diversity is forefront and what we do sustainability, not as much we're getting there. So I want to make sure I was working with her. And she came to CHESC two years in a row, we talked about how we were just trying to start this conversation, she went to he with me, which is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in higher education, for those who don't know, has a conference, and we're doing all this great work, bringing going into the classroom together when she retired, and another chief diversity officer has now been hired, I'm having to start all over again. And it's been more challenging. Just because this person is new, they have a lot of work they need to do and sustainability might not be, you know, at the top of that list. So what has helped has been working with my other colleagues in the CSU, and then also starting to work with the student groups and coordinators on campus that work on diversity issues. So even though you might lose that champion, and and you will have to it's cyclical, you might have to just start back from the bottom again, and work your way up. But there are going to be other champions out there that maybe you didn't recognize. And it's sort of their time to come into the light and working with those folks. And then bringing the other folks in in those positions. Once they feel like they've got their feet under him a little bit when they're new.

Mackenzie Crigger 43:28

Just to sort of echo that, um, so on the campus sustainability committee, it's made up of students, faculty, and staff, and we had a really great chair for three or four years. And she had been on the committee for several years prior to that, and she was gung ho, she was awesome, she was great. And then she got her new job and moved to Yale. I mean, good on her. But I was very sad. But what happened in that moment, though, is it gave, like you said, it gives other people this opportunity to rise up and to become that campus sustainability chair and the person that we have now, she'd been on the committee for a couple of years, and is just very honest, she was like, I don't really know very much about sustainability. But I'm here because I know that this is important. This is something that I want to be more involved in on our campus. And now three years later, she's our campus sustainability chair she's leading trainings on, I'd no longer have to show up at our professional development trainings, because I know that she's going to do such a great job, she continues to just bring more people in, and it has access to people on campus that I don't necessarily have access to. And so when like you said, you know, it's always going to be cyclical, people are always going to fall away, and people are always going to come in. But what I found is that, when that happens, it brings a new perspective, it brings some new life. And you you may end up with something that's even more valuable than than what you thought. But you do kind of have to start back again. But you're on a college campus. And so you're in this perpetual educational opportunity moment.

Nurit Katz 44:52

Yeah, I'll second. All of that, I think we're at a time of some pretty big transitions for UCLA, actually, our Associate Vice Chancellor, environment, sustainability just got appointed by the governor to go up to Sacramento. So we're losing a major player there, our Executive Vice Chancellor just stepped down out of his roles, we have a brand new provost coming in. So a lot of change. But what I have found over the years is, you know, as they were saying, there are always new champions and so you have to be kind of on it and go after and find them. I'm going to embarrass one of them who's in the audience, Brendan Bellina, who's leading our green IT Task Force is a new champion who's enthusiastic enough to be here at CHESC, and just all over, you know, helping us grow these green it initiatives. And it was an initiative that lost a champion A while ago, and it kind of it had faded for a while, but it has new life now. You know, in terms of easing that transition, I think, planning ahead, knowing that people can leave and doubling up as much as possible. You know, we with our carbon neutrality fellows, which is a UC program, where we have a couple students each year, we've started deliberately trying to have one student serve multiple years, so they can train the next person and you can do that on your committees to have a co chair, find ways to make sure that when it's not all about one person and one personality, and then you know, institutionalize, institutionalize, institutionalize as much as you can, and I think you'll be in better shape when you do lose somebody, you know, really passionate like that.

Joseph Fullerton 46:20

Yeah, just very briefly. I'm like, known for analogies. So you know, there's this thing where a tree is never more alive than when it's falling over and decaying. Right. So I think we've kind of heard that. So let me let me just drop that. But it is I mean, and that's, and that's where things start to get really interesting. And, and new life pops up. That's the theme here.

Dave Karlsgodt 46:46

That's good. All right. Well, who's who's got another question?

Speaker 3 46:50

So speaking of institutionalization, specifically for faculty, I know some of you come from that side of the house. But for you know, especially being a one person shop. Do you have any tips or like best practices in terms of really making that jump from? I'm just working individually with all these professors, and they might or might not be around next year, that we did this awesome project? But then they went away? Like, how do you actually build that into more of a college level or, you know, institutionalized, where it's actually in the learning outcomes for the university? Like, how do you make that jump from just these kind of one off projects.

Mackenzie Crigger 47:25

So I, my primary position is within facilities management, but I am, I'm a lecturer in the College of environmental science and policy. And one of the things that has happened, and part of it is because after six years of teaching in that college, I have a really good relationship with everybody else that's in that college. But we have actual sustainability learning outcomes that are embedded in all of those classes. And then the other thing that we did several years ago is we went through and we audited all of our college, not only the science college, but all the colleges on campus, we audited their whole courses to see where we could be adding sustainability learning outcomes, or suggesting, hey, you teach this class, are you doing any sort of section on sustainability, so then it becomes part of the syllabus that is passed on year to year. And so it's showing up in macroeconomics, it's showing up in accounting classes, it's showing up in English and rhetoric classes, because those faculty members now you know, when you come in, you're teaching some sort of composition, one on one that was on the syllabus that you've inherited from someone else. So it's just part of the program. And I don't know if other universities do this, but chairman has, I don't know, two weeks before school, all the faculty comes together. And they do basically an intensive two days learning. They're all these seminars, and one of the things I've started doing is I go and teach a sustainability in your curriculum class. And I basically have people bring a syllabus, and we sit down, and we go through and figure out how they can add sustainability into their curriculum. I attended a session on this at chess like three or four years ago, it was super great. He offers one almost every year. And it was, it was really powerful to see not only how other faculty members were already doing this, but how schools had institutionalized that process. And so I think if you can just find some faculty members that are willing to put that into their syllabus, talk to Dean's talk to department directors, that's really for me, that has been the best way to actually make that happen. And most faculty members shy away from that, because they think that I'm an expert in this, well, I don't want to teach it, I have the opposite approach. I'm like, I don't know anything about this. Let's learn about it as a class. And so I really tried to take that attitude into faculty meetings inside this is like, it doesn't have to be scary. This can be a learning opportunity for everyone. So I think just find some champion some people that you can go to and hope for the best.

Dave Karlsgodt 49:46

Shameless self promotion here at Episode Three of the podcast, we talked with Krista Heiser at the University of Hawaii talks a lot about that specific topic. But I think was your question really more around? Like, was it education? Or was it operational?

Speaker 3 50:01

Maybe a little bit of both, because there's a huge difference, especially if you're a one person shop, where you're trying to do all of these sustainability projects to get things going? And how do you really make that jump where the campus is taking ownership and actually, you know, institutionalizing sustainability and saying, Hey, this is part of our culture. So not everything has to run through this one sustainability coordinator. We actually have other departments and divisions, academic side, people who are actually like taking the leap and saying, Hey, we're going to do sustainability, too, because you've inspired us was there a moment like that?

Joseph Fullerton 50:31

I can speak to both sides of this, right. So for a couple years, I was a single single person shop. And as we're basically forming our first generation sustainability initiative, the way I thought about it was, I need to recognize it as much as possible. So I really started to think of our organization as a series of nodes and gateways and pass between those nodes with gateways in between. So I was using my system thinking diagrams, I literally mapped out the organization on a piece of paper, the size of my wall, who was who what are they doing, helped me learn the organization helped me know, where they were physically in space, who they reported to who their administrator was, who reported to them, etc. And then I looked at their calendars, and I looked at what kind of meetings they were going not like in a creepy way, but just like, like, like, look at, like, what meetings are happening, instead of spending a whole bunch of time tracking down this person or getting in front of them and trying to schedule a meeting, I would just show up wherever they were with a whole bunch of other people. And then I thought of myself as the modern farmer, I'm going to come here and plant some seeds. And the thing about the the farmer analogy is that you can't forget where you planted the seed. And you had to know how much water it needs, how much sun it needs, what kind of soil it's supposed to be in. And, and so part of that mapping process was okay, I planted I planted a seed here and idea and so I would go into meeting but that's really interesting. I wonder if we could ever develop like a sustainability pathway to four year universities? That'd be cool. And then I'd like, walk out. And then, and then, you know, I go to next meeting literally, like two minutes later. I'm like, yeah, and it'll be like the finance meeting, like, yeah, I wonder if we like, how can we figure out how to pay for part time faculty position, some release time, perhaps, like, I wonder if that would help do like a sustainability pathway program to a four year university, like literally, and then and then I go next meeting and do some iteration thereof, right? plant seeds, plant seeds, then I come back couple weeks later, but like, you know, I heard somebody who's doing a sustainability pathway GE program, over at blah, blah, blah. And they're like, yeah, we heard about that. And then all of a sudden, it's their idea, right? And like, yeah, like, and now we have the sustainability pathway programs, you know, took four years, but the seed was planted, the water was applied, the sun was shined, all the things all the soil was treated, and and now that's growing, and then it's off on its own. And now my job is really to collect fruit and make sure that can be eaten by the administrator so they can feel happy and full in their in their roles. Right.

JIllian Buckholz 53:12

I would just add, in addition to what has been said here about finding champion champions is weaving into the fabric of the university. We just had a new dining services contract, and I was able to get a lot of sustainability stuff in it. And so now the new dining services provider, they are sitting down with me when they first get there and they're like, okay, sustainability, let's talk about it. It's part of what we have to do. So it's already in dining, housing oversees dining, so they're like, okay, we have to do you know, this in dining, we should be thinking about zero waste. We need new signs, Gillian, will you help us design the science for the waste enclosures, and it just kind of snowballs like that? Another example is through academic senate bylaws, they have a deal flow and a sailor, which is a diversity equity liaison officer and a student affairs liaison officer. And I was like, why don't we have a su low a sustainability liaison officer. And so now I'm working with Academic Senate to write it into the bylaws so that it is just part of the fabric of what we're doing in East Bay. So if I'm not in the room, someone looks at the bylaws, and they're like, Oh, we have to have this. And there's already a model for it, which is great, too. So no one's going to say no to me, because they're already doing it into other divisions. So just working it into contracts, working into bylaws, working into what you're already doing in the way the campus operates, is huge. So that if you go somewhere else, that framework won't break down while you're gone.

Nurit Katz 54:42

Yeah, I think that type of institutionalization really matters. And I really, really, really, really love that farmer analogy. I think a lot of what we do is planting seeds. And you sound like a much more thoughtful farmer, I think sometimes, I'm more just like scattering seeds all over the place, and then forgetting to come back and live them. But you know, sometimes, sometimes we're successful at that. You know, but I think another thing to keep in mind, as you're building that ownership across campus is recognition. You know, speaking of like, administrators feeling full and happy. You know, taking the time to recognize your champions, putting together teams of cross campus people to work on stuff. When things go slow at UCLA, one of my favorite things to remind myself about the institution is that we are an institution with a committee on committees, this is like an actual thing at UCLA. So I take a moment and I'm like, okay, committee on committees. But you know, all joking aside, committees are actually really useful. If you're an office of one, get the committee and more than just one, like task forces on different areas, you should have a waste task force that has key people from housing from different areas, you know, working together, and that way, they can start to have some ownership, but it's not just the expectation that, you know, you'll do everything on your own. Again, you know, back to the recognition piece, have a sustainability champions program or awards program, or, you know, certification programs, anything that really helps people get recognized for the amazing work that they're doing, championing across the university, and that'll really help grow that enthusiasm for it.

Dave Karlsgodt 56:18

All right, we gotta wrap this up. I just wanted to first of all say thank you to our panelists. I thought this was a lot of fun. Thank you for Let's give them a round of applause. Yeah. I also wanted to say thank you to the folks here at UCSB, audio, guys, thank you very much for your help. And in our volunteers, Zoe and Blake, thank you very much. That's it for this episode. I did want to give a special shout out to our summer intern Kaia Findlay, who helped organize and produce this episode. To learn more about today's episode or any of our shows, you can visit our website at campusenergypodcast.com. We recently added a new transcript feature on the website, and we're working to add this to all of our previous episodes. If you'd like to follow the show on social media, we are on Twitter @energypodcast, and also now on LinkedIn. Just search for campus energy and sustainability podcast. If you'd like to support the show, please consider leaving a rating a review on iTunes or sending a link to a friend. As always, thanks for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 20: Streamlining Sustainability Reporting with AASHE STARS

Julian Dautremont

Julian Dautremont

Guest: Julian Dautremont
Director of Programs, AASHE

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

Production Assistant: Sarah Barr

From energy use to purchasing decisions, waste management to community engagement, it’s no secret that sustainability is a notoriously broad and difficult to measure concept.

Creating a comprehensive sustainability rating system was exactly the challenge guest Julian Dautremont and colleagues from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) were tackling when the STARS program was born. STARS is short for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System and is the most widely used sustainability reporting system among colleges and universities in the United States. (It’s also the primary metric used to determine the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” ranking each year, in case you were wondering).

If STARS still stumps you or if you’re simply curious about how a broad concept like sustainability can possibly be quantified and compared, join us this episode as Julian guides us through STARS’ creation, current function and challenges, and goals for the future.


Episode Transcript:

The following is an automated transcription of this episode which will include errors and omissions. You can listen and follow along with the text here:


Dave Karlsgodt 0:00

Welcome to the campus energy and sustainability podcast. In each episode, we'll talk with leading campus professionals, thought leaders, engineers and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed. and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation and efficiency to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems. We hope you're ready to learn, share, and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave Karlsgodt, I'm a principal at Fovea, an energy carbon and business planning firm. In this episode, I talked with Julian Dautremont, the director of programs AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. You'll hear us discuss the history of AASHE and how it has evolved from a small regional network into an international organization. We'll talk briefly about their annual conference and other member benefits. We then transition to a Q&A about STARS, AASHE's sustainability tracking reporting system for colleges and universities. We talked through the origins of STARS, and how it has emerged as a de facto standard for measuring sustainability progress on campuses. We also talked through some of the challenges the STARS team faces, including how to ensure a fair and reasonable scoring system, helping campuses navigate the extensive data collection process, and how the team rolls out new versions of the tool. We end with a sneak peek at what STARS 3.0 might look like as the tool continues to evolve. I hope you enjoy this June 2019 interview with Julian Dautremont. Well Julian, it's great to have you on the podcast today.

Julian Dautremont 1:39

Thanks. I'm glad to be here.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:40

Well, today we're going to talk a little bit about your organization, AASHE. We'll get into the general overview of the organization and who are the members and things like that, and then we can spend a little bit more specific time talking about the reporting that you guys manage through the STARS program. Before we get into any of that, can you just give us a little bit of background on who you are and and then maybe a little bit of high level overview of AASHE the organization itself?

Julian Dautremont 2:03

My name is Julian Dautremont and I'm the Director of Programs for AASHE which is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. And we're a membership-based association of colleges and universities that are working toward a more sustainable future. And so we do the same kind of things that associations typically do, which is really all around helping members learn from one another. So we have an annual conference where members come together to share lessons and experiences firsthand and in person. We have a whole series of online resources and publications; we do a weekly newsletter with the latest news from around the world on what higher ed. is doing around sustainability. We do regular webinars; we do in person workshops. And again, all of it is centered around trying to create opportunities so that campuses can learn from other institutions all around the world.

Dave Karlsgodt 2:55

Can you talk a little bit about how AASHE is different than the many other organizations that play in the broad space of sustainability? I know there are a myriad of other organizations that touch higher ed. in some way. Where do you fit into that ecosystem?

Julian Dautrmont 3:10

Yeah, so there are a ton of really great organizations working in this space, what makes AASHE different is in particular kind of big tent approach, right? So we are not just focused on investment or climate, or any other particular dimension of sustainability--we try to be talking about sustainability across the institution. People often start with us. And then they may also join an organization with a more specialized focus on a particular area that's going to give a little bit more depth in that area.

Dave Karlsgodt 3:39

How did this organization get started? And how old is it, it's, you know, I've been involved with the conference at least for a couple of years now and it seems to have morphed even in the three or four years that I've been involved with AASHE. But give me a little bit of a longer history of where the organization started and how it maybe morphed a little bit over time.

Julian Dautremont 3:55

So AASHE was founded as AASHE in 2006. But we have a bit longer history than that. We actually started as a program of another organization that many of your listeners probably know: Second Nature, which administers the climate leadership commitments. They were founded in the 90s and, at the time, had a broad sustainability focus and had received some grant funding to create a west coast network focused on education for sustainability. So I was at the founding meeting for that, which was in 2002. And out of that meeting, came a loose network of mostly faculty actually, that were interested in these issues. And we called ourselves Education for Sustainability Western Network, and it was just the western U.S. and Canada. And we existed as EFS west for basically four years, when we became independent and adopted the name AASHE in 2006. We were growing capacity and we realized that there was really a need nationally or even beyond that, internationally, for a professional association for the sustainability staff, which was sort of a new and emerging profession at the time, there were not a ton of them, but they were enough that they needed a place to gather. And there wasn't really anyone else filling that role. So we changed our name to be more not regional. So it was no longer the Western Network, it was just the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Ed., and that became official in 2006 and we've been operating under that name since.

Dave Karlsgodt 5:22

If you had to put percentages on your focus in terms of how much is focused on staff versus education versus students versus you know, any other aspect of what you're doing...Is there a way you could break that down for us? Or is that difficult to say?

Julian Dautremont 5:36

It's difficult to say because most of what we do could serve any one of those audiences. So in terms of like, who it could serve, I think it's anybody who's trying to work towards change in higher ed. In terms of who it does serve, which we can quantify, like, who comes to our conference, at least we know, probably about half the people at the conference are sustainability staff. 10 to 15% are faculty. Maybe 25% is students and then the balance is businesses and other professionals in higher ed. who are not sustainability staff or faculty, but maybe they work in student affairs or facilities. But yeah, our core that is the sustainability staff, and then students and faculty are kind of the next big group.

Dave Karlsgodt 6:18

Well, let's talk a little bit about the conference. And I know that you do some retreats, and some other, you know, beyond just the main annual conference, but tell us a little bit about why one would go to that and what you hope to accomplish with that every year.

Julian Dautremont 6:29

Sure, so the conference is annual and this year it's in Spokane, Washington at the end of October and we would love to have folks join us. And the real purpose of the conference is to provide an opportunity for members to share the latest and greatest from their campuses with their peers, and to make connections because often this work can be kind of isolating. Many campuses only have one or maybe two sustainability staff or even somebody who's also doing another job and then takes on sustainability as kind of an additional project. So you come to AASHE to meet your community, your peers, the other folks who are doing this work and to get rejuvenated, to remind yourself why you're doing it, to get new ideas, to get techniques that you can bring to your campus. We try to really emphasize that learning opportunity. So there's going to be tons and tons of educational sessions, got great keynotes as well, poster sessions. We have an expo hall. So it's an opportunity to learn about new products and services that might help you achieve your sustainability goals. So yeah, I mean, the core things education and networking, I think are the main drivers for attendance at the conference.

Dave Karlsgodt 7:34

So it's one of my highlights of the year; I've been I think the four of them now? And planning to go to Spokane; I'm excited that it's only a couple hours away from my home here in Seattle this year, instead of having to go across the country. Let's talk a little bit about some of the retreats or some of the other regional work that you do too, because I know it's not just the annual conference, right?

Julian Dautremont 7:51

Yeah, we do three or four workshops, typically in any given year in person workshops. One is on curriculum. So it's mostly for faculty and how to integrate faculty across the curriculum and build a curricular sustainability program at your campus. There's another, it's called the sustainable professionals retreat, as the name suggests, for sustainability professionals to kind of get together and get trained and change management, get new ideas. Again, it serves a similar function to the conference, but it's more, there's a curriculum to it. Whereas the conference, you come in, in a sense, create your own curriculum. Our workshops have a defined curriculum that each participant is going to come away with. So in addition to the retreat, and the curriculum workshop, we do one on diversity, inclusion and equity and how that relates to sustainability. It's an emerging issue for many campuses and sustainability officers need to understand how that fits in with the work that they're doing and how they can be champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. And then the final one that we've just started doing is on a change management approach called refocus. It's really about trying to figure out how to strengthen the position of the sustainability office within the organization and how to grow support. And so, I think we see within our membership, if you get a sustainability position, there's tons of projects to do. And it's really easy to get caught up in just doing projects, but never really building capacity per se and strengthening the program and gaining influence within the organization. The refocus approach just really tries to encourage practitioners as they're doing the projects, to keep in mind these larger goals, so that eventually you can get to that point where other people at the organization are doing the work for you and you're not doing each project yourself because the job is too big for any one person to accomplish by themselves. They need to be creating a broader culture of sustainability that spreads across the institution. That's really what that workshops about.

Dave Karlsgodt 9:42

Well, thank you for all that background. I think that helps. But I think what we really came here to talk about was the STARS program. And I know the AASHE stars program is considered sort of the gold standard of sustainability tracking for higher education right now. Let's dive into that a little bit. You know, I have a background in software development and have an appreciation for how much blood sweat and tears have probably gone into building the system you guys have today. But can you just start us off with a little bit of background on what STARS is, who's it for, any of the history just for context? And then I've got some more pointed questions for you there.

Julian Dautremont 10:14

Sure, so STARS is an assessment tool that hundreds of campuses use to measure and report on their sustainability performance. It stands for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System. It started in 2006. Well, conversations about it started in 2006. It didn't become a live product until 2009, or technically 10, I guess, is when it officially became official, but really launched in the fall of 2009 is when we first had people sign up to start using STARS. Anyway, that structure of it, it really aims to provide a comprehensive sustainability assessment. So it looks at everything from academics, to operations, to engagement, to the administration and planning. And so institutions collected summit a ton of data about their sustainability performance. It all translates to a score, which then, in turn, translates to a rating. So you can be a STARS gold campus, or STARS Platinum or STARS silver. And as I said, we've got several hundred campuses using it and all their data is public online, so anybody can come and see why an institution was rated the way they were and what data they submitted. So transparency is a key principle for STARS and the methodology is all public as well. And that was important from the beginning because when we started developing STARS, there were a couple other efforts out there that were trying to to assess higher ed. on its sustainability performance, but, in general, they were characterized by significantly less transparency, so people didn't understand why they were ranked the way they were. And that led to some distrust in those systems that we've really tried to build into our system that anybody can see exactly how the score is generated, exactly what the institutions submitted.

Dave Karlsgodt 12:03

That makes a lot of sense, black boxing the information doesn't tend to build confidence does it? So one of the things that I hear a lot, just kind of being in and around campuses, is two things: first of all, it's beloved and everybody wants to get the highest rating possible and there's a lot of support for it, but there's a lot of gnashing of teeth around STARS as well. Namely, just the amount of time it takes for somebody to fill it out and go through that. Can you just speak to that point blank? I mean, this, it's a lot of work, right, to put this together? This is not a light, you know, something you can knock out in an afternoon?

Julian Dautremont 12:36

No, it definitely would take you longer than an afternoon, even if you had most of the data already collected, which most campuses don't. It is a lot of work. And some of that I think is unavoidable. Right, we set out to make a comprehensive and meaningful sustainability assessment and sustainability is a big, complicated topic. And so to do it justice does require some amount of work. And that has been important to ourselves stakeholders that it be meaningful, right? I think even worse than spending a lot of time collecting data would be spending time collecting data and have it mean nothing. So we've tried to really make sure that what is being collected is meaningful, and is helpful, in fact, for sustainability professionals trying to do the job of making their institutions more sustainable. At the same time, we do recognize that that is a major barrier for use of the tool. Many institutions don't have the resources to invest that much in data collection. So it's something we, in every revision, we really investigate any opportunities we can see to simplify the system without losing that methodological rigor. But yeah, the reason it's so much work is because sustainability is a large, expansive topic. And to do a meaningful assessment, we felt like, does in fact require quite a bit of work.

Dave Karlsgodt 13:52

Well, just for those like my friend Greg, who's not in higher ed. at all, who listens to the podcast, just so he understands, like, what kind of questions are you even asking? Is it just about carbon mitigation? Or is it about education? Or what are some of the topics you cover in STARS?

Julian Dautremont 14:06

It runs the gamut. So we've got the curriculum, so what's being taught in the classroom. We've got the research output, what kind of research faculty at the institution are engaged in. All kinds of aspects of operations, so energy, greenhouse gas emissions, building, transportation (both the fleet and how people get to and from campus), purchasing (all the stuff that they buy), grounds, how are the grounds maintained? Waste, of course, water use and stormwater management. Then we also look at campus engagement. So to what extent is there a culture of sustainability? How well are students and employees engaged as part of the program? We look at public engagement. So what is the relationship of the institution with its community? What kind of community engagement programs does it have? Is it working with other institutions around sustainability? Does it have any partnerships in the community to advance sustainability? And we also try to look at the social dimensions of sustainability. So that means the diversity is in there, affordability is in there, socially responsible investing. And there's probably areas of sustainability that we're not broad enough on; we're always getting suggestions that we need to look at a new issue that we haven't yet captured very well. So there is pressure in both directions both to simplify, but also to be more comprehensive, which is a real struggle for us. But it's quite comprehensive already.

Dave Karlsgodt 15:21

So some of those things sound pretty straightforward, especially on the operational side, like how are you getting your energy, for example, those are limited down to a couple of numbers here and there. But when you get into things like culture of sustainability, how do you score things like that, which are inherently subjective?

Julian Dautremont 15:36

That is something we struggle with, actually. So we look at the existence of peer to peer educational programs for students and for employees. And we try to put some metrics around the extent or the size of those programs. You know, like, what percent of the student body do they target, because many campuses will have, like, what they call an eco reps program, where they have people in every residence hall, who are the sustainability educator, and they educate their peers in that residence hall around, you know, how to recycle and how to save energy in their dorm rooms and that kind of thing. But if only 10% of your campus lives on campus, then that shouldn't get counted as much as an institution where they have a program like that, that reaches, let's say, 60% of their campus population. So we try to do some things like that, that make it somewhat quantifiable. But you're right, that it's it's incredibly imperfect. And it's something that is frustrating to us that we haven't been able to come up with a broadly agreeable way of sort of saying this is a strong engagement program. And this is a less strong engagement program. It's not as simple as I would like.

Dave Karlsgodt 16:39

No, it makes sense. But you can at least ask the questions and by asking the questions, then people have to think oh, no, we don't have that type of program, so maybe we should start it or we should think about how to expand it to more students. Or just by asking the question, I suppose you're promoting the idea that's behind it?

Julian Dautremont 16:52

Yeah. And it does give us a sense of who's doing what, which is one of the goals of this tool is to help see who's really a leader in this kind of program, who can I look to for models. So it does provide it, we have this database now, who is doing all these different strategies to try to engage the population. And I think there is a reasonable assumption that if you're doing a lot of these programs, you probably are doing a better job of reaching your campus population than if you just have very few. And again, we don't require you have all of the programs to get all the points, it's usually like a list of of options. And if you do some portion of them, you get all the points for that area. We really try to design it consciously to recognize the limitations of the data that we can get, but still provide some way of at least a common vocabulary to talk about it and to recognize programs that we know campuses are doing to try to impact student engagement on sustainability. So they, whatever they're doing, they should find a way to capture it in STARS in some way and get some credit for it.

Dave Karlsgodt 17:54

Yeah, let's talk about how do you use this information? I think you've alluded to a few things one, sounds like, knowing who's doing what. So I could theoretically contact AASHE and say: Hey, who's incorporated sustainability education into their curriculum, for example, and you guys could give me a list of schools that are doing that?

Julian Dautremont 18:11

Yeah, you probably want to ask a more precise question, because everybody is doing some sustainability in the curriculum. But yeah, actually, you don't even need to come to us, right, we've created a system so, as I said, before, all the reports are online for anybody to view. So you could go report by report and just look at campus reports for ideas. But if you want to take a more holistic look and say, okay, I want to do, let's say, some benchmarking on greenhouse gas emissions per student, or something like that, we have a benchmarking tool. So you can log in, pick the schools that you want to see, and then the data, so it's a carbon emissions per student, and it'll spit out a chart showing all the campuses you selected and what they reported as their carbon emissions per student, both in a visual format, and also a table with the data in a tabular format that you can export to Excel if you want to look at it in a different way. But we're trying to create tools so that users can answer their own questions and do their own research, and then use that information as a tool to help them more effectively advocate for increased investment in sustainability on their campus.

Dave Karlsgodt 19:13

Otherwise, you guys would just be fielding questions like that all day long, I suppose?

Julian Dautremont 19:16


Dave Karlsgodt 19:17

Good. Well, but back to my original question, I guess the ways that you use this information, so it sounds like you can benchmark you can, you know, there's the idea of just filling out the form sort of "it's the journey, not the destination" kind of approach where asking the questions forces an institution to think through all these components. But I know it's also used for other rating systems and there's just the general STARS rating that you do. What are some of the other ways that campuses use the information, or that it gets used outside of that?

Julian Dautremont 19:43

So, yeah, I think the first way that campuses typically use their program is for internal purposes, for planning and identifying where there's opportunities for improvement, where they're strong, how they compare with others. And then they can develop a plan around that like, okay, in two years from now, we want to be this level of the STARS score, or we want to have these programs in place. And that's a huge thing for especially for new sustainability staff. STARS provides a way to get a really good picture of the lay of the land at their institutions. It gives them an excuse, in a sense to talk to almost everybody on campus because you have to talk to a lot of different people to get all the data you need and that's a great sort of way to start making your way around campus and start to identify who might be a good ally, what opportunities there are for improvement, and then make a case to your stakeholders on campus for why you're focusing on one area or another. So that's the first thing. Then as you suggested, there are some pretty big reasons to do it from a recognition standpoint. So you do get the rating from STARS based on your score. The scoring data also feeds into Sierra Club's "Cool School's" ranking. So that's published every year and Sierra magazine. The STARS data also feeds into the Princeton Review's, green rankings, which they also publish a book, a guide degree in colleges, that include a ranking that's based on data that campuses submit through STARS. And then we, at AASHE, publish our own, something called the sustainable campus index, which ranks campus is in each of the categories that we assess in STARS. So you can see the top performers in the energy category, in the investment category, and water, and waste, and all the different impact areas I mentioned earlier. So there's a ton of recognition that comes with it. And our goal with STARS was to help campuses to report and communicate their progress more easily to students and employees because before STARS, lots of campuses were doing their own sustainability reports, but there was no way to make sense of the sustainability report. So again, that's another big reason that campuses do it. And then I think a last one I'll mentioned is on the education side of things. Doing STARS is an educational experience, you can learn a ton from it. And there's some really great opportunities to engage students along the way. And many institutions do either hire students to help with the process, or even use classes as a part of the data collection process. Could be an introduction to environmental studies class or a capstone course, where students actually play a role in collecting the data and entering it into the STARS reporting system. And I think it provides some valuable experiential learning into what it means to try to measure sustainability. What are the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability measurement approaches? And then they learn more about their campus as well, and what's going on in their campus, and potentially how they might play a role in strengthening their institution's sustainability program.

Dave Karlsgodt 22:34

How is STARS set up to avoid campuses just chasing the points? Because I, from what I understand, the points are set up, like, you get a certain number of points for answering yes or no to certain questions. How do you keep people from gaming the system?

Julian Dautremont 22:45

Yeah, it's something we struggle with, right? And it is a real challenge with those type of questions that are just yes/no because it does seem to encourage some out of point chasing. We've tried to create the credit so that if somebody does point chase, it's helpful. They're doing something that will actually advance their sustainability performance. They're not doing something that is just a distraction. So that's part of the answer, is trying to frame credits so that any points that people earn, it's because they've done something useful.

Dave Karlsgodt 23:14

In other words, if you're chasing points, the points are structured such that the things that they get points for are really what sustainability is all about. So you've kind of built that in, is that what you're saying?

Julian Dautremont 23:23

Exactly, yeah. That's the first part of trying to minimize the point chasing. The second part of it is that we also weight the credits within stars so that those things that are more impactful are worth more points. So we're trying to drive attention towards those things where there's a high opportunity for making an impact rather than things that the impact is less clear. So you'll see in STARS, the point value for each credit can vary quite widely. And some things are worth a lot more points and that's because we feel like that particular area and making progress in that credit has a greater impact than perhaps the other credit. So those two things collectively, I think, minimize the dangers of point chasing to a pretty significant extent.

Dave Karlsgodt 24:06

Whereas one that would be impactful, that might get more points than something that's not as important?

Julian Dautremont 24:11

So sure, a great example of credits that are highly weighted are the greenhouse gas emissions. That credit is pretty easy to measure. I know greenhouse gas emissions can be complicated, but relatively speaking, it's a fairly well established methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions. And so, any effofrt you make to reducing your greenhouse gas emissions is going to be positive. It's a performance-based credit, so that one is weighted really highly. Something that's weighted less highly on, like, the engagement side; we have some credits that are, in a sense, just a checklist of strategies you've taken or programs you have to engage students and the campus community in sustainability. Each of those items is going to be like a fraction of a point, whereas the energy credit, I think it's more than 10 points. So we really try to put, again, more points on those things where the benefit of a campus improving it's score is going to be higher.

Dave Karlsgodt 25:01

It's interesting, because you're right, a lot of this stuff is difficult to quantify. You mentioned that earlier, but you had to come up with a way of doing it and exposing students to that or exposing, you know, just as many people to those challenges that you already mentioned. So it's not just them beating you up, because STARS isn't perfect, but everybody sort of learning how to operate within a world of imperfect information. I think that's, you know, that's a noble effort, for sure.

Julian Dautremont 25:24

Yeah, and we hope that people who are participating in the process can help us make it stronger, right. So we're regularly doing surveys of our users. We have a whole governance process that includes technical advisors on each of the different impact areas that we cover, and then a steering committee that's partially elected by AASHE's membership and partially appointed in order to fill any gaps. But there are campus sustainability staff and others at all levels of that process, providing guidance to help strengthen the system, and we would not be anywhere close to where we are now if we didn't have that feedback mechanism. It has really made the program stronger every year because of all the ideas and feedback that we get through that structure.

Dave Karlsgodt 26:05

You know, just give us a little bit of color on how it feels to be where we are today. Like, do you feel good about the direction where things are going? Or, you know, where tell us where are you proud of how things have changed and morphed and maybe where are some places that you really see are still big sticking points that you want to improve?

Julian Dautremont 26:23

So I am really proud of how far STARS has come since it was just an idea when we were starting. And we have sort of like, seems like it would be better if there was a measurement tool that we're all using so we could compare with one another and we could talk the same language and we could try to identify, you know, campuses that are really doing great jobs, so we could learn from them. And stars really fulfilled a lot of the early goals that we had. And there were a lot of people, including us at times, that were like are like there's no way to do this. It's too hard, you can't do it fair, the higher ed. is too different, or, you know, there's a range of real challenges that I wouldn't say we've overcome, there's still challenges, but we've found a way to make a tool that worked well enough for a sizable enough body of campuses that it has really started to play the role that we hope it can. So that feels really good. Big picture, there's still room for improvement. Sustainability is not where I would have hoped it would be in terms of higher ed. priorities at this point in time. Right? When we started in the early 2000s, it was just emerging, and there was a lot of excitement and growth. And that growth continued through maybe 2012, 2013, it feels like, before it started to plateau. And not universally, there's definitely still things that are growing, but as a whole, the movement doesn't seem to be growing as fast as it was. And I'm not sure if it's moving fast enough in light of the challenges we're facing. So that is an area that I always struggle with is, there's so much to do to transform our institutions to be fulfilling their potential, to be sustainability leaders that we have not yet got to. And I think there's good reasons for it, it's totally understandable, but at the same time, it is a source of concern.

Dave Karlsgodt 28:05

Yeah. Do you think that just because going from not doing anything to starting to do something feels like a lot of progress, but when you are in the throes of it, the incremental change of day to day changes, or, you know, you're getting a little better every year, but it's hard to see that? Or is it just literally there's been some big walls that you've hit?

Julian Dautremont 28:22

I think it's different in each campus, right? Because I'm not talking about AASHE specifically at this point, but more just the higher ed. sustainability movement. So, I think there's some national political things that have slowed things down for sure, or at least taken attention off of some of the sustainability things we've been working towards, changes in executives and different priorities. It's hard to pinpoint any particular reason. I almost don't think there's anything that is a surprise or anything, like, really wrong, per se, it's just the scale of the problem that we face as a civilization, as a society is so vast that higher ed. is one piece of that and it's still fantastically hard to change at the pace that we need, is really what it comes down to. So it's not that higher ed. is doing anything wrong, or even that it's not changing, because it is changing. It's just, the question is whether it's fast enough. And that's a question that does apply to society at large, it's not just a higher ed. thing. The changes that are needed are vast and it's not clear we're changing fast enough.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:25

So, let's just come back to STARS, then it sounds like, so you've just released 2.2. Is that the current version or something close to that?

Julian Dautremont 29:31

Sorry, 2.1 is the version that is still in effect. 2.2 will be coming out shortly, but it has not yet been officially released yet.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:40

Got it. And then what, like how often do new releases come out? What does that process look like? So, and I guess with that question, if I'm a campus and I fill out 2.1, do I just have to start over for 2.2? Or is that just couple additional questions? Or how does that work?

Julian Dautremont 29:53

Great questions. So there's no fixed development timeline, so new versions come out, in a sense, when they're ready. And the time between each new version has lengthened over time. So I think 2.1 came out in 2016. So we're now 2019. So yeah, like a three year time period, just from 2.1 to 2.2. So there, there definitely is quite a bit of a gap. And then, when we do a larger revision, like what we'll be doing soon from 2.2 to 3.0, those take even longer. I don't think that's going to be... Yeah, I think it's at least 2022 probably before that comes out. Because, so we have within STARS, there's three types of changes. There's what we call administrative changes, which are fixing typos, like literally like tiny things that should have no implication on your score, just clarifications and typos basically or rewording something to try to make it clear what we're asking. Those we can do, sometimes a couple of year, when a new version comes out, just to fix issues that people have brought to our attention. Then we have what we do from like a 2.1 to 2.2. and that is called like a minor revision and there's limitations on what we can do there. We can't fundamentally overhaul the system. We can tweak some credits, add a credit here or there, but fundamentally, it's going to look pretty similar, you know, you're not going to see a huge difference. There'll be a couple credits that did change pretty significantly, but the overall structure is the same and it's pretty familiar system still. And then the big picture ones, the major revisions, they actually need to go through a whole public feedback process before they can be approved. So they end up taking quite a bit longer. And all of them, I should say too, any new version of any three of those levels, all of those changes have to go through the steering committee that I mentioned earlier. They are the final authority on any new version of STARS. So that also helps ensure that any changes we're making are going to be broadly acceptable and and make sense. And it also kind of slows down the process, which I think is probably good because I think there are some legitimate concerns about what happens when we make a change that it complicates things, it's confusing, and people don't like when we change too often. But to answer your question about what happens if you were already in the middle of doing a 2.1 submission, no problem at all. You have a year after we switch. So we will, at some point later this month, we will officially switch to stars 2.2. If you've got 2.1 in progress, you can wait until June of next year and still submit under stars 2.1 and get the rating and scoring of that version. You're welcome to upgrade and we have a tool to migrate any of your data. As long as the fields have stayed the same, your data will all go into the same place in 2.2. And then you'll just have to update. If we've changed the field, you'll have to re enter the data for that field, but we've tried to design it so that it's not too difficult to upgrade and you're not losing any work that was appropriate for 2.2.

Dave Karlsgodt 32:50

Got it. No, that makes I don't envy you managing that process as a, like I said, software developer in background I...Yeah, keeps me up at night trying to think about how to keep all that stuff in line because people don't like it when things break, but it sounds like you at least trying to address that and smooth it out as much as possible.

Julian Dautremont 33:06

Yeah, exactly. We do what we can to make it a smooth process and to minimize the transition costs.

Dave Karlsgodt 33:13

If somebody wanted to get involved with that steering committee, is that something that you recruit? Or how does that process work?

Julian Dautremont 33:18

Yeah, every fall we have sort of a governance nomination or application process. And with the STARS steering committee in particular (because we're also looking at the same time, I should say, for candidates for our advisory council, which is where the STARS technical advisors sit, and then our board as well, so the these three different kind of governance bodies: board, steering committee, and the advisory council). We recruit for them all around the same time. It's an online application. The STARS one, as I mentioned before, there are elections, so people will be invited to stand for election to join the steering committee. And the election typically happens in November. And then whoever's selected will start on the steering committee the next January. And depending how many seats are available, there may be a couple appointed positions as well and that would be, we usually appoint from the pool of people who ran for election. And often it's the runners up, but sometimes there's a reason that we want to make sure we have some perspective represented and so the steering committee will then decide, okay, let's go, let's invite this person to join the steering committee as well. But the entry point for somebody who's not on the steering committee right now is to watch out for that solicitation in the fall and put your name forward. You'll have to submit like a brief resume and a description of why you want to be on the steering committee, but it's designed to be fairly straightforward. And you can always reach out to me with any questions as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 34:42

Got it, but they can't reach out to you and blame you for every question, because it wasn't just you, right? That's not how it works.

Julian Dautremont 34:49

I mean, they can. I welcome feedback in any form, at any time. So that's fine. I always prefer when it's paired with, you know, constructive suggestions for improvement. But sometimes diagnosing the problem is important, too. We may know about it, but we might not, so it can't hurt to send it our way.

Dave Karlsgodt 35:08

Enlightened response. We'll take it from there. Alright, well, Julian, as we wrap up today's show, can you just give us a little bit of a vision for what does this look like going into the future? If we think 5, 10 years from now? What's the legacy you want to leave in your work with STARS? What is what does it look like? And how is it changing the world, you know, in the future?

Julian Dautremont 35:28

Sure. So it prompts for me STARS 3.0 and what we're thinking about for that. So that's the next big version and we've got lots of ideas, some of which will probably not happen, but I think it's helpful to put them on the table as things that we're working towards. They may not be in 3.0, but they could be picked up again for 3.1 or 4.0. So, the first thing that we're really thinking about a lot these days, and have been for a while, is can we move to a more dynamic form of reporting? So right now, campuses submit a STARS report and it's good for three years. They can update as often as every year if they want, but they don't need to. Your STARS rating is sort of legitimate or valid for three years from the date of submission. So that's great, but oftentimes campuses want to update some of their data, but not all of it. We don't have a process to allow that right now. Right now, if you want to update a single credit, you've got to submit a whole new STARS report. So we know there are campuses that, you know, their energy data changes every year, it makes sense to update it every year. The curriculum inventory, to see what percent of courses address sustainability, it doesn't necessarily change that quickly in most cases. So you might not want to update that every year. So creating a way to allow campuses to just update those things where they've made progress or have something new to report, but not be required to update every other field is one of the ideas for 3.0. And so we call that dynamic reporting. I'm also excited about trying to to expand STARS globally, right? We mostly have users in the U.S. and Canada right now. But we have a cohort of institutions in Australia and New Zealand, that is trying it. And we also have a number of campuses sort of individually in other parts world that are trying it as well. We had our first STARS gold institution outside of the U.S. and Canada recently from an institution in Ireland. So that's really exciting to me, the potential for STARS to be kind of the global platform for institutions to share their sustainability work. And as part of that we're trying to align STARS more and more with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are a really powerful framework at the international level that's guiding a lot of decision making. There's lots of movement and activity around the STGs. And higher ed. too is interested in figuring out what, you know, what is our role in relation to the STGs? So to the extent that STARS can be a tool to assess that and report on that, we think that would be a powerful contribution to the global conversation. Another thing that we're looking at that I'm excited about (and I'll close with this one). So one of the ideas that we're exploring is trying to identify, within the family of STARS credits right now, what are the credits that are most representative of a transformational sustainability program? So what are the like key foundational elements of a transformational sustainability program? And can we kind of pull those out of STARS and have a real simple, or simpler, let's say more simple than doing all of STARS, just focusing on those core elements and having there be a way that campuses just getting started could just do those, it's probably like 15 items, it's not super long, it's not as long as the full stars, and have that be an entry point into STARS, just focusing on those 15 areas and reporting on that. That's something that I'm pretty excited about and I think could open the door for a much bigger population of schools to start using STARS. And then once they've got some of those foundational pieces in place, then they can start looking at some of the more quantitative, performance-based metrics that we've got and start building into doing full STARS. That's my current ideas as to what would be the best way to bring in new institutions.

Dave Karlsgodt 39:12

It's kind of like the easy form for doing your taxes, right?

Julian Dautremont 39:17

Yeah, there you go, I hadn't thought of that. But that's a good way to describe it.

Dave Karlsgodt 39:21

Perfect, okay. Alright, final question for you then is if people want to learn more or get involved, what's the best way to get in touch with AASHE, especially those who are not already members and may not be familiar with the organization?

Julian Dautremont 39:33

Sure. So the website, it's a great place to start. And then when you're on our website, you can create an account and get subscribed to our newsletters. So that's a way to stay up to date on what's going on with AASHE, what are the opportunities for getting involved, and what are other campuses doing around sustainability. And there's a number of different groups you can opt into to get those kind of communications. Beyond that, you can always send us an email, the sort of generic email is info@AASHE.org. But you can reach out to me directly if you want, it's just julian@AASHE.org, or any of you know, the staff list is on the website. And so, reach out to the person who's responsible for whatever area you're interested in, is a good place to start. But again, if you're not even sure, like, I don't know who to go to, that info address is a fine starting place. It goes to one of my colleagues, and then she'll forward it to the person who's most relevant to answer whatever question you have. And that's what we're here for. So, you know, don't hesitate. If we can be useful, we always would like to do that.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:33

Well, I'll look forward to seeing you in Spokane at the conference this fall. But thanks again for coming on the show and explaining all about STARS and your vision for a, I don't know, a sustainably measured future.

Julian Dautremont 40:46

Thank you. And thanks so much for having me. And yeah, look forward to seeing you in Spokane as well. And then I hope some of your listeners will join us there as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:53

Great. Thanks, Julian.

Julian Dautremont 40:54

Thank you, and have a great day.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:57

That's it for this episode. I want to give a shout out to the staff at AASHE for setting up this interview, as well as our new intern Sarah Barr, who helped to produce this episode. To learn more about today's episode or any of our shows, you can visit our website at campusenergypodcast.com. We recently added a new transcript feature on the website and we're working to add this to all of our previous episodes. If you want to follow us on Twitter, we are @energypodcast. We also recently added a page on LinkedIn. Just search for the campus energy and sustainability podcast. If you'd like to support the show, please consider leaving a rating or review on iTunes, or sending a link to a friend. As always, thanks for listening.

Episode 15: Landfill-gas flaring project at Central College of Pella, Iowa

Brian Campbell (left) Rob McKenna (right)

Brian Campbell (left)
Rob McKenna (right)

Guest: Brian Campbell
Director of Sustainability Education
Central College of Pella, Iowa

Special Guest and Co-host: Rob McKenna
Principal, Fovea, LLC

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

In this episode you’ll hear an interview with Brian Campbell, Director of Sustainability Education at Central College in Pella Iowa. We discuss Central College’s recent climate action plan with a focus on a unique landfill-gas flaring project that came out of that planning effort. Rob McKenna, a principal at Fovea and the consultant who lead this climate action planning effort, joins both as guest and co-host.

Fovea would like to give a special shout out to Energy Strategies and MEP Associates who were our partners and collaborators on this project.


Second Nature Carbon Commitment Signatory Distribution

During this podcast, Rob McKenna discusses how Central College with roughly 10,000 MTCO2e / year has a typical emissions profile among signatories to the Second Nature Carbon Commitment.

Episode 13: The Challenges and Opportunities of Aggressive Climate Action

The panel at CHESC 2018 (  Left to right)  Tyler Durchslag-Richardson, Fletcher Alexander, Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Eric Eberhardt, Dave Karlsgodt

The panel at CHESC 2018 (Left to right) Tyler Durchslag-Richardson, Fletcher Alexander, Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Eric Eberhardt, Dave Karlsgodt

Eric Eberhardt
Director of Energy Services
Energy & Facilities Management Services
University of California, Office of the President
Lindsey Kalkbrenner
Director, Sustainability, University Operations
Director, Center for Sustainability
Santa Clara University
Fletcher Alexander
Sustainability Programs Manager, Institute for Sustainable Development
California State University, Chico
Tyler Durchslag-Richardson
Senior Analyst, Facilities Services and Integrated Planning
California Institute of Technology
Host: Dave Karlsgodt, Principal, Fovea, LLC

This episode was recorded live on July 10th at the 2018 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) which took place on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dave Karlsgodt moderated the session: “The Challenges and Opportunities of Aggressive Climate Action.” Panelists from a cross-section of California institutions answered questions about their climate action efforts.  You’ll hear both success stories from these leading institutions, but also some honest discussion on where they have more work to do. Topics include the nature of their climate action strategies, making the business case for sustainable practices, the dual role of higher ed. to lead and to educate, carbon neutrality, 100% renewable energy and more.  Audience members bring up some challenging questions including how to consider equity, social justice, and the stratification of resources to address these challenges.  The discussion includes a combination of inspiring success stories and honest self-reflection from sustainability professionals working in the trenches.


Episode 12: Find Your Sustain Ability - Dr. Lee Ball, Appalachian State University

Lee F. Ball Jr., PhD Chief Sustainability Officer Appalachian State University

Lee F. Ball Jr., PhD
Chief Sustainability Officer
Appalachian State University

Guest: Lee F. Ball Jr., PhD
Chief Sustainability Officer, Appalachian State University

Host: Dave Karlsgodt, Principal, Fovea, LLC

In this episode you’ll hear my interview with Dr. Lee Ball.  Lee is the Chief Sustainability Office at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. While our goal for this conversation was to talk about his podcast, “Find Your Sustain Ability” we also get into a myriad of other topics.  Lee will explain the robust sustainability program at Appalachian State and how he works to help people find their connection to sustainability. We’ll touch on the connections and disconnections of rural and urban communities with the natural world. Lee will describe how he has approached working in sustainability in the heart of “Trump Country.” We’ll end with an overview for the App State solar powered racing team.