I can hardly believe that it is officially the second half of the summer fellowship period! It feels like just yesterday we were up in Maine at the beautiful Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge meeting the Clean Air-Cool Planet staff and the other fellows, talking about our hopes for our summer projects. I’ve been working in New Jersey with the Regional Plan Association and the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance to create a data directory for decision-makers in local communities here in the Garden State. I grew up here and it’s been a rewarding experience to create a directory that is sensitive to the diverse context of NJ.
There have been observable changes to the climate in the northeast over the past century. In NJ, this has included rising average annual temperatures (1.2°F over the past 40 years) and relative sea level rise (12-16” over the past 100 years). Looking ahead, there is still uncertainty about the extent of future climate changes. However, it is projected that the northeast will experience an additional average annual temperature increase of between 2.5 and 4°F in winter months and 1.5-3.5°F in summer months and relative sea level rise of between 3 and 4 feet. This will have a wide range of impacts, including more days of temperatures exceeding 90°F, an extended growing season, increased sea surface temperatures, decreased snowpack, and increased heavy precipitation. Human health will be compromised by more frequent high ozone and high heat days. Agriculture will be challenged, as key crops, like blueberries, cranberries, and apples, will no longer thrive where they once did. Milk production in cattle will decline due to heat stress, in New Jersey by as much as 20% or more. Clearly, much is at stake in a range of sectors. (See sources here and here.)
New Jersey has a broad range of needs, reflective of its diverse environment – both built and natural. While New Jersey is a small state, it is the most densely populated state in the US, with most counties lying in both the Greater New York and Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Areas. At the same time, New Jersey is home to a large agricultural sector, 130 miles of Atlantic coastline, the mountainous Skylands, and the unique ecology of the Pine Barrens and Delaware Valley. Planning for climate change impacts will require localized analysis in order to succeed.
Local-level decision-makers are those that will have to manage both the day-to-day interruptions expected from climate change – increased roadway flooding, debris removal, and heat-related health problems – and longer-term issues, like shifting crop cycles, saltwater intrusion into aquifers, and infrastructure relocations necessitated by sea level rise. This directory centralizes datasets and resources held by scores of organizations from academic institutions, governmental agencies, and regional non-profits. Decision-makers can use the directory to enhance their knowledge of climate change and access data to conduct locally focused analyses of potential climate impacts – giving them the tools to create informed adaptation plans that best suit their needs.
By Hayley Magerman, Clean Air-Cool Planet Climate Fellow
The 2012 Climate Fellows are entering into our sixth week! I am very excited to hear and participate in our midterm presentations. I am coming to you from Arizona, where I am working on developing a 15-month strategic marketing and communications plan for the launch of the new online Campus Carbon Calculator. The Calculator in its current Excel-based platform already has great reach and clout, considering it is used by 2000 universities. We want to maintain our competitiveness with the improved tool, so I am tasked with alerting the appropriate outlets about its release.
Teodora’s work of developing a survey for current users, past users, and non-users was very helpful in assessing people’s impression of the Campus Carbon Calculator. There is overwhelming respect of and support for the Calculator, which is exciting to hear. It is comforting knowing that the product sells itself once a user is introduced to it. My challenge is reaching out to non-users who maybe aren’t aware of the Calculator’s value or are currently using a different carbon management tool.
I have contemplated changing the name and logo of the Calculator so that it better identifies as a project by Clean Air-Cool Planet. It is also important to leave open its opportunity for expansion to other audiences so eliminating any description of higher education in its identity is a goal. I have also brainstormed taglines and messages that could effectively define the many purposes that the Calculator serves.
Another way to appeal to our primary audience, college staff and students, is through modern technology and social media. We are looking into creating a mobile app of the Campus Carbon Calculator, made possible by the support of Verizon. I am in contact with campus sustainability professionals who have worked with students to make an energy conservation app for their university, so they will be able to provide insight from that experience. We will also be utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and our Cool Planet blog whenever there is an announcement about the Calculator.
It is my honor to work on the implementation of the invaluable Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Carbon Calculator. I hope every college campus and countless other facilities realize the value in measuring their carbon emissions with the goal of dramatically reducing them. I believe that media outlets will see genuine value in reporting on our fantastic tool and it will maintain as the premier source for carbon management. We have a great team of Climate Fellows working to advance the Calculator and its components. Keep an eye out for its release!
Happy Fourth of July! As of today, the Clean Air – Cool Planet’s summer fellows have reached the halfway points of our projects. I am currently operating out of CA-CP’s New Canaan, Connecticut office and my project for this summer is to help research and develop a program in Connecticut that will use aggregation strategies and discounted, tiered pricing to encourage groups of homeowners to install solar thermal and energy efficiency technologies in their homes.
I started by exploring existing community aggregation projects and specifically programs being implemented in Connecticut. This led me to the Groundswell Community Power Project in Washington D.C. where I spoke to Sam Witherbee, a former CA-CP organizer. Then, I explored the Solarize CT program currently in its Pilot stages. The Solarize program started in Portland, Oregon and was so successful that it has been replicated in several places, most recently Massachusetts and now Connecticut.
As The Solarize Guidebook states, the Solarize model was created to, “overcome the financial and logistical hurdles of installing solar power.” Typically, installing solar panels can be a daunting task for a homeowner because of the high cost, the complexity of the technology that requires an individual to make decisions they often do not know much about, and the difficulty of overcoming the inertia of being the first person in a neighborhood to install PV on his or her roof. Solarize tackles these problems by utilizing community organizations and creating a system by which the community takes the steps involved in a solar installation together. “Solar 101” workshops educate the community while Community Volunteers lead a competitive bid process to select a contractor to complete the projects. Participants achieve cost savings through aggregate buying power as well as a tiered pricing system giving incentive to encouraging your neighbors to join the program. Finally, the Solarize program is a limited-time offer creating a sense of urgency.
While the initial program as well as many successive programs have been highly successful, one of the major shortfalls is that for many of the people who show initial interest, photovoltaic solar panels are not a feasible option possibly due to roof direction or shading. In the Solarize Massachusetts Solarize Overview, it states, “ Volunteers also felt it was important to find a way to engage interested community members with non-feasible sites, such as through energy efficiency or solar hot water…”
This is where my project fits in. With support from the Clean Energy Finance Center (CEFC) and Connecticut’s Green Bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) I have been performing research on the current state of the Solar Thermal and Energy Efficiency markets in Connecticut. In recent weeks, I have been meeting and speaking with industry leaders in these two different markets and discussing the feasibility of working either or both of them into the Solarize model. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by NGO Sustainability, Peter Yazbak, the Outreach Coordinator for Congressman Jim Himes, and Dan Esty, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in Connecticut.
That’s all for now!
The project undertaken by Regional Energy Initiatives under a grant from the Community Catalyst Fund involved the encouragement of the citizens of 3 small towns in central Connecticut–Andover, Hebron and Marlborough–to undertake a series of initiatives in the areas of energy conservation, renewable energy and overall sustainability. The 3 towns share a regional high school and middle school (comprising regional school district 8 in Connecticut), and the project centered on students of the two schools participating in a contest where they encouraged their households to accomplish a variety of initiatives over about a two-month period in late 2011. Each student participating in the contest earned points for each accomplishment of their household (or neighboring households “adopted” by the student during the contest period). The top-scoring students in each school were awarded gift certificates from local merchants. Although there were about 30 initiatives in total and they were quite varied in nature, particular emphasis was placed on one initiative: completion of a HES (home energy solutions) visit.
The HES visit is an energy audit of a house performed by a trained technician. Two specific HES vendors were selected from the list of state-approved HES vendors, and during and after the contest period, residents who had a HES visit performed and submitted a copy of the written inspection were provided with a $25 rebate towards the $75 cost of the visit. Ultimately, rebates were provided to 22 households totaling $550.
Overall, approximately 150 students participated in the contest, and about 100 residents visited an energy and sustainability fair held during the contest period, where a variety of vendors dealing in energy conservation, renewable energy or general sustainabiltiy were present to share their expertise.
Overall, the project was deemed a success, though some glitches occurred that may have led to lower public turnout at the energy fair. Regional Energy Initiatives would be happy to share further details of this project with any interested parties.
Clean Air – Cool Planet’s climate fellows begin their fourth week today and we’re all now happily immersed in our projects. My project, looking at how climate change is impacting Vibrio bacteria population ecology, got off to a roaring start when my scientific mentors, Dr. Steve Jones and Dr. Vaughn Cooper from the University of New Hampshire, handed me a hefty stack of scientific literature. I dove right in, wading through study after study on how rising water temperatures and changing salinity due to rainfall are making the bacteria more prevalent and diverse along coastlines globally. This is mainly an issue due to the risk of human infection from one of the many pathogenic strains of Vibrio (not all types of the bacteria will make us sick, though some, like Vibrio cholerae which causes cholera, definitely will).
And then it gets even more complicated! Temperature and salinity are not the only environmental factors at play in estuary and coastal ecosystems, and let’s not even get started on the vast number of avenues for human exposure (anything from consuming raw shellfish to wound exposure in contaminated water), or the genetic markers of Vibrio pathogenicity which we don’t fully understand. I’ve also been doing some of my own research, looking to NOAA, the CDC and the FDA for more data. Needless to say, I’ve had my hands full with trying to learn and understand all of this information.
Luckily I’ve had some field experiences too- I spent the afternoon of June 12th on a sample collection trip with Dr. Jones, CA-CP President Adam Markham, as well as Adam’s daughter Tess. We took water, sediment and oyster samples from two locations in the Great Bay Estuary of New Hampshire and Maine where Jones has been studying Vibrio for more than two decades. We all got a chance to “rake” the oysters and I learned how to tell if an oyster is alive or if it is a “sweet one” just filled with mud. Since I’m from New Mexico, this was a novel experience for me, and quite enjoyable.
Just last Friday I began the first drafting stages of the “white paper” that I’ll be writing as the next step of my project. I started by outlining my thoughts and ideas in order to receive feedback from Drs. Jones and Cooper as well as Adam. Given all the data I’ve found its going to be a sizeable piece but hopefully the end product will help people get a better understanding of the complex issues surrounding Vibrio and climate change. Aside from the paper itself I plan to compose a 2 to 4 page fact/graphics sheet to summarize the most important aspects of this research and express why people should care about a tiny little organism like Vibrio.
As my fellowship with Clean Air – Cool Planet draws to an end, I am rushing to complete the last pieces of my project. Ten weeks ago, I started working on developing a business plan for the yet-to-come upgraded, web-based version of the Campus Carbon Calculator. Driven by its mission “to support cutting edge actions by colleges and universities to control their carbon emissions and produce the next generation of environmental leaders” and meeting the needs of the users, Clean Air – Cool Planet has set on bringing its popular tool from the existing Excel-based form to a cloud-based platform. The goal of my project was to lay the groundwork so that the Campus Carbon Calculator’s transition to an online platform enables CA-CP to maintain and grow its market share and to improve its ability to support and accelerate campus sustainability efforts. Some of the objectives I had for the project were to understand the needs of the users and how they value the tool; assess the competition; determine the willingness of users to contribute/subscribe to support the Calculator; outline and review possible revenue models and finally draft a business plan.
I spent the first half of my fellowship creating an online user survey designed to help us better understand how current and past users have used the Calculator, what value the Calculator offers and what their willingness is to pay for certain features and additional services offered by the new Calculator. Designing a survey that would give an accurate and informative snapshot of the users’ thoughts about the Campus Carbon Calculator proved to be a challenging task. In order for a survey to be successful, it should ask the right types of questions and not take more than 15 minutes to answer. After several conversations with Adam and Jennifer who were my primary sources of information about the Calculator, I had a good idea who our target audience for this survey was. I was able to draft a list of questions divided into three categories: General Information, Current Use, and Future Use. The survey was sent to more than 4,000 e-mail addresses on June 1 and users had until June 19th to submit their responses. We received 363 responses, which significantly surpassed our target of 250 responses. The data from the survey is currently being analyzed and some of the results will be included in my final report.
In addition to the online survey, I developed a separate list of questions for a target group of users that I was going to interview over the phone. With some help from Jenn, I identified 10-15 current and past users as well as students who had used the Calculator. In the course of two weeks, I conducted 10 phone interviews that gave me more detailed and comprehensive picture of how users value the Calculator.
During the last two weeks of my fellowship, I have been focusing on putting together all the different parts that I have gathered. Four different revenue models have been identified and a simple expense/revenue report generated to give a starting point for a conversation. The goal is to determine if the Calculator will be able to sustain itself and not rely exclusively on grants and fundraising. These revenue models include annual subscription fee, sponsorship/advertising, and publishing annual reports. Any of these has its merits and disadvantages and at this stage, it is difficult to determine which will turn out to be the most successful one (if any). Based on my research so far, however, I am confident that they are viable options for sustainable financing of the Calculator.
My hope it that this report will help Clean Air – Cool Planet identify and develop the best-working scenario for financing the future of the Calculator and retain its popularity. The Campus Carbon Calculator is an invaluable tool for colleges and universities across the country and Clean Air – Cool Planet has done a tremendous job helping higher education institutions lead the way to a more sustainable future.
I am glad I had the opportunity to be part of Clean Air – Cool Planet and work with a team of amazing, forward-looking people. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Thanks to a grant from the Community Catalyst Fund of Clean Air-Cool Planet, the Conservation Commission of Hastings on Hudson, NY was able to advance its agenda of promoting community engagement in reducing, re-using, and recycling.
We organized a four-part series called Lifting the Fog: Straight Talk on Climate Change that featured speakers on the science, history, geo-politics and psychology of global warming. Three of the four segments were filmed and are available on our local cable station.
At our last program, we organized an action-oriented Eco Fair that focused on things people can do:
Hastings has joined Catalog Choice as a community and will continue to enroll residents in this program.
We will continue to develop new outreach and educational materials that will promote sustainable choices for residents’ everyday actions.
We were featured several times in our local paper, The Rivertowns Enterprise: each of the lecturers in our series was interviewed, and an article was devoted to our invasive vine removal campaign as well as our signup with a Catalog Choice community plan; this caught the interest of the supervisor of the township of Greenburgh, which is investigating following suit.
Clean Air-Cool Planet’s 2012 Summer Climate Fellows got together for the first time on Thursday, May 31, for orientation at the Wells Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine.
The competition was steep for this summer’s Fellows, with some 200 applicants vying for 10 postings — from working with University of New Hampshire researchers to look at how climate change is increasing the risk of Vibrio infections in humans in previously unaffected regions; to vulnerability mapping in Vermont’s Winooski Watershed; to examining innovation in financing state and local clean energy in Connecticut, and much more. All of the Fellows were at orientation last week (with at least one traveling through the night to get there!).
During the day on Thursday, Clean Air-Cool Planet staff led Fellows in discussions and icebreakers.
That evening, staff, Fellows, alumni and guests celebrated with a barbecue.
After spending the night in the dormitories at the Wells Reserve, Fellows pitched in on a volunteer project clearing invasive plants.
The Fellows parted ways at mid-day on Friday to relax for the weekend. They started their placements today, and will be working with us full-time for about 10 weeks.
Watch this blog over the summer for postings from the Fellows on their work!
Brattleboro Climate Protection (BCP) is a nonprofit organization that works to develop effective local solutions to global climate change. BCP collaborates with municipal officials, community and state organizations, businesses and volunteers to carry out projects that promote energy efficiency and expanded use of renewable energy sources while reducing carbon emissions.
The purpose of this project was to expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating and electricity in the Brattleboro, VT area, while reducing the Town of Brattleboro’s electricity consumption.
BCP wanted to create an online Renewable Energy Gallery that would list photos and information about local renewable energy installations that would hopefully inspire others to install their own systems. Clean Air-Cool Planet staff put us in touch with Denise Blaha, the creator of Green Homes Tourist, an existing website that lists New Hampshire homes. Denise generously agreed to have Vermont homes listed on the site, and we put together eight profiles of local homes.
BCP worked with the Brattleboro Energy Committee to promote the establishment of a solar electric installation that would supply at least a portion of the electrical demand of municipal buildings and operations. The committee met with local solar contractors to evaluate potential sites for a project, and with financing entities to discuss funding and incentives. We identified a potential site at an industrial building used as a small business incubator by a local nonprofit. The nonprofit board agreed to allow a project on the site, if the electricity was sold to a building tenant.
The committee is continuing to meet with solar contractors and potential site hosts with the hopes of jump-starting a project this year.
BCP organized a fourth annual solar workshop in collaboration with Co-op Power, Inc. that provided information about solar hot water and photovoltaic systems to homeowners, landlords, and businesses, along with available incentives. Workshop participants had the opportunity to meet with representatives from local solar installers. The workshop attracted more than 40 participants, and received good reviews from attendees.
BCP worked with the Brattleboro Energy Committee and the Brattleboro Public Works Department to begin the process of evaluating the Town of Brattleboro’s streetlights to determine whether lights can be eliminated, reduced in wattage, or converted to light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures, which consume far less electricity. Energy committee members performed a walk-through survey of streetlights in several neighborhoods, visited a Vermont town that has converted to LED lights, and created a streetlight zone map, along with a plan for conducting an inventory, beginning with test neighborhoods in each lighting zone. The plan awaits approval by the Town Manager and Selectboard.
The Village of Irvington, NY’s Green Policy Task Force just received an Earth Day award from Westchester County, NY for our “Love ’Em and Leave ’Em” (LELE) initative which could result in significant monetary savings for local municipalities and the County through reduction of the volume of organic yard waste (leaves, grass clippings) which is picked up and trucked away. The award is shared with Greenburgh Nature Center in recognition of the LELE program’s success in inspiring support / adoption by over half of the county’s 43 municipalities. (GNC helped in extending outreach beyond Irvington to other municipalities in Westchester via co-developed educational programming.)
Instead of treating fall leaves like garbage, Love ’Em and Leave ’Em recognizes them as the valuable resource they are. The program promotes shredding and leaving leaves in place as finely chopped mulch on the lawn or in landscape beds, or by simply composting them. It has proven to be a cost and time saving approach for landscapers, homeowners and municipal DPW/Parks crews to managing yard waste, while also improving the soil’s ability to hold water, enhance the microbial soil food web, and support plant growth and health. Reduced volume of yard waste that needs to be trucked away for disposal or recycling out of the county also means reduced air pollution, fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Green Policy Task Force believes that one of the factors that made this program so successful was our “hands-on” outreach strategy that targeted both homeowners and local landscapers. We used the Community Catalyst Fund grant for handy pocket-sized “how to” cards (bi-lingual English/Spanish), bookmarks, and yard signs. We also ran a series of ads in the local newspaper (Rivertown Enterprise) that featured testimonials from community opinion leaders, such as our mayor, celebrities, and landscape professionals. But realizing that “seeing is believing,” during the Fall leaf season we also organized hands-on neighborhood demonstrations of the LELE techniques of leaf shredding and mulching-in-place, at which neighbors could enjoy hot cider and donuts while observing and asking questions. Those who “signed on” to adopt the practice got to take home a lawn sign that reads, “Leaves: We Love ’Em and Leave ’Em” and includes a link to our website. The goal of these yard signs is to inspire neighbors in turn to learn about and adopt LELE.
The Love ’Em and Leave ’Em website itself is a key part of our outreach and education. The website includes how-to resources (written articles and “how to” demo videos), talking points, sample letters, municipal resolutions, testimonial ads, yard signs, even bumper stickers. These materials provide a “toolbox” to easily enable replication of the program by other groups and municipalities (which can take our “open source” materials and graphics and adapt them as desired). Because outreach to and training of landscapers was another important piece of our strategy, the landscaper how-to materials are available in Spanish as well as English.
We’d like to thank the Community Catalyst Fund of Clean Air-Cool Planet, and we hope that the benefits of their investment will be multiplied many times over through the replication of our program throughout the county – and eventually state-wide!
“Westchester County spends upwards of $7.6 million every year processing raked-up leaves and other yard waste. Much of that money is spent trucking the materials from place to place—crowding our roads, polluting our air and warming our planet. Mulching-in-place techniques will save taxpayers and property owners money, while helping to protect the environment. Everyone wins.”
-Westchester County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky