Dish It Out: Let SGA Know You Support Dish Reuse on Campus

Post contributed by Liz Stanbrough, Graduate Student in Civil Engineering.

Do you want your student organization to save money and reduce waste? Then please petition SGA for a dish reuse program through their Auburn Answers platform. When asked, choose DINING (first option), and copy the following text. Feel free to add/change/etc.

I would like to see Auburn University leadership take a more defined position on sustainability. I am excited about a community dish program that Tiger Dining is planning to implement for on-campus student meetings to help us reduce waste. I want to express my support for this initiative as well as challenge Auburn leaders to match and exceed the efforts of the students organizing the dish program. I also want to see SGA create a dedicated sustainability role to lead awareness events and implement real sustainability initiatives on campus in tandem with Auburn offices.

If you want more information or have questions please contact Liz Stanbrough.


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Counting Carbon

As we watch the calendar flip to a new year, we often find ourselves looking back in reflection while simultaneously making resolutions for how we might make our lives in the new year better.  We take personal stock so we can make concrete plans to build a better tomorrow for ourselves. 

Perhaps, it’s time for us to do the same when it comes to our collective selves and how we’re meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities presented by climate change.  After all, you can look just about anywhere these days to easily witness the harsh new realities of climate change and how we’re falling short of our goals to avert the most catastrophic consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels. And while we each individually have a role to play in helping to address climate change, the magnitude of the situation requires bold and specific action from governments and organizations.  

In this spirit, Auburn has committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.  But just like we do when we make our personal resolutions, we must first take account of our actions from years past, before we can move forward with concrete actions in the future.  In this instance, that means conducting a greenhouse gas inventory.  

Graphic representing scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Given Auburn’s size and complex amount of activities, completing an inventory requires the participation of people from across campus.  In fact, our office gathers data from over 15 different campus units and from a range of people within those units who manage and report on various data points.  A few things we collect data on probably wouldn’t surprise you, like electricity, natural gas, refrigerant use, and travel. But we also gather data on a few things that you might not think of like fertilizer use, waste sent to the landfill, and livestock, among others.  We then take all the gathered information and use the Sustainability Indicator Management & Analysis Platform (SIMAP) to generate a report detailing our scope 1 & 2 emissions and a portion of our scope 3 emissions.  

It’s important to note that our inventory isn’t perfect.  First, we aren’t actually reporting on all university-based activity.  Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on the main Auburn campus, which means we’re excluding both the positive and negative impacts that come from university operations around the state of Alabama.  Second, we also aren’t reporting on all sources of emissions for the main campus. Like most institutions, we so far haven’t captured information on all of our scope 3 emissions. Finally, some of the data we collect doesn’t directly align with the way we must enter it into the SIMAP tool, particularly when it comes to travel.  As a result, we have to make some assumptions and in some instances knowingly overestimate our emissions.  

Regardless of these limitations, our inventory does give us a sound understanding of how our choices as an institution, and as the individuals within it, impact climate change.  Such information will be critical to formulating our new resolutions and targets when we look to take further responsibility for building a better tomorrow by updating our Climate Action Plan in the near future so as to move us closer to our 2050 goal.  

Graphic depicting total greenhouse gas emissions of Auburn University by fiscal year.

Graph depicting fiscal year 2017 greenhouse gas emissions for Auburn University by emission category.

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New AU Course on Personal Resilience & Sustainability

Post Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Academic Sustainability Programs Director

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver, A Summer’s Day

Academic Sustainability Programs is offering this semester a new 1-credit course, SUST 4900 Personal Resilience and Sustainability. This course arose out of an understanding among our sustainability instructors that Auburn students would benefit from this type of course offering. In this course, students will interact with each other and an experienced instructor to develop and celebrate aspects of personal resilience in the face of major local to global-scale changes that are confronting human society now and in the near future.

This new course will meet for an hour each week, with the timing to be determined by the schedules of enrolled students. It will focus on What is Resilience?, and will offer training in taking care of ourselves and others on a changing planet, in building community around the intention to live sustainably, resourcing in nature, creativity, and ourselves, and in learning deep ecology and practical skills.

If you have space in your course schedule to take 1 more credit this spring, consider this unique course that will explore individual wellbeing at it relates to the sustainability compass. Sustainability Compass Poster

This course can be used as a free elective, or as elective credits toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies in the area of Environment. It could be combined as an elective with our other 1-credit courses listed at or, with study abroad or other types of credits, to create 3 minor elective credits.

We are excited about this new course offering. Contact the instructor Dr. Marilyn Vogel if you have questions, or to receive a copy of the draft syllabus.

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Plant Ahead Tree Project: Planting with Purpose

Contributed by Allison Foster, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Coming into Auburn, I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I wasn’t completely sure. My freshman year I took a Conservation Biology Learning Community class and I was exposed to ideas I didn’t really know much about, but I was interested in learning about.

I ended up changing my major to Wildlife Ecology and Management because the people I had met in that major seemed so dedicated and cared about what they were doing. This past summer I was part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of South Florida, and it focused on Weather, Climate, and Society. We had a variety of guest speakers and one that stuck out to me was Dr. Kim Cobb, from Georgia Tech. Her presentation was about little ways that you, as an individual, can lessen your carbon footprint. She mentioned an organization called Trees Atlanta and I decided to look into it.

I found out that planting trees is one of the best things you can do for the environment. There are so many different ways to reduce your carbon footprint, from the way you travel, what you eat, and what you buy. These are little things that can add up to so much more. Planting trees affects carbon emissions by removing carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

I became inspired to put on something like this at Auburn. I’m so excited to announce that at Auburn, we are having an event called PlanT Ahead where the Auburn community will come together to plant trees. This event will not only impact us locally but will hopefully bring awareness and spread elsewhere.

Learning about climate change can be overwhelming, and it can often feel like there’s no way to help. Small things can do wonders, and that’s why I invite all of y’all to join us in this event and make a difference in your community! Plant Ahead: A Tree Planting Event is taking place at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest on January 22nd.

Register to receive pre-event safety details and to get pizza at the event.

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Constructing a Gold Standard on the Field & in the Future

Contributed by Auburn Athletics Student Communicator

Phelps Gambill ImageThe world is ever-changing as we advance with new technologies and the industries that support it. With this comes even more construction for renovations and new buildings.

How does that change co-exist with the world around us as we strive to keep the Earth green and sustainable for the future? Junior tight end Phelps Gambill is one of the many Auburn student-athletes who can help us understand our move forward into how these projects go green for a cleaner job site.

“My background is in the construction industry and I am a building science major here at Auburn,” he said. “I have had a couple classes on sustainable construction, and I have worked on multiple jobs in my career focused on different ways we can get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is how you get the accolades to be a green company.

“One important thing could be something as simple as ordering local materials for your job site,” he said. “You would not order parts from California if you were doing a job in Florida. You order from the same local area where your building site is, not only helping out the local community but also not burning as much fuel to transport those materials.”

Gambill is hands-on with this material and knows the cost of wasteful sites that do not consider the proper procedures to be a green company. That is why he plans on moving into this business space, eventually run a green-certified company of his own.

“I want to start my own contracting and general building/development company,” he said. “I have already had a goal set that I want every single one of my jobs to be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified gold standard. That is my main goal and something I will always fight for as I move towards my future.”

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Plan to Power Down for Break

Post originally published in 2016 and contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern 

The holiday break for Auburn University is just around the corner, so there’s no doubt people’s thoughts are filled with travel plans to see family and friends. Much of campus is vacant during the winter weeks of December and January, as most students go home and many faculty and staff aren’t in their offices for part of the break. Have you ever considered what goes on in empty residence halls and offices when no one is living or working in them? In terms of human use, there may not be much activity, however, lots of energy is still being used when there’s no one there to enjoy it. Given the large amount of money Auburn University spends on powering campus per year, around $13,555,000 for electricity and $4,841,000 for natural gas, any actions we can take will help the university save money over winter break. In addition, energy production and consumption from non-renewable sources is a main emitter of greenhouse gases, which are contributing to climate change. By being aware of how you leave your residence hall, office, or apartment for a long break, you can help the Auburn community save money and energy this winter. So this year, before you start packing to leave campus, take a minute to check out these tips to power down during the holiday break!

Picture of Electrical Cord PlugUnplug appliances
  • Computer monitors, printers, scanners, televisions, gaming systems, space heaters, fans, lamps, toasters, and coffeemakers are great places to start, as these appliances won’t be used if no one is in the building over a long break. Appliances such as these consume a phantom energy load, meaning they pull energy even when not turned on or in direct use. Annually 75% of electricity used to power homes is consumed when products are off1. By unplugging over break, you can get rid of phantom energy loads throughout your residence hall, apartment, or office building.
Unplug and clean refrigerators and freezers
  • The electricity used by larger appliances is significant, and reducing it can greatly increase savings if not in use for a month. If you can completely unplug, be sure no food is left inside, so you won’t come back to a spoiled mess. If it’s not possible to unplug, cleaning refrigerators and freezers is still beneficial. Dust and dirt that build up on coils located under and behind the unit cause it to work harder for longer cycles. Energy consumption can be reduced 6% by removing dust from the outside of the appliance 2-3 times a year5. In addition, frost build up increases the amount of energy needed to run. Before leaving for break is a perfect time to clean, defrost, and unplug.
Turn off lights
  • In a typical campus building 31% of energy use comes from lighting,2 making turning off lights an easy way to save both money and energy. Before walking out of the office or residence hall for break, do a quick walk through and flip the switches off.
Lower blinds and close curtains
  • Heat transfer occurs from warm to cool areas, meaning a warm house in the winter is subject to lose heat as it flows to the cooler outside temperatures. Even when all windows appear to be completely closed, heat is still lost through a building’s walls, roof, and floor. About 35% of the heat produced by a building will be lost through gaps in and around windows and doors3. By closing curtains and blinds before leaving, you can decrease the amount of heat wasted from your residence hall or office building.
Turn thermostats down
  • In an apartment you have direct control of your unit’s heating and cooling system and can adjust accordingly for the time you will be gone by turning your heating system down. In an office setting, even if you only control your individual room or you have a limited range of control, remember every degree counts and even small efforts can cause big changes. In fact, lowering the thermostat by 1 degree results in monetary savings of 3% off your bill4. Not only will this save you money, it’s environmentally-friendly because fewer resources will be used for heating an unoccupied building.

These small actions are good habits to develop every time you leave a building, and are especially important before leaving for an extended amount of time. Make this holiday break more sustainable and give a gift to the environment by powering down your residence hall, apartment, or office building before leaving campus!




1 Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. Take Control and Save.

2 National Grid. Managing Energy Costs in Colleges and Universities.

3 The Green Age. Where am I loosing heat in my home?

4 US News- Personal Finance. 9 Ways to Save on Your Utility Bill.

5 Horizon Services: Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning. Frugal Fridge Maintenance Can Save You Energy…and Cold Hard Cash.


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Co-Creating a Sustainable Economy–Our Conference Takeaways

Here in the Office of Sustainability, the goal of our internship program is to transform our student interns into sustainability practitioners who are equipped to lead others in solving the sustainability challenges our world is facing. One of the most powerful professional development experiences we provide is the opportunity to attend the premier conference for sustainability in higher education. Hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the 2019 conference’s theme was Co-Creating a Sustainable Economy. The diversity of interests from those in our office resulted in a wide range of takeaways from the conference, which we would like to share with you.

Benjamin Boehle: Design Specialist, Student Staff

The greatest takeaway I got from attending the AASHE conference was the amount of support for sustainability and like-minded peers I met. This incredible opportunity to hear from world-class speakers and countless people I could learn from was such an eye-opening experience. While there may be much resistance in areas that are still with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, there is also a feeling of hope that was left upon me. This feeling of striving to do better to correct these global climate issues is a powerful, life-changing amount of inspiration and drive. The takeaways given back from AASHE and the attendees were wonderful and I hope each year there is a growing number of advocates and activists for sustainability.

Beatriz Carmona: Data Analyst, Student Staff

Prior to attending AASHE, I wasn’t aware of how widespread campus sustainability offices are around the nation. Interacting with other sustainability interns, from offices in small community colleges or large land grant universities like us, was incredibly refreshing. I focused my sessions mostly on zero waste packaging ideas and food waste repurposing, and it was great to learn how other campuses have implemented fresh, student-sparked ideas in their spaces. Both of the keynote speakers also charged me with change-making energy. Varshini Prakash spoke about her experience as an undergraduate that led her university’s successful fossil fuel divestment campaign, and more recently co-founded the Sunrise Movement which has helped raise tremendous public support for the Green New Deal. Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of the first planet-wide climate change movement “,” shared touching images of people from all corners of the world who feel the impact of climate change much more quickly and severely than many of us here do. The conference has provided me with a multifaceted testament to the saying “one person can make a difference”, and a reminder that if we all do our part, what we can accomplish is insurmountable.

Taylor Kraabel: Employee Engagement Coordinator, Student Staff 

Perhaps the most thought-provoking and worthwhile session I attended was “Green in a Red State: Working in Conservative Environments”. Initially, I assumed this session would be a haven for sustainability advocates from conservative environments to air our grievances and frustrations. However, I found this to be largely untrue. Instead of griping about all the things we could not do or change, the session focused on appealing to our audience and methods to reduce the many stigmas around sustainability. One of the major topics of discussion was the general miseducation we encounter when we talk about sustainability. It is a common misconception to think sustainability is simply about recycling, reusable water bottles, etc. when in fact that does not even begin to cover sustainability’s scope. Brainstorming and sharing with others on how to promote the wellbeing, economic, and social aspects of sustainability was incredibly beneficial.

We also discussed the idea of utilizing the systems already in place at our respective institutions to promote sustainability in a way that appeals to our cultural climates. For instance, several universities have adopted creative ways of promoting the Sustainability Compass and giving students a say in what sustainability initiatives the university undertakes. The opportunity to discuss our sustainability efforts with like-minded individuals provided new perspectives to problems and innovative ways to incorporate sustainability in our conservative environments.

Patience Ray: Communication Specialist, Student Staff

At AASHE, I learned that sustainability isn’t only about the environment or saving the planet. It’s also about renewable energy and savings, healthy economies and individuals, protecting our agricultural resources and staying ahead of the competition. Pursuing renewable technologies as a university will give us the education and “the knowledge to work wisely and train [our] minds and [our] hands to work skillfully.” Sustainability is Auburn’s path to a bright future. AASHE helped me understand that sustainability should be at the root of every decision. Our research and what we invest in as students and as a university is what will make us leaders and changemakers in the ever-evolving social and financial markets. And if what we invest in builds a better world for all, we will be known for our “honesty and truthfulness.” I’m inspired to believe in a university that sustains its community and looks to the future. Because we can be a university that truly “believe[s] in [our] Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is [our] own home, and …[we] can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with [our] God.” We believe in sustainability–it’s in our very creed. “And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.”

Ferrell Sullivan: Outreach Coordinator, Student Staff

This was my second year attending AASHE. Just like last year, it is a burst of energy, ideas, and shared goals. One of my favorite things I felt enlightened by was the constant stream of new and interesting ideas to reach out to students and the community. Whether it’s catapulting pumpkins after Halloween into a compost, starting a Free Store to encourage students to reuse and donate rather than landfill their own items, or creating a vulnerable conversation on campus about what students think, know, and feel about climate change. AASHE gave me excitement instead or nervousness to speak up to our very conservative board of trustees about changing how our campus implements sustainability and how they need to be transparent with their spending. I feel back up by hundreds of others that it is possible that I can make a difference on my campus especially with student power. This year also inspired me to get more creative with diversifying our events, reaching out to certain niches of people within our campus such as an idea of giving out menstrual cups to the women on our campus to start a conversation on waste. This year really gave a sense of clarity that everything we do, everything we shift, every conversation we start really does matter, but we need to do more.

Mike Kensler: Director 

Each year when I attend the AASHE conference, I am struck by the collegial, collaborative, mission-driven energy that permeates the conference.  Sustainability work requires facing many deeply troubling conditions and trends for people and the planet. At the same time this work requires resilience and openness to finding new ways of thinking and acting that can transform our world for the better.  This conference provides the opportunity to openly acknowledge our deepest concerns, and mutually acknowledging our fears is a healing experience.  At the same time, I always leave reminded of this community of colleagues and learn of exciting innovations and accomplishments on campuses and in communities around the world.  I leave buoyed with a new sense of possibility and resolve.  AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser reminded us, “Just because it seems impossible today doesn’t get us off the hook.”  Exactly.  Staying on the hook has for many brought new realities into being that were once deemed impossible.  Nelson Mandela is one who would know.  He said “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  The conference theme this year was Co-Creating a Sustainable Economy, one that creates wellbeing for all.  All of us in the office returned re-energized to stay on the hook, contributing what we can to make a sustainable economy a reality.

Jen Morse: Outreach and Communications, Staff

One of the most inspirational sessions for me was a panel on ‘Cutting Through the Noise’, or how to get your sustainability-related stories heard by a broader audience. One of the panelists was from SUNY Geneseo’s top communications office. Similarly to Auburn University, they have many stories to share related to their work around the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their communications office compiled videos, news, projects, and initiatives of the college and alumni from across campus and throughout the world, dating back to 2011. Using ArcGIS they created an interactive storytelling map where visitors can view stories and media by location around the globe or by the SDGs. While hearing initiatives and results from a multitude of universities at the conference was very uplifting, I especially found inspiration from those of SUNY Geneseo. The effort of framing their accomplishments around the SDGs was executed by their central communications office. While their sustainability office did have a role to play, this amazing interactive interface would not have come to be without the insight and support of upper their administration and central communications office. Here at Auburn we are also working to address the SDGs by becoming a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). More about Auburn joining the SDSN and connections to the university’s strategic plan are shared in the March 2019 Director’s Corner: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are ‘No Little Plans.’

Amy Strickland: Program Manager, Staff

I had the opportunity to participate in a special type of session at this year’s AASHE conference called a “Deep Dive.” In this session, we spent about 4 hours hearing from and brainstorming with leaders from Procurement offices at two major research universities. By spending so much time on one topic and with subject matter experts, those in attendance gained a nuanced understanding of the role and responsibilities of Procurement professionals and how sustainability can enhance and support their work. Given the many intersections between sustainability and matters related to procurement, like the supply chain, costs of ownership, and disposal concerns, it’s easy to see how our office can work hand-in-hand with our Procurement professionals to advance both Auburn’s economic interests, but also support key advances around the Sustainability Compass.

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