K-12 teachers in an SJSU classroom for professional training

Sustainability Education Pilot Project Receives $71,000 Grant

K-12 teachers in an SJSU classroom for professional training

The effort will build on SJSU’s Bay Area Earth Science Institute, which offers a comprehensive, year-round professional development program for teachers of grades 4-12 (Elena Polanco photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Improving the sustainability literacy of California’s 450,000 sixth graders is the goal of a new pilot project uniting SJSU and Creative Change Educational Solutions, a national leader in sustainability education.

This effort will also form a network of teacher education faculty members from SJSU and CSU East Bay. They will develop a sustainability lens for teachers of grades K-8.

The California Alliance for Sustainability will be funded by a $71,333 grant from the the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.

Professor of Geology Ellen Metzger will be the principal investigator. Assistant Professor of Education Grinell Smith, science education coordinator for elementary education, will be the co-principal investigator.

Over 20 in-service teachers and education faculty members from SJSU and California State University East Bay will participate in summer workshops. Then they will receive follow-up support as they significantly re-frame their instructional units and university courses using a sustainability lens, one that expands environmental education to include issues of social equity and economic sustainability.

Metzger and her colleagues will focus on sixth grade science standards, investigating and addressing barriers to implementing educating for sustainability in real classrooms.

Chevron provided $5,000 in seed funding for the project. The effort will build on Metzger’s role as director of SJSU’s Bay Area Earth Science Institute. Now in its 21st year, BAESI offers a comprehensive, year-round professional development program for teachers of grades 4-12.

Hurricane Katia off the Northeastern US Coastline Viewed from the space station, Hurricane Katia presented an impressive cloud circulation as its center passed the northeastern coast of the United States on September 9, 2011.

Sustainability Matters: Our Changing Planet Viewed from Space

Hurricane Katia off the Northeastern US Coastline Viewed from the space station, Hurricane Katia presented an impressive cloud circulation as its center passed the northeastern coast of the United States on September 9, 2011.

Viewed from the space station, Hurricane Katia presented an impressive cloud circulation as its center passed the northeastern coast of the United States on September 9, 2011 (courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory).

Date: September 29, 2011

Time: 3-4:30 p.m.

Location: Morris Dailey Auditorium

Summary: The first event of the Fall 2011 Sustainability Matters Speakers Series will be “NASA’s Earth Observations of the Global Environment: Our Changing Planet Viewed from Space,” by Michael D. King, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics, University of Colorado. A bird’s eye view of the Earth from afar and up close reveals the power and magnificence of the Earth and juxtaposes the simultaneous impacts and powerlessness of humankind.  Dr. King will present Earth science observations and visualizations in a historical perspective.  See the latest stunning images from NASA remote sensing missions, which will be visualized and explained in the context of global change and our impact on our world’s environment.  Spectacular visualizations of the global atmosphere, land and oceans show how much the temperature of the Earth’s surface has changed during the 20th century, as well as how sea ice has decreased over the Arctic region, how the sea level has and is likely to continue to change, and how glaciers have retreated worldwide in a response to global change.

Dr. King will present visualizations of global data sets currently available from Earth orbiting satellites, including the Earth at night with its city lights, where and when lightning occurs globally, and dramatic urbanization in the desert southwest since 1910. He will show images of flooding resulting from tropical cyclones and satellite imagery of fires that occurred globally, and discuss how new satellite tools aid understanding of environmental change and can be used to help fight environmental disasters from spreading further.

Dr. King is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and recipient of the Verner E. Suomi Award of the AMS for fundamental contributions to remote sensing and radiative transfer. He has also received the Space Systems Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for NASA’s Earth Observing System Team. Other honors include an honorary doctorate from Colorado College, selection as a Goddard Senior Fellow, and recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He has also received the William Nordberg Memorial Award for Earth Science, Goddard’s highest scientific achievement award.

Sponsors include the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science with support from the Office of the President and the Department of Communication Studies. For more information, email Professor Anne Marie Todd.

— Submitted by Professor of Communication Studies Anne Marie Todd

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren with SJSU students in group photo behind large table.

U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren Visits SJSU Seeking Student Input on Sustainability

Lofgren with students

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren meets with SJSU students to discuss sustainability. Photo courtesy of Environment California.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

While Big Wheels roared around a race track and students crowded an outdoor fair elsewhere, a studious but powerful group gathered to mark Earth Day.

Around 30 of SJSU’s best and brightest met April 21 with U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, attracted by the opportunity to affect change in the nation’s capital.

The event was sponsored by the SJSU Environmental Resource Center, the Office of the President’s Sustainability Initiative, and Environment California.

Lofgren sought “feedback” and to “bridge the gap” between young people here and her colleagues in Washington D.C.

A member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, she was well prepared to tackle just about anything students presented to her during the one-hour conversation.

The Invisibility of Climate Change

While the topics varied from nuclear power to ethanol to oil extraction fees, the group spent the most time on what geology major Ian Newman described as the “invisibility” of climate change.

Vice President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” convinced millions worldwide of the effects of global warming on the environment.

But some of Lofgren’s colleagues in Washington continue to refute the science, perhaps because they can’t see the impacts in their own backyards.

“We are in a situation where the science is going this way, and the politics is going that way,” she said. “Obviously, we need to get things back on track.”

Lofgren also observed the situation is almost “too terrifying to contemplate,” and, like many long-term problems, gets pushed away given more immediate worries.

Tremendous Progress

Still, the congresswoman encouraged students to think creatively, noting that “promoting sensible projects locally makes a big difference.”

She also made a very positive observation, mentioning the United States has come a long way since Earth Day was founded 41 years ago by the late Senator Gaylord Nelson, an SJSU alumnus.

The whole concept of environmentalism has gone from fringe to mainstream, sweeping up lawmakers, academics and scientists as well as everyday people.

“Though we have tremendous challenges,” Lofgren said, “we’ve made tremendous progress.”

Professor and five students inside ZEM House.

Multidisciplinary Team Builds Zero Emissions House

Professor and five students inside ZEM House.

Professor Jinny Rhee with students inside their ZEM house (Rhee, Michael Signorelli, Kendrick Lau, Eden Specht and daughter, Michael Murray and Jesus Contreras). Photo by Elena Polanco.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

What’s the best thing about SJSU’s very first ZEM (that’s zero-emissions) house?

We built it,” said mechanical engineering major Eden Specht.

“We” means 25 students from five departments, making this one of San Jose State’s most ambitious interdisciplinary senior projects ever.

Specht placed the emphasis on the “we” because students built the whole thing from the ground up: drawing up plans, picking out materials, and hammering the whole thing together.

You can check out their pride and joy — and perhaps learn something new about sustainability — at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Open House 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 16. Featuring department presentations, lab demonstrations and the like, the engineering event is timed to coincide with Admitted Spartan Day.

Bright Blue Walls

“This far exceeds anything I’ve ever supervised before,” said Jinny Rhee, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The house is definitely a site to behold, its bright blue angled walls rising from the engineering courtyard (which, by the way, is chock full of all sorts of inventions). With just one room, the house was built more for learning than living, though all the techniques are very much applicable to real homes.

For instance, that power blue material peeking out from unfinished interior? That’s insulation made from recycled denim jeans. And the angled, south-facing front wall? That’s a passive solar element that keeps the house cool during the summer and warm during the winter given seasonal changes in the sun’s path.

The house is also equipped with a heat pump, solar panels and LED lighting with motion detectors, though there’s not much need for daytime lighting. Sunlight fills the interior without heating it up thanks to a bank of small, north-facing windows along the peak of the A-frame roof.

The project is being funded by a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant. Other sponsors include Westinghouse Solar, Sun Xtender, Heartwood Communities, Schneider Electric, and Prestige Glass and Storefront Company. Rhee is the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators are David Parent (electrical engineering), Anuradha Basu (business), Leslie Speer (industrial design), and Larry Gerston (political science).

Working together, students from all these departments drafted plans, built a model, sought support from corporations and foundations, and then began construction March 1. Even a couple civil engineering students pitched in, adding trusses to ensure the 100-square-foot structure is earthquake-safe.

Real World Experience

Though the house is considered coursework, it’s clear that for students like Specht, it’s about far more than getting a good grade. A new father who comes to campus carrying his baby girl, he pours time into the effort, motivated by the opportunity to do hands-on work on a well funded endeavor supported by many faculty members.

“This is my favorite part of being an engineering student,” he said.

For mechanical engineering major Kendrick Lau, working with students with all kinds of expertise, from finance to fire safety, is invaluable.

“We get to see what it’s like in the real world before we hit the real world,” he said.

To Professor Rhee, the house sends a very clear message about the contributions technology can make to sustainability.

“I plan on researching green buildings for years to come,” she said.#

Frances Moore Lappe

World Renowned Food Activist to Speak at SJSU in Celebration of Earth Month

Frances Moore Lappe

Frances Moore Lappe

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Award winning author and food activist Frances Moore Lappe will speak at 3:15 p.m. April 5 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. She will be introduced by Jesse Cool, a nationally recognized Bay Area chef, owner of Flea St. Café in Menlo Park, and advocate for local and organic foods.

The SJSU Sustainability Initiative, Environmental Resource Center, Division of Student Affairs, College of Social Sciences, and Salzburg Program will sponsor the event, which will be preceded by LOCAVORE! a food and garden fair beginning at noon in the sculpture garden near Clark Hall.

Frances Moore Lappe is the author of 17 books, including her best-selling Diet for a Small Planet.  Celebrating its 40th year, this book aims to inspire changes in eating habits in order to save the planet. Francis also leads the Small Planet Institute with her daughter Anna Lappe.

Focusing on the excerpts from her latest publication, EcoMind: Seven Thought Leaps for Our Planet and Its Changing Climate, Lappe talked to SJSU Today about what sustainability means to her and why the key to change is connecting with other people.

Among the messages she emphasized were “we have hit the limits of a finite planet,” “the answer is no growth,” and “consumer society is to blame.” The following was edited for length and clarity.

SJSU Today: Can you tell me about the keynote address you have in store for SJSU?

Frances Moore Lappe: This address is an attempt to identify some of the ways that we can frame the environmental crisis and the ways we can go beyond what we consider limiting. Instead of being trapped in mechanical ways, the focus is thinking in terms of the fundamental principal of ecology. Thinking like an ecoystem helps us to focus on the connection rather than the separateness.

SJSU: Can you tell me about how you started being sustainable-conscious?

Lappe: The best decision I ever made was to ask the most basic question in the world: Why is there hunger? Addressing the number one question — Why are we together in societies creating a world that not one of us as individuals would ever chose for ourselves? — that’s the question our species has to answer.

SJSU: Which part of researching sustainability was the most interesting or inspirational to you?

Lappe: The heart of my message now is that if we really incorporate the ecological worldview into our daily existence and really understand how incredibly interconnected we are, we have the power to fix it. The key is to understand that every choice we make has ripples throughout the system. Everything we do is changing the world. The choice we have is whether we are changing it consciously in the way that we want to.

SJSU: What else do you want SJSU students and alumni to know about sustainability or being mindful about their diet?

Lappe: Connect with other people and challenge yourself to learn and push the edge for the things that you are most excited about. There are endless possibilities to being sustainable, from getting rid of bottled water to choosing sustainable foods to recycling. The key is to connect with other people on your campus who are energized and bring that “what-can-you-do” attitude.

Frances Moore Lappe

Sustainability Matters: Frances Moore Lappe

Frances Moore Lappe

Frances Moore Lappe

Date: April 5, 2011

Time: 3:15 p.m.

Location: Morris Dailey Auditorium

Summary: Award winning author and food activist Frances Moore Lappe will deliver an address. She will be introduced by Jesse Cool, a nationally recognized Bay Area chef, owner of Flea St. Café in Menlo Park, and advocate for local and organic foods. The SJSU Sustainability Initiative, Environmental Resource Center, Division of Student Affairs, College of Social Sciences, and Salzburg Program will sponsor the event, which will be preceded by LOCAVORE! a food and garden fair beginning at noon in the sculpture garden near Clark Hall. Frances Moore Lappe is the author of 17 books, including her best-selling Diet for a Small Planet.  Celebrating its 40th year, this book aims to inspire changes in eating habits in order to save the planet. Francis also leads the Small Planet Institute with her daughter Anna Lappe. Read more.

beautiful poppies in bloom

SJSU Wins Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award

beautiful poppies in bloom

SJSU will soon use recycled water for landscape irrigation on the main campus.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Hard work by many SJSU community members involved in our sustainability initiatives has paid off. The campus has saved thousands of gallons of water, and won a prestigious award.

“It’s good recognition for the efforts that are being undertaken by facilities and other departments on this issue in general,” said Jared Isaacson, energy analyst for SJSU’s Facilities Development and Operations group.

The Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards recognize organizations, agencies, businesses and individuals who have made outstanding advances in water conservation efforts.

A 14-member coalition panel comprised of local, city, and state environmental organizations chose SJSU because of its conservation leadership and over 200 courses and academic resources related to sustainability.

For over ten years, SJSU has used recycled water to cool its central power plant and irrigate the athletic fields on South Campus, saving 40 million gallons of potable water and more than $100,000 in water and chemical costs annually. The re-piping and technical changes mean SJSU is on track to reduce its potable water use by more than 45 percent.

“Our facilities people took the time to figure out what was needed to make that change, and they have really been a leader in this area,” said Katherine Cushing, director of sustainability.

According to Cushing, winning this award reiterates SJSU plays an important role in educating the public on water conservation and sustainability. The award also shows students can get involved by taking advantage of related classes.

Beginning this month, King Library will use recycled water for toilet and urinal flushing, estimated to save five million gallons of potable water per year.

Irrigation for landscaping on the main campus is also being converted to recycled water, a process that will be completed this fall.

The Water Conservation Award will be presented on World Water Day March 22 at the Milpitas Silicon Valley Humane Society.

Environmental studies graduate student Anna Le and engineering graduate student Gordon Poon explain usage of electricity, natural gas and water on a utility bill to a San Jose resident.

How the Green Wave Can Help You Save

Environmental studies graduate student Anna Le and engineering graduate student Gordon Poon explain usage of electricity, natural gas and water on a utility bill to a San Jose resident.

Environmental studies graduate student Anna Le and engineering graduate student Gordon Poon explain usage of electricity, natural gas and water on a utility bill to a San Jose resident.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

A new San Jose State sustainability program is reducing the carbon footprint of the university community, one residence at a time.

The Green Wave program trains and deploys SJSU student-auditors to measure the amount of energy being wasted in individual homes and dorm rooms. It’s a free service that can add up to considerable utility bill savings for participants, and is available to San José residents (and offices) through the end of May.

The program’s goal is to save over 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per household annually. In the process, the program is building a cadre of students with real-world skills in environmental analysis and community outreach. Seventy-five students are currently receiving hands-on-training to perform energy audits as part of their coursework for the spring semester.

“Green Wave teaches students practical skills, and allows them to make an impact and make a difference in their community,” said Katherine Cushing, who leads the program and is director of sustainability at SJSU.

Still a pilot program, Green Wave is modeled after “Green @Home,” a residential efficiency program run the Palo Alto-based environmental organization Acterra. Green Wave is working in conjunction with the city of San Jose on its Green Vision Plan, which aims to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by half over 15 years.

“But our immediate goal is to audit 300 houses,” said Cushing. “We are hoping to get San Jose students, alumni and employees signed up for audits.”

To sign up for a free home audit, or to become a Green Wave auditor, visit www.sjsu.edu/sustainability/greenwave.

Students Catch the Green Wave, Tackle Energy Audits Date: 08/23/2010

San Jose State will train over 100 students to “catch the green wave” by helping to conduct energy audits in offices and homes. Learn more at “Taking Action on Climate Change and Energy Efficiency at SJSU” at noon Tuesday, August 31, in King 225. The Office of the President will sponsor the event, and refreshments will be served.

SJSU Sustainability Director Katherine Cushing wrote: “This effort will be a partnership with the city of San Jose. Participating students will be formally recognized by Mayor Chuck Reed for their contribution to helping the city meet its Green Vision goal of reducing per capita energy consumption by 50 percent by 2022.”

The Green Wave follows last year’s Ecological Footprint Challenge.

Earth Day @ SJSU

Mayor Chuck Reed to Speak on San José’s Green Vision During Sustainability Week at SJSU

View a Sustainability Week event schedule.

Contact: Lynne Trulio, 650-740-9446, Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSÉ, Calif., — In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, San José Mayor Chuck Reed will give the keynote address for Sustainability Week at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, April 22, in Engineering 189. Continue reading