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AU’s Green Teaching Certificate Program on Track to Break Record

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Written by: Anna Olsson

When the Green Teaching Program first launched in the late summer of 2008, 35 AU professors answered a short list of questions about commitments they would make to teach sustainably that fall. Since then, the program has grown and changed significantly, but its core purpose remains the same: To provide incentives for faculty to teach sustainably, while creating a greater awareness of the effects of education on the environment among both professors and students.

This year, the Green Teaching Program is on track to break its all-time record of the number of faculty certified in a single year (151), and it will likely also pass the milestone of certifying its 500th individual Green Teacher. The concrete implications of the program for campus sustainability are significant. Take for example the one action of not printing your course syllabus, and providing it in electronic form only: Assuming that about 80% of the faculty who have earned 1,184 certificates over the last 8 years opted to make their syllabi electronic, and assuming that each faculty member taught an average of 3 courses in an academic year, with an average of 25 students per course, and with syllabi of an average length of 10 pages, this one action alone has saved over 710,000 sheets of paper. That’s a small forest (85 trees, to be precise, according to the calculations by the non-profit organization Conservatree.org). And this is only the estimated impact of one of the 54 actions faculty can opt to commit to in the current version of the Green Teaching Certificate application.

Faculty can collect points for a variety of actions reducing the use of paper by moving towards using course materials, assignments, and exams in an electronic format; reducing the use of energy and reducing pollution by using energy efficient equipment, making a habit of turning off equipment not in use, scheduling office hours on the day of class, and biking or carpooling to campus; as well as other measures such as allowing Green Teaching Program staff to post a Green Teaching score card on Blackboard course pages, listing the commitments made, for students to see, using reusable food and beverage containers, and talking to department staff about purchasing recycled materials and supplies.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Green Teaching Program has been recognized beyond AU, in the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll as one of the reasons for AU’s high score in sustainability ratings of colleges and universities. In addition, six universities across the United States have replicated the program on their own campuses. And so, what started as a small initiative by a few AU faculty and students who wanted to be more conscientious about their use of resources has multiplied into a movement transcending the AU campus, that gives the phrase “think globally, act locally” a whole new meaning.

You can learn more about AU’s Green Teaching Program at http://www.american.edu/ctrl/green.cfm.

 

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Teaching Environment and Sustainability across the Curriculum

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #407:

This session seeks to engage and collaborate with faculty who want to learn about incorporating issues relating to conservation, climate change, and/or sustainability into their courses. These are key challenges of our times and teaching these issues enhances students’ knowledge and capacity to make a difference. Attendees learn strategies for including environmental examples, topics, speakers, projects, assignments, current events, and site visits in any course. Participants who have never taught these topics before but who are interested in interdisciplinary teaching are encouraged to attend. The session focuses upon sharing ideas and discussion of opportunities for including environmental topics across the curriculum.

Heather Heckel (SPExS)
Simon Nicholson (SIS)

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Green Teacher of the Year Award 2015

Written by: Erica Dixon

Green Teacher 2015Professor Rachel Louise Snyder (Department of Literature, CAS), is the winner of the 2015 Green Teacher of the Year Award! Professor Snyder has been a certified green professor since joining the university in 2009, and has initiated measures to reduce the use of paper ranging from having all student assignments be turned in electronically, to turning paper newsletters into online magazines.

Recently, Professor Snyder answered questions for CTRL about being a green teacher, and why it matters.

Q: Why is being a green teacher important to you?
A: Being environmentally conscious is just a way of life for me. I was really thrilled to come to AU and see that it was part of the institutional philosophy as well. To me, there’s a betterment to the world, of course, in some small measure, but it’s really about living deliberately and thoughtfully.

Q: What is your favorite part of bringing green teaching into your classroom?
A: It makes it much easier to be portable! I only have to carry around my tiny laptop and I have all my class papers and lectures and handouts at my fingertips! But I also feel it’s my responsibility to be a role model. I don’t want those students who see me to look at my generation and see no one who cared enough to make even the smallest of sacrifices for the world they’ll inherit.

Q: How have your students responded to the green teaching initiatives you’ve brought into the class?
A: They’ve been positive. And in fairness, they get so much more feedback from me than they would if I was handwriting everything. They’ve grown up in front of screens. It is utterly and completely their way of life.

Q: What advice would you give other teachers that are looking to “go green”?
A: I would say that I have yet to meet anyone who regrets taking some responsibility for their part in making the world or the campus a better place in this measure. We have to adapt to all sorts of things throughout the course of our lives. Going paperless, at least some of the time, is hardly much of a sacrifice.

Learn more about AU’s Green Teaching Program HERE.
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A Celebration of American University’s Green Teachers at CTRL’s Annual Green Tea!

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Written by: Anna Olsson

SoupMug Every year around the beginning of November, CTRL celebrates the many faculty members who have qualified for a Green Teaching Certificate at the Annual Green Tea, held this year on Wednesday, November 5. As usual, the event featured hot apple cider and organic snacks, and was visited both by some of AU’s Certified Green Teachers, who also got to pick up their “Green Teaching” gift, and by students from the environmental student club EcoSense.

The Green Teaching Certificate Program, which is now in its seventh year, rewards faculty who are implementing sustainability measures in their teaching with a “Certified Green Course” logo on their syllabi and Blackboard pages. So far this fall semester 126 faculty have been certified, and since the program’s inception in 2008, over 380 individual faculty members have been certified as green. The program has also grown beyond American University, being replicated at five other universities nation-wide.


At the center, Certified Green Faculty Member Evan Kraft (CAS-Economics) with EcoSense students Rebecca Wolf and Hannah Miller

So, what does it take to become a Certified Green Professor? Well, to contradict Kermit, the frog-–it is easy to be green! We have deliberately designed a program that is based on self-reflection and self-reporting, and that rewards faculty for the things they do to contribute to a more sustainable university, without necessary penalizing them for what they don’t do. As an example, you can qualify for a certificate even if you teach a subject that requires you to print student papers and assignments, as long as you do some other things (such as schedule your office hours on the day of the class, to reduce the number of commutes to campus that you or your students have to make) to compensate for that. To earn the basic level of the certificate – the One Apple Level – you will need 45 points out of 100. For those who are of a competitive nature, and who are setting even higher standards for themselves, we have a Two Apples, Three Apples, Four Apples, and Four Apples with a Goldstar level. We also give bonus points for measures that might be too field specific to put on the general list, for example to a music professor for recycling guitar strings, or to an art professor for using non-toxic paints.

To learn more about the Green Teaching Program, stop by our office in Hurst 204, or go to http://www.american.edu/ctrl/green.cfm.