Eco-Sense is American University’s premier organization dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability on campus, in the community, and in our students’ everyday lives through student awareness, volunteering, campus efficiency, eco-certification and political activism. We are committed to the fight against climate change by increasing awareness and understanding of the human impact on the environment, as well as conveying the idea that leading an environmentally sustainable life is in our best interest as human beings. All actions are aimed to incorporate social justice issues to create a healthy and environmentally sustainable future for all.
Our organization will achieve these objectives through campus events such as inviting speakers, showing documentaries, hosting and planning sustainable information sessions, and taking environmentally-themed off-campus trips, among others. Eco-Sense will advocate for the fall enactment of the President’s Climate Commitment and will continue to certify offices as “green” with our “Green to Green: Responsible Purchases and Practices” campaign. We will also act as a driving force for getting AU students off campus and involved in the greater movement by informing them of conferences, habitat clean-ups, rallies and protests, and other DC-wide events.
What We Do:
Over the past three years, Eco-Sense has seen a revival on campus, making it one of the most active and influential groups at American University. We have started an environmental revolution on AU’s campus with the passage of the Clean Energy Referendum in the spring of 2006, the enactment of many aspects of the 2007-2008 Bikes and Biodiesel campaign, and the ongoing eco-certification of campus offices through the “Green to Green: Responsible Purchases and Practices” campaign. We also persistently and successfully encouraged the administration to sign both the Talloires Declaration and the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Strong student support and involvement in club activities have demonstrated the student body’s devotion to environmental sustainability. Over 100 students attended our first general meeting of the 2008-2009 school year.
Eco-Sense has worked closely with local and national groups dedicated to environmental sustainability. By coordinating events, protests, and leadership trainings with Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Campus Climate Challenge, Energy Action Network, Step it Up! 2008, DC Woodlands, Power Shift 2007, and the DC Youth Environmental Alliance, Eco-Sense has been, and will continue to be, a major player in the national youth movement for a greener future.
This year, Eco-Sense will work to hold our leaders responsible for moving us into an era of clean energy and a lesser ecological footprint. This campaign will take place on both a local and national level. After President Kerwin’s signing of the President’s Climate Commitment in spring 2008, we will assist the university in writing a Climate Action Plan to ensure that this historic commitment is effectively addressed. On a national level, we took part in the Energy Action Network’s non-partisan Power Vote campaign. Our Power Vote campaign garnered over 1000 individual student pledges to make environmental issues the leading priority during the 2008 election season. The week of February 27th-March 2nd, Eco-Sense had 85 members join thousands of young people at the capitol demanding solutions to climate change from the new Congress and the new President.
At the Power Shift 2009 conference earlier this month, hundreds of D.C. youth met for an hour to discuss District-wide priorities and working together. From ending the burning of coal to modernizing the city’s combined sewer system, there was plenty to talk about.
Among the issues raised was the fact that young people in D.C. largely come from one of two backgrounds: those who vote here (or will vote here upon turning 18) – and those who vote elsewhere (the university student population). It was suggested by some that transient students are less invested in the challenges faced by the District than those who vote here, that only permanent residents understand the real problems we face.
I couldn’t disagree more. Especially in this city so troubled by racism, environmental injustices, economic disparity, etc., we simply cannot afford to further divide and marginalize.
The D.C. Youth Environmental Alliance was established nearly two years ago to bring young people in Washington, D.C. together. It hasn’t been easy. Building a community of youth that derives strength from and is representative of the city’s diversity has been an uphill battle – but one that we have no intention of conceding.
The assumption that only long-term residents of DC have a stake in what happens here only furthers the ingrained division that has made DCYEA’s vision of unity and community difficult to reach. In the end, we all breathe the same air – and want the same coal plants shut down. We drink the same water – and want the same lead service pipes removed from all communities. We share a common dream of opportunity and healthy, equitable neighborhoods.
Instead of marginalizing either camp, the locals or the transients, lets honor their different backgrounds as strengths. College students and other young transplants care deeply about achieving a sustainable city; just look to the fantastic work they’re doing to make their universities role model institutions. And of course long-term resident youth care just as much; this is where they grew up. DCYEA’s mission is to bring these two groups together, drawing on the strengths of both for the benefit of all.
Jeff Gustafson is the director of the D.C. Youth Environmental Alliance.
As Americans, we are accustomed to a surplus of clean water, food, clothes, cars, entertainment, and technologies. When we walk into a super market, we are met with a plethora of options and brands. When we step foot into a mall, we are bombarded with tons of clothes, purses, shoes, jewelry, ads, and other frivolity. We have developed an unhealthy and addictive habit of consuming mindlessly without giving much thought as to how our consuming habits effects other communities and the world around us. If America continues to depend on fossil fuels in addition to consuming thoughtlessly and taking water supplies for granted, we alone will need the equivalent of five Earths to sustain our needs. If Europe is to persist in their lifestyle and habits, three Earths will be needed to sustain them. This means that to sustain America and Europe alone, we need eight Earths. Both China and India currently only need one Earth to sustain their needs. However, these nations are swiftly catching up to our Western lifestyles and we do not have eight Earths to spare. We have one.
We’re now just days away from our first Youth Summit. This Saturday, DCYEA will welcome dozens of high school students from across the Washington, D.C. area to Sidwell Friends Middle School to launch the first environmental student network in the city’s history.
And it can’t come soon enough! Just imagine: hundreds of young people organizing their schools and revitalizing their communities, all DC schools revered for their sustainability and quality, a youth green jobs corps, an end to environmental injustice in D.C.
The DC Youth Summit is a first step toward this vision. We believe that an empowered group of youth, drawing from all communities in the District, can and will set the course toward a greener future.
And what better place to have the Summit than Sidwell Friends Middle School, one of the greenest school buildings in the world? We hope the building itself can serve a model, a vision for all DC students of what their own school buildings could be.
The Youth Summit will kickoff with two incredible speakers: Carter Robers (President of the World Wildlife Fund) and Philip O’Neal (CEO of Green DMV). Students will then have a number of workshops to choose from, covering a range of skills and topics. We’re excited to offer workshops on basic organizing, recycling, school gardens, spoken word & hip-hop, energy auditing, and more offered by the Cool Capital Challenge, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Earth Day Network, and student leaders from D.C. And aside from the free lunch, students will also get a chance to interact with a panel of young leaders already doing great work here in the District. And most importantly, a good amount of time will be spent allowing students to get to know each other.
At the end of the day, we hope to have the beginning stages of a youth network, a group equipped with the skills and tool they need to make a difference and empower their peers. Making connections with other young people that share the same passions and interests will be half the battle. Once the network is formed, high school students will be able to communicate, share best practices, help each other, and come together periodically to plan bigger and better projects and campaigns.
We would love for you to join us on March 14th! Register NOW at:
Jeff Gustafson is the director of the D.C. Youth Environmental Alliance. He started his environmental work after getting involved with a similar high school student organization in the San Francisco area.
Join The National Wildlife Federation and SustainUS to Take Action on international deforestation and fight climate change and poverty! (and maybe get some funding to do it!)
Forests are one of our best weapons in fighting global warming. Forests can either absorb carbon from the atmosphere, or if logged and damaged, forests can release carbon into the atmosphere. Right now, deforestation produces 20-25% of all global warming pollution. That’s more than the entire global transportation sector.
But that’s not all. Forests provide billions of people with clean water, food, and medicine. Over 90% of the world’s most impoverished communities are dependent on these forests. Through illegal logging and deforestation, we threaten our climate, the world’s most vulnerable communities, and our most precious and biologically diverse natural resource: the forest.
Join us to safeguard the forests and protect people. Help us run the Forest Justice campaign on your campus.
Apply now to qualify for a Forest Justice Organizer Mini-Grant of $500: Deadline has been extended to Thursday, March 12, so apply right now!
(Selected organizers may also qualify for a travel sponsorship to the UN Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark as part of the SustainUS youth delegation.)
-Deforestation accounts for nearly 25% of global emissions and the US alone consumes almost 30% of the total global wood and fiber supply.
-An estimated 60 million Indigenous Peoples are completely dependent on forests.
-The U.S. must join the international community in the fight to reduce deforestation worldwide and protect indigenous rights.
Jonathan Cohn, a junior majoring in English and History at Georgetown University, is a busy guy. He is a central member of Georgetown’s EcoAction, Ambassadors Program, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Mission Three Ethical Consulting, the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, and the D.C. Youth Environmental Alliance.
What got you to where you are today? What go you started with environmentalism?
My involvement in environmentalism began back in tenth grade of high school. My ninth grade history teacher was one of my favorite teachers, and I wanted to join one of the clubs that he ran. He was the faculty adviser for my high school’s Environmental Action Club (EAC). He had worked at the Sierra Club and had taught history at Drexel and Penn in the past as well. At the first meeting, being the type of person that I am, I signed up on all of the sheets for committees, one of which was the recycling committee–which a junior was just starting that year. For recycling, we met every Wednesday to collect all the paper from the bins across the school. The program evolved a lot over the years—from not having gloves to having gloves then to the bins (gasp!) actually having lids (thanks to the math department’s initial endeavors). Through this club, I made some close friends and became much more actively involved and aware of the issues surrounding the club. When I came to Georgetown, one of the first clubs I sought out was the environmental club, and I am happy I did so!
Describe your work at GU and beyond:
My commitment to environmental causes manages to filter its way into many parts of my experience inside and outside of college. Through EcoAction, I have led Georgetown’s efforts in Recyclemania, coordinated panels and speaker events, helped run fundraisers, worked on lobbying and awareness campaigns, and have worked with our dining hall to help make it more green, including an effort to reduce the use of plastic bags. I also serve as a chair on the board of Mission Three Ethical Consulting, a recently formed student-run CSR consulting firm on campus. I also serve as a sustainability program associate with the Sustainable Business Network of Washington, where I help with grant inquiries, networking events, and research. Moreover, I have a concentration in environmental history, complementing action with historical and cultural knowledge.
What keeps you motivated?
I am a perfectionist at heart, and I am also incredibly persistent. I was raised not to give up because, with a little more hard work and a drop of patience, you can see the results of your efforts even in the most daunting of tasks. I find that the environmental concerns facing our country and our globe deserve far more attention than they get in the media, and one goal I have for the future is to be able to see the environmental movement root itself in the concepts of American ideals (from moral leadership to work ethic to a powerful balance of individualism and duty to community) that have fueled so many successful nation-wide efforts in the past.
Power Shift 2009 is over. The tidal wave of 12,000 youth converging for clean energy, climate justice, and green jobs has now settled back across the country. Left in its wake are hundreds of inspired, passionate, and organized young people right here in Washington, D.C ready to kick some serious climate ass.
This will be the year of DCYEA, the year that young people come together and bring the clean energy revolution to Washington. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, so let’s get to it!
In early April, DCYEA will convene a major organizing summit of local youth. We’ll be setting policy priorities, discussing strategy, and launching the largest environmental youth movement in the city’s history.
In the mean time, our movement will take an exciting step forward on March 14th at the DCYEA Youth Summit, which will bring together over 100 high school students from across the District for a day of speakers, workshops, and discussions that will give birth to the first environment high school student-led network in the city’s history. With speakers ranging from World Wildlife Fund CEO Carter Roberts to Green DMV CEO Philip O’Neil – and workshops offered by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earth Day Network, Sierra Student Coalition, Campus Progress, GreeNewIt, local farmers and students, and more – students will be given the tools they need to make their schools and communities green. If you’re a high school student or know anyone who would like to participate, simply register at http://dcyea.org/dcyeahigh-school. It’s free!
As youth living in our nation’s capitol, DCYEA members have the opportunity to truly stay in tune to how national legislation impacts the greater country. With this in mind, let’s consider the enormous stimulus package that was agreed on by both houses of Congress three weeks ago. In effect, it could be the most impactful environmental legislation ever passed.
The bill authorizes billions to be spent on creating a new green economy, including $18.5 billion for renewable energy programs. In the past, the federal government offered a tax incentive per kilowatt hour of renewable energy produced (by wind/solar farms, biodiesel plants, etc), but now the stimulus enables the Department of Energy to offer grants to renewable energy start-ups of up to 30% of the project’s cost. This funding is an INCREDIBLE incentive to start green energy programs immediately.
A pessimist might say that despite this new federal grant incentive, entrepreneurs will have an impossible time finding investors in our troubled economy. Never fear, because the federal government also authorized $8 billion for loan guarantees in energy efficiency/ green energy projects, so venture capitalists and other investors shouldn’t be overly shy about the green energy industry.
Behold the Capitol Power Plant.
Though largely hidden from the monumental core of the city, the plant is only three blocks south of the Capitol Building. When seen from New Jersey Avenue, the plant’s two rust-colored smoke stacks line up perfectly with the majestic Capitol dome, marring the skyline. More insidious, the plant emits roughly 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, not to mention an assortment of air pollutants that plague the health of District residents.