MU proposal chosen for national environment project

Colorado group offers grant money toward sustainability efforts.

The Rocky Mountain Institute invited three MU students to participate in its Accelerating Campus Climate Change Initiatives project this spring

The award could mean up to $50,000 in grant money toward a project to streamline the school's environmental groups.

Sustain Mizzou President Pat Margherio, Student Energy Conservation Society President Jason Fox and Ben Datema, a member of the Student Environmental Affairs Committee, were co-authors of the proposal. The proposal looks to RMI to help connect the patchwork of all the environmental groups on the MU campus behind a single unified message of conservation, Margherio said.

"There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good things here," he said.

Colorado-based RMI, a non-profit organization that helps corporations and universities reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by increasing energy efficiency, solicited proposals from college environmental groups in August and selected 12 of the 46 proposal teams for its workshop.

Schools were not selected based on whether their programs were already working or even viable, according to RMI's Web site. Instead, some failed projects were invited so the students can study the obstacles that prevent environmental efforts on some campuses. The seminars will try to solve these problems through collaboration with RMI, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and each other, said Sally DeLeon, a research and consulting fellow at RMI and the head of its Built Environment team.

"We'll try and learn about what some of the challenges are on each campus," she said. "It's a chance for students to work with RMI and each other to find solutions that will allow them to accelerate their climate change initiatives."

The next step, DeLeon said, is for schools to accept the invitation. So far three schools have confirmed their participation: Colorado State University, Luther College and Furman University. RMI will visit each campus for 2-3 days between now and the end of November to evaluate the energy conservation initiatives in place on each campus and gather material for the workshops.

In February or March, the student representatives from each campus, along with members of each school's administration and facilities teams, will travel to a central location where RMI and AASHE will review the findings from the campus visits and give the teams advice for improving their project and working with other schools. Datema said the presence of university staff is central to improving energy conservation at MU.

"I'm really looking forward to getting their input and having them bridge the gap and get the support of the administration," Datema said.

After the workshop and further consulting by RMI and AASHE, the groups will submit another proposal for seed funding toward the beginning of additional projects on their respective campuses. The projects will then be featured in a joint digital report by RMI and AASHE as case studies showing the efforts and results of programs put in place by some of the schools.

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