3 Glorious Green Grand Openings to Celebrate in Chicago

3 Glorious Green Grand Openings to Celebrate in Chicago

Three more reasons why Chicago is the greenest city! The following eagerly anticipated, eco-inspired projects are coming to fruition in the next few months. Soon enough you will enjoy firsthand.


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The 606

Similar to NYC’s High Line, Chicago is about to unveil it’s lush new park and trail system that has been in the making for over a decade. The 606, an innovative park system on the northwest side has been referred to as a charm bracelet – with the 2.7 mile Bloomingdale Trail along an elevated, unused rail line connected to six ground-level neighborhood parks, a wheel-friendly event plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming, and other amenities. Bikers, runners and walkers will enjoy this multi-use recreational trail and park system that serves as an alternative transportation corridor for the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. 20 new acres of spectacular green space have been added in one of the city’s most park-poor neighborhoods for all Chicagoans and visitors to enjoy. This transformational project broke ground in August 2013 thanks to public-private funding spearheaded by the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, The Trust for Public Land and the Chicago Park District. Aptly, the 606 opens on 6-06-15 with a weekend of festivities. Join me for a sneak peak the night before at the Above the Rails Inaugural Gala, which promises to be magical evening.



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Local Foods

Great news for Chicago’s top chefs and everyday consumers searching for the best Midwest grown food. Local Foods will soon open its new massive state-of-the-art retail and wholesale distribution facility in Bucktown at 1427 W. Willow. Founded in 2013 with a passion to make good food more accessible, Chicago’s premier food local hub is the first to strictly supply products from the finest Midwest farmers to consumers, grocers, institutions, and more than 150 of the city’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurants. The 27,000 square foot facility will include a bustling distribution center and 3,000 square foot public market and butcher shop, operated by the renowned The Butcher & Larder. An abundance of local farm fare will be available year round, including meat, dairy, eggs, produce (greenhouse and cold storage crops duirng the winter), and preserved and dry goods. Following their “know your source” motto, everything is carefully selected from producers who implement sustainable and environmental farming practices. Consumers will find more than top chef ingredients. Earlier this year during a tour, founder Andrew Lutsey highlighted the cafe and event space, and stressed that guest chefs, classes and demonstrations will further connect people to good food. Like-minded partners will also occupy the facility, such as Hand-Cut Foods, a premium food service provider. The Grand Opening is anticipated this July.



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Method Factory

While most people are fond of Method for their natural, non-toxic cleaners, Chicagoans will have an even deeper appreciation thanks to their new ultra-green $30 million factory in Pullman. Not only does it represent the company’s eco-ethic, it models mindful manufacturing for the 21 century. The “South Side Soapbox” sits on a rehabilitated brownfield and features a 230-foot wind turbine, solar tracking trees and energy efficiency innovations to cut the factory’s energy use by more than 50%. A 75,000-square-foot, pesticide-free rooftop garden operated by Gotham Greens will provide an estimated 100,000 pounds of fresh produce each year for the local community, and the surrounding retail and restaurant market. In addition, recycled and locally sourced building materials, zero-landfill factory protocols, water conservation and other measures aim to make this the first LEED Platinum manufacturing facility in its industry. Method strategically chose the historic Pullman community famously founded on principles to improve the quality of life for working families in the late 19th century, and recently designated as a National Monument by President Obama. The factory will create good manufacturing job to positively benefit the community. Learn more in William McDonough & Partners’ project review. I’m looking forward to attending the grand opening on April 28. Soon public tours will be available.

12* Powerful Climate Allies that GOP Denier Leaders Can’t Ignore

12* Powerful Climate Allies that GOP Denier Leaders Can’t Ignore

After my son submitted his college applications a few weeks ago, he confessed not getting into his top choice school would be the “ultimate dreamcrusher.” That aptly sums up the dread I started to feel following last week’s election. After working on climate change solutions for over 8 years, we are finally beginning to take meaningful steps to curb this epic global challenge. I want my kids and others to have every opportunity to follow their dreams in the world we leave them.  Now with the Republican controlled legislature, critical environmental gains are at stake – surely an unintended consequence. Republicans and the mighty fossil fuel industry are eager to gut environmental protections, especially the EPA’s Clean Power Plan that will set standards on carbon pollution for the power sector. A host of climate deniers will now head up our nation’s environment and science committees. For example, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma will likely chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. In case you missed it, he authored the 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.  Not surprisingly, his campaign has raised over $400,000 in the past  five years from the oil and gas industry.




Based on environmental, economic, national security and perhaps moral rationale, President Obama has embraced gamechanging climate solutions.  And it’s clear that Americans support these actions – they want to cut greenhouse gases and increase renewable energy.  Even in this past wave election, a majority of voters in exit polls agreed that climate change is a serious problem. Environmental health and protection should not be a partisan issue – we all share the same earth.  Although anti-science leaders would like to reverse progress, there’s still hope. Climate action has been gaining momentum and powerful allies are increasingly making the case to cut carbon. And I’m not just talking about a bunch of granola-eating, tree-huggers.  Let me remind you of the diverse coalition that is calling for climate action:



1. Actual scientists are our side

The Republican refrain “I’m not a scientist” as an excuse for denying science is wearing thin. Perhaps we should heed the advice of actual scientific consensus?  This month, International Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report was released that reviews the mounting evidence, the devastating impacts and ways we must mitigate climate change. “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message,” stated United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Leaders must act, time is not on our side.”


 Watch Steven Colbert’s brilliant anti-climate science spoof here.

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2. Prominent business leaders, including Republicans, are on our side

Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer teamed up for the Risky Business report released in June. It quantified the adverse economic risks from a changing climate. I attended a talk with Paulson in October, where he stressed climate change inaction will costs the U.S. billions while there is tremendous upside to following a clean energy pathway. The insurance industry understands that climate change could lead to losses on a scale never before experienced. According to a study by Munich Re, extreme weather events (such as prolonged droughts, hurricanes, floods, and severe storms) led to $510 billion in insured losses from 1980 to 2011. Experts predict climate change will continue to intensify the frequency and severity of these weather related events.

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3. The military is on our side

In the strongest language ever used by the the U.S. Department of Defense, last month they reported “Climate change will affect the ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to US national security.” Their 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap addresses climate change risks from natural disasters to infectious disease to terrorism. Every branch of the military is already working to meet clean energy goals.


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4. The world’s religious leaders are on our side

I recently attended a multi-faith climate service at St. John’s Divine in New York with 1,200 people from every tradition. Religious leaders from Greenland to the Philippines and Africa to the Sioux Nation – all spoke of their united commitment and the moral obligation to protect creation and humanity. Natural disasters, flooding, droughts, hunger, disease and displacement are already afflicting the world’s most vulnerable – first and worst. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have come out in support of the new carbon rules, and Pope Frances is expected to soon issue a statement calling for the Catholic church to step up measures to curb climate change. He recently noted that environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have… I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”


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5. Corporate leaders are joining our side

Companies are finally dumping climate-denying, anti-clean energy mongers. In the past few months, there has been a mass exodus from the right wing lobby group ALEC by tech companies. ALEC attempted to roll back renewable portfolio standards in states across the country, which succeeded in Ohio. Even Occidental, the fourth largest oil & gas company, ditched ALEC along with 90 other companies including General Motors, Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, and Bank of America.


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6. Citizens are on our side

In September, I joined the People’s Climate March in New York with 400,000 others – the largest climate mobilization in history. It was so big, it actually took over two hours for our section to start moving, with 10 more blocks of people behind us.  See some of my favorite protest signs here.  Pretty much every age, race, and region showed up to send a strong message to our leaders and members attending the United Nations Climate Summit. These leaders will need to cooperate over the next year to reach an ambitious international climate agreement in Paris in 2015. The U.S. must take bold action for the world to follow.


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7. Next gen leaders & universities are on our side

Students are eager to tackle climate change, especially since they will inherit the worst impacts.  And they are keenly aware that this environmental threat also presents vast economic opportunities.  This rising interest has fueled a national green campus movement.  As of today, 673 colleges are now members of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, launched to transform practices and curriculum in higher ed.  Another 685 college presidents signed a climate commitment, pledging to zero out greenhouse-gas emissions and boost climate education and research efforts.  Through green campus operations, research , academics an community engagement, higher ed is developing environmentally literate consumers, citizens, innovators and collaborators.  Students are pressuring their schools to profit without endangering their future with over 400 Fossil Free divestment campaigns on campuses across the nation. An estimated 50,000 students from 400 campuses also took part in the People’s Climate March.


Image from the Princeton Review's Guide to 332 Green Colleges

Image from the Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges




8.  Investors are joining our side 

The day after the People’s Climate March, I attended the Divest Invest press conference. There it was announced that over 800 institutions and individuals have pledged to divest $50 billion in holdings and reinvest in renewable energy and sustainable economic development. Divest Invest plans to double this number by Paris 2015.  These efforts are leading to new fossil-free funds, such as the new index by Black Rock, FTSE & NRDC. At the same conference, Stephen Heintz, the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, made the bombshell announcement they, too, were divesting. He explained their oil-derived wealth gives them a special urgency and moral responsibility to do so. He added that John D. Rockefeller saw petroleum as a way to transform the world’s economy from whale oil and is convinced that if he were alive today, as a visionary businessman, he would be leading the charge to get us to a clean energy economy.


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9. Job creators are on our side

Solar, wind, energy efficiency, advanced manufacturing,  alternative transportation, green building, climate mitigation, sustainability – this is where good, clean, 21st century jobs will continue to be. The clean energy industry is a significant employer and an economic engine in our state and the United States. In Illinois, around 100,000 workers are now employed in this industry, which is more than the size of the accounting and real estate sectors combined. And this industry has tremendous potential for continued growth. According to the new Green Growth Report, investment needed to stabilize our climate could create an overall 4.2 million jobs in the US. We must innovate, progress and expand this crucial industry and workforce. There’s no turning back and these industries are organizing to expand.

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1o. Sports teams and leagues are on our side

In 2013,  the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, and National Football League, as well as the United States Olympic Committee, addressed a Bicameral Task Force on their efforts to curb climate change.  Each of these organizations is awake to the threats of carbon pollution, and they are acting.  To learn more about how some of the biggest games in professional sports are going green, see NRDC’s report Game Changer: How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment. I even attended the NASCAR Green Summit with Al Gore and General Wesley Clark in 2013.


The Superbowl is embracing cleaner energy options. This February's game at the University of Phoenix stadium will be the first ever NFL game exclusively lit by LED stadium lighting. These advanced lights can reduce energy by 76%. Plus the fast on–off switch would have prevented the 34 minute blackout experienced in the 2013 game, since the old metal halide fixtures take over 20 minutes to warm up.  Pres. George Bush's ban on incandescent lightbulbs has allowed the advanced lighting industry to flourish.

The Superbowl is embracing clean energy options. This February’s game at the University of Phoenix stadium will be the first ever NFL game exclusively lit by LED stadium lighting. These advanced lights can reduce energy by 76%. Plus the fast on–off switch would have prevented the 34 minute blackout experienced in the 2013 game, since the old metal halide fixtures take over 20 minutes to warm up. Pres. George Bush’s ban on incandescent lightbulbs has allowed the advanced lighting industry to flourish and consumers to save big. Image from sportstechie.net




11. Late night comedy is on our side

Interestingly, some of the best and most reliable media coverage on climate issues has been coming from late night comedy.  Thanks, Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Seth Meyers and others for shining a light on this important issue that affects us all.  Stay tuned, sadly we may now need comedy more than ever.  Didn’t Carol Burnett once speak of the thin line between comedy and tragedy?


Click the arrow below to see Seth Meyer’s funny, sobering feature – Climate Change: How They Reported it. Other video clips available here.





12.  Public interest groups are on our side

A host of environmental, public health, social justice and other groups – that represent millions of members – are working hard to safeguard people, the planet and our economy.  They are up against the mega-funded fossil fuel industry, that now holds outsized sway with our legislators.   NRDC, Sierra Club350.org and ELPC are a few of our most effective advocates for climate policy and clean energy solutions. Please give them your attention and support.


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* As an extra bonus – China is now on our side

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping – heading up the two largest carbon polluting nations – just this week reached a historic climate change deal and have vowed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.




Upward on onward!

Announcing the Hanley Sustainability Institute

Announcing the Hanley Sustainability Institute

Anyone remember seeing this movie, Wall Street, in the late ‘80s?  I saw it as a junior in college. Back then, my professors didn’t have a clue. About sustainability that is, the word didn’t yet exist. As a business student at Northern Illinois University, I remember watching this movie in a crowded lecture hall. Many of my Reagan-era peers were captivated by the powerful investor Gordon Gecco – that won Michael Douglas an Oscar. Meanwhile, my preoccupation with environmental protection and corporate social responsibility made me an outlier. I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, but the academic offerings didn’t quite match my aspirations. Lucky for me, my path took off outside of the classroom, helping manage the student-run recycling center and landing an internship that started my career as an environmental consultant. For most students, however, there were few roads to eco-stewardship through higher learning.


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Times have changed. Twenty years later, another Oscar winning film came out. Like Al Gore or not, An Inconvenient Truth raised international awareness about climate change. This movie inspired my environmental activism and philanthropy, and became a critical turning point for the sustainability movement in higher education.


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Students today are eager to creatively solve the world’s most pressing problems from climate change to poverty. This generation seeks holistic solutions that promote economic gain, environmental protection and social equity. And they are keenly aware that environmental threats also present vast economic opportunities. This rising interest has fueled a national green campus movement. In 2006, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education  (AASHE) was launched to transform practices and curriculum in higher ed and now 673 colleges are members. Since 2006, 685 college presidents signed a climate commitment, pledging to zero out greenhouse-gas emissions and boost climate education and research efforts. It’s now common for colleges to have sustainability plans and coordinators steering these efforts. They spotlight their green credentials to attract students and now college guides include green ratings. For example, The Princeton Review presents the top green colleges. This has all happened in just eight years – imagine what can happen in the next 8 years.


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Yet we still have work to do.  As someone actively engaged in environmental advocacy and philanthropy, I decided to head back to school and sharpen my sustainability skill set a few years ago. So I entered the prestigious Northwestern University. And, now, I am a certified grad school drop out.  I’m actually a good student. The problem was academic barriers stood in my way. While Northwestern offers solid coursework on public policy, social entrepreneurship, environmental science, journalism and so on, I could not pursue this combination in my fixed program. So I lost interest. The reality is, for many students today, sustainability education is out of reach. Too often it’s compartmentalized by science, engineering or law – with no crossing allowed.  As Joel Makower’s recent op-ed points out, graduate programs are not keeping pace with student interest.



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This isn’t how it should be. Gamechanging environmental solutions will require unprecedented collaboration across all disciplines and sectors. The world needs more broad-based sustainability webs, and fewer isolated silos and detached students. We need to better equip future leaders of every stripe to work together in tackling climate change and other global challenges.


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Over the years, I’ve become familiar with the University of Dayton’s forward vision and commitment to sustainability, rooted in its Catholic and Marianist traditions of stewardship and social justice. My husband, George, is a proud alum and trustee. Born out of my frustration and his history with the university, we’ve come together to create the Hanley Sustainability Institute. This hub will weave together and enhance interdisciplinary sustainability education across the campus. Our greatest hope is more colleges will follow this integrated approach that allows every student to better understand the interconnection of energy, the environment, the economy and social well-being. Let me review how the Hanley Institute intends to make a deeper impact.





When it comes to academics, cross-disciplinary curricula will be paramount to the Hanley Institute. UD currently offers a variety of courses, minors, undergraduate and graduate degrees that relate to sustainability.  As examples, I’d like to introduce some UD students. Nate is a business major and minor in Sustainability, Energy and Environment, otherwise known as the SEE minor. Currently every student can take this minor regardless of their major – and is now the largest most popular minor at UD. For a career, Nate plans to focus on operations and supply chain strategy with sustainability in mind. Right now he’s working with a team that includes biology major and an engineering major on an aquaponic urban farm project. Alex is a graduate student in the popular Renewable and Clean Energy master program, where demand is 3x more than enrollment, attracting students from around the word including 4 Fullbright scholars. She’s working on the Industrial Assessment Center team and helping perform industrial energy audits.  Mackenzie is an International Studies major and SEE minor. She’s interested in how environmental issues impact human rights and plans to join the Peace Corps after graduating. Many more bright, engaged students are in the pipeline. The Institute will develop new sustainability undergraduate and graduate degrees which will connect across departments. It will also fund endowed faculty, scholars in residence and research fellows.  It will also host a biennial conference on sustainability education to convene thought leaders.


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As a a top-tier research university – faculty, students and corporate partners are collaborating on a variety of clean energy projects. For example, the UD’s Research Institute has been studying algae and algae-growing systems for pollution control and biofuels since 2009 with funding from the Air Force.  Emerson Climate Technologies will open a new $35 million innovation center on campus late next year to research increased energy efficiency and sustainability in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry. UD also dominates energy efficiency research. They are a Department of Energy Industrial Assessment Center that has conducted over 1,000 energy audits with small to medium manufacturers. The center has saved Ohio industry an estimated $500 million over the past 15 years.  Building off that, they are successfully developing large-scale energy efficiency assessment tools.


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When it comes to sustainability, students are learning by doing. Typical UD students participate with multiple internships and service learning projects. Through this outreach, they are plugging their sustainable knowledge into systems in the surrounding region. As examples, River Institute volunteers teach urban school kids about local ecology. Coming soon, the Hanley Institute will launch an urban agriculture project with local partners. UD’s ETHOS program has worked on humanitarian projects with partners around the world. For example, engineering students helped build solar ovens with a women-run business in a Nicaragua. The University of Dayton China Institute opened in 2012 in the Suzhou Industrial Park. Faculty and students work with Chinese companies to integrate energy efficient manufacturing and environmental design


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Finally, the Hanley Sustainability Institute will work to demonstrate best sustainability practices throughout campus operations. The University of Dayton has attained a Silver AASHE rating and is listed in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges in recognition of their efforts to date.  Examples include retrofitting lighting and HVAC (that has saved over $600,000), constructing new LEED buildings, composting dining hall waste, supplying bikes to avoid cars, installing an electric vehicle charging station, and divesting it’s endowment from fossil fuels.  Students are sent utility report cards of gas and electric use with tips to conserve energy. It works, this has saved UD $50,000 a year. A student-led sustainability club is also quite active, they just hosted a whole week of talks and workshops for students and the wider Dayton community.  The Institute will spur further initiatives to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and achieve Gold AASHE status. A new innovation fund will support continued improvements, primarily through student-initiated projects.


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Universities have a tremendous role to play in advancing the sustainability movement, driving innovation and practicing stewardship at a deeper level.  Students are seeking green opportunities to learn, lead and serve. My dream is that sustainability education will soar on every campus, permeate every discipline, engage every faculty member, and imprint every student. We hope the Hanley Sustainability Institute will become a prototype for higher education, inspiring other universities to extend sustainability across the curriculum, campus culture and community networks. Beyond preparing graduates for a wide range of careers, this full spectrum learning will accelerate critically needed environmental and social solutions.



. . .


This post is an expert from a keynote speech I gave to the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy on November 6.  See the full Ohio Higher Ed: Pushing the Advanced Energy Envelope powerpoint here.

MAYDAY, MAYDAY – Democracy Calling

MAYDAY, MAYDAY – Democracy Calling



Last month, my friend Carla Young and I were blown away by the amazing Larry Lessig at the Kellogg Innovation Network’s (KIN) Change @ Scale forum. Another friend Stephanie Wolcott, who’s involved with KIN, had earlier told me his talk was a must-see. She was right. He’s a Harvard professor passionately committed to saving our democracy through Campaign Finance Reform. Clearly, money in politics has broken our government. A new Princeton and Northwestern study found: “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” So if you aren’t one of the Koch brothers, your opinion doesn’t count? Lessig created Mayday.US so one day soon elected officials will answer to us, not the elite few.


The idea is to create a super PAC to kill super PACs.  In May, the Mayday PAC set a goal of raising $1 million dollars through crowdfunding. They surpassed that goal in two weeks and secured a match from individual donors, totaling over $2 million in Stage One. Now, they’ve set an ambitious goal to raise a total of $5 million by July 4. And if they meet that goal, they’ll get it matched, for a total of $12 million raised. That will allow them to execute the first part of their plan to elect a congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016.  They will only keep pledged money if they reach their goal.


Today, which happens to be Independance Day, is the last day left to pledge. So far the Mayday PAC has received over 31,500 pledges and $3.6 million.  No matter your party affiliation or issue, I hope you too will join this important crowdfunded effort to reclaim our republic.


Learn more about Larry Lessig and Mayday PAC with Newsweek’s Mayday PAC: The Super PAC Built to Destroy Super PACs,Upworthy’s A Brilliant Plan to Give Billionaires a Taste of Their Own Medicine, and The  Washington Post’s How to Use a Super PAC to Kill Super PACs. Also see Lessig on VOX with Ezra Klein and TED2013 We the People, and the Republic We Must Reclaim







My friend Carla was so moved by Larry Lessig, she contacted him and he came back to Chicagoland to speak to a large group at her home. His compelling, heartfelt talk was enthusiastically received.






**UPDATE! With 9 hours left to go, the Mayday PAC reached it’s goal on July 4th! By day’s end, 49,966 people contributed $5,161,014 to fight corruption! With 123 days left until election day – now onto meaningful campaign finance reform…


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Divestment at Catholic Universities a Climate Gamechanger?

Divestment at Catholic Universities a Climate Gamechanger?

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Last week, the University of Dayton (UD) announced they will divest fossil fuels from their $670 million endowment – the first Catholic university in the nation to do so. Carbon Tracker 200 and “Filthy 15” corporations will be phased out, and investments in sustainable and clean energy firms will increase.


Naysayers claim divestment won’t work. But I’m hopeful, along with many others, that it will, and, with good reason.


The momentum for fossil fuel divestment is building. Since May, Stanford University divested from coal and Union Theological Seminary divested from fossil fuels, joining many other universities, religious institutions, foundations and municipalities. These efforts have been prompted by campaigns including 350.org’s Fossil FreeGreenFaith’s Divest and Reinvest Now and Divest Invest Philanthropy.


The frightening facts serve as motivation. At the Do the Math Chicago tour stop in November 2012, where I first learned about fossil fuel divestment, Bill McKibben outlined how 80% of global coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground to avert catastrophic climate change. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is funding climate denial, refusing to advance clean alternatives and blocking climate policy. The divestment movement aims to shake the entrenched interests and move forward meaningful solutions.


Powerful allies, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have added a persuasive voice of support. “We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet,” said Tutu in a recent op-ed. “We must stop climate change. And we can, if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters.” Nelson Mandela acknowledged the University of California’s $3 billion divestment played a significant role in ending apartheid.


At UD, the Board of Trustees’ unanimous decision to divest was mission based, reflecting the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human rights and its religious mission. Following Catholic Marianist values of leadership and service to humanity, UD’s President Daniel Curran asserted in the press announcement, “We cannot and will not ignore the negative consequences of climate change and a warming earth, which disproportionately impacts the world’s most vulnerable people, but hurts us all.”


Catholic universities are uniquely positioned to make an enormous impact because of their moral mission and sheer size. There are 196 Catholic universities and colleges crisscrossing the country. These schools represent millions of students and alumni, and untold billions of dollars in endowment assets. The University of Notre Dame’s endowment is over $8 billion alone. Imagine the sea-change if all these universities banded together to divest? While there is no official Catholic position on divestment, Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, applauded UD’s leadership and added, “This is a complex issue, but Catholic higher education was founded to examine culture and find ways to advance the common good. Here is one way to lead as a good steward of God’s creation.”


Stewardship of the earth is a Catholic teaching. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has acknowledged that human activity is contributing to global climate change, and stated, “Significant levels of scientific consensus…justifies, indeed can obligate, our taking action intended to avert potential dangers.” Along these lines, last month USCCB urged the EPA to set carbon pollution rules for existing power plants, noting, “wise action to address climate change is required now to protect the common good for present and future generations.”


Mindful of stewardship, widespread student interest, and expanding clean energy economic opportunities, UD has comprehensively integrated sustainability. Silver Star efforts include reducing the campus’s carbon footprint, offering studies in Sustainability and Renewable Energy to prepare nextgen leaders, and conductingleading research on fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. Sustainability has become a priority at most Catholic universities (Loyola Chicago may be one of the nation’s greenest schools) and divestment is a fitting component.


Respecting human life, particularly the poor and vulnerable, are other Catholic teachings that make these schools ripe for action. As witnessed by the Catholic Relief Services, climate change is causing destruction and human suffering around the world from heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires, extreme weather calamities, infectious disease and conflicts over dwindling resources, which disproportionately affect the poor. Catholic colleges are preparing students to promote human dignity and social justice. UD has actually pioneered the nation’s first human rights studies program, and recently opened a Human Rights Center, joining others found at Boston College, DePaul, Notre Dame and Georgetown.


The consideration of compelling human and moral factors, beyond maximizing profit, is already an investment practice at Catholic universities. Investment policies may restrict objectionable companies from investment portfolios regardless of financial attributes. With screens ranging from adult entertainment to tobacco, socially responsible standards may also restrict fossil fuels.


One of the biggest claims against divestment is that endowments will be doomed without fossil fuels. Not true. Fiduciary duties can be fulfilled with values-based investing. After a year long process and analysis with numerous investment consultants, UD’s investment committee concluded that divesting from fossil fuels is unlikely to harm the endowment. This assessment of risk and performance has been backed by multiple reports. It’s also prudent to protect portfolios from the underpriced risk of stranded carbon assets.


Until recently, it hasn’t been easy for institutions to exclude fossil fuel stocks from mutual funds and indexes. For instance, 8% of the S&P 500 consists of Carbon Tracker 200 companies. Fortunately, the market is responding to demand. New fossil-free investment services and products have emerged, such as AperioTrilium,Impax and BlackRock/NRDC/FTSE. Smart, creative, mission-focused managers can grow fossil free endowments. If you question whether divestment makes financial sense, check out this must-see Bill Moyers interview, for fuller discourse.


With climate change directly impacting the future of students, it’s no surprise that Fossil Free campaigns have been organized at 300 universities across the nation. Catholic universities include Notre Dame, DePaul, Georgetown, Fordham, Villanova, Spring Hill, Tulane, Gonzaga, Santa Clara, and others. Students, faculty and alumni are seeking leadership.


Catholic teachings have already laid the groundwork for taking climate action. We simply cannot continue business as usual. Burning fossil fuels with reckless abandon will devastate creation and humanity. The bottom line Catholic universities must wrestle with is this: are their investments observing or undermining the Catholic mission? Far more important gains are at stake. A divestment wave among Catholic colleges could spark powerful change. Ideally, UD’s breakthrough decision will reinvigorate the dialogue in Catholic higher education and serve as roadmap helping others follow suit.



Amanda Hanley is co-Director of the Hanley Family Foundation. Her husband, George Hanley, serves as a Trustee of the University of Dayton.   Originally posted on the Huffington Post here.

Green Women Get Social



Forty sustainable sisters from across the North Shore socialized, “burgerfied” and discovered Make It Better’s green roots.


Let me back up a bit. After a successful North Shore women’s environmental event in November 2012, I came together with a group of women from Evanston to Highland Park to create North Shore Green Women(NSGW). As a result, we’ve organized several local gatherings each year to connect a mix of female professionals, entrepreneurs, activists and volunteers working to make the world a greener place. Mostly, they are fun nights out chatting with like-minded women over a glass of wine and bite to eat. As an added attraction, we meet at nearby women-powered green businesses and organizations to showcase their efforts. Past hosts include Artisanal, a locally sourced, organic and specialty foods grocery in Wilmette; Sweet Dreams, an organic bakery and cafe in Glenview; andMighty Nest, an online store of safe, non-toxic products in Evanston.


On June 25, we will meet again at Found Kitchen & Social House in Evanston. The events are cross-promoted with our companion group, Chicago Women in Green. Combined membership exceeds over 1,000 eco-fabulous ladies in Chicagoland.


Our May host, Susan Noyes, Founder and Publisher of Make It Better, briefly shared some thoughts on women’s important role in bettering our communities. She started off by giving NSGW co-founder Beth Drucker a huge hug of gratitude. That same night marked the seven-year anniversary of Make It Better’s launch at a Go Green Wilmette event, an organization that Drucker leads.


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An introduction to “burgerfication” was another highlight of the evening. The popular newBurgerFi chain recently opened their first Illinois restaurant at 1735 Milwaukee Ave. in Glenview. They generously provided all-natural, antibiotic- and hormone-free Angus burgers and vegetarian quinoa burgers, which we happily gobbled up. Beyond healthier, tasty food, manager Kyle Bauman noted the restaurant’s eco-design, which includes chairs made from recycled Coke bottles, tables made out of compressed recycled wood, and large fans that use 66 percent less electricity.


In addition to green members and spaces, we also attempt to make NSGW events “zero waste” through choosing reusables, recycling and composting. Guests encounter an orange bucket fromCollective Resource to discard food waste and compostable servingware, as composting services are provided by NSGW co-organizer Mary Beth Schaye.


NSGW gatherings offer women a friendly opportunity to expand their green networks, learn more about local initiatives, and nurture collaboration in the environmental community. Northbrook resident Jennifer Amdur Spitz, co-producer of the film ”Food Patriots,” sums up why she attends, “I’m inspired meeting a range of smart, passionate, engaged women leaning in to improve our environment.”


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If you would like to learn more about events, or become a future host, connect with NSGW’s Facebook page.



Upcoming Events:

Join North Shore Green Women at Found in Evanston on Wednesday, June 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m., space is limited, register here.


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Written by Amanda Hanley, co-Founder of North SHore Green WOmen, Orginally posted with Make It Better here.

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