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FAMU Making Strides on Saving Energy and Saving Money

Energy conservation is one of the most impactful energy investments one can make—it has no carbon footprint or geopolitical consequence, and once efficiency investments are made, they will continue to pay off for years into the future. Recognizing all these advantages, Florida A&M is continuing with several major energy conservation initiatives and embarking on additional new ones. As a result of recent efforts, the university has cut its utility bill by approximately $1 million over the past year. A lower utility bill increases financial sustainability for the university and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. These are “double whammy” benefits of environmental and economic sustainability.

In December 2014, FAMU became the first university in Florida to join the Better Building Challenge sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Through this effort, FAMU committed to reducing energy use campus-wide by 20 percent within 10 years. As part of the commitment, a showcase building on campus will be chosen as a demonstration site for implementation of energy reduction measures.

The Better Building Challenge follows an ongoing major program to implement improvements in systems that heat, cool, and light the campus buildings and outdoor areas. The most apparent upgrade was campus-wide replacement of conventional lamps and ballasts with high-efficiency bulbs. Other changes that reaped big efficiency rewards are not visible to the general public—these include replacement of equipment used in the campus centralized plant and the piping that carries steam to buildings.

This first wave of energy efficiency investments is part of a guaranteed energy savings performance contract with the Siemens Corporation. The agreement guarantees savings as a result of actions taken from an energy audit conducted at the outset of the program. The audit identified the most profitable first steps for investments in energy efficiency. Ideally, as the program reduces utility expenses, dollars can be freed up to implement even more efficiency projects for further savings.         

OutsideEnergyPlantThe university’s Facilities division, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute, is working on an energy master plan to identify the remaining opportunities to save money and reduce environmental impacts. This energy master plan will be devised side-by-side with a wider campus effort to create a Sustainability Action Plan for FAMU. The effort will engage faculty, staff, and students in forging recommendations for saving resources and money, promoting well-being of members of the campus community, and growing a green economy, among other goals that follow the sustainability “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and profit.

Addressing the challenges of saving energy crosses into another important and challenging element—changing human behavior and habits. Considering the carbon footprint of commuting is a good illustration—it will take a combination of behavior change and enhancement of alternative transportation options to bring about the desired reduction in vehicle fuel usage.

FAMU recognizes that it takes a combination of technological improvements and human ingenuity to bring about sustainability, in essence a better way of living in the 21st century. The creativity of faculty, staff, and students are FAMU’s greatest energy source, and these will be harnessed to craft a strategic plan forward.

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FAMU Hosts Vice Chancellor from Leading Indian Agricultural University

Dr. N. C. Patel, vice chancellor of Anand Agricultural University, Gujarat, India, spent a day at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University meeting with deans, faculty, and officials to discuss how the two universities can collaborate on research and service to advance solutions for sustainable agriculture. The visit was facilitated by the FAMU Sustainability Institute.

FAMU’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute Abena Ojetayo said “we are very pleased with this partnership in India, a nation with great promise in sustainable development. These relations help us share expertise and experiences that lead to real impact at home here in Florida and for communities across the ocean.”

“Ultimately we want to see that the people on the globe have sufficient food, energy, and a clean environment. In the context of that, universities play a strong role,” said Dr. Patel.

The universities are exploring establishing student and faculty exchanges and undertaking collaborative research in areas including crop production, soil science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, climate and meteorological sciences, and renewable energy. Patel’s visit is a component of FAMU’s Memorandum of Understanding with India’s National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) to promote solutions in sustainability, agriculture, climate change, and other STEM areas.

“We are brainstorming to see how we can solve these global issues together,” said Dr. Odemari Mbuya, faculty director of the Sustainability Institute. Dr. Mbuya, along with FAMU Professor Mehboob Sheikh, Ph.D., had just returned from a similar visit to India to various universities, organizations, and farms to give guest lectures and plan collaboration efforts.

The Dean of CAFS, Dr. Robert Taylor, welcomed Dr. Patel warmly. “We’re very sincere about these initiatives we want to develop with you and we are looking forward to what we can do with you.”

In addition to meeting with faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Dr. Patel met with University President Dr. Elmira Mangum, Provost Marcella David, Vice President for International Education Dr. William Hyndman, Vice President for Research Dr. Tim Moore, and deans and faculty from other colleges and sschools. Dr. Patel concluded the day’s visit with a tour of the renowned FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruits.

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New EnergyWaterFoodNexus Science Enterprise Launched at FAMU

Florida A&M University hosted the inaugural EnergyWaterFoodNexus Summit, an international conference that connected a global network of over 300 researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders working in the energy, water, and food sectors. Participants from as far away as South Africa, Hungary, and India joined local and regional attendees to share knowledge. Led by the FAMU School of the Environment with collaboration from the Sustainability Institute and several colleges and schools, the summit also included co-sponsors from the City of Tallahassee’s Environmental Policy & Energy Resources division, the US Department of Energy ARPA-E as well as private sector contributors like SalterMitchell and Yum! Brands.

The EnergyWaterFoodNexus is a new science enterprise launched at FAMU through an international, public-private partnership that seeks to provide sustainable and innovative solutions global security.

During the summit, participants from various disciplines had the chance to learn about and work together to tackle complex issues affecting every community. The lineup of renowned speakers included Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, New York Times best-selling author of “The Big Thirst” Charles Fishman and European Commission head of innovation Istvan Kenyeres.

Summit chair and dean of the FAMU School of the Environment Dr. Victor Ibeanusi explained the purpose of the EWFN.

“The intent of the EWFN is to brand this as a new science enterprise designed to provide solutions to the global energy, water and food crisis,” Ibeanusi said. “Students can also interact with international leaders in agriculture, business research, technology and more."

Odemari Mbuya, faculty director for the FAMU Sustainability Institute and professor in the center for water and air quality ensured that there are solutions to these globally vexing problem.

“Energy, water, and food, they are all related,” Mbuya said. “There are problems which cover all those three … so we are looking for solutions."

Kirit Shelat, the chair of India’s National Council for Climate Change and Sustainability Development, led a contingency of scientists and agronomist from India to attend the summit. The NCCSD signed a memorandum of understanding with FAMU to collaborate on research, faculty and student exchanges.

Speaking on the prospects of the MOU between the two organizations, Shelat said “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to climate smart agriculture and smart city management for its replication in India.”

Mbuya explained the importance of working internationally with various organizations.

“We need to work together, which is the purpose of the memorandum of understanding. We can work with people in different parts of the world and gain the right tools to better control [our global environment]… If we can better predict upcoming changes, we can plan appropriate mitigation,” Mbuya said.

The summit presented several themes and tracks for participants, discovering emerging innovations, understand policy implications and accelerate technology. Furthermore, Idea Hack sessions aimed at solving complex problems that require multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives brought together multidisciplinary young and experienced collaborators to “pitch” a challenge and open up for an informal brainstorming session. 

Learn more about the EWFN science enterprise at FAMU at http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?environmentalscience&EnergyWaterFoodNexus

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Sustainability @ FAMU

Sustainability at Florida A&M University is about the teaching, research and application of environmental and resource stewardship so people and planet prosper. The Sustainability Institute serves as the hub of all sustainability-related efforts at the university, bringing students, staff, faculty and the community together around creative collaborations.

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