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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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FAMU’s First Green Festival Inspires Students

Blue skies and good vibes describe the perfect day that went along with Florida A&M University first-ever Green Festival, held on Earth Day, April 22, at the quad. Hosted by the Sustainability Institute (SI), the festival showcased dozens of campus departments, student groups, and community and government organizations, all demonstrating ways for the FAMU community to go green. 

FAMU alumna Anamarie Shreeves was the featured speaker at the stage, speaking to a gathering of Rattlers under the clear skies of a perfect spring day. Ms. Shreeves, a 2010 graduate from the school of journalism, has embarked on a near-zero waste lifestyle that allows her to collect the sum total of a month of trash inside a mason jar.  She shares inspiring stories about how to green your footprint in her blog at http://www.fortnegrita.com, writing about topics from waste reduction to ecotourism, and she has been featured on CNN.

As a young person who fetched tadpoles in her spare time, Shreeves developed a green thumb at a young age. She recalls her love of the outdoors and insistence on bringing recycling into her family. "I remember in high school telling my parents 'look, we gotta do this, we've got too many water bottles!’” Shreeves exclaimed. With more than 38 million water bottles are thrown away each year in the US, more advocacy for recycling like Shreeves displays is becoming a necessity. 

Green living guru and FAMU Alumna Annamarie Shreeves shares tips on composting at the FAMU Green Festival

After obtaining her degree in journalism, Shreeves landed a job at a TV station that she described as “fun, but not fulfilling.” As a young 20-something with no commitments, she decided to take a leap with a friend to Ecuador. The trip was a turning point in her life. “I got so much personal growth from it; I got to be myself,” recalls Shreeves. A self-described neo-hippie with an insatiable wanderlust, Shreeves has also traveled to South Africa, Kenya, Amsterdam and Jamaica.

While abroad, she learned about No Trash Project -- a blog about reducing personal waste -- that encouraged her to “forget trash” herself. “If I wanted to be the most impactful tree hugger, and I accept that, to do it in the most honest way I had to go zero waste,” Shreeves said.

What began as a 30-day challenge to reduce waste became a new lifestyle as Shreeves has been practicing zero-waste for over a year. As someone who practices conscious consumerism, Shreeves wants people to leave with a better understanding of their waste. “Just start to observe your trash, be mindful of what you throw away and how dependent you are on the landfill to take care of your waste,” she said. About 4.35 pounds of waste are produced per person per day in the US. Shreeves shared how she avoids such waste by carrying reusable containers for drinking and food purchases and by composting and recycling almost all of what is not needed.

Shreeves also led a do-it-yourself (DIY) toothpaste demonstration where students had the opportunity to make their own toothpaste. Shreeves offered advice to anyone willing to lend an ear, and suggested carrying around a reusable bottle, a cloth and a spoon or fork to start becoming a conscious consumer.

Kendra Hazel, junior pre-physical therapy student, set out on her own zero-waste journey. She stopped by Shreeves’ booth to add one more DIY recipe to her list. “I make natural products, so it’s cool that they have that out here - toothpaste, soap, everything,” said Hazel.

A solar powered golf cart boldly parked on the grass brought attention to the school of Architecture and Engineering Technology. Stacy Tinner, senior laboratory professor explained the student’s senior projects that required the use of solar energy. “Their last summer project was to calculate the amount of energy a house uses, then they implemented solar panels to reduce the house’s use,” said Tinner.

A sidestep away was where the subtle fragrance from Ivory Council’s booth drew people in. Council is the owner of Pure Ambiance, a petroleum-free, soy-based candle company. Though she wasn’t selling products on-site, she offered free smells and business cards. Council sells a variety of organic products including candles, soaps, and bath and body fragrances. “Coconut oil, castor oil, palm oil, shea butter, maple butter and coco butter holds it all together,” said Council of one of her $5.99 soaps, which can be purchased online.

The Institute of Public Health showed up to make students aware of the opportunities in obtaining a graduate degree in public health. “We depend on the environment to sustain us through life… we are very concerned about preserving the environment because we want to have a healthy environment for ourselves, our kids and so forth,” said a passionate Latoya Newby, president for Future Public Health Professionals.

Students and visitors also had a chance to paint positive messages on donated shoes. Chuck Tales, a non-profit organization, recycles old sneakers and shoes back into the community. Joshua Smith, recent graduate and coordinator for Chuck Tales, explained that the group was created when a friend was considering throwing away his old pairs of sneakers. “We advised him to donate them, but after brain storming a bit we came up with an idea to donate shoes that have a message,” said Smith. Chuck Tales donation bins were placed around campus during the spring semester for students to donate anytime.

Armed with gently used products and a desire to upcycle, the Trashtronauts serenaded Rattlers to infinity and beyond. Erika Morgan, a member of the band, said she enjoys the educational aspect of the band. “We’re not relying on what we know we can use to make music from, but making music by using objects that we have around,” said Morgan. So far the band has created the Diddley bow, Pot Led xylophone, Water Jug Snare drum and two-string cigar box guitar. “This is my art form and a way to reach out to people, to educate and demonstrate,” said Brett Jardner, Trashtronauts band member.

Ricardo Clark, a senior music education student from Miami, was instantly captivated by the melodic treasure made from one person’s trash. “I heard it and I started making a song up in my mind,” said Clark. Though he’s constantly making music, he said he might want to create his own instrument. “This is like genius!” Clark said with excitement.

The Green Festival was an exciting event that grabbed the attention of students and showed them how people at FAMU are leading the way in becoming more sustainable. The event set the stage for collaboration for even greater future attainments, assisted by campus-wide and interdisciplinary connections that FAMU’s Sustainability Institute will continue to foster. 

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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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