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Penn State Named EcoCAR 2 Competition Year Two Winner

EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future named Pennsylvania State University its Year Two winner at the EcoCAR 2013 Competition in San Diego, California on May 24. The 15 universities competing in EcoCAR 2 recently gathered in Yuma, Arizona, for six days of vehicle testing ecocar-2-penn-state-628and evaluation on drive quality and environmental impact at General Motors Desert Proving Ground. The competition then moved to San Diego for a second round of judging by automotive industry experts.

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year competition managed by the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory and sponsored by the Energy Department, General Motors, and 30 other government and industry leaders. The competition gives students the opportunity to gain real-world automotive engineering experience while striving to improve the environmental impact and energy efficiency of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. The students converted the gasoline-fueled vehicle to run on a variety of fuels, including E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) and electricity.

Pennsylvania State University impressed judges representing various EcoCAR 2 sponsors with its E85 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV). The team was the first to pass safety and technical inspections and an on-road safety evaluation. California State Los Angeles excelled with its ethanol-fueled vehicle, placing second. Ohio State University took third place overall after demonstrating its series-parallel hybrid EV. The teams will now spend Year Three of EcoCAR 2 perfecting their designs before the competition finals in Washington, D.C., in May 2014. See the Energy Department press release and the EcoCAR 2013 Competition website.

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

The Nature of Sustainability | Walking the Talk on Campus

Urbana University

by Steve Jones Ph.D. 

Urbana University is a small, faith-affiliated, private liberal arts university in west-central Ohio. I’ve been President here since July 2008; prior to that I served as Chancellor, University of Alaska Fairbanks for four years. I’m a forester and natural resources practitioner and scientist by training and a university CEO by chance. You’ve seen my previous SustainAbility columns in Fall 2010 and Summer 2011.

I believe that Urbana University’s rural and agrarian setting, its spacious 128-acre campus, a heritage that ties John Chapman (AKA Johnny Appleseed) to the founding of the University, and a sweeping international tide of interest in sustainability compel Urbana University to “walk the talk” of sustainability. Urbana University is the first campus chartered by the International Sustainability Council. We are the nation’s first Bird Campus USA, designated by Audubon Lifestyles. We are applying for designation as Tree Campus USA to the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Fall 2010 column speaks to Urbana’s intent to walk the talk of sustainability across four dimensions:

  • Campus “built” environment and immediate grounds
  • Campus “natural” spaces and associated “wild” environment
  • Curriculum
  • Individual well-being

We have major plans for addressing the built environment and immediate grounds – watch for updates in a subsequent column. The University’s curricular plans (number three above) include weaving the threads of ecological literacy and free enterprise-based sustainability into our liberal arts core. We are developing majors in environmental studies, environmental education, and leadership in sustainability. With restricted, donated funds we hired a new faculty member (a soil scientist) in July 2011 to lead our sustainability efforts. Again, watch for updates for curricular action and for developments in individual well-being.
      
Assisted by a 2009 (and continuing) grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service we are converting approximately 25 acres of previously mowed grass to native prairie (12 acres), oak savanna (eight acres), and closed canopy native cover (five acres). The prairie just completed its second growing season. The conversion has not gone smoothly, requiring repeated, targeted herbicide applications and reseeding. Non-native species held a strangle-hold on the site, with tremendous competition and plentiful seed reserves in the soil. The 2011 summer weather likewise did not cooperate. Six weeks parched our region in mid-growing season, punctuating a very wet spring and record fall rains (combined for the wettest year ever). Although we’re still not fully satisfied, we see the prairie community effectively colonizing the site. We plan a controlled burn in 2012 to assure total site capture.
      
Our partially shaded and full-canopy cover conversions have fought against the same forces of stubborn residual vegetation, heavy seed bank, and uncooperative weather, necessitating repeated and continuing treatments. Again, we’re seeing progress. The recalcitrant transition to native vegetation created a secondary problem – explaining to the University community (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) why the campus has large areas of dead grass and sparse vegetation! Because we are a bare-bones operation, we have not invested resources in large interpretive signage. We want the final signage to interpret what we’ve done, and not explain what we are doing.

We have three campus catchment basins, two small constructed basins to hold runoff from road and parking lot surfaces, slowing release to prevent surges to an off-campus, urban stream. We’re converting mowed grass in both depressions to native species. The third area (also constructed) covers nearly 1.5 acres at the far southwest corner of campus at the edge of our prairie. Even during the parched mid-summer the large basin held more than a quarter acre of water, a permanent pond. During the wet fall the pond expanded to well over an acre. The large basin is dominated by native wetland vegetation that captured the site prior to the prairie conversion. Small fish, lots of frogs, and other wetland fauna complete the community.
     
We’ve tried to make clear that we are establishing a living/learning laboratory and classroom on campus. We will create a prairie trail (mowed pathway), construct a catchment basin boardwalk crossing, and build a 12 foot observation deck above the prairie, providing and encouraging access to and understanding of this exciting habitat. The observation deck will be within full view of our football stadium, band practice field, and gymnasium; our natural areas are integral to (not unique from) our campus. We also have plans for our 15 acres of closed forest, including elimination of an obnoxious invasion of Asian shrub honeysuckle, dominating the understory to a height of 10-12 feet and shading most native forest floor species.
      
We have a lot more planned for sustainability at Urbana University. Among our active pursuits is establishing a full-range renewable energy demonstration: solar photovoltaic; solar thermal; geothermal; wind; anaerobic digester. We’re also planning to implement recommendations from a comprehensive energy audit. Watch for more as we get off our duffs and walk the talk of sustainability!


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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 
             
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

Sustainability Campaign
sustainabilitycampaign.blogspot.com

Ford Motor Company
www.ford.com

Urbana University
www.urbana.edu

Defenders of Wildlife
www.defenders.org

The Earthday Network
www.earthday.org/2012

Bloomberg Businessweek
www.businessweek.com

Small Busienss Trends
www.smallbiztrends.com

The Dodson Group
www.thedodsongrp.com      

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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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