Six UO, LCC sustainability projects get seed grants

EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 30, 2009) -- Six projects from the University of Oregon and Lane Community College have won grants for 2009 from the Meyer Fund for a Sustainable Environment. Meyer funds provide seed funding to UO and LCC faculty for research and teaching initiatives that are innovative, interdisciplinary and promote a sustainable society.

The UO received a $1 million grant in 2007 from the London-based T & J Meyer Family Foundation to establish the Meyer Fund for a Sustainable Environment. The UO fund is a five year program managed by a steering committee of UO and LCC faculty. Approximately $200,000 is distributed annually to projects led by faculty of the two institutions. The newly announced grants, totaling $200,119, are for the second year of the fund. (See first-year awards.)

The largest 2009 grant, for $58,051, went to a solar energy project (Energizing the Next Generation with Photovoltaics) led by UO physics professor Frank Vignola. The project -- a curriculum building approach designed to capture students' enthusiasm for science and to teach them about the basic principles of solar technology -- includes faculty from UO physics department and LCC's Science Division. The project also supports the Electric Vehicle/Solar Challenge curricula sponsored by the Eugene Water and Electric Board in more than 60 area middle-school classrooms.

"It is one thing to develop a lab kit and curriculum," Vignola said. "It is another to test the curriculum and lab kit in the classroom. The Meyer Fund award enables us to do this and to improve the prototype and refine the curriculum. The improved curriculum and PV lab kit can then be used worldwide to help educate students about science with photovoltaics, an exciting renewable technology."

Vignola heads the UO's Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory, which promotes a sound solar energy future. "We work with many groups, from utilities, advocacy groups, the solar industry and the educational community, and hope to supply accurate information and education to give a rational and sensible basis for the integration of solar energy into energy mix," he said.

A $35,700 grant will support a curriculum-building project (Engaging Labor Efforts to Address Climate Change: An Educational Approach to Building Involvement) for union leaders and core activists, led by Barbara Byrd of the UO's Labor Education Research Center (LERC) in partnership with faculty from two UO departments: geography and planning, public policy & management. LERC's faculty and partners will develop a climate-change curriculum designed to help prepare union members to fill green collar jobs.

"The climate emergency caused by global warming, and the policy responses to this crisis, will fundamentally remake Oregon's economy," Byrd said. "In addition, the National Economic Recovery Act promises to generate millions of new green jobs. But while environmental advocates and representatives from business and regulated utilities engage in the debates, a critical partner is often missing: workers and the organizations that represent them."

Labor's participation in the design and implementation of the "green economy" is critical, she said.

"The single greatest barrier to labor involvement in climate-change discussion is the disconnect between labor's traditional focus on wages and working conditions and the seemingly abstract issue of global warming," she said. "This project aims at bridging that gap, relying on LERC's longstanding commitment to helping unions, their leaders and members to build their capacity to engage in policy-making. We will train our constituents in the science and technical aspects of global warming and climate change policy, and the implications of those issues for work, workers and unions. Our goal is to increase not only labor's ability but also its motivation to contribute to the state dialogue and assure that the 'triple bottom line' of environmental, economic and social sustainability is reached."

The four other grants are:

? $35,694 for "Zero-Sum Gained: Moving Our Existing Building Stock Toward Net Energy Equilibrium," a project led by the UO's Donald Corner, department of architecture. The project will establish a case reference base that will guide the rehabilitation of existing buildings toward a balance of energy demand and production -- or net-zero-energy. An evaluative framework will be developed to guide reinvestment decisions.

? $34,566 for "Spreading Sustainability: How Science-Based Solutions Move to Broad Practice" led by the Andrew Nelson of the UO's Lundquist College of Business in partnership with his colleague Jennifer Howard-Grenville and Julie Haack of the UO department of chemistry. They will develop a model for understanding the processes through which university-based sustainability research and education influences industry and policy. They also will create a replicable set of tools for visualizing and communicating the dissemination and impact of such research and education.

? $22,000 for "Workforce Water Efficiency Training Teams," a project led by LCC's Tammie Stark, a water and sustainability instructor, and Roger Ebbage, energy management program manager. This project addresses the economic, social and environmental challenges of water scarcity and climate change through the creation and distribution of water auditing tools. Teachers and students would use the tools to increase water efficiency in residential and K-12 settings. Partners include the Lane Community College Water Conservation Technician degree program, the UO's Climate Master Program and Kennedy High School.

? $14,108 for a "Junior Climate Initiative" led by Rob Ribe, UO department of landscape architecture, and Bob Doppelt of the UO's Institute for a Sustainable Environment. A youth program Junior Climate Stewards will be piloted in Lane County, building on the successes of the Climate Leadership Initiative's Climate Master Program and the Oregon State University Extension's Wildlife Stewards program. The partnership supports youth and adult community members in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency.

While based in the United Kingdom, the T & J Meyer Family Foundation has ties to the UO by way of family members' earning their college degrees from the institution. The foundation is managed by Tim and Jane Meyer and their four children. In addition to foundation work, the Meyer family has sustainable projects, research and education centers in Oregon, Argentina and London.