Progress Report for American Public University System
Submitted on Jan. 13, 2012; Last updated on Feb. 28, 2012
The Progress Report is intended to help signatories assess and track progress toward the goals outlined
in their Climate Action Plans and to share that progress with their stakeholders and the general public.
click on a section heading below to expand its content; click again to collapse
American Public University System is a fully online university serving more than 105,000 students studying in all 50 states and in more than 100 countries. Most of APUS’ students are working adults, many with families and about half in the military. The online format that APUS provides to these students allows them the flexibility to study from anywhere and monthly course start dates provide additional scheduling assistance to our busy students. The school’s online format is also beneficial to its total carbon footprint and APUS has remained committed to reducing its environmental impact since the school signed in September 2007. Because of current green construction and a significant growth in both student population and, in turn, staff, the university’s carbon emissions have increased. As construction continues in conjunction with growth, the use of space has not been ideal. In the next several years, however, the use of space will be consolidated and the university expects to see a decrease in overall carbon emissions as a result.
Since signing, the school has undertaken 28 energy efficiency retrofit projects and has completed construction on a 45,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building currently in the LEED certification process. The building which houses the university’s Academic departments is situated on a brownfields site and APUS took significant measures to mitigate the environmental damage left by the site’s previous use as a junk yard. The completed building boasts a highly efficient HVAC system, storm water retention pond, motion and heat sensor lighting, abundant natural light, and native landscaping surrounding. All materials used within the building were built or purchased within 500 miles of the building site. There are 99 solar panels on the roof of the building which provide approximately 3 to 5 percent of the building’s energy (because the building has been occupied only one year, the university does not have full data). Just behind the new Academic Center, the university is constructing another building which is being built to LEED Gold standards. The highlight of this building which will house the university’s Finance departments is a vast solar array of 1600 panels. These solar panels are expected to provide approximately 60 percent of the building’s energy. The solar array will serve as a covered parking lot and include 15 universal electric car charging stations, at least one of which the university will provide for public use. Once the new construction projects are completed, the university will consolidate employees who are currently spread among many buildings, ultimately using its total space more efficiently and likely reducing its carbon emissions per square footage.
Administratively, the university system has grown to keep pace with significant student growth. As a result, usage of consumables, especially paper, seems to be up significantly but not up on a “per employee” basis. In sum, the university system has seen in increase in paper usage that coincides with an increase in employee numbers. The APUS Sustainability Committee is working to educate employees about how to reduce their paper usage and is encouraging paper recycling at the same time. In addition to education efforts, the Sustainability Committee partnered with the university’s Payroll department to promote a “Paperless Payroll” initiative to staff, encouraging them to participate in ADP’s iPay program to opt out of receiving hardcopy paystubs if enrolled in direct deposit. To date, approximately 90 percent of APUS employees receive their pay through direct deposit; of those, approximately 20 percent have enrolled in the iPay program and no longer receive paper paystubs. The APUS Human Resources department has taken many of their trainings and paperwork functions to the online environment including the university’s benefits enrollment process, management training, discrimination and harassment prevention training, FERPA training, and many others. The Office of the President and Marketing departments continue to show their commitments to reducing the university’s paper usage by sending electronic holiday cards for the last several years.
Because APUS is a fully online university, its students are not on “campus” as they are in more traditional institutions. This provides tremendous benefit to the specific student demographic that APUS serves and also to the school’s carbon footprint and sustainability efforts. Even though its students are spread across the world, APUS has still managed to promote sustainable practices to and through them. Most obviously, the school has a very strong Environmental Studies program and is known for having faculty with practical, industry-specific experience, providing students with more than just a theoretical experience. APUS faculty engage many students in research and presentation opportunities. In addition, the university has provided many resources related to sustainability in public forums around the internet. The APUS Sustainability Committee maintains a blog where it shares articles related to sustainability in higher education. For the past 2 years, all students who attended APUS’ commencement ceremony wore Oak Hall’s GreenWeaver green gowns, each made from 23 plastic bottles.
Finally, the school has undertaken several outreach projects with its local and global communities. The university sponsored several industry-specific environmental conferences across the country including the National Military Fish and Wildlife Conference and the North American Wildlife and National Resources Conference. In July 2011, the school hosted the First Annual APUS Sustainability Summit, bringing together representatives from local government, higher education, construction industries, and others for a day-long discussion about the potential for green renewal in the region. The year prior to that, the school’s Sustainability Committee partnered with the City of Charles Town to undertake a community clean-up day. On a regular basis, the university system conducts an “Adopt-A-Highway” event on a highway near its Charles Town, WV offices.
|Climate Neutrality Target Date:||2050|
|Interim Milestone Emission-Reduction Target||Target Date||Baseline*|
|2% reduction in Commuting Emissions||by 2013||relative to baseline emissions in 2008|
|50% reduction in Total Scopes 1, 2, 3 Emissions||by 2025||relative to baseline emissions in 2008|
|90% reduction in Total Scopes 1, 2, 3 Emissions||by 2040||relative to baseline emissions in 2008|
|Reporting Year||Gross Emissions||Net Emissions||Full Time Enrollments||Total Bldg. Sq. Ft.||[action]|
|2008||2242.0||2242.0||15659.0||107698.0||[ view ]|
|2010||4226.029||4226.029||23520.0||135038.0||[ view ]|
|2012||5109.99||5109.99||39672.0||189338.0||[ view ]|
Change in GHG gross emissions
APUS has grown by an incredible amount in recent years - in both student and staff populations. Because of the increase in populations, APUS has been working on green construction that will house additional staff members. One green building has been completed, one is in progress, and one is slotted for ground-breaking sometime after 2012. Once these buildings are built and occupied, use of space will improve and the university system anticipates that carbon emissions will decrease as a result.
Change in GHG emissions per 1000 sq.ft. building space
10.4776384482As of January 2012, APUS has 31,362 square feet of building space, a significant increase since from the amount noted in the 2010 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. Increased square footage has increased carbon emissions but with additional construction to accommodate significant growth, the university system anticipates that within the next 3 to 5 years it will be able to use its existing space more efficiently to cut overall carbon emissions.
Change in GHG emissions per full time enrollment (FTE)
0.0365016556925Because APUS is a fully online university, there are no students on campus to contribute to the school's carbon footprint. APUS' GHG emissions per FTE has historically been just a fraction of those of more traditional schools. With more than 105,000 students learning in all 50 states and more than 100 countries, APUS' total GHG emissions per student is virtually non-existent when compared to "brick and mortar" institutions.
How is your institution making climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for all students?APUS has a very well-developed Environmental Studies program. The Program Director for hte program is a 33-year veteran field biologist and Certified Wildlife Biologist with The Wildlife Society. Many of the faculty in the Environmental Studies program work or have practical experience in their fields. APUS has recently established a partnership with the National Association of Environmental Professionals making APU that association's first higher education partner. As part of the multi-year relationship, NAEP and the university will jointly create an environmental resource portal for NAEP members which include government, industry, academia, consulting firms, and private sector in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, APUS has created a variety of resources about sustainability and current events impacting the environment which are publicly available to all students via an online platform. APUS faculty assisted in the creation of a series of blog articles documenting the Gulf Oil Spill which several faculty members actively participated in cleaning up. APUS faculty also participated in a webcast presentation in August 2010 which was publicly available and free and has been recorded (http://www.amu.apus.edu/lp/webcast/gulf-oil-spill/index.htm) for future viewing. The university system has also established a variety of publicly-available videos on a variety of topics related to the environment, climate change, and sustainability. Below is an inventory of resources publicly available to all students:
Gulf Oil Spill Initiative:
o Clean Gulf Webcast (August 2010) – http://www.amu.apus.edu/lp/webcast/gulf-oil-spill/index.htm
o Clean Gulf Interview – http://vimeo.com/17846214
o Faculty Member Tony Woods Interview – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dbNmMGic1w
o Gulf Clean-Up Video Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PAkKT5j9ec&feature=player_embedded
o Gulf Clean-Up Video Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaCp2u5JjcQ
o Gulf Clean-Up Video Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericanMilitaryU#p/u/50/eyj6I25ICdA
o Gulf Clean-Up Video Part 4 – http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericanMilitaryU#p/u/5/LQzf8mX6aXQ
o Gulf Clean-Up Video Part 5 – http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericanMilitaryU#p/u/4/Gw-8z-nv9T4
Environmental Science Video:
o APU – http://vimeo.com/17935885
Fish and Wildlife Management Concentration Video:
o AMU – http://vimeo.com/22307671
o APU – http://vimeo.com/22358395
APUS Academic Center Videos:
o Architects Discuss Management of Waste – http://vimeo.com/17081874
o Architects Discuss VOC – http://vimeo.com/17081733
o Architects Discuss Solar Panels – http://vimeo.com/17081715
o Architects Discuss Options to Reduce CO2 – http://vimeo.com/17081542
o Architects Discuss the Online Reporting Aspects for LEED Certification – http://vimeo.com/17081467
o Architects Discuss the Challenges of LEED Certification Part 1 – http://vimeo.com/17081386
o Architects Discuss the Challenges of LEED Certification Part 2 – http://vimeo.com/17081361
o Architects Discuss the Challenges of LEED Certification Part 3 – http://vimeo.com/16998546
o Architects Discuss Green Aspects – http://vimeo.com/17081150
o Architects Discuss Environmental Goals – http://vimeo.com/17080779
o APUS Academic Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony – http://vimeo.com/17000539
o Tour of the APUS Academic Center – http://vimeo.com/16999926
Education methods in use
- Other - Sustainability Committee and Environmental Studies Program teamed to provide APUS students with free USGBC hosted course on Basics of LEED Building. Course information was posted on the school's social networking sites. Approximately 25 students took the course and the feedback provided indicates that it was valuable to them.
Does your institution offer an undergraduate degree program(s) related to climate change/sustainability?Yes
Does your institution offer a graduate degree program in climate change/sustainability?Yes
Does your institution have a central sustainability website that consolidates information about the institution's sustainability efforts?Yes
Though it is not a website devoted to detailing every sustainability accomplishment at APUS, the Sustainability Committee maintains a blog on which they share details about many of the school's efforts and general best practices. http://apus-sustainability.com
Does your institution include sustainability prominently in new student orientation?Because APUS is a fully online university, it does not conduct a new student orientation as is typical at most "brick and mortar" institutions.
If applicable, how is your institution expanding research efforts toward the achievement of climate neutrality research?The Capstone option in the MS Environmental Policy and Management program provides students with significant opportunities to explore and research current emerging fields of study. That program explores ecosystems management, the impact of industrialization on the environment, economics and resource availability, regulation and law, environmental ethics, landscape-level conservation, political ecology, and environmental technology and management. Students have the flexibility to create a final project and with the guidance of at least one faculty member deemed an expert in the field, can pursue independent research for academic credit through the Capstone option within the MS Environmental Policy and Management program. This program can provide necessary experience with high level academic research in preparation for doctoral level work. In addition, students engage in more in depth research often with a faculty member. For example, in November 2011, Environmental Studies Program Director, Dr. Carol Pollio, and an APU student presented a panel at the Wildlife Society Conference titled, “Rewards and Challenges of the Online Programs in Fish and Wildlife Management.” http://www.apu.apus.edu/academic/programs/degree/1296/fish-and-wildlife-management-capstone-only/1418/fish-and-wildlife-management-capstone-only APUS offers a limited number of grant opportunities to full time and some adjunct faculty members. “APUS awards research grants to full-time and actively engaged adjunct faculty to increase the University’s body of knowledge, advance online higher education, or advance knowledge and/or practice in a discipline area. Grants are awarded on a reimbursement basis….APUS faculty (especially graduate faculty) are encouraged to be scholars and to engage in scholarly activities, including research, publication, presentations, and serving on panels. Resources are allocated annually for faculty to fund scholarly research projects on behalf of APUS. Funding (partial or in total as approved by the faculty member’s School Dean) is available for full-time faculty participation in conferences and is available to full-time faculty after 1 year of full-time service to APUS.” Though no preferential treatment is given to research associated with sustainability or climate change, research grants are available to faculty members engaging in such research.
Does your institution have a program to encourage student climate and or sustainability research?Yes
The Capstone option in the MS Environmental Policy and Management program provides students with significant opportunities to explore and research current emerging fields of study. That program explores ecosystems management, the impact of industrialization on the environment, economics and resource availability, regulation and law, environmental ethics, landscape-level conservation, political ecology, and environmental technology and management. Students have the flexibility to create a final project and with the guidance of at least one faculty member deemed an expert in the field, can pursue independent research for academic credit through the Capstone option. This program can provide necessary experience with high level academic research in preparation for doctoral level work. In November 2011, Environmental Studies Program Director, Dr. Carol Pollio, and an APU student presented a panel at the Wildlife Society Conference.
Does your institution have a program to encourage faculty climate and or sustainability research?Yes
APUS awards research grants to full-time and actively engaged adjunct faculty to increase the University's body ofknowledge, advance online higher education, or advance knowledge and/or practice in a discipline area. APUS faculty (especially graduate faculty) are encouraged to be scholars and to engage in scholarly activities, including research, publication, presentations, and serving on panels. Though there is no preferential treatment given to research associated with sustainability or climate change, research grants are available to faculty members engaging in such research.
How is your institution expanding community outreach efforts toward the achievement of climate neutrality?Because of APUS’ online nature, its “local community” expands around the globe. For this reason, APUS has partnerships with organizations located around the country. As a result, the university system has sponsored several industry-specific conferences, including North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (Kansas City, MO), National Military Fish and Wildlife Conference (Kansas City, MO), Environment Virginia Symposium (Lexington, VA), Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference (New Hampshire, MA), National Association of Environmental Professional (Denver, CO), GreenGov (White House event, Washington, DC), The Wildlife Society (Big Island, HI). In July 2011, APUS hosted its first annual Sustainability Summit. The one-day event brought together key stakeholders from the region where several thought-provoking presentations were made by industry experts and significant discussion and idea-sharing took place. Attendees represented higher education, government, non-profits, construction and building industry, and green consulting firms allowing for a variety of viewpoints to be shared and discussed. The event was well-attended and participants’ feedback indicated that the program was worthwhile for the networking and insightful discussions that took place. In June 2010, the Sustainability Committee partnered with the City of Charles Town and Mayor Peggy Smith to host a Community Clean Up Day. At this event, APUS staff volunteers and community members met in the downtown area on a Saturday morning to conduct a clean-up of downtown and several areas expanding from that central area. APUS hosts an “Adopt-A-Highway” event a couple of times each year since late 2008. APUS staff volunteers pick up litter along the 2 mile stretch of WV Route 9 that the university system adopted. The Adopt-A-Highway events typically have very good turnout and participation. In addition, in April 2010, the APUS Sustainability Committee made a monetary donation to Charles Town Middle School, one of APUS’ “Partners in Education,” so that the school could purchase tools and other materials for an Earth Day beautification project. Several APUS Sustainability Committee members assisted the staff and students of CTMS with the project on Earth Day. The same month, APUS participated in the national “Bring a Child to Work Day” event. Members of the Sustainability Committee made a presentation to participating children about sustainability at APUS and sustainability in their daily lives. Students discussed the ways that they act sustainably and shared ideas with others for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Sustainability Committee members provided an expanded presentation to participating children. In addition, because the Academic Center (currently in LEED certification process) was occupied during the 2011 event, the children received a tour of the building with a focus on explaining and learning about the many green elements within the building.
Does your institution participate in community climate change and or sustainability partnerships?Yes
Because of its online nature, APUS' "local" community stretches around the globe. APUS has sponsored several nation-wide industry-relevant conferences including the GreenGov conference hosted by the White House, the Wildlife Society, National Military Fish and Wildlife Conference, among others. In July 2011, the APUS Sustainability Committee hosted its First Annual Sustainability Summit in Charles Town, WV, bringing together industry leaders and relevant stakeholders from local government, higher education, and others to discuss sustainability in the region. In June 2010, the Committee partnered with City of Charles Town and Mayor Peggy Smith to host a Community Clean Up Day. APUS regularly conducts Adopt-A-Highway events and the Sustainability Committee provides presentations about sustainability at APUS and sustainability in general to children participating in the annual "Bring a Child to Work Day" event.
Has your institution advocated for federal, state, and/or local public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance your goal of climate neutrality?No
Energy Efficiency Projects
Number of Energy Efficiency Retrofit Projects planned, but not yet implemented:2
Number of Energy Efficiency Retrofit Projects completed since signing the ACUPCC:28
Number of buildings that have received a green building certification since signing the ACUPCC:0
Number of green buildings planned or scheduled for completion in the next 2 years:1
For all buildings, the green building certification/rating used is:USGBC:LEED
Annual output (in kWhs) for each renewable energy system utilized by American Public University System
- Solar output: 425 kWh
- Other GHG mitigation efforts:
Academic Center: The university system purchased an abandoned brownfields site to build its 45,000-square-foot Academic Center. The site was previously used as a junk yard and various contaminants were found in the soil. APUS took measures to mitigate the environmental damage already done and construction progressed in an environmentally-conscious nature. The building was completed in November 2010 and occupied in December of that year. The building boasts a highly efficient HVAC system, a storm water retention pond, motion and heat sensor lighting, abundant natural light, and native landscaping surrounding. All materials used within the building were built or purchased within 500 miles of the building site. Additionally, there are 99 solar panels on the roof of the building which provide approximately 3 to 5 percent of the building’s energy. The building is currently in the LEED certification process and the university system has applied for LEED Gold certification. In an interesting academic opportunity, a graduate student working toward a MS in Environmental Policy and Management conducted his final project on the building. He documented the building’s progress through a blog (http://apus-green-building.com/) and provided information to his readers about the various green elements within the building.
Finance Center: APUS is currently constructing another building which will be built to LEED Gold Standards. The building is located behind the school’s Academic Center and will eventually house the school’s Finance department. The highlight of this building is the vast solar array which will accompany its construction. 1600 panels will provide nearly 60 percent of the new building’s energy needs, offsetting an estimated 350 tons of carbon each year. The array functions as a covered parking lot and will include 15 universal electric car charging stations. APUS will make at least one of these stations available for public use. Based on historical increases in utility rates of approximately 7 percent per year, over the life of the system, it is estimated to save APUS more than $9,000,000. The university system is in the process of verifying that this is the largest solar installation in the state to date.
Carpooling: In late 2010, APUS introduced a comprehensive carpooling package to all fulltime employees. The carpooling website is hosted by Carpoolworld.com and employees are able to enter their personal information (including scheduled, route, personal preferences, etc.) and the carpoolworld.com software proactively matches employees with each other based on these parameters. Though the program has only been in place for a little more than one month, it has already shown great potential. Within just 24 hours, nearly two dozen employees had created accounts with carpoolworld.com and several matches were already showing for many employees. The staff and employees who have used the software have provided favorable feedback about the product. The APUS Sustainability Committee will continue to monitor progress in employee carpooling as staff commuting has consistently been one of largest contributors to the APUS carbon footprint. Another benefit of the carpoolworld.com program is that employees who were already carpooling or using other green methods of transportation have been prompted to contact the Sustainability Committee. Knowing who these “green commuters” are will assist in completing the schools Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.
Paper Usage: A paper consumption audit conducted for the period beginning January 1, 2011 and ending October 19, 2011 revealed that during that time, APUS employees printed 3,310,949 sheets of paper, equivalent to nearly 400 trees. This is more than 413,868 sheets each month. At the time of APUS’ Climate Action Plan, the monthly paper usage was approximately 234,800 sheets each month, of approximately 525 pages per employee per month. The university has grown significantly in the last several years and when one considers the growth in employees, the total amount of paper used per employee is down significantly. Whereas each employee was using approximately 525 pages per month in 2009, as of the most recent paper consumption audit, per employee usage was down to only 440 pages per employee per month. This is significant progress especially considering that much of the growth has been in the very paper-intensive Finance department which has more than doubled its total staff in less than a year. The Committee continues to seek out ways to educate staff about how to avoid printing and for the last two months, APUS has been purchasing recycled printer paper. Additional education will be provided to staff regarding paper usage and staff will be advised on tips for reducing paper usage. In another administrative function gone paperless, APUS has recently introduced a “Paperless Payroll” initiative to staff, encouraging them to enroll in ADP’s iPay program and opt out of receiving their paystubs in hardcopy. Currently approximately 90 percent of APUS employees receive their pay through direct deposit. Of those, approximately 20 percent have enrolled in the Paperless Payroll (iPay) program since introduced in March 2011. The APUS Sustainability Committee continues to promote the program in conjunction with the Office of the President, Payroll, and Human Resource departments. During APUS’ New Hire Orientation Program, Payroll and Benefits staff as well as the speaker representing the Sustainability Committee educate new hire employees about the benefits of the Paperless Payroll program and encourage participation. The Office of the President and Marketing departments displayed their commitment to reducing the use of paper by sending electronic holiday cards for the second year in a row.
Digitization: In other ways, however, the university system has managed to reduce the volume of paper used in operations. For example, the Student Records and Accounts Payables departments have been completely digitized with all processes, forms, and other materials available and housed in an online format. Various other operational procedures have been digitized, reducing paper and creating a more effective process overall. For example, the Manager Self Service system, a web-based service that gives managers immediate access to personnel information for their direct reports, has proven effective at assisting managers with administrative functions and trainings. In addition to procedural effectiveness, the MSS provides additional security by eliminating the need for paper forms and passing of potentially confidential documents between manager and HR staff. Because of this increased security, this process is highly regarded as a Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) best practice. Employee training courses have been put into an online format, as well. For example, 1,174 employees have conducted various trainings through the online program LawRoom including, Ethics & Code of Conduct, Supervisor Anti-Harassment, Data Security and Privacy, FERPA: Protecting Education Records, Avoiding Retaliation in the Workplace, Accommodating Workers with Disabilities, Hiring I: Identifying Candidates, among others. In an another administrative function gone paperless, APUS has recently introduced a “Paperless Payroll” initiative to staff, encouraging them to enroll in ADP’s iPay program and opt out of receiving their paystubs in hardcopy. Currently approximately 90 percent of APUS employees receive their pay through direct deposit. Of those, approximately 20 percent have enrolled in the Paperless Payroll (iPay) program since introduced in March 2011. The APUS Sustainability Committee continues to encourage employees to enroll for the ADP iPay Paperless Payroll program.
Recycling: The APUS Sustainability Committee has continued to refine and enhance the recycling programs at both of its campus locations. The Sustainability Committee worked with the school’s Facilities department to obtain lids for the recycling bins on the Charles Town campus when it was discovered that employees were putting the wrong recyclables in the bins (paper in the co-mingled bin, for example). The co-mingled bins have lids with round holes in them to remind employees of the materials that may go in that bin (ie: aluminum cans, glass bottles, etc.). The paper recycling bins have hinged slots that items larger or shaped differently from paper will not fit into. The Committee continues to work on appropriate signage to display in prominent places on campus to remind employees to recycle and educate them on how to do so.
Lighting: Of its 22 buildings, half have been outfitted with motion sensor lights which have helped to ensure that unnecessary energy is not used lighting empty rooms. The sensors are located throughout the buildings, including in work areas as well as conference rooms and common areas. In the latest additions to campus (the school’s IT building and Academic Center), abundant natural light allows for minimal use of artificial light.
Has your Climate Action Plan and/or related sustainability efforts saved your institution money so far, e.g. by reducing operational expenses?not sure
Amount spent on CAP projects:$10-20M
Estimated amount saved to date from implementing your CAP projects:$10-49k
Estimated total savings expected from implementing entire Climate Action Plan$1-10M
Additional information or context to support expected savings:Finance Center solar array alone will save approximately $9,859,000 over the life of the system based on historical increases in utility rates of approximately 7% per annum
- Financing Methods utilized for Mitigation or Renewable Energy Projects:
For more information about American Public University System's climate & sustainability efforts please click here