The Environmental Studies program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is partnering with ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability USA, and Conservation Nebraska to launch Project Energy Nebraska, which will help two Nebraska communities become more sustainable.
Through the project, students will work to assess energy use and complete greenhouse gas inventories for Grand Island and Norfolk.
“This project provides UNL students the opportunity to do real work, with real people, on real problems,” said David Gosselin, director of the Environmental Studies program. “Some of this work includes data input, constructive decision-making, group collaboration, and project budgeting and development. Most importantly, students will learn valuable skills to help them become the change-makers of tomorrow.”
Project Energy Nebraska will also generate useful data analysis for Grand Island and Norfolk officials, offering insight into the efficiency and sustainability of the communities.
“This is a good first step in identifying ways that we conduct business and can give us a baseline as to what areas we may be able to reduce those emissions in,” said Jeremy Rogers, Grand Island’s stormwater program manager. “The project’s purpose is to help cities take a step forward in sustainability efforts and emissions awareness by utilizing the dedication, brain power and enthusiasm of University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s environmental studies students.”
ICLEI, a national nongovernmental organization headquartered in Denver, develops tools, standards and partnerships to help communities reduce their carbon emissions. The partnership marks the first time Nebraska joins ICLEI’s nationwide network of nearly 300 local and regional governments and global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments.
“Young people have a strong sense that they need to protect their future on this planet,” said Tom Herrod, ICLEI USA’s senior program officer and a 1998 Nebraska environmental studies alumnus. “We feel strongly that communities that measure the energy they consume in their homes, buildings, transportation and waste sectors are more capable of implementing sustainable and resilient infrastructure for future generations.”
Amanda Gangwish, program director at Conservation Nebraska and Nebraska environmental studies alumna, and her team are serving as liaisons to connect the students with resources and contacts throughout the project. Their support will play a vital role in giving students insight into community organizing and environmental education.
Prabhakar Shrestha, director of sustainability at Nebraska, will lend his experience in data analysis and climate science to support students in completing the greenhouse gas inventories.
“Because of the process of data inquiry, proper research and navigating barriers, the outcome of this project will be unique to Nebraska,” Shrestha said.