Modern Energy Management

Gonzaga University: How to Make the Most of AASHE 2019 with Jim Simon

October 22, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
Modern Energy Management
Gonzaga University: How to Make the Most of AASHE 2019 with Jim Simon
Chapters
Modern Energy Management
Gonzaga University: How to Make the Most of AASHE 2019 with Jim Simon
Oct 22, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
Nate Nilles & Amber Artrip
In this episode, we're joined by our good friend, Jim Simon, Sustainability Director at Gonzaga University. Hear Jim's story of turning his passion for the environment into his full-time career. We break down his unique approach to getting students and university staff engaged in campus sustainability initiatives.
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we're joined by our good friend, Jim Simon, Sustainability Director at Gonzaga University. Hear Jim's story of turning his passion for the environment into his full-time career. We break down his unique approach to getting students and university staff engaged in campus sustainability initiatives.

Headed to AASHE next week in Spokane? Jim is an AASHE veteran and shares his tips for making the most out of this event and hear what sessions he's most looking forward to. If you're headed to AASHE be sure to connect with us. We're hosting an exclusive happy hour for industry folks. Email marketing@luciddg.com to get added to the list.



Speaker 1:
0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the modern energy management podcast. This is a podcast for energy sustainability and facilities innovators to share their stories of modern energy management at their organizations. My name is Amber, our trip, and I'm your producer and host of the show. And I'm happy to be joined here by my cohost Nate Nellis.
Speaker 2:
0:21
Thanks Amber. I'm excited to be back.
Speaker 1:
0:25
Welcome back. We missed you last week.
Speaker 2:
0:27
I know, but a podcast sounded great. You may not need me, so I better bring my a game.
Speaker 1:
0:33
And um, of course we always bring a guest for you on these episodes. And today we're pleased to be joined by Jim Simon, who is the director of sustainability at Gonzaga university. Did I say that right, Jim? You said it right. I know a lot of people say it wrong. I tried really hard. Oh, good job. Thanks for having me. Yeah, thanks for being here.
Speaker 2:
0:56
So, Jim, I know I'm really excited to have you on the podcast. We've, we've had the opportunity to meet a couple of times and I must say probably the best dressed, uh, you know, head of sustainability that we work with. You're always looking sharp.
Speaker 3:
1:09
Oh, I appreciate that. Same to you. You guys, uh, bring it with the, uh, Bay area. Portland's a [inaudible] game.
Speaker 2:
1:17
I love it. I just need the, you know, I need to up my game on the LinkedIn photo and get some style tips from me, but I love it. Um, you know, I did a lot of, you know, reading up on Gonzaga and the role, um, you know, I know the director of sustainability role was in my understanding, the first position of its type ever at Gonzaga. And you've done a lot in this space, so I would love for you to share with everyone, you know, how you got into sustainability. Uh, I know it was a Buffalo, but you know, your role at Gonzaga and just get them up to speed on what you're doing.
Speaker 3:
1:54
Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I had a, I had a good chance to, to think about this yesterday at a, a nice student, uh, interview about kind of origin stories, uh, around getting involved in sustainability. Um, and what I told the student is, um, you know, I, I started out, I grew up back East and grew up with my dad and my grandfather having a pretty strong ethic of care for the land. Um, I was lucky enough to grow up with, um, some property in my family and old Christmas tree farm. So I grew up going there. Um, you know, checking the Bluebird boxes and just walking the property, spending time up there with my family and you know, did the Eagle scout thing. Um, and then just went into college and knew that I wanted to do something around the environment. Um, and it was just a few weeks into my first semester, uh, at school.
Speaker 3:
2:51
Um, I hopped in a car with, um, someone who told me not to be a really good friends later on in life. And we drove down to the Allegheny national forest and for a gathering of, of different forest protectors. And we got in our tents, went to bed, um, it was dark, um, obviously, and woke up the next morning, got out of the tent and was surrounded by, uh, trees that had red Xs all over them. And I was like, well, what's terrifying? Yes. Well, yes, it sounds like the beginning of a, a horror film. Um, and in a way it, you could consider it that way. Um, and I asked what's, what's up with all these red Xs? And they said, all these trees are going to be cut down. So in that moment, and I had this, this kind of, um, kind of Genesis moment is I want to do something about this.
Speaker 3:
3:42
And so that started kind of my path towards an environmental studies degree. [inaudible] and [inaudible] menopause, the master's degree. I was lucky enough to work in an office of sustainability at my Alma mater, um, for a number of years and then just was looking for a change and, uh, found that, um, and, and Gonzaga university and came out, uh, West to, to start that journey. And just right off the bat, um, noticed that Gonzaga, um, has kind of the benefit of having a care for the planet and care for, um, you know, what's around us and it's mission statement. And so I was able to really rest in that and then use that as a backstop for a lot of the work that I wanted to get started there. And kind of fast forward about five years, um, been able to implement a lot of good work around energy, around transportation, about waste reduction, um, just like other campuses are doing across the country. So it's been, uh, an exciting journey.
Speaker 2:
4:47
Hey Jim, I'd love to touch on the one piece you mentioned about the mission statement. So again, I'll read it verbatim, but I thought it was interesting. You know, it says that in keeping with our Jesuit Catholic and humanistic mission, Gunn zag a university takes seriously its solemn responsibility to safeguard the integrity of our natural world for present and future generations and is committed to being a leader and responsible environmental stewardship. Pretty powerful statement. And, and before you went to Gonzaga, which pieces in there resonate with you is that, you know, kind of from, from being a kid on both mission, religion, you know, what was the fit?
Speaker 3:
5:31
Um, I think I just, I think just having, so I came from a big public research institution where it was about, um, research, teaching public service. So all of a sudden when you are offered that chance to not just think about those deliverables, but, um, about how can we help our planet flourish. Um, we talk about here at Gonzaga and other Jesuit about Cura Personalis about the whole person. And so if you think about, um, kind of that we're trying to create people and leaders foreign with others, whether that student's that's employees or, um, in our community, if we can, um, in part that change, um, around kind of how people interact with the planet. Um, that just really jumped out at me. And how many other institutions, um, have such a bold statement about, um, caring for the earth and their mission statement. And I think it's really profound. Um, and it, it's really, um, uh, needs to reflect on, on an everyday basis.
Speaker 1:
6:41
It's really instilled in the culture of Gonzaga from, from the get go. That's really great. Where's that Gonzaga Gonzaga. By the end of the podcast we'll get it right. Yes, there will be a quiz at the end. Well, so you know, this, this show is about modern energy management and a lot of your work is around sustainability. How important is energy in your program that you're running at Gonzaga?
Speaker 3:
7:11
Yeah. If you were to look at our greenhouse gas emissions profile, and I think it's like this for many other institutions, um, probably about 60% or more of our, um huh. Us gas profile is from energy use. So, um, you know, burning natural gas or, um, running electrons through, um, wires on campus to keep things lit and heated. And so that's a big, big piece of it. And as we know, um, we can address supply and we can just address demand. Um, the state of Washington recently passed some legislation that's gonna accelerate the, um, greenness with a sustainability of our supply. Um, but that demand piece is really, um, kind of another nut to crack. Um, and to do that, I think as, um, our public, um, changes in our public is our staff, our faculty and our students. Um, there's a need for kind of visualization and seeing things that you can't see, um, just on an everyday basis.
Speaker 3:
8:21
So the energy, so being able to, to visualize, um, your energy use is really, um, I think something that people grab onto. And I think when you're trying to inspire people to make changes, um, in their lives, they want to know how they're doing and they want to know if they're doing better than someone else. So that's where like competitions come into play. Um, so I think energy is, is really, uh, a big part of how we do sustainability on campus and it's going to be that way. Um, regardless of where our energy is coming from, whether it's a coal plant or, um, solar panels, we want to really hone in on, um, using less and reducing waste and maximizing our, um, expenditures there.
Speaker 1:
9:12
Definitely. And I think we love working with you because you have really tapped into the behavior aspect of the students and staff at your university. So do you want to share with us a little bit about some of your tactics and stories you have from how you engage the culture of the, of the university?
Speaker 3:
9:33
Yeah. So going back a couple of years ago and when lucid was still doing campus conservation national, as we kind of put our hat in the ring there, um, in the way that we kind of pitched it was, um, and it's kinda funny now is we recreated, um, some popular memes at the time with me at the center of them. So the idea was, um, Gonzaga's a very a relational place. So it's small. Um, it's not as small as other schools. It's not as big as others as some schools. Um, but you, it's really about people and relationships with people. And, um, you know, I'll walk to a meeting and I'll take me an extra five minutes because people are stopping and talking and catching up. Um, so with that in mind, um, and some with some reluctance from me because it's just who I am, we put me as front and center of, of that campaign.
Speaker 3:
10:34
Um, because at that point, um, a not everyone knew that there was a director of sustainability and this was an easy way to do it. And I think we'd never tried something like this before of kind of, uh, almost lampooning yourself. So we created memes, um, um, you know, kind of recreated popular memes with me at the center of peace of them around energy conservation, um, you know, turning the lights off, um, and, and all the normal things that we'd want to do in a, uh, energy reduction campaign. And I think we ended up placing third, uh, um, nationally I think, um, because we maybe had more engagement than we would have otherwise. Um, so I think that the takeaway there is just thinking about your audience and in the case of Gonzaga, um, it was a just a really good opportunity to think of how can we tap into that relational spirit of our university. And it seemed to work.
Speaker 1:
11:34
That's awesome. Were you able to quantify the results of those competitions at all?
Speaker 3:
11:41
Yeah, so we, um, used, um, building allows us to, um, kind of see what those competitions did in terms of, um, dollar savings. Um, and I was able to easily just kind of bring up the competition page and show, you know, where was my supervisor at the time, look with this dead. And, um, now I don't know if anything exactly came of that, but I think it was compelling to be able to show we're very, um, a great amount of ease. Um, what an effort led to. And I think that's, um, I think in the world of sustainability it's hard to quantify everything. Um, and we're in an age where things need to be quantified to make business decisions. And so it was a refreshing to be able to have, uh, the ability to just bring up that page to show, you know, our dashboards are, you know, landing pages that we made in Delano last, um, and, and show the results right away.
Speaker 2:
12:44
Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head and we see it all the time. It's a making it easy to communicate, you know, all of the great things that you guys are doing. And it's tough. Sometimes it gets lost in many aspects of life, but if you're able to do that quickly, you know, it can help get more investment, get more people interested. Jim, I saw early February, uh, Gonzaga had won a clean air ward and I was looking through that and it was kinda interesting and mean it was a huge, um, you know, savings. I think they had mentioned that you guys had been growing, uh, in square footage about 23%, but yet you were able to, uh, drop in consumption, uh, by almost 27%, I think it was electric and gas. Uh, and there was a few things, right? Capital expense pieces with different boilers. I think you guys did some led retrofits, um, some standardization on new construction. How much of that do you get involved in all of those aspects as well? Uh, as some of the behavioral chain change in the Chichi reporting and all that?
Speaker 3:
13:49
Yeah, so that's a really good question. Um, I think what I've learned in my years in higher ed sustainability is to know when to stay in my lane. And, um, I am not an engineer. Um, but I think what one thing that I'm proud of, and this probably a skill that I have, is that I'm, I'm good at listening to engineers and trying to, um, kinda channel and translate the passion that they inherently have for what they do. Um, I've never met an engineer that wants to make a building run, um, inefficiently. Um, and so it's really for me about tapping into that kind of inherent desire to do better, um, and to make the buildings and the spaces they're responsible for, um, just perform at their best and then infuse that with kind of that ethic of sustainability. Um, because the truth of it is that the good work that's happening now and that was with that award has been happening for years and it just hasn't been celebrated in the same way.
Speaker 3:
14:58
And so I see myself as like the chief celebration officer of their work. Um, so, you know, the fact that we were able to get, um, you know, a picture with those folks or to get quotes from them in the, um, art or the, you know, the press-release. Um, that's the stuff that I, I try to draw out because it's really an important and they do such amazing work and it needs to be recognized. So I guess to, to summarize, um, I know where I can have a positive role and I don't try to get in the middle of, you know, the calculations and the, um, you know, the HVAC stuff. Cause I just don't know it until the level that they do and they're the ones that are the experts in it.
Speaker 2:
15:44
No, that makes a lot of sense. If you come across any CCO roles, chief celebration officer, I think Yammer and I are both in, it would be awesome. I love that. I love that. But I think you're right. Um, you know, we talked to a lot of people in the communication breakdown. It seems between sustainability and facilities sometimes can be significant. And I like your, you know, uh, view of, of kind of being that champion to listen to them and, and help make them look good or celebrate the story or the wins of all the really cool things they're doing. Because sometimes they get lost when they're doing day to day firefighting. And so that allows you to come in there and really be an advocate for them. And I think that is a good message for everyone that listens to the podcast.
Speaker 3:
16:31
Yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 2:
16:34
So, Amber, did you want to talk about Asia a little bit? I know some passion on that for the upcoming event with Jim and team.
Speaker 1:
16:42
Yeah. So by the time this episode launches, it will be about a week before a she, um, which is the sustainability event of the year for all of our higher ed, um, sustainability friends. And I actually met Jim for the first time at a, she back in 2016 or 2017. I can't remember. Um, but you're an AC veteran, would you say, Jim?
Speaker 3:
17:07
I would say that, yeah. I've been going to HG every year of my professional sustainability, um, career. So, um, I think my first one might've been Denver, um, maybe even before that, but, um, yeah, I've been doing a show for a while and it's, uh, definitely a highlight of my year, um, in my, uh, continuing education.
Speaker 1:
17:30
Well, what are you looking forward to the most, uh, for this year's event?
Speaker 3:
17:35
Um, well I think what's really neat about this year's event is that a, she is in Spokane, which is the, um, second largest city in the state of Washington and the home of Gonzaga university. So we convenient, yes. Um, so able to some funds and not traveling, um, but really excited to welcome friends and colleagues to, uh, Spokane and kinda show off, uh, some of the things that we've been doing as a community and as a campus within the community. Um, and I think in addition to not having to necessarily travel very far, um, the thing about ASU being in town is that we're able to, um, kind of support and, um, shepherd more students and staff and faculty to attend the conference. So I think we'll have around 18 people from Gonzaga attending, which is really exciting, um, to, to, to have, cause we'll have, um, that many people immersed in the conversations and the networking and the learning and they can bring it right back across the river to our campus.
Speaker 2:
18:43
I know I'm excited about it. Having gone to Washington state and family that have gone to guns. Agha I love the Paloose. I love Spokane area. So it will be, it'll be neat to be back there. It's been a while for me. Yeah. For those sustainability and energy professionals, uh, at higher education that may not be attending a Shi Jim, what would you share with them that would get them excited about why they should?
Speaker 3:
19:12
Good question. Um, I think H T to me is, is the place to connect with, um, we're a small community kind of higher ed sustainability professionals. Um, there's a lot of kind of memes that define us. We're often, um, you know, kinda type a, we do a lot with a little. Um, and it's really nice to connect in person and kind of share best practices, um, kind of share frustrations, issues, but also celebrate the good work that's being done. Um, I think it's, it's neat to see where, um, the pain points are in our industry. It's neat to see what's next. Um, you could start to see that a couple of years ago with the UN sustainable development goals, starting to bubble up in presentations and then them being such a centerpiece, I think of last year's conference and then, you know, watching them become such an important part of, um, AC stars, um, and that assessment system. So I think it's, it's the kind of the state of the industry when it comes to higher ed sustainability. Uh, and it's fun to, to kind of track that.
Speaker 1:
20:26
It's always a great show for that purpose of connecting with other folks who are passionate about sustainability in higher ed as well as students. I thought that was probably the coolest part for me was to connect with the students and feel their passion for, uh, the climate crisis and what they can do about it. And it's all, it's always inspiring for me to go to a sushi.
Speaker 3:
20:47
Yeah. The summit on [inaudible] Sunday is always a highlight to have those students at the summit and that opening, um, event. And then, uh, I think there's always a good percentage of students that stick around or even just come for the entire conference. It was great to see
Speaker 1:
21:02
great learning opportunity for them too. Yeah, they are our future. Absolutely. And since, uh, a she is in Washington this year, we actually asked Jim for where we always host a happy hour for our customers and our friends in the industry. So Jim helped us pick the place where, where are we going this year? Gym. Going to Durkin's liquor barn in downtown Spokane. That's right. I think you're taking over the Bain called the liquor barn. We're taking over the basement. That's right. So anyone who's listening, if you're attending the event and you would like to learn more about how you can join us, meet Jem, meet all of us, um, just uh, send us a note marketing@lisadg.com. So you talked a little bit, Jim, about, you know, going to HG to kind of hear what the trends are going to be, what's next in sustainability for higher ed. Do you have any insight on what you think is next for our industry?
Speaker 3:
22:02
So I think, um, the theme of this year's conference is kind of a good indicator of where sustainability is going in higher ed. Um, I had a, um, colleague, um, who once said that, great, uh, universities need great cities in grace, did he the great universities. And so, um, this year's theme is co-creating sustainable economies. And I think in so many ways you can call it town-gown relations. Um, but universities and colleges throughout the country are located somewhere and they can be participants in, um, kind of, you know, labeled as an economy, um, the different ebbs and flows and, and, and activities in a community. So I had the fortune to go to, um, on a, uh, kind of an immersion trip with, um, city and community, uh, government and business leaders last year to Copenhagen, Denmark. And we had a chance to visit some really neat, uh, places in Denmark and we went to Colin Borg.
Speaker 3:
23:14
And for any of my Danish friends who are listening, I'd probably butchered that. Um, but we were able to see how they, um, kind of connected different industries that we're in this kind of eco districts and they, um, took the waste steam in from one facility and piped it down the road and turn it into energy for another facility. And there might have been, um, waste from the, uh, um, a composting facility that they took the heat and turned it into energy for another facility. So you really created this really neat and eco district. And, uh, what was neat to see upon returning from this trip is that some of those learnings and opportunities that we, we gleaned from the trip are actually being applied in Spokane by people who are on the trip. So we have our, a waste to energy facility. Um, and there's conversations about training that and to kind of an eco district where the, um, energy from that facility might par power, a facility that makes something that can contribute to the renewables economy, um, right across the river from, uh, Gonzaga. Um, in the university districts, we have, uh, some buildings that are being constructed by McKinstry that are made of, um, cross laminated timber. Um, that was another thing that we really picked up on that trip. So I think there are, um, some opportunities to, to kind of transform that town gown relationship kind of meme into how do we, um, co-create those sustainable economies? How can we contribute to each other? How can we enter into partnerships that, um, create something bigger and better.
Speaker 2:
25:10
Jim, I think the eco district is a really interesting concept and you know, I am seeing more and more of the folks who we're talking to, especially on the higher ed side, um, become more involved with the cities, right? That they're in, in that kind of eco district mentality. I would imagine in Spokane, Gonzaga hugely important, right? To the economy of, of that city. Uh, and, and the brand image of that city. How often are you guys connecting with the city and working on joint sustainability?
Speaker 3:
25:46
Yeah. So just this past year, we piloted, um, our first Epic project and Epic stands for, um, I think educational partnerships for innovation in communities. And so what Epic does is it creates a platform for, um, institutions to respond to the needs of the community. And in the case of this pilot, um, the community. So the city of Spokane needed a greenhouse gas emissions inventory done. And so we, I had, um, one of our Gonzaga, um, school of engineering and applied sciences, uh, senior design, um, projects take that, um, very, um, task upon themselves. And so they had a faculty member who, um, assisted them in doing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for the city properties and then for the community as a whole. And, um, it was neat because it was, um, kind of a contract, uh, was created. There was a fee for it. Um, one could argue that there might've been a, a design firm or a planning firm that missed out on the opportunity because Gonzaga was able to come in for maybe a different, um, cost structure. But that's not the point of the whole thing. And the point is to, um, give that experience to students so that they can get then go forth and do it in their professional lives and to create those synergies and those, uh, um, cocreation opportunities to the students, to the faculty and to the community. Um, so it was a, it was a really successful event and I see how the results of that emissions inventory is being used, um, probably on a daily basis.
Speaker 1:
27:38
That's really awesome. Jen. Well, um, do you have anything else that you would like to share with our audience before we wrap this thing up?
Speaker 3:
27:50
Um, if you're coming to [inaudible], um, make the most of it. Um, I think in the past I spent a lot of time kind of picking out the exact sessions I was gonna go to as I've, uh, kinda spent more time at the conference. Um, I kinda just, um, follow
Speaker 2:
28:11
where, you know, where I think,
Speaker 3:
28:13
um, I should be, that's maybe sounds a little esoteric. Um, but I think the opportunity to H at ACA is to connect with others and you know, there'll be those sessions where everyone's talking about it and they'll, you know, had that way. I, I did a little digging on what sessions. Um, I'm interested in, I'm excited for, um, learning about next generation sustainability planning, um, about making a consistent sustainability brand. Um, there's a a session, um, being led or co-led by my good friend Gillian about sustainability offices of one. Um, so I think it'll be a great conference and I'm excited to welcome folks to Spokane.
Speaker 2:
28:56
Yeah, that's sustainability. Office of one I think is huge. We work with a lot of people that, you know, it always starts with one big champion and has grown larger, but sometimes you're, you're on an Island and it may seem like you're, you're by yourself. So good networking. Go figure out how to make a big impact. Hey, one more fun fact. Jim, I know that you are big on alternative modes of transportation and I think on a daily basis, you're all about figuring out ways to use that. I read a story at gun's Agha about scooters. So anything you want to share about that, how has that work for the campus and in any, uh, interesting alternative modes of transportation stories?
Speaker 3:
29:37
Um, yeah, scooters are the new thing. Um, I think even just in the last year, you've seen a bike share tune in, turn into wheelchair or scooter share. Um,
Speaker 3:
29:49
and they're everywhere. Uh, so it's been a fun experience in kind of transportation planning. Um, we did a pilot with lime and the city, uh, last, uh, fall and then kind of took a break for the winter and the city had to figure it out, some legislative pieces about helmets and you know, where scooter should and should be. And then they came around and back, um, late spring and they've been on campus and in our community ever since. And they've been hiccups like there have been in every instance of when there's something new. Um, but it's been great to, to have a new source of mobility that is, um, often right outside your door and right where you needed to be. Um, and we've done some things to make it a little more palatable for our campus. Like we've actually throttled the speed down to seven miles an hour, which after going 15 miles an hour on a scooter, seems like you're crawling, but it's hot man. I know students can't be fired up about that. No, no, they definitely can't, uh, have racist on the fourth floor of our administration building anymore.
Speaker 1:
31:05
Oh man, that's funny. Well, so we always like to, in this show with, uh, tips and advice that you would give to other sustainability leaders, whether they're at higher ed institutions or, um, corporate campuses. So if you had to bottle up all of your knowledge and distill it into three pieces of advice, what would that be?
Speaker 3:
31:32
Good question. Um, I would just say that all of us in this field are incredibly wise, um, because we got into the work. Um, someone needs to do it and that's us. Uh, but I think we're always bombarded by information, um, from different directions. And I guess my advice would be an invitation to just take a deep breath and, um, rest and find comfort in the wisdom that you have, that you share with students, with customers, with colleagues every day. Um, there's always this push I think for more. Um, and I think we fail to recognize and see that we already have what we need. So, um, I don't [inaudible] that's an invitation to be complacent. I think it's an invitation to be confident, insure of, um, your practice of sustainability because it's, it's, I'm pretty sure, even though I don't know anyone I'm talking to right now, it's a, it's a good invalid practices sustainability. So there you go.
Speaker 1:
32:37
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Jim. It's always so fun chatting with you. Thanks for coming on our show. I hope to have you back real soon. Absolutely. Thanks for having me. And we'll see what a she, yes. Excited. I can't wait for this. Get together. Yeah. So for all of the listeners out there, we will be at a Shi lucid. We'll have a booth at the show. We'll also have a couple of different speaking, um, sessions, so be sure to look out for those on the agenda. Uh, and of course our happy hour. So, uh, feel free to reach out to us if you'd like to be included on that. You can meet us and Jim. Um, so go ahead and email me at marketing at [inaudible] dot com if you would like to, uh, be sent an invite for all of you listening out there. Thanks again for tuning in to the modern energy management podcast. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our show. It's available on all podcast platforms, and if you'd like to be on the show, feel free to email me@marketingatluciddg.com. We would love the opportunity to have you on the show to share your stories and ideas with our audience. Until then, we'll see you next week where we'll be back with more great modern energy management stories for you. Take care.
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