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Spreading the good news of sustainability

An outdoor photo of the MU Power Plant.

Since its founding in 2013, the Energy Strategies Student Advisory Group, also known as ESSAG, has made strides to increase sustainability and awareness across MU’s campus. This includes promoting the great strides made by the MU Power Plant in this area. Photo courtesy of Gregg Coffin.

by Megan Schaltegger

Since its founding in 2013, the Energy Strategies Student Advisory Group, also known as ESSAG, has made strides to increase sustainability and awareness across MU’s campus.

The committee — comprised of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff and energy management personnel — was first appointed by the chancellor. Leadership has since shifted to Vice Chancellor of Operations Gary Ward.

With many majors represented across ESSAG, including two Engineering students, Co-Chair Kevin Tosie said, “we are able to see all sides of issues and are able to attach different viewpoints to problem solving.”

Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Assistant Research Professor Christine Costello also acts as a rep for the College of Engineering, serving as faculty advisor for the committee.

According to Tosie, Costello and Amy Eultgen of the Sustainability Office, the group advises University of Missouri leadership on how to produce environmentally, fiscally and socially responsible energy.

Last semester, ESSAG partnered with Adzou, a full-service advertising agency staffed by strategic communication students out of the school of journalism. Together, they worked to educate and increase awareness for the power plant.

“What we did with Adzou was use them to find out what the students knew about the power plant on campus,” he said. “Then [the Adzou team] identified different pathways to inform the student body, as well as Columbia and all of Missouri.”

The project included a new hashtag, #knowyourpower, a collaboration with Mizzou After Dark and banners posted across campus.

In addition, the MU-sponsored ad agency facilitated a survey, which revealed that a majority of the student body was unaware of the power plant’s history. Specifically, the “percentage of clean power that [they] are producing,” Tosie said.

“We want to showcase everything the power plant has been successful in,” he added.

Their key objective was to not only inform members of the community on the power plant’s prior success, but also further educate students on how to become more energy conscientious moving forward.

“The only way we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 is a reduction of energy,” Tosie said.

ESSAG recently turned their attention to a new initiative. Beginning this semester, the committee is advising the UM System to include solar-readiness capabilities for all new and newly renovated buildings.

“The Energy Strategies Student Advisory Group (ESSAG) is at an initial point in exploring the feasibility of making our buildings ‘solar-ready,’” Director of Energy Management Gregg Coffin said. “Which will include presenting these concepts and benefits to the university’s project managers for further consideration.”

The conversation for a solar-readiness plan first began in Fall 2017. ESSAG hopes to push the initiative forward in the coming months.

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