CU’s eCenter Director, Dave Newport, on Mission Zero

If the eCenter had a competitor

If the Environmental Center (eCenter) were a private business operating in a market and another business called “Mission Zero” came along that had the same mission, more flexibility, and greater resources, we would have to consider them a challenging competitor.

Fortunately, we serve CU students and operate within CU Student Government—and the fledgling startup Mission Zero organization seeks only to help us amplify our mission, not supplant it.

Mission Zero (MZ) was founded by a donation from Scott King and his family in 2020 in response to the urgency of protecting democracy and fighting the climate crisis. Scott says MZ was founded, “to improve society’s resilience to climate change and, more importantly, to champion carbon zero living. I hope to see it grow into a movement. In order to solve a problem as big as climate change, we need as many people working on it as possible.”

I cannot disagree with any part of Scott’s statement. Happily, that’s a major eCenter focus as well; and has been so for 52 years.

Therefore, partnering with Mission Zero was an instant yes. And that alliance has grown, become more impactful, and paid off for all concerned. They have supported many of the things we do with new ideas, funding, and personnel. Likewise, via their unique status as a CU “activist donor,” MZ has successfully engaged and allied with campus leadership, faculty, and staff in a way that has empowered a more forward and coordinated effort to deliver on our mutual goals.

In just MZ’s first year, they have helped ideate, support, or fund numerous joint programs and efforts campus-wide such as:

  • Engineering Climate Capstone Projects
    • Grid vs. Evil: funding was allocated to the Grid vs. Evil project from the Mission Zero Fund for the design and creation of the Electric Vehicle ecosystem.
  • CU Solar Decathlon: Mission Zero is matching the $10,000 donations to the CU Solar Decathlon program.  
  • Climate Summits
    • Solutions Showcase 2022:  co-hosted with CU’s eCenter on April 21st where students and faculty presented climate action-related startup projects in the form of posters, videos/slideshows, or live demonstrations. 
      Watch CGTN overview of Solutions Showcase 2022
    • Right Here Right Now UN Summit (coming Dec 2022): The summit will bring together thought leaders from the public, private, civic, and academic communities to advance education about climate change as a human rights crisis, discuss the responsibilities of various entities to address the crisis, and identify actionable solutions.
  • Hindsight “Changing Skies” Magazine:  funding from Mission Zero made possible the creation and execution of Changing Skies, plus three climate change student-writing contests with prize money.
  • Creative Climate Communication and Behavior Change: Creative communication specifically bridges the gap from the common “doom and gloom” outlook, to reframe it in a more personal and relatable way. So far, C3BC has brought together four initiatives on campus that already have a track record in creating meaningful and transformative experiences
  • Climate Curriculum Development 
    • Program for Writing and Rhetoric Faculty Training:  Faculty attended seminars and were able to take their learning into the classroom.  With over 6,000 CU students taking nearly 350 PWR classes each year, this program can impact a broad set of students enrolled in all CU Boulder colleges. 
    • Climate Across the Curriculum Workshop: Mission Zero earmarked funding for the “Climate Across the Curriculum” faculty workshop that will guide instructors and professors on how to incorporate climate into their existing curriculum.
    • New Course Development: Confronting Environmental Racism Class: This course is designed to enable students to learn skills that will be impactful in climate action, while also ensuring that climate action is anti-racist, equitable, and just, by making them aware of racist situations within the environmental and climate sector.  
  • CU’s Climate Action & Climate Justice Plan: Support from the eCenter, Mission Zero, and additional University resources help ensure that diverse faculty, students, and staff are engaged in the process.
  • Climate Justice Speaker Event: Funding to compensate those involved in environmental justice efforts for their time in educating students.
  • New Venture Challenge – Climate Track
    • Agraaze: Environmental entrepreneurship is a vital tool for addressing climate change. CU is one of the leaders in entrepreneurship, and Mission Zero and donors are helping these budding entrepreneurs focus their energy on solving our climate crisis.  
  • College of Media, Communication, and Information (CMCI):  Support for climate change programs was distributed during the Spring 2022 semester.
  • Student Climate Project Funding: Mission Zero allocated funding in order to provide over 50 student climate projects with either $500 per individual or $2,000 per team. 
  • Student Athletes for Climate Action (NIL): One of the best ways to reach and engage students with climate action at any university is through cooperation with student-athletes who are also passionate about climate. These Student-Athletes will impact the level of engagement Mission Zero and the eCenter has with the student body at CU through social media outreach and awareness of climate action programs. 
  • Mission Zero Student Internships: eCenter and MZ Interns and volunteers are also the lifeblood of both organizations’ connection to the student body.

Bottom line: we are excited about Mission Zero’s partnership with the EC and the campus. We have allied to each bring what we do best to every one of our endeavors, and that means much stronger impacts across the board. MZ’s impacts span several major spheres of campus and are unprecedented in terms of scope. We are all learning how to align and coordinate our respective actions. But that is a good problem to have. And in the face of climate change, we need some good problems if we are to be effective in mitigating the many not-so-favorable challenges we face.

After a successful first year, now we must focus on the long-term sustainability and growth of Mission Zero. Donor-driven, MZ and the campus have now set out to bring in more supportive and resourceful donors to help raise our respective games. 

With MZ’s support and our strong partnerships, we can transform CU into Climate University. The first year of the MZ/EC partnership put that goal on the launchpad. Now the countdown must begin toward liftoff. Donors and supporters can help light that fire—and illuminate a better future for CU and the planet. That is a future vision we all want to see.

Authored by Dave Newport, EC Director

Originally posted on CU’s website here