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CSS launches online tool to test your 'green IQ'

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As the 38th anniversary of Earth Day and an appearance by the Dalai Lama turned attention to sustainability, a new online tool offers educators, students and others the chance to test their "green IQ."

The "Sustainability: Learn It — Live It" tool was built by researchers at the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS), an interdisciplinary research, education and outreach center of the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at U-M.

The tool can be found at css.snre.umich.edu/facts.

The University invited the Dalai Lama to give the Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability April 20 as part of Earth Day festivities. CSS's Web site broadcast the Dalai Lama's lecture live and posted his talk online as well.

"The Dalai Lama motivates and engages people about their responsibility to reduce consumption and protect the environment for future generations," says Gregory Keoleian, an associate professor at SNRE and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems. "The 'Sustainability: Learn It — Live It' site offers specific guidance and actions that address the critical sustainability challenges."

The launch of the "Learn It - Live It" tool builds on the most recent edition of the CSS Factsheet series. The 15, one-page documents — available as downloads through the CSS site — are researched by scientists but written for citizens, consumers, educators and advocates. They present brief but complete pictures of environmental issues as well as sustainable solutions and alternatives.

"Current U.S. consumption patterns pose sustainability challenges. The 'Learn It — Live It' tool presents the hard science behind many of those sustainability questions in an accessible and engaging way," Keoleian says. "The tool offers something for everyone, but is especially useful to educators and their students."

In the tool's "Learn It" section, users learn facts about patterns of use and the resulting impacts on our modern society. The facts are divided into eight themes: municipal solid waste, buildings, climate, water, energy, food, materials and transportation.

In the quiz section, users test their grasp of the facts found on the Factsheet and "Learn It" sections of the CSS Web site.

In the "Live It" section, users learn specific behaviors to adopt in order to lower their environmental footprints and to save natural resources.

Dozens of students and researchers contributed over the last 10 years to the development and updating of the fact sheets. The collection expands each year. Dr. Mike Lepech, research fellow at the center, worked with an electrical engineering and computer science student from the College of Engineering to create the site, and a graphic arts graduate from the School of Art created the artwork.

In addition to its location on the CSS site, the tool is receiving special mention this year on the Earth Day Network's Web site, ww2.earthday.net/resources. The network is the official keeper of Earth Day, which had its beginnings on April 22, 1970.

Topics areas include: greenhouse gases; climate change: policy and mitigation; science and impacts; energy and food systems; personal transportation; municipal solid waste; material use; photovoltaic energy; commercial buildings; residential buildings; renewable energy; wind energy; water supply and distribution; and wastewater treatment.

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