Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Student nominated for national environmental leader award

Matthew Friedrichs, a civil engineering major and the co-founder of a leading campus environmental program, has been nominated for the SmartPower America's Next Eco-Star award. But to win, he needs the help of the campus community.


The award program is run by the U.S. Department of Energy and SmartPower, a non-profit marketing firm dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The competition will award the winning candidate with a fellowship at SmartPower and the chance to represent the U.S. at the Sustainability Futures Academy in Salzburg, Austria, this year.

Part of the criteria for winning the award is the number of votes a nominee accumulates between now and the Feb. 24 deadline. By going to and voting for Friedrichs' entry, the campus community can help support his nomination.

Friedrichs is one of nearly 150 sustainability-minded students from across the country who were nominated for this award, but needs to be in the Top 10 in online votes to move on to the next round.

Friedrichs is one of founders of U-M's Kill-A-Watt program, which works to bring sustainability and energy consumption awareness to students living in residence halls on campus. He was nominated for the award by Mike Shriberg, education director for the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and lecturer in the Program for the Environment, and Cassandra Ballert, a fellow Graham Sustainability Scholar along with Friedrichs.

In addition to helping create and launch the Kill-A-Watt program, Friedrichs has traveled to Brazil to help develop a waste-to-energy anaerobic bio-digestion system for local residents in the Pantanal wetland region, conducted extensive research on ways to improve the campus' energy monitoring system by developing an energy visualization system, and also was part of a team of students from the Graham Institute and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning that worked on a sustainable neighborhood program in Detroit last summer.

"It's a really cool thing to be nominated, especially when it comes from a respected faculty member and a fellow student," Friedrichs says. "I'm hoping that between the projects I have been a part of and the voting support from the campus community, I can win this award for U-M."

SmartPower was created by some of the nation's largest private foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the John Merck Fund, and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. SmartPower lists as its mission "to build the clean energy and energy efficiency marketplace by helping the American public make smart energy choices," and is looking for a recent college graduate to join them in developing more effective ways to market clean energy and energy efficiency to young adults.

As part of the Sustainability Futures Academy's annual conference, Friedrichs would have the opportunity contribute to the debate over how sustainability should be addressed in higher education. If he wins the competition, President Mary Sue Coleman also will be invited to join him at the conference.