A rendering of the AGU building headquarters side and roof with a blue overlay

AGU Sustainability

We appreciate the careful balance AGU members and staff make every day to reduce their environmental footprint because everyone can and should be good stewards of our planet for future generations. It’s not only about reducing our personal usage of carbon, nitrogen, water and other resources, but looking at the lifecycle of everything from our food sources to our workplaces.

We also need to understand the Earth and our solar system, share our science, and develop future Earth and space scientists to address sustainability and benefit humanity worldwide.

AGU Building Green Wall

AGU Headquarters

As an organization, AGU has taken a leadership role through a number of actions, including our net zero energy renovation of our headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Net zero energy[1] means the total annual amount of energy used by a building is equal to or less than the amount of energy created onsite through innovative technologies and renewable power generation.

By achieving net zero energy, AGU’s building will reduce energy, waste, and water[2] consumption to almost zero and greatly reduce the carbon footprint, with the intent of putting excess power back on the grid.

As one of the first renovated net zero buildings in a U.S. city and since AGU’s building is on a compact urban lot, it is a model for how technologies can be combined and used to maximize efficiency.

We have endeavored to effectively use energy in every way possible, from absorbing energy from the D.C. sewer to saving embodied energy by reusing, recycling, or repurposing materials from our original building.

Here are a few examples on how we’re achieving net zero energy:

A photo looking up at the building's glass Prow
  • 1

    Solar photovoltaics (PV) generates direct current (DC) from power from sunlight. AGU uses the power of the sun through DC power modules to deliver low-voltage electricity directly to all lights and workstations.

    When our PV generates more than we need – normally on sunny days – we receive Renewable Energy Credits for the power we contribute to the city power grid. From a regional perspective, this is important because we become contributors, not consumers, of power during peak demand hours.

  • 2

    Municipal sewer heat exchange system connects to the sewer line, diverts wastewater to a wet well under our plaza that then separates the sewer solids from the liquids. The liquids enter a heat exchanger in our parking area where the energy is used for the heating and cooling of the building.

  • 3

    Water reclamation cistern collects rainwater from the roof and any condensation from the dedicated outdoor air system. After being filtered, treated by ultraviolet light and conditioned, AGU’s building produces all the water needed for flushing toilets and irrigation.

AGU Building Heat Exchanger

In all, AGU’s building combines 4 key engineering principles – generation, reduction, reclamation, and absorption. Within these four principles, more than 50 different strategies were individually researched and tested, with the project team ultimately selecting the key 24 strategies and 23 separate technologies that would take the AGU building to net zero energy.

For additional details on AGU’s net zero energy headquarters, please visit the website.

AGU Building Roof

AGU Fall Meetings

Sharing of posters and presentations virtually: Since 2011, AGU Fall Meeting has offered free on-demand or streaming sessions so that scientists and anyone interested in Earth and space science worldwide could engage, learn and share important sessions from the meeting.

In 2019, we will record and stream about 100 of these, more than any other major Earth and space science meeting. In addition to all the Union and Centennial sessions, most will be related to understanding Earth's climate. As technology has improved, we've added additional two-way engagement opportunities, such as chat, so people can discuss any questions, no matter where they're located. In addition, this year, we are piloting aconnected remote networking session at the AGU building on GeoHealth to support attendees that cannot attend and explore this model for future development.

AGU has helped develop a preprint server specifically encouraging public archiving of posters from any Earth and space science meeting (not just AGU’s), ESSOAr.org. If you have a poster, please upload it this year so that your science can be shared worldwide.

The Meetings Committee is focusing on further optimizing virtual presentations and engagement while also optimizing the experience for in-person attendees.

section of Poster Hall

Sustainable Meetings: AGU will continue to promote additional practices to reduce the environmental impact of its Fall Meeting and all other meetings, including providing the programming schedule via app; reducing paper, using compostable cups and serveware, vegetable-based containers for all foodstuffs; deploying the most sustainable choices for carpet and other building supplies on-site; and encouraging attendees and staff to use public transportation or walk to events.

The Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco is a sustainability leader, from measuring tons recycled to composting to providing locally-sourced food. Additional information about its practices are available on its website.

More broadly, rotating the Fall Meeting across the U.S. has allowed broader local and regional participation than before, expanding overall participation and reducing overall travel and air travel.

Accounting: Finally, we do not have a carbon estimate for 2018, but we are working on one for 2019, which will include our hotels (via HCMI calculation), Moscone Convention Center and Scope 1 and 2 data.

Aerial view of the Moscone Center and its solar photovoltaic array.

[1] AGU follows the New Building Institute definition of net zero energy.

[2] Due to stringent federal and local water regulations, this project cannot pursue net zero water strategies although the proper technology for on-site potable water treatment now exists.