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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

IU Environmental Resilience Institute receives state-wide award for outreach, education


IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute received a 2021 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence last month for its work in promoting environmental resilience within Indiana communities. 

ERI was one of eight recipients of this year’s award from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The institute won in the “environmental outreach/education” category.

ERI launched in 2017 as part of the Prepared for Environmental Change initiative of IU’s Grand Challenges Program. The institute facilitates research on climate impacts, educates the public on environmental change and implements climate action programs across Indiana, ERI executive director Gabriel Filippelli said.

“We are contributing in a positive way to conversations about climate and environment throughout the state of Indiana,” Filippelli said. “That’s the kind of impact I’m particularly proud of, and I think that is also the impact that the Governor's Award recognized us for.”

“ERI is a wonderful organization, largely because the team is doing so much valuable work all around Indiana and around the globe,” Filippelli said.

Filippelli said ERI’s environmental education efforts include a free webinar series of climate training for local governments, a climate change podcast, a toolkit of resources for local officials and the Hoosier Resilience Index. The index supplies governments and residents with information about their vulnerability to climate impacts.

Providing the public with access to such information empowers them to take action on climate change, Filippelli said.

“I think people see the catastrophe of climate change and they feel kind of powerless to take any action on it, or they don't understand it,” he said. “It's really important to understand where Hoosiers are coming from and what information they need to act on climate change so they don't feel so hopeless.”

ERI also works directly with local communities through its Resilience Cohort and Indiana Climate Fellows programs, Filippelli said. The Resilience Cohort program partners with local governments to help them measure and develop plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

Filippelli said IU students in the Climate Fellows program, a joint program with Sustain IU, conduct projects like greenhouse gas inventories in communities across Indiana. ERI expects around 50% of Indiana towns and cities to have greenhouse gas inventories recorded by the end of 2022, he said.

Matthew Flaherty, ERI implementation manager, said ERI partners with local governments to develop solutions to manage their climate impacts using information from these inventories. 

“We’re really trying to provide communities with assistance from the university to better understand the impacts of climate change they’re seeing in their communities,” he said.

Sarah Mincey, ERI managing director, said ERI’s work is propelled by IU students’ motivation to confront the climate crisis.

“I’m proud that students are showing communities across the state that we can do this together,” Mincey said. “Together, utilizing our students in coordination with communities, we’re actually able to take steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change so people and ecosystems can continue thriving.”

Filippelli said receiving the 2021 Governor’s Award for ERI’s work with Indiana communities will boost the institute’s goal to expand its programs across the Midwest. 

“This award gives us new opportunities because it provides some legitimacy and recognition that what we're doing is valued by the state,” Filippelli said. “That was just the first taste of where we plan to go. We're already dreaming and acting big, and we don’t have plans to stay in Indiana.”

Filippelli said the success of ERI’s work is thanks to its members' passion to address climate change. 

“It's easy when you're doing something that you know is right,” Filippelli said. “What better thing to do than to play a part in protecting the environment, protecting Indiana and, frankly, protecting the world?”

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