Getting to Green

Getting to Green

An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

October 31, 2008 - 5:21pm
One of the issues which often raises its head when I speak about sustainability to local groups -- both on the Greenback campus and in the community of Backboro -- is best phrased as "we can't afford to be sustainable." To my mind, "I can't afford it" is, like "I didn't have time", a less confrontational way of saying "it wasn't important enough to me." That being the case, I try to address the objection strategically, not directly. Not "spend the money, dammit!', but "here's why we need to find a way to make it affordable".
October 30, 2008 - 3:18pm
Doing a greenhouse gas inventory for a college or university involves crunching a lot of numbers. Activities which generate emissions, factors for calculating the emissions generated, forcings to translate other gases into CO2 based on global warming effect, lots of stuff. The tool Greenback used to prepare its baseline inventory was the defacto standard of such things -- Clear Air - Cool Planet's Campus Carbon Calculator.
October 29, 2008 - 8:19am
First, the bad news. (And I guess the bad news could be good news, if you look at it a little bit sideways.) The bad news is that the green movement is now spawning Kitty Kelly-style exposes with a definite Ann Coulter twist.
October 24, 2008 - 11:24pm
I just received my electronic copy of the Rocky Mountain Institute's Solutions newsletter. It contains an article by Cameron Burns about a study of successful campus greening strategies, the results of which will be published next spring (don't you just love the lag time involved in publishing academic studies -- by the time the data gets into print, it's nearly obsolete).
October 22, 2008 - 5:38am
So, when all is said and done, what matters is getting Greenback to a position of sustainability. We need to get out of the habit of taking more (of anything) than we put back. We need to learn how to stop creating wastes we don't resorb. We need to get out of what the cyberneticians call "positive feedback loops" because, after a while, the feedback doesn't seem all that positive. We need to find, and model, and pass on to our students a sense of balance, of equilibrium, of stability.
October 17, 2008 - 6:32pm
First, a word of clarification about the title. "Plotting the course" was a phrase that first popped into my alleged mind in reference to preparing a campus carbon neutrality plan. But then, I realized that such would only lead to confusion. I might think of a carbon neutrality plan as a "course of action", but (somehow) the term "course" brings other images to most minds on campus. So, bowing to the inevitable, lets think of "course" as a unit of curriculum.
October 14, 2008 - 7:39pm
I don't want to say that I have as much contact with students as a typical faculty member, but I suspect that I work with more students over the course of a semester than some faculty members do. And I don't just mean the emeriti who teach one seminar section each summer -- I probably work, in one capacity or another, to educate and enable and coach and facilitate the efforts of something like forty or fifty students each semester.
October 10, 2008 - 4:41pm
Maybe I'm a heretic, but I think a sustainable society/economy/environment can be nicer than the one we've got now. (And I even thought that 2+ weeks ago!) So when I use the word "gospel", I'm not being sardonic. Which is a good thing, because sardonicism doesn't win you a lot of converts, and winning converts is a big part of my job.
October 8, 2008 - 9:31pm
Probably the most commonly recognized task that campus sustainability staff perform is the undertaking of a Greenhouse Gas Inventory. (BTW, when I say "commonly," figure maybe 35-40% recognition.) The term "inventory" is something of a misnomer. If any store inventoried its retail stock as haphazardly as Greenback U inventoried its greenhouse gas emissions, it would likely go out of business. And we did a more complete job than many, many other campuses.
October 6, 2008 - 6:14pm
Sustainability work is a continuum. Some efforts are very physical, others are hands-on in an entirely different way.

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