Getting to Green
An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.
August 18, 2008 - 4:19pm
Higher education is all about information -- parsing it, passing judgment on it, and passing it on. Sustainability work is largely about keeping up with information -- with a problem complex enough to encompass the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the socio-sphere, new knowledge emerges daily and anyone's understanding is always incomplete. If you have to combine the two (as any university sustainability administrator must), a high tolerance for complexity is critical. Unfortunately, this same tolerance for complexity can lead us to over-think and over-explain.
August 14, 2008 - 10:08pm
Part of my job at Greenback U is to go around to other departments on campus and update them on the University's latest sustainability efforts. A portion of any update is often context setting -- sharing with folks why what we're doing improves sustainability, and pointing out some of the steps other universities have taken or new technologies now or soon to be available. Sure, we have a website, and send out an electronic newsletter, but there's nothing like face-to-face communication when you're trying to help people form an impression or an understanding.
August 13, 2008 - 8:03am
Living on a farm, I don't travel all that much. The place doesn't take care of itself, and the schedule of chores isn't real flexible -- certainly not to the extent of a day or more. Still, my duties at Greenback do take me on the road (at least figuratively) from time to time. More often, these days, that "road" has rails.
August 9, 2008 - 12:42pm
Thursday morning, on my way in to campus, I was listening to NPR. One of the items was an interview with consultant Howard Davidowitz, about the current state of the retail industry. No real surprises -- automobile and restaurant sales are down, off-price sales are strong, Wal-Mart is doing just fine, thank you. What struck my ear was Davidowitz's closing comment that the US standard of living was headed south for several years, at least. He said that like it was a bad thing.
August 7, 2008 - 9:24am
Greenback U. wants to get sustainable. So we've got a Sustainability Committee. They're supposed to come up with a Sustainability Policy. I guess they're committed to coming up with the policy -- after all, that's what "committee" means, right? That which (or who) is committed. If so, it doesn't show. The committee's been in place for over a year, with nary a policy (much less anything substantial) to show for it. They meet irregularly, they don't publish minutes, and attendance is hit-or-miss. If those are signs of commitment, I must be Queen of the May.
August 5, 2008 - 10:20am
First the good news. I've mentioned before that one of the main challenges in making renewable energy, particularly wind- and solar-powered generation, mainstream is the lack of a good electrical storage solution. A "better battery". Otherwise, it's hard to keep the computer running on dark, windless nights.
August 1, 2008 - 4:04pm
Reporter Jack Stripling has an article on green computing in today's edition. I don't know Jack. It's a pretty good article (not that I'm any judge). One minor nit, though, and a couple of things to add.
July 30, 2008 - 7:34pm
Yesterday, the 2009 edition of Princeton Review's 368 Best Colleges became available. For the first time, a major college guide includes "green scores" -- ratings on campus sustainability. The minimum score is a 60, the maximum a 99. (Schools which didn't respond to the Review's survey get a starred 60.)
July 29, 2008 - 1:20pm
When it comes time to create a campus sustainability plan, I'm not expecting to be able to limit my thinking to campus. It's not realistic to envision a sustainable campus amidst an unsustainable community, or an unsustainable region. (I had thought of titling this "no campus is an island", but there's currently an "X Files" movie in the theaters, and I don't think Hollywood's planning a remake of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" anytime soon. Want to stay culturally relevant, and all that.)
July 25, 2008 - 10:38am
I don't think this falls into the category of "reflection", but one thing strikes me as a result of information gathered at SCUP-43. California is requiring LEED Silver for all commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet. That's $3-5 million, depending. Harvard is at the point where it basically gets LEED Gold at no incremental up-front cost. Both LEED Silver and LEED Gold have proven to more than pay for themselves in energy savings.