For a while now, I've been struggling with the concept of sustainability. (That's not good, since moving the campus and the institution in a sustainable direction is what Greenback U is paying me to do.) When I first got started in this job, I had a clear idea of what sustainability entailed. The problem was global warming/climate change. The solution was greenhouse gas reduction. The job was to move Greenback towards lower and lower GHG emissions, so that it (and hundreds of its closest friends) could serve as models for the rest of Western Civilization. But over the past five years or so, I've qualified and modified that understanding to the point that, at present, it seems to me that GHG emissions are but one aspect of the sustainability mess we're in, and probably not the one to emphasize.
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April 9, 2012
April 2, 2012
Years ago, I was talking to a man -- call him "Randy" -- who made his money selling mortgages. First, Randy's company originated them -- lent money to residential buyers so they could purchase their dream homes. Then he sold them to a consolidator who pooled many mortgages and used them as collateral for the issuance of securities. The difference between this man's behavior and the behaviors that led -- in large part -- to the crash of 2008 was that Randy took a moderately long view of his business.
March 28, 2012
According to a recent study by the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, if you ride your bike for a mile you contribute about 42 cents to the overall economy. By contrast, each mile you drive your car costs society about 20 cents. Combine the two, and driving has a net social cost of about 62 cents per mile compared to bicycling.
March 22, 2012
My evolving vision of a sustainable campus in a sustainable city includes university-connected mixed-use space around the campus edge(s). Key advantages of such space include minimizing the need for travel as well as making provision of energy-efficient travel/transit options far easier.
March 19, 2012
Of late, I've been thinking a lot about how campuses and their surrounding communities interrelate in ways that affect the sustainability (or lack thereof) of both.
March 18, 2012
Say the word "scope" to a campus sustainability wonk, and a specific frame of reference immediately takes over. "Scope 1 vs. Scope 2 vs. Scope 3." The demarcation comes from greenhouse gas accounting or, more precisely, inventorying.
March 12, 2012
My earlier statement that campuses focus more effort on recycling than reduction and reuse combined doesn't mean that no campuses do anything to reduce or reuse.
March 11, 2012
As a campus sustainability wonk, let me say that the vast majority of the campus sustainability movement isn't serious. Which is not to say that most campus sustainability coordinators (or directors, or whatever) aren't serious about their jobs, or dedicated to the abstract idea of sustainability. But that idea is often stated -- and so, understood -- only in vague terms.
March 8, 2012
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Gates (or, at least, Microsoft). Cisco and Philips, SAS and IKEA, Rajendra Pachauri and Gro Harlem Brundtland. What they have in common is called Sustainia. And what that attempts to be isn't common at all right now, but aspires to be so in the future. The near future.
March 6, 2012
This morning, I happened to hear a story on NPR about peer-to-peer car-sharing. Folks (those mentioned in the story were university students) become members of an organization. Some join to be able to rent privately-owned cars on an hourly basis, others to make their personal vehicles available in return for up to 60% of rental fees. The central organization (company) takes care of member screening (for credit-worthiness, a clean driving record, etc.) and all the administrative overhead.