Higher Education Webinars

Getting to Green

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

February 12, 2009 - 9:35pm
Today is, as we've all been informed ad nauseum, the 200th anniversary of the births of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
February 11, 2009 - 6:27pm
Greenback U has a lot of recycling containers on campus. Many are for paper only, some are for paper and cans/bottles/plastics in a single stream, and some are for paper and cans (etc.) separately. In addition, we have specialty recycling/disposal containers for batteries, for aerosol cans, for corrugated cardboard. If I get my way, we'll have a couple of specialty recycling containers for cell phones.
February 9, 2009 - 5:48pm
As the economy has gone into the crapper, so has the market for most recyclable materials. It just doesn't pay to ship tons of used cardboard, or even steel, across the Pacific to use in making new products (and the packaging for new products) when sales are down across the board. Plants are closing. Even the Japanese car companies are showing annual losses. And -- this just in -- the current recession is already the worst in terms of job losses since WWII, and there's no sign that it's hit bottom yet.
February 6, 2009 - 6:17am
One of the tactics Greenback would like to use to decrease our carbon footprint in the short term is to replace our existing (largely unremarkable) fleet of campus vehicles with ones which are more fuel-efficient. Long-term, we'd like to get away from fossil-fueled vehicles entirely, but at the moment that's hardly practical.
February 2, 2009 - 9:50pm
Like every other college and university in the country -- probably the world -- Greenback is pinching pennies. Hard. Discretionary purchases are out, deferrable maintenance is deferred, raises are even more illusory than usual. Hiring is generally frozen ( de facto if not de jure), but there are a few exceptions. Filling key faculty vacancies is one of them. And Greenback's lack of a professor of sustainable engineering is considered a key vacancy.
February 1, 2009 - 12:23pm
It's now a year since I started this series of miscellaneous ramblings. At such times the mind reflects, and may or may not like what it sees in the mirror. Since I'm often of two minds, mine tends to do both.
January 29, 2009 - 8:52am
When I do a sustainability audit for departments on campus, one of the things I look for is "converters" or "chargers" or external power supplies. You know, those big bulky boxy plugs that go into the wall socket and are then connected to the electronic whatever by a thin electrical cord. The cord is thin because what comes out of the converter isn't 120 volt alternating current any more, it's direct current at a much lower voltage. All electronic equipment -- computers, monitors, telephones, etc. -- runs on low-voltage DC.
January 27, 2009 - 5:30pm
Back when he was in seventh grade, my son undertook a science fair project. For 60 days he monitored the germination and growth of four populations of bean plants: one control group, one with longer daily exposure to light, one with warmer soil, and one with both heat and light enhancements. His conclusion was that warming the soil significantly sped growth, but that lengthening the (simulated) sunlight did not.
January 26, 2009 - 8:46am
Michael Pollan pretty famously wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma; A Natural History of Four Meals. If you haven't read it, you probably should. Unless you're really hung up on your current eating patterns. One of Pollan's points, of course, is that the way North Americans eat takes no account whatever of the lifespan greenhouse gas emissions created by the food we choose to eat. It's a legitimate point, and a significant one, and my family has changed -- to an extent -- the way we eat, as a result.
January 22, 2009 - 6:56pm
As any good student, the more I study this sustainability thing, the less I think I know. There's so much pragmatic certainty to the problem, yet so much technical uncertainty about the specific mechanisms, measurements and models. And the social/political/economic dimensions are Gordian. The good news is that, at least in the early stages, we know what we have to do.

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