Most Recent Articles
February 15, 2009
I like to buy my wife flowers when it's cold out. Not on Valentine's Day -- I'm too cheap to pay twice as much as the same flowers would cost me a week earlier or a week later -- but a few times each year, and for no apparent reason. (It's not altruism, it's enlightened self-interest.) And not during the summer. During the summer, she can grow her own flowers. And does. (Self-interest includes not competing with the family gardener.)
February 12, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.