Date: April 20, 2012

Campus Sustainability Council update: Energy/Emissions Working Group

Since the beginning of March, the three Working Groups of the Campus Sustainability Council have been meeting bi-weekly to discuss the current state of energy/emissions, water, and waste policies and practices at Tufts, and to create new policy measures in these areas.

The Energy/Emissions Working Group met for the first time on March 15th and reviewed its roles and responsibilities, which include reviewing current energy usage and emissions, existing initiatives and goals, as well as creating recommendations for goals and implementation plans to present to the Campus Sustainability Council.

The group reviewed Tufts’ institutional commitments to energy and emissions reduction including the 1990 Talloires Declaration and Tufts Environmental Policy, the 1999 Climate Change Commitment to follow the Kyoto Protocol and reduce carbon dioxide levels to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, and the 2003 New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan with the goal to be 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75-85% below 2001 levels by 2050. The members also learned that many energy-saving initiatives at Tufts are already underway, including:

  • Occupancy sensors in most rooms on campus
  • Daylight sensing/dimming, lighting & controls
  • Ongoing technology updates include LED lighting
  • Equipment efficiency
  • State of the art boiler controls and boiler upgrades
  • Retro-commissioning of buildings
  • Heat-recovery programs
  • Energy Star vending machines & vending misers
  • Free CFL bulb exchange
  • IT upgrades (LCD screens, laptops)
  • Solar panels on Sophia Gordon Hall, Schmaltz House, Fairmount House
  • Management- Residence Hall winter break shut-down
  • Behavior modification
  • LEED Certification
  • Fuel Switching from oil to gas
  • Renewable energy such as solar and geothermal

The working group members discussed the differences between Tufts’ campuses energy use and emissions, life-cycle costing, ways to evaluate proposed solutions and appropriate metrics for evaluation. The group is in the final stages of assessing the current state of energy and emissions at Tufts and will soon move on to metrics and goal setting. The working group is co-chaired by Ann Rappaport, Lecturer at Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Betsy Isenstein, Director of Facilities Technical Services.

As always, Tufts community members are welcome to add their own suggestions for the working group through the easy, on-line form available on the Office of Sustainability’s website.

Apr 26: MyRWA Open House

Join Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) at the Upper Mystic Lake Dam in Medford for an open house on Thursday, April 26th to learn about herring and their migration to the Mystic Lakes.

Visitors will be able to view the new fish ladder (and hopefully the herring, too!) installed at the dam by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation. Free and all are welcome. Please stop by between 3pm and 7pm.

MyRWA is also holding a Mystic River Herring Run and Paddle on May 20.

Film Review: YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip)

50 States. 1 year. One planet to save.

Are we doomed?

You could panic…
or you could watch
this guy and this guy and this girl
panic for you.

– from the YERT trailer

Last night, I was gratified to finally attend one of the events we have been promoting incessantly for Earth Week: the film screening of “YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip” sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program and the Office of Sustainability.

It was a delightfully funny, engaging and eye-opening experience. Billed as a docu-comedy, YERT follows producer Mark Dixon, director Ben Evans and his stalwart wife Julie Dingman Evans in a “year-long eco-expedition through all 50 United States.” They packed their belongings into a Ford Escape Hybrid named Rachel (in honor of Rachel Carson) which is shown getting 44 mpg on the film. They started in Pittsburgh and carried all their garbage around the country from July 4, 2007 to 2008, interviewing over 800 people.

Unlike many films about the environment, YERT is far from depressing. Mark and Ben, being old college buddies, were especially goofy together – injecting a large dose of humor into even the most serious interviews. They put together funny skits to liven up conversations. They challenged themselves not to create more trash each month than a cereal box can hold. They slept in a cave, a VW eco-bus/hotel room, and of course, an actual yurt.

The film did not sugar-coat or avoid big issues; instead, it balanced the good news and bad news stories extremely well. Who knew that there is a guy in Idaho working on Solar Roadways, a project to harness the sun’s energy by replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels? Or that worm poop is one of the best things that could ever happen to your garden?

I really enjoyed watching the team do their corn challenge in Iowa and visit unusual places like the City Museum in Missouri filled entirely with salvaged/repurposed objects. They also visited the Terracycle plant in New Jersey and massive wind farms in West Texas.

The Earthship Education Facility

I was especially inspired that so many people – real, regular, everyday folks – all around the country are bravely trying to effect change in their own way. We are introduced to several fascinating characters – the “Lunatic Farmer” Joel Salatin (whom we recognized from Food Inc. and now has his own film, Fresh) and the architect of a self-powered green house called “EarthShip.”  My heart went out to the man in West Virginia who refused to move from his family home of 300 years, whose fight against the coal mining companies cost him his marriage (his wife was not a fan of getting shot at).

I was impressed that the film raised some key issues – questioning the model of infinite economic growth and how the American way of life has so successfully enabled individual independence at the expense of a sense of community. It’s no surprise to me that YERT has won so many awards. I highly recommend catching a screening soon – Tisch Library has a copy. Don’t pass up the chance to watch this very entertaining and inspiring film!

In the meantime, you can watch any of the 60 short films or YERTpods on their website. Here’s the trailer again, in case you haven’t seen it yet: