Category: Eco-Ambassadors (page 1 of 3)

Grafton Earth Day Celebration & Zero Waste Week

Pledge - Cummings

Earth Day

Grafton will be celebrating Earth Day at Elm’s Cafe from 12:00-1:00 PM on Friday, April 22.
Be sure to stop by the celebration for the chance to win prizes!

Zero Waste Challenge

Zero Waste Week will take place from April 18-22. Bring your bag to Elm’s Cafe on Friday, April 22 from 12:00-1:00 PM to be entered into a raffle for an earth-friendly gift!

To get your Zero Waste Week kit, fill out this form or re-use a clear bag.

Challenge Rules:

  • Put any waste you do not recycle or compost in the bag
  • Exception: 1 time use water bottles go in the bag!
  • No biohazards (tampons, used condoms, etc.)
  • The bag should be attached to the outside of your backpack or bag at all times.

Join the Tufts Freecycle Elist

In the 2013 Campus Sustainability Council Report, Tufts committed to increasing the amount of items that are reused at the university as part of its broader waste reduction efforts and commitment to fostering a cradle-to-cradle economy. Tufts’ Freecycle Elist was created by Eco-Ambassador Stacie Simon and is an important tool for increasing the reuse of items at the university by diverting still functional equipment, furniture, and supplies from the waste stream.

The elist provides a platform for exchanging items that individuals or offices at Tufts no longer need but might be of use to others, and it is open to all members of the Tufts community. The elist can be used for the exchange of work-related items or personal items – all for free.

Examples of items that might be exchanged include the following:

  • AV equipment (not owned by TTS)
  • Lab equipment (not owned by school)
  • Office lamps
  • Bookshelves and filing cabinets
  • Computer chairs
  • Appliances for kitchenettes/breakrooms
  • Personal copiers/printers
  • Office workstations and desks
  • Conference tables
  • Area rugs
  • Office supplies (e.g. printer cartridges, file folders)
  • Children’s items and toys
  • Personal electronics (e.g. printers, TVs)
  • Home furniture

Click here to sign up for the elist, and search for the Freecycle list. Once you have subscribed to the list, you will be able to send messages to the group regarding items you would like to freecycle and receive messages from others. Messages should include an item description, location, and photo (if available).

Sustainability Spotlight—Tufts Support Services:

A Conversation with Karin Barry and Anita Robbins

 

Sustainability Spotlight

The Green Team and Eco-Ambassadors at Tufts Support Services (TSS)—located in the blue and white structure and sandwiched between the Hangar and Pearson Hall—have been working hard to implement more sustainability initiatives within their new building. Karin Barry and Anita Robbins, along with their team members Lauren MacDonald, Maureen Hallett, and Andrea Carlino, have been able to implement composting in the office, which was originally received with skepticism but is now in such high demand that they need to empty their compost bin two to three times a week; light sensors and prompts to remind employees to turn off lights when not in use; water filters to encourage use of reusable water bottles and glasses; and the end of disposable utensils and dishes in the office—employees bring in their own flatware to use and clean at the office or utilize communal options. They are currently looking into vendors to help the office go paperless, which would make a huge impact on the waste in the office. They are also making strides to incorporate the ease of a Keurig without the waste of the disposable cups by testing out different reusable cups options.

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Karin Barry (right from center), Anita Robbins (right of Karin), and others from Tufts Support Services receive the Office’s Gold level Green Office Certification.

Both Karin and Anita have been involved in sustainability for years now. They were in the first few classes of the Eco-Ambassador program and started due to an interest in the environment. In fact, Anita first enrolled because of her time as a temp at a recycling center, and because she “used to be a hippie.” Together with their team, they have figured out a system for successfully running sustainability programs in their office. They take turns emptying compost and meet regularly to address any issues brought to their attention from coworkers and to work on their Green Office Certification checklist.And the key to the TSS Green Team’s success is that the different departments in the building share the same upper management. With encouragement from President Monaco, upper management has fully endorsed sustainability initiatives, which as been instrumental in bringing about more success with colleagues in adopting changes.

This is not to say that their work has been easy; reactions to the group’s efforts started off rocky, but the TSS director stepped in and spoke up. The Green Team feels motivated when they encounter pushback, seeing office behavior change as a challenge or even a game. And they say that witnessing the change in people around them is the most rewarding part of their work. Now, they notice colleagues asking more questions and have watched people pick up new sustainable attitudes as second nature. They have hope that their colleagues will eventually work to bring these behaviors and habits home with them.

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Tufts Support Services makes a pledge to go Platinum by the end of this year!

To have a successful office sustainability program, Karin and Anita recommend getting upper management on board when starting on this path. Upper management can work to reinforce the programs and initiatives which gets the ball rolling and bring integrity and respect to the projects. They also advise starting small and building up from there. But, above all else, Karin and Anita emphasize the importance of collaborating with others in the office and working as a team and support system to affect behavioral changes.

Want more resources for making sustainable changes in office spaces or encouraging colleagues to live green? Sign up to be an Eco-Ambassador to make real changes in your office and reduce your environmental impact.

Unexpectedkindness is themost powerful,least costly, andmost underratedagent of humanchange

Sustainability Spotlight—Provost Office:

A Conversation with Mac Montana

 

Sustainability Spotlight—Provost Office- A Conversation with Mac Montana (1)

When Mac Montana, Special Projects Coordinator at the Provost’s Office, set out to complete the checklist for Tufts’ Green Office Certification Program, he didn’t realize the wide range of sustainability initiatives he would be working to bring to the Provost’s Office.

To get started, Mac identified a number of objectives on the checklist for the office to work toward. Thanks to this effort, the Provost’s Office has now made a commitment to buy 100% recycled paper and run meetings and events with little to no disposables (thanks in part to a permanent set of glassware and staff-donated food storage containers). The office even provides pre-filled MBTA cards that can be signed out for travel between campuses; this incentive to use public transportation comes at a low cost to the office and no cost to employees. Mac also put together a Living Green Agreement for employees to select their own sustainability goals to keep up with, while helping to track the office’s changes in sustainable attitudes and behaviors. These efforts culminated in the Office of the Provost’s Silver Green Office Certification.

01/29/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - The Eco Ambassador and Green Office Certification Ceremony and Reception on January 29, 2016. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Mac Montana (center) and others from the Office of the Provost receives Green Office Certification from President Monaco.

Mac is a part of the Ballou Hall Green Team, which has introduced compost bins on every floor of the building. The team also hosted an event in October called “Trick or Trade.” Employees were encouraged to trade in their personal electronic waste (e-waste), to be recycled by Facilities, for fall goodies. This event was such a success that the employees who weren’t able to bring all of their e-waste did their own e-waste disposal projects at home.

Encouraging sustainable behavior is no easy feat. Along the road, Mac has encountered some challenges. In fact, he was not always part of the effort towards environmental sustainability. There was a time, when he worked in the Office for the Dean of Arts and Sciences, that he thought making the changes suggested by the office’s Eco-Ambassador took too much effort and didn’t matter much. But, he is a self-described convert to the cause. He got involved and realized the work he was doing is both important and rewarding.

Office of the Provost makes the pledge to get the Gold level Green Office Certification by the end of this year!

Whenever Mac encounters barriers in his sustainability efforts, he responds to negative reactions with humor and positivity. He feels that these small behavioral changes are a small price to pay for the benefit we all get from them. For instance, even though compost can be stinky, a huge volume of waste gets diverted from the landfill because people choose to compost their food scraps every day. And Mac finds a reward in seeing people’s definition of normal change over time. As he describes enthusiastically, “It’s cool to watch people save one-sided paper to print on the other side, and even ask for someone else’s when they have run out.” That is a significant shift in behavior from when he first started.

To anyone looking for advice in making sustainability a priority in your office, Mac has a few pieces of advice. He recognizes that “change is hard, but it is easy to keep going once [colleagues] start adjusting. Inertia is a beautiful thing.” He also says to look for low hanging fruit. There are a lot of possibilities for change, but based on the office’s behaviors, some may be easier to start with than others. So, work to change culture bit by bit, and people will be more open to making more changes. Who knows? They may even begin to bring these behaviors home with them. After all, as Mac wisely notes, “Sustainability rocks!”

Want more resources for making sustainable changes in office spaces or encouraging colleagues to live green? Check out our Green Office Resources for a list of simple changes you can make in the office to reduce your environmental impact.

 

 

Tufts Eco-Ambassadors Take on Styrofoam Mountain

Styrofoam seems to be a perpetual nightmare for environmentalists. A petroleum-based plastic foam consisting mostly of air, it can’t be composted or thrown in with most municipal recycling programs, but for many uses it remains the only practical product.

For example, when departments at Tufts order biomaterials, gel packs or dry ice, styrofoam is the only feasible shipping option, as it keeps the materials cool. Enter Emily Edwards, a staff member in the Chemical and Bioengineering Department, and Abbey Licht, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, both of whom became Eco-Ambassadors in 2011 at the Science and Technology Center on our Medford campus. They grew curious when they noticed those unmistakable white shipping containers piling up outside labs and classrooms in their hallway: Could they redirect styrofoam away from landfills?

To assess how much actual need existed, Edwards and Licht began collecting the boxes from the SciTech building in a storage room. After just a month, sixty boxes had accumulated.

Hoping that a solution might already exist on campus, they first talked to Dawn Quirk, the Waste Reduction Program Manager in the Facilities Services Department, about recycling the styrofoam shipping containers. Unfortunately, while the Tufts Recycles program accepts a wide variety of glass, plastic, and metal items, styrofoam can’t go into our green bins.

Above: a month of styrofoam.

Edwards and Licht knew of a local company that would recycle the styrofoam. ReFoamIt, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, compacts the styrofoam into logs at a plant in Rhode Island, then ships it away to be turned into toys and other consumer products.  But Edwards and Licht were also aware that the boxes they were storing were at least 89% air. Could they somehow reduce the volume of the styrofoam to make for easier storage and more efficient transportation? If they handled the styrofoam themselves, would the environmental impact be lower than that of ReFoamIt’s trips to Rhode Island?

Both admit that they are first and foremost engineers, not chemists. Still, like students tackling a science class project, Edwards and Licht dove right in. They first experimented with physical change, recruiting volunteers to smash the styrofoam. They employed mallets and even had the volunteers jumping up and down on top of the boxes – but despite how light and airy styrofoam may seem, Edwards says, it’s a much harder material than one would think, and after hours of work there was little significant volume reduction. The exhausted volunteers placed the styrofoam chunks into bags to be picked up by ReFoamIt.

Not to be discouraged, Edwards and Licht next sought to turn the styrofoam back into a hard, dense plastic. Their first method was chemical: they placed pieces of the styrofoam in cups of acetone, which reduced the plastic to a goopy slime that hardened once the acetone evaporated. While the process resulted in a significant volume reduction, one bag of smashed styrofoam boxes required a whole gallon of acetone, which then evaporated into the air, so significant ventilation was required during the experiment. Moreover, the bottom of a tray of the hardening plastic took months to dry.

Above: a bag of styrofoam boxes, and the equivalent amount of hardened plastic after melting in acetone. The ratio of the volumes was about 50 to 1.

Next, Edwards and Licht melted styrofoam in a large oven at 464 degrees Fahrenheit. This experiment also successfully reduced the volume, but the process produced powerful fumes which filled the lab and the connected hallway. Moreover, only a certain amount of styrofoam could fit into the oven at a given time, so Edwards and Licht needed to open the oven periodically to add more foam, losing heat in the process.

Above: the result of melting styrofoam in an oven. The volume reduction was about the same as in the acetone experiment.

Finally, Edwards and Licht investigated alternatives to styrofoam. After hearing a story on NPR, Edwards ordered an Ecovative box made out of a mix of mushrooms and straw grown into a mold. The box’s weight is similar to that of styrofoam, but Edwards notes that the box has a slight smell and an unusual texture that might not appeal to the general public. So while the mushroom box was an interesting innovation, Edwards couldn’t see a widespread application for them at Tufts.

Above: the mushroom boxes from Ecovative.

 

Ultimately, Edwards and Licht determined that the most efficient, affordable and safe way to dispose of the accumulated styrofoam would be to set up a partnership with Save That Stuff, another local recycling company with which Tufts already has a relationship. Quirk organized a monthly pick-up arrangement, and it has been running smoothly ever since.

Above: sacks of styrofoam waiting for Save That Stuff.

Even though they weren’t able to find an effective way to minimize the styrofoam before sending it away, Licht and Edwards seem satisfied with the results. Licht mentions that until they started collecting the boxes in one room, she had never really thought about how much styrofoam the building used or where it all went. (Prior to their initiatives, it all went into the trash.) They seem eager to find where else this model can be applied at Tufts – there are bound to be other sites of potential improvement that go under the radar, undetected until someone dares to ask whether there might be another way.

Moving forward, Edwards and Licht and Tufts Recycles! are hoping to expand the use of the system they have established at SciTech to collect the styrofoam from labs at the Gordon Institute (200 Boston Avenue) and from the biology department.

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