Tufts Gets Green

Office of Sustainability's Blog

Category: People (page 3 of 20)

The View from Blakeley Hall

This is Andrew, the Fletcher School’s Eco-Representative. For this week’s post I’ll give you an idea of what it is like to be the Eco-Rep for Blakeley Hall, Fletcher’s graduate student dormitory. First, some background: Blakeley was built in 1926, in a Georgian style of architecture. It has three wings set around a courtyard, with seven independent towers of rooms. The middle tower houses Blakeley’s common room and kitchen, which serves as the busiest gathering space for residents, and the source of delicious smells when students cook dinner or prepare baked goods as a method of procrastination during exam periods…

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Every year, about eighty students in Fletcher’s various degree programs spend a year (or a semester, for exchange students) in singles, doubles, and triples. Many residents come from overseas, which results in a vibrant social scene and a tremendous variety of cuisines prepared in the kitchen. Residents routinely come together for dorm-wide events, like communal cooking events, pick-up cricket matches in the courtyard, and Fletcher’s infamous Blakeley Halloween Party.

As to Eco-Rep and sustainability initiatives, Blakeley, like all Tufts dorms, has receptacles for recycling and compost collection. Each tower contains recycling containers on the ground floor, and the communal compost bin is located in the kitchen. I am happy to report that since the beginning of the school year, Blakeley residents have increased their average weekly compost collection by about 60%! Lastly, each of Blakeley’s towers will contain boxes for TerraCycle recycling. Regarding recycling, we may have to wait until Recyclemania to ascertain how well residents are sorting their materials. Residents have been keeping tabs on recycling and composting, asking me many good questions, and offering suggestions on ways to make Blakeley even greener. I’m very encouraged thus far by their enthusiasm and look forward to holding further Eco-Rep events at the dorm. Next up this month: a pie baking event with a review of composting and recycling best practices!

65 Jumbos Did Not Get Wasted for ZWW!

Zero Waste Week finished this past Wednesday! Over 200 bags were distributed, and 65 brave and wonderful jumbos (and professors) did a fantastic job at keeping their waste at a minimum and brought their bags to Jumbo Mountains. Jumbo Mountains was set up on the Academic Quad this year, due to logistical considerations, and many passer-bys’ interests proved this to be a great location with great visibility. Participants were rewarded with some PHENOMENAL Cider Donuts and cider from Wilson Farm in Lexington, and the satisfaction of tallying and knowing they made a huge difference in comparison to normal trash-producing colleagues.

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In addition to students, some professors stopped by, and even Senior Provost David Harris conversed with the Eco-Rep team about the successes and room for improvement in the Zero Waste Week challenge.

Some of the greatest challenges expressed were the individually packaged treats such as candy, cookies, etc., and the fact that when you leave the Tufts Campus and travel to greater Boston or the larger community, recycling and composting is nowhere near as accessible. However, many participants also expressed their surprise at the ease of recycling and composting here on campus-shoutout to Dawn and Tufts Recycles!

Three lucky participants won awesome bags made out of recycled materials from terracycle.com, and they definitely deserve it for their participation.

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Thank you to everyone who participated in Zero Waste Week. You truly made a difference in our fight to prevent excess waste and reduce our consumption of resources. Green Love!

 

 

Zero Waste Week Is Over!

It’s mid-October, which means that the leaves are changing, apples are everywhere, and Zero Waste Week has now come and gone! Thank you to all of the students, faculty, and staff that took part in the challenge this week!

Zero Waste Week has really been eye-opening for me. It reminded me of how much I could actually compost, recycle, and terraCycle (I’ve saved a lot of things from my bag because of terraCycle!), but also how much trash I use. On the very first day of the Zero Waste Challenge, I started cleaning up things around my dorm, only to realize that the paper towels and cleaning supplies I’d used were just trash. On the whole the Eco-Reps really happy with how the week went, and we definitely won’t forget the lessons we learned over the course of this challenge. Thank you to everyone that participated! Check back next week for a recap of the week and hear about Wednesday’s Jumbo Mountains event.

In other news, Eco-Reps are getting even more involved in their dorms. Most dorms have a shiny, new board decorated with helpful environmental tips and recycled paper. Check out what our very creative Eco-Reps have been putting up for their residents!

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Campaigns are also starting up for the semester. Make sure you talk to your Eco-Rep to see what they’re doing through December! More events are coming up, too, so get excited to see what your hall has planned.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading, staying green, and participating in Zero Waste Week!

 

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.

The Eco-Reps are at it again…in preparation for Zero Waste Week!

If the last week has been a bit quiet from the Eco-Reps, it’s probably been because of exams and papers, but also because we’ve been preparing for Zero Waste Week, which starts October 9th and runs through October 16th! You might have seen us scurrying around in Lewis or the Crafts Center getting our buttons and bags ready for the big day. To learn more about Zero Waste Week, feel free to talk to your local Eco-Rep, or go here: http://sustainability.tufts.edu/zero-waste-challenge/. We look forward to seeing all the Zero Waste Week participants, especially at Jumbo Mountains at noon on the 16th! Bags will be distributed at several places on campus, so be sure to talk to your Eco-Rep if you plan on taking the challenge!

Murvi hard at work

 

In other news, Eco-Reps Audrey Dunn and Chantal Davis held the H2(WHAT!?) event in Hill Hall last Thursday, October 3rd to great success! Water trivia night was a blast, and you can see some of the photos below.

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Campaigns will be fully underway soon, so be on the lookout as Eco-Reps organize events to raise awareness for what initiatives we have planned for the dorms! South Hall will be having a freecycle event in the near future, so bring your junk, bring your treasure, or even your compost, and see if anyone wants it! It’s about that time of the year, so good luck with exams and papers everybody! Until next week.

Tufts Eco-Reps at Community Day and Future Events

Despite autumn having finally found its way onto campus, the grass is still green on the academic quad here at Tufts! This past weekend, the Tufts Eco-Reps helped welcome members of the local cities of Medford and Somerville to our campus for Community Day at Tufts. Meant to bring the Tufts, Medford, and Somerville communities together, Community Day had a number of student performance groups showcased as well as a few groups running booths and tables on the main academic quad.

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The Reps had a great time running the apple carving station that included stamping and decorating our own fruit sculpted masterpieces. The event was meant to raise awareness for the almost unlimited potential behind reusing everyday items. Overall, it was a great chance to reach out to other members of the community and have a little fun while we’re at it.

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Going ahead, you can look forward to a number of campaigns that the Eco-Reps will be hosting in each of the dorms on campus, with the intention of raising awareness for specific sustainability related issues. Coming up soonest is H2(WHAT)!?, a water themed trivia night on October 3rd from 8-10 PM in the Hill Hall Lounge hosted by Eco-Reps Audrey and Chantal. Don’t forget to bring your own glass, and you could win a new reusable water bottle!

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As the semester progresses, keep an eye out for your dorm’s Eco-Rep as we continue to work our hardest in trying to make green living at Tufts a little easier.

Freecycling at Sustainability Suite and Blakeley’s new Eco-Rep

It’s been a busy and exciting week as the Tufts Eco-Reps got back to work across campus! First and foremost, we are very pleased to introduce Andrew Williams, our new Rep for Blakeley Hall! Andrew is a second year MALD student at the Fletcher School, an avid cyclist, and a distance runner. We’re so glad to have him join the team, and we’re looking forward to working with Fletcher students to promote sustainability.

Andrew Williams

In other news, this past week Reps continued to host “Meet-and-Greets” in their halls as a way of getting to know residents, plan future activities, and discuss sustainable behavior. Cookies, brownies, and music were all brought out to start the year off with good vibes and good humor. Many halls constructed new Terracycle boxes or reconstructed old ones as a way of further diverting wrappers from the waste stream, and composting bins have now spread to all of the dorms.

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The Eco-Reps also enjoyed the Tufts Freecycle event hosted by the Sustainability Suite this past Friday. At the event, people were able to drop off old clothing, shoes, sombreros, parasols, and other items, with the opportunity to find for themselves a great pair of used jeans, a comfy sweater, or a sweet new carpet. All this, while chatting over music, fresh baked treats, and beautiful weather!

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Looking ahead, the Reps are beginning to plan events and campaigns for the remainder of the semester–things that should be both a lot of fun, and a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment. That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading, and stay green!

Greetings from this year’s Eco-Reps 2013-2014!

As the new school year begins, so does a new set of Eco-Reps! We kicked off this year in the same way last year’s group did, working for Tufts Recycles during the matriculation lunch and O-show dinners, helping people sort their waste into “compostables”, “plastic”, which consisted of ONLY the utensils, and trash.

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But a new addition to this year’s Eco-Reps’ role in orientation included a pledge booth at “Jumbolicious”, one of the largest orientation events. This year, it was held in Aidekman, featuring an electric bull, a dance floor with DJ, free food, free swag, and of course…yours truly! Freshmen (and others) were able to pledge to be more sustainable in their lives, by doing things from composting to taking shorter showers to turning off the lights to unplugging electronics. Our goal is to print out pictures of the residents in their respective halls, holding them more accountable (AND making them famous, of course), for their noble actions. We got over 100 pledges!

 

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Then, right as school started, we got to work. Hopefully you saw us at your all-hall meetings, in the lobbies of the dorms putting out the terraCycle boxes or Compost bins, or maybe at our meet-and-greets! (Complete with donuts, cookies, and other great treats). The meet and greets are ways for us to really have one-on-one time with our residents to receive feedback, ideas, and goals.

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Another new addition to the Eco-Rep agenda this year is the terraCycle Brigade. Terracycle (http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/) is a company that turns snack wrappers that contain the shiny inner lining, such as chip bags or granola bars, into some sweet products. We’ve also decided to weigh our compost before emptying it in order to accurately report on how much people are really composting in the dorms. Reception has varied across dorms, but in general been very good. Keep up the good work, residents!

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AmeriCorps, Various Positions (Boston, MA)

The Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation office has eleven 1700 hour (full time) LISC AmeriCorps positions available at our non-profit placement partner sites.   LISC is dedicated to helping community residents transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities of choice and opportunity – good places to work, do business and raise children. Visit our website

President’s Campus Sustainability Council Releases Report

Campus Sustainability Report Cover 02The Campus Sustainability Council, which was convened by President Tony Monaco in January 2012, has released its report outlining recommendations to reduce the university’s environmental footprint.

The Council’s report both renews Tufts’ commitments to greenhouse gas reduction goals and sets new goals focusing on energy and emissions, waste reduction, and water conservation – areas where Tufts’ operations have the greatest impact on the environment.

This document will be the starting point for the next phase in the process: implementation planning, which will be overseen by Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder. The Council, co-chaired by President Monaco and Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell, was comprised of students, staff and faculty representing all Tufts campuses in Massachusetts.

When implementation planning gets underway, we are counting on the Tufts community to stay engaged and participate in creating the change needed to build a sustainable university!

Check out the report now to learn what Tufts has done in the area of sustainability and what is being considered for the future.

 

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