Tufts Gets Green

Office of Sustainability's Blog

Category: Waste (page 3 of 5)

Chemicals and Gasoline contaminating 3-5 gallon water bottles?

Report put out byGREENUVM: “BURLINGTON – Vermont health officials are advising anyone who has purchased either 3-gallon or 5-gallon drinking water bottles since November 1, 2012 to open and check for gasoline odor before using the water.

Clean water is odorless. If you smell gasoline or chemical fumes, do not drink or use the water.

This precaution is being urged following reports from Massachusetts that plastic water bottles of these sizes may have become contaminated by being used to store fuel and then recycled back to drinking water bottlers.

Only 3-gallon or 5-gallon size bottled water containers are affected.

If you find a water bottle with an odor, notify the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation at 802-585-4912, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, after Super Storm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard in October, some gasoline shortages were reported in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and some residents used empty containers such as large water bottles to transport gasoline. Laboratory tests conducted by Massachusetts state officials on a sample taken from a 5-gallon container of Poland Springs bottled drinking water showed the presence of small amounts of chemicals including benzene. This indicates gasoline contamination.

Other bottled water suppliers who use refillable plastic bottles could also be affected by this event.

In the past three months, bottled water companies have had an increased number of returned water bottles found to contain gasoline residue or fumes. Despite disinfection and sanitation efforts, a small number of contaminated bottles are believed to have recycled back to consumers, based on a number of consumer complaints.

Neither the Vermont Department of Health nor the Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates public drinking water supplies in the state, have received reports of contaminated bottled water.

The possible health effects of consuming water contaminated with these chemicals will depend on the amount of exposure. If you can smell chemicals, you can assume contamination. If you have health concerns, contact your health care provider.

If you use refillable bottled water containers for anything other than drinking water, for the protection of everyone, do not recycle back to the water supplier. “

DIY Recycled Hanukkah Decorations

The Holiday season is in full swing, and what better to make the winter a little brighter than with some do-it-yourself decorating! Earth 911 has come up with ten fun do-it-yourself decorations for Hanukkah. Check them out here and start your green decorating today!

TSC holds Fall Sustainability Roundtable

TSC's Fall Roundtable drew members from the CSC working groups and various sustainability-related organizations around campus

Tufts Sustainability Collective, the active umbrella organization for environmental groups on campus, has been very busy the past two weeks! The student-run group hosted two successful events, a Sustainability Roundtable and a Sustainability Dinner at Dewick. Both of these events have become staples each semester, so if you missed them this time around, look for their reappearance in the spring!

This fall’s Sustainability Roundtable featured the Campus Sustainability Council‘s three working groups for Energy and Emissions, Waste, and Water. Each group presented their goals for the university and their progress since convening earlier this year, pursuing a dialog with members of the Tufts community, from students to the head of Facilities.

Energy and Emissions team-members noted the achievement of meeting the standards set by Kyoto protocol by 2012 and mechanisms for decreasing the university’s carbon footprint, such as increased efficiency and switching fuels to natural gas or to distributors with renewable sources. In order to reduce energy consumption as the community continues to grow, however, a university-wide effort is called for, and the educational aspect of this goal is where the Office of Sustainability comes in!

The Waste working group focused on reducing outputs to the landfills during new construction projects and building rehabilitation. They mentioned many waste-reduction goals and plans to collaborate with Tufts Facilities in particular to “use less, reuse and recycle more” before anything is dumped in the trash.

The Water team had great news to present, including some concrete actions already in motion on the Tufts campus! Projects so far have included water reuse systems for machinery in laboratories and elsewhere, reducing the water coming in by hundreds of thousands of gallons already, and the recent construction of a university rain garden near the lower campus dorms. Rain gardens are both visually appealing and ecologically sound, ensuring rainwater is infiltrated into the soil, cleaned naturally, and returned to the groundwater rather than sent with pollutants down the storm drains. The Water working group also discussed plans to enter the EPA’s RainWorks Challenge, a national infrastructure design competition, and to look into porous pavement and gray water systems.

Read more about what was discussed at the roundtable in Tufts Daily’s news article.

-written by Anne Elise Stratton

Do It In the Dark

This week we are going to talk about the Eco-Rep initiative DO IT IN THE DARK (DIITD).  With the help of facilities we’re comparing the electricity usage from mid-October – mid-November 2011 to mid-October – mid-November 2012.  Since weather differences won’t make much of a difference with for electric usage, it should be a fair comparison.  We as students can make a tremendous difference by doing simple things like remembering to turn off our lights and computers when we leave for class.  Just switching our desk lamp to a CFL from and incandescent bulb save 75% of the electric used.  Below are some Fun Facts about how to save energy at Tufts.

Fun Energy Facts:
- 90% of the energy that goes into an incandescent bulb is wasted as heat.
- If everyone in a South a floor lamp with an incandescent bulb while they’re at class it would save 23kWh of electricity.
- If you don’t unplug your mini-fridge when you leave for Winter Break, you’d waste 20kWh of electricity.

Campus Sustainability Council Fall 2012 Update

During the summer, the Tufts Sustainability Council’s various working groups met to discuss goals for Tufts in the areas of water, waste and energy/emissions reductions.

The Water Working Group envisioned Tufts having an integrated water management approach that reduces consumption, promotes reuse, and minimizes impacts on the environment enabling Tufts to become a leader in campus water management in higher education.

To reach this goal, the Water Working Group recommends that Tufts meets and exceeds federal, state and local regulations regarding runoff, sanitation, and sewer systems; implements LEED standards for water use and quality; and ensures that Tufts students, faculty, and staff are knowledgeable of how their actions impact water use and quality and know how to mitigate negative impacts on their watersheds.

The Waste Working Group’s primary goal as discussed during their Summer meetings is an overall reduction of waste at Tufts by 3% a year through source reduction, improved waste management strategies, and a general culture change on campus with regards to waste.

Part of the Waste Working Group’s proposed strategies involves improved purchasing practices to ensure that an increased percentage of environmentally responsible products are purchased by the university.

The Energy and Emissions Working Group discussed ways for Tufts to demonstrate leadership in responsible climate action through energy efficiency, emissions reduction and adaptation. Under the New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action plan, the Energy and Emissions group is committed to seeing Tufts reduce emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and reducing emissions to 75-85% below the 2001 levels by 2050.

To do this, the Energy and Emissions group is developing a laundry list of energy efficiency measures and is committed to supporting a transition away from fossil fuels and teaching the Tufts community about the importance of energy efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and reduced emissions.

The groups stressed a need for reporting, feedback, and community outreach to ensure that all of Tufts sustainability efforts and goals can be reached.

Over the remainder of the semester, the Water, Waste, and Energy/Emissions groups will be meeting to discuss progress towards these goals, ongoing sustainability efforts, and additional strategies the university could use to meet their goals. A draft report will be available on February 1st, 2013 for comments. The comment period will end on March 1st and a final report will be prepared for the end of the academic year.

- by Robert R. Lynch, Campus Sustainability Council Administrative Intern

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