Tag: Tufts (page 2 of 2)

Emissions to decrease as Central Heating Plant switches to natural gas

On a quiet Friday last month when the campus was mostly deserted for Veterans Day, Tufts Facilities shut down the Central Heating Plant located between Dowling and East Halls to have the chimney cleaned. No, it was not to help Santa stay soot- free this Christmas – it was the final step in getting the gas turned on for the winter.

New (yellow) gas lines were installed at the Central Heating Plant this past fall

The plant began using natural gas as its main fuel on November 30 and significantly lightened Tufts’ carbon footprint in Medford. CO2 emissions in FY 2012 in the Medford campus are estimated to decrease by 8% from FY 2011 levels despite a projected increase in energy consumption by 7.8%.

According to Tufts’ Director of Facilities Technical Services Betsy Isenstein, the transition is the result of “a fortunate confluence of events”.

Unbeknownst to most people who live and work on the Tufts Medford campus, the central heating plant was forced to switch fuels in the middle of last winter from burning No. 6 to No. 2 fuel oil because of a shipment of substandard No. 6 fuel that could not be used. No. 6 fuel oil (also known “bunker C” or residual fuel oil) is the heaviest, thickest, cheapest, and – not surprisingly – the dirtiest of six available grades of fuel oil in the US.

One of two updated boilers

Shortly afterwards, a routine inspection led to the discovery of issues with two of the fuel tanks outside the central heating plant and prompted the university to move up scheduled upgrades for two boilers that were installed in the 80s. The upgraded boilers are not only more efficient, but they have the ability to burn both natural gas and No. 2 fuel oil.

With the price of natural gas at a historic low, the fuel switch made economic as well as environmental sense. National Grid installed a new gas line from Boston Avenue up to Central Heating Plant and upgraded 1,100 feet of gas main along Boston Avenue last summer in order to bring the amount of natural gas needed up the hill to supply the central heating plant.

The new yellow gas lines look very sharp next to old fuel piping which will be replaced in the near future. #2 fuel will be maintained as a backup.

Natural gas is the cleanest of fuels commonly used for residential and commercial space heating. Switching from No. 6 fuel oil to No. 2 last winter already reduced CO2 emissions by about 7%,  switching from No. 6 to natural gas reduces CO2 emissions by about 30%,  sulfur dioxide (SO2) by over 99%, nitrous oxides (NOx) by about 75% and particulate matter (PM2.5) by about 96%.[1]

In contrast, No. 6 fuel oil comes from the “bottom of the barrel”. It is the sludge that remains after removal of distillates such as gasoline so it has a higher concentration of metals than other oil. Burning No. 6 fuel oil produces darker smoke and higher CO2 emissions than other types of fuel, and “sludge-burning” boilers have been identified as contributors to increased air pollution and consequently, a higher incidence of respiratory problems.

The retrofitted system provides state-of-the-art boiler controls.

The transition has been smooth so far, according to Isenstein. Next spring, fuel storage will be replaced to better handle No. 2 fuel, which will only be used as a backup in case the gas supply fails. A third fuel tank installed in the late ‘50s will no longer be needed, so it will be removed next year and possibly replaced. The central plant heats almost every Tufts building on the hill between Professors Row and part of Boston Avenue. Three smaller plants and a number of stand alone boilers heat the rest of the Medford campus.

The fuel switch at the Central Heating Plant was a big win in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a single initiative, but given recent reports that 2010 was a record year for C02 emissions, there is still plenty of work to be done. Do your part by living sustainably and remember that all journeys begin with small steps. You can download the Green Guide to Living and Working at Tufts or visit the Office of Sustainability website to see how you can get involved in making the world a greener place.


[1] The Bottom of the Barrel: How the dirtiest heating oil pollutes our air and harms our health. M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC and the Urban Green Council for EDF, Dec 2009.

Tufts Eco-Reps shine at Symposium

Jessie and Rachael introduce the day's first ice breaker

Jessie and Rachael introduce the day's first ice breaker

I’m so proud of our Eco-Reps! Today they rocked the Babson/GreenerU Eco-Rep symposium – they ran the ice-breaker for the whole group, gave two presentations, sponsored the composting for lunch and dinner AND had the best showing of any school! Here are some pictures:

Claire summoning group 2

Claire summoning group 2

Josh explains the next step in the ice-breaker

Josh explains the next step in the ice-breaker

Jessie and Rachael presenting

Jessie and Rachael describe Tufts Eco-Rep training program

Laina, Claire and Katie explain Tufts' dorm composting

Laina, Claire and Katie explain Tufts' dorm composting

With the Hubway bikeshare system, Boston is your oyster. Go explore!

A cyclist taking a load off and soaking in the gorgeous Charles River.

Get out of that dorm room, you couch potato, and glide around Boston using the city’s new bikeshare system.

Trust me. The will be the start of a beautiful friendship. So beautiful that from all the exercise, you won’t feel bad about stopping off in the North End for a gelato. And, with zero emissions, no friendship could be greener!

So how does this work? First, head to any of 61 bikeshare stations in Boston, where you can buy a 24-hour ($5) or three-day ($12) membership with a credit or debit card. I suggest the one at the Charles/MGH station, a quick jaunt down the Red Line from Tufts.

Then, ride the bike! They are sturdy and comfy, if slower than those of Boston’s veteran bikers, and traverse neighborhoods at least as quickly as the MBTA. The bikes also feature a bell, adjustable seats, and lights that turn on at night. You can park only at Hubway stations, but at least you don’t have to worry about locking the bike or buying one in the first place.

Make sure, of course, to check out TheHubway.com for safety tips and a list of Boston retailers that sell inexpensive helmets. Gotta cover that noggin, Jumbo.

By the way, if you have any questions about using the Hubway, reach me at chrisjgirard@gmail.com. I happily use it to commute.

So where should you go? Here are a few ideas:

These Hubway bikes need friends! Come ride one.

1) The Ivory Tower Tour: Start at Park Street and say hello to friends at Suffolk University and Emerson College. Then, bike to the Christian Science Plaza station and rub shoulders with Northeastern University and Berkeley School of Music students. Once you get sick of the guitar busking, head over to the station at 725 Commonwealth Avenue, where you can check out the Boston University campus, which has a million Green Line stations. (Hey! Give some to Tufts!) Finish up by riding to the Harvard Stadium station. Cross the beautiful Charles River and check out the Crimson campus before taking the Red Line to Davis home.

2) The Art Lover’s Tour: Start at South Station and ride over to the Fan Pier station in the Seaport District to check out The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston’s shiniest and (probably) weirdest museum. Then, head to the Northeastern University station to see the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and, right next door, the fabulous Museum of Fine Arts. Ride back to South Station and feel good about being so cultured.

3) The Title Tour: Start at Park Street and ride from the Tremont Street station to North Station, and pay homage to the Celtics and Bruins. Then glide over to the Yawkey Way station to worship at the altar of Fenway Park before proceeding to the site of Braves Field, where the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) used to play, near the Agganis Arena station. Then ride over to the Charles/MGH station to head back home to nap, dreams of future Boston championships swirling in your head.

Contest: Undergrad Environmental Photography – $300 in prizes

The Tufts Environmental Studies Program is holding its first annual Environmental Photo Contest. It’s open to all Tufts undergrads and will include prizes for first place ($150), second place ($100), and third place ($50). CASH MONEY.

Students can submit multiple photos. All photography styles are welcome. Full rules and details are available on Facebook.

Submissions are due to the Environmental Studies Program, 210 Packard Avenue, Miller Hall-East Rear Door, Medford Campus, by Monday, Oct. 24.

Submitted prints will be exhibited in the Tufts Institute of the Environment and may be used by the Environmental Studies and TIE in their publications, websites, or for other Tufts-related purposes. Prints will also be showcased in a digital exhibition on the Environmental Studies website.

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