Category: Energy (page 2 of 18)

From Ethnobotany to Energy Democracy—ENVS Lunch & Learn 2018

Content based on an Environmental Studies Lunch & Learn Talk given to professors, staff, and students at Tufts University. Every week during the academic year, the ENVS Lunch & Learn lecture series features speakers from government, industry, academia and non-profit organizations to give presentations on environmental topics. This is a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge beyond the curriculum, meet other faculty and students and network with the speakers.

Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community are welcome to attend.

This lecture series is co-sponsored by the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Tisch College of Civic Life.


Medicinal Plants in their Environments: The chemical warfare of ethnobotany
John de la Parra, Visiting Lecturer, Tufts Experimental College
Watch video

Redistributing Power: Energy Democracy, Renewables & Community Resilience
Jennie Stephens, Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy, Northeastern University
Watch video

This semester, the Environmental Studies Lunch & Learn series is off to a great start with an emphasis on justice and respecting the knowledge, needs, and problem solving of indigenous people, women, communities of color, and low-income communities.

The first talk of the semester, given by John de la Parra, explored the intersections of indigenous knowledge and medicine, and advancements in the biotechnology sphere that increase consistency of products through standardization and analysis. He began by centering the talk on respecting a woman’s knowledge as powerful, as he explains that in many cultures, medicine people are women who know their way around the local plants. About 80% of the world uses plants to heal themselves. Knowledge of the native plants in a given area points to understanding chemical differences between plants that impact their healing qualities and abilities based on the plants’ own “chemical warfare—reactions to pathogens, weather or drought, other plants, and herbivores.” Ethnobotany pairs the technological advances now available with this indigenous knowledge to grow a huge density of plants within the controlled environment of a bioreactor—needing fewer inputs—to produce concentrated tinctures for different illnesses. De la Parra discusses these lab experiments as a way to dramatically increase accessibility to many treatments by curating very specific and tested directions to grow and create the treatments —and possibly distribute them by drone drop-offs—to people all around the world who may be unable to afford or reach pharmaceuticals.  Ethnobotany can produce a product to be used by indigenous cultures to treat existing health problems.

In another talk, Jennie Stephens discussed the movement of Energy Democracy—a concept that connects social change with the energy system transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. The energy democracy integrates concerns about the environment, climate change, social justice, income inequality, racism, wealth, and human rights. This vision is an alternative to fossil fuel dominated systems, as the fossil fuel industry is the most profitable industry in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. This resistance is forming as a response to growing inequalities, unequal distribution of the impacts of energy and climate change, and the political power of the fossil fuel industry. Stephens reminds us that we are within this energy transition from fossil fuels, even if we sometimes feel we are stuck without much progress. The Energy Democracy sees this transition as an opportunity to democratize and decentralize energy while intentionally advancing justice through inclusion and awareness of the implications and connections between issues of inequality, justice, climate, and energy. Stephens posits that renewable energy systems offer a possibility, but not a certainty for more democratic energy futures.

Stay tuned for more Environmental Studies Lunch & Learns highlighting the intersections of the environment, climate change, and justice.

Slacktivism or #Activism?

Content based on a Tisch College Civic Life Lunch given to professors, staff, and students at Tufts University.


Civic Life Lunch – #Standing Rock: Starting + Sustaining a Movement
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2017, 12 – 1PM

Featuring: LaDonna Brave Bull Allard & Cutcha Risling Baldy, Moderated by Tufts American Studies Professor Jami Powell

Join us for a conversation with LaDonna Brave Bull Allard & Cutcha Risling Baldy. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard is the Historian and Genealogist for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Allard is also the Founder and Director of the Sacred Stone Camp, a spirit camp established in April 2016 that has become the center of cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. Cutcha Risling Baldy is the Assistant Professor of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University, where her research focuses on #IndigenousHashtagActivism and #TheNewNativeIntellectualism and how Indigenous people are engaging in #HashtagActivism to achieve social change.

Social media has transformed the way people communicate and relate to the world in the last few years. It has been applauded as a unifier and simultaneously criticized as “fake news,” as a realm where people lose touch with reality and get trapped into a world of likes and retweets. Could it be that social media is actually the great equalizer? Could social media really be a platform that empowers the people to broadcast their truths to the world while mainstream media and “the news” continue to ignore or distort them?

If you ask Professor Cutcha Risling Balding, she’d tell you that social media, especially Twitter, makes a huge impact on the growth and success of a movement, as seen at Standing Rock—one of the most widely recognized and recent cases of blatant environmental injustice. Risling Balding studies #HashtagActivism of social justice movements and believes that there is no such thing as “slacktivism.” As she explained at the Civic Life Lunch, there is no harm done by retweeting and liking posts that elevate and amplify indigenous voices which are so often silenced. Often, people seeing these posts get inspired and feel empowered to do something to stand in solidarity, even if locally. These actions can have a huge impact, pushing the mainstream media to actually cover movements on the news and even calling out the President to come out with a public stance on an issue.

Calling these actions “slacktivism” diminishes the importance of movements that are seen as “indigenous issues.” The reality is that water protectors at Standing Rock, organized by young indigenous women, put their lives on the line to protect water in the Missouri River from pollution because “Mni Wiconi,” “Water is Life”—a universal truth for all living beings. Access to clean and safe drinking water is a human rights issue facing many communities in the US, disproportionately communities of color. Social media enabled millions of non-native people to become allies and engage with the Standing Rock water protectors through retweets and likes of their posts, checking in at Standing Rock on Facebook, watching live videos and pictures as evidence of the police brutality and militarization. All of this shaped the narrative of what was occurring at Standing Rock, instead of it being entirely decided by distant, out of touch, and inaccurate media and government reports.

This so called “slacktivism” caught the attention of media outlets and politicians who were now pressured to address the sovereignty rights of the Sioux tribe in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. News outlets began to invite and speak to indigenous people involved with the #NoDAPL movement. This #HashtagActivism as brought the movement to decolonize Native American tribes and the United States one step further. Through social media, activists at Standing Rock have spread awareness to the public of the real, living, contemporary indigenous people and can further shape the narrative of these social movements.

Solid Waste Specialist, Eastern Research Group, Inc. (Boston, MA)

This position involves supporting federal and state environmental agencies with researching solid waste policy issues, including those that pertain to municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, and hazardous waste. The position is in ERG’s Boston office, and will start as early as October 15, 2017.

Required Skills & Qualifications:

  • One or more years of experience in municipal solid waste or relevant field of study or practice.
  • Experience researching waste management issues and initiatives, such as recycling, waste reduction, composting, lifecycle analysis, and organic waste (e.g., food waste diversion).
  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in environmental science, environmental policy, or related field.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills and analytical skills.

Preferred Skills & Qualifications:

  • Familiarity with biogas recovery from municipal solid waste or wastewater.
  • International experience in any relevant scientific field of study or practice.

 

Application Deadline: September 13
To Apply: e-mail your cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to john.wilhelmi@erg.com.

Sharing Sustainability: The Green Labs Reception

On Friday, July 14th, Tufts administrators and lab representatives met in the historic Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall, to celebrate and share their ongoing sustainability efforts. The event marked the culmination of the North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge, an international energy-saving initiative sponsored by My Green Lab and I2SL. Several Tufts labs had participated in this challenge and taken major steps over the prior months to reduce their energy use. The Freezer Challenge was just one component of the overarching Tufts Green Labs Initiative, aimed at reducing the overall environmental footprint of lab spaces.

The event opened with the introduction of Dr. Meydani, the Vice Provost for Research.

 

Tina Woolston, Director of the Office of Sustainability, presented certificates to the Tufts labs that participated in the Freezer Challenge: the Nair Lab, the Van Deventer Lab, and the biology labs at 200 Boston Ave.

Next, Michael Doire, the biology department manager, gave an informative presentation on the details of the freezer challenge and discussed the extent of lab energy use. A single ultra-low-temperature freezer demands as much power as a typical home, and for some universities, lab spaces require as much energy as all other operations combined! Therefore, implementing efficient technologies and practices not only increases sustainability, bus also greatly reduces operating costs for the university.

 

The following three student presentations reinforced the idea that lab sustainability makes sense economically, as well as environmentally. Emma Cusack, an undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering, presented her work on a “Shut the Sash” initiative. Chemical fume hoods, which operate continually to remove dangerous fumes from lab spaces, are some of the most energy-intensive devices at Tufts: a single fume hood draws more energy than three average homes. Emma discussed how shutting the protective sash on these hoods has the potential to greatly reduce energy costs, since less air is drawn through the system – by the end of the 2017-18 academic year, her proposed campaign aims to reduce the average height that fume hoods are left open by 25%. By implementing a campaign to educate students and faculty about these benefits, Tufts could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy bills each year, while greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Next, Patrick Milne, an undergraduate chemistry student, presented his research on energy use for heating and cooling in the Pearson building. He described how improvements to the building’s heat recovery system would result in significant energy savings. He also proposed removing specific fume hoods that get very little use, but are still running continuously.

 

Finally, Jonathan Ng, another undergraduate chemistry student, presented his research on solvent use at Tufts. Solvents are hazardous chemicals often used in lab settings, and they present significant financial and environmental costs. Safely disposing of solvents can cost two to four times as much as their initial purchase cost; Jonathan described a single Tufts lab that spends tens of thousands of dollars each year on solvent disposal alone. He discussed how flash chromatography, a tedious and chemically intensive process, can be replaced by a machine that minimizes solvent use and saves time for researchers. Although the machine is costly, it would pay for itself in one to two years, and would save an enormous amount of money in the long term.

 

After the presentations, guests were invited to mingle and view posters with information on the Freezer Challenge and other green labs initiatives.

The official Freezer Challenge has come to a close, but now is a great time to try it on your own! As Tina Woolston pointed out in her closing speech, “Actions taken by students and employees help contribute to a lasting culture of sustainability.” If you are involved in lab work at Tufts, please consider taking steps to make your lab more sustainable.   You can read about best practices for freezers, or visit our website to learn about other Green Labs initiatives at Tufts. For an overview of the Shut the Sash campaign, check out the video below. If you have already successfully implemented sustainable practices in your lab, please share them in the comments!

 

 

 

 

The Green Labs Initiative: An Overview

 

We can all have a positive impact by incorporating sustainable behaviors into our daily lives, but not all impacts are equal. At universities, laboratory settings have especially high resource and energy demand, making them important targets for sustainability initiatives. Duke University estimates that lab spaces can require five times the energy of other campus buildings. For this reason, Tufts began work on the Green Labs initiative, which aimed to increase the overall sustainability of these spaces through a variety of means.

Across all three Tufts campuses, ten labs signed up to participate in the Green Labs initiative. Emily Edwards, who coordinates chemical and bioengineering labs in the SciTech building, has long been committed to increasing the sustainability of these spaces. Her department currently runs 14 labs, researching topics from solar panel development to filtration membranes to bioengineering with mammalian cells. When she first joined the department, Edwards wanted to reduce plastic waste in her labs, which use high volumes of disposable items like pipette tips, weigh boats, gloves, and vials. However, she found this to be nearly impossible because these materials are necessary for routine lab work, and are difficult to clean for reuse. In light of this, Edwards feels that energy conservation is the most practical way to reduce the environmental footprint of her labs. She worked to address this challenge through her participation in the Green Labs initiative.

Another major participant in the initiative was Sanjukta Ghosh, a lab coordinator in the biology department. Ghosh oversees nine labs at 200 Boston Ave, researching topics like molecular biology, genetics, and bioinformatics. Her building is LEED certified, and features sustainable technologies including daylight-sensitive lighting systems and open floor plans that facilitate equipment sharing. Ghosh has an academic background in green chemistry philosophy, and has applied these sustainability concepts to her work at Tufts. She also acknowledges the environmental difficulties of lab work, which inherently creates a large plastic footprint. Ghosh has recently worked with vendors to purchase more recyclable materials including pipette tip boxes. Her labs also participate in vendor take-back programs, in which equipment manufacturers collect used items and donate or safely recycle them.

 

Fume Hoods

The single largest energy demand in lab buildings comes from chemical fume hoods, which are a staple of lab work. Fume hoods are used to protect researchers from dangerous materials or vapors by drawing contaminated air through a ventilation system. For safety reasons, these systems must run continuously 24 hours a day, whether or not they are actively being used. One energy-saving element of Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hoods is their adjustable sash, which can be lowered or shut completely when they are not in use. This drastically reduces the energy demand of the ventilation system by slowing the fan. Many universities have designed “Shut the Sash” campaigns to educate lab personnel about the environmental benefits of this simple action.

Unfortunately for sustainability at Tufts, the vast majority of the SciTech building’s 50 VAV fume hoods have broken fan regulators, and are so old that replacement parts cannot be obtained. This means that shutting the sash on these machines does not reduce their energy demand. According to Edwards, it would be necessary to entirely replace many of the fume hoods to fix this issue, but funding is lacking. In contrast, the fume hoods in Ghosh’s labs are all equipped with automatic sashes, which use proximity sensors to open only when researchers approach. Ironically, this safety feature fails to save energy because the fume hoods at 200 Boston are not VAV, and therefore draw a constant amount of power regardless of their sash position. According to Ghosh, replacing these fume hoods with more efficient ones would cost millions of dollars.

 

Freezer Challenge

Another major energy draw for labs is refrigeration and cooling, as certain biomaterials must be stored in specialized freezers. “Ultra-low” freezers cool samples to -80 degrees Celsius (-112OF). The SciTech building has roughly eight of these ultra-low freezers in use, and Ghosh’s labs at 200 Boston have six.

Edwards and Ghosh both participated in the Freezer Challenge, a component of the Green Labs project, which set out to reduce the energy use of lab freezers. In order to operate each freezer more efficiently, a clear inventory of its contents was created, minimizing the time that the door needs to be open when searching for an item. The freezers also had to be regularly de-iced so that their doors could seal properly, keeping the heat out. Finally, it was important to remove unused items and consolidate partially full freezers, taking extra units offline when possible. At 200 Boston, old freezers have been gradually replaced with new, high-efficiency units, which use only one quarter of the power.

 

Other Initiatives

While optimizing the use of freezers and fume hoods may be the most direct way to increase efficiency, Edwards and Ghosh promote sustainability in other ways as well. Although recycling certain lab materials can be difficult, Edwards collects packing materials like Styrofoam and bubble wrap for reuse. SciTech has a dedicated recycling bin for electronics, which is used heavily when old workspaces are cleaned out. Ghosh also recycles all worn-out lab equipment, and donates functional equipment to other institutions, so virtually none of it ends up in the trash. In addition, Tufts sometimes receives donations from biotech companies, which is more sustainable and cost-effective than purchasing new equipment.

Tufts labs are making progress working towards their sustainability goals, but much work can still be done. Lab faculty, students, and administration must all collaborate to continue addressing the environmental impact of Tufts labs, thereby working towards a greener campus.

 

 

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