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10 Points of Hope for Progress on Climate Change

Content based on an Environmental Studies Lunch and 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.

October 5, 2017
12:00-1:00pm | Rabb Room, Lincoln Filene Center
Ten points of hope for progress on climate change
Kate Troll, author and activist
Watch video

Author and activist Kate Troll will share her stories, insights, and experience in dealing with the political difficulties of advancing conservation initiatives in a state dominated by extractive resource industries. In her new book “The Great Unconformity: Reflections on Hope in an Imperiled World,” Ms. Troll uses the power of adventure storytelling to convey key policy insights and ‘hope spots’ in dealing with the challenges of sustainability and climate change. To inspire and empower others, her talk highlights ten points of hope for progress on climate change; leading to a robust discussion of the most practical ways to make a difference both personally and professionally.

In the last few months we have seen climate change making its mark through ten different hurricanes in ten weeks and wildfires in California that have burned over 200,000 acres, while the response from our federal government has been minimal and regressive. In spite of what seem to be ever-growing barriers to slowing down the onslaught of climate change, we cannot lose hope and stop trying. For those who care deeply about environmental justice and working to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by extreme climate events regularly hitting vulnerable frontline communities, continued extinctions of species all over the world, and neglectful responses from our government and industries that disproportionately create these problems.

If you ever feel yourself giving up on working in this field, think about the “10 Points of Hope for Progress on Climate Change” as presented by activist and author Kate Troll. Much of this advice comes from her new book The Great Unconformity: Reflections on Hope in an Imperiled World of stories, insights, and experiences in dealing with political difficulties of advancing conservation initiatives in Alaska—a state dominated by extractive resource industries.

Before jumping into the 10 Points of Hope, she asked us to reflect on 5 key points:

  1. We only have one Earth. This is our one chance to save our species and many others on this planet.
  2. We will see significant changes globally with 2ºC warming, so we must stay under this temperature change as stated to in the Paris Agreement.
  3. There are three times as many fossil fuels in known reserves than we can burn before reaching over 2ºC of warming.
  4. We will exceed our possible carbon budget by 2040 if we continue with business as usual.
  5. Take a moment to think of five consequences of unabated climate change. There are many that will affect us locally and globally. Here’s a quick list of a few of the severe consequences of climate change:
    1. More, unpredictable, extreme climate events
    2. Sea level rise
    3. Mass extinction of humans and other species
    4. Climate refugees
    5. Disease control problems

Despite these potential consequences, as Troll sees it, we have many reasons to find hope and remain determined to reduce the impact of climate change.

1. There is a greater awareness that synergy rules.

Troll explains that there is growing awareness that economic growth and sustainability and the health of the environment are one in the same. This has been demonstrated by both global organizations and domestically by the EPA.

2. Millennial generation is the United States’ new civic generation.

The generation born after 1982 is dedicated to individual actions that fulfill collective responsibilities in the marketplace and voting booth. We are tipping the scales in favor of preventing climate change.

3. There is a rise of women in work and business.

Women tend to bring community based values and corporate responsibility to their workplaces, which keeps businesses accountable to their impacts on local communities and global climate change.

4. The rest of the world gets it, and #WeAreStillIn.

Over 40 countries have policies of carbon pricing, there is a booming renewable energy industry, last week the world celebrated Global Climate Change Week, and institutions including Tufts, cities, and states are pushing back on the lack of national leadership shown by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June.

5. Love of place.

Troll emphasizes that love of place will push us to protect and prevent climate change, as inspired by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

“It is not the hatred of coal and oil companies, or anger, but love that will save the place. When what is being fought is an identity, a culture, a beloved place that people are determined to pass on to their grandchildren, there is nothing companies can offer as a bargaining chip.”—Naomi Klein

6. Alternative consumerism is rising.

There are over 458 eco-labels in 195 countries, which shows growing awareness about climate change and interest in looking to the marketplace to reduce its impacts and be responsible and accountable.

7. Grid parity of renewable energy to fossil fuel electricity.

Utilities can source renewable energy at a competitive price, sometimes even cheaper, than fossil fuels.

8. Disinvestment campaign is making a $5.5 trillion dollar impact. 

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns started on university campuses in 2011. Today, there are over 750 institutions and 58,000 individuals already committed to divestment. Learn more about how you can change your personal banking to be a part of this movement, watch this Environmental Studies Lunch and Learn. 

9. World religions have spoken.

Troll says that all major faiths of the world have issued declarations on the need to address climate change. She sees this as part of the powerful underlying current to protect and mitigate climate change that is transformative.

10. The Great Awareness Unconformity

Her last assurance of hope comes from the idea that humans are an evolutionary force—we impact the evolution of other species, forcing nature to evolve on our terms. A counter narrative to this is that creativity is an evolutionary force. Creativity breeds creativity, and acts as an equal counterpart to our destruction. People are finding creative solutions and research every day that we can incorporate into our lives, communities, and policy.

This environmental work is exhausting and never-ending. It can be frustrating and sometimes infuriating, so it is of the utmost important that each of us keeps these points in mind. We must keep standing up against self-centered, careless, and dehumanizing industry practices and government policies. We need to protect and support communities of color and low-income communities who continue to disproportionately suffer the burden of climate change despite the fact that they are not contributing to it. We are not alone in the work we are doing. There is a global community of truly inspiring people working on this, and we are making progress.

Hazard Mitigation Community Forums

Don’t miss the upcoming Tufts Hazard Mitigation Community Forums on 9/27 and 9/28:

Over the past few weeks, several institutions of higher education have been impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Come contribute to Tufts’ own plan to prepare for future disasters and adapt to the impacts of #climatechange. Learn about hazard mitigation strategies that have been identified to make each Tufts campus more resilient to disaster and provide input on how the university can best ensure its resilience in the years and decades to come.

What is hazard mitigation?
Hazard mitigation is defined as any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to life and property from hazard events. It is an on-going process that occurs before, during, and after disasters and serves to break the cycle of damage and repair in hazardous areas.

Wednesday, September 27
Medford/Somerville (students): 12:15-1:15 PM (Terrace Room, Paige Hall)
Medford/Somerville (faculty/staff): 3:00-4:00 PM (Austin Conference Room, Tisch Library)

Thursday, September 28
Boston Health Sciences: 10:00-11:00 AM (Rachel’s Amphitheater, Room 1414, 35 Kneeland Street)
SMFA: 12:30-1:30 PM (Conference Room B201)
Grafton: 3:00-4:00 PM (Dean’s Conference Room, Jean Mayer Administration Building)

Meet the New Eco-Reps!

Our new Eco-Reps are here! We now officially have Eco-Reps for every dorm on campus and for the first time we have a SMFA Eco-Rep! So far the Eco-Reps have helped freshman move-in sustainably, composted over 200 gallons of food waste, volunteered at the Community Harvest Project in Grafton, and helped out at the Blue and Brown Pass Down Sale. It has been quite a busy few weeks!

For the rest of the semester, the Eco-Reps will serve as resources for residents in the dorms to help create sustainable living habits.  Be sure to ask them any and all of your sustainability questions! Not sure what mixed recycling is? Ask an Eco-Rep! Don’t know where your dorm’s compost is? Ask an Eco-Rep! Have questions about how to reduce your waste while living on campus? Ask an Eco-Rep!

Not only can Eco-Reps answer all of your sustainability questions, but they also host sustainability-themed events throughout the semester. Some exciting events planned for this semester include tye dying, herb planting, compost decorating, and pumpkin carving! To stay up to date on all of the Eco-Rep events throughout the semester follow the facebook page! You can also find the Eco-Reps in Dewick on Mondays for Meatless Mondays! There you can pledge to reduce your meat consumption, even if it’s just for one meal a week (every little bit helps)!

Don’t the Eco-Reps sound amazing?  We sure think so! You can learn more about your Eco-Rep here!

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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