Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

By Liz Bloomhardt
Published October 13, 2011

Since the Board of Trustees of the University approved the Climate Action Plan in May, 2009, the annual green house gas (GHG) inventory of the University has been trending downward. The calculated 2010 emissions were 8.9 percent below the 2007 baseline. These reductions are roughly on par with the stated goals set forth in the CAP, and that document has proved to be an able guide.

Over that same time, the Sustainable Duke website has indicated some mission creep. In addition to the objectives of the CAP in reducing emissions and reaching carbon neutrality by 2024, there are now robust sections that cover campus initiatives in other areas like dining, waste, water and purchasing.

This totally makes sense.

The CAP was created as a direct response to President Richard Brodhead’s signing of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007. Sustainability, however, means more than just climate to a school’s operation, reputation, ranking and service to society.

This year, the president-appointed Campus Sustainability Committee, of which I am a member, and its many subcommittees have been directed to move beyond climate and focus some energy on the creation of a Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP).

In addition to getting a few more points on the next Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) rating submission in three years, an SSP has the potential to empower unexpected change. In the same way President Brodhead told me last year the CAP led the University to end its use of coal.

In the same way the CAP measures greenhouse gas emissions and set a target for carbon neutrality, the SSP will derive its success from the identification of reliable data streams and clear, articulate goals that can be measured.

The areas into which the SSP has the power to move however, (eg. purchasing and waste) are decision areas that quickly become decentralized into Duke’s many schools, departments and buildings. This will provide a major challenge like those already being tackled in the area of personal transportation.

In addition, without the same unifying commitment from ACUPCC that led to the CAP and similarly-focused plans at schools across the country and world, the SSP must navigate a less-defined space.

Though several peer and neighboring institutions including Yale, N.C. State, Princeton and Purdue have published SSPs, they are each slightly different in their approach and scope. Duke will be the same. Instead of crafting a holistic SSP over the course of a year, like was done with the drafting of the CAP, a couple choice areas have been selected, to be followed by additional areas in later years.

This year’s primary areas of focus are: a) water and storm water and b) transportation. The secondary area is waste reduction/recycling/composting.

The first focus, water and Storm water, is a policy area that is under central administrative control and has garnered heightened interest since the severe drought of 2007. A large user education effort was made at that time, and compliance with state and local regulations will dictate storm water management requirements. This is a safe, easy category to include in the first year. It is also regionally relevant if not particularly progressive.

The second area of focus this year is transportation. This topical area seems redundant, however, as it is covered under the CAP, and a subcommittee and a working group already exist to address the stated and evolving goals and challenges.

Finally, as a secondary focus area, a new subcommittee will form to consider materials management on campus including recycling, waste and composting. Waste management—and recycling in particular—is an often-lamented underachievement on Duke’s campus. This newly formed subcommittee has an opportunity to challenge that reality, but it’s not likely to be easy. The current waste management system is of the decentralized variety and therefore rife with political and bureaucratic implications.

Not included in this year’s list of focus areas are dining and purchasing. Dining in particular is a highly relevant topic area right now with the West Union renovation and growing food awareness on campus. It’s likely that these areas will come later, I just hope the prime opportunity to start to address them specifically, and sustainability in a holistic way has not passed.

The SSP has the power to change Duke in unexpected and positive ways. Let us make sure Duke is open to the possibility.

Liz Bloomhardt is a fifth-year graduate student in mechanical engineering. Her column runs every other Thursday.

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By Liz Bloomhardt
Published April 8, 2011

The sitting U.S. president was too busy launching a reelection campaign to meet for this column, but I did stop by the Allen Building where the president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, agreed to let me into his office. What follows is an account of our conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.

Green Devil: Can you describe the process you went through in deciding to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment [in 2007, also signed by nearly 300 other colleges and universities, that set in motion the drafting of Duke’s Climate Action Plan and the commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2024]?

Richard Brodhead: You start by asking the question, does this university believe in sustainability? Yes. Do we believe that humans have an impact on the environment? Yes. Do we believe, therefore, that over time humans should alter their behavior so as to show greater respect for the environment? Yes.

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By Liz Bloomhardt

Published December 3, 2010

I’d like to tell you a story. When I’m done, I’d like you to tell me yours. I’ll explain, but first: How Green Devil Became Green Devil.

All I wanted was a recycling bin. Innocent enough.

Before I first came to Duke as a graduate student, I worked in an office building—a “real” person, I liked to say, with a paycheck. In my cubicle, there were the normal things: a picture of my mom, a computer with a huge CRT monitor, a stapler (not red). There were also two bins under my desk, one for trash and one for recycling. Every night or morning when I was gone, the trash and recycling would magically disappear. Pretty cool, huh? I thought it was like that everywhere.

Then I got into grad school, moved south and into an office on campus. There was only a trash bin. A cardboard box had been designated as the recycling bin but it had to be kept away from the trash, lest it be confused for extra rubbish. When it was full of paper, magazines and empty bottles, my office mate and I would take a field trip out into the hall, around to the front of the building and upstairs to the sorting station.

This just didn’t make sense. Were we the only ones doing this? What happened to the recyclable materials in rooms without a cardboard box? Shouldn’t there be a closer sorting station? It was clear to me that the whole process should be easier and integrated with the existing trash service.

My colleagues agreed.

So we mobilized, and the Graduate and Professional Student Council Green Team was born, complete with an official logo made by the Duke Innovative Design Agency. We were well on our way, and a plan was taking shape. Before we could tackle the big fish of having the recycling taken out at the same time as the trash, we would impress the administration with a small scale office recycling bin program and demonstrate through survey data that people wanted their recycling taken out for them, but that office bins were awesome!

It only sort of worked out that way. The GPSC Green Team Recycling Bin Distribution Pilot Program (RBDPP, catchy right?) was deemed a moderate success. Those who got office recycling bins through the program confirmed that they are awesome and they are used.

But there were also lessons learned. For starters, it turns out large populations of graduate students don’t have offices, so they had no need for an office bin, but central locations are important. And it was hard work getting people to request a bin in the first place. (Laziness? Apathy? Bad marketing skills?) Direct intervention seemed the most effective. Then there were students who wanted bins but were in buildings that were not served by Duke Recycles. Denied. And a bureaucratic trap we walked right into trying to remedy.

The clearest point we determined was that the size of the project, the duration and the time required to execute it were about the maximum we, as students with other obligations, had time to implement. This was an important lesson, because alas, our original goal of integrated pick-up service was still a good chunk of time, effort and the stars aligning away.

There are still a few bins left through the program, and anyone that wants a bin can get one by ordering through Duke Recycles for a small fee. They also have several sizes.

Sure, recycling led to other things, and then to other, other things and then to this column, but I will always carry a soft spot for this initial introduction to being a citizen of the Duke community. Of course, once you become aware of an issue, it tends to stay with you as well (or I’ve just gone crazy for recycling).

Recycling collection location in Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.

Since participating in this project two or so years ago, I have started to notice recycling stations everywhere I go. This means that at road races I notice the teams sorting water bottles; I have lost my tour group taking pictures of the recycling station in what amounts to the back alley of the White House; and, when I was in the conservation mecca that is the Galapagos Islands over Thanksgiving—you guessed it—I had my picture taken with some super huge recycling bins in the main port town of Puerta Ayora.

Green devil indeed.

(Oh, and the Ecuadorians have paper, plastic and compost sorting stations all over the place! How cool is that? I had trouble finding a regular trash can.)

OK, so I’m gaga for recycling. What’s your story?

In the vein of “StoryCorps,” or “This American Life,” I want to hear from you. Think of it as the Green Devil Recording Project. No matter how small or how big, no matter the corner of campus, e-mail me, and we can record your sustainable stories, anecdotes or experiences in an interview that might just appear in this column. I know I’m not the only one out there, because I’ve already met some of you, so e-mail me at dukegreendevil@gmail.com.

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By Liz Bloomhardt

Published November 5, 2010

Fuqua Student (FS), you know who you are. You stood at the edge of the parking lot during graduate and professional student Campout with the bottom half of the hamburger bun in your hand and asked me, “Which one does it go in?”

Since this column isn’t actually about being wasted, which you may have been, and since this wasn’t your first time through the waste-free lunch sorting station, I challenged you to figure it out. You paused, looking down at the barrels and the signs, and claimed you didn’t know.

“Go with your gut,” I told you, assuming too much.

You threw that little scrap of bread in the trash.

“Wrong!” I told you. “Try the compost.”

FS, you embody a simple truth: Without me standing there waving my hands at the appropriate barrel, most people get equally flustered when confronted with this seemingly simple choice, or ignore it altogether.

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Authors Note: Editors at the Chronicle changed the title of this column during final editing for the published edition to Wastful, which, unfortunately, changes the delivery. It has been retitled online and in this post as originally submitted.

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