Thursday, September 30, 2010
Electronic waste is of particular importance because of the possible hazardous materials it contains, cadmium and lead for example. If thrown away improperly, these materials can contaminate landfills. E-waste has also gotten international attention as much of America’s e-waste has been shipped overseas to countries with lower environmental standards and is causing huge human health and environmental hazards. Watching an interview with photographer Edward Burtynsky last year he had some amazing photographs of mountains of switchboards and ancient women with baskets, not filled with food, but electronic pieces they are manually disassembling to remove tiny fragments of precious metals. The best solution is to reuse and refurbish electronics to keep them from reaching the waste stream. The next best is to make sure they are properly disposed and recycled.
The University of Colorado Boulder was number one on the Sierra Club’s college ranking and offers a series of programs to address e-waste. One smart idea is capturing the materials on move in and move out days. They have a “reusable items drive” to keep items out of the waste stream all together. These items are then donated to Habitat for Humanity. The University has also created a separate program, The Colorado Materials Exchange (COMEx), whose mission is to reduce the e-waste problem. They run an online electronic exchange message board, train businesses and institutions on how to reduce and reuse electronics and visit cities and towns throughout Colorado to hold e-waste workshops. The University of Colorado also received a grant from the EPA to conduct an e-waste research project to analyze the best practices for their school. Lastly, they hold computer roundups where the college community can drop off any electronics. Over 17 tons of computers were collected and 2.9 tons were tested and donated to non-profits.
Since DePaul has made a commitment to recycling, adding a e-waste program would be a natural fit. As the Colorado example shows there are many ways to approach the problem and it would be easy for DePaul to start with one activity, such as an electronic collection day each quarter. These programs could be easily advertised on all the current recycling bins, located in over 95% of DePaul facilities. DePaul seems to already care about the quality of vendors and contractors they hire based on the carpet installation selection based on labor practices we learned about in class, and their choice of a dining service that has a sustainable focus that I wrote about in my last blog. With this in mind, when DePaul makes the move to a starting a e-waste program, they would need to ensure not only that the electronics stay out of local landfills, but that they are salvaged, recycled or reused in a way that is safe for the environment and the people involved.
By Rebecca Dill
Photo: Edward Burtynsky
China Recycling #12,
Ewaste Sorting, Zeguo, Zhejiang Province, 2004
The concept of student farming would reasonably conjure up images of rural, agricultural schools training the future farmers of America. A new trend, however, has emerged at universities across the United States, including private, state and Ivy League institutions. With programs at many schools, including Rutgers, Cornell and Yale, this new trend, called student sustainable farming, is no longer just for agricultural students. More than forty on-campus student farms exist today. Students who attend universities with robust international and study-abroad programs, such as DePaul, can benefit from the experience provided by sustainable farming projects. Students who are preparing for study-abroad programs in developing countries in Africa, South American and Asia could bring more practical insight to their programs through the experience of participating in sustainable farming.
Sustainable farming has been used on campuses to establish community supported agriculture (CSA), farm stands, provide fresh produce to dining halls, and assist local soup kitchens and food pantries with their growing demand. The University of Vermont, for example, donates about half of its crop to local food aid projects. Student farms range in size and can be as large as 200 acres, although many are as small as an acre or less. It is true that many of these farms are linked to college courses related to agriculture, however, many are also linked to courses in global food politics and sustainability. As students learn ecological, economic, and social skills through cultivating crops, marketing products and supporting community development, they become engrossed in the educational and community service principles such as those held at DePaul University.
In many cases, student farms are self-sustained through their CSA initiatives and may even be organized as non-profit entities, allowing them to secure government grants to offset start-up costs. Farms at DePaul could use food scraps from dining halls and campus leaves for compost materials and supply food back to dining halls at harvest time. While the program at DePaul would start small, the opportunity for growth is exponential. For example, the Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at the University of California at Santa Cruz operates a two-acre farm and is a great example of how universities can create outreach programs that not only benefit research and education on campus, but also can increase public interest in sustainable, resource-conserving agricultural techniques. The CASFS collaborates with non-governmental organizations, its local community and government agencies to provide publications and workshops for not only professional curriculum, but also for school children.
DePaul’s urban location, complemented by suburban campuses, provides an ideal atmosphere for this initiative. Other urban universities that are setting the bar include American, Georgetown and George Washington Universities in Washington, D.C., which started student gardens in 2009 and donated food to local food banks. Even universities closer to home, like Northwestern University's student garden, recognize the benefits of student gardens and have taken the first step in giving their students hands-on experience in sustainable gardening. These schools are proving that making a difference does not have to take up a lot of space. As each of these schools have demonstrated, raised beds can be put virtually anywhere and DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus could certainly accommodate this.
There is little doubt that student sustainable farming is a great opportunity for DePaul University. Shares in CSA initiatives could include distribution to low-income community members, as is done at Rutgers University, keeping with the values of St. Vincent de Paul. Additional benefits include more efficient use of university land resources to provide practical solutions for public service and sustainable education initiatives. The university’s connection to the community could only be strengthened while providing experiential learning to students preparing for careers in business, public service, international studies or various other concentrations. Many schools, from small liberal art colleges to Ivy League universities, have successfully developed student farm programs. Now is the time for DePaul to be a pioneer in the Chicago area with its own student sustainable farming initiative.
Posted by: Sondra Elder
(photo courtesy of Matt Steiman and Inno Onwueme)
According to the sustainable report card, DePaul University received a low grade altogether. As my grandfather always tells me “grades do not demonstrate your intelligence but your preparedness”. What is DePaul University doing to become one of the best sustainable organizations on the report card? This means DePaul University should work on being more prepared for the grade they are looking for, by having more students involved and creating more programs like the water refill station, because it is an important element in daily life. The expansions of refill water system will help reduce pollution from plastic bottles. Additionally, the project will help students and other citizens save money.
Although the refill water system has been in existence, I was unaware of it because I never seen or heard someone talk about it. Then, one day I saw it at the DePaul University, and it taught me how healthy it can be to decrease pollution by not using too much of the plastic water bottles. With that said, other students will be able to learn that reducing waste and conserving precious resources in the environment is healthy. DePaul University Lincoln Park Campus is the first one to receive the state of the art green development in the Chicago area. With the refill water system less people will drink soda, which will also help better their health and reduce dehydration.
In future the water refill stations should be placed throughout all extensions of DePaul University, and in addition DePaul University should take the initiative to implement the same product through other Universities by sharing the idea.
Although personally, I see DePaul has done a lot, now they need to focus on being noticed by other schools. In that case, they will be able to get the grade that they deserved. DePaul continues to progress in their work toward building a better world by participating in creating sustainable developments that could be beneficial to everyone in the society.
Just imagine no one is perfect; to be successful we must fail so many times before climbing the ladder. It is important to understand the efforts, time and cost that would be needed to create a sustainable and green environment. We as citizens should pull together to better our world; we should help other organizations that are trying to do their part in the society.
Mobile uploads Picture _ DePaul University Refill Water Station
Posted by Fabiola
DePaul University has all the potential of becoming one of the most energy friendly environments. Installing a state of the art water heating system, could be a step forward to being greener. Some states are already in the process of using the system. It is helping many organizations save money and it is working efficiently.
Amherst University who received the highest grade, according to the sustainability report card has been using the solar water heating systems over the years, and that help saved a large amount of money; which helps the University provide scholarships to low income families at their University. This shows that, the solar water heating system is a very good way of helping people save money, educate them on other way that houses and buildings can be heated, and provide hot water without have to use gas.
In addition, solar energy works in Michigan providing electricity and heating for homes, schools, churches, colleges, and parks. Solar technologies include photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into electricity, solar hot water systems that heat water for swimming pools and buildings, and solar space heating systems that provide heat for buildings. In addition, passive solar designs provide heat for buildings and day lighting strategies use sunlight to minimize the need for electricity to run lights.
Furthermore, Michigan State University has a 10 kW photovoltaic system at the Pavilion on the south side of campus. The Pavilion is used for a variety of events and shows. The PV system has been installed on the south facing wall. This was one of the first 10 kW solar demonstration projects that received funding from the Energy Office.
Another great example is in Northwest Michigan, where Dr. Conrad Heins, “built the home to the left in northwest Michigan. Dr. Hein’s passive solar home is well insulated and has a lot of south facing glass to capture solar heat during the heating season. His propane bills are less than $100 per year. Dr. Heins also uses solar energy to heat most of his hot water for dishes and showers, and he uses photovoltaic panels to produce some of his electricity.”
DePaul University could save a lot of money to invest into other important things within the communities and the school itself. Most importantly, the University would be the first one in Chicago to bring this great work into place. As a result, other schools could use the system as an example; perhaps have some engineers come to DePaul to look at strategies or initiatives to install the solar water heating system at their schools.
Installing the water heating system would not be an easy process, because the installers must follow certain procedures. The person who is in charge of taking the initiative to try the great experiment has to know exactly what they are doing.
As a University, we are always pushing for good health and the wellness of the environment. Having a system that can help decrease illnesses to keep the communities healthy can be the best thing that could happen to the future scholars in the society. DePaul already walks the walk, by keeping the students informed about all the social values and ways to be healthy. It is important that, DePaul takes the initiate to go further in involving solar water heaters.
According to the Solar Hot, solar water heaters are the most cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions and reduce dependence on imported energy.
I would suggest that DePaul University start a project to receive funds to run a trial because of the positive effects that could have on the students and the communities.
Department of Labor & Economic Growth
Posted by Fabiola
As DePaul has two urban campuses within the city of Chicago, there are opportunities to implement green practices in transportation to reduce carbon and tailpipe emissions and congestion.
DePaul’s Facility Operations has been a big proponent of bicycling as an alternative and environmental form of transportation. DePaul has installed ubiquitous bicycle racks throughout their campuses and have augmented some of the existing ones. Racks are located outside dormitories, libraries, student centers, department buildings, and other places where there is a lot of student traffic. Students, staff, and faculty can rent bikes at the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center for $10 a day. DePaul also has a bike intern, Amanda Kautzer, who is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) to promote bicycle commuting through various campus events. DePaul also partners with CDOT to raise awareness about green transportation on campus.
The City of Chicago has done a lot to enable DePaul to encourage its affiliates to bike. The city has installed bicycle racks that DePaul student, staff, and faculty can take advantage of at its train stations and local businesses. The City of Chicago has also contributed to bicycling commuting, according to the Bike 2015 Plan, by outfitting CTA buses with bicycle racks, as well as allowing them on the CTA train during non-rush hours. Metra also allows bicycles to increase mobility for the suburban commuters. There are bicycle lanes throughout both campuses on Fullerton Ave., Armitage St., Lincoln Ave., Halsted St., and the Lake Shore Drive multi-use path. With a great infrastructure for biking, DePaul has more validation and motivation to promote it as a sustainable form of alternative transportation.
DePaul participates in the Chicago Transit Authority’s U-Pass program. The U-Pass program provides public transportation on buses and trains at a drastically reduce rate for students enrolled full-time. Using public transportation rather than bringing personal vehicles reduces traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions. Not only does public transportation provide good area coverage within campuses, but between campuses as well. The red line Fullerton stop connects to the State St. stop so students can commute between campuses with ease. It is both economical and better for the environment.
According to the DePaul University Carbon Footprint and Sustainability Assessment, DePaul has taken even more steps to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. The Public Safety Department purchased two hybrid vehicles for its fleet, which saved 5% of their previous use of gasoline since the purchase. DePaul has partnered with I-Go to allow students, staff, and faculty to purchase a membership for one-third of the cost of a full-priced membership. DePaul also offers Metra passes to students based on financial need.
For the past three years, DePaul has done an assessment of the amount of CO2 emissions that come from travel for DePaul athletes and faculty. DePaul takes efficiency measures for athletic travel by taking into account the number of athletes and distance to determine the most efficient way to travel (E.G. land versus air, bus versus van). However, the most effective way to address the 1300 MTECO2 by both athletic and faculty travel is to invest in carbon offsets. DePaul plans to do this by purchasing carbon offsets from third parties like TerraPass or supporting student-run or local environmental organizations.
Since 2007, DePaul has been on a trend of reducing carbon emissions every year and continues to look for ways to decrease motor fuel consumption and their carbon footprint. Transportation is a big carbon emitter and students, staff, and faculty must also do their part in making the right decisions to use greener transportation.
Posted by Sylvia Chung
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Chung
The United States has been one of the largest polluters contributing to the current global climate change situation. It behooves the country to do everything it can to reduce carbon emissions and green its operations. Large cities harbor a concentration of traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions from motorized vehicles, and Chicago is not exempt. As transportation is a major carbon emitter, bicycle sharing programs will help reduce emissions. Bike-sharing can be a highly effective system in urban areas because of the compact nature of cities where most people travel short distances that are ideal for biking. DePaul University, with its two urban campuses, is a perfect candidate to implement such a program.
There are multiple benefits to bike-sharing programs. Environmentally, an increase of bike commuters reduces tailpipe emissions by taking cars off the road. Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving, according to the Zotwheels bike-sharing program and the University of California at Irvine. Bike- sharing reduces traffic congestion and conserves gas. Bikers also reduce their transportation costs and increase physical activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. One can run errands during lunch and possibly even commute faster than public transportation in heavily congested urban areas. Bike-sharing also provides on-demand transportation and decreases theft of personal bikes. Bike-sharing requires staff to maintain, repair, redistribute bikes, and provide customer service, which produces green jobs. Another benefit to a bike-sharing program is speed and efficiency of the commute for those who have multiple legs in their trips. In addition, bike-sharing may produce more public transportation converts keeping cars off the road.
DePaul University would benefit greatly with a bicycle program within its urban campuses. In addition to the reasons listed in the last section, infrastructure for a bike-sharing program is ideal on DePaul’s urban campuses. Urban settings in general are ideal for bike-sharing programs because small-mileage commutes are very common. Fortunately for DePaul, the city of Chicago has taken the responsibility for the infrastructure for bike paths and some of the parking, which DePaul can take advantage of.
A lot of progress has already been made to make DePaul a very bike-friendly place through the Bike 2015 Plan by the City of Chicago. CTA buses are equipped with bike racks. Bikes are allowed on the CTA trains during non-rush hours. Bikes are also allowed on the Metra that goes out to the suburbs. There are bike parking racks at train stations and throughout the city. The goals here are to increase cycling for transportation and recreation to reduce tailpipe admissions, reduce traffic congestion, promote healthy lifestyle, conserve gas, and decrease transportation costs. These are ideal and realistic goals that DePaul can contribute to.
Over 90 universities offer some form of a bicycle program. The University of Colorado, American University, University of California at Irvine, Emory University, and Hampshire College are just a few universities that have implemented successful bike-sharing programs.
Many universities have already seen increase bicycle use after implementing programs. The University of Colorado has seen that the increase in bike-sharing use has increased public transit use, which has decreased the number of commuters by personal vehicle. At the University of New England, 75% of freshmen brought their cars to school in 2007. In 2008, the university handed out bikes to freshmen and only 25% brought their cars on campus. Washington DC has bike fleets on campuses at American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and Howard University. According to MetroBike, LLC, “bike-sharing pulled 16% of the respondents away from driving a personal car for their trip and 19% away from a taxi”. Survey results for Washington DC also showed that people who already own bikes still use the program and that bike-sharing is creating new trips that perhaps would’ve been made via vehicle.
Posted by Sylvia Chung
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Chung
Many organizations, including America’s most influential universities, recognize that it is their responsibility to implement initiatives which reduce their carbon footprint. What they may not recognize, however, is that they can significantly influence the carbon footprint of their vendors through sustainable procurement practices. Campuses are careful to have recycling programs, install water control systems and use low-watt compact fluorescent light bulbs for lighting in dormitories, classrooms and offices whenever possible. One practice, however, requires no retrofitting of buildings or significant upfront cost. It simply requires consciously vetting, selecting and monitoring the sustainable practices of vendors when procuring products that universities must purchase anyway. Learn more about DePaul's procurement initiatives here.
DePaul received a paltry D+ grade on the 2009 College Sustainability Report Card, which independently evaluates campus and endowment sustainability activities. Although far below acceptability, DePaul’s D+ rating was an improvement over the previous year and the University continues to make advancements in its practices. One such improvement is in the University’s green purchasing procurement policy. According to The Sustainable Endowments Institute in Cambridge Massachusetts, “green purchasing” has become a priority at many schools across the U.S. with 61 percent of schools implementing some form of a green purchasing policy. Of the schools with sustainable procurement policy programs, about half limit their green purchasing to a single initiative (e.g., buying Energy Star appliances). Far fewer have adopted more robust policies involving multiple types of purchasing areas and vendor practices. DePaul, however, takes sustainable procurement quite seriously.
In order to be good stewards of the environment, DePaul must have a holistic view of the procurement process. For DePaul, the process begins with the Request for Proposal (RFP). The university makes it quite clear when distributing RFPs that it prefers vendors that are diverse, sustainable and socially responsible. Vendors are held accountable for their practices and must evaluate their competitiveness as many other universities also adopt this practice. In addition to social responsibility inquiries, potential vendors must explain practices such as:
1. Describe any programs your organization has implemented to provide goods/services in an environmentally sustainable way. Describe both in terms of the actual products sold to the University as well as practices in place at corporate and other locations.
2. Describe any re-use and recycling programs that your organization offers.
3. Describe your packaging and shipping options and how those impact sustainability efforts.
4. List any key environmental organizations you belong or any certifications your organization carries (e.g. EPEAT, LEED, Cradle to Cradle, Green Seal, Energy Star, etc.). Include the date of the last certification and its expiration.
5. Please provide links to websites that highlight your company’s commitment to sustainability (corporate statement on sustainability, press releases on specific initiatives, etc).
DePaul’s procurement department requires that all potential vendors reflect on their company’s sustainable policies and markets several vendors, including Staples and CDW-G, who have eco-friendly and sustainable products available. According to Cheryl Procter-Rogers’, Vice President, Public Relations and Communications, response to the 2010 Sierra Club “Cool School” questionnaire, the university purchases only paper with at least 30% post consumer recycled content and is endorsed by The Rainforest Alliance, the Sustainable Forest Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Review DePaul’s core RFP requirements here.
While it is impossible to monitor the daily sustainable practices of 100 percent of its vendors, DePaul is committed to improving its sustainable procurement practices. Requiring vendors to be introspective in the RFP process is a significant step toward emphasizing the importance of how the university values sustainable practices.
posted by: Sondra Elder
photo courtesy of Procura+
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
In a city like Chicago, with a bustling urban center and an endless grid of downtown neighborhoods, a focus on the sustainable best practices in the built environment is of the utmost importance to our quality of life. The built environment is a very broad term, and may be used to describe the smallest hot dog stand, or the entire city and its infrastructure. However you look at it, our man-made surroundings are all a part of the built environment, and affect our lives on a daily bases. Sustainable best practices have become an intense focus in the design, construction, and management of the built environment….the most visible and popular being green buildings.
Green buildings are popping up all over the world, with the objective of shifting best practices to higher performance, lower environmental impact, and regenerative design. Universities have become a hotspot for green buildings, and DePaul is no exception. University facilities are an integral part of Chicago’s built environment. They not only impact the immediate environment, but also foster learning that will affect our future environment, and set an example for other communities and universities. The new Andrew J. McGowan Science Building is on the cutting edge of the university’s efforts to integrate sustainable best practices into the built environment. Just this fall it earned a LEED Gold rating.
LEED Gold is the second highest rating in LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is the international standard rating system for green buildings, administered by the United States Green Building Council, or USGBC. The system is designed to improve performance over all aspects of the built environment. It includes categories that cover indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, sustainable site selection, design innovation, and materials and resources. DePaul was able to achieve Gold Certification by creatively incorporating elements from those categories into the design of the new science building. In an interview by DePaul Magazine, Vice President of Facility Operations Robert Janis said that a laboratory building will use 5-10 times more energy than an office building of comparable size. See the article New Science Building Garners a LEED Gold, Mayor's Praise.
This high amount of energy use makes the focus of sustainable best practices much more important. According to the article from DePaul Magazine, the university was able to incorporate sustainable elements such as :
• Thermal mass walls that improve insulation• High efficiency natural gas boilers and water heaters
• Efficient lighting
• Vegetated green roof
• High albedo roof surfaces to defer solar thermal gain
• Storm water management plan to eliminate runoff• Regional building materials with recycled content
• Building materials with low VOC’s, or Volatile Organic Compounds
The vegetated green roof includes all native plant species and an experimental greenhouse. It will become an outdoor lab that will further extend the educational opportunities available to the students at DePaul.
With the construction and operation of this new sustainable building on campus, DePaul is not only immediately contributing to the sustainability of our physical environment, it is providing an example for all Chicagoans, and providing educational opportunities for younger generations who will bear the task of continuing sustainability best practices.
Check out the video about the new McGowan Science Building
Photo Credit: DePaul Magazine
Kurt England, LEED AP
Universities are beginning to use this LEED approach to certify their existing buildings, without starting over at new construction. The University of Louisville’s Duthie Center for Engineering is a prime example. The recently renovated facility earned a LEED Gold rating from the USGBC. The renovation project was able to reuse 95 percent of the original structure from 1947. 77 percent of materials that were not reused were recycled, 27 percent of new materials were recycled content, and 31 percent of new materials were produced regionally. The project also featured personal controls for lighting and air, and energy and water saving systems.
Texas Christian University-TCU is also a fine example of universities who are committed to sustainable best practices. Their recent renovation of Sherley Hall Dormitory has also earned a LEED Gold certification. They were able to reuse over 98 percent of the original structure. Water usage was reduced by 37 percent, and energy usage was reduced by 40-55 percent in exterior and interior lighting. These percentages go a long way in a college residence hall. The project also featured an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan during construction to minimize indoor air pollution upon inhabitation; also very important in a residence hall. Students in the dorm will have access to recycling rooms on every floor…and students produce a lot of garbage.
TCU is very committed to sustainable best practices on campus. The University is convinced that LEED are very effective in improving the health of inhabitants, and saving money and resources in the long run; and they are not stopping with Sherley Hall. TCU has also earned LEED Gold Certification for Scharbauer Hall, which hosts student classes. Here both the students and the faculty benefit from a healthier classroom and working environment. This was a new project, however, and not a renovation, but strongly exhibits TCU’s commitment to the entire built environment on campus. This is the direction in which DePaul should be traveling. The University already has an amazing start with the new LEED Gold science building. Now a beneficial focus will be LEED renovation. Read more about TCU’s renovation
Photo Credit 1: U of L Today
Photo Credit 2: TCU Magazine
Kurt England, LEED AP