LIVING GREEN: Campus ripe with green activities
The following’ is a list of’ some green trends, events and activities to look for on campus and in Houston during 2010.
10. Carbon Footprint Study
The most recent UH Carbon Footprint Study is expected to be finalized by early Spring 2010. This report will help shape a campus carbon reduction plan.
The committee that presents the Carbon Footprint Study has been collecting detailed UH carbon emissions data, from airline miles traveled to amount of waste transported, to help accurately reflect the University’s carbon footprint.
The group evaluates carbon emissions by comparing calculations to those from other universities, then offers recommendations to reduce emissions.
9. Green fee
An extra green fee may be added to tuition according to a Texas Legislature bill passed earlier this year.
Senate bill 2182 authorizes UH to ‘charge each student enrolled at the institution an environmental service fee, if the fee has been approved by a majority vote of the students enrolled at the institution who participate in a general student election called for that purpose.’
The bill prohibits charging more than $5 for each regular semester or summer term.
The purpose of a green fee is to help offset the cost of creating a green campus. While this fee does not currently exist at UH, groups such as Reenergize Houston are promoting this fee on Houston-area campuses to raise awareness of sustainability issues.
8. Sustainability in the classroom
Schools nationwide are developing sustainability courses to help meet the growing demand from students and the community.
Enrollment in UH’s Climate Change course has steadily increased over recent years, and new sustainability-related courses are being developed in many departments. The C.T. Bauer College of Business and the UH Law Center Spring 2009 Carbon Trading course was one of the first of its kind offered in the country, according to the business school’s Web site.
Sustainability on Campus is a new honors course that will be offered in Spring 2010.
Assistant Vice President for University Services Emily Messa hopes projects from this class can be integrated into the UH Sustainability Taskforce.
An energy-related capstone course is scheduled for Fall 2010, primarily for undergraduates nearing graduation. Although the details are not finalized, topics will range from energy consumption to storage and creation.
Alternative energy sources will be covered. Students may have the opportunity to share or integrate their projects into the community. Professors in chemistry and engineering, with guest lecturers in economics and architecture, will teach the course.
7. Sustainability and the community
The UH Earth Day Carnival is scheduled for Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Other Earth Day festivities usually take place around Houston and in cities across the U.S.
The Gulf Coast Green 2010 Symposium and Expo will be held at the UH Hilton in April 2010. GCG ‘has been the leading green building conference targeted to design and construction professionals within the Gulf Coast region,’ according to the event’s Web site.
Admission to the expo was free to the public in 2008 and 2009. Presentation proposals for the symposium are accepted through Dec. 14.
Sustainability is finding its way into urban communities through art.
Recently the UH Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts held a kickoff for the ‘Life is Living’ national campaign, which ‘uses urban street arts to engage communities of color in conversations about environmentalism and sustainable living,’ according to an article’ posted on’ UH.edu.
One goal of the project is to engage artists with the 3rd and 5th Wards and UH students, according to mitchellcenterforarts.org. ‘The two-year residency will culminate with a presentation of ‘red, black, and green, a blues,’ a performance incorporating hip hop, poetry, dance, film, visual art and music created from ‘Life is Living’ festivals across the country.’
Texas’ only Solar Decathlon Home in the 2009 competition will find a permanent home in Houston’s 3rd Ward as a result of an agreement between the team and project Row Houses.
Rice University’s ZEROW HOUSE (Zero Energy Row House) is intended to operate entirely on solar energy. The home’s design won second place in both architecture and market viability in the Washington’ competition this fall.
6. Sustainability and the market
Some feel economic growth in the future will be influenced by green jobs and innovation.
Green building will support nearly 8 million jobs across occupations by 2013 according to one United States Green Building Council study. Going green may helps some industries grow.
‘The recycling industry in Texas employs 20,000 workers,’ according to houstontx.gov.
An increase in recycling could result in a higher demand for workers. Eco-friendly products such as the Recompute, a sustainable desktop computer, may soon go on the market.
Recompute’s computer case is made with corrugated cardboard instead of a tower that requires hundreds of manufacturing processes and components, according to a UH Green Building Components brochure.
‘Recompute can be disassembled in minutes without tools, leaving the electronics to be properly recycled and the cardboard case to be recycled with regular paper goods,’ according to the exhibition’s display.
Automakers may debut more electric and hybrid vehicles next year. Hybrid and electric vehicles were discussed with UH Plant Operations Neal Smith on Green UH Day.
‘This is where it’s coming from, and this is where it’s going’ Smith said, describing the industry’s direction.
Smith also compared popular automobiles trends among different generations.
‘There’s a lot to the industry,’ Smith said. ‘It’s going to grow, no doubt about it.’
5. Carbon-elated conversations
Some claim that carbon has a negative impact on the environment and that limiting carbon emissions is part of the climate solution. Government ideas to limit carbon emissions range from creating a carbon tax, to implementing a carbon cap-and-trade system.
Some believe that carbon legislation will raise the costs of goods.
‘Companies aren’t going to eat the cost. (They will) pass the cost onto the consumer,’ finance senior and UH Energy Association President Patrick Hayden said. ‘The people that (will) pay the most are you and (I).’
Some feel there is not a simple solution.
‘Carbon legislation is very complicated,’ Hayden said.
The Power Generation Energy Management Competition is one activity EA organizes to help ‘to create real-world simulation of managing power generation facilities,’ economics senior and competition organizer Jeffrey Whitley said in an e-mail.
In its second year, this annual scenario and Excel-based competition is open to members and offers scholarship prizes to the top three contestants.
‘The competition last spring received a lot of interest from our members,’ Whitley said.
Jan. 17 is the kickoff of Recyclemania, a nationwide recycling competition among participating schools.
Weekly activities, such as Recycling Olympics and an art contest, will be offered by the event. Campus groups such as the Enviro Club are making plans to be involved in the event.
Messa hopes students will help contribute to a recycling goal of 40 to 45 percent this spring.
3. Dining containers
On-campus’ residents will soon find a change in their dining hall take-out.
Starting next semester, Styrofoam to-go containers will no longer be available, Edward Wigley of UH Dining Services said. Instead, students will be offered reusable to-go containers.
Styrofoam containers take more than 1 million years to de
compose, according to the Web site of Missouri campaign ‘No MOre Trash!.’
2. Composting/Garden activities
The dining halls have recently added post-consumer composting to existing pre-consumer composting already in place. New compost bucket collections began steaming recently.
‘This indicates we’re actually doing a good job,’ Community Garden Coordinator Leah Worlfthal said.
The compost bucket showed plenty of banana peels and some cantaloupe rinds during one lunch hour at Moody Towers last week.
‘It is challenging because you cannot put meat or dairy into the bucket,’ Messa said.
Food waste collected for composting goes to a designated compost area on a UH property on MacGregor Way. Compost that has turned into soil will be used in the Community Garden, Worlfthal said.
1. Car sharing
An alternative transportation solution may be introduced in Spring 2010 to help ease campus congestion while being environmentally friendly.
A proposed car-sharing program would allow students to ride the bus or future rail to and from campus, with the option of renting a car to go off campus for a short amount of time between classes. Rice University, along with many other U.S. universities, allows a company on campus to facilitate the car-sharing service.
Students have mixed feelings about car sharing. Supporters believe alternative transportation options such as car sharing are environmentally friendly and reduce congestion, while opponents believe it is inconvenient and conflicts with the demands of everyday life.
Still, students are regularly faced with parking struggles, and commuters contribute to 51 percent of the University’s carbon footprint, according to the 2006 Carbon Footprint study.