Monday, May 16, 2011

Teaching Green - From Student to Professor

Amazing, simply amazing, what is possible when young individuals aren't told that they can't do something.  Reading through my alumni magazine, I come across an article where a Structural Engineering graduate helped implement green initiatives on campus.

MSOE already has a long history of environmental consciousness based on classes taught as well as physical installations of environmentally sound utilities.  Of course there was the standard trash and recycling containers all around campus.  But the efforts on campus were raised a notch when Jason Goike ('10) and the MSOE Recycling Team enhanced the program.  Why?  Because Goike was asked to and not told he couldn't.

First of all, Goike worked with MSOE's food service provider and switched from Styrofoam products to compostable corn- and sugarcane-based dinnerware.  That's right, you cups, plates, and bowls can be made out of compostable materials and organizations, like Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI, provide the composting service.  And instead of the standard two recycling bins: trash and recyclable, there are now three - the third being compostable.

But there is more to being green than additional recycling.  Remember the 3 R's?  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Recycle is the last on the list.  The first is to reduce how much you use and the second is to reuse what you can.  Let's face it, people need to be motivated to do any of the 3 R's.  In order promote reuse, such as refillable water bottles and coffee mugs, the on-campus eateries offer discounts on refills.

MSOE lists some tangible savings from the program.
  • In 2009, MSOE spent more than $110,000 to remove unsorted waste.  With the new recycling bins, MSOE expects to save $20,000 through reduced trash pick ups.
  • The compostable dinnerware could save an additional $15,000 by diverting trash to Growing Power instead of the landfill.

The EPA has some interesting facts on recycling.  I'm still trying to quantity these facts because they leave out some very important metrics.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to burn a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or to run your tv for three.
  • Recycling white paper in your office from one year can save almost 26 gallons of oil, 273 kilowatt-hours of energy, 467 gallons of water, and more than one tree.  It also prevents four pounds of air pollution from entering the atmosphere.
  • Composting keeps carbon from entering the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas and diverts waste from landfills.
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