Lobbying to Stop Climate Change

Publicity Photo of Michael Chajes

On April 21, 2017, Green Liaisons hosted our last lunch of the spring semester with a talk by Dr. Michael Chajes, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UD and a Founding Member of Delaware’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). Dr. Chajes spoke about the fundamentals of climate change, and then about CCL’s plan to stop climate change using a carbon pricing proposal.

CCL, an international, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which has hundreds of chapters across the U.S. and the world, believes that the solution to climate change should begin at the economic and political level. Based on the idea that the industries making fossil fuels available do not currently have to pay for the externalities of their products (for example, health effects such as asthma), CCL proposes a carbon fee and dividend program, whereby industries would pay a fee when they take a fossil fuel out of the ground, and then that money would be paid back to citizens in the form of a dividend each year. In their plan, CCL has also accounted for the need for a border adjustment both into and out of the country, as most countries do not currently have a plan in place like this one.

According to CCL, this plan could bring emissions levels to 50% below 1990s levels in just 20 years. This plan is also intended to provide net job growth, net GDP growth, and, in the long-term, improved health and wellbeing of citizens.

Members of CCL do public speaking, attend tablings, write letters-to-the-editors and op-eds, and meet with members of Congress from both parties. Because they are a nonpartisan organization, CCL strives to–and indeed has already–garnered support for a carbon fee and dividend program from both sides of the political spectrum.

If you’re interested, you can get involved with the Delaware chapter or with any of the other many CCL chapters nearby. Check out CCL’s website for more info!

And you can see Dr. Chajes’s entire talk for Green Liaisons here!

Free-Flight Program Outside

On March 21, 2017, GL hosted something a little bit different from our usual: an free-flight program featuring dozens of birds and held outside! The program was lead by animal behavioral consultant Phung Luu.

Luu brought with him several bird species, including a silvery cheek hornbill, a flock of sun conures, a rose-breasted cockatoo, and, of course, Owliver and Owlbert, both owls. Luu presented the birds and then asked them to perform a variety of tricks (all of which were only within the natural behavior of the birds).

Luu’s goal is always to introduce people to birds so that they experience a greater appreciation for bird behavior and understand the need for bird conservation.

The entire program is visible here!

Plastics and Ocean Currents

On November 16, 2016, GL held our final lunch of the fall semester and featured Dr. Tobias Kukulka, Associate Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at UD, who presented a talk on his research regarding the effects of ocean currents on the movements of marine plastics.

Marine plastics, such as those that occur in the renowned Great Pacific garbage patch, form an amorphous soup of small plastic pieces. Wind and ocean currents churn these tiny pieces throughout the depth of the water column, further dispersing the spread of plastic. The small size of the plastics, combined with the complex effects of these currents, makes quantifying the debris challenging.

In his research, Kukulka sought to better estimate the amount and locations of plastics in the oceans using a new mathematical model based on weather data and previous sampling. According to the Kukulka’s work, existing models may underestimate plastics in still waters by a factor of 2.5 and in turbulent waters by a factor of 27. Kukulka and his team have developed their model so that it may be adapted for use by a variety of scientific disciplines.

Additional Green Liaisons talks may be found on UD’s Youtube channel here!

Climate Change Preparedness

Publicity Photo of Sue McNeil with Civil & Environmental Engineering

On September 23rd, 2016, Green Liaisons hosted UD’s Dr. Sue McNeil, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Public Policy, and Administration. She presented to us on her research that examined the preparations being made by cities and regions for the impacts that climate change is likely to cause on infrastructure.

McNeil described the possible preparations for both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, particularly in regard to the impacts of increased precipitation and flooding on roads, bridges, and foundations. Cities are taking actions such as building further inland, accommodating for occasional flooding, and elevating infrastructure or building seawalls.

For her research, McNeil surveyed the Mid-Atlantic region to identify the progress of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in making these preparations. She determined that MPOs have difficulty identifying the need for these preparations until a “disaster” (e.g. Hurricane Sandy) occurs, but then once a disaster occurs, communities are so overwhelmed by recovery that they cannot think about future planning. McNeil identified a need for a combination of engineering adaptations and climate change mitigation to produce successful planning.

If you would like to hear McNeil’s entire talk, please check out the video here!

Take a Day Off! (From Meat)

Photo: The Humane League

Photo: The Humane League

For our last Green Liaisons Lunch of the semester, on November 19th, we had the pleasure of hosting UD senior, Clarke’ Snell, a biochemistry major and president and founder of the UD Veg Club, who shared with us her campaign to bring Meatless Monday to UD’s campus.

Clarke’ has partnered with the Humane League, a nonprofit specifically geared toward farm animal wellbeing, as well as students at Yale University who have embarked on similar campaigns, in order to promote Meatless Monday. During her talk, Clarke’ also provided for us in detail the benefits behind Meatless Monday, on both a global and university-wide scale: from the potential reversal in certain environmental effects of animal agriculture (for example, the increased greenhouse gases, land consumption, water consumption, and crop production, among others) to the potential reduction in spending (meat is costly) to the improvements in human health.

Clarke’ is already in talks with Dining to make Meatless Monday a reality, but she’d love to get your support by signing her petition here!

Clarke’ also broke down the impacts in numbers for our specific school were Meatless Monday to take effect–you can check out her talk here! If you’d like to get more involved with this campaign, contact Clarke’ at csnell@udel.edu.

New Green Guidance: UD’s Sustainability Manager Answers Student Questions on Sustainability Day

Michelle Bennett, Facilities

For this year’s Campus Sustainability Day, October 28th, Green Liaisons partnered with the Campus Sustainability Day Working Group to host UD’s very new Sustainability Manager, Michelle Bennett, for a noontime lunch.

Michelle joined UD as the pioneer in this position this past summer following a long campaign by several university parties, including some exceptionally dedicated students (see our luncheon post from early fall 2014). Students and faculty alike have been eager to hear from Michelle her vision for sustainability at UD, as well as to ask some questions of her. You can check out her talk on Youtube here!

A Visit from the Nation’s Oldest Environmental Advocate

This past September 25th, Green Liaisons hosted the always-energetic and endlessly passionate leader of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, Stephanie Herron, for our first luncheon of the semester.

Stephanie began with a brief overview of the history behind the Sierra Club–the nation’s oldest and most influential environmental organization, founded in 1892–and then led into those environmental issues that are of particular concern to both the national and state-wide chapters. These issues, on the broadest scale, are under the scope of health disparities, pollution, and sea level rise–all of which are under the even broader problem of climate change.

The DE Sierra Club has chosen to tackle climate change with its “Save the Energy to Save the World” Campaign, through which the Club is working toward a 23.3% energy reduction by 2025 in Delaware. Such energy reductsave energyions will be partially the job of Delaware’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, which is responsible for setting the targets for energy efficiency programs, but it will also depend on the consumer (us!) to both save energy in our own homes and make our support for energy reductions audible (for example, by signing the Club’s petition to DNREC or submitting a letter to the editor). The DE Sierra Club also recommends that anyone interested join their energy team (Contact Stephanie at stephanie.herron@sierraclub.org).

The DE Sierra Club also has a concurrent mission to mitigate the environmental issue of excess plastic pollution. In June, House Bill 202 that argued for a five-cent fee on single use bags was introduced in Delaware, but it has not yet had a committee hearing. If you are interested in helping with this campaign, the DE Sierra Club asks that you sign their petition to Delaware legislators, “like” the Delaware Plastic Pollution Action Coalition on Facebook, or call your legislators and ask them to support House Bill 202 (more info here).

Lastly, Stephanie told us that the DE Chapter has decided to re-launch one of the Sierra Club’s most well-known and loved features: outings! A few were planned for this past fall, but check on the DE Sierra Club’s Facebook for news on more!

 

An Earth Month Special: UD’s Solar Power Project and the Delaware Nature Society’s Clean Water Campaign

NewsImage_13064

This past April 24th, we held a special two-for-one Green Liaisons Lunch in honor of Earth Month featuring both Zach Platsis, UD’s Energy Manager, and Brenna Goggin, the Delaware Nature Society’s Advocacy Manager.

Zach led a great talk detailing the University’s rather recent solar initiative, which includes solar arrays atop Clayton Hall, 461 Wyoming Road, and the Delaware Field House.  The arrays generate approximately 1000 total Mwh each year, which is out of UD’s overall 150,000 annual Mwh usage.

We actually learned quite a bit about some lesser known aspects of solar energy itself, such as how to discern and interpret the difference between “AC” and “DC” energy output, what conditions allow arrays to function most efficiently (it should be relatively cool), and the fact that arrays cannot run on max power for very long, which means that their advertised energy output can sometimes be misleading to the public.

Zach also told us about some of the University’s new energy initiatives, such as their sub-metering project, which will, in an effort to better target energy-consuming utilities, put several individual meters where there are currently full-building meters.

Next, we heard from Brenna about the Delaware Nature Society’s 2015 campaign, Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice, an effort to secure funding for cleaner waters in DE. Delaware, as Brenna explained, has had a long history of contaminated water, beginning with industries such as National Vulcanized Fiber (NVF), which operated without safe building regulations throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and thus released toxic chemicals like zinc and mercury into DE waterways that remain to this day. Delaware water also still receives a regular dose of Dupont chemicals, agricultural runoff, and combined sewer overflow from wastewater treatment plants (which especially affects the Brandywine), in addition to residential runoff from homeowner lawn management and storm drains. 11016089_346947668835679_155683031020860636_n

The problem that needs addressing now is that none of that runoff is treated: it goes straight to local waterways. The only way to remedy this on a truly effective scale would be to fund solutions (like rain barrels, best management practices, and pervious outdoor surfaces), and of course, finding that funding is the difficult part. The job of the Delaware Nature Society then, in addition to raising awareness about the state of Delaware’s water, is to secure that funding by way of an increase on property taxes. Residents would have a certain annual rate, and, although perhaps unconventional, larger, otherwise-exempt locations like the University of Delaware (which contributes a great portion of pollution to DE water) would be required to pay an appropriate fee, all in the name of making the water we interact with every single day that much safer.

Thank you to Zach and Brenna for these great talks! If you’d like to learn more about UD’s solar energy, check out the live-stream solar generation tracker, and if you’d like to learn more about the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign, check out their Facebook page!

This was actually our last talk of the Spring semester, so check back with us in the fall to see what talks we have planned for next semester!

The Elephant in the Eco-Room: Why Textiles Are One of the World’s Biggest Waste Problems and How Planet Aid is Helping the Cause

bins

This past month, Terry Kaplan, a Territory Manager for the nonprofit Planet Aid, joined the Green Liaisons for our March Lunch. Terry gave us not only the breakdown of what Planet Aid does, but also an in-depth look at the cause behind the organization: textiles, the ever-growing industry that is often ignored as one of the world’s largest contributors to waste production.

As we learned from Terry, 14 million tons of textile waste is generated each year, and 12 million tons of that waste ends up in landfills. The reasons behind this excessive wastefulness lie in the transitioning nature of the textile industry itself as it conforms to an increasingly consumptive society of purchasers. With the U.S. being one of the primary contributors to this skyrocketing global consumption, fashion knows it has customers and is thus free to expand and change as often as it likes–even within the span of only days or weeks. Retail turnaround is then just as fast, which means that all over the world there is a constant cycle of production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of textiles, each with its own set of environmental and social consequences. Production of textiles alone not only requires immense amounts of the fabric material itself, but also electricity and water. The textile industry is now the third largest consumer of water in the world, and they’re likely one of the largest polluters of it as well considering the discharge from textile dyes  which must be disposed of in nearby rivers. This initial portion of the process takes place before the textile even reaches the consumer, and all in developing countries where working conditions are hazardous and workers cannot even afford to buy the clothes they’re making.

That’s where Planet Aid comes in. A nonprofit and accredited charity through the Better Business Bureau, Planet Aid has been working since 1997 to mitigate textile waste and the problems caused by it. With their signature yellow bins (some of which we have on campus!), Planet Aid collects 100 million pounds of textile waste from 22 states per year. All of these clothes are then sold to markets in either the U.S. or developing countries, the latter of which have an incredible demand for used clothing. The money from those sales is then used to support and initiate programs such as Farmers’ Clubs, which helps farmers in the developing world start cooperatives in order to be more economically-successful and more environmentally-conscious.

Planet Aid is doing awesome things for the environment and its people–if you’d like to learn more about it check out their website, and if you’d like to see Terry’s talk, you can see it on Youtube here!

Green Power: The UD Wind Turbine

WindTurbineCommissioning

This past February 25th brought the Green Liaisons our first lunch and first guest speaker of the Spring 2015 semester: Professor Jeremy Firestone, a faculty member in Marine Science and Policy and the Director of UD’s Interdisciplinary Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, joined us to share his experiences leading and contributing to the development, permitting, and construction of the Lewes Campus Wind Turbine.

Professor Firestone gave us an excellent look into the work that is involved when a university plans and produces a piece of green machinery such as a wind turbine. UD’s wind turbine began generating electricity in 2010, but, as Professor Firestone told us, this was the result of years working through the development stage of the process. (One really interesting aspect of this process was the extensive number of studies that were required in order to gage public interest and opinion before and after the wind turbine was built, of which Professor Firestone gives a great overview in his talk!).

Today, five years after it first began turning, the wind turbine is still owned and operated by a partnership between UD and the turbine manufacturer, Gamesa Technology Coporation. It generates enough electricity to power the Lewes Campus, and any excess is sold to the residents of the Town of Lewes, whose continued support plays a large part in the success of the turbine. The turbine also serves as a research and educational platform for the university, and there are even opportunities for students to become certified to go to the top!

Check out this Professor Firestone’s awesome talk to learn more about this green project UD is working on!