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

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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

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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!

New Weekly DENIN Lunchtime Lecture Series

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Every Monday from 12:30-2:00 PM during this Spring semester 2015, the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) will host a lecture concerning a relevant environmental issue in the ISE Lab. Known as the “Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratory Spring 2015 Lecture Series,” this event is a great way to get exposure to the environmental side of UD while interacting with like-minded UD faculty, staff, and students. The first lecture will be held this coming Monday, February 16th.

This upcoming lecture will feature two speakers: Doug Tallamy, a Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, discussing “Why Novel Ecosystems Won’t Work,” and Annette Giesecke, Interim Chairperson of the Dept. of Foreign Languages and Professor, on “the role of the garden in defining humanity’s relationship with nature.”

The schedule and more info on this awesome opportunity can be found here!

There will be refreshments served, but only to the first 30 people–register early by emailing doucette@udel.edu!

Why You Should Check Out the SCA for Your Summer Internship

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This past Wednesday, November 19th, the Green Liaisons had the pleasure of hosting Takeya Meggett, a recruiter for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), for our final GL Luncheon of the Fall Semester.

The SCA is a national non-profit that offers people (students or not) over 15 years old the opportunity to unite with the environmental agency of their dreams for an internship or job anywhere in the country. That could mean literally anything from National Parks (Yosemite, anyone?) to wildlife sanctuaries to historic sites to laboratories– and all in the name of environmental conservation.

Takeya herself not only recruits for the SCA, but was also an active member of the organization for a number of years. After college, she took advantage of the many employment positions available and has by now served as a crew leader in Nevada, an intern at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, a coordinator with the National Park Service Academy in Alaska, and a ton more. She is simply brimming with experience, and her passion for it was evident during her talk.

Takeya gave us a detailed tour of the SCA website, including how to search for positions, how to interpret those visible positions, and how to apply for them. The options are broken down by age range and you can find those descriptions here. (Most students end up looking at the Individual Internships in the Young Adult (18+) category).

The site is relatively easy to navigate: you simply narrow the search options here, depending on your particular location and timing preferences. Press Search, and then voilà! An old-growth forest of beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime experiences intended to give you the skills to become the next environmental activist, EPA scientist, or parks & rec director (hello, Leslie Knope) awaits your discovery.

Once you fill out the general application, you can apply it to any 20 of these aforementioned opportunities, at which point the SCA will work to match you with the option that best fits your experience level, relevant academic coursework, and other factors. Takeya’s tips: 1) Note when an opportunity says “Hot”– this means employers want to fill spots quickly, so you have a better chance of getting one of these, and 2) Note when an opportunity says “Local Applicants Only”– this means there will be no stipend provided because interns are expected to commute from their houses (AKA, if you don’t live nearby, probably don’t apply).

So, go, follow your dreams! Apply for the Grand Canyon or Alaska or maybe somewhere right in your backyard! The SCA awaits!

You can also watch Takeya’s talk here.

Implementing an Office of Sustainability

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Why does UD need an Office of Sustainability and how do we get one?

Last Wednesday, October 29th, we learned just that when we held our first Green Liaisons Luncheon of the semester. Our guest speakers were Becky Bronstein, a senior and member of the Blue Hen Leadership Program, Student Government Association, and the Sustainability Task Force, and Cesar Caro, a grad student and member of the Grad Student Government. Both Becky and Cesar have been involved with numerous other environmental activities on campus, but one of their biggest passion projects together, as we learned at the Luncheon, is that of the creation of an Office of Sustainability on campus.

A Bit of History

In the summer of 2013, shocked by the fact that UD did not yet have an Office of Sustainability, a small team of students that included Becky and Cesar set out to change that. A student named Grace Relf drafted a 27-page proposal for the Office, which led to a series of meetings held between this group of concerned students and UD’s Provost and Executive VP.

Taking into account the University’s feedback, Becky, Cesar, and Grace began conducting a comprehensive assessment of student and faculty support for the Office: they met with Facilities, Housing, DENIN, and professors, and then held a student poll, which showed 91% of those asked in support.

Knowing then that their efforts were worthwhile in the eyes of the UD community, this student team pressed on and proceeded to develop a plan for both funding and structure for the Office.

The Basics

Funding would be done by phased implementation, which would mean having one employee (the Director of Office) for a period of time. This employee, however, would immediately have one Graduate Fellow and a few undergrad interns. Eventually, the people employed would expand to include a variety of more specialized project managers under the Director. The money would come from a combo of grants and business partnerships.

The structure of the Office would be the following: within the Office itself would be one Director who oversees the Sustainability Task Force, student-led Green Senate, and various Project Managers. Outside of the Office–but still related–would be a Sustainability Planning Committee, comprised of various important players throughout the University, such as the VP for Facilities, VP of Student Life, and Energy Manager, who would all work to advise and monitor those within the actual Office.

On the Agenda

Becky and Cesar now are looking to write a two-pager in continuation of their work on planning the Office, and then meet again with the Provost and Executive VP. Otherwise, however, they welcome any help or ideas from students and faculty who are interested. This initiative is so significant because an Office could be the kind of body that could prevent another deal like the Power Plant from even being discussed.

Questions or want to get involved? Talk to Becky at rbronst@udel.edu or Cesar at ccaro@udel.edu!

And watch them present at the Lunch here.

First Green Liaisons Luncheon of the Semester

This Wednesday, October 29th, from 12-1pm in the Perkins Ewing Room, we will hold our first Green Liaisons Luncheon of the semester.

We are very excited to be hosting senior Becky Bronstein, an environmental science major who has participated in a variety of environmental activities during her time at UD– from conducting research on sustainability as a Plastino Scholar to leading a sustainability-based service trip to Puerto Rico through the Blue Hen Leadership Program.

Becky has also spent the past few years actively pursuing the establishment of an Office of Sustainability on campus. For this month’s Green Liaisons lunch, we will hear her thoughts on why UD needs an Office and how we can support the mission to create one.

Her talk is called, “Implementing an Office of Sustainability at UD.”

All are welcome!

Photo Courtesy: denin.udel.edu