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!

Merging Fashion and Sustainability

On February 22, 2017, GL hosted our first lunch of the spring semester and featured a talk by Marsha Dickson, Professor in UD’s Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies. She spoke about how UD is striving to create an intersection between the fashion industry and sustainability.

Dickson informed us of the many consequences of current practices of the fashion industry: environmentally, fashion today involves the use of hazardous materials, overuse of numerous resources such as water, cotton, and energy, and the production of waste; socially, fashion today involves human rights issues, health and safety concerns for laborers, and a perpetuation of an ideal beauty standard.

The Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, however, is trying to eliminate those consequences. The Department has decided to collaborate with many big players in the fashion industry to create a policy guide for sustainability. This policy guide includes recommendations and ideas for replacing toxic chemicals, applying new tanning approaches, and repurposing fabric waste into infrastructure.

These innovative ideas are a result of considerable research performed by UD and other institutions and industries. The Department offers programs, certificates, and research opportunities for both undergrads and grads at UD.

To learn more about these programs and how fashion and sustainability are merging, please check out the whole talk 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!

Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Justice

On October 26, 2016, GL hosted Dr. Raymond Scattone, Assistant Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy at UD, for a talk on his research that examined the link between environmental justice and brownfield revitalization.

According to Scattone’s research, urban land use changes often focus on “redevelopment” as opposed to “revitalization,” which means that priority is placed on the economics of a project, rather than a combination of economics, environment, and society. The latter option also allows for more community involvement and say in what their neighborhood looks like and how it functions.

Scattone’s research focused on 10 brownfield revitalization projects across the U.S., as brownfield land use-change projects often highlight the ongoing and unequal environmental and social problems associated with conventional redevelopment because they often have a large proportion of minority or low-income populations. Scattone also provided suggestions to DNREC and the state of Delaware based on this research, including a need to increase the flow of information between developers and community members and the need to create explicit “Brownfield Opportunity Programs” in order to ensure the continued success of revitalization projects.

If you would like to view Scattone’s full talk, you can find it 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!

First Lunch of the Semester!

Publicity Photo of Sue McNeil with Civil & Environmental Engineering

Sue McNeil, Photo: udel.edu

Please join us NEXT Friday, September 23rd, from 12:15-1:15PM, in the Perkins Ewing Room for our first lunch of the semester.
We will be featuring UD’s Dr. Sue McNeil, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Public Policy, and Administration. She will talk with us about her research on how cities and regions are incorporating climate change into their disaster preparedness plans.
This topic has become increasingly relevant, especially after events like Hurricane Sandy.
All are welcome and light refreshments will be served!

Earth Day Special: Algae Fuel and Green Dining


For Earth Week this year, Green Liaisons again hosted two great speakers: UD scientist Dr. Jennifer Stewart and UD Dining Representative Ryan Boyer. The lunch took place on April 18th.

Dr. Stewart spoke about her research under the school’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment that seeks to make algae-based biofuels a viable source of renewable energy.

Algae, like corn and sugarcane, is an organic matter that can be converted into a “biofuel” capable of replacing gasoline. It is thought to be preferable to such food crop biofuels, as it offers the advantage of producing more fuel per acre and requiring no farmland for growth.

Algae could be made even more beneficial by feeding it carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from smokestack emissions. This would reduce the amount of CO2 released to the atmosphere and subsequently reduce climate change.

Stewart is investigating a way to enable the algae to use this CO2 for increased growth while simultaneously absorbing the nitric oxide also found in the emissions. Nitric oxide would otherwise be harmful to algae.

She aims to breed a strain of algae that would treat the excess nitrogen as a nutrient rather than as a toxin, so that it would grow faster and consume more CO2.

The second speaker, Ryan Boyer, the District Marketing Manager for Dining Services, shared with us the latest environmental initiatives being implemented in the university’s new Caesar Rodney Dining Hall.

These initiatives fall under the umbrella of Dining Services’s new Green Thread program, which focuses on responsible sourcing (such as purchasing locally, moving to cage-free eggs, and looking out for animal welfare), efficient operations (such as increasing water conservation and improving green cleaning practices), and waste minimization (such as increasing recycling, introducing tray-less dining, and streamlining the to-go container system).

In addition, Dining has been adding other initiatives to improve their environmental footprint, like the weekly Farmers’ Market, Sustainable Fish Friday, and RecycleMania.

If you would like to learn more about either of these topics, please check out the talks here!

How UD is Making Electric Vehicles Good for Your Pockets and the Earth

On Friday, March 4th, Green Liaisons hosted Dr. Willett Kempton, UD Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy and Research Director at the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, for our first lunch of the semester.

He shared with us the latest news about the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology that he helped to spearhead.

V2G technology is an innovation of renewable energy research that enables electric vehicles to communicate with the electric grid in order to recycle stored battery power.

Beginning with local situation of electric vehicles (EVs), Dr. Kempton mapped out the current locations of electric vehicle charging stations in Delaware in order to demonstrate the benefit of how deliberate public planning can benefit the electric-vehicle driver and how that planning is already being instituted in this state.

He also described for us the benefits of transitioning to EVs. The environmental benefits are certainly known, but what Dr. Kempton stressed were the advantages earned by the entire grid system and by the EV driver when V2G technology is implemented, as this enables the grid to rely on a more efficient and quick-responding power source and it enables the driver to earn a profit from the energy they are sending to the grid. According to Kempton, in a theoretical situation in which the vehicle is unplugged for six hours a day, a driver may earn up to $56 a month.

Dr. Kempton also detailed the aggregator system that is responsible for bidding on the amount of energy required by the grid each day and then documenting what energy is inputted by the EVs in order to recognize when the energy limit is reached.

This work has involved collaboration between Dr. Kempton’s team in Newark and international collaborators in Denmark.

If you would like to learn more, check out Dr. Kempton’s talk here!


Photo by Evan Krape (UDaily)

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.