Universities and Students Push for Environmental Interests

college environmentOver the past decade, hundreds of universities across the United States have begun establishing a number of unique and common practices that are energy efficient, cost-cutting, and especially friendly to the environment. What is particularly interesting about this eco-revolution is that it is being fueled by not only administrations but also students as well, as both sides push each other to further their environmental investment. It is this relationship that continues the environmental push seen in universities today.

University administrations are cutting down costs and carbon emissions with common practices, like going paperless and replacing the usual incandescent light bulb with LEDs and compact fluorescents. However, many colleges and universities are going above and beyond these common yet effective actions by modifying and constructing campus buildings to meet LEED-certified standards. Furthermore, as environmental science programs become increasingly popular among students, colleges and universities are creating new programs and majors focused on the environment. For example, Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, created the College of the Environment (COE) in 2009 to “develop informed citizens who can discuss environmental issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, understand their connections to social or political issues, and derive well-formulated independent conclusions.” The COE is special, but it is certainly not alone among American high education institutions. From the very best at Harvard and Yale and all the way down, colleges and universities are putting similar programs into place.

At the same time, students are leading their own environmental initiatives, and though oftentimes smaller scale, they are nevertheless making a impact on the student body and their surrounding natural and intellectual habitat. Numerous colleges, like Kenyon, Wesleyan, University of Texas-Arlington, Middlebury, and many, many more are establishing composting programs for students. These encourage students to take the responsibility of their own ecological footprint and also put them in the mindset of creating an environmentally-minded routine. Other campaigns like those calling for shorter showers, reduced power usage, and housing specifically dedicated to the environment also further encourage students to take responsibility.

The actions of college and university administrations and student bodies not only reflect each other’s, but also reflect a growing investment in energy efficiency and environmental awareness. While university leaders are saving thousands of dollars on energy costs and encouraging young minds to intellectually explore environmental issues, students are groups, programs, and initiatives dedicated to increasing awareness about similar issues. Though we oftentimes pit administrations and student bodies against each other, the two sides are actually supporting and pushing each other to invest for the future.

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Offshore and Onshore: The Debate in Wind Energy

offshore wind farm in EuropeWind energy has long been championed as a clean, renewable, and bountiful alternative to fossil fuels. After installing hundreds of wind turbines throughout the United States over the past few decades, creating a capacity of nearly 42,000 Mega Watts (MW), wind farmers and energy experts are now looking to the ocean to establish wind farms. One major drawback in such a move is the high cost. Energy from offshore wind farms costs 2.5 to 3.5 times higher than its onshore counterparts due to construction costs. Nevertheless, they are making a mark on wind energy and the clean energy sector as a whole with their numerous advantages. Continue reading

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New York Communicates Its High Line Transformation

New York high lineEco-friendly urban renewal has special secondary benefits aside from simply being eco-friendly. It can attract people to the area, and consequently increases economic activity, property values, and the number of projects coming into the area. The High Line in New York City is a particularly special example of eco-friendly urban renewal. Since its inception in the late 1990s, it has been positively affecting the lives of thousands of residents and tourist experiences with its history and beauty. But, how has this project gained so much support over the years? How has the project been communicated by those running it and what media do they use that ensures their success? Continue reading

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The Tough Decisions Between New Energy and Environmental Protection

ItaipuRecently one of our staff members took a trip to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil to see Iguazu Falls, one of the seven modern world wonders. Seeing the expansive waterfalls can remind anyone of the sheer force that water has and how much power can be derived from that force. A coincidence or not, the next biggest attraction in Foz do Iguaçu besides the falls also relates to water, being the nearby dam along the Paraná River, Itaipu Dam. While the thought of seeing a dam for an exciting tourist experience doesn’t seem all that exciting, the dam is actually a quite impressive feat. In fact, it is one of American Society of Civil Engineers’ seven wonders of the modern world. In terms of annual generating capacity, Itaipu Dam is the largest hydroelectric facility in the world, producing nearly 92,000 Giga Watts of power in 2009. As a point of reference, compare this one dam’s energy production to the wind energy production of the entire European Union in 2009, which was 163,000 GWh. Not bad. This source of clean, renewable, and alternative energy is a huge benefit to Paraguay and Brazil’s energy consumption and production. However, this benefit is not met without its negative social and environmental impacts. Continue reading

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The Rhetoric of the Future Energies

solar powerThe words we choose to use nowadays can have a profound effect on what we actually are trying to say. This is especially the case when discussing new types of energy technologies that have been emerging over the past decade. When one person thinks “clean” energy, another may think “green” energy, while another will think “sustainable” energy. But do these words and phrases all have the same meaning? Nope.

The use of these words have very different connotations, and people are beginning to acknowledge the differences among them. President Obama, for example, chooses to use the word “clean” when discussing his energy policy. But what does this word really mean? And what do words like renewable, alternative, green, and sustainable mean? Continue reading

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Bloom Box’s Pricey Innovation

Our last blog post discussed the impact of national investment in creating disruptive energies, and rather coincidentally, our next topic to discuss relates quite well with it. As we mentioned before, the Space Race in the 1960s brought about significant development to the computer and software industry, and it appears that many other NASA projects are also having beneficial by-products. An oxygen generator intended for a scrapped NASA Mars program has led to the commercial production of the Bloom Box, a fuel cell that combines oxygen and fuel to create cheap and clean power. In 2010, after an additional $400 million in private investment, the Bloom Box has been put on the market, and several large corporations like Google, Starbucks, and FedEx have quickly jumped at the opportunity to save on energy costs and promote an environmentally friendly image. A year later, the popularity of this product appears to be growing. Continue reading

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The Energy Sector: America’s Hope

energy-cityWith US job creation stalling this past June, Americans and businesses around the world are looking everywhere to find the solution to their economic woes. The past few months have been filled with much talk in the media about the high tech sector being an exciting new way to bring in jobs, as six of the top ten valuable brands in 2011, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft, belong to that sector. Though these types of companies have been receiving a fair amount of buzz, the media has often overlooked one of the greatest possibilities for economic growth: the energy sector. Continue reading

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Obama’s Difficult Push for Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards

A recent New York Times article reported that the Obama administration is pushing for new gas mileage and emission standards that is stirring debate in Washington and the auto industry. The proposed new regulations would require all new cars and trucks to reach a fuel efficiency of 56.2 miles per gallon by the year 2025. While this is roughly double the present standard and requires a fuel efficiency increase of 5% a year between 2017 and 2025, the new standard would cut global warming emissions by millions of tons per yer and oil imports by billions of barrels. The higher domestic fuel efficiency would not only save consumers billions of dollars at the pump but would also put it on par with those of competitors in Europe, China, and Japan. Increasing fuel efficiency to reduce auto emissions and dependence on foreign oil is a major facet to Obama’s energy plan and a seemingly beneficial progression for consumers and the environment, but automakers aren’t quite ready to bite just yet. Continue reading

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Consumers Reject Google and Microsoft’s Energy-Reducing Apps

Microsoft HohmIn mid-2009, Google and Microsoft released two separate, although very similar, energy monitoring applications. Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm allowed people to monitor their home energy intake online in real-time and learn about ways to save energy around the house. It was hoped that through using the product, users would become more conscious about their energy use and in turn become more energy efficient. However, if you now go to their blogs, you will likely see these messages:

“Microsoft is discontinuing the Microsoft Hohm service effective May 31, 2012.”
“Google PowerMeter is being retired.”

Two years after their release and within one week from each other, both tech giants announced their services’ discontinuations due to a lack of public reception. Continue reading

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Local Community Initiatives to Promote Sustainable Living

Community - Once LibreOne of the comments on our Buenos Aires post last week mentioned community gardens in the United States, so we thought it would be interesting to see what sorts of community gardening initiatives are being carried out here in Buenos Aires. We recently met with a group called ONCELIBRE to learn about their eco-friendly initiatives.

Porteño artists founded ONCELIBRE based on the idea to use neglected urban space for the benefit of the local community. Coordinator Judith Villamayor noticed a large derelict space in Plaza Miserere in the Once neighborhood of Buenos Aires and was inspired to transform it into a communal studio for artists. The rundown building is now home to beautiful works by artists from Germany to Venezuela and elsewhere. Many artists acknowledge this reuse of urban space by reusing waste found on the streets of Once, as the wood of fruit boxes are beautifully transformed into picture frames and mirrors. Continue reading

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