June 2016 eNewsletter

From the desk of OES:

Bridget enjoying the many forms of transportation in Norway – a train through snow-capped mountains.

Do you travel in the summer? Many people in the US choose summertime to travel. Many students are out of school and for those of us working in collegiate settings, the summer is a much-anticipated respite for a busy academic year.

As mentioned last month’s eNewsletter, I went to Norway a few weeks ago. Since most of my travels aren’t too far away, I had forgotten one of the most enlightening aspects of traveling — immersing yourself in different culture(s). Traveling opens us to beautiful new places, it also exposes us to new and different ways of living; it allows us to assess what we consider “normal,” to challenge our norms, and imagine different ways to existing. For example: there are many places in the world where you have to pay to use restroom facilities (see “pay toilets” here). While this may sound odd to those of us in the United States, it’s a great example of how activities can be normalized and no one thinks twice about them.This got me thinking about sustainability and conservation behaviors, of course. What if we didn’t have plastic bags? You had to remember to bring a cloth bag, find a box, or purchase only what you can carry. Imagine if everyone recycled and reused and it was taboo to generate trash. What if we designed roads with all users in mind so that cars didn’t feel that they were the only ones entitled to the road? What if we priced goods according to their real impact – where gasoline and meat products were very expensive? While all these scenarios can seem pie-in-the-sky or hard to imagine, these are implementable changes that are already taking place all over the world. And just as we adopt customs while traveling or in new places, we could adopt these more sustainable customs as our “default” (as David Orr would say). Reworking our culture – to put environmental, social, and economic concerns in harmony – is within our reach. We just need to stretch.

– Bridget Flynn, Sustainability Coordinator

Bridget speaking to a packed house at the Mad City Vegan Fest on June 18.

News & Announcements:

  • Oberlin College Carbon Neutrality Update: OES continues to work with Ever-Green Energy on the next phase of carbon neutrality efforts. This 5-month project will layout the actions needed to attain a carbon neutral campus by 2025, including a financial plan. The initial focus is on evaluating the energy load of the campus, looking for easily implementable conservation measures, as well as long-term improvements. The Ever-Green team has been working with a local engineering firm (SSOE) to help evaluate buildings for energy efficiency opportunities. Building evaluations will wrap up in July. Ever-Green is also looking at energy use in adjacent community spaces to identify opportunities for integrating buildings and systems to help make the carbon neutrality vision more viable and share the project benefits. We are pleased to share that two Oberlin students have been helping with this effort. Julia Murphy and Julian Geltman are helping with building evaluations and will be working on this project throughout the summer as interns for Ever-Green Energy. There is also a student advisory group meeting with the project team throughout the summer to provide feedback on the work and help develop opportunities to engage other students with this effort.
  • IDEA Conference Participation: Meghan Riesterer attended the annual International District Energy Association (IDEA) annual conference this month. This year’s conference was hosted in St. Paul, Minnesota where over 800 attendees from 19 countries, 42 states, and 246 different cities joined. The turnout is evidence of growing interest in district energy/microgrids/sustainable campus and community energy solutions and reflects an exceptional technical program anchored by experienced, talented industry professionals, supported by an excellent trade show. Meghan especially enjoyed hearing from proceedings and presentations can be accessed on the IDEA website here.
  • Transportation Emissions: This summer second-year student, Ian Feather, will be assisting OES in assessing emissions generated by transportation activities. He will specifically be focusing on Scope III (indirect emissions) including such areas as commuting by employees and students, as well as college business travel.

Meghan, left in the middle row, with the IDEA Board at the recent meeting.

Upcoming Events:
For a full view of events visit the Environmental Events calendar: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/July 6 – Sustainable Transportation Pechakucha Presentation | 5:30PM @ Cleveland City Club: Join Sustainable Cleveland as they welcome 10 innovators to present their work, ideas, and obsessions all around the topic of sustainable transportation. [Website]

See more events or add yours to the Environmental Events Calendar here: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/

Happy Fourth of July! While fireworks are a fun way to celebrate, let’s look at some of their effects:

Fireworks exploding in the sky can be fun way to celebrate. However, they can generate a variety of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, as well as particulate matter. Consumers in the United States spend about $695 million dollars total on fireworks for their own displays. Combining residential and retail spending on fireworks adds up to more than $1 billion dollars (in 2014) according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. That is double what it was spent in 1998. Not only are we spending a lot on firework displays, but according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 firesresulting in 8 deaths, 40 injuries, and $32 million in property damage in 2011 — and that’s just from fires! An estimated 10,500 injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2014from firework incidents. Dogs and other animals can have a tough time during fireworks, too, so be sure to keep your companions safe (see Tips section and here). Fireworks can be a fun way to celebrate so enjoy! But don’t forget to be smart and safe this holiday weekend 🙂

More can be found here.

Did you know?
  • Lake Erie is the 12th largest freshwater lake in the world.
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located less than an hour from Oberlin, is one of the most visited national parks in the country, with over 2.2 million visitors each year.



Green Tips
  • Plant Strong: Summer months are a perfect time to eat more fruits and veggies. Not only are they in season and thus easier to be found, they contain water to help you stay hydrated and refreshed during the heat of summer. Fruits and veggies also tend to have a much lower carbon footprint than meat and dairy products. 
  • Summer Break: While a vacation across the country or world can be wonderful, vacationing can also happen close to home. Try camping, hiking, and swimming nearby. Putt-putt golf, bird watching, and sight seeing are other activities that you can often find nearby, but can feel fresh.
  • 4th of July Fools: There are lots of great ways to celebrate the 4th of July. Fireworks are one popular avenue for celebration. However, this can be a troubling time for dogs and certain people struggling with PTSD. Before your local fireworks display, keep your companion friends safe by keeping them indoors (ideally with some company) with tags on (as many dogs tend to escape on the 4th – in fact, July 5th tends to have the most lost dogs than any other day of the year). Try to keep a crate or safe space for them to hide and feel comfortable. And if you’re lighting off fireworks yourself, please, please be safe (see Numbers section). 

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