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Sustainability

Category Archive: Uncategorized

CIT Goes Pro in Recycling

 

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It’s not the holiday season just yet, but the Computing & Information Technology (CIT) elves were busy over the summer replacing 567 (yes, really!) total pieces of computer hardware – desktops, laptops and monitors. When you have purchased a computer for yourself, you may remember the copious amounts of packing materials. Cardboard boxes, Styrofoam around everything, plastic bags around cords, connectors and installation DVDs – it adds up to a lot of materials. Now magnify your one purchase by 567 and you’ll get an idea of the volume of ‘stuff’ CIT was generating with their unpacking.

Although the cardboard has been recycled for many years, this is the first year that the plastic bags, plastic film and Styrofoam went to a recycler instead of the landfill. With the new plastic film recycling program started in Spring 2014, and with help from the Environmental Management and Business Institute’s John Arendt to find a home for the hallway of Styrofoam, this year the vast majority of the packaging was recycled! “I never realized how much waste we produced from computer packaging until we put it all in one place,” said Ryan Ledvina, computer inventory and allocations manager.

ACH Foam of Fond du Lac made the trip up to campus to collect the Styrofoam and helped us keep the material out of the landfill. The recycling process at ACH Foam either grinds the material to be reused in new expanded polystyrene (EPS) materials or it is processed into a resin for making products such as garden furniture, coat hangers and crown molding.

Just in case you wondered where the replaced computers and monitors end up, they are either used to upgrade existing public and student workstations or made available to purchase through our on-campus surplus program. You can get an HP desktop with Windows 7 for $100 (2010 models) or $150 (2011 models), as well as 2011 21.5” iMacs ($400) and Gateway 19” widescreen monitors ($15). Visit the Surplus website to learn more and keep the recycling and reuse going strong!

Big shout out to the CIT staff for taking the initiative to collect and manage the packaging waste for recycling!

 

Welcome to Chancellor-designate Dr. Gary Miller!

View of Earth From Space

On Monday, June 2, it was announced that Dr. Gary Miller would become the next Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. Dr. Miller brings an ecologist’s mindset to the University which means a great ability to apply systems thinking to a complex organization. In initial interviews with the media, Dr. Miller has expressed that UWGB’s strong environmental and sustainability efforts were very attractive to him and his wife, Georgia, as they contemplated making the move to Green Bay. We look forward to working with Dr. Miller in revisioning and revitalizing an already strong environmental perspective to more deeply embed sustainability into the operating culture and the classroom instruction at UWGB.

Welcome Dr. and Mrs. Miller!

Five Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

From Wisconsin DNR Recycling News, September 2012

Have you ever looked at an item in your home/room and thought, “I wonder if I can recycle that?” Chances are good that you can! Try doing a Google search for whatever you’re looking to get out of the house, and you may find a program like the ones below that will keep it out of the landfill. If these five are in your “get rid of” pile, here’s how you can recycle them!

1. Sneakers

Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program turns any brand of old athletic shoes into playground and athletic surfaces, such as basketball courts and running tracks. Go to nikereuseashoe.com to find drop-off locations in Wisconsin or learn about hosting a shoe drive.

2. Crayons

Imagine how many homes across Wisconsin have broken, stubby crayons in abandoned boxes. Give them another life through the National Crayon Recycle Program! Crayons are melted down and turned into new crayons of various shapes. Visit crazycrayons.com to learn more.

3. Trophies

Total Awards and Promotions in Madison is one of many companies that will recycle old trophies for parts or re-engrave and donate them to nonprofits. They’re not accepting trophies currently, but check back at awardsmall.com to find out when you can send in your old trophies to be reused.

4. Wine corks

Close the loop by sending in your old wine corks to become floor and wall tiles. Yemm and Hart, a company that manufactures materials out of reycled content, creates and sells the tiles. Visit yemmhart.com for more details.

5. Jeans

If you have old jeans (or any denim) that are too worn out to be donated, consider giving them to the “Cotton. From Blue to Green.” program to be turned into natural fiber insulation. Corporate responsibility, mail-in, and university drive programs are all available. Go to cottonfrombluetogreen.org to find out more.

Silent Spring +50: What’s Really Changed?

By Richard Liroff, GreenBiz, published 9-4-12

“Silent Spring burst into American consciousness 50 years ago this month. Despite a massive pesticide industry campaign to discredit both the book and its author, it dramatically raised public awareness about the risks of 20th century chemistry and catalyzed contemporary environmentalism. If you’re moved by the sight of bald eagles, ospreys and brown pelicans – not to mention healthy humans – thank Rachel Carson.

Carson argued that heavy-handed pesticide use was endangering natural systems and humankind. She recognized the need for pest control but urged use of safer alternatives: ‘Methods [to control insects] must be such that they do not destroy us along with the insects.’ When she noted the average human ‘almost certainly starts life with the first deposit of a growing load of chemicals,’ she presciently identified the problem of prepolluted babies. Roughly 300 contaminants have now been found in babies’ umbilical cords.

If Carson were writing today, she might not limit herself to pesticides but might ask more broadly, can we construct healthier buidlings without using cancer-causing materials or toxic heavy metals, design fire-safe consumer products without using toxic flame retardants made from bromine or chlorine, or sell automobiles whose new car smell isn’t hazardous to our health?

Carson also might have opted to write a business book. While her intended audience in the 1960s was the general public and their political representatives, these days the center of gravity has shifted to companies and their suppliers, whose influence in many instances far outweighs the others.

So, how much progress has been made in the last 50 years to phase out the nastiest chemicals and bring safer alternatives to market? The bad news is the U.S. government has moved at a snail’s pace to address chemical hazards in everyday products. The good news is that over the last decade or so, private-sector companies have begun to take up some of the slack – increasingly demanding and securing safer chemicals for the products they sell – and this pace is accelerating.

The unwieldy U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act has gone unamended since its enactment in 1976. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t even use it to remove asbestos from the marketplace. The chemical industry has stymied meaningful strengthening of the law, continuing its long tradition of pushing back against rising scientific and public concerns as chronicled in such histories as Doubt is Their Product, Deceit and Denial and Sophisticated Sabotage. In May 2012, a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune documented the brominated chemical industry’s ‘decades-long campaign of deception that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemical linked to cancer, neurological deficits, develomental problems and impaired fertility.’ The campaign included creating ‘a phony consumer watchdog group.’ This is not the business response Carson had in mind.

Evidence has continued to accumulate linking environmental contaminants with human health disorders such as cancers; infertility; asthma; neurodegnerative diseases such as Parkinson’s; neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism; and endocrine disorders such as diabetes. Noting that exposures to even the most miniscule levels of contmainants in the womb and early in childhood can predispose vulnterable individuals to diseases later in life, environmental health advocates have been urging a precautionary approach to chemical exposure -’prevention is the cure.’

Although chemical manufacturers have opposed meaningful reform of federal chemical policies, companies that use chemicals to make their products are a growing force pushing for safer chemicals. Chemical-using comapnies – especially consumer brands – find themselves facing a multitude of business risks. These include reputational risks, increased overhead costs to track and dispose of chemicals and to reduce exposures, litigation risks, loss of market share, and increased health care costs and reduced productivity associated with employees’ exposure to toxic chemicals at work and at home. The search for safer alternatives is also driven by the personal ethics of individual CEOs and family business owners.

Here are two prime examples of private sector drivers … to read the rest of this interesting article, GO HERE.

News Bit: Facebook shares its carbon footprint

Published on GreenBiz.com, by Joel Makower, 8-1-12

“Facebook today revealed for the first time information about its carbon footprint, citing the ‘power of openness.’ The data, covering the energy use for its data centers and global offices, reflects both the company’s efforts to reduce energy use and increase renewable energy consumption, as well as the challenges it faces to steadily improve those efforts.

‘We’re releasing this data because we believe in the power of openness, and because we hope that adding another data point to our collective understanding of our industry’s environmental impact will help us all keep improving,’ the company said in a statement.

At first glance it’s a happy story. The company said that last year, its data centers and operations used 532 million kilowatt hours of energy, emitting 285,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. By contrast, Google revealed last year that its carbon footprint equaled nearly 1.5 million metric tons, more than five times Facebook’s. (Google’s ‘energy czar’ at the time was Bill Weihl, who now serves as Facebook’s ‘sustainability guru.’)

For the typical Facebook user, a year’s worth of liking and posting consumes just 269 grams of carbon equivalent – ‘roughly the same carbon footprint as one medium latte,’ the company pointed out. ‘Or three large bananas. Or a couple of glasses of wine.’ To put that in perspective, a typical U.S. household’s annual carbon footprint is about 48 tons, according to the Cool Climate Network at the University of California, Berkeley. Suffice to say, that’s a helluva lot of lattes.

But Facebook is quick to note that ‘as a fast-growing company our carbon footprint and energy mix may get worse before they get better.’ That’s due primarily to the challenges of sourcing sufficient clean power where the company sites its data centers. Facebook’s goal is to source 25 percent of its power from clean-energy sources by 2015, which is only a tad better than the 23 percent of ‘clean and renewable’ energy the company now uses. Still, according to Facebook, achieving 25 percent ‘is going to be a stretch for us, and we’re still figuring out exactly what it will take to get there.’

To read more about Facebook’s efforts, activist pressures on the company, and what they’re doing 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, CLICK HERE.