Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Sustainable Hampton




AN old stone and shingle windmill, atop a bluff near the breezy far end of Long Island, is the symbolic heart of the State University of New York’s newest campus. Built around 1713, the mill once harnessed wind to generate power. Later, it was a guest house where Tennessee Williams spent a summer in the 1950s. Now it is undergoing reconstruction, its rotting beams replaced and huge blades rebuilt, as the campus takes shape around it. Aptly, Stony Brook Southampton is dedicated mind and body to the pursuit of sustainability.
In recent years, just about every campus has made some commitment to learn anew how to co-exist with the natural world, to use less energy and to reduce the carbon emissions it contributes to global warming. But Stony Brook Southampton is building not only an environmentally friendly campus but also a curriculum in which nearly every course deals with sustainability. It is a public-education experiment being watched across the country.
“Stony Brook Southampton will certainly be among a limited number of campuses with this level of commitment to sustainability,” says Judy Walton, acting executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. “Sustainability is really a change in the mind-set of how we operate. It’s like seeing the world through a new lens.”
There were only 200 students on campus this past school year, the college’s first; 350 are expected for the fall, and officials hope to reach 2,000 students within five years. If all goes according to plan, they will live in harmony with nature on a campus with geothermal technology and some wind-generated electricity; they will eat local produce in a cafeteria that does not have to figure out how to dispose of used cooking oil because it does not serve fried foods. In fact, it does not have a deep fryer.
But most significant is how Southampton, a part of Stony Brook University, is writing into its courses the concept of sustainability. Students study it when they study literature, economics, architecture or statistics.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Harvard Makes CO2 Reduction Commitment


This seems to be an interesting development for the higher education community in the Boston area. I must be honest that I have not looked at the other schools around here to assess the state of higher education's leadership role in taking action on CO2 reduction. BU, BC, Northeastern, Tufts, MIT, WPI (my alma mater) , Suffolk, Simmons, UMass, etc., etc., etc. What are they doing (Image from coolstoke.co.uk) ?

University President Drew G. Faust adopted a task force's recommendations for addressing climate change on Wednesday, committing Harvard to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2006 levels by 2016.

Faust announced the formation of a student and faculty task force in February to study cuts in Harvard's greenhouse gas emissions, giving the committee until the end of the academic year to outline a set of recommendations.

In a statement today, Faust praised the group's recommendation for a 30 percent cut as "ambitious and far-reaching" and "reflecting both the urgency of the climate problem and Harvard's opportunity to show leadership in addressing the issue." The sizable reduction target and the very aggressive timetable make the goal among the most ambitious that any university has committed itself to.

Campus environmentalists lauded Faust's decision, with former Environmental Action Committee Co-Chair Mitchell C. Hunter ’09 saying that he was "extremely pleased" with the announcement.

"[The plan] demands huge efficiency gains from our current operations, aims at continuous improvement above and beyond our stated goals, does not make any convenient exemptions and, most importantly, includes future growth," Hunter said. "This means that if the University wants to grow, it will have to build extremely efficient buildings and take responsibility for any remaining emissions with reductions elsewhere on campus or high-quality offsets."

Emissions reductions beyond 2016 are not yet defined, but Faust called the 30 percent target an "initial short-term goal," indicating that the University will develop plans for further reductions beyond that date.

While Harvard will rely "to the maximum extent practicable" on reducing its own emissions to meet the targets, it will also "need to acquire or create high-quality carbon offsets in order to meet the recommended goals." Carbon offsets are the practice by institutions or governments finance emissions reductions — such as by planting trees or paying for energy efficiency programs — in other parts of the world.

Faust added that while it is important for Harvard to reduce its emissions, its "greatest contributions to solving the problem of climate change should reach far beyond our actions to limit GHG emissions arising from our own campus operations."

"Our research and teaching must generate knowledge about how we, not just at Harvard but across the United States and around the world, might use the discoveries of science, of technology, and of policy analysis to create a sustainable environment for generations to come," she said.

The chair of the task force, Kennedy School professor William C. Clark, said that while he was "delighted" by Faust's decision, "the big question mark at this point" will be the plan's implementation.

"The challenge ahead is to engage every single level of this community in coming up with suggestions and out of the box thinking and behavioral change," Clark said. "This can't be run out of a committee or a committee's office — it has got to be something that engages everything from Mass. Hall through the people who run and clean the buildings, faculty, and, in my view, onto the alumni."

Student organizing efforts in recent months have focused on pressuring Faust to sign a pledge committing Harvard to "climate neutrality."

While Hunter said that student activists "still would have preferred" such a pledge, they were pleased with the outcome because the task force's recommendations will put Harvard "on track to achieve climate neutrality even before the 2036 timeline that the EAC originally advocated."

The University-wide reduction targets come a year and a half after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced plans to reduce its emissions 11 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

In addition, Harvard entered into a binding agreement with Massachusetts last September to keep its future carbon emissions from its Allston campus at just 30 percent of the national standard for a similar project. In exchange, Harvard will be able to seek approval for each individual project instead of for the entire campus, thus potentially speeding regulatory approval for some of the construction.

The newest announcement won praise from Commonwealth officials who had worked with Harvard on the Allston deal.

"With today's announcement of a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions campus-wide by 30 percent in the next decade, Harvard is once again rolling up its sleeves to tackle head-on the challenge of climate change," said Ian Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "Gov. Patrick and I applaud Harvard for its leadership and ingenuity. We hope and expect that the university will serve as a model for similar efforts by other institutions in the months and years ahead."

Staff writers Paras D. Bhayani and Clifford M. Marks contributed to the reporting of this story.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TelePresence (Less Travel)


Looks like the CO2 and cost benefits of teleconferencing is making some headlines.

Taking Care of Business
By Joel Makower

How's your travel budget these days?
If you're like just about everybody I talk to lately, your budget ain't what it used to be. Sky-high fuel prices have grounded many road warriors, as companies seek to ease the bite of rising travel costs during a time of economic uncertainty. And yet there's a need to be face to face, if not actually press the flesh. And so "telepresence" — the term for what used to be called "videoconferencing" — is taking off so that we don't have to.
It's not just fuel costs that have given telepresence a lift. The technology has improved and sophisticated new offerings from IT companies like Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Nortel, and Tandberg allow people in disparate cities and time zones to sit around the same table — or, at least, appear to do so, using specially design meeting spaces married to broadband communications technologies. It's still not the same as being there, but it's a reasonable approximation.
And companies are adopting, as we report in this week's story about Deloitte, which recently signed a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract to bring telepresence to 130 locations worldwide. Deloitte believes the technology will save time, money, and carbon emissions.
But it's potentially more than that. Last year, the chief information officer from one global company told me that his firm's sales team performance rose when the team started utilizing telepresence, thus reducing travel. It turns out that salespeople are happier when they get to stay at home with their families, and happier salespeople tend to be more productive and profitable.
Could it be that the green solution also makes the most bottom-line sense? It's certainly not the first time, or the last.
— Joel Makower, GreenBiz Executive Editor

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Travel


In a previous post I ended with a question; "why are we traveling far and wide to conferences, events, and educational opportunities focused on sustainability when the travel in and of itself is part of the sustainability problem?" I ask this in all seriousness; I am one of those people that rationalizes nine transcontinental round trip flights from Boston to Seattle per year in the name of a unique and ground-breaking education focused on creating a sustainable business climate. So, that makes it OK? BGI offsets the CO2 emissions of students' travel for the intensive weekends, but... 

Given the fact that local economies, building the stores of human, financial, and natural capital locally & regionally is a key part of a regenerative (moving past sustainable) future, why am I not working to build that capacity here in New England (image from kadiak.org) ? Am I another example of the ease with which we have been allowed to seek what we want, where and when we want is assuming we can somehow pay for it? I suppose I am. What if there was a price for CO2? Would I still be going?

What I worry about, something that is already starting to happen, is that within the next 12 months, the time that I would fly to Seattle nine more times to complete my course of studies at BGI, airline tickets will increase at an alarming rate. Yep, there's uncertainty there, and I am 1/2 way through, so what are the alternatives? I am investigating the potential of continuing my susbiz education at the Marlboro Graduate Center here in the Northeast (Brattleboro, VT to be exact). It's a good deal newer than BGI, and with that comes some of the student body challenges that any new program experiences. Also, the whole "sustainable MBA thing" is still a little under the radar, so when I tell people that I am in a new sustainable business MBA program that they've never heard of and it's only 6 years old, I cannot imagine the response would be any different for Marlboro, even though it's in New England. Does that really matter? I don't know. How 'bout a dual degree?

On a scale larger than this solipsistic take on the issue of one fortunate higher ed consumer, there has been some news recently that the EU will be including airline emissions in their CO2 trading schemes, EU include airlines in CO2 emissions trading in 2012. I will be interested to see what happens to airline travel (and travel in general) over the next few years. I tend to believe that the prices will continue to increase, putting travel options out of the reach of many people that used to have access to it. What will that do to family, social, and business networks? Will it help accelerate a move back toward localization, staying close to home? What about virtual technologies like Second Life (there are others as well), will they start becoming a way to connect people across great distances with more realism, replacing real travel? I am a little behind the technology curve. I learned over the weekend from a friend at Marlboro that IBM has been quite active in virtual worlds, they have their own business center in Second Life, using it to better connect their global organization.

What about the millions (billions) on the other side of the digital divide, do they need to be connected or do others need to disconnect? Will the phone be good enough?

A recent article from Worldchanging, Web 2.0, Ubiquity, Sustainability and Consumer Rights, helped me connect my thinking that came out of the BALLE conference a few weeks ago. There is an increasing interest (and need) for the recreation of our local economies, yet we have access to technologies that connect us over great distances to share experiences, expertise, and cultures.
How do we best utilize technology to build a sustainable world?

Given the question I posed at the start, should I send my avatar to the BGI intensives this year?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Press Release


Joe Cloud (see below) is one of my classmates at BGI. He decided to take a break from formal studies and take some action on his passion in the real marketplace with this venture. It just so happens that I am nearly through the "Omnivore's Dilemma", the book referred to and the featuring Joel Salatin as an example of artisanal farming that is true to its roots; local, sustainable, real. This is an exciting development. I am proud to know Joe and wish him the best with this adventure.
The question for me is where this kind of a local food network in New England is and how have other regions of the country been successful?

- T & E Meats -
256 Charles Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
540*434*4415
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joe Cloud
Phone: 540 434 4415
Cell phone: 540 292 8106

From Omnivore's Dilemma to Carnivore's Delight:

Legendary Grass-Fed Farming Guru, Joel Salatin, teams up with entrepreneur, Joe Cloud, to move more meat from the field to the freezer.

Harrisonburg, VA July 2, 2008

Catering to locally produced and processed meats, two area entrepreneurs purchased the historic Harrisonburg Wholesale Meats business from longtime owners Tom and Erma May.

Known locally as T&E Meats (as in Tom and Erma), the business will continue serving the community from its current location on Charles Street, where it has operated continuously since 1939. Under the management of new owners Joel and Teresa Salatin of Swoope and Joe Cloud of Fishersville, the business will retain its T&E Meats name, but the letters will now stand for True and Essential.

The Salatins operate Polyface Farm in Augusta County, a major regional grass-based meat and poultry supplier. "T&E has been processing our federal inspected beef and pork for many years and its survival is critical in order for us to serve our restaurants, retail outlets, and individual customers," said Salatin.

Co-owner and general manager Joe Cloud added: "There is enormous pent-up demand among Virginia farmers for processing services that will allow them to sell into high-value local markets, which we hope to capitalize on." Salatin and Cloud also plan to expand the retail offering to include a variety of locally produced natural and organic meats, including Polyface Farms' unique grass-finished beef and chicken and their acorn-fed pork.

While farmers' interest in direct sales mirrors the sharp upturn in demand for local and pastured meats, these products cannot be sold without passing through a USDA-inspected facility. T&E is one of the few remaining plants in Virginia offering that service. "We will be the link between high quality local farmers and their customer clientele. What an exciting piece of the local food network," Salatin said.

Cloud has recently returned to his family-owned farm from Seattle, where he is earning a unique MBA in Sustainable Business from Bainbridge Graduate Institute. This degree emphasizes the important role that business plays in the development of sustainable communities and economies. Salatin, author of six books, is a nationally-recognized outspoken proponent of local food systems.
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For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with T&E personnel call Joe Cloud at 540 292 8106 or e-mail Joe at joe.blueskies@gmail.com