Bucknell World: Toward a sustainable environment
Peter Wilshusen, left, and Craig Kochel, co-directors of the Environmental Center
From the Spring 2007 edition of Bucknell World
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell’s Environmental Center represents an important aspect of the University’s environmental consciousness.
Located on Fraternity Road, the Center’s furnishings are almost entirely recycled. Its founders went "warehouse diving" for the computers, tables, and chairs, says Craig Kochel, co-director and professor of geology.
The building is a brick house previously rented out by the University as a staff residence. The garage serves as a hub for Bucknell’s used toner and inkjet cartridges, which the 45-member Environmental Club collects and recycles.
In 2004, some 55 students, faculty, and staff laid the plans for the Environmental Center, which helps its many constituencies sift through research, brainstorm on tactics, and pool resources when applying for grants.
"Oftentimes, when you think of environmental science and environmental studies, you think of the natural sciences, like biology and geology," says Peter Wilshusen, center co-director and associate professor of environmental studies. “Here, we’re truly interested in integrating all academic perspectives."
(Listen to more of Wilshusen on the Environmental Center.)
Faculty members are from classics, English, music, theatre, and international relations, just to name a few.
Between classes and work on her thesis, Christine Kassab ’08 explained her study of Bucknell’s greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2004. An environmental geology major, she determined that Bucknell produced 37,090 metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2004, down from 60,000 in the mid ’90s.
Bucknell chopped its greenhouse gas emissions in half with its conversion of its coal-fired power plant to a natural gas-burning co-generation plant. Completed in 1997, the plant not only releases fewer pollutants but also saves money by producing energy at 80 percent efficiency.
When asked how Bucknell stands in comparison to other schools, Kassab says, “Not bad.”
Bucknell has a lower greenhouse gas emissions rate per student than Middlebury, Harvard, and Oberlin, according to Kassab. Oberlin is nationally recognized for its Green Dorm initiative. Greenhouse gas emissions — mainly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane — may contribute to global warming.
Despite its environmentally friendly power source, the University needs to further cut its energy consumption, Kassab concluded. Her report cites recommendations such as turning off computers and lights while not in use and decreasing unnecessary driving.
Her summer research project was funded by a grant through the Environmental Center.
Initiatives support each other
"Ten years ago, this research wouldn’t have been possible," says Dennis Hawley ’72, MS’73, associate vice president of Facilities and a member of the Environmental Center’s steering committee. "It was sort of dispersed, with things going on [with Facilities], in geology, in the Environmental Residential College. Now these initiatives are all supporting each other."
Kassab’s project is the first step of an environmental audit. The audit, headed by Bucknell’s sustainability coordinator, Dina El-Mogazi, seeks to identify sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The results will allow the campus community to determine ways of making the campus "greener."
As the University embarks on its Campus Master Plan, it has certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council in mind.
"We’re looking at ways we can reduce our environmental footprint on the campus," Kochel says.
Colin Davies ’08, a civil engineering major, enrolled in a summer training program through the Environmental Center, where he helped install the solar panels in the backyard. On a good day, the panels can power the entire building and more — the surplus is sent out to the utility’s electrical grid.
With his training, Davies is in charge of a group of students, the Solar Scholars, who are installing panels at one of the modular units in Bucknell West with a grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central-Eastern Pennsylvania and matching funds from the University. While the two solar-powered buildings may do little to reduce Bucknell’s overall power use, they promote environmental awareness.
Taking things for granted
The occupants "will be able to work on their laptops and look out the window and see where their power is coming from," Davies says. "That’s important, especially in this day and age where we take things for granted. We don’t usually think about where our power’s coming from, but it’s something we should do."
(Listen to Davies talk about a student perspective.)
With high fuel prices and increased media attention about global warming, people are thinking more about the environment than they were 10 years ago.
"Our whole survival depends on what happens to this planet," Kochel says. "It’s a fixed place with fixed resources. We have one atmosphere, one supply of resources. Our critical problem is the number of people on the planet and the demands being made on these resources. Learning to manage that wisely is our only chance for success if we want to continue life as we know it."
(Listen to Kochel talk about campus greening initiatives.)
'Green' design practices
The economy’s invisible hand is pushing businesses toward "green" design practices, which reduce their energy costs and their toll on the environment.
"People often think that going green costs a lot of money, that it’s something that you do once you’ve become a rich company and, really, it’s just the opposite," says Wilshusen. "For the most part, it saves you money, especially in the long run. It’s not only good for the environment; it’s also good for the bottom line."
Although economic interests in the environment often stem from a profit-maximizing motivation, for many it’s a labor of love.
Says Kochel: “For right and wrong reasons, people are getting interested in what’s going on with the environment, whether it’s hitting their pocketbook or hitting their heart and soul.”
Colin Davies '08 and Christine Kassab '08
Posted April 25, 2007
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