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Fall Theme: Energy

November Topic: Transportation

The Practice of Sharing and Conserving—It still comes down to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

As you finish Fall Quarter 2010 and start thinking about leaving to head for home, do an inventory—what food do you have in the refrigerator? Is the fridge set on high for a nearly empty bottle of ketchup? Could you clean out your refrigerator and turn it off? What electronic devices do you have plugged in? What is the thermostat set on? View tips on unplugging your frig→

The tasty perishable food items from your now-unplugged refrigerator? Maybe mom would appreciate you bringing something home beyond your laundry. Tell her it is in the spirit of giving and Thanksgiving.

It is very easy to become caught up in the ever-present hype of the holidays, especially with the constant barrage of commercials—after all, what says love like a Mercedes or a huge flat screen TV, right? No need to go broke for the holidays. Rather than run up your credit card balance, pause for a moment and examine the spirit of giving. Finding “new homes” for the things you no longer need to people who do need them means less to care for and maintain, less to insure and keep track of, and even less to clean! 

You can also simplify your gift giving with homemade gifts or beautiful handmade items. You’ll not only spend less and give more meaningful gifts, but you’ll also save time usually wasted on endless shopping trips. There’s much to be said for simple things like homemade jams and jellies, pies and cakes, a bird feeder, coupons for a car wash and wax…the list is only limited by your imagination (and maybe your abilities). Another idea is a personalized photo album or life story to capture the big and everyday events in someone’s life or a genealogy search. Rewarding for the person who makes it, and very meaningful for the recipient.

Another way to think about simplicity is to examine our tech-heavy world. We have so many electric gadgets and gizmos—seriously, count the number of plugs in the wall! There is a movement (perhaps a revolution, root word “revolt”) to simplify our lives and reconnect with what really matters most: Our sense of belonging to a community and our relationships with others.

The more is less tells some powerful stories of people transforming their lives and being truly happy. While you look around your space doing your inventory, think about what you need—really need. There’s an interesting back-to-basics series, “Living Better with Less,” on the evening news where reporters talk to folks who are finding that simplifying their lives brings them joy and peace.

Check out some of these other great websites and blogs for more tips on living simply:

So, as you do your pre-break inventory, keep some of these tips in mind: 

  • Help our community AND keep items out of the landfills by donating those nonperishable food items you might otherwise have thrown out to the newly established Wright State University Emergency Food Pantry (contact:  Rebecca Fensler or come by the Service Learning office, 128 Millett Hall). 
  • Donate those out-of-season or ill-fitting clothing items from your closet (as well as linens and other household items) to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul (bonus: you can deduct these donations on your taxes). 

Practice for Winter Quarter, prepare for your life:
In preparation for the upcoming Winter Quarter events (RecycleMania and the Dorm Energy Competition), let’s start to get in shape with some practice. Turn out the lights, adjust the temperature of your fridge and thermostat, and turn off and unplug those clocks and electronics that you are not taking home with you. Why have them drawing electricity when you are not even here?

Think long-term happiness and sustainability. You may just discover joy and peace (within you).

Have a safe and happy break!

Electric Vehicles – EVs
Are they a “next step” option for personal transportation?

So, we know that electric vehicles have been around since the beginnings of automobiles. Earlier, you will recall that I had a link to the Bailey EV circa 1910.

Did you know that Wright State University has connections with EVs? 

The date at the top of the paper is Thursday, June 29, 2000. The Green County Neighbors section of the Dayton Daily Newsheadline states, “Electric Vehicles used at Wright State”. Who remembers the Ford Ranger EV pickups on campus? Rob Kretzer, director of Transportation Services, remembers the “electric blue” trucks. In the article, Kretzer talked about the high marks that the EV trucks received for no engine noise or emissions. In fact, he wanted to buy the Ford EV trucks when the lease was up, but they were not for sale. (Sound reminiscent of “Who killed the Electric Car?” Just Google the title; there’s plenty on YouTube, Wikipedia, and dvd rental sites.) Now Kretzer would like to have more EVs on campus as part of the Wright State University fleet of service vehicles.

In the companion piece, “WSU Charged Up Over Electric Trucks,” published in the 2000 Spring/Summer issue of Community, it states that EV idling “drains very little of the battery, compared to the amount of fuel used by and idling gas-powered vehicle. With the EVs, the university expects to save about $4,000 annually on oil, gasoline, and maintenance costs.”

Sounds like Kretzer has a strong case to bring the EVs back to life on campus—no fossil fuels used, no tailpipe emissions, less costly to operate—smart use of resources.

And speaking of EVs on campus, did you know that Wright State University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science has an EV? This racing-type EV was designed and built from original blueprints by electrical engineering students in the 1990s. It was raced from 1994 to 2000 in regional electric vehicle racing competitions with universities like OSU and Notre Dame. We still have the car in the lower level of the Russ Engineering Building. According to Professor Russ Hannen, this EV is still displayed in parades in the area. Who knew? Maybe it is time to bring it out of the lower level of Russ Engineering and put it on display so we can all learn more about EVs.

If you look over to the side of the Community page, you will notice a news item on called “EPA Salutes Upgrades,” but it caught my attention because our next energy topic to be explored here soon will be energy production and conservation. And who better to educate us on the topic than John Howard, our energy guru on campus. He is quoted in the article, “On the subject of energy conservation, there can be no bad news to report. It helps the environment, saves the budget, and improves reliability.” He is still making those statements today. And be sure to check out the Energy Conservation tab of the Wright State University Physical Plant website

This is a complicated issue and certainly very complex. Why does it matter? Gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, hybrids, hydrogen—what difference does it make how our vehicles are powered as long as we can get from where we are to where we want to be? We have been discussing pollution, air quality, and green house gases as well as the environmental impact of extracting the fossil fuels that we rely on so heavily. If we simply think of EVs as a stepping stone where we plug in instead of refueling at the gas pumps, it may seem quite simple.

But of course, it’s not. Those electric generating plants are not perfect in an environmental sense. In the midwest, our electric plants are primarily coal-powered. Talk about environmental damage—just do a little investigating and you’ll find there is absolutely nothing “clean” about coal. From the mining process that blows the tops off of mountains to the fouling of the streams with mine tailings to the hauling and storage of the coal to the burning and storage of the ash, none of it is clean. Yes, scrubbers and regulations make it better but it is certainly not a perfect solution for our long-term energy needs.

So, why are EVs a piece of the puzzle? Because they are less polluting overall when compared to gasoline powered vehicles. Choices. It always comes down to making an informed decision. Why you are in college? To get informed and become creative thinkers who can find better solutions to our long-term energy needs.

We will get into energy as our next topic and explore energy production and conservation including renewable energy sources. So, stay tuned and look for upcoming Dorm Energy Conservation Competitions and RecycleMania!

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Your daily actions speak louder than words.

How you can make a difference every day

In this column we will explore more topics, people, ideas and projects related to sustainability during 2015 – 2016.

Recyclemania 2015

Just a couple of weeks to go! Recyclemania 2015 is coming to a close.

We are in Week 6 of our annual eight week RecycleMania competition. Clean out those files, clear those shelves -- be sure you are doing your part to Recycle as much as possible before the end of next week.

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