Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Web 2.0 Tools

Between semesters I enjoy exploring new ideas to bring into my teaching. Clouds have lots of possibilities. This is a cloud of my blog shaped like a tree.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Food Waste Revisited

Yesterday, as part of America Recycles Day, we measured food waste again in the dining hall. This is the third time I have had students conduct this audit. The first year we did the audit, as mentioned in previous posts, food waste was about 0.33 lbs per person. The following fall we implemented trayless dining in the dining hall. Food waste was then measured at about 0.18 lbs/person. It has been about 2 years since I've run the food waste audit so I was curious what the trend has been. I found it encouraging yesterday when our results indicated a slight reduction from 2008. Food waste was measured yesterday at 0.16 lbs/person.

More exciting is the unveiling of our new composting system. Food waste will be collected in a composting bin in the back of the house. This will divert much of our food waste from the landfill and sewage system. While composting is a an important addition to our sustainability efforts, compost is still waste. The important thing for diners to remember is to try and eliminate all food waste. This will reduce the overall quantity of food purchased and help reduce our food print.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New School Year

The start of the fall semester is always the most exciting time on a college campus. We are off to a great year at Lasell. We continue to improve our environmental efforts on campus and make campus a greener place to live, work, and study. Let me highlight some of the changes and initiatives seen around campus:

-The Environmental Studies major continues to grow. In just our second year we are no longer the smallest major on campus. We are excited to have a new cohort of first-year Environmental Studies students and look forward to working with them.

-Kelly Silvia (ENV '11) spent the summer interning for the Trustees of Reservations on Martha's Vineyard. Kelly worked to help track and protect the endangered piping plover.

-The service-learning trip to Ecuador was successful last spring and will run again this year. Students have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador to work on community service projects with Professor Toffler and Amy Greene.

-A new service-learning trip will run this year working on ecotourism issues in Brazil. Professor Janbek and Professor Van Hyfte will be leading this trip. I am jealous of faculty that lead both the Ecuador and Brazil trips and I hope to get involved in a few years once my children are a bit older.

-Marc Fournier, our Assistant Director for Plant Operations & Sustainability, has taken over for me as chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee. Marc has an increased budget for this group and is excited to get rolling.

-There are two new recycling stations outside Wolfe and Winslow. We are trying to reduce the number of waste bins on campus that do not also have a recycling bin next to them. We hope to capture more recyclable items as people move between buildings. They look great with Lasell College routed on.

-Enrollment in environmentally themed courses continues to grow. Environmental Science (ENV211), Intro to Environmental Studies (ENV101), and Diversity of Living Organisms (BIO102) are all running near capacity. We will likely run more sections of ENV211 and ENV101 in the spring to meet the growing interest.

-The study abroad opportunities for Environmental Studies majors look amazing. We are encouraging all of our students to consider studying abroad. There are opportunities all over the world. For example, students can spend a semester in Australia studying coral reefs or spend a semester in Costa Rica studying conservation biology.

-Sodexo has introduced a take-away program for lunch but designed the program with sustainability in mind. Take-away is available from the dining hall but students must purchase a reusable take-away container. Students return the container to be cleaned and are given a clean container. This provides students the opportunity to grab some food while on the run but will not add to the waste generated on campus.

-I picked up the northern-red bellied cooters yesterday. They are tiny. My FYS class will be working with the turtles to learn more about human impacts on the species and to help care for them. This year we are going to develop a hydroponic system to grow our own lettuce.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Last year we pieced together a small Earth Day event at Lasell. This year, Amy Greene from CCBL has taken leadership and planned an entire festival. There will be a band, an eco-fashion show, vendors promoting green products, student organizations running activities, and even food. Amy has worked hard to take Earth Day at Lasell to a new level. She has recruited student volunteers to help plan the day and spent considerable time securing all the equipment needed for the day. Thanks Amy!

The festivities are happening in the East/West quad from about 11:30-2:00. Come join us! Open to the public. Tell your friends from other schools too.

Come see a sustainable fashion show, the band Hey Mama and demonstrations about the environment. Free food and sustainable products will be given out!

Friday, April 9, 2010

No Room For You

After my wife graduates from Harvard in May, we would like to move the family out of Cambridge into a community with a bit more open space. We also value having reasonable commutes for both of us. My wife will be working in Wakefield and I travel with the kids to Lasell each morning. We've decided the Belmont, Lexington, Arlington area of greater Boston is where we would like to live. It took weeks of studying maps and practicing commutes in rush hour traffic to come to this conclusion. Now all we have to do is find a comfortable place to rent in one of these towns. Craiglist is loaded with listings so this should be easy. Wrong.

While there are hundreds of listings, let's take a look at how many are documented as being deleaded. In Arlington, there are currently 304 listings for apartments on Craigslist. Two are identified as deleaded.

Many people have suggested we don't worry about lead. After all, we grew up with lead in our homes and we are fine. True. We also grew up not wearing seat belts and we laughed at people wearing bike helmets. Laws to promote public health are important, have had huge impacts, and should be respected. Lead paint is no exception.

Lead is most dangerous to developing children under the age of six. It can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, hearing problems, and headaches. Is this a risk we want to take with our children? No thank you.

I asked Professor Toffler his opinion as he has done work with the EPA on lead paint projects. In his opinion, lead paint is definitely something to worry about especially around windows. He also said it is going to be hard to find apartments listed as deleaded.

The Massachusetts Lead Law was designed to eliminate lead from homes with children under six. This law also applies landlords. Unfortunately the cost of deleading a home can be expensive so landlords will try and avoid renting to young families. This is discrimination and also illegal however it is widespread. We've made some calls to listings and been told the home is not deleaded. The conversation is always over immediately and we have not had a landlord yet volunteer to delead the space so our family could live there safely.

We will continue to try and find a home that has been deleaded. I'm sure we will eventually find one but will have to sacrifice many other things we would like to have. It can be tough for young families trying to find a home in an area where the housing stock is old. I won't even mention the costs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lasell Smart Meter Project

It has taken a lot of work to get to this point but the Lasell College Smart Meter Project is almost ready to go live. This effort started last summer when VP Ostrow and I wrote a grant to the Tomfohrde Foundation asking for support to install a network of electricity meters in our dormitories. Electricity usage in Butterworth, Bragdon, Forest, and Woodland Hall will be measured by the meters on the minute time scale compared to the monthly time scale we currently have. The data will provide an opportunity for innovative research projects in many areas of study at Lasell including economics, psychology, and environmental studies. Students will examine electricity pricing structures and demand loads in Environmental Economics. Students in the psychology department are researching techniques to modify building occupant behavior.

Below John Audet (left) and Bud Hinkle (right) of Tradesmen of New England LLC, are at Lasell today programming the new controllers and meters for the Lasell Smart Meter Project.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Knotty the Turtle

On Wednesday the most inspiring guest came to my Leadership class to speak with students about living with cystic fibrosis. She shared her life in numbers comparing what she categorized as the good and the bad. Her perspective on life was so uplifting. Despite the many bad things she has had to endure, she has managed to maintain a focus on the good things in life she has been able to do such as traveling to 7 countries and starting her own business called Knot Clothing.

After class I was showing our guest the turtles in the Environmental Science Lab and she asked if they had names yet. They did not. Later that evening I decided that I should name the turtles to honor this inspiring young woman. She was quite proud of her business, Knot Clothing, so I decided to borrow names from her company image. Rather than "The Turtles", these little reptiles will now be called Knotty, Nice, and Chick Magnet. Knotty is the dominant turtle in the tank frequently seen biting at the other turtles. Nice is the runt in the litter as she is almost 10 grams lighter than the other two turtles. Chick Magnet, named after my favorite belt in her clothing line, likes to sun on the floating dock taking in the rays of the heat lamp. He is calm and cool.

While great progress has been made to improve conditions for people living with cystic fibrosis, it is still clear after listening to our guest that more has to be done. This disease needs to be controlled or better yet cured. Students in my Leadership class have been working to help support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the quest to control and cure CF. We are organizing a campus walk on April 13th to raise money for the organization. Already we have over 25 walkers registered. Members of our campus community are encouraged to join us. Visit and click Join My Team to register.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Over the winter break I finally decided to explore Facebook. I was skeptical for a long time but now I see the power of the social networking site. Not only is it great for staying connected with friends but it is also a great community building tool.

Immediately I built a fan page for the Lasell College Environmental Studies program. I take pictures during our field labs and now I have a great space to share them. The fan page also provides a space to share the projects students are working on in the program. I am really excited about the potential of this tool to help develop our program.

I encourage you to become part of our community and join as a fan of the page.