GEF's SEED

WWU's GEF Sustainable Energy Efficient Dorm Pilot


Sustainable Transportation

This weeks Eco-Challenge was inspired by the Go For the Green competition. Residences can receive points for their hall by attending Eco Rep events and challenging themselves to reduce their water, waste, electricity, and natural gas.

Transport donuts                                      Transp Peopple

This week, I hosted an Eco Rep event about sustainable transportation. Western students are fortunate to have many alternative transportation choices including: train, bolt bus, city bus, late night shuttles, well-established bike lanes, and Zipcar. Over 3,000 Western students take their cars to campus, a car may seem like a necessity, and in some cases it is, but given the variety of options to walk, bike, and ride, a car can be used sparingly. In addition to hosting an event, I earned points for my hall by submitting pictures to the Office of Sustainability (for their Eco Challenges Campaign) of ways I reduce waste. The first step is awareness, since it is easy to reuse containers, compost, and unplug devices. Gradually, with awareness, one will form new habits that uphold the three pillars of sustainability: health, economy, and the environment.

Help spread the word, choose Sustainable Transportation!

– Meriel

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Click On, Click Off

For this week’s Eco Challenge, we decided I would give Meriel’s goal from last week a try so we could see how my cell phone battery stacked up to hers.

First and foremost, I learned tracking your phone usage is hard. Thankfully, I discovered a nifty little function in my phone’s settings that kept track of how long it had been since my phone was last fully charged, and how much of that time was spent actively using the device.

By this calculation, after a day of fairly heavy use, my cell phone battery would reach 0% after about 5 hours and 20 minutes of use. However, of any given day I may only use my phone actively for a couple hours, leaving me with over half my charge remaining at the end of the day. Other times (especially when I’m making a lot of phone calls or tweeting for my job at the paper) I may need to charge my phone when I get back from class to avoid it dying prematurely.

I also determined it would take 2 hours and 15 minutes for my phone to reach a 100% charge if the battery were to run completely dry. I did this by plugging in my phone, timing how long it took for the battery charge to increase by 1%, multiplying that number by 100, then dividing the result by 60 to get the sum in hours.

I was surprised at how little time it actually took to charge my phone. I usually plug my phone in at night before I go to bed, and am usually asleep by the time it finishes, so I suppose I simply began to associate the process with an all-night timeline. In truth, I realized I could get a full charge by plugging my phone into one of our Belkin outlet timers, flipping the switch to the 3 hour setting, and leaving it be. Even when the timer runs out and the outlet turns off, my phone wouldn’t lose much charge since I wouldn’t be actively using it.

It’s such a simple change, but I know I would have never done the calculations to bring it to my attention without this challenge as a motivator.

 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you guys next time,

 

            Libby

 

Todays security blanket, our cell phone, rules many of our lives and therefor needs to be charged and functioning on a day to day basis. Charging phones and computers can seem like an annoyance, possibly having to wait for them to be done and then un plugging it to conserve energy can seem even worse. That is why we have decided to focus on this Eco Challenge for two weeks instead of one. Keeping items plugged in is one of the biggest energy wasting habits people develop. and electronic chargers make a big impact.

This is why the SEED room has implemented power strips that can turn on and off with a portable switch that Meriel and Libby have mounted on their wall by their light switch. This, along with their outlet timers have reduced their vampire energy greatly.

Join us in our Eco Challenge movement! Choose to save energy in small ways all day and make a big impact.

 

 


Dispersal

Sustainability isn’t easy. If it were, there wouldn’t be any need for projects like SEED. But unless you have the opportunity to see its effects firsthand, chances are your motivation to implement sustainability yourself is slim. That’s why one of the biggest pieces of advice we can offer after our time in SEED, is the opportunity to open your eyes to sustainability when you can. For example, come check out the SEED room every Friday between 3pm and 5pm. Take a look at our gadgets in person, ask us questions about living in an environmentally-conscious dorm, and find out what you can do to plant a little bit of SEED in your own life.

You don’t necessarily need to spend any money to be sustainable. It can be helpful to have physical tools to help along the way. But once you establish in your mind the changes you want to make, it’s as easy as any other part of your routine. The hardest part is getting there. Discipline doesn’t firm overnight, and there may be times when you think trying to keep these habits up is pointless. But don’t give up. Holding yourself accountable for your impact on the earth is an important skill to learn, and you can take pride in the steps you take to make that earth a better place for generations to come.

            Start small. Put a sticky note on your laptop to remind you to unplug it when you’re not using it. Do the same thing for your TV, microwave, and any other electronics you can easily unplug. Put a note by the front door to remind yourself to turn everything off before you leave.

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Try timing your showers. Make note of the time before you go in, or set a timer on your phone. Once you come up with an average, set an alarm to go off once you reach that time. When you get used to it, start decreasing the amount of time on the alarm. Try to cut down your showers so that you’re only using as much water as you need to clean yourself. We’re all tempted to stand and soak in the gloriously hot rain every once in a while. But if you can break that spell with a timer, it’ll be much better for your water bill and the planet in the long run.

Try setting a timer when you watch TV or go on your computer too. I know it sounds kinda silly, but it’s the same situation as the shower. We can very easily be put under the spell of electronics and lose track of time, thereby losing track of our energy use as well. Having some kind of loud noise break the cycle will remind us of what those electronics really mean for the environment—and you may see your homework productivity improve as well.

There are a lot of ways we can work together to be more sustainable. Talk with your roommate(s) or friends about putting forth a group effort to make these and other changes. We can all help and remind each other of what these changes will mean, even if the results aren’t readily visible. Talk to others about your experience; encourage them to give it a try too. For each one of us that makes a commitment to live more sustainably, the planet takes another step toward future prosperity.

We hope that what we have learned from SEED this year will inspire others to plant their own seeds of sustainability as well.


Don’t Miss a Drop

We’ve seen changes in illumination, refrigeration, personal expectation, and a list of other non-“ation”s. But the spirit of SEED extends beyond those elements. And while we may not have seen the beginnings of SEED in its infancy last Spring, we think the spirit of SEED extends into the future, and promises a continuation of the love and innovation that first created the project.

In this instance, we think once again of our water—particularly, the installation of low-flow faucets that occurred before we moved in. Without having seen the “before”, it’s a little harder to grasp the impact of the “after”.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in regards to water, it’s that it goes fast. For every 100 seconds our shower is running, a gallon of water is used.  This access to an instantaneous clean water supply while convenient can easily go unappreciated.  The work required for using this precious resource is minimal, but for some the task is far more laborious.

According to water.org, a nonprofit working to provide access to safe water for developing nations, 780 million people do not have access to clean water.  Personally it’s difficult for us to comprehend the consequence of this- we’ve not been exposed to the daily struggle that an astounding 11 percent of the world’s population, or one in ten people experiences.

What can we do here in Bellingham to appreciate and protect this resource then?  We think using the technology we have- water saving devices such as dual flush toilets and implementing low flow showerheads and faucets is an important step, but not the most crucial.  It’s the consciousness of recognizing this privilege we’re so fortunate to have and working to protect it for ourselves and promoting it for those that don’t.  We’ll simply ask you to consider how much water you would use if you had to carry and purify every drop you used.  How would you use it differently?

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In the visually-driven society we live in, it’s easy to forget that change is not only occurring in obvious places. Change doesn’t need spectators. What change needs are dreamers and innovators—dreamers who aren’t afraid to act, and innovators who make dreams reality. All of us can be the change. We’re already on our way. Are you?