Author Archives: Arthur Kopelman

Nomi Kleinman’s Report: The Power of Green SUNY Conference

On September 17th I attended, and presented, at the The Power of Green SUNY, the 2013 State Universities of New York Sustainability Conference. It was a stunning day in Buffalo and the venue was an old mansion. While I enjoyed representing FIT and presenting on the Council and the Mayor’s Challenge, the most interesting part was hearing about initiatives at other SUNY campuses.

The keynote speaker was Samina Raja, a Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Buffalo. Her project, Building Food Connections, aims to enhance food security and the capacity of local and regional governments to improve community food systems. This will also benefit small and mid-sized farmers and underserved community residents. She made the interesting comparison of college campuses to food deserts, where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food.
There was a panel of presentations on Organic Waste Diversion. I learned that schools can do a waste audit in their cafeteria. It’s low tech and serves as a great baseline for making changes- the leftover food from student’s plates and from the food service is literally weighed on a scale. Many schools have found that going tray-less in cafeterias makes an impact on reducing food waste. Three different methods for composting that are being practiced on different SUNY campuses were presented: O2 Compost Microbins, black soldierfly composting and heavy duty grinding and composting machinery from Korea. In the former 2, there is ongoing student involvement in keeping the systems running and the projects serve as campus “science experiments” that faculty will bring their students too as part of course curriculum.

One of the most interesting presentations was from SUNY New Paltz, “Measuring, Tracking and Contracting for Food Using the Real Food Calculator and the SUNY Sustainable Dining Service Benchmarking Tool.” These 2 methods help evaluate if food items are indeed local and promoting health across communities.

Finally, Stony Brook University shared their experiences building a bike share program. They started with 25 bikes and locks that they issued out to students by semester. Demand for the bikes grew quickly and they recently expanded to 4 solar powered bike stations and 48 bicycles (similar to the ones recently installed in New York City). The students use these bikes for free for the first hour and pay a nominal fee after that. Each student pays a transportation fee each year. Investing this money into the bike share program will lead to reduced air pollution from buses and cost savings as the college will not need to purchase as many new buses as they have in the past.
It made me start thinking about what more can be done on our own campus. I’m excited to plan events for FIT’s No Impact Week in Fall 2014.

Not a Fan of Earth Day

I admit it; I am not a big fan of Earth Day. This aversion could stem from what happened to me on one of the first Earth Day celebrations in NYC in Central Park, when a large dog mistook my back as a tree stump and I was urinated upon; but, it doesn’t. My objection to Earth Day is more fundamental. Why must we set aside a day (or a week) to be “Earth conscious?” We should be cognizant of the planet and our effects on the planet every day – not once a year. For those of us who are trained ecologists, geologists, hydrologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and other environmental scientists; and for those that are passionate, active, and concerned citizens (AKA environmentalists), we don’t need an “earth” day. The people of the earth don’t need an Earth Day. Or do we?

With 7 billion people on this planet, increasing at 1% per year, perhaps we need to be reminded about finite resources, and unsustainable population growth and consumption. With agro-ecosystems providing the equivalent of more than 2700 Kcal per person, and with nearly 1 billion people undernourished, while obesity becomes epidemic elsewhere, perhaps we need a wake-up call. With unprecedented levels of factory farming and feedlots across the globe, loss of soil fertility and top soil, increased levels of pesticides and pharmaceuticals in groundwater, and 70% of the world’s freshwater being used by agribusiness – perhaps we need new priorities and new educational outreach.

With our climate system permanently altered by greenhouse gas emissions, with sea ice and land ice melting at unparalleled rates, with sea level rising, with increased frequency and severity of storms, with changes in the thermohaline conveyor system slowing the Gulf Stream and consequently allowing water levels to rise on the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America, and all the while, global carbon emissions still rise, perhaps we need a regular reminder that change is necessary.

While rivers cease to reach the oceans, and while ocean systems are over-harvested and polluted, we need to act now. We need to act. The dominant social and economic paradigms of consumerism and consumption as a measure of self-worth have to change. I tell my students that “business as usual” is no longer acceptable, that the dominant paradigms are outdated and self-destructive; that it’s up to all of us to work to protect the planet for the future.

My utopian world is one in which Earth Day is not necessary – until then I’ll continue to work to bring about change and hope that at some point we won’t need Earth Day any longer.

Arthur H. Kopelman, Ph.D.
SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Science at FIT

NYSERDA Webinar: Responding to Climate Change in New York State

Responding to Climate Change in New York State: An overview of climate change, its impacts, and proactive actions that cities and towns can take to adapt to a changing climate
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Noon-1:00pm EST
Center for Excellence in Teaching, B502

Climate change is already affecting the people and resources of New York State, and these impacts are projected to grow. Fortunately, there are many steps that state and local government actors can take to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and take advantage of possible opportunities. The ClimAID webinars will provide vital information and resources to help local government agencies take action to reduce local impacts of and adapt to climate change. NYSERDA is pleased to offer these webinars at no cost.

The webinar series will draw heavily from findings in the comprehensive report, ClimAID: the Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State. Read the whole report or its components at: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/climaid

Presenters:

Arthur DeGaetano, Northeast Regional Climate Center, Cornell University
Daniel Bader, Columbia University
Radley Horton, Columbia University
Moderator: Amanda Stevens, NYSERDA

If you wish to join on your own: https://nyserda.ilinc.com/register/tpbwfwm

PepsiCo Launches New Facebook-Inspired Carbon Calculator

 By Alison Moodie, GreenBiz.com, 10-9-2012

For a company like PepsiCo, which oversees more than 20 brands and hundreds of different products around the world, calculating the carbon footprint of just one of its products can take weeks, and at a signficant cost to the company. To save time and money, PepsiCo teamed up with researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a tool that can measure the carbon footprint of thousands of products all at once.

The calculator, which lacks an official name, can calculate the carbon emissions of different materials and activities in a company’s supply chain and operations, and within minutes pinpoint which of these carries the largest carbon footprint.

‘The objective was to give companies several capabilities at once with only a single effort,’ said Christoph Meinrenken, the tool’s lead researcher and associate research scientist at the Earth Institute.

The calculator was developed to follow publicly known carbon footprinting standards such as the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) standard and PAS20:2011. The methodology and software helps businesses identify which materials or activities in their supply chain and operations have the biggest effect on the total carbon footprint of one of their products, product lines, brands or regions. The calculator also reveals the accuracy of this information and how this accuracy can be improved so a company can make better business decisions.

“We saw the opportunity to use our carbon/greenhouse gas analysis as a base for building a broader decision-making tool that could help us identify other efficiency opportunities throughout our supply chian, drive innovation and improve our overall operations,” said Rober terKuile, PepsiCo’s senior director of environmental sustainability.

The tool also provides certifiable product footprints to be used in ecolabeling and for environmental measuring groups such as The Sustainability Consortium and GoodGuide. This certification requires an intensive, bottom-up assessment of each product’s entire life cycle in order to provide the required microscopic level of detail and to be auditable outside the company, said Meinrenken.

The tool is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Danone announced it had developed a system, in partnership with SAP, that can calculate the carbon emissions of individual products. Meinrenken said the inner workings of the Danone tool hadn’t been made public, so it was hard to adequately compare the two. He said PesiCo’s tool was developed before Danone unveiled its calculator.

The PepsiCo tool takes inspiration from sites like Facebook and Netflix, which mine huge swaths of data to figure out what users like. It analyzes data already stored in a company’s database to infer information, like what materials are in a product and where they come from. This process saves a company time and money, said Meinrenken.

‘This is just a general argument of being smart and efficient with companies’ existing data to mine and ‘milk’  it if you will, to learn additional things from the same data, rather than hiring additional staff and building up new data,’ he said.

To learn more about this approach to carbon footprinting, finish reading the article HERE.