Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sustainability in Practice-WSU debate and zHome

A recent debate associated with Under the Big Tent focused on energy use, fossil fuel use and the environment. Panelists included Amanda Stahl, Donald Wall, Matt Beil and Brett Haverstick. The debate was moderated by Robert Richards.

The panelists discussed the problems with fossil fuels, the public misconceptions on nuclear energy safety and the issues with overdrilling. You can see the Daily Evergreen student newspaper's recap of the event below.

Also take a look at this article from the WSU News Center about a new style of living that is carbon neutral. WSU was involved in the plan and development! Go Cougs!

Are  you informed on the issues surrounding fossil fuels, drilling, nuclear power? If not, we strongly advise you take a few moments and do a little research. Information is power, an informed citizen has the power to decide how to proceed in the future. A well informed citizen can help protect the environment. So become that well informed citizen, the environment needs it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sustainability in Practice- Sustainability Video project

Here's a few suggestions of how WSU students can practice sustainability. We understand the "poor college student" mentatility so we provided a few options that are cheap or free.

Hope you enjoyed the video!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sustainability in Practice- What motivates you?

This morning, as I put my recycling bins out on the curb for pick up, I couldn't help but notice that only about 1/3 of the houses within my view were utilizing Pullman's recycling service. It is provided free of charge with garbage pick up and only takes a little bit of extra effort! I know many of my friends don't recycle just because of that little bit of extra effort but come on!

Here are some interesting facts about how big of a difference recycling can make from

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours -- or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.

An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now!

Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees.

Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!

A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose -- and even longer if it's in the landfill.

The above list is just a few stats I pulled from the list. Check out the full list at We want to know what motivates you, or keeps you from being unmotivated to recycle! A little effort from you can make a huge difference!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sustainability in Practice-WSU Team for Idaho Idea to Market 2011 Competition

A WSU team is participating in the Idaho Idea to Market 2011 competition on May 17-18. The competition is a business feasibility study of future technology. They chose to develop a Nanoantenna product (a rectifying antenna which is a solar collection device that captures abundant solar energy). Nanoantenna has more benefits than today's solar power.

Nowadays, people are interested in alternative energy which can save environment and save money. Solar rays are the most available source among alternative energy, some experts say. Researchers at the Idaho National laboratory have developed a solar energy collector that can observe the energy not only during the sunny days, but also at night and on cloudy days. This technology is called Nanoantenna collects hear energy generated by the sun and other sources. The main difference between current solar power and Nanoantenna is that current solar energy's solar cells are mostly made of silicon; the primary component is sand and Nanoantenna is lightweight and made of flexible materials.

The WSU team is trying to find out what kind of product can deliver value to consumers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sustainability in Practice- Do-It-Yourself Composting

About 1/3 of household garbage is food waste!

While college students tend to be a little more careful about the food they throw away, I am always blown away at how little my friends care about saving leftovers. I save all my leftovers. My mom is the same way so that is probably where it comes from but I cannot stand to throw food away! Not only is this basically like throwing out money, when food ends up in landfills it lets methane gas into the environment as it decomposes which is a harmful green house gas.

One simple and environmentally responsible alternative is to start your own compose bin at home. By composting you eliminate waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill and your generate a material that is a nutrient rich fertilizer that is non-toxic and completely environmentally friendly.

Check out this link to see how to start your own at-home compost bin!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sustainability in Practice-Nuclear Safety

While media hovers around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Japan, public concern hovers around the Columbia Generating Station in Richland, WA.

Columbia Generating Station is the only commercial nuclear reactor in the Northwest. There are also research nuclear reactors at Idaho State University, Oregon State University and Washington State University. There are over 100 commercially-operated nuclear reactors, of various types and models throughout the United States and more than 25 research reactors, Corey Hines, reactor supervisor at the WSU Nuclear Radiation Center said.

“The media exploited the fear when initial reports of the Japan nuclear crisis were being distributed, he said. “It wasn’t the earthquake but the tsunami that knocked out the pumps, generators and batteries. The reactors withstood the earthquake exactly how they were supposed to.”

Hines said the threat of a similar situation happening to the Columbia Generating Station is next-to impossible because it is located far enough inland that the possibility of a tsunami is non-existent. It is also far enough away from the Columbia River, about three miles, that flooding is not a significant threat, according to the Energy Northwest Web site.

Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann was unavailable for comment but in a guest commentary published in the Tri-City Herald he stressed that nuclear facility employees across the country receive detailed and continuous nuclear and plant operations safety training.

“In addition to robust emergency response training and drills, reactor operators train one week out of every six to demonstrate proficiency in their primary responsibilities, and must pass an exam annually to maintain their license,” Reddemann’s guest commentary in the Tri-City Herald.

WSU and OSU both have one megawatt energy production research nuclear reactors. In comparison, the Columbia Generating Station houses a nuclear reactor operating at nearly 1,200 megawatts and the Fukushima nuclear plant produces over 2,000 megawatts.

“The OSU reactor is used only for research and produces one megawatt of power compared to the 2,000 megawatts produced by the reactor in Japan,” Lyn Smith-Gloria, a public information representative in the OSU department of nuclear engineering said. “It uses a small quantity of low-enriched fuel so even if a catastrophic event caused all the water to leak out, the reactor would not melt down or explode.”

Hines said in the event of an earthquake, the WSU reactor takes 0.9 seconds to go from full power to full shutdown. He also said the reactor is generally shut down at the end of the day and restarted in the morning after scram measures and safety checks are conducted.

“95 percent of our job is maintaining the reactor,” Hines said. “ We do daily and routine system checks; we have an eight-page check procedure before starting up the reactor. We are constantly doing preventative and scheduled maintenance.”

He also said there is no environmental or human threat in the minuscule chance the reactor leaked.

“We never want to say never but it’s hard to describe a situation where it (Columbia Generating Station reactor) would leak,” Hines said.

The Japan crisis may affect nuclear energy development in the United States.

Anti-nuclear campaigns are using the nuclear crisis in Japan as a reason why nuclear development should not be pursued in the United States. This crisis comes at a particularly crucial time in the legislative process as Senate Bill 512 IS, the Nuclear Power 2021 Act is currently being reviewed by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“We knew there would be backlash from the crisis in Japan,” Hines said. “It’s unfortunate but the other alternative is coal-powered plants that run on fossil fuels which are extremely harmful to the environment. Nuclear energy has to be a part of the solution.”

He also recognized the option of solar power but said it is not developed enough to compete with the energy amounts created from nuclear reactors.

The Columbia Generating Station is in the process of renewing its license, a process which takes about 30 months, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Web site. The original license for a nuclear plant is 40 years, with renewal periods of every 20 years. According to the Web site, the Columbia Generating Station licensee review should be completed in June of 2012.

Due to the volume of questions NRC has been receiving regarding the current situation in Japan and how a similar crisis would unfold in the United States, the NRC declined to comment on specifics of the issues unfolding abroad. The NRC is referring people with concerns to the NRC Web site for a list of commonly asked questions and answers regarding the local and global nuclear concerns.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sustainability in Practice-WSU student implements change

Washington State University student Skuyler Herzog heard student complaints about WSU’s mandatory student fees, which topped $448 this spring and decided to give the power of choice to fellow students.

Herzog, a senior environmental science major and the Associated Students of Washington State University environmental task force chair, established the optional $5 Cougar Green Fee, available starting summer semester 2011.

Herzog labels himself a sustainability advocate hoping to one day live in a world that unites modern technology with sustainable lifestyles.

“I do not think that we should abandon our modern inventions and lifestyle,” he said. “But as stewards of the earth it is our responsibility to take care of it.

Herzog said everyone can improve efficiency while decreasing environmental impact.
“It doesn’t have to be a choice between iPhones or forests,” he said.

Money collected through the Cougar Green Fee will be placed in the Cougar Green Fund. The fund, managed by the Sustainability and Environmental Committee, will support student proposals regarding sustainability practices on campus, Dwight Hagihara, executive director of Safety, Health, Environmental and Risk Management Services said.

After three years of planning and submitting proposals, over 3,000 student signatures and an ASWSU Senate approved resolution, the Cougar Green Fee obtained final approval from WSU administration about a month ago, Herzog said.

Student support for the optional fee has been strong.

“Even if it just means more recycling bins in the residence halls, I’m all for it (Cougar Green Fee),” said Jesse Soy, a junior biology major. “I’d be fine with it being mandatory because it would go towards something wholesome versus just more stadium and CUB renovations.”

Herzog is pleased with the support he’s gotten from other registered student organizations as well as ASWSU Sens. Derrick Skaug and Bryan Inglin and WSU staff such as WSU Environmental Wellbeing Coordinator Jamie Bentley and Hagihara.

The Cougar Green Fund is designated for undergraduate research and student initiatives regarding sustainability on the Pullman campus, said Herzog. It was established with the idea that students could choose to donate $5 or more, along with faculty, staff and any individual. Herzog hopes it will be implemented at other WSU campuses and inspire similar projects at other universities.

The University of Idaho and Harvard University have had similar funds in place for years, each a little different but what makes the Cougar Green Fund different is that it was student proposed, Hagihara said.

The Cougar Green Fund stemmed from the sustainability initiative, approved in 2009, which led to the creation of the Sustainability and Environment Committee. The SEC is composed of faculty, staff and students to organize and focus WSU environmental efforts.

“The Sustainability Initiative is more of a statement of purpose rather than a specific action, Herzog said. “It established the Sustainability and Environment Committee but the document itself does not provide for further changes, it just establishes WSU’s commitment, which is useful but only if more actions come from it.”

The SEC monitors WSU’s green house gas inventory and developed the Climate Action Plan signed by WSU President Elson S. Floyd, Hagihara said. The Climate Action Plan was a response to President Floyd’s signing of the President’s Climate Commitment. Both are pledges made by WSU to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and identify areas for environmental improvement at WSU.

There is no dedicated funding for campus sustainability as a whole, Hagihara said. Energy efficient lighting in residence halls, the Green Bike program and sustainability-integrated curriculum are some projects already underway but funding for programs like these comes from specific department budgets, not the university as a whole, Bentley said.

“We don’t have an existing fund for sustainability so that is why it (Cougar Green Fund) is needed,” she said. “Most universities have a sustainability office and sustainability officer or coordinator. WSU doesn’t have either of those things because we are in a hiring freeze and financial uncertainty.”

Herzog has big plans for the Cougar Green Fund. He wants to focus on projects like solar power for the CUB and other buildings on campus and create a large campus community garden. Herzog and administrators are also interested in graywater usage on campus but high costs have put the idea on the back burner.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, graywater is water from bathroom sinks, showers and tubs and washing machines. It has not come in contact with human or animal feces but may have traces of dirt, hair, grease and household cleaning products. Graywater can be a beneficial source of irrigation water for landscapes.

“One of the things we would like to look into is the use of treated gray water to irrigate green spaces on campus,” Herzog said. “Currently the gray water exits the Pullman Water Treatment Plant and is just emptied back into the South Fork of the Palouse River while fresh water is used to water the plants. I would like to see the Cougar Green Fund share the cost with the university in the future and make this happen.”

All it took was a few voices, one determined individual and the passion and hard work to get it done. What can you do to help the environment?