TEA Newsletter – 2nd Edition – Fall 2009

 TIE Orange

TEA@TIE

E-Newsletter

September 9, 2009

 

Table of Contents


Letter from the Program Manager

Featured Profile: Greg Watson

New Website from a TIE Partner: Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

Faculty Spotlight: Tim Griffin

Featured Graduate Research Fellow: Olivia Varley-Winter

Greening the Campus: The Office of Sustainability


Antje Danielson

Welcome Back to TEA@TIE!

As the arriving undergrads are bringing life back to campus and faculty are getting ready to teach, we at the TIE office reflect on a very busy summer. Our time was spent on plans and preparations for new initiatives (you will hear more about those in future newsletters), fund raising, planning for the WSSS program, and the Solar Decathlon project. Most of the work was done by nine very productive interns who prepared this newsletter and the fall alumni event.

They also made sure recycling is up and running on the medical campus, worked on urban sustainability research questions with Professor Kent Portney, interviewed all of the TELI participants of the last two years, took footage of the Solar Decathlon team for a documentary, investigated the options for the final destination of the Solar Decathlon house, and prepared a brand new Ex-College class on sustainable behavior.

As you are probably aware, the inaugural TEA event is coming up Wednesday, September 9th. At the event Greg Watson, E’71, from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will share his thoughts on the current economy’s impact on the development of sustainable energy opportunities. For those of you who can’t attend the meeting, we will report on his speech in the next newsletter. Mr. Watson’s presentation will be preceded by a poster session highlighting the critical projects and cutting-edge research being undertaken by various departments, offices, and institutes within Tufts University. Although reservations are closed for the dinner and the lecture, you can still join us for the reception, networking, and a tour of the Solar Decathlon house from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in Sophia Gordon Hall, which is a LEED Gold certified residence hall with a beautiful multi-purpose room.

Our biggest challenge right now is the Tufts/BAC Curio House. All summer the students and volunteers have been building the house behind Jackson Gym. It is almost finished. My deepest thanks to every one of you who has helped by donating funds, inkind materials, and/or services. The economic downturn hit the team hard, but so many of you came through. The team could not have gotten this far without your help! However, we are now facing the challenge of getting the students to Washington DC and feeding and housing them while they are there. If you live in the DC area and would like to help by offering meals and/or accommodation, please get in touch with me at TIE by clicking here . If you are unable to feed or house them, please consider a cash donation. We still need to raise about $50,000 dollars and will greatly appreciate help of any size! You can easily donate to the project directly via the Tufts alumni website (Designation 3: Solar Decathlon) or on the Curio website.

At the end of September, the house will be taken down and transported to Washington for the competition. On October 16th we will know how the team fared. We are optimistic! If you are in the DC area between October 8 and 16, you should take the opportunity to look at the houses on the Mall. You can also tour our house on the Tufts campus before September 21st. For images and more information please visit the website at www.livecurio.us.

Lastly, I would like to alert you to an evaluation we will start in the next few months. We will be looking at the environmental undergraduate offerings at Tufts and will randomly survey the Tufts environmental community to better understand the needs of stakeholders inside and outside of College. If you receive one of our surveys, please take a few minutes to fill it out. By doing so, you will help us keep Tufts at the forefront of environmental education.

I wish you a wonderful autumn and hope you will be able to enjoy some clear crisp fall days after this hot muggy summer. I am looking forward to meeting many of you in Medford and Washington DC in the coming months.

Antje Danielson
Tufts Institute of the Environment

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Featured Profile: Greg Watson

By Kiersten von Trapp, G’10

Greg Watson
 Greg Watson is Senior Advisor for Clean Energy Technology at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, and Vice President for Sustainable Development at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.  He is also the keynote speaker at the first Tufts Environmental Alumni (TEA) Event and the first recipient of the Tufts Environmental Alumni Excellence award.
How did your Tufts experience lead you to where you are today?

I attended Tufts during one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation’s history.  My Tufts experience overlapped the Viet Nam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (and the attempted assassination of George Wallace), the ’68 Chicago Democratic convention, the Kent State killings and the country’s first Earth Day.  All this made me question some of the goals I had when I arrived on campus in 1967.

Environmental concerns were high on my list – having grown up in Cleveland, Ohio along the banks of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, a body of water so polluted that its surface would occasionally burst into flames. But I asked myself: “As an African American at this point in history, why should I commit my time and energies to environmental causes?”

I was struggling with this question when I enrolled in an Environmental Studies course taught by Professor Norton Nickerson.  Professor Nickerson was an incredibly gifted lecturer.  Taking his course helped solidify my decision to pursue environmental issues.

Tufts67
Greg Watson (middle) speaking with Tufts president Burton Hallowell and classmate Carl Tomasso, 1967
BUG
Boston Urban Gardners
What other experiences led to where you are now?

I’ve had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time and to meet some amazing people over the years.  In the early 1970s, I was introduced to community organizing and environmental activism as a volunteer with an organization called Boston Urban Gardeners (BUG).  BUG organized inner city residents for the purpose of gaining access to land and tools so they could meet some portion of their own food needs with their own hands.  In the process I came to understand that environmental issues were very much an urban concern.

One experience that had a tremendously profound effect on me was the opportunity to teach environmental science on Thompson Island (located in Boston Harbor).  The Thompson Island Harbor Environment Program was created when South Boston High School was put into receivership following the troubles that arose as a direct result of court ordered busing to achieve racial integration in

Boston’s public schools.  Every day we would load 30 white kids from Southie and 30 black kids from Dorchester onto a boat at Kelly’s Landing and head for the island where we taught an innovative course in environmental science that incorporated all the basics—reading, writing, math—with a rigorous Outward Bound-type experience.  All of the teachers were young and relatively inexperienced.  As a result, I’m convinced we learned as much (if not more) from the experience as the kids did.  By the way, the community service project we built for Thompson Island during the first semester was a wind turbine built from (among other things) metal drums that washed ashore.
Wind
Wind Turbine, Thompson Island

Finally, there was my discovery of the work of R. Buckminster Fuller.  “Bucky” has been the single greatest influence on my thinking and approach to problem solving. I happened upon one of his books entitled Intuition while browsing in a Cambridge bookstore around 1974. It was written in a poetry-prose form that I’d never encountered before.  The next year he published Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking –a tour de force in whole systems thinking. At the time, my wife and I had $100 in the bank.  Synergetics cost $25.00 (a lot for a book back then, but it was over 400 pages).  I decided I had to buy it, but after I did I was afraid to come home with it.  When I finally mustered the courage to tell my wife what I’d done, she asked me to at least tell her what the book was about.  I had to be honest and say “I really don’t know yet.”

What is the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative?  What is your role at MTC?

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is a quasi-state agency whose mission is to help build and strengthen Massachusetts’ technology-/innovation-driven economic sectors.  In 1999, the Massachusetts Legislature chose MTC to administer the Renewable Energy Trust, which had recently been created as part of the restructuring of the state’s electric utility industry.  I was fortunate to be selected as the Trust’s first executive director.

I am currently “on loan” to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs under Secretary Ian Bowles, where I serve as Senior Advisor for Clean Energy Technologies.

What is the Offshore Wind Collaborative?  What is your role with the Offshore Wind Collaborative?

The U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative (USOWC) is an interdisciplinary public/private partnership formed to facilitate the development and growth of a sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States.  USOWC provides a venue for the full range of interested stakeholders (including those with serious concerns) to come together and help guide this nation’s offshore wind industry in a direction that will successfully meet economic and environmental goals while addressing legitimate concerns.

What is next on the agenda for the Offshore Wind Collaborative?

We are currently in the process of establishing USOWC as a nonprofit organization. We will soon release an overview of U.S. offshore wind activities with suggestions on what areas where states can and must work together to foster the development of a robust offshore wind industry – one that will not only address critical climate change challenges but that will be the source of thousands of jobs as well.

An article on the Collaborative came out today on ClimateWire.  Click here to read the article, Offshore wind: States sharing the sea for new industry.

We are excited to have you speak at the inaugural Tufts Environmental Alumni Event on September 9th, 2009.  Your topic is Sustainable Energy in Today’s Economy. What should students be learning today to get involved in sustainable energy in the future? What can alumni do to get involved or to help students get involved?

There are some obvious responses:  First and foremost, do whatever you can in your own life (on and off campus) to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many colleges and universities are actively involved in greening their campuses.  Many also hold forums on climate change, renewable energy and related topics open to both students and the general public.  As far as formal education is concerned, gain a solid background in the areas of environmental science and/or policy; engineers might want to focus on energy efficiency techniques or specific clean energy technologies including wind, solar, or geothermal.

As for the not-so-obvious, I would stress becoming conversant in systems thinking and in the art of collaboration.

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Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI): Carbon Offset Research and Education Initiative

By Anja Kollmuss

The Tufts Climate Initiative (now part of the Tufts Office of Sustainability) started looking into carbon offsets* in 2006. At the time, there was little independent research available on the quality of carbon offsets, so Anja Kollmuss, a UEP alumnus and then TCI staff member, started researching offsets and offset providers. The result was an in-depth report and a website which provided information for offset buyers around the world. Anja has since transitioned to the Stockholm Environment Institute but still researches offset markets and standards.

The U.S. Center of the Stockholm Environment Institute is a research affiliate of Tufts and part of a larger international research organization working on sustainable development. SEI’s work is interdisciplinary in nature: drawing upon engineering, economics, ecology, ethics, operations research, international relations and software design. SEI conducts applied scientific research to bring the best available science to policy makers. SEI

In the spring of this year, Anja overhauled the old TCI offset website. The new site is now maintained by SEI and was launched in June: The Carbon Offset Research and Education (CORE) website provides an up-to-date analysis and synthesis of the most influential offset programs and activities. It reflects on lessons learned, and aims to inform consumers as well as participants and designers of current and future offset programs. It is divided into three interlinked sections:

  • Policy Information, which provides in-depth analysis and information about offset design and policies.
  • Consumer Information, which provides information relevant to offset buyers and offers an introduction to the world of carbon offsetting.
  • Aviation Information, which provides an introduction to the issues related to GHG calculations from aviation for carbon offsetting.

For more information, visit the new website at www.co2offsetresearch.org

*Carbon offset: The purpose of carbon offsets it to negate or diminish the impact of emitting carbon dioxide by paying someone else to absorb, or avoid the release of, an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide elsewhere.  A carbon credit represents the offset of one ton of carbon dioxide.

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Faculty Spotlight: Tim Griffin

By Kiersten von Trapp, G’10

 

When did you come to Tufts?

I started on August 1, 2008, so I just finished (or survived) my first year.

Tim Griffin What is your position here at Tufts?

I am the Director of the Agriculture Food and Environment program.  This is a trans-disciplinary program in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  We work on many aspects of the food system, but are particularly interested in “interfaces;” for example, how farming interacts positively or negatively with the environment, or how food access and nutrition are related.  The AFE program is unique in the U.S. by bringing together these areas, and also by focusing on having science inform the development and implementation of policy at multiple levels.

How does your work and research at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy relate to the goals of Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE)?

The goals of the AFE program and TIE are very closely aligned in a number of ways.  The first is pretty obvious –they both have an environmental focus.  They also both work across disciplines.  Both programs also focus on interactions or, as I called them earlier, interfaces.  The really difficult environmental issues and other issues related to the food system will, in my opinion, only be solved by working on these interactions.  In fact, many of the prominent environmental issues that are related to agriculture resulted from not thinking about how these interactions work.

What is your involvement in the Tufts Water: Systems, Science, and Society (WSSS) program?

I knew about the WSSS program before I came to Tufts last year.  When I moved here last summer, it was one of the first connections I made.  Currently, I am a member of the steering committee that looks at the different components of the program (research, curriculum, professional development of students, etc.).  Agriculture is the biggest water user on the planet, and also one of the primary causes of water quality programs.  There are also close connections between water availability, water quality, and food security.  Much of my research over the past 20 years or so has been looking at nutrient availability, to minimize the potential movement to water.  In addition, many of the students in the AFE program are interested in the many connections between agriculture and water. These connections are addressed in each of the three classes I teach, and will also be the topic of directed studies by groups of students in AFE.

There is a lot of talk about controversial agricultural issues these days: local food, organic farming, seasonal food, water consumption by agriculture, urban agriculture, and the impacts of agriculture on carbon retention, among others.  From your standpoint, what’s the most the most important issue for consumers to focus on?  What specific actions would you recommend?

The first step is for people (all of whom are food consumers) to think about their food!  In the U.S., we have a lot of what I would call “anonymous food.”  Not only do we not know where it came from, many people don’t even think about where it comes from, or how it was produced. This is the reason that, in the AFE program, we spend a lot of time developing an understanding of what our food system actually looks like – then we think about how to change it. The really interesting thing happening now is that people are talking about food – consumers, advocacy groups, people in government.  Once you get past this step, it is also important to acknowledge that, as consumers, we are all part of that food system, and that the parts of the system are connected – so the choices you make do matter.  I don’t think the food system just happens to us, but rather results from individual and collective decisions.  What we have focused on for the last 60 years or so is cost (cheaper) and yield (higher).  Looks like we are now rethinking those two goals.

You have been involved in education and outreach to develop sustainable agriculture and nutrient management programs.  What specific recommendations and strategies do you promote?

One of the consistent themes in trying to develop more sustainable systems is getting past the practices to think about the system.  This includes balancing different aims – like yield, food quality, and the environment.  As I said above, focusing on one goal, or a very narrow range of goals, is the road that got us where we are.  One area that I have been interested in is integrated production systems (that have crops and animals).  These don’t have to be on the same farm, but need to be in proximity to each other.  That means that individual farms can still specialize (and that has its advantages), so the integration can take place across farms, or across watersheds, or at some appropriate scale.  The AFE program (students and myself included) are also very interested in regional scale food systems, thinking not only about production, but also processing, distribution, and access.

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Featured Graduate Research Fellow: Olivia Varley-Winter

By Olivia Varley-Winter

MSc Candidate: Nature Society & Environmental Policy at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University.

 Farmstand I visited Boston this July to research my Masters dissertation on the subject of local food and social justice. During my month’s stay, I benefited greatly from making several contacts in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy as well as in the broader Boston community.

Through interviews and participant observation, my dissertation explores how Boston food initiatives approach low-income access to local food. Poverty is a significant issue in Boston.

In 2007, 21.8% of people across the 8th congressional district (which includes South Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea) were living at or below the poverty line, and that figure has probably increased since the recession took hold.

For many people in the United States, as in the United Kingdom, local and/or organic food is seen as healthier and more desirable than conventional food. However, the concept that local food initiatives can also benefit the poor-that is, the notion of “Community Food Security”–has had more coherent backing in the United States than in the UK.

It is clear that this notion comes with a challenge, which is that local and/or organic food is generally priced  higher than conventional equivalents and is not as widely accessible. Programs such as the City of Boston’s ‘Bounty Bucks’ scheme, that doubles SNAP/Food Stamp allowances at farmers’ markets, seek to overcome these boundaries. Such programs are bound to succeed more in some respects than in others. For example, I found that farmers’ markets are only a minor outlet through which to incentivise the purchase of healthy food, therefore schemes such as Boston Bounty Bucks are better placed to benefit the incomes of small food producers, than the overall diets of people on Food Stamps.

A further aspect of my research findings, is that collaboration, outreach, and public meetings are all valuable to inform Community Food initiatives and make them more inclusive. However they may not be enough to ensure success. I think, as do many advocates, that experimentation and exploratory research into the public interest should be prioritised, to help advocates work toward social justice and sustainability in the food system. Moreover, there are some issues that cannot be fully and meaningfully addressed at a municipal scale, therefore it is important not to forget the influence of state and national policies. Farmers Market

I very much enjoyed my first experience of Boston, which was greatly helped by the interest and generosity of the people I met.  I’d like to extend my thanks to the following former and present Tufts faculty and students who I met with: Molly Anderson, John Cook, Parke Wilde, Hugh Joseph, Tim Griffin, Tara Fiechter-Russo, Angel Park and Julie Dreyfus for their input to my research, and particularly to Antje Danielson for that and everything else.

If you have comments or feedback, please sent an e-mail to environmental-alumni@tufts.edu.

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Greening the Campus: The Office of Sustainability

By Tina Woolston and Sarah Hammond Creighton

 

Sarah Hammond Creighton
Sarah Hammond Creighton, Project Manager of The Office of Sustainability.

Tufts Office of Sustainability is the hub for efforts to green Tufts’ three campuses, partnering with a range of departments to install solar energy or compost food scraps.  But the Office also works directly with hundreds of students who wish to investigate technologies, policies, and techniques that can be applied on campus.

This Fall, graduate research assistant Dallase Scott was hired by the Office of Sustainability to develop and co-teach a course with Tina Woolston, Project Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, in the Experimental College.  This undergraduate course entitled “Environmental Action: Shifting from Saying to Doing” will use psychology, social marketing and critical thinking to examine current environmental issues impacting our world. As students become environmentally literate they will also be given tools to examine their and their peers’ personal behavior and learn how to create behavior change.

This course aims to empower students to find their voice as they become leaders in environmental action; learning practical skills in communication, social marketing campaigns, and event planning. Activities during the semester will include: critical thinking research examining current environmental issues, personal challenges, campus social marketing group projects, and the opportunity to prepare for and host a symposium on peer-to-peer sustainability education with Boston-area colleges and universities. By the end of the semester students will leave this class with a new perspective of themselves, society and the environment.

With support from the Tufts Institute of the Environment, Dallase will study the efficacy of the value-based teaching used in this course in creating leaders and changing behaviors during the spring semester of 2010 for her Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning master’s thesis.

In addition, the Office of Sustainability offers staff and faculty members the opportunity to become “Eco-Ambassadors.” Eco-Ambassadors participate in a yearlong training program to learn about sustainability issues and how they can effect change in their own department or office. Last year’s ambassadors undertook projects to reduce waste from special events, rid their office of bottle water, and green the Tisch Library. This year groups are forming on all three campuses.

For more information about the Office of Sustainability at Tufts and our initiatives with purchasing, food, buildings, transportation and more, visit us at http://sustainability.tufts.edu/.

Environmental Action: Shifting from Saying to Doing
1.0 credit, Letter-graded
Monday, 6:00-8:30 PM, Olin 101, Call #04205

This course is designed for students who want a different way to examine the “truths” behind the environmental concerns in the news. Through the lens of psychology, social marketing and critical thinking, this course will examine the current environmental issues impacting our world. As students become environmentally literate they will also be given tools to examine their and their peers’ personal behavior and learn how to create behavior change. This course aims to empower students to find their voice as they become leaders in environmental action; learning practical skills in communication, social marketing campaigns, and event planning. Activities during the semester will include: critical thinking research examining current environmental issues, personal challenges, campus social marketing group projects, and the opportunity to prepare for and host a symposium on peer-to-peer sustainability education with Boston-area colleges and universities. By the end of the semester students will leave this class with a new perspective of themselves, society and the environment.

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