Tag Archives: university of kansas

Chancellor has no ‘huge disappointments or regrets’

Hemenway

Hemenwayjump

Featured on the front page of the University Daily Kansan (PDF). Click here for web version.

From the Hill to the Landfill

hammlandfill
photo by Lauren Keith

The four Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, remember this phrase for the rest of eternity) have been drilled into our heads, and it seems Lawrencians are finally learning that one man’s trash is another man’s recycling.

When throwing something away, most people do not usually think about the final destination. Where exactly is “away”?

For most of northeast Kansas, “away” is about 10 miles north of Lawrence, just past the Jefferson County line. Tucked away on 360 acres behind limestone quarries and rows of trees is the Hamm landfill, the final resting place of the University’s trash.

Charlie Sedlock, division manager for Hamm Waste Services, estimates that KU Facilities Operations hauls in about 40 tons per month. He says this number changes seasonally, but this averages out to about 3 pounds of trash per student every month.

Current statistics show that an average American produces a little more than 7 pounds of trash every week.

How could it be that the average American generates a pound of trash daily, but KU students are only producing one-tenth of that?

Enter the ubiquitous blue recycling bins that litter campus.

Sedlock says the amount of trash generated per person has decreased because of recycling. Even though the landfill serves more customers, Sedlock says the amount of waste coming in has plateaued during the last five years.

Even as a waste company, Sedlock says Hamm Waste Services has a vested interest in seeing cost-effective and well reasoned recycling programs succeed.

“Disposal is the cheapest option, but not necessarily the only option,” he says. “It’s more of a philosophical question. If the citizenry that our clients are serving want some sort of recycling program and our client is able to do that in a cost-effective manner, we think it’s a win-win situation. If they aren’t serving their citizens, then multi-national corporations can come in and take control.”

Although many picture the surface of the landfill as a liquefied mess of diapers and yard clippings, the ground is actually hard, and the landfill appears to be filled with discarded paper products. Sedlock says the largest percentage of waste coming in is paper products, such as cardboard.

All paper products can be recycled, and the City of Lawrence is doing a better job of advertising this, but Sedlock says that by the time they get to the landfill, they are beyond being returned to the blue bins.

“It’s not an environment for recycling by the time it gets here,” Sedlock says.

When trash is dumped, the pressure that accumulates from the weight of the trash above does not allow it to break down and biodegrade.

“It becomes mummified trash,” Sedlock says. “I can show you a banana peel from the day you were born or a yellowed newspaper from 1984.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the No. 1 source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Sedlock says waste produces a mixture of gases for about 20 years after it is discarded, peaking like a bell curve in the middle of the life cycle.

He says a fair share of gas passively vents from the landfill, but it is required to meet regulatory EPA thresholds.

However, a promising aspect of methane is the fact that it is one of the few greenhouse gases that can be harnessed to create energy.

Sedlock says Hamm Waste Services will look into converting emitted methane into energy, but the current system lacks a way to transport that energy.

It seems like Lawrence has overcome the hurdle of creating an effective recycling program, but it was disheartening to see that the majority of the waste in the landfill could have been recycled. Residents in the northeastern part of the state have obviously decreased the flow of waste going into the landfill, but the city and the University should look into mandatory recycling programs that would cut this back even more.

We can’t trash-talk recycling any longer. With recycling bins and other trash alternatives available nearly everywhere, there’s no excuse not to clean up your act.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Feb. 28, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.

The Forgotten Greenhouse Gas

vegetarian
image from gogreen

“Too chicken to go vegetarian?”

A recent batch of ads sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) asks this question.

Though PETA’s primary concern is for the animals, eating meat is actually deadly for the planet, too. One of the leading contributors to climate change is the amount of methane gas released by current methods of agricultural production.

Methane is the chief component of natural gas, but the place that it’s coming from these days seems anything but natural. One cow farts and burps out more than 63 gallons of methane daily. Multiply that by the 1.3 billion cattle in the world, and the planet is going to need a bit more than a dose of Gas-X to cure this problem.

Not surprisingly, several so-called environmentalists have had trouble addressing this problem. Not once in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, did Al Gore mention methane, probably because it’s the most inconvenient truth of all. Your flesh-eating tendencies are killing the planet (among other things).

The beef industry gets a prime cut of the blame, but the other industries are guilty as well. The production of two pounds of beef releases more greenhouse gases than taking a three-hour drive in your Hummer while leaving the lights on back home, according to New Science magazine.

It can be a lonely world come mealtime for us vegetarians in the Midwest (motto: Beef, it’s what’s for every meal of the day). Even food that appears to be vegetarian is sometimes cooked in animal fat or contains traces of meat.

Fortunately, dining services on campus have been receptive to the needs of vegetarians and others looking for the occasional meat-free meal.

“We are always looking for vegetarian recipes,” says Nona Golledge, director of KU Dining Services. “Even though someone may not classify themselves as a vegetarian, they still want healthier options.”

Golledge estimates that about 26 percent of Dining Services’ 5,000 recipes are vegetarian.

For students who don’t want to make the full transition, residence hall dining facilities serve soy Boca burgers and black bean burgers.

On-campus dining selections have a huge influence on what students eat. Golledge says that on an average day, the 20 on-campus dining operations serve about 10,000 people.

KU Dining Services recently introduced organic foods into select venues, and meat from Local Burger—a restaurant that serves only locally raised meat­—is offered in The Market in the Kansas Union. As consumers, we should buy organic and local products whenever possible because doing so cuts down on pollution while also supporting our local economy.

Becoming a full-fledged vegetarian is a bold and difficult move. I don’t know how many more films like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me or visits to TheMeatrix it will take for people to make the move to eating less meat, but we can’t keep farting around with such a serious environmental problem.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Feb. 21, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.

Who is the greenest presidential candidate?

snowman
image from Breitbart

Next week, Kansas Democrats and Republicans will rock out with their caucuses out to choose a candidate for the presidential election.

Unfortunately, little has been brought up at either side’s debates about the environment, excluding a snowman that apparently posted video questions on YouTube for one of the first Democratic debates this season.

Here is a quick look at how green each of the remaining candidates are.

Democrats

Hillary Clinton
hillary-walmart

image from AverageBro

Policy Pro: Clinton has spent her Senate years as a member of the Environment and Public Works committee, so she understands the need for change.

Controversial Con: She was on Wal-Mart’s board of directors from 1986-1992 and may still be bogged down by “big business.” She probably won’t find global warming solutions in Aisle 5.

Barack Obama
obama
image from Earthfirst

Policy Pro: Obama received endorsements from the Sierra Club and The League of Conservation Voters for his position in the Senate. He has fewer ties to polluting industries and should be able to choose better advisers.

Controversial Con: He supports the now-typical cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050, a lofty (and easily avoidable) goal.

John Edwards
edwards_convention_5
image from The Washington Note

Policy Pro: First candidate to make his campaign carbon-neutral and the first to propose many touted talking points, such as the 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.

Controversial Con: Support of ethanol as an alternative fuel source, even though its efficiency and cost-effectiveness have been called into question.

Mike Gravel
mike_gravel_offical_photo
image from Greenhome

Policy Pro: Work with other countries to reduce emissions, outlaw coal as an energy source.

Controversial Con: Is anyone sure he’s still running for president? I think he just likes seeing himself on YouTube.

Republicans

Rudy Giuliani
75041934RR252_Pepsi_400_
image from USLiberals

Policy Pro: Um, turn the lights off when you leave the room?

Controversial Con: Supports an increased reliance on coal and domestic oil. At least the haze from unregulated greenhouse gases should avert potential terrorists.

Mike Huckabee
GYI0000628879.jpg
image from Gregqualls

Policy Pro: Draws in the much-needed Evangelical conservatives with the 11th Commandment: Father God created Mother Earth.

Controversial Con: What would Jesus do? I suppose He would support coal pollution and be vague about setting goals.

Mitt Romney
mitt-romney
image from TheBrownSpectator

Policy Pro: Supports plans for energy independence and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Controversial Con: After claiming that people don’t want change in the White House and being tied to a global warming denier group, he’s not too interested.

Ron Paul
ron-paul
image from GreenDaily

Policy Pro: Would end subsidies to the oil industry and believes that war is a contributor to pollution problems.

Controversial Con: Paul’s campaign is determined by the free market.

John McCain
mccain
image from The Guardian

Policy Pro: First Republican to talk seriously on the issue and to understand the connection between global warming and national security.

Controversial Con: Ironically, the driver of the Straight Talk Express hasn’t mentioned any specific targets to combat climate change.

Candidate information from Grist.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Jan. 31, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.

How To Bring the Environmental Message to Conservatives

bush
image from National Post

Finally, something may exist that both environmentalists and George W. Bush can agree on: the ineffectiveness of fear mongering.

Because of the fake severity of their message, “doomsday” environmentalists who claim that the world will end in a few years if mankind doesn’t act quickly have turned many people off to caring about the world around them.

You don’t necessarily have to care about polar bears, how quickly Greenland is melting or how fast the ozone is depleting. But you should realize how your actions tie into environmental changes we see locally and globally.

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh started the countdown on a doomsday clock after the release of An Inconvenient Truth because he claims that the documentary warned that global warming will kill us all in 10 years. I would tell you the time we have left to live on this earth, according to Limbaugh’s clock, but unfortunately I cannot access it on his Web site because I’m not a Rush 24/7 Member. Damn.

Do you care about the world around you? Well, let’s just say that you don’t.

And you don’t necessarily have to.

To live green, your motivations can be entirely selfish. You only need to care about yourself, your wallet and your species’ ultimate survival.

Although green living and the belief in global warming usually go hand in hand, you don’t have to get married to the idea. You don’t necessarily have to care about polar bears, how quickly Greenland is melting or how fast the ozone is depleting. But you should realize how your actions tie into environmental changes we see locally and globally.

Yes, you’re right. I will probably pimp Al Gore at the drop of an Arctic ice sheet because I think he has done a wonderful job of bringing visibility to a previously downplayed issue.

However, this is a problem that transcends political boundaries, and I want to bring as many viewpoints to the table as possible.

What many people have a problem with is the confusing wording used by the scientific community when describing the problem.

Isn’t global warming only a theory?

Exactly.

In science, everything is theoretical, and nothing can ever be completely proved or disproved. A mere hypothesis can only move into the upper echelons of being a theory after numerous tests, experiments and other hypotheses have failed to falsify the evidence.

Check out any 100-level chemistry or biology course.

Everyone seems to be content with many other theories that we deal with daily, such as the theory of gravity. Maybe when Americans can see climate change in their everyday lives will we finally commit to living a greener lifestyle.

Even if you still think that global warming is caused by a bunch of liberals blowing hot air, that’s fine.

Whatever your political viewpoints, your background, your socio-economic standing or your Facebook status, you can all be green with me.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Jan. 24, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.

4 Things You Need to Solve Global Warming

global-warming
image from recon2020

Today I would like to say a few words about global warming.

And now that I’ve lost half my readers, let’s get down to business.

Concerns about global warming have fueled the need for fundamental changes in daily life. The green movement is emerging everywhere, and businesses are finally picking up on the trend.

As college students, we know the value of a dollar, especially because we usually don’t have one. A common misconception about switching to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle is that it will be outrageously expensive and too time-consuming to fit your busy schedule.

Not true.

Whether being green is something you’ve been practicing for awhile, something that you set as a New Year’s resolution or something that you think is a huge crock spun by Al Gore, there is one facet of it that college students in particular will love: Going green means saving green.

The first and best thing you can do is to admit the problem. This does not necessarily mean that you have to believe in global warming (so I will spare you a lecture on receding glaciers and the changing chemical composition of our atmosphere), but it means that you must realize the excess and mindlessness that is plaguing modern American culture. Behind all the science and terminology of global climate change is stuff you care about, such as saving money and being able to breathe.

Here are a few items to pick up when you’re ready to start your journey into the green beyond:

Your brain. Always helpful when stepping out of the status quo.

“An Inconvenient Truth.” This documentary has become one of the most visible elements of the modern environmental movement, thanks in large part to its speaker, former vice president Al Gore (ctrl-alt-del the “inventing the internet” jokes). Gore bridges the gap between scientists and the common people by translating the heavy, technical language of science into something the public can easily understand.

A recycling bin. An excellent first step to reducing waste.

A good pair of walking shoes. The absolute best way to avoid high gas prices and to not contribute to them.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Jan. 17, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.