Congratulations unPLUg Winners!

Congrats to Hong, Pflueger, T-stad and Ordal for a great win.  All together, the residence halls saved 47,000 kWh and nearly $2,000 off of October’s utility bill.

So today Sustainability Department staff are passing out smartstrips to the winning halls. These halls are also moving on to bracket 2 in February, where winning halls will receive $500 to do with what they wish.   Check out more about the BITS smartstrip here.



Going Green is Fact not Fiction at Humber College

Published: October 16, 2009

Humber College is reducing its environmental footprint through ‘brighter’ green initiatives.

Recently, 1050 halogen lights were replaced at the North and Lakeshore campuses with new LED lights from CRS Electronics Inc. “The energy reduction is significant from 50W per lamp down to 6W and they last much longer which reduces waste,” says Spencer Wood, manager, Maintenance & Operations.

The change in bulbs is expected to reduce Humber’s energy consumption from 2,625,000 kWh to 315,000 kWh over the life of the bulbs and generate an 88 per cent reduction in electrical demand and consumption.

This is the latest of many energy efficiency measures that have been implemented in the past three years. Humber is currently using 15 per cent less energy per square foot than four years ago.

“Making the decision to switch to a greener product was easy. During testing it was clear that CRS’s MR16 outperformed the competition,” said David Griffin, manager, Maintenance & Operations. “With CRS’s innovative lights we will reduce operating costs by $525,000 over the estimated nine-year life of the bulbs, in addition to doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

For more information on Humber, visit:

Sustainability Committee Meeting 10/21/09

Attendees: Brian Naasz, Andrew Ratzke, Becca Krzmarzick, Emily Tollefson, Joe Bell, Barb McConathy, Dave Kohler, Chrissy Cooley, Wendy Robins,
1. Announcements

-Tabling for Take Back The Tap next Mon, Tues 11-2 in Red Square

-Will also be calling for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act! –


-Hired Kenny Stansel to be the new Program Leader for Sustainability


-More halls signed up Sustainability Directors

-America Recycles kick off coming soon, thinking about Lids Off campaign


-True Cleaning event in the works for Nov. 18th, as part of America Recycles Week


-It was decided that a 2 each of smartstrips, TBTT bottles, and resusable bags will be donated for the Christmas Luncheon

2. unPLUg

– the way winners are announced needs to be planned, possibly dinner time at the UC

– Next bracket is in February, prizes are a concern

– Monitoring will continue to see if there is an impact when not in competition


-Tabling is next week

-Charter still needs some work to add a metric/tracking component and the responsible parties

-RHA volunteered their swipe system to develop a voluntary listserv as people sign the pledge


-A walkthrough has been scheduled for 2:30 on 11/4 with Joe, Andrew, Dave, and Sara Paz

-Becca and Andrew are in the process of picking out racks

-Emphasis on promoting a bike culture as the big picture, not just installing racks.  This could include

A bike parade

Selling helmets

Incorporated LuteFit

Revamping the bike co-op

5.South Sound Sustainability Summit and Expo

-Keynote Speaker is still needed

-General theme is “activating the green generation”

-Next meeting is 10/22, sponsorship will be a major topic of discussion

-Concerns over placement of the Expo, Olson vs. UC

Women’s Club knows the layouts well

6.PLU 2020

-Task Force will be starting in regards to incorporating sustainability into 2020 planning

Do toilet seat covers actually protect you from anything? Aside from the ick factor?

The answer is no.  Most diseases, in order to spread, have to get inside the body.  When you sit on a toilet seat, your touching it with your skin, whose whole purpose is to keep you in and everything else out.  It’s pretty good at that job, too.

Even if a toilet seat is covered in filth (which, sadly, it often is), it can’t actually get into your body.  You could get it on your hands, which then convey it to your mouth, but that applies to everything you touch in the bathroom.  So wash your hands when you use the bathroom.  (If nothing else, just because you happen to be where a sink is.)

You can’t even get herpes from a toilet seat; the virus is just too fragile.  There have been exactly zero reported cases of toilet-seat-mediated herpes transmission.

There are a very few rare skin diseases that could be transmitted, but that’s just theoretical; I’m not aware of a single case of it actually happening.

Other people’s urine is kind of gross, but it’s also usually sterile.  Even when it’s not (such as a bladder infection), it can’t infect you unless it gets inside you somehow, which is vastly more likely to happen via your hands than your butt muscles.  (Your anus is a potential route, but it’s not actually in contact with the toilet seat, and it’s also pretty good at keeping stuff out.)

So if toilet seat covers are not popular for their protective qualities, why does our society still use them?  Put simply, the ick factor.  That’s it.  Because a few people think that a thin film of tissue paper will somehow ward off disease, they choose to spend the money, and waste the natural resources to keep propagating the myth.  Here on PLU, toilets are cleaned daily and in some high use buildings like the University Center, they’re cleaned twice!  But also on PLU, cases of toilet seat covers are purchased at $39 a pop, about 24 cases a month.

For what?  Toilet seat covers do not protect your bum even when toilets are dirty, and at PLU they are cleaned daily.  This is an expensive and wasteful product designed to clog toilets, make messes and fool those people in society who are scared of coodies. The only reason they aren’t being yanked from PLU bathrooms everywhere is the fear that people will just start using toilet paper to drape the seat instead.  This is a bigger problem than just toilet seats.  There needs to be an education campaign to show how to be safe, but how to do so with sanity.

National Teach In

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Sustainability expert Hunter Lovins joins The National Climate Seminar at 3 PM Eastern on Wednesday, 10/21. Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism, will discuss:

Call-in number is 712-432-3100, conference code is 253385. Send advance questions for Lovins to
After the Seminar, stay on the call to learn how you can help Swamp the Senate! (with invitations). Sign-up and invite your US Senators to engage with students in dialogue at your college, university, high school, faith organization or other institution, about global warming solutions. Invite your US Senators to join you at a 90-minute “Signs of Change Teach-in”—we have a template for a session that is easy to organize, including sample invitations, here.
The Senators may not come, but you can insist that they send a representative from their state offices to talk with you. In DC and in Copenhagen, this is the year that the world decides the future. With the stakes this high, we owe young people a day of focused discussion, and the opportunity to join this critical national debate.
This Saturday, please support the 350 International Day of Action. Thanks for the work you are doing.
Professor Eban Goodstein,
Director National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions

Carrying Capacity

I spent this past weekend in Ft. Benning, Georgia visiting my fiance and meeting some of his new Army buddies.  While down in good ol’ Georgia, we were graciously invited to a military-style barbecue for Columbus Day.  It was a beautiful day, and a great way to spend it was with these great people.  So while there, the favorite subject for us recently-engaged types was, “When are you going to have kids?”

Now, Seamus and I have thought long and hard on this one.  We are both from huge Irish families, and he grew up wanting to have a big family, too.  I on the other hand, cannot possibly justifying adding to the I=PAT equation, especially with so many deserving kids looking for adoption.  So we decided long ago that if we were to have a big family, the only possible way would be through adoption, probably siblings, and probably older kids.

Back to the barbecue.  While I am standing there with my Styrofoam plate in hand, with slow-cooked ribs and individually wrapped potato chips, I was asked how many kids I wanted to have someday.  And these military couples are great people.  They serve our country for us with often no thanks, they make huge sacrifices for you and I, and these particular couples had served up one heck of a barbecue.   I really wanted to be honest with them, and build some sort of true relationship.  They were so nice!  I couldn’t pass off the question, or lie and say “bring on the babies.”

Instead, I tried to explain carrying capacity to them.  Stupid. stupid. stupid.  After my dumb stuttering for 10 minutes about the planet’s maximum threshold, and the human influence on climate, my fiance finally steered me away and safe to the shrimp stand.  I don’ think that I changed any minds.  One woman even told me to scratch all that, being pregnant is the best way to kill time while your husband is deployed.

On the way home I moaned about whether these people didn’t understand a basic common sense term like “carrying capacity” because we were in the South, or maybe because they are so involved in the military, or something entirely different.  And then Seamus told me something horrifying; he had never heard the term either.

I am hereby making it my mission to blog about carrying capacity today so that everyone who reads this is informed.

CARRYING CAPACITY = The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment. For the human population, more complex variables such as sanitation and medical care are sometimes considered as part of the necessary infrastructure. (wikipedia)

Scientific discussion as early as the 60’s have discussed the carrying capacity of the earth reaching its limits.  With extreme population growth, as well an human environmental impact rising per capita, it is only a matter of time before resources run out.  Some already are, think oil, plant and animal extinctions, water shortages, etc.

I need to write a whole separate entry to explain IPAT, but trust me, that one is coming.

As important as carrying capacity though, I learned to not assume so much.  These were kind and intelligent people, they had just never heard of a certain term.  It put me in check of my own privilege.  I attended a great school to study climate change exclusively for years.  I have experience that other people don’t, just as they have experience that I don’t.  This whole barbecue showed me first hand how diverse groups are able to learn from each other, but it takes great communication skills and honest conversations.  It gave me a goal of thicker skin and better listening.

Thanks, Georgia!

Admissions Meeting

I had the pleasure of joining our Office of Admissions this morning to discuss Sustainability in their department.  I started with a very brief intro of what is already being done on campus, and what’s in the pipe; just in case they wanted to hop on those projects.

More importantly, I asked what they would change about PLU to make it a more earth-friendly univeristy.  Here is what they said:

1.  Add signage- For everything!  People don’t know that the foaming soap that PLU uses doesn’t need water, so you can save it.  People don’t know that the paper towels we use are biodegradable, so they can stow them in the compost bin.  We need signs to make the programs that are already in place effective!

2.  Why are the tennis court lights on 24/7?  Can we get a timer on those?

3.  Can communication students work on some of our weak advertising as a project?  That would be real-life experience and giving back to the school.

4.  Can we get light sensors for infrequently used areas that have lights on all the time?  ie, bathrooms, hallways overnight, etc.

Well, I have already begun talking to the Communications Faculty to get something going with them, that is a great idea.  it also looks like Admissions may be the first Department to pilot composting their paper towels.   Fantastic!  I’m looking into the tennis court lighting, I think that’s good point.  But for the office lights;  if the lights are on when you come to work in the morning, chances are that means you didn’t turn them off the night before.  Let’s work on that before we go for sensors, people.

These are fantastic ideas that came out of one brief discussion on a rainy morning.  Maybe other departments, groups, organizations, etc would be interested in engaging in more talks like these.  Call Me!!!