Waste not, want not

Many students were taken aback by the sight of their professors and peers scraping food into barrels on Tuesday night.  This was the first of a two-part weigh-in to see how much food we’re wasting at Lowry.

Professor Mariola explains the process

Professor Mariola explains the process

Around the country, tons of food are wasted on college campuses (not to mention in restaurants and private homes) as students decide to sample several things before deciding what they like, or overestimate how hungry they are.  We waste a lot less food than we did several years ago, before the dining halls went trayless.   But there’s room for improvement.

Why should we care? This is one of those cases where environmental sustainability and economy go hand in hand.  Sure, the college will save money if they don’t have to pay for (and prepare) food that goes straight into the dumpster. That saved money could be spent on student services, or lower tuition increases.

But food is also an enviromental resource. It takes land, water, and energy to grow the food, transport it, prepare it, and serve it. When the food is not eaten it takes up space in a landfill (though we compost some of it).  The College’s environmental footprint would be reduced if we didn’t get more food than we needed or wanted.

Two hardy workers at the food-scraping station!

Two hardy workers at the food-scraping station!

Last Tuesday we scraped 185 pounds of edible food off of plates, or about 2 ounces per person. That’s not too bad. But we can do better. When you eat at Lowry, think about taking 2 ounces less food on your plate. If you want more, you can go back and get it later! If everyone chooses their food more carefully, together it can make a big difference.

Next month we’ll do another weigh-in to see what changes have been made!

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Ethics in Sustainability

The Importance of Teaching Ethics of Sustainability

Kelly Biedenweg, Martha C. Monroe, and Annie Oxarart in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education


Although the college has a course on environmental ethics, the greater question perhaps is whether environmental ethics is important in the discourse or the practical application of sustainability. Studying within a Liberal Arts College, it is perhaps normal that ethical discourse generally permeates our education. Biedenwag, Monroe, and Oxarart argue that a foundation in ethics provide a structure to understand the moral basis for decision making processes for students when they embark on professional careers, especially in fields pertaining to sustainability. They formulated a sustainability ethics course targeted specifically at students from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); fields where emphasis is not placed on the ethical or social considerations of sustainability. However, they argue that ethical considerations in these fields are important for these fields are the ones that contribute fresh ideas that further society’s development.

The course was arranged into three sections. The first tackled the challenges to sustainability and the role of technology in meeting these challenges. The second section emphasized how ethical issues related to sustainability issues. Lastly, the course covered specific ethical principles, namely, social justice concepts of equitable distribution, the precautionary principle, and the golden and platinum rules. These principles were paired with practical tools that include systems thinking, multi-stakeholder processes, full-cost analyses, and polluter pays policies. During the course evaluation, students were especially taken in by the multi-stakeholder process role-play for determining policies. Additionally, they remarked on the greater understanding of diverse ethical principles normally passed over, or left out of discussions pertaining to technology and decision-making. Critically for the students, they felt that the ability to visualize and understand how to clearly, and practically implement ethical principles within their professional fields was necessary. The writers conclude that research within the field of sustainability should consider at what stage of a student’s education, and in what fields, would a course in sustainability ethics be most effective.

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Threshing rye

Threshing-rye_01-17-13_smallExperiential education does not have to mean an internship or apprenticeship.  Here students in ENVS 220:  Farm to Table thresh bundles of rye by hand to learn a visceral lesson about the nature of food processing and (non)industrial farm methods.  Not to mention that old saw:  “where your food comes from.”  They’ll never look at rye bread the same way again!


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Wooster in North East India (Summer 2013 Off Campus Study Opportunity)

Nothing to do this summer and interested in examining Sustainability during an Off Campus Study program? Read on.

Program Website: http://northeastindia.voices.wooster.edu/

This 2 credit program (one: History/Politic Sci, one: Environmental Studies) takes place in the cities of Shillong and Darjeeling, located within the state of Meghalaya (highlighted in Red in the picture below), during May and June of 2013.


Information sessions (Lowry 119) : Thursday, January the 17th at 4 pm OR Friday, January the 18th at noon.

The deadline for applications is Monday, February the 4th, 2013 at 5 pm.  

Financial assistance is available.



Interested in the student experience itself? http://oneyearthreecontinents.wordpress.com/ and http://mataindia.blogspot.com/

Click HERE for the application form. (Log in with your Novell password)

Please direct any queries to Professor Peter Pozefsky or Nicola Kille.

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From Sb’s Desk: Out with the old

Students of the 4-year ad hoc group, the Water Bottle Committee, can once again eat dinner with their friends on Sunday evenings. Their years of fighting the disposable plastic water bottle have come to an end, and on a high note. Starting this semester, water bottles will not be included in the items for purchase with flex or swipes. Disposable water bottles have been removed from Mom’s, Pop’s, MacLeod’s and Old Main so that they cannot be purchased with any money included in student meal plans.

The mentality that gave rise to calling flex dollars “monopoly money” has contributed to the voluminous purchase of the 1,000 water bottles each week. Look for Committee members in Lowry, tabling with their giant ‘water bottle’ made to represent these 1,000 bottles. Won’t it be nice to get all those out of our waste stream! If you have or hear any complaints, these should not be directed towards any Dining Services staff. Instead, email myself (sloder@wooster.edu) or attend an SGA Meeting.

Water Bottles Gone
Now Gus Fuguitt and Erin Plews-Ogan can graduate in peace (after they finish I.S. that is).


The other group that is being disbanded is REEF, the Revolving-Door Environmental Efficiency Fund. The idea started as an investment fund that would pay for any money-saving environmental initiative. Most simple ideas were quickly completed by the performance contract, which has made a huge impact on the efficiency of our campus in a short period of time, but consequently stunted the growth of REEF. These small projects not only grow the monetary funds, but also grow students’ capacity to write proposals, work with staff, and think about what our campus could be.

The new lights in the Underground will be the first and only project funded by REEF. Replacing old, energy-sucking lights, these new LED’s will start saving money now, and become an integral part of a larger upgrade in the future. Even with REEF, the U.G. still has to fit the cost of these lights into the budget. The difference in the future will be departments saving money for efficiency upgrades before they can get them.

It is sad to see the fund go, but that doesn’t mean anyone should stop proposing projects. Any initiative that could have been funded by REEF can still be funded by the affected department. Anyone can still accomplish good deal with collaboration, determination, and some good ideas.

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From Sb’s Desk: In Transit

When I graduated and began my apartment search, I kept thinking, “I need to be able to walk to work”. Come rain or shine, inches of ice or feet of snow, I was going to walk. Growing up in the snow belt of Ohio, I knew I was prepared for the challenge. Now I realize not everyone is acclimated to walking through three feet of snow a few months each year. Not that walking is the only way to get around Wooster, a town that does not regularly get three feet of accumulation, but it is convenient, free, and requires no maintenance. On campus, our grounds department does an incredible job of clearing paths to make walking the primary mode of transportation all year long.

To get around town, most students opt for a personal car once the weather gets cold. Before spending the gas, consider the Wooster Hospitality Transit. The bus runs up and down town daily, and everyone with a COW Card has free access to this service. Check the new bus schedule outside Lowry Center to see if they can get you where you’re going.

If you’re trying to get further off campus and don’t own a car, Hertz Rent-a-Car is always an option. Registration and rentals are online; contact Becky Frybarger with questions about getting your rental from the security office. www.wooster.edu/students/security/hertz

During breaks and weekends, check the RideShare website (rideshare.sites.wooster.edu) and catch a ride out of town. You could get a ride home or somewhere nearby, explore a new town or visit old friends. If you have a car and are travelling over break or just for a weekend and have an empty seat, post your ride to reduce the number of cars on the road. Most riders are willing to help pay for gas.

In the spring, look for rentals from the Bike Club. Their new garage is behind Iceman house, and their garage hours will be posted outside Lowry by the bus schedule. If you are interested in being a Bike Manager, contact Anna Mudd. There is a $40 deposit to rent bikes, but it will be repaid in full at any time during the year as long as you’ve returned your rentals on time and unbroken.

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Creativity continued: Wooster alumni at work

Early in December I had the chance to attend a screening of some short films by Wooster alumnus Ted Burger. Ted has been working primarily in China, where he has produced some award-winning films. More recently he has moved to Vietnam and Cambodia.

In Vietnam, he worked with adolescents to help them put together a film about the local impacts of climate change.  This is part of a project called participatory filmmaking, where the goal is not only to produce the film but to give the filmmakers the skills to make the film themselves, so they can continue after the project is done.

In Cambodia, he’s working on a project inspired by fellow Wooster alumna Dekila Chungyalpa, to document the role of Buddhist monks in educating their community about environmental conservation.

This intersection of environmental concern, activism, artistry, collaboration, and global involvement symbolizes to me what a liberal arts education can lead to: not a specific destination, but an openness to possibility and the skills to approach new opportunities in creative ways.burger

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What Values Shape Sustainability Behavior in Institutes of Higher Education?

University students’ behaviors pertaining to sustainability: A structural equation model with sustainability-related attributes

Elvan Sahin, Hamide Ertepinar, and Gaye Teksoz in International Journal of Environmental & Science Education


The worldwide action plan, Agenda 21 was accepted in 1992 as a method to promote sustainable development through education. To promote sustainability, an individual should have certain knowledge, skills and attributes for living and working in a sustainable manner, where these behavioral factors are shaped through ‘values’, ‘attitudes’, and ‘behaviors’. The authors look at these socio-psychological behavioral factors among students in the Middle East Technical University, Turkey. The article gives more depth in understanding these three terms. In summary, ‘values’ are a conceptualized sense of what is essentially important, good or valuable to individuals. ‘Attitudes’ are manners of acting, feeling, or thinking that show one’s disposition or opinion. ‘Values’ are the cognitive element, ‘attitudes’ are the feeling element, and ‘actions/decisions’ are the behavior element. The resulting model that the authors found is as follows:

The authors spend a couple of pages describing the numbers and data and would prove useful should you have a general understanding of statistics. Their conclusion lays out the data in a more assessable manner. Pertaining to ‘values’ and ‘attitudes’, they find that their data coincides with previous literature reviews, where students with ‘environmental’ values and attitudes are likely to display sustainable behavior. Interestingly, they highlight that gender is a strong variable in shaping student’s behavior towards sustainability. The authors note that there educational material regarding sustainability across the world tend to display gender neutrality. Thus the authors pose is whether “gender inequality may result in unsustainable trends in higher education sector and gender mainstreaming should be considered.”

Looking at this study, might students on our own campus display such similarities?

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The sustainability team on the job

I had to share this example of Wooster sustainability at work.  Until this year, soap in the campus soap dispensers did not include triclosan, a known endocrine-disrupting chemical.  When we switched to the new dispensers, alert chemistry professor Melissa Schultz noted that the new soap did contain triclosan.  She brought the matter to the campus sustainability committee; we contacted head of custodial services Ken Fletcher; and he arranged for us to switch to a different type of soap that did not contain the chemical. It was that easy!

Want to know more about triclosan, and why you should avoid it?

Check this article.


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Lightbulb Collection

An up-cycling project is happening at the Winter Bash on December 7th, and they need your help!
WAC needs burnt-out incandescent light bulbs for their crafts next Friday evening. Bring your bulbs to the drop box in the Lowry Center and Student Activities office (lower floor Lowry) during business hours (8:30am-5pm) by Dec 7th. Any questions, email Julia Zimmer (jzimmer@wooster.edu).

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