Friday, February 1, 2008

Journal #4: Green Practices at CMU

I went to the 1:30 "Focus the Nation" lecture on LEED buildings and green practices on campus. The LEED presentation was interesting and the speaker (Azziz from Architecture) was entertaining, although he hadn't checked to see if his powerpoint would look ok on a pc, so things were a little screwy.

Going along with my last post, apparently a lot of the LEED certification deals with how the building is constructed and site maintenance. So that is another step, although I am sure that the center for intelligent design people will say it is not even close to what we should be doing. I have never been on any sort of enviro-friendly construction site, and hope that that changes soon so I can gain a better understanding.

The other half of the lecture was the head of the Green Practices on campus committee speaking about the unseen everyday practices that CMU implements. One of the listeners (an art student) was particular concerned with our current dining services waste. His point was that we are doing nothing to try and reduce waste at many of the campus dining services, and that a lot of the materials were unnecessary (polystyrene, paper, plastic...). His solutions were to think about having each student use their own dishes and be responsible for washing them, or to have them be washed at the end by dining serives, just that the same set was available for use again by the same student everytime.

Immediately I saw several (gigantic) flaws in this highly conceptual plan. The speaker was quick to point out that recently steps have been already made to reduce waste by students, as the cafeteria style Schatz has dishes and silverware that are washed and reused every meal. The speaker also pointed out that there is no way that a student having a single set or being responsible for washing could pass health codes.

I felt the student was not really choosing a solution that could really be pitched to a large body of users. I can't imagine the entire student body thinking that this was a better solution. Also, after our life cycle classes and paper vs. polystyrene readings, I think a strong case could be made that maybe the current food container use might not be that bad when looking at the entire life of the dishes vs. current containers. With the present dining system on campus it would be very hard to try and switch to dishes. Schatz is unique in that its location is optimal to have a cafeteria style without too much hassle in chasing down students that might walk off with dishes. The rest of the campus would be difficult to enforce such a system, the only other place I could see it working is in the Tepper eatery.

Maybe the entire dining system could use a complete makeover, as I never really liked the food as a freshman and was very anxious to get off of the meal plan. Then it could be possible to make a switch to dishes, but I don't think it would be economical without first looking at a total analysis of the possible cases.

1 comment:

Deanna said...

why everyone needs to take a life cycle class! yes, reusing dishes is the better option when energy efficient dishwashing facilities are available, otherwise the disposable dishes are best.

perhaps one way to look at it is the amount of waste collected at the UC versus other locations? how much food waste is there? that is one way for CMU to focus its efforts.