Leading by Example

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. At COP16, many nations have areas and meeting rooms reserved so that they can host their own discussions and presentations.  Some of these nations include Qatar, Mexico, the European Union, and the United States.  I attended a presentation in the U.S. pavilion entitled “GreenGov: The Role of the U.S. Federal Government Operations in Reducing GHG Pollution.”  Presenting at the seminar were Nancy Satley chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Dorothy Robyn from the Department of Defense, and Anne Kelly from Council for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES).  Their presentations discussed what the U.S. government and U.S. organizations were doing to make an effort to be more sustainable. The U.S. government is the nation's largest energy consumer, and the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest energy consumer within the government.  In 2008, DOD spent $20 billion on energy and was determined to cut that cost.  The department began to shift its focus towards reducing energy consumption. It began with smaller tasks, such as turning computers and lights off at night.  They tried unusual things, Satley says, such as “using goats to eat weeds off the lawn instead of lawnmowers.”  The department even put solar panels on top of golf carts. More importantly, DOD focused on missions.  When transporting items to troops on missions, caravans are in danger and when they are carrying fuel, it makes the danger more extreme.  Robyn explained that, to combat these dangers, DOD has made an investment in R&D  to develop new technologies to decrease the demands on these troops.  One example is the development of a turbine jet engine that reduces fuel consumption by 25%.  This technology will also be available for commercial use in the future.  Another example is use of fold-up solar panels on site to charge equipment.  Energy efficiency, Robyn says, “is the most cost effective investment.” Aside from the U.S. government, U.S. organizations such as Levi Jeans, Timberland, Dell, and Virgin America have all begun to take steps towards sustainability.  Levi has created jeans that wash in cold water to reduce water consumption.  Timberland puts “eco friendly” information on the tag of their shoes, so that the consumer can see what the impacts on the environment were during the production process. Dell plans to go carbon neutral.  Virgin America has a terminal in San Francisco International Airport that is the first LEED gold certified terminal in the United States. Government and companies are all taking steps to become more sustainable and save energy.  But the usual question is, ‘What can I do to become more sustainable?’  Take a step back and observe your day.  Do you leave the lights on? Do you shut down your computer? Do you walk three blocks instead of driving?  Look at the energy you use and see what is unnecessary.  A couple of other ideas are to turn the heat down/air conditioning up in your house if no one is in it or wash your clothes in cold water.  Both help to save energy and save you money in the long run. As scientists, we also need to focus on efficiency, but not only in our houses. One focus could be on using chemicals that don’t harm the environment with byproducts and another focus could be to update equipment in the labs that run on less energy.  As Robyn stated, “Energy efficiency is the most cost effective investment.”

Author: anthonytomaine

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  1. You made certain good points there. I did a search on the subject and found mainly folks will agree with your blog.

  2. I often wonder, how much is enough to do my part in energy conservation? It is good to know that the things mentioned (which I am already doing) are good enough. It is good to know that our government, especially the DOD is also making an effort to be energy efficient even during war.