Monthly Archive for January, 2008

Purchasing dilemma

A member of the President’s Sustainability Committee reported:

Our department’s LCD projector died. Repair would cost $350. When we purchased this projector, it was approx. $3,000, but a comparable projector today would cost must less, possibly no more than $500-$600. My dilemma: Purchasing a new one would probably be more cost-effective, but repairing the old one would be less expensive and possibly be a more justifiable decision, sustainability wise, because it would keep the old one out of landfills etc. for a while longer.

My own perspective is this: Assuming that a new projector would be no more energy efficient, there is little doubt that repair would be a better option from a sustainability standpoint. The thing to keep in mind is that the $ prices we pay at the store do not include environmental costs. A new projector would certainly cost far more than $500-600 if the environmental costs of mining, smelting, shipping — degraded air quality, degraded water quality, etc. — were taken into account. How much more would depend on what kind of dollar value one wants to put on clean air and clean water. Short of actually going through that kind of difficult exercise, we need a principle. My own notion of what the principle should be is this: Far too many products are simply not repairable. When we come across one that can be repaired, we ought to take advantage of the opportunity unless the superficial economics are simply overwhelming.

We’d love to know what other folks think. (Click on Comments in the line below the headline.)


Community Gardens

Here is a really sustainable activity. Anyone can volunteer and learn how to plant, can and gather seeds over the year.

[Jeff Howard note: Margie is a community member of the President's Sustainability Committee.]

Shorthorn article on sustainable design project

Today’s Shorthorn has an article on an Architecture studio class, led by Assoc. Prof. Wanda Dye, that will develop an environmentally sustainable restaurant design for an international design firm.

Shorthorn article on Recyclemania competition

Today’s issue of the Shorthorn has a front-page article on residence hall students participating in a nationwide recycling competition. This is the first year that all five residence halls have taken part.

Critic of urban gas well drilling takes university to task

In the interest of fostering dialogue on the UT Arlington’s gas well program, I invited Don Young, a Fort Worth conservationist and outspoken critic of urban gas drilling, to offer his perspective on the program’s environmental significance.

Young is director of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Ordinance. His commentary follows. To see replies — or to post your own — click on the word Comments in the line below the headline.



The year, 2007, will likely go down in local history as, the Year of the Barnett Shale.

But getting at the riches of the Barnett Shale also means allowing unprecedented industrial activity on a grand scale inside our communities, which should, in turn, mean a contentious battle to stop it.

But that has not been the case. Yet.

A massive “greenwashing” ad campaign by gas drillers combined with an endorsement from the only daily newspaper and the flagrant conflict of interest by elected officials seems to have arrested the good sense that most people normally have.

Money and rumors of it may temporarily shade out common sense but that doesn’t dilute the realities of how urban gas drilling adversely affects the environment and human health. What amazes me most, however, is how an institution of higher learning fell victim to greed over prudent judgment.

When UTA regents decided to allow industrial gas drilling on campus they opened the door to well deserved criticism. For starters, how can a university with a philosophy to “go green” justify peddling in hydrocarbons? How can well educated men and women not recognize the direct role they are playing in misleading and confusing its neighbors, the general public and many UTA supporters? Why don’t they realize that by attempting to hammer a square peg into a round hole they lose hard won credibility? It appears they unwisely are attempting to have it both ways by melding two conflicting philosophies.

The very idea of a Sustainability Committee rings hollow in the face of UTA’s actions. Furthermore, the timing of the creation of the Sustainability Committee in October 2007 has the appearance of trying to cover up a bad deed with an ostensibly good one.

For example, the Mission Statement attests, “the University’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.” Any middle-schooler would be able to detect the direct conflict with such a statement and the production of dirty fossil fuel on campus. By trying to have it both ways, you disgrace yourselves, the university and insult the community at large. The public expects more from UTA.

By misrepresenting the school you have opened the door to criticism and questions, I ask that you consider the following comments and concerns raised by members of the community who are now forced to share in your folly.

Short-term concerns:

-A significant new source of localized air pollution from increased diesel truck traffic and other drilling equipment. (When Rusty Ward VP BD claimed they do worse with ‘everyday’ UTA activities, he seemed to imply that somehow justified adding more pollution from drilling.)

-Increased safety hazards from large truck traffic in a small historical residential neighborhood.

-Various carcinogens entering the atmosphere during every stage of production, including, flaring. (The myth of “Clean burning natural gas” is exposed when the production of it is taken into account.)

-Increased air pollution during the burn off phase that happen each time the wells are refraced.

-Where will the toxic water from your drill site end up? Who will be affected? (Read the distinguished essay, What Lies Beneath, for chilling answers to those questions.)

-Damage to one of the last stands of old oak trees at a nearby city park?

-Increased truck traffic on an already clogged South Cooper Street.

-The very real risk of a catastrophic event during drilling/fracing – Site #1 is within 200 feet of the playground of a YMCA Children Center.

Long-term concerns:

-The close proximity of homes near the drilling site adds a significant new and long term risk of a catastrophic accident that would devastate surrounding neighborhoods during at all stages of drilling.

-See above as related to understandable psychological fears by immediate neighbors who have no choice but face the risk and their fears or move.

-Risk of pollution of water ways, local wells and the aquifer; UTA’s drill sites are in close proximity to a tributary that runs into Johnson that sits directly on top of the Trinity Woodbine Aquifer.

-Unsustainable use (waste?) of clean water for drilling purposes; irreplaceable water that the public is urged to use wisely and even ration.

-All of the above ’short term’ safety and pollution issues that will be present each time the wells are revisited – we all know that this will be long term, reportedly up to 100 years.

Any sane person who carefully considers these concerns and the decision by a university “committed to green initiatives” to drill on campus would come to the conclusion that 2007 and 2008 might also be respectively labeled the Year of the Ostrich and the Year of Foolishness.

Don Young

Maymester grad course to conduct UT Arlington carbon footprint analysis

CIRP 5333, Project Planning: Carbon Footprint Analysis, May 2008

Instructor: Dr. Jeff Howard, School of Urban & Public Affairs

Numerous universities across the country have conducted “carbon footprint analyses” to document their emissions of greenhouse gases and to facilitate plans to reduce their institutional contribution to global climate change. This intensive, graduate-level Maymester course is designed to produce an analysis that Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck asked the university to conduct, that President Spaniolo’s office has agreed to undertake, and that both the university and Arlington have agreed to support. The analysis will closely parallel one that the City is already undertaking (focusing on municipal government and community-wide emissions) and that is expected to be completed in early 2008.

Students will collectively carry out the analysis and prepare a professional-quality report for the President’s Sustainability Committee. The course will be open to grad students from across the campus (and potentially to senior undergrads) and is expected to be of particular interest to students in the School of Urban & Public Affairs, Environmental & Earth Science, Environmental Engineering, and Architecture. It will involve extensive collaboration between the students, the instructor, the staff of Facilities Management, and the staff of the City of Arlington’s Environmental Services Department.

Students interested in taking the course should contact Jeff Howard ( Registration begins April 7  for current students and April 21 for new students.

All sessions will be 6:00 – 9:45 p.m., location TBA

Monday, May 12 — Class begins

Tuesday, May 13

Wednesday, May 14

Thursday, May 15

Friday, May 16

Saturday, May 17

Monday, May 19

Tuesday, May 20

Wednesday, May 21

Thursday, May 22

Friday, May 23 — Last class

Friday, May 30 — Report to be completed

Envisioning a Sustainable Dallas

Workshop sponsored by Northwest Earth Institute

Sunday, January 27th, 2008 from 2:00pm – 5:00pm.

Central Market at 5750 E. Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX (Meeting Room B, upstairs)

Cost: Free but donations gratefully accepted

Additional details here.

Social Work professor is editor of sustainability journal

From UTA Today, 1/17/08:

Vijayan Pillai, professor in the UT Arlington School of Social Work, was appointed as an associate editor for the International Journal of Sustainable Society. The journal’s aim is to provide a professional forum for discussing and disseminating solutions, which relate to the design, development, deployment, management, measurement and adjustment of social networks. They should form a common ground on which a sustainable society can be built. [Note: Ardeshir Anjomani, professor in the School of Urban and Public Affairs, serves on the journal's editorial board.]

Jan. 30 talk on wind energy

The Library’s Focus on Faculty program will sponsor a talk by Wei-Jen Lee, Ph.D. He will speak on “Wind Generation: A Prominent Form of Renewable Energy.” He is professor of electrical engineering and director of the Energy Systems Research Center at UT Arlington. He received an award for Outstanding Research Achievement in 2007. The talk will be January 30, 2008, from noon to 1:00 in the 6th floor Parlor of the Central Library.

Calendar listing

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