Green Space: February

greenSpacePaper or plastic? This debate never seems to end– Whole Foods and others have banned plastic bags, but Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) data shows that plastic bags are actually less impactful than paper.

If we care about the environment, why not base our decisions on data? Let’s find out what parts of our lives have the most impact, and drive those factors down.

Last fall, Boris Taratutin explored the typical Olin student’s impact for a project in Sustainable Design using LCA. His work showed that the major factors for Olin students were food, heating, “stuff,” and travel.

This fall, a group of students further explored Olin students’ impacts for Rob Martello’s Paradigms, Predictions, and Joules course. Jared Kirschner, Larissa Little, and Trevor Hooton worked with several Olin volunteers to estimate their personal impact, set goals for a week, and track changes in impact based on changes in behavior. Many students ate vegan for a week, which led to a significant reduction in impact, but was extremely difficult.

feb2013_greenspacegraphReducing personal impact is hard without the infrastructure in place, but we can help build that infrastructure in our community.

Where can we start? Join the group of students working with facilities to make our campus more resource and energy efficient or advocate for more vegetarian and vegan options in the dining hall.

Even better? When going out with friends or traveling, advocate for using public transit, bicycles, or your own two feet. Ask your family to eat something other than steak. Share your stuff so others don’t need to buy more. It’s high time to Do Something.

This new column is searching for writers! Contact Ben Smith or any Frankly Speaking editor.