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Regenerator event focuses on student energy initiatives

Zachary LaBry, a junior in aeronautics and astronautics, listens to information on a student-led effort to bring biodiesel to campus at the second Re-Generator event on energy initiatives.
Zachary LaBry, a junior in aeronautics and astronautics, listens to information on a student-led effort to bring biodiesel to campus at the second Re-Generator event on energy initiatives.
Photo / Dan Bersak

Dozens turned out for the second event seeking to broaden student involvement in a variety of energy-related campus initiatives.

The first MIT Generator, held last November, brought together working groups and individuals who shared the goal of making MIT a more environmentally and energy-friendly place. The Re-Generator was held Feb. 12 in the Stata Center.

After hearing presentations from groups whose efforts range from pasting energy-awareness stickers on light switches to developing tools to track building energy use, Zachary LaBry, a junior in aeronautics and astronautics, sought information on an effort to bring biodiesel to campus. "I'm interested in alternative fuels," he said.

The following working groups presented information and solicited new members:

  • Biodiesel@MIT seeks to bring a biodiesel processor to campus to turn used vegetable oil from campus dining facilities into fuel for campus vehicles.
  • The MIT Dorm Electricity Competition offers $10,000 in energy-efficiency improvements to the dorm that shows the greatest percentage reduction in electricity per student from March 9 to May 4.
  • The Sustainable Transportation Through Policy class aims to evaluate and recommend alternative commuter and business-related transportation policies for the MIT campus.
  • The Energy Mapping Working Group seeks to identify ways to reduce MIT energy consumption by developing tools to visualize campus energy use, building by building.
  • Campus Building Energy Audits seeks to motivate behavioral change and identify building and system improvements by gathering information--and providing it to the energy mapping group and MIT Facilities--on how energy is used in buildings and modeling how that usage might be affected if improvements such as replacing windows were made.
  • Closing the Loop wants to provide instant feedback on how our actions affect the planet. A "sticker blitz" on everything from lights to water heaters to revolving doors, for instance, could let people know that using the revolving door would save enough energy to light a 60-watt bulb for 23 minutes.
  • The Indicators Working Group will assess "walk the talk" efforts on campus and measure MIT's progress against that of other universities through a biannual "MIT Sustainability Report."
  • The Campus Visioning project seeks a way to create steps to enact and evaluate MIT's long-range environmental imprint through 2050. RecycleMania@MIT 2007 is MIT's entry in a national competition involving more than 200 colleges and universities trying to generate the largest total of recycled material.
  • The Laboratory for Energy and the Environment and the Environmental Programs Office sponsor several campus sustainability UROPs each semester for hands-on projects on topics as diverse as energy conservation in laboratories to green building design to behavior change for computer energy use.
  • A group seeking to reduce MIT greenhouse gas emissions has collected 500 signatures on a letter asking MIT President Susan Hockfield to lower MIT's emissions, and the group is working to pass a resolution on emissions reductions through the Undergraduate Assembly and Graduate Student Council.
  • MIT Student Pugwash seeks to institute an MIT graduation pledge to "explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work."
Walking the talk

At the Re-Generator, Leon R. Glicksman, professor of building technology and mechanical engineering and director of MIT's Building Technology Program, gave an update on the Campus Energy Task Force.

The Campus Energy Task Force is the first of several task forces created by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), an Institute-wide effort to meet the global energy challenge. The task force, also known as "Walk the Talk," is centered on how the MIT campus will reflect the institutional commitment to efficiency, innovation, cutting carbon emissions and energy usage and serve as a model for other universities.

Among its goals are to create a long-range, campus-wide plan for energy demand and supply; identify and promote short-term measures; develop a loan fund and other resources for improvements; develop and fund research and educational opportunities; and establish a campus research center.

The task force, chaired by Glicksman and Sherwin Greenblatt, director of the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, is made up of faculty members Vladimir Bulovic, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Robert L. Jaffe, professor of physics; Meg Jacobs, Class of 1947 Career Development Associate Professor of History; John Sterman, Jay Forrester Professor of Management; Christopher P. Zegras, assistant professor of urban studies and planning; and Les Norford, professor of architecture.

Student representatives are Sloan doctoral candidate Jason Jay and civil and environmental engineering sophomore Ariel Esposito; administration members are Chief Facilities Officer Bill Anderson; environmental health and safety programs director Bill Van Schalkwyk; Peter Cooper, manager of sustainability engineering and utility planning; Steve Lanou, deputy director of the Environmental Programs Office; Associate Provost Lorna Gibson; administrative assistant Amy Donovan; and Director of Undergraduate Teaching Labs Dick Fenner.

This spring, the Campus Energy Task Force plans to identify a strategy for increasing campus efficiency, review it with the MIT community, present it to the administration for action and start near-term solutions.

"Now that the MITEI has formed a Campus Energy Task Force, the Institute's commitment to 'walking the talk' is clear," said Jay, one of Re-Generator's organizers. "What remains is for students, staff and faculty to help lead the way forward, applying our technical and leadership skills to tough energy and environmental challenges around MIT."

Re-Generator was sponsored by Sustainability@MIT, the MIT Energy Club, UA Sustainability Committee, Students for Global Sustainability, Share a Vital Earth (SAVE), MIT Student Pugwash and Sloan Net Impact, with support from the Environmental Programs Office , the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment and MIT Facilities.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 28, 2007 (download PDF).

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