Welcome to the May WSU Sustainability Newsletter!
This year the Sustainability Practices and Research Center and the WSU Alumni Association awarded over $3000 for exceptional Sustainability Research Projects. This year’s winners were selected by the Environmental Initiatives Committee based on the link to sustainability, generation of new content and knowledge, the research approach, and likelihood of impact. Two faculty and two student projects received the award.
One of this year's faculty awards was given to English professor Hal Crimmel, for his edited book Utah's Air Quality: Problems and Solutions, and fellow WSU faculty chapter contributors: Eric Ewert (Geography), Matt Gnagey and Therese Grijalva (Economics), Will Speigle (Automotive Tech), and Mark Stevenson (Anthropology). The book attempts to explain issues and solutions that can make Utah more sustainable in terms of air quality's impact on human health and non-human nature. It was published in March 2020 by the University of Utah Press.
Francois Giraud-Carrier (Supply Chain Management) received the other faculty award for his research titled “Pollution Regulation of Competitive Markets.” His research examines pollution regulations. The research finds that it is possible to control pollution without hurting businesses and the economy. The paper’s analytical results show that well-designed cap-and-trade regulation can actually improve firm profits while reducing the pollution damage; a win-win outcome. The article was published in the journal Management Science in 2019.
This year’s student awards were given to Van Jacobson for the project titled “Impact of the Tag-Drawing System on Utah & Oregon Greater Sage Grouse Populations” and Katherine Meyr for her research titled “Evaluation of Water Quality in the Taku Watershed, B.C.”.
Van Jacobson’s project was his economics senior capstone research project completed in December 2019 which explores the nature of the Greater Sage Grouse’s population decline, the bird’s potential candidacy under the Threatened and Endangered Species Act, and the means with which states have attempted to preserve populations through policy. Jacobson’s research suggests that the tag-draw lottery hunting policy is not having the intended effect of preserving Greater Sage Grouse populations, and has provided insight on the effectiveness of a tag-draw hunting policy, and to what extent changes to the tag-draw hunting policy is required.
Katherine Meyr’s research involved analyzing water samples along the Taku watershed in Alaska and British Columbia to test for trace elements, including heavy metals associated with relevant mining contamination. The project integrates many on extremely important topics, such as hydrologic cycle, global climate changes, and the interaction between glaciers and rivers. Ultimately, Meyr’s research contributes to better understanding the changes in sub-arctic watershed hydrology caused by global climate change. Meyr presented this research in a poster at the Utah Conference for Undergraduate Research and was accepted to present at the Geological Society of America's 2020 Rocky Mountain Section Meeting.
How do you decide what to eat? In one of Weber State's first sustainability (SUS) designated courses, Zoology professor Michele Skopec delved into this question with students last semester. Using Michael Pollan’s bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma students probed into why deciding what to eat is so easy for some, yet fraught with stress and guilt for others.
As this Honors class was exploring the human diet, how it has changed over time and its implications for health and the environment the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world. This changed the conversation. The class discussion board titled "Food in the News," where students posted popular press articles about food related topics, quickly transitioned from lots of articles about the chicken sandwich wars to all things pandemic.
Skopec said “Students were posting and discussing articles about grocery store shelves being emptied of staples like flour, eggs and canned goods. They discussed crops being plowed under rather than harvested, animals being killed and buried because meat packing facilities were closed, about milk being poured down the drain because schools are closed, and obesity and diabetes being linked to poor outcomes for COVID.”
Throughout the semester the class had been discussing America’s food system and how it leads to all sorts of human and environmental health issues, in order to provide people with cheap but not necessarily healthy food. When the class had to transition to Zoom the students already had good rapport with one another, and the classes went really well, although they missed the Friday meals they had been sharing with one another. Skopec noticed that the class debate on the ethics of eating meat held via Zoom went better than it normally does in the in-person class.
Skopec hopes “…that the silver lining of the pandemic is that my bright and resourceful Honors students, who were already shocked to learn how bad our food system is for our health and that of the environment before the pandemic further illustrated its flaws, will become the agents of change we so desperately need.”
For the past year, WSU has been working on a collaborative community project to build a highly efficient, all-electric, renewably powered home in Ogden’s East Central neighborhood. An interdisciplinary team of WSU students helped design and build the 2,540 square foot home. The home also includes battery backup for emergencies and produces enough solar power to charge an electric vehicle to travel 20 miles per day. The project is part of an international competition hosted by the Department of Energy.
Construction is wrapping up and the home will be placed on the market this summer for sale. A lottery process will be used to sell the home. For questions and inquiries please contact WSU’s Sustainability Manager, Jennifer Bodine, at email@example.com.
On April 7, climate leaders from Utah co-hosted the Solve Climate by 2030 webinar, exploring solutions for a healthy, livable climate. The Solve Climate event was hosted in nearly all 50 states, with each state webinar highlighting region-specific solutions.
Utah panelists included: Sarah Wright the Executive Director for Utah Clean Energy, Dr. Brad Mortensen the President of Weber State University, Aimee Urbina a coordinator for the Sunrise Movement, and Piper Christian a University of Utah student and climate activist leader. The panelists identified three major solution pathways for Utah:
1. Make a commitment to a goal, like Weber State's carbon neutrality goal. Making a goal is where institutional, business, and household action starts.
2. Focus on big policies, for example pursuing ambitious renewable energy goals, or a tax on carbon.
3. Engage in local and civic climate action that moves towards greater access, equity, and social justice. Communities can make powerful change when they work collaboratively, and in intersectional partnerships.
The Solve Climate by 2030 webinar is available to watch online. Additionally, teaching materials for follow-up discussion can be found at the national Solve Climate by 2030 website. If you watch the webinar, please take a moment to fill out the brief webinar survey, so event planners provide our community with relevant, and timely information.
The Weber State Davis Campus Green Team has advanced sustainable practices while creating a close-knit community of truly fantastic staff over the past several years.
Gentry Ressor is known as the go to gal for sustainability at Davis. Gentry serves as the chair of the Davis Green Department Advisory Council. The committee meets regularly to share best practices, recruit new teams, and implement sustainability projects. Gentry started the first Davis Campus Green Team at the Davis Testing Center. With her leadership, the Davis staff have implemented a Davis Campus community glass recycling program, a battery and toner cartridge recycling program, and updated recycling signs and education across campus.
Gentry has a lot of admiration for the Davis Campus community. She has received amazing support from the Davis Campus Administration and Davis Custodial.
The Davis Administration, specifically the late Vice Provost, Bruce Davis was a major supporter of sustainability. Bruce created the Davis Campus Green Department Advisory Council, included sustainability at the Davis Council meetings, and implemented many sustainable initiatives the Green Council brought forward. Bruce’s sustainability leadership has made a lasting impression at Davis Campus.
The custodial group at Davis campus is another sustainability supporter.
“They have been phenomenal to work with, completely flexible and on board with the changes departments wanted to make, like with the Tiny Trash Program and posting recycling education,” said Gentry. During this global pandemic, custodial groups across all WSU campuses have been an amazing support as they step up their work to keep our campus safe.
Davis Green Departments who accomplished new certifications this year:
- Davis Campus Administration (Bronze Certified)
- Davis Enrollment (Bronze Certified)
- Davis Learning Center (Silver Certified)
- Davis SIL (Gold Certified)
- Davis Student Services (Gold Certified)
- Davis Testing Center (Green Certified)
- Gear Up (Green Certified)
Last summer the Davis Camps hosted the Mow Electric exchange program. The program brought hundreds of Utahns to the campus to exchange gas mowers for clean electric mowers, providing Davis Campus staff a way to be to directly involved in advancing regional sustainability and clean air goals.
This past year, the Davis Campus community has been no stranger to difficult times, with the loss of a great leader, Bruce Davis, and now the isolation and changes as a result of this pandemic. It has been difficult. “I was scared when all of this started, but seeing how we have stepped up in communication and meeting, virtually of course, with people and departments more than ever before. We have banded together to do what we can to hold everything at Davis Campus together. We have been each other’s rocks through this.”