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Archive for January, 2011

Bargains, on sale tomorrow

January 31st, 2011 @ 9:19 am by Brenda Dawson

Each time I’ve had the chance to stroll the aisles of Bargain Barn, I’ve generally been impressed with — of course — the bargains!

But besides offering low prices, Bargain Barn plays an important role in helping UC Davis meet its waste reduction goals.

Since it opened in 1975, Bargain Barn has made reusing and rebuying campus equipment and supplies possible. One department’s surplus equipment is another office’s bargain buy. Each year, Bargain Barn resells about 8,000 items and recycles around 120 tons of electronic waste.

So when this advertisement from Bargain Barn landed in my inbox, I thought you might want to check out what $5 can get you at Bargain Barn, starting tomorrow. Here’s the note:

The Bargain Barn will be holding its famous $5 Red Tag Sale Feb. 1 – 11. Included in the sale will be more than 150 items for just $5 each! That’s right, any red tagged item will be just $5 — but only while supplies last!  You won’t want to miss this opportunity to save big on items like office furniture, computers, lab equipment, printers, brand-new VHS tapes, typewriters and more. Keep a little more of your hard earned money in your wallet, while you help us clear out our inventory. Support sustainability where you work and play.

While you’re at it, find out more about Bargain Barn’s sustainability efforts.

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Notes on the BAG exhibit opening

January 28th, 2011 @ 2:48 pm by Camille Kirk

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I had the delight of attending UC Davis Professor Ann Savageau’s talk about her Bags Across the Globe project at the exhibit opening on Sunday. The talk was well-attended and there was a lively question and answer session afterwards with both Prof. Savageau and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, the legislator who authored Assembly Bill 1998 to ban single-use plastic bags. Rep. Brownley told the audience how the bill had a wide support base until a heavy lobbying effort, funded by the American Chemistry Council, halted passage in the California Senate, and she discussed current policy and legislative efforts to restrict single-use plastic bags, from local levels to international efforts.

Here are a few things I was struck by from Prof. Savageau’s talk and installation:

Bags are “invented extensions of ourselves; a pouch for us since we don’t have one on our bodies.” As soon as she said that, I thought, oh, yes, and how interesting!  Bags are external to our bodies, which makes it easier for us to be detached from consequences associated with their use. Similarly, pollution is frequently external, and even hidden, to our daily lives.

Economics describes externalities as aspects of production or consumption that are not accounted for in the prices of goods because those costs or benefits are shifted from the direct producers and consumers. (A classic example of an externality is air pollution emitted from a coal-burning utility plant, which shifts the burden of air pollution costs to society-at-large.). Many of our processes and designs result in externalities and unintended consequences. The single-use plastic bag is riddled with these issues, as Savageau described in her talk.

Savageau noted that bags have been part of our survival, especially in hunter-gatherer societies. It’s an unpleasant truth that single-use plastic bags, one of the “major players in global trash,” are detrimental to the survival of other species, such as marine turtles or Arabian desert wildlife that eat them. An affecting sight in the exhibit is a bezoar of calcified plastic debris from the stomach of a camel killed by the bezoar.

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As Savageau explained, the plastic bag is really quite new: In the mid-1970s, the filmy no-handle plastic bag so commonly used for veggies at the supermarket was introduced, and in the mid-1980s, the “T-shirt” style bag with handles that is ubiquitous (an estimated 1 trillion used globally every year; 19 billion in California) was introduced. It seems that the combination of “free” and convenient made the spread of the plastic bag an irresistible force.

Savageau walks the philosophical path of others like architect William McDonough in pointing out that we have designed ourselves into these situations with “dumb design” and we can design ourselves back out of them. We start with acknowledging how we are each implicated in the “tiny, incremental harm” we commit when we externalize the negative aspects of our actions. And we find the benefits and pleasures in taking more sustainable actions. So it was a joy to see all the kinds of beautiful and interesting reusable bags, made from repurposed and reused materials, which have been created as a result of Prof. Savageau’s project.

The exhibit shows us how to take action, lets us pledge to take action, and even provides the crafters among us with a pattern to make a shopping bag! For those who aren’t nimble with a thimble, you can buy a one-of-a-kind bag from Design students who make and sell them as a fundraiser for their Runway Designers Club (email them at runwaydesigners@gmail.com).

With clever, beautiful bags like those made by the Runway Designers Club students, maybe there will be another rapid adoption of convenient bags, but this time they’ll be reusable, unique and work towards eliminating the externalized pollution of the single-use plastic bag.

Enjoy the exhibit through March 11 at the Design Museum, 145 Walker Hall. Hours are noon-4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2:00-4:00 p.m. Sunday.

Captions, beginning with top photo: Attendees at BAG exhibit opening, January 23, UC Davis Design Museum. Middle: Attendee looking at bezoar of plastic debris from camel’s stomach, BAG exhibit opening.

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Lecture: Bringing daylight indoors

January 20th, 2011 @ 11:35 am by Brenda Dawson

Editor’s note: How do you get sunlight into a room with no windows and no skylights? The UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) has a lecture coming up that will clue you in (with more hints below, of course).

Why are we curious about bringing daylight indoors? Lighting accounts for 25 percent of California’s electricity use, according to estimates from the California Public Utilities Commission. Here at UC Davis, lighting is about 29 percent of our campus electricity use — a number which we’re actively working to decrease with the Smart Lighting project announced in November. The CLTC plays a critical role in helping UC Davis reduce the energy it uses for lighting campus, while using campus facilities to demonstrate new technologies that other California businesses could adopt.

Here’s a preview of the lecture from today’s guest blogger, Lori Ryan at the CLTC:

cltcblog3.jpgCLTC’s inaugural Don Aumann Memorial Lecture in Lighting Efficiency will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25 at the UC Davis Conference Center Ballroom. The intent of the annual lecture is to honor the memory of Don Aumann, the CLTC program director who died suddenly in March 2007. Lorne Whitehead, PhD, professor of applied physics at the University of British Columbia, will speak on the promise of harnessing daylight to illuminate buildings.

Imagine working in the center of a building with daylight emitting from the overhead fixtures instead of electric light. When enough sunlight is not available to provide ample illumination, the fixtures would seamlessly switch to electric light. This concept could become a reality in the near future.

Whitehead helped develop the SunCentral Core Sunlighting System, an exterior fixture with a combination of moveable and fixed mirrors and a horizontal light pipe that redirects and distributes sunlight into the cores of buildings. The system uses daylight instead of or in conjunction with electric light throughout a building. The daylight function usually operates about eight hours per work day in the summer and four hours in the winter, or whenever direct sunlight is available. This eases daytime demands for electric lighting, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and alleviates stress on the electricity grid during demand peaks.

cltcblog2_rt.jpgUC Davis partnered with the University of British Columbia to install and test one SunCentral Core Sunlighting System at the Veterinary Medicine Facility N-2 Building on campus, and a second installation is planned. CLTC will collaborate with partners to test the feasibility of this system for the mid-Central Valley latitude and climate.

Research and development on the Core Sunlighting System is necessary because lighting constitutes 35 percent of California’s commercial electricity consumption, according to the California Energy Commission. In California and across the United States, reducing lighting loads in commercial buildings would significantly reduce energy consumption and the associated negative environmental impacts. An energy analysis of a Core Sunlighting System installed at the British Columbia Institute of Technology on one-half of a floor of a 30,000-square-foot building estimates the electrical energy savings to be 36,000 kWh per year.

The Core Sunlighting System could become the first cost-effective solution to achieve widespread adoption. The system has the potential to:

  • Reduce energy for standard commercial building lighting by at least 25 percent
  • Replace electric lighting 75 percent of the time each day that the sun shines within six core daylight hours
  • Save 207,000 kWh of electricity and 112 metric tons of CO2 in a 20,000-square-meter building annually
  • Reduce peak electrical power demand when it is needed, e.g., midday on sunny days
  • Provide high-quality illumination with excellent color rendering properties

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The Don Aumann Memorial Lecture is graciously supported by many within the lighting community who appreciated Aumann’s commitment to and enthusiasm for the lighting industry, and is sponsored in part by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program of the California Energy Commission.

Download the lecture poster.

More information about the lecture.

RSVP for the lecture.

Captions, beginning with top photo: The SunCentral Core Sunlighting System is installed at UC Davis’ Veterinary Medicine Facility N-2 building. Middle: Lorne Whitehead, who will speak at the Don Aumann Memorial Lecture, performs research at the University of British Columbia. Above: Former CLTC program director Don Aumann, for whom the lecture is named.

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Recycled ‘BAG’ opens at Design Museum

January 18th, 2011 @ 10:42 am by Brenda Dawson

Editor’s note: UC Davis students have been finding creative ways to design for sustainability in Ann Savageau’s classes, Design 127A and 127B — with reclaimed materials and an eye toward reducing waste. Today, Prof. Savageau debuts her Bags Across the Globe exhibit at the UC Davis Design Museum.

Here’s a sneak peek at how the BAG project grew to span the globe from Prof. Savageau herself:

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When I was asked to create two new courses on sustainability for students in the UC Davis Design Program, little did I dream that it would lead me to undertake a project spanning 60 countries and over 200 people. In my research for these courses I had learned about the shocking number of plastic shopping bags consumed and quickly discarded annually and their devastating environmental impacts.

I began thinking about a way I could do something about these bags; after all, designers initially designed them, so designers should help design them out of existence!

I decided to create an international collaborative project in which our design students could participate and learn about sustainable design practice. My goals were to raise international public awareness of the widespread damage caused by plastic shopping bags, while offering people bags so attractive and convenient they would want to use them. I felt it was important not to use new fabric for these bags and began to search for reliable sources of campus textile waste. I didn’t have to look far: The campus Design Services staff were happy to donate their used fabric swatches, and Prof. Tim McNeil, director of the Design Museum, donated vinyl exhibition banners.

In the summer of 2008, design students began sewing the shopping bags for Bags Across the Globe (BAG), while I contacted an initial 100 people to participate. I found enough willing volunteers to whom I sent two free bags each. Participants were asked to keep and use one bag and give the second bag to a friend. In return, BAG participants sent me photos and messages which are posted on a world map on my website, where the entire BAG project can be viewed.

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One of the BAG products, a shopping bag made from a vinyl exhibit poster. Bags were also made from leftover fabric swatches, below.

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Bags Across the Globe has been an incredible experience for me and for dozens of design students. It has linked us with people from all over the world in a common endeavor. For example, the project helped me make the acquaintance of Anita and Shalahb Ahuja of Delhi, India, whose company Conserve India employs the urban poor to gather plastic bags and transform them into stylish fashion accessories.

The Ahujas invited me and two of our design graduates, Jenna Chen and Christina Johnson, to travel to Delhi in July 2010. Jenna and Christina stayed on to work as interns for Conserve India for six months.

Here are some other connections made:

  • A design professor in Cali, Colombia worked with faculty and students to make bags from local waste materials, and sent us their bags.
  • I introduced the project to grammar school students in London, England, and the students made their own bags from used clothing and banned plastic bags from their school.
  • Schoolgirls in Khoramabad, Iran, made bags from textile waste and juice packaging.
  • And our own Runway Designers Club is making and selling bags to fund their annual Picnic Day fashion show.

The installation detailing the complete story of Bags Across the Globe will be displayed in the UC Davis Design Museum with an opening reception Sunday, Jan. 23.

Caption, top photo: Design Program interns Amy Johnson and Haley Gilhooly with their bags.

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About this blog

January 13th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm by Brenda Dawson

Welcome to the Sustainable 2nd Century blog, a community forum to share your thoughts and ideas about campus sustainability at UC Davis.

The team behind the Sustainable 2nd Century website believes that sustainability at UC Davis is about people, collaboration and community. So we’ve created this space to foster connections and discuss the topic of sustainability on our campus.

UC Davis has a vibrant community of people who are living sustainability every day, and we want to share their voices and expertise here. Behind this blog are Camille Kirk, campus sustainability planner, and Brenda Dawson, sustainability writer—but we’re already lining up a slew of guest bloggers.

Perhaps your class is spending a quarter researching an aspect of sustainability? Or perhaps you’re working on an interesting sustainability project? We’d like to hear from you—and we think others would like to hear from you too—so please contribute!

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and add us to your Google Reader (or however it is you choose to follow blogs). If you haven’t had a chance to explore the website, please do so! There’s plenty to see.

We’ll work to keep you in-the-know when it comes to sustainability and UC Davis.

-Camille Kirk & Brenda Dawson

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