Johns Hopkins University

Spring 2008
Vol. 5, No.2


William R. Brody to Retire from Presidency

Lattman to Lead Hauptman-Woodward Institute

>A Learning Lab for Conservation

A Super Bowl He Won't Soon Forget

Student Standouts

Mellon Foundation Boosts Support for Humanities

The Financial Side of Economics

Writin' About a Revolution

Conversation in Bloom

Admissions by the Numbers

Moving a Mummy, Going Green

Faculty News

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A Learning Lab for Conservation

Two years after Davis Bookhart came on board as Hopkins' first director of Energy Management and Environmental Stewardship, the university is taking on a decisively green tint.

Bookhart—who was charged with developing sustainability initiatives that conserve electricity, curb water usage, and encourage recycling—largely credits student involvement for the greening trend.

Soon after arriving, Bookhart, a former senior project director of the Consumer Energy Council of America, developed the ECO-Rep program, which selects up to 10 freshmen each September who get involved with sustainability-related projects throughout the school year. The participants attend weekly seminars and then as a team develop one environment-friendly activity per month to pursue (like encouraging dorm-dwellers to turn out the lights when not in use). They also create posters, flyers, and other materials to hang in the dorms and distribute around campus to increase environmental awareness.

Based on the success of the ECO-Rep program, Bookhart went one step further last fall and devised the Green Idea Generator. The premise was to match interested students with faculty experts and Office of Facilities Management staff who could identify meaningful new projects that could be implemented within a single school year.

Roughly 60 students, faculty, and professional staff convened last November for the kick-off brainstorming session in which a dozen ideas for making the Homewood campus more sustainable were introduced, discussed, refined, and gauged for level of interest.

Ultimately, the group chose to pursue three projects: the prototype for a "green roof" for Ames Hall; a paper-reduction campaign; and an initiative that aims to collect used vegetable oil produced at campus dining facilities and burn it in multi-fuel waste-oil burners in the Wyman Park complex power plant. That effort will improve the "environmental footprint" of the university by replacing fossil fuels with a clean-burning vegetable oil that has a "net-zero" impact, notes Bookhart, who in January was tapped to chair the Johns Hopkins University Sustainability Committee.

The 16-member group is guiding a university-wide effort to greatly improve JHU's environmental profile, and is part of the overarching President's Task Force on Climate Change that President William R. Brody established last July. The task force includes an innovation and research working group, which is chaired by Arts and Sciences' Darryn Waugh, chairman of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.

Bookhart says he recognized from the start that students needed to play a bigger role in the university's greening initiatives. Existing programs, such as the campus recycling effort, had little or no student involvement.

"I thought we needed to use the campus as a learning laboratory for conservation issues," he says. "We are always looking for good strategies and sustainability initiatives, and it's a good idea to get students involved where we can." He adds, "The fact is students come up with great ideas."

Students have also wholeheartedly bought into Zipcar, the successful car-sharing program that was first introduced in March 2007. In the program's first month, 165 members signed up and used the four low-emission hybrid vehicles for an average of 6.5 hours per day. Just one year later, the fleet is now up to 10 cars and the program has made a significant impact. Bookhart says that studies have shown that each shared car has the effect of taking 15 personally owned vehicles off the road. Fewer vehicles mean cleaner air—an issue of vital interest for Bookhart, who is president of Charm21 (Clean and Healthy Air through Renewables in Maryland), a nonprofit group advocating the use of renewable fuels and resources in the Baltimore region.

This spring, with Bookhart's help, students launched the Saving Energy Extreme Inter-dorm Tournament (SEX: IT), in which student residence halls compete against each other based on their total energy use (including electricity, natural gas, chilled water, and steam). The dorm that reduces its energy consumption the most wins.

Projects like ECO-Rep, Zipcar, and SEX:IT are just the beginning, says Bookhart, who promises more green-inspired ideas to come.