It isn't easy being green, but Hopkins is ready to make the leap. On Earth Day, April 22, President William R. Brody officially launched the Greening of Johns Hopkins University Initiative, an endeavor that will bring an environmental ethic to the university's operations and help create a sustainable future. An ad hoc committee comprised of faculty, staff and students will oversee the initiative's preliminary phase.
The goal of the initiative is to coordinate and enhance the institution's environmentally friendly practices including recycling, energy efficiency efforts, reduction of fossil fuel consumption and open space preservation.
Brody said in an Earth Day broadcast e-mail that this enterprise will work toward "substantially reducing the university's footprint on the environment."
"We face an enormous challenge to protect the natural world and, at the same time, meet the needs of the world's growing population," Brody said. "Universities can help society meet these challenges by forging new knowledge and providing students with the necessary tools to solve problems. I believe that behavioral and cultural changes in individuals and society are necessary in order to create sustainable solutions for our shared future. Universities must lead the way in discovering how to bring about such changes."
The impetus for the project arose from the participation of a team of Hopkins faculty, staff and students at a conference that addressed the role universities should play in promoting sustainable environmental practices.
The team then met with James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration, who gave his endorsement for the group to proceed, using Homewood and the School of Public Health as starting points for a greening initiative.
Committee member Robert Lawrence, director of the university's Center for a Livable Future and associate dean of professional education and programs at Public Health, said, "Johns Hopkins has a special role to play based on its global reputation for scientific excellence and the strength of its professional schools. We need to provide important role models for our students so they can take the message of responsible environmental stewardship to the management or leadership positions they will ultimately hold, and to bring the full strength of our resources to play on finding practical solutions to the great challenges before us."
The first task of the committee is inventorying current "green" practices. Initial findings have concluded the environmental effort has clearly already begun.
For example, at Homewood, where a coordinated recycling effort was started four years ago, 1,991 tons of solid waste was sent last year to Baltimore's Resco waste-to-energy facility, and 762 tons of that waste was recycled into new products. The list of items being recycled includes bottles, cans, paper, batteries and computers. Also, many light fixtures have been retrofitted with energy-efficient bulbs, and real-time metering devices have been installed to more closely manage utilities and lessen electrical consumption. Similar efforts are under way at the School of Public Health.
The greening of Hopkins was on the mind of the developers of the new Homewood master plan, one of whose guiding principles is to preserve and enhance existing natural systems. Stephen Campbell, interim executive director of Facilities Management, said this "restoration" of natural systems will be executed in three primary areas: improved stormwater management, the enhancement of green space and the implementation of new irrigation systems to reduce the school's use of domestic water consumption.
In addition, there are many environmentally conscious reasons as well as aesthetic ones why bricks are to be used for new campus walkways. Among them, they slow the velocity of storm water runoff, and the infiltration of storm water between bricks allows chemicals in surface and rain water to be filtered through the ground instead of straight into streams.
"Thoughtful development and mindful consumption of resources can sustain our image as a leader among institutions," said committee member Patrick Moran, Homewood recycling coordinator.
The committee already has begun to solicit ideas for new green practices. Polly Walker, associate director for programs at the Center for a Livable Future, said that suggestions have included outfitting shuttle buses with nonpolluting fuels and setting up a composting operation to decrease solid waste.
Walker said CLF will assist the greening initiative by organizing a conference to highlight the effort, identify what is already being done here and at other universities, and plan for the future. The center also will seek funding to support the activities.
As for pessimists who say a few cans and a few light bulbs will not make a difference, Walker agrees that these steps alone are not sufficient. However, "all these smaller efforts, when combined, can indeed make a significant difference," Walker said. "It just may take recycling a few cans and changing a few light bulbs in order to start thinking outside the box about ways to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, waste production and our dependence on automobiles."
To participate in the greening initiative, contact Polly Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on recycling efforts, go to www.jhu.edu/~recycle. For more on CLF, visit http://www.hsph.edu/environment.