Colleges and universities

Artificial sweeteners pollute streams

Read the full story in Science for Students.

In the past few decades, diners have been turning increasingly to soft drinks and foods sweetened with fake sugar. The idea is to get the sweet taste without loading up on calories. But a new study finds an environmental cost to these sweeteners: In short order, they can end up polluting lakes and streams.

Original Journal Source: B. Subedi and K. Kannan. “Fate of artificial sweeteners in wastewater treatment plants in New York State, USA.” Environmental Science & Technology. Published early online Nov. 3, 2014. doi: 10.1021/es504769c.

2015 Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit Call for Presentations

June 24-26, 2015
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
Conference web site

This Summit offers attendees the chance to network, learn, and exchange ideas with peers from around the country on ways in which athletic and sports programs can join the campus movement to engage students, fans, and alumni in making collegiate sports socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.

Please consider answering the call for presentations and discussions by completing the Call for Presentations form and submitting it to the Summit organizers no later than January 9, 2015.

Illinois Food Scrap Coalition releases video on the benefits of composting

This short video from the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition explains what composting is and why it’s important. Excellent resource to use when talking to businesses about the benefits of composting.

Solution Generation

ecoAmerica and the Solution Generation Executive Committee are pleased to announce the launch of a new national program, Solution Generation. Solution Generation aims to catalyze higher education leadership on climate change by inviting and empowering college and university leaders to lead by example and engage others in climate solutions. The web site provides a range of communication tools, inspirational success stories and resources that higher education leaders can use right away to design and implement strategies to inspire and empower their students, faculty, staff and peer leaders. The program is designed to empower higher education leadership, whether they are climate leaders or are just getting started.

Computers Use More Energy Than Previously Thought

Via the California Energy Commission.

According to two studies commissioned by the California Energy Commission, computers are not going into sleep mode or automatically being turned off as often as users think, leaving opportunities to save more energy. The implications of the research are that workplace desktop computers consume significant amounts of energy even when not in use.

The first study, “A Survey of Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population,” surveyed more than 2,000 respondents to obtain detailed information about the use of more than 3,000 office desktops, home desktops, and laptops. This large user-centric study is unique compared to most previous studies because of the focus on user behaviors regarding power management features.

“People think when they leave their workstation, the computer will reduce its own energy consumption after a specified amount of time,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the agency’s lead on energy efficiency issues. “These studies show a strong desire and intent by computer users to reduce energy use. Identified user error and knowledge gaps indicate significant room for improvement in the power management options and interfaces available to computer users.”

Computers have built-in power management software—with settings such as sleep, hibernate and shutdown—that enables computers and monitors to consume less energy when not in use; however, these features are not delivering the full energy savings potential.

Additional findings:

  • Respondents report using automatic power management features over manual modes. The survey showed that 39 percent of the time users regularly use manual controls to put office desktop computers into sleep, hibernate, or off modes. Of those office desktops not taking advantage of automatic power management, 61 percent are left on all the time.
  • Users changed power management settings themselves in 50 percent of laptops, 41 percent of home desktops and 20 percent in office desktops. Respondents have less control over their office desktops than their laptops or home desktops.
  • According to the survey, the two main reasons computers were left on, even when not in use for hours, are that users felt restarting is too slow and the belief the computer will automatically go into sleep or other lower-power mode. For office desktops, two other main reasons were “need to leave computer on for updates or backups” and “needs to be available for remote access.”

The second study, “Monitoring Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population,” used software to remotely monitor 125 computers in the first study, 24 hours a day for several weeks. Research was gathered by monitoring actual computer usage patterns, a supplementary questionnaire, and direct observations of computers’ power management settings. The findings were compared to those of the first study.

Among the findings of the second study:

  • The monitoring study showed a large difference between direct observation of user’s computer settings and their survey responses. Researchers observed that 20 percent of computers had automatic power management enabled whereas the survey responses indicated that 84 percent of computers had at least one automatic power setting enabled. The data suggest users incorrectly believe automatic settings are engaged when they are not.
  • Workplace desktop computers are on 76 percent of the day, even though they were only being used 16 percent of the day. Sleep mode was enabled for about 7 percent of the day.
  • Overall, workplace desktop computers in the study were on and not being used more than 60 percent of the time. If computers had manually or automatically been turned off or put in sleep mode, energy use would be less.
  • The majority of computers (69 percent) are off for less than 5 percent of the time, and most of those are off for a few minutes a day, likely when rebooting.

“The considerable amount of energy that is being consumed by computers that are on, but not in use, shows that with better power management alternatives, a large amount of energy could be saved with improved power management features,” McAllister said.

The California Plug Load Research Center conducted the two studies to better understand computer use patterns and identify potential ways to reduce energy waste in California. The Energy Commission will use these studies to supplement other research as it develops a draft staff proposal for computer and monitor energy efficiency standards.

Graduate Scholarships in Environmental & Climate Policy at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Focus on East Asia

The Bard Center for Environmental Policy in New York is pleased to announce that Henry Luce Foundation Scholarships are available for students from East Asia (China, Japan or South Korea) to complete a two-year Master of Science degree in Environmental Policy or Climate Science and Policy starting August 2015. The LIASE Scholarships (Luce Initiative for Asian Studies and the Environment) provide tuition waivers of between 50% and 100% in the first year, and at least 50% of tuition in the second year. Students are responsible for travel costs, and for expenses for room and board.

LIASE Scholarship students in the CEP program will participate in an annual conference featuring undergraduate and graduate research on Asia and the Environment with students from across the northeastern United States. Bard will award two-year LIASE Scholarships to qualified applicants each year for the next two years. LIASE Scholarship applicants must be citizens of one of China, Japan or South Korea, and must have a demonstrated interest in environmental policy in their region.  Applicants for the LIASE Scholarship should, in addition to a regular application, provide a one-page letter discussing their research interests in Asian environmental policy.

The LIASE Scholarship application letter should be emailed to Caitlin O’Donnell ( by March 15, 2015 with the subject “LIASE Scholarship Application” to be considered.

Webinar: Introduction to the State Electronics Challenge

Tuesday, November 18, 2-3 pm CST
Register at

Join Lynn Rubinstein from the State Electronics Challenge to learn how your organization can reduce its environmental footprint through improved management of electronic office equipment.

The State Electronics Challenge is a voluntary national program, free of charge and open to any state, tribal, regional, or local government agency, as well as any K-12 school or non-profit organization. The SEC promotes environmental stewardship of computers, monitors, and imaging equipment — from purchasing green office equipment through power management, paper use reduction, and responsible end-of-life management — resulting in measurable reductions in energy, greenhouse gases, solid and hazardous waste, and associated costs.

Attend this introductory webinar to learn how your organization can join the Challenge and benefit from the program’s proven free technical assistance, action plan, implementation tools, and environmental benefit calculations.