Letter to the Editor

Michelle Sutherland

Editor In Chief

Collegiate Times

365 Squires Student Center

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

Mrs. Sutherland,

I am a sophomore here at Virginia Tech and am currently taking an Urban Public Issues Course.  Our main public issue of the semester has been energy use and we conducted a survey to guage the public’s opinion.  The students within the class each collected results from 10 family members, friends, and other persons.  The survey had questions about daily energy use and alternative energy options.

The results were not very surprising when it came to public knowledge about alternative energy sources.  Many people are familiar with the more common sources such as on shore/off shore wind, wave and tidal, and solar energy.  The “don’t know” answer was filled in less than 10% for each of them, with solar having the least amount of “don’t knows” at about 3%.  Biomass and Nuclar energy on the otherhand both had at least 15% of the answers as “don’t know” when the survey takers were asked their opinion on the subjects.

The public would be much more interested in getting involved with moving to alternative energy sources if they were more informed.  Blacksburg, as a community, should work on trying to inform the public about their options in alternative energy to help develop a more sustainable community.  Out of all of the survey takers, 77% said they would either support or strongly support the development of a mix of energy uses.  We have the tools to inform the community, we just need to come up with a game plan.
Thank you,

A Virginia Tech Student

Class of 2015


Saving the Heat: My Energy Use

While my roommates and I have all changed our energy use  by buying new light bulbs, unplugging things when they are not being used, turning lights off, and taking the bus, our latest energy challenge has been our excessive use of heat.  We do not pay a heat bill for our apartment so we carelessly leave the heat blasting frequently and we need to change that.  In order to save heat in our apartment, I am going to look into the curtains that Joanne blogged about a few weeks ago and see if we can stop cranking the heat up so much in the apartment.

Government Official

While I have found a power player that I was able to get in touch with, finding a government official with the time to respond has been tricky.  I have emailed two members of the Interagency Sustainability Working Group.  One representative from the Department of Energy and One representative from the Environmental Protection Agency.  I have yet to hear back from either of them but I am hoping to at least get a response before Thanksgiving break.  I am really interested in hearing from someone within this working group with my concentration in Global Development because they focus on developing sustainable buildings for the future.


Environmental Coalition Update

The past few weeks in the Environmental Coalition we have had speakers from Dining Services and the Office of Energy and Sustainability.  The speaker from Dining Services mostly spoke about how we are continuously trying to get rid of Styrofoam but every idea they have gets shut down.  The Office of Energy and Sustainability spoke to us about getting involved in their internship program and how to start sustainability projects on campus.  Angie, the speaker, was a member of the Environmental Coalition many years ago and she gave us a history of the organization which was really interesting to hear.  It has taken the Environmental Coalition many years to get to the point that they have reached and they have worked really hard to become the amazing group that they are today.

Everyone in the Environmental Coalition recently filled out a survey on our opinion on the Stadium Woods issue since that has been our main focus of this semester.  We have had a couple of invasive species removal projects so far and now we are seeing what further action we should take.  If anyone wants to take the survey, it is open to the entire Blacksburg community on the Environmental Coalition Facebook page

Power Players in Blacksburg

Until this semester, I was unaware of the amount of green energy companies that existed in the area.  About a month ago I learned about the company MiserWare, located here in Blacksburg. MiserWare is a green IT company that creates software that reduces energy use in computers by pausing and shutting down programs on the computer while it is not in use.  I was lucky enough to be introduced to a few of the employees of MiserWare, including their Outreach and Communications Manager, Erica Putman.  Putman was happy to agree to have an interview in person with me, which was a great surprise.  We met at the Mill Mountain Cafe to speak about her current goals within the company.  She happens to be a Virginia Tech graduate that was also a member of the Environmental Coalition.  Currently, she is creating a campaign for Virginia Tech to try to build a local customer base.

Putman’s main business tactic is brand recognition through social media application.  She is also currently working with a Virginia Tech marketing class that is helping her with the campaign development process.  Putman is currently searching for Virginia Tech interns to help spread her campaign across campus through different advertisement tactics such as flyers and booths.  She is looking for people involved in event planning to make this happen.  Getting the Virginia Tech students involved in her campaign is helping to show them that they can make a difference in the green energy community and raising awareness of the different ways that they can save energy. I believe that college students are consistently on their computers and unaware of the ways that they can save their battery and not have to charge their computers as much. I plan on following her as her campaign progresses to spread green software throughout the area.

Looking Over Energy Survey Results

Overall I was very pleased with the results from the Energy Surveys.  More of the people that took the survey tended to care about their energy consumption than not. The general public is starting to accept that we need to start thinking of other ways to conserve the energy we have and find other sources of energy as well.  Also, they seem to be acknowledging that global warming really does exist whether it is caused by human factors, natural factors, or a combination of both. Only 5 percent said that there was no such thing as climate change and that is really amazing compared to the amount of people that used to deny the existence of climate change.  Even if they are mainly concerned with the likelihood of the prices of energy increasing in the near future, they are still recognizing that this is an issue that affects them.

As for the response about creating a new mix of energy sources, I was a little shocked that 10 percent would oppose it.  Although 10 percent is not a huge amount it is still significant and I would like to know what their reason behind it is.  That aside, I was very happy that 77 percent of the people that responded either supported or strongly supported a mix of energy sources. These results seemed to correlate with my own personal results from the surveys that I collected.

My personal results showed a lack of care about nuclear energy, which is also in sync with the overall class results.  I believe this lack of care stems from a lack of knowledge about nuclear energy.  Nuclear seems to be the lesser of evils between it and coal since it got a 5 percent higher support rate.  The other possible energy sources offered: on shore wind, off shore wind, wave and tidal, and solar all received a generally positive response while biomass did not.  I believe that biomass also falls into the same category as nuclear in the sense that many people are not familiar with it and do not know how it works.  More than 20 percent of the survey takers responded with “I don’t know” when asked if they support biomass as an alternative energy source.