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.





Energy Use Update

I have noticed a significant change in my own daily energy use and my electric bill at my apartment reflects these changes. Even though my roommates seem to leave the lights on often, I always find myself turning them off.  Also, we bought energy efficient light bulbs for most of our lamps as well.  When charging my laptop, I try to make sure it is 100% charged before I go to sleep so that I do not leave it plugged in over night.

I went home a couple of weekends ago and I unplugged everything in my room and bathroom.  The only thing that I need to fix personally is the heat lamp that I have over my snake terrarium.  The bulb is a 100 watt heat light that stays on 24/7 and naturally uses a lot of energy.  Recently a friend told me about a lamp that I could get with a timer so that it will automatically shut off when the terrarium reaches the right temperature.  I plan on looking into finding one of those soon.  This upcoming weekend I plan on attending the Green Energy and Living Expo with the Environmental Coalition to learn more techniques to save energy around the house.

Disecting the US Department of Energy

The US Department of Energy (DOE), located in Washington D.C., has many different important functions.  Their mission, as stated on the website, is to “ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology.”  One of the sectors of the DOE is the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP).  The FEMP uses different service groups to reach their goals.  One of the seven service groups that really interested me was the Interagency Sustainability Working Group (ISWG).  The ISWG was formed in 2001 with the mission of promoting sustainable and energy efficient buildings throughout the United States. They promote weatherization of buildings, decrease energy waste, and invest in ways to make buildings LEED certified. The group currently has 60 members, one from each major federal department agency.  The group works with different architects to spread the interest in sustainable design.  The ISWG uses “You Have the Power” campaigns to reach out to other federal agencies in the country and promote awareness about their ability to help us reach our energy goals.  Alison Kinn Bennett, a board member of the ISWG, is a member of the Enironmental Protection Agency and I am going to try to get in contact with her to discuss the important tasks that the ISWG is currently handling.




Getting Involved and Taking Action

I went to the Environmental Coalition meeting here on campus for the first time last Tuesday and I would have to say it is the best decision I have made all semester.  Just in the past week, I have become so involved within the group and I already feel like I am making a difference.  I attended the camping trip last Thursday in the Jefferson National Forest and had a blast.  At last Tuesday’s meeting, we discussed our further involvement in the Stadium Woods issue and the way the whole group came together to vote and listen to what one another had to say was truly mind blowing.  It is a rare occasion that you get young adults that are so open minded and willing to listen.

This week, I went to the meeting on Tuesday and joined the fundraising group.  We brainstormed tons of ideas for raising money for the Environmental Coalition.  One of our biggest ideas is to make and sell hemp bracelets with the EC logo on a bead.  Since I work with another EC member at D.P. Dough, we were thinking of possibly setting up a table in front of the restaurant to sell our bracelets.  I am also tabling with other EC members tomorrow for Odyssey day in the Squires Plaza tomorrow!  Lastly, Sunday we are doing an invasive species removal mission in Stadium Woods that is going to be a lot of fun!


Public Schools Going Green

While searching for different articles about sustainability and alternative energy resources, I came across this website called  The first article that caught my attention was one about a few Colorado public schools that are switching to solar energy.  The Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) joined forces with the company SolarCity and created new rooftops for 14 schools in the district.  Not only do the new rooftops help the district cut back on energy use, but it also significantly decreases the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

I think that using alternative energy in public schools is a great way to show the youth that it is important to seek clean energy.  Since the students at the 14 schools in the BVSD will grow up in an area where clean energy is a large part of their daily lives, they will see how much of a difference that it actually can make for the environment.  More school districts should try to seek alternative energy sources for their power.  If Colorado can achieve successful solar energy use, California, Florida, and many other states should be able to as well.





My Thinking Styles

I just completed the “My Thinking Styles” survey that Dr. Zahm sent to us yesterday.  I found it to be really interesting and am glad that I took it now. Over the years throughout high school and my first few semesters at Virginia Tech, I have been sent multiple surveys, such as this one that analyze how we think, what kind of personality we have, and what career choice is best for us.  Out of all of the past surveys, I have found that this one has been the most accurate.  In high school, one of my results said that I was a very punctual and analytical person and it could not have been more wrong.

My results from the “My Thinking Styles” survey showed that my top two thinking styles were Inquisitive and Truth Seeking.  I think this is the perfect result for me because those two styles go hand in hand with each other.  I am constantly questioning certain situations to find the truth behind them.   I consider myself to be a very skeptical person and do not just take everything at face value. I believe this thinking style will benefit me in the future because I will always be confronted with situations that may entail more than what meets the eye.


Energy Wake-up Call

Since I have returned to Blacksburg this semester, I have been living in my first apartment with two of my best friends off campus.  Living on your own comes with a lot of responsibilities, one of which is paying an electric bill.  Between discussing energy consumption in class and these new found bills, I have begun to notice how energy efficient I am not!

There are so many things that get left plugged in when there are three girls living in one apartment.  We all have flat irons and hair dryers that we use on a daily basis and tend to not unplug when we leave, and that is just in the bathroom.  My roommate informed me the other day that I not only left my flat iron plugged in, but i left it on as well.  I usually am pretty good about turning the lights off when I leave a room but my roommates, however, are not the same.  One thing that we cannot control is the fact that there are no ceiling light fixtures in our apartment so we all have multiple lamps in every room in order to have adequate lighting.  Next time we head to Walmart, maybe we could pick up some of the more energy efficient light bulbs for our lamps.  My roommates and I definitely need to work on keeping our energy use down or we will be in for a rude awakening whenever we receive our electric bill.