I have been invited to participate in a grant-funded research study at my school entitled "The Environmental Management Systems and Indicator Baseline Research Project of the School of Architecture". In layman's terms, this means that the School of Architecture is being given money to study itself. We have, as a school, committed to the 2010 Imperative, so in the next 3 years, we are charged with not only achieving ecological literacy in our design curriculum, but also with making our building carbon-neutral. Not an easy task in 3 years, but a task we are willing to undertake, nonetheless.
So, why study ourselves? Well, in order to eventually achieve carbon-neutrality, we first need to know how much energy, product, and water we consume and/or waste before we can understand how to reduce, reuse and recycle. As you can imagine, there are many different aspects to this study, including energy usage, air quality, water management issues, electric vs. daylighting, and waste management and recycling.
This last one is where I come in. I have volunteered to take over the portion of the project which involves waste management and recycling. This may be a good time to mention that I am completely fascinated with how much trash Americans produce. I believe that one of the biggest hurdles we face in becoming a more sustainable society is how to create and consume products that don't eventually contribute to landfill or pollute in some way. Sure, we all know that to be "greener", we should change our light bulbs, adjust our thermostats, and ride our bikes. But where do our light bulbs, thermostats, and bikes go when we are done using them? Do they biodegrade or do they contribute to an already overflowing landfill somewhere?
I will be writing updates on my work with the study eventually, but right now, I am really excited....this kind of project is the reason that I wanted to go back to grad school, not only to learn how to make buildings work better, but to educate others on the topic as well. Even if it does involve trash!