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Know Your Air

According to the 2010 State of the Air Report conducted by the American Lung Association and published on its website, the quality of Bowling Green’s air may be at risk.

Ozone, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency glossary, is a gas in the atmosphere that is produced naturally or through human activities. Human activities include photochemical smog, commonly produced from factories.

High concentrations of ozone can be harmful to humans and many other living organisms as they breath in harmful chemicals. According to the State of the Air Report, Bowling Green is at risk.

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BGSU Refuses to Sign Presidential Climate Commitment

The American College and Universities President’s Climate Commitment has nearly 700 signatures nationwide, but Bowling Green State University is not one of them.

The organization currently represents 5.8 million students and holds its universities accountable for creating a seven-part action plan to reduce carbon emissions, with a long-term goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Bowling Green State University is one out of four baccalaureate Ohio universities that have not signed. BGSU President Carol Cartwright has been asked twice by Gary Silverman, director of the center for environmental programs and operations, to sign the commitment. However, Silverman said Cartwright did not respond to either of his requests.

Some BGSU students attended a meeting with President Barack Obama at the 2011 Power Shift Conference in Washington D.C. Photo by Gabriel Morgan.

“The university needs to step up,” Silverman said. “We’re not doing it in comprehensive way. It’s invisible to a lot of students.”

Cartwright says she did not sign the commitment because she cannot guarantee that the university will reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in the future.

“I do not make promises that I cannot keep,” Cartwright said. “The initiative calls for a number of specific actions that simply won’t work for a university like BGSU and that we would be unable to implement.”

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Mark Hertsgaard speaks on climate change

Were you born after June of 1988? Then, according to author and environmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard, you are a member of Generation Hot.

Hot: Living through the next fifty years on Earth, puts a new perspective on climate change. (Contributed Photo)

Hertsgaard, the author of Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, spoke at the 25th Edward Lamb Peace Lecture at Bowling Green State University on March 28 in the Bowen Thompson Student Union Theater.  He discussed climate change, the subject of his latest book.

Hertsgaard coined the term “Generation Hot” using the date in 1988 that NASA scientist James Hansen warned the U.S. Senate about global warming. There are nearly 2 billion people around the world who were born after June of 1988.

“You all are fated to spend the rest of your lives coping with the hottest climate that our civilization has ever known,” he said to the audience of the lecture.

Hot was released Jan. 19 and has received rave reviews from various publications such as The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and The Boston Globe.

Hertsgaard said he got the idea for the book following an interview with Sir David King in London in October 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.  Hertsgaard said King is the most influential person on climate change, besides former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

After the interview, Hertsgaard was walking through London and heard children’s voices in a park, which reminded him that he was a father, and that his daughter Chiara would have to live through climate change.  He was determined to use his journalistic abilities to find out what it would take to survive.  Chiara was the inspiration for Hot.

Hertsgaard said that when he first began his research, climate change was said to

Hertsgaard with daughter Chiara, the inspiration for his book. (Contributed Photo)

be a very dangerous but very distant problem, and it was not expected to hit until the year 2100.  Scientists also thought it was a preventable problem.  Climate change ended up arriving 100 years earlier than expected because the Earth was more sensitive to greenhouse gases than scientists originally thought.

Hertsgaard also said many people use the terms “global warming” and “climate change” interchangeably, when they actually refer to two different things.  Global warming is the rise in temperature caused by excess greenhouse gases, he said.  This temperature change causes climate change which includes “extreme weather” such as an increase in precipitation or a stronger drought.  Even if people immediately stopped everything that is causing climate change, temperatures would still continue to rise for another 50 years, he said.

In the United States, many people do not believe that climate change is happening and think it is one big hoax.  Hertsgaard said this mindset only occurs in the U.S., and the Republicans are the single political party in the world that does not believe in it.  Climate change is as controversial as gravity in the scientific community.

“Man-made climate change is happening now, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

The United States is the No. 1 climate polluter, yet it does not have a global climate treaty.  According to Hertsgaard, the U.S. would if “Washington wasn’t dragging their feet.”  The Netherlands has a 200 year plan to cope with climate change.

Hertsgaard explained that the industrial countries started the

Mark Hertsgaard speaking at the Edward Lamb Peace Lecture at BGSU. (Photo by Hannah Mingus)

problem, and now everyone has to pay.  Capitalism is environmentally blind and doesn’t think long term which is the government’s job, he said.

The audience of Hertsgaard’s lecture mainly consisted of Bowling Green students, who were members of Generation Hot.   

Sophomore Meghan Duran-Whitmore attended the lecture as part of her international health class. She said she learned the difference between global warming and climate change. She also left feeling angry at prior generations. 

“I’m mad at the people before Generation Hot,” she said. “They didn’t have any respect for the people coming after them.  They just did what they wanted, and now we have to pay.”

According to the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency enforced its first greenhouse gas regulations on Jan. 2, 2011.  These new laws will mainly focus on building new facilities and modifying already existing plants.  In the next 10 years, the regulations will  “impose efficiency and emissions requirements on nearly every industry and every region.”

EPA’s report on climate change, says the “eight warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001, with the warmest year being 2005.”

Hertsgaard ended his lecture, by offering a bit of hope to the audience, especially to the members of Generation Hot.

“I am hopeful but only because I insist on being hopeful,” he said.  “Hope is faith.  Hope is believing.  Hope is an active verb.  Hope is a choice to believe that you can make something different, even when it looks dark.  …I am hopeful because when I look out to the members of Generation Hot I see so much potential.”

Listen to a clip from Hertsgaard’s lecture at BGSU

For more on the book:


Book Reviews: (Courtesy of

“Passionate and somber…[HOT’s] urgent message is one that citizens and governments cannot afford to ignore.” —Boston Globe

“Informative and vividly reported book…passionate.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Climate change is well underway, writes Hertsgaard, and we must begin to adapt to it even as we work to stop it….The author’s stated goal is to make readers feel hopeful so that they will act, but he is candid about his own lapses into despair. . . . Hopefully, this book will prompt readers to action. Starkly clear and of utmost importance.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“In Hot, one of America’s finest journalists confronts one of the world’s most urgent problems. Hertsgaard cuts through the denial and disinformation about climate change, offering a clear, tough-minded view of our predicament. More important, he shows that the worst harms of global warming are not inevitable and outlines the steps that can help to avert disaster. Hot bravely takes aim at perhaps the greatest climate threat of all: apathy.” —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“I know what you’re thinking: The problem is so massive I can’t bear to read any more about it. But you’re wrong. Mark Hertsgaard not only makes the workings of climate change clear, vivid and comprehensible but gives us some reasons for hope. Some of the ways to fight or adapt to global warming are simpler—and more unexpected—than you would think, and some of the places where these lessons are being applied you never would have guessed. Hot is a lively, personal, very human piece of reportage about an issue that will ever more be at the very center of our lives.” —Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

“Like the fairy tales that Mark reads to his daughter, Chiara, Hot is full of out-sized challenges and glimmers of hope. In this brilliant postcard from the year 2060, Mark explores a world that will be defined, for better or worse, by decisions made today as we conduct a massive planetary science experiment—one that future generations will grade us on.” —Terry Tamminen, Secretary of the California EPA for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger “Passionate and somber…[HOT’s] urgent message is one that citizens and governments cannot afford to ignore.” —Boston Globe

Bowling Green State University Re-Store

The Re-Store at Bowling Green State University in Ohio promotes the idea of reusing what students already have instead of buying new. Customers can hold their cash; the entire store is free.

Bowling Green State University Re-Store from Black Swamp Journal on Vimeo.

The Re-Store at BGSU is getting students to remember the three R’s of conservation: reduce, reuse and recycle. The store, located in residence hall Kreischer Compton-Darrow, is completely run on donations. Customers can get goods three ways:

  • Swapping an item they already have for something in the store;
  • Giving a cash donation and getting a good in exchange;
  • Or simply taking some of the store’s free books and folders.

The store was a concept created by BGSU Sustainability Coordinator Nick Hennessy’s and his interns. Other universities have similar programs. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the program Surplus with a Purpose is similar to the Re-Store. The program repurposes the university’s surplus goods. All items are redistributed to non-profit agencies or sold to the public.

At BGSU, the store receives the majority of its donations from the “When you Move Out Don’t Throw it Out,” program. Bins are placed in residence halls, where students can donate items they no longer want. At the end of the school year Re-Store workers collect materials from the bins, clean them and place them on Re-store shelves for customers to exchange.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors how much municipal solid waste is produced every year. According to the EPA in 2009 Americans produced 243 million tons of municipal solid waste. Visit the EPA’s website to learn more about household goods that can be recycled.

Oil Grease To Engine Fuel

Oil Grease To Engine Fuel from Black Swamp Journal on Vimeo.

Bowling Green State University’s sustainability coordinator, Nick Hennessy talks about the process of converting left over cooking oil, from the campus’ dinning halls, to diesel engine fuel.

A Closer Look at BGSU “Green” Dining Services

Kreischer Sundial

Just how “green” are Bowling Green State University Dining Services?

Some of the major projects students may notice are the two dining facilities under construction. They are silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified free standing dining facilities. LEED is a national system of ranking buildings based on their environmental impact, design, construction, operation and management recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the Division of Students Affairs Report for 2009-2010 once construction is finished at McDonald Dining, BGSU could potentially be the first university to have a free standing LEED certified cafeteria in the nation. Another accomplishment of dining services sustainability is the conversion of used fryer oil to be used as bio-fuel in campus shuttle buses.

“Right now we’re at a fryer oil surplus,” said Mike Paulus the Director of BGSU Dining Services. “We have 4,400 hundred gallons,” said Paulus. “We’ve ordered a brand new diesel truck to be converted locally to bio-fuel.”

While these new additions are helping to make the university more sustainable, smaller changes could be made as well.

“If you fix all of the small stuff it would make a big difference,” said Jonathan Zachrich an undergraduate student government representative from the Dining Advisory Board.

For example Zachrich said people are needlessly using to-go boxes when they are dining in. He said hanging signs explaining why customers should not do this would be helpful.

“It’s a big problem it happens a lot in Mac and Founders,” said Zachrich.

“They could do more talking to students, asking ‘Do you really need a to-go box?’” Zachrich said.

Students dining-in

Paulus realizes the problem and says it’s wasteful to purchase take-out boxes when students are not using them for the right purpose. Every box cost 34 cents to purchase.

“If you don’t need it don’t waste it,” Paulus said.

Despite the unnecessary use of take-out boxes they are bio-degradable.


“Dining Services has eliminated 97 percent of all the take-out boxes made out of foam,” Paulus said. All of the new take-out boxes are made out of sugarcane. If you throw it away, within 90 days it will compost to nothing.”

Bio-degradable take-out boxes

Napkins got an eco-friendly boost as well. They are biodegradable and are made out of 80 percent recycled materials.

Zachrich isn’t the only one with some constructive criticism. Gary Silverman the Director of the Department of Environmental Sustainability only eats at the Student Union and has noticed one irritating problem he thinks is an easy fix.

“The union still makes it difficult for customers,” said Silverman. “When I want a piece of pizza I have to work to get a non-disposable plate. I’m always able to find one, but it takes 10 minutes. It’s not a convenient option.”

Paulus said this issue will be corrected in the brand new MacDonald Dining that will be opening this fall. The new dining facility will only have china because customers can only eat in. A few other amenities will include collecting rain water that falls on the roof and using it in the facility’s low-flush toilets.

“Recycled barn wood from Ohio will be used for the tables and customers will be able to tell which barn the wood came from,” Paulus said.

Reducing paper waste is also one of the things that dining services has been trying to do.

LCD televisions reduce paper waste

“We used to waste so much by printing specials of the day and menu boards,” Paulus said. “Now we use LCD televisions as our menu boards. Using technology to serve as a menu board enables the campus commitment to sustainability.”

One new way of helping to accomplish this is through QR stamps. Paulus said there are little square images similar to a barcode displayed on LCD’s. Customers with smart phones can take a picture of the barcode similar to scanning it. Then your phone will automatically go to the webpage linked to the code.

“This reduces paper waste and eases communication with students. In the first week we got 8,000 hits,” Paulus said.

While BGSU dining seems green lets compare it to another school 90 miles away. Oberin College was listed as one of the “12 Most Healthy and Sustainable College Cafeterias,” by The Daily Green. Oberlin has curbed waste by purchasing 45 percent of food from local sources. Students have the opportunity to meet local farmers and growers at fairs.  Cafeterias have been tray less since 2008, helping to decrease food waste, energy and water use spent by washing tray’s daily.

The colleges’ two main dining facilities composted 21,500 pounds of kitchen scrap. All raw food kitchen prep was composed as well and the school uses bio-degradable packing.

It’s important to note when comparing the two universities that BGSU has a larger student population. Oberlin has 2,888 students and tuition is higher at $41,577 dollars.

BGSU Dining is owned by Chartwells a branch of Compass Group. Compass Group is the largest contract food service in the world. They also have a focus on promoting sustainability.

Zachrich knows that the university can do more to compete with other schools level of sustainability.

“It’s a continuous problem, trying to solve one problem and three more pop up. It’s tough.”

Zachrich welcomes anyone interested in helping to keep BGSU dining services sustainable should come to the Dining Advisory Board meetings. There is an outlet, students just need to take advantage of it if they want to see more change.

Lights off at BGSU

The oldest buildings on campus, Moseley, University and Hanna halls, can be considered creepy in the day time, but imagine what they are like when all the lights are off at night.  On the outside, the old brick is covered with long vines, which make their way down the sides of the buildings.  As they walk through Moseley, the old floors creak with each step, while the theaters in Hanna and University become even eerier as the lights go out.  In order to reduce the university’s energy costs, students brave their fears and venture through their hallways and classrooms.

Junior, Jennie Hartman, participates in Friday Night Lights for the first time. "I think it's a great organization, and I definitely want to do it again," she said. Photo by Hannah Mingus.

Every Friday night, students at Bowling Green State University participate in Friday Night Lights, an effort to turn out lights in academic buildings on Friday nights.  The program aims to help the university save money and become a “greener” campus.

At 6:30 p.m. each Friday, between 10 and 30 students meet outside of the Bowen Thompson Student Union Theatre.  Students then divide and conquer – they split up into small groups and are given a clipboard with their assigned building on it. The clipboard gives them a list of rooms/ hallways on each floor, and how many light banks they can shut off for the weekend. After all the lights have been shut off, the students meet back in Olscamp to turn in their clipboards. The process usually takes less than an hour to complete.

Nick Hennessy, BGSU’s sustainability coordinator, has worked with the project since it was first launched in October 2009 by a former student, Dustin Sabo. Sabo first came up with the idea after learning of a similar program called Friday Night Lights Off at Penn State. He contacted Hennessy to help him figure out which buildings it would be beneficial to turn lights off in, figure out how to save money and keep track of it each week, and most importantly, how to get volunteers to help out with the program.

“It had good timing because it takes place before students’ Friday night plans,” Hennessy said. “Students want to help out, and it’s convenient community service and a fun event.”

Sabo gathered volunteers from his major, middle-childhood education, which is where he got his “core” group. Hennessy put information about it on an email list for environmental majors, and on the campus update. They relied a lot on word of mouth from students.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Bailey has been working with the program since nearly the beginning.

“It makes a huge impact with such little effort, and makes you feel really good that just by giving like 30 minutes of your time, you are making such a change every single week,” she said.  “It’s also fun because you get to do it with friends and we always leave with inside jokes that will never get old.”

Bailey said one of her favorite memories of the group was when she and a few other volunteers discovered a box of free board games in East Hall, as well as a time when they accidentally turned the lights out on someone in the bathroom.

There was no opposition to the program when it started, but students did come across one problem.

“They unplugged the TV’s in the Business Administration, since no one looks at them,” Hennessy said. “They got flack for that since staff said they needed them on all weekend for weekend events.”

In fall of 2010, Friday Night Lights saved the University $13,260, according to Hennessy.   Students turned off lights every Friday of the semester up to Dec. 10, not including the Friday after Thanksgiving. The best savings last semester occurred one week in September with $1,012, while the lowest occurred in November with $826. The average savings is usually between $800 and $950 per week, according to Hennessy.  By not having lights on all weekend when no one is in the buildings, the university’s electric bill becomes substantially lower.

Various light switches across campus are labeled with the "Power Down BGSU" sticker to help remind students and faculty to switch off lights when not in use. Photo by Hannah Mingus

The program saves the most money by turning off lights in Education, Olscamp, Math Science, B.A. and Life Science buildings. Not because they are the “biggest energy hogs,” but because those buildings have much more going on, so there are more lights to turn off, according to Hennessy.

The only buildings on campus the volunteers do not go are the dorms, the Administration Building, and student affairs buildings such as Bowen Thompson Student Union, the rec center, field house and Jerome Library. Many of these buildings have their own process for turning off the lights, or they don’t have enough hallway light switches available.

BGSU is currently working on a project called Energy Control Management, which may put the Friday Night Lights staff out of a job in the near future. The project will have two phases. Phase 1 has already started, and it will involve replacing the heat/ ventilation, ducts and valves in buildings and having set point temperatures with digital controls. Phase 2 will deal with lighting and put motion sensor lighting in the buildings.

“It will be like Friday Night Lights every night of the week and day,” he said.

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