What You Can Do

turbine raising

Join the Discussion

The most important thing to do to help the environment and sustainability is get involved in organizing. The American Revolution, slavery, labor struggle, women's suffrage, civil rights, apartheid, and others were all seemingly impossible opressions that were overturned by activism and organizing. Without voicing demands in true democratic form, we can expect no changes in the status quo from our school, or nation, or the world. An individual consumer has little input in decisions like moving national investments in coal towards clean energy. That one citizen also doesn't have a voice in the 97% of the national waste stream that come from non-domestic sources like industry and transportation. That one person has no authority in demanding responsible land use by supersized agribusiness farms that have decimated the world's most fertile topsoil and uses 80% of our nation's water supply. All these are critical uses of the planet's limited resources, resources that belong to everyone. Getting involved in some level of activism is the only way to make changes.

WPI is a leader in engaging students in projects that contribute to sustainability around the world. However, WPI has committed itself to do even more to improve the environmental and economic sustainability of our operations and enhance our scholarly and educational contributions to the wider social, environmental, and economic systems within which the university is embedded. We need your input during our Campus Sustainability Planning process, because you have ideas that can permenantly change our campus, and your support for tough decisions and lofty goals is what will make them fall in our favor.

Please send all miscellaneous suggestions to green@wpi.edu

Using Less Energy To Do Even More

We also need you to take action in your personal life and make more responsible choices. Below is a great list of action items that will lower your carbon footprint, and that's something you can be proud of!

Another easy way to learn more actions is through Practically Green. Their format makes it easy to learn about choices you might not think are related to environmental preservation, and to understand the impact each action has on the climate.

Items to Bring to Campus

  • For your dorm room, buy recycled – shop eBay or Craigslist for your back-to-school items (or get stuff free from Freecycle around your area)
  • Power strip for your electronics help with phantom power draw
  • Ceramic mug and dishware save industrial energy and waste – don't bring any disposables
  • Cold water unscented detergent
  • Cleaning cloths instead of paper towels
  • A non-electric carpet sweeper
  • EnergyStar computer monitor, minifridge, or other small appliances
  • Organic cotton sheets (it's still the same cottony goodness, but you'll rest easy knowing it's grown without harmful pesticides)
  • Stainless steel water bottle - don't buy any bottled water! (aside from saving tons of money, they're cleaner and healthier for you and our planet)

Living/Dorm/Bedroom Area

  • Use compact fluorescent light (cfl) bulbs which use 20% less energy than incandescent bulbs of similar brightness and last 8 times longer.  (Look for LED bulbs,  Lasts 100,000 hours!)
  • Unplug your chargers when you're not charging, they still sap up electricity
  • Enable the "sleep mode" feature on your computer, or better yet hibernate, allowing it to use less power during periods of inactivity
  • Don't waste paper! Proof your document on the computer before printing it. Print drafts or notes on the back of old papers (those pesky handouts do come in handy) 
  • Check whether your printer can print on both sides and change your settings at WPI Helpdesk's Duplex Printing Frequently Asked Questions
  • Buy recycled paper.  Buying recycled paper saves water, air emission, and landfill space
  • Many electronics – TV VCSs, DVD players, etc. - draw as much as 100 watts/hour even when turned off.  Avoid the drain and plug them into a power strip that you turn off when not watching TV
  • Plasma TVs use almost 4 times the energy of standard TVs. LCD flat panels use somewhat less than plasma
  • Consider your video game consoles, or massive gaming computers. Choose a less energy intensive one, and unplug it
  • Be smart about opening and closing your curtains throughout the day to block the sun, or keep it in (the same goes for windows of course!)
  • Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Lower the thermostat even more when you are asleep or away
  • It's tough to find environmentally friendly clothes: cotton is one of the world's most chemical-intensive crops. Look for clothes with natural organic or chemical free fibers, and get into secondhand clothes shopping (its not just your grandmother's wardrobe)! Find more on how to 'Green your closet' with this Green Living Tips article.

Kitchen

  • The higher your food is on the food chain, the more energy that's required to produce it: Add more fruits, vegetables and grains to your diet.
  • Eat vegetarian meals some nights of the week (preferably all the time!) Eating meat supports one of the most energy intensive industries in the world. Vegetarians average IQ is 5 points higher, are undisputably healthier, and eliminate unneccesary suffering of animals.
  • Refrigerators account for up to 14% of energy bills, and are consistently getting more efficiency. Ask your landlord for an upgrade, and show them it will pay back fast.
  • Avoid over-filling the refrigerator, as this blocks air circulations and uses more energy. Conversely, a full freezer will perform better than an empty one. 
  • If you have a dishwasher, run it only when it is full, and save 10-20 gallons of water a day.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge so you dont have to run the tap water until it gets cold all the time (this goes, naturally, into a stainless steel water bottle, mentioned above)
  • When shopping, buy fresh, local and organic. Avoid frozen or extensively processed and packaged foods.
  • Buying local is a good bet for reducing pollution and the energy used to transport, store and refrigerate food.
  • According to a recent study, the average American household wastes 14 percent of its food purchases. But it's not just the food that is being wasted -- all of the water and energy that went into producing, packaging and transporting the discarded food also goes to waste. Most of this food waste ends up in landfills, where it releases methane pollution as it decomposes, further contributing to global warming.
  • Start composting. Food waste is a huge percentage of our waste stream, but has no need to be transported and processed like trash. Find some friends or talk to the dining hall about getting it going.

Bath

  • Take shorter showers. Every one minute in the shower uses 4-6 gallons of water.
  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. This will save about 8 gallons of water each time you brush!
  • A leaky toilet will waste 200 gallons of water daily.  It takes only a few minutes to replace leaky parts, so contact your RA or landlord to get the leak fixed right away.  
  • Recycle your toothbrush. Over 25,000 tons of toothbrushes end up in landfill in America each year. If its made of plastics #1-#7, recycle it!

Laundry Room

  • Wash in cold water with cold water detergent.  90% of the energy to wash clothes goes to making the water hot.
  • Save money and 6.5% of greenhouse gasses per load by skipping small loads until you've got enough clothes to fill it up!
  • When you go home, hang clothes outside to dry. Not only will you save 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases, your clothes will smell fresher.
  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after each use, otherwise airflow is restricted and it will take much longer.

Sustainability and Schoolwork

  • Eliminate paper and post syllabi and assignments on myWPI.
  • Eliminate paper and use SharePoint, dropbox, or other online collaboration tools to store and share documents online.
  • Work on drafts electronically ("Track Changes" allows you to edit work electronically and keep track of edits).
  • Reuse textbooks by participating in textbook exchanges or used text sales.
  • Ebook availability is exploding for your computer, ipad, or kindle, and much cheaper!
  • Search the Gordon Library for books you need to read; or WorldCat to borrow books from local libraries.
  • Check  the library's journal and magazine search for online access as a great alternative to print subscriptions.
  • Unsubscribe from junk mail lists and catalogs. If your recycling bin is stuffed with catalogs you never read, put an end to the pile with the free Catalog Choice service. Catalog Choice lets you select the catalogs you don't want to receive and sends your requests directly to the merchants.
  • Advertise for events through email and the internet rather than paper mailings and fliers.
  • Reuse envelopes to send mail to other departments.
  • Bring mugs and dishes to work to avoid using paper cups and plates. Most coffee shops (including the library cafe and all Chartwells outlets) give discounts for using your own mug.

Transportation

(see Transportation Strategies for the rundown of WPI's sustainable transportation solutions)

  • Can the car completely.  For every mile that you walk, bicycle or take mass transit, you will keep 1.3% of green house gasses out of the atmosphere for every gallon of gas that you don't use.
  • Get a bike, skateboard, scooter, or moped (check out Worcester Earn-a-Bike, a great volunteer organzation where you can quickly earn your own bike for free while learning how to maintain it)
  • Use publc transportation: between Union Station trains, WooBus, SNAP vans, and the Gateway shuttle, you can do perfectly well without a car.
  • Join Zipcar program (there are two cars on campus!), or Carpool World for ride-sharing.
  • Drive slower.  The faster you drive, the more wind resistance you build up (Drag Force = 1/2*density*velocity^2*coefficient*area, velocity squared people!), and that uses much more fuel. Ease up on the highway and you'll go further between fill-ups.
  • Maximize your car's effiency with good maintenance. Keeping your car tires properly inflated (something you can do at every gas station) will avoid losing up to15% of your gas mileage. Old spark plugs can substantially reduce fuel economy.
  • If in the market for buying a car, buy used to avoid manufacturing and industrial energy. Get a small car, a hybrid, or a clean diesel car (thats right, diesel is no longer the dirty choice).

Recycling and Waste

  • The best way to minimize trash is to minimize the amount of stuff you use. Recycling is much better than throwing it away, but melting down plastic and reshaping paper is still a heavy industry. Know the real facts of recycled and virgin materials.
  • What goes where? Help make WPI more sustainable and reduce our amount of trash by recycling most of your disposables. In order to find out how to do so, and what items are acceptable, check our  recycling guidelines.
  • It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than to make it from raw materials.  Significant savings comes from recycling glass, plastics, paper and steel. Look for recycling bins around your resident hall and classrooms.
  • Giving away or selling used electronics are great ways to extend their use and keep them out of landfills. WPI has hard electronic recycling with the IRN, and also reuses our old computers and electronics by giving them to Worcester Public Schools and others. Talk to your RA or the Facilities Department (ext 5500) about responsibly disposing of your functioning electronics.
  • If your recycling bin is stuffed with catalogs you never read, put an end to the pile with the free Catalog Choice service. Catalog Choice lets you select the catalogs you don't want to receive and sends your requests directly to the merchants. 
  • Join WPI in Recyclemania in January and compete with colleges and universities around the nation to help eliminate waste!
  • If you're tired of the same old clothes, hold a clothing swap on your floor, or trade them up at Goodwill or the Clark Community Thrift Store.
  • Instead of tossing your gently used small appliances and clothes at the end of the academic year, bring them to a recycling bin that will benefit local nonprofits.  Bins will be out two weeks before our move-out date.