November 2011 Archives

Installation description courtesy of Sarah Mendelsohn, AB’12

The most recent art installation in the Young Building foyer showcases abstract sculptures, created by students Sarah Mendelsohn (AB’12) and Fred Schmidt-Arenales (AB’13), in recognition of the collaboration between the University of Chicago Office of Sustainability and Blackstone Bicycle Works.

Scrapped bike parts collected from the trash bins of Blackstone Bicycle Works provided both the structural and narrative foundation for these three sculptures. The parts collected and assembled represent the bottom of the barrel: bent forks and locks rusted shut, blunt cogs and defunct brake cables. The state of these broken and abandoned pieces prompts a material investigation of leftover parts. Hanging produce scales found in supermarkets provide visual references for the evolution of the sculptures: the scale serves as a pliable metaphor for talking about re-use, for measuring or weighing the value of what can be recycled. The walnut and Brazil nut shells represent another kind of leftover. Cemented within the lower masses of each sculpture, the nutshells playfully gesture towards the theme of refuse.

This installation speaks to the University’s shifting culture around cycling, as well as its increasing awareness around sustainability in general. Feel free to pop into the Young Building to check out the latest art exhibit!

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Too many tomatoes: Winterizing Avant Garden

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On a recent Wednesday morning, 14 avid gardeners worked in the chilly sunshine to winterize Avant Garden. The first step was to harvest the last of the veggies. In addition to tomatillos, peppers, green beans, chard, and kale, the gardeners plucked at least two huge bushels of green tomatoes! Many of these tomatoes were taken by staff from Smart Museum, Facilities Services and Court Theatre to make fried green tomatoes or green tomato muffins, while the remainder were used to decorate the 3rd floor kitchen of the Young building as they ripened.

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Following the harvest, gardeners tested their strength by pulling annual plants up by the roots. This often proved difficult, as the plants had established fairly extensive root systems over the summer. The University’s Grounds Crew picked up the massive pile of plants for composting.

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The third step of winterizing Avant Garden involved mulching the beds with a combination of soil and horse manure. Volunteers used rakes to turn the beds with the nutrient-rich soil.

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The final step was to clear the pathways and perimeter fencing of leaves and debris. After several hours, Avant Garden is now spruced up and ready for the winter! A successful pilot program, gardeners will be surveyed to evaluate and improve on Avant Garden next year. If interested in participating in the Avant Garden, please email Katie.

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SAGE Advice: Winter too hot for you?

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Too cold? See last year’s November SAGE advice.


Okay, fine, maybe it’s not winter quite yet, but soon enough (as much as I hate to admit it), winter will be upon us. Each year, when the low temps strike and we start piling on the layers, I sometimes find myself getting a little too warm in some of our campus buildings—sometimes sweating in my sweater. While the weather outside might be frightful, inside it’s not always so delightful. But before you crack open a window to cool down (or plug in a space heater to warm up), follow these quick tips:

  • When you find yourself just too hot to handle indoors, turn down the heat! In fact, you might even consider turning off a radiator. Whatever you do, don’t touch that air-conditioning dial! Turning on your air conditioner is not only a waste of electricity, it also fools your heating system into thinking it’s colder than it actually is, making your heating system work even harder (and resulting in higher electricity and heating bills!). In fact, if you have an air conditioner sitting in your window, take it out or cover it up (in campus buildings, contact the Work Center, see below). Window air conditioners contribute to heat loss, so wrap it up to insulate your office from the cold.
  • Too warm while your professor debates the merits of Marx? Falling asleep because of the heat during your office meeting? Contact the Work Center at 773-834-1414. Facilities Services staff will assess the situation and make adjustments as needed. (If you’re in the dorms, submit a request via HouseNet.)
  • Get informed! For a more extensive list of winter do’s and dont’s, please see last year’s SAGE Advice on staying warm in our cold Chicago winters.

They say this winter is going to be one of the worst on record—but we all know that even when it’s up to your knees out there, you won’t turn into an ice sculpture inside. Bundle up and stay warm- inside and out.

Question: What do the following things/activities have in common: face painting, baked beans, pep band, football, and composting?

Answer: They were all part of UChicago Homecoming on October 22nd.

This year, composting made its debut at the University's annual Homecoming celebration, thanks to the combined efforts of UChicago Dining Aramark and Green Campus Initiative. Guests were encouraged to bring their plates, cups, utensils and any extra food to a compost station near the food service area. Sorting the compost was mostly a breeze, because all of the tableware was compostable, including the "plastic" cups made from--you guessed it!--corn.

After three hours of sorting compost and schmoozing with parents, student volunteers and UChicago Dining Aramark staff diverted approximately one third of the total waste at Homecoming that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Compost collection was generally a success, because in addition to posting ample amounts of signage, volunteers also coordinated with the Homecoming announcer to help advertise.

Next year, when Homecoming rolls around, event planners hope to make an even bigger impact by:

  1. Eliminating pesky condiment wrappers, which are not compostable, not recyclable, and not easy to spot when wrapped in a wad of napkins.
  2. Utilizing water coolers only. (Bottled water can be kept hidden away for emergencies.)
  3. Siting the compost station in a more visible area, or adding a second composting station.
  4. Eliminating trash cans altogether!

Homecoming 2011 was a big step in the right direction, and we can expect bigger, better, and greener things next year. A big thanks to UChicago Dining Aramark and GCI volunteers for making such an outstanding commitment to sustainability!

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GCI volunteer helps Homecoming attendee with composting.

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Homecoming also featured sustainable water coolers.

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A UChicago Dining Aramark Composting Station on Stagg Field.

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Bags of compost, diverted from landfills and destined to become certified organic compost!