Christy Perera: March 2012 Archives

Singing the climate change blues

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While climate change is no laughing matter, three of UChicago’s own climate scientists collaborated on a whimsical video that captures the importance of the issue with a touch of humor that is distinctly UChicago. As a response to the video “I’m a climate scientist,” David Archer, Dorian Abbot, and Ray T. Pierrehumbert came together to create this ZZ Top-influenced Chicago rendition.

I sat down with two of the scientists featured in the video, David Archer and Dorian Abbot, to learn about their inspirations for the video and to gain some insight into their current research at the University of Chicago. Archer, Professor in Geophysical Sciences, teaches a popular College course in the Core curriculum called Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast. The course, which Archer created in 1996, was one of the first environmental classes at UChicago to address the subject area. He recently adapted it into an open access class online, and nearly 800 people registered for the free online course in the first week (and the class was mentioned by Andrew Revkin of the New York Times!).

Archer has a background in oceanography and studies long-term carbon deposits in the sediment and oceans, as well as the long-term evolution of the earth. Along with a group of other scientists in the geophysical science department, he recently submitted an astrobiology proposal to NASA. The proposal is for a project that aims to understand the processes that control the assembly and then the chemical evolution of a planet. Archer says this is one of the things he’s most excited about, and hopes to hear from NASA regarding the proposal by this coming summer.

Abbot, Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the main vocalist in the video, planned to work in physics and earth science since a young age. He is particularly interested in climate extremes and the climates of exo-planents (those being discovered). This type of research utilizes the same theory and frameworks as climate change.

Despite the serious and complex nature of their climate research, Abbot, Archer, and their colleague Ray T. Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor of Geophysical Sciences, came together to write the lyrics and produce the clever video featured above. Abbot suggested they do a ZZ-top version because the three donned long beards at the time. When asked what he would like people to take away from the video, Archer thought for a moment and then replied, “we are so concerned about issues on global climate change that we are willing to make absolute fools of ourselves.”

Ratner: our gym class heros

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When you walk into Ratner, you can't help but be inspired by the many patrons determined to surpass five miles on the treadmill or bench press hundreds of pounds. When we walk into Ratner, we can't help but be inspired by the many steps the Athletics Department is taking towards a greener fitness facility. 

Let's start with the machines: been biking lately? All of Ratner's bikes are user-powered. They have batteries for startup, but once you start peddling, the motion of your legs spinning the wheels powers the machine. There are even two upright bikes on the second floor that feature iPod/iPhone integration, meaning you can charge your electronics through exercise! 

Ratner is also working with Facilities Services (FS) to implement energy conservation lighting, which was done in 2011 at Henry Crown Field House. FS is also completing a project to recalibrate and balance Ratner's ventilation system. This would increase the efficiency of both the heating and cooling at Ratner. 

In addition to these sustainability measures, the Athletics Department sends older fitness equipment to other University athletic facilities. When equipment can no longer be repurposed, Ratner staff trades in these machines to fitness equipment companies. In return, these companies give Ratner new equipment while the old equipment is repaired and sold to high schools and other organizations or sold as scrap metal. Old athletic uniforms are donated to charitable organizations.

As gym patrons know, Ratner provides spray bottles of cleaning solution and towels in various locations throughout the gym. This cleaning solution, made by Simple Green, is eco-friendly and the towels are repurposed as cleaning rags by Ratner's staff once they are tattered. The towels are washed in high-efficiency machines with a green laundry detergent. You can read more about the sustainability of their laundry detergent here

Next time you hit the basketball courts or take a trip up to the cardio rotunda, rest assured that Ratner is making sustainable choices and looking towards a greener future. And don't forget to power down that TV after you've finished your workout!

UChicago bookstore to feature bike accessories

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Over the past few years, an increasing number of students, faculty, and staff can be spotted navigating campus on two wheels. Both the University’s honorable mention as a Bicycle Friendly University last spring and its 77% increase in department participation in the City of Chicago’s Bike to Work Week between 2010 and 2011 speak to this shift in the culture of biking on campus. In response to this, the University of Chicago bookstore will begin offering bike supplies and accessories on its second floor this spring.

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The assortment will first include lights, locks, helmets, leg bands, water bottle cages, pumps, and a patch kit. As demand increases and the line of products becomes popular, the bookstore staff will consider expanding the range of products. Currently, the line features non-emblematic items but could, in the future, include helmets or other accessories with UChicago emblems.

At the Spring Wellness Fair, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 15th, the bookstore will be offering a 20% discount on bike helmets when you register your bike with the UCPD. Other discounts can be seen on the bookstore’s facebook page. Erin Smith, Assistant Store Manager, hopes that this line will, “meet the needs of our biking community, and support the movement for sustainability on campus.”

SAGE Advice: Green your spring cleaning

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Have you ever picked up a bottle of household cleaner, such as Fantastic, and tried to read through the list of ingredients? Chances are, you haven’t. If you have, however, you’ll know that the ingredients list is chalked full of chemicals, chemicals, and more chemicals—most of which have extremely long and rather unpronounceable names. While some feel that brand-name chemicals are the most efficacious, you can in fact make a greener choice without sacrificing quality. Cleaning supplies laden with chemicals end up in landfills and sewers—leaking into our water supply and eventually entering into our bodies, where they can act as carcinogens. When you start to plan your spring cleaning, consider turning to these simple, homemade recipes and tricks for a space filled with natural brilliance instead of strong chemicals.

  • Make your own cleaning products: it’s easier and cheaper than you think! An investment in a couple of essential oils can lead to an entire pantry filled with eco-friendly, effective cleaning solutions. Here’s one to try for an herbal disinfectant: combine and shake well 2 cups of hot water, 10 drops of thyme essential oil, and ΒΌ cup washing soda. And presto—use as a spray on any germy surface to disinfect.
  • Get creative: Think of ways to reuse items you’d typically throw away. Maybe take an empty store-bought soap dispenser to use for your own homemade soap or use cardboard boxes to organize items in your pantry.
  • Make a resolution: If you designate a day each week for cleaning certain spaces in your apartment or dorm, you can avoid grime buildup. This way cleaning will be easier and you wont be tempted to turn to chemical-laden products to clean your space.
  • Use what’s around: Did you know there are 17 ways to clean with lemons? Other common household items can be equally as useful if you just think outside the chemical bottles.

For more tips, recipes, and greener cleaners, click here.

Photo source here.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Christy Perera in March 2012.

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