18 August 2008

Reading the Monday Paper main article (Vol 27 no 12, 4-17 August) this morning I felt that we were doing something good.

This great feeling was short-lived though. Walking out onto the street at lunchtime, I was horrified!

There were pieces of paper stuck to the sidewalk with sticky-tape!! Yes, we need to get the message across, but that doesn't justify the means. The tape will take years to decompose, and the carbon footprint of the paper and ink makes it even worse.

The "fines" stuck to the car windows were another horror! I walked to my car and tried to remove the "fine", and just as I suspected, the glue stayed behind. I will now need to use a blade and glue removers(soap, thinners etc) - this won't be great for the environment either. Being green means exactly that, it needs to be in your being.

It is not something you do once or because it is in fashion or to be visible. The article talked about a recycling initiative, that is great! If we want to do better we should try and prevent the creation of the recyclables.

If UCT wants to be green we should consider some of the following:

  • The number of printers we have on campus. Too many of us have a printer on our desk because it is convenient or we don't want to get up from our desk. If we consider the capital cost and the carbon footprint, how green are we really? Would a central printer for a department not be more green? Oh yeah, but then we would need to sacrifice our status and we would need to get up from our desks. Sure, there are instances where a personal printer make sense.
  • Have a policy that no minutes will be pre-printed for a meeting. Those that want a printed copy (ideally of a particular section) should make one themselves, before a meeting. Too often I have attended a meeting where full copies of all documents were distributed. Most people around the table only need a specific page to contribute to the meeting.
  • Having better paper towel dispensers in toilets. Ours just fall straight on the ground and nobody will or should use that. Brand new, straight to the bin.
  • The majority of offices have an air flow problem resulting in the use of electrical fans. Surely a louvre in a door would be greener! Security and the effort to arrange these is a clear deterrent.
  • Fuel used to find parking due to over-subscribed parking bays, or because some building contractor's equipment is occupying parking bays without alternate arrangements being made.
  • Electronic invites as opposed to printed invites to the VC's concerts etc.
  • Electronic nominations and elections for internal positions. The services are available but are not being used.

Pierre Neethling,

It is very laudable that UCT has held a Green Week initiative. Hopefully, this will lead to our community taking a more environmentally conscious approach to the use of resources. Walking up to campus during Green Week, it was rather strange to see contractors using a fuel-driven air blower to try to clean up leaves and other rubbish. Not only does this method not work well in windy cities like Cape Town, but it also requires fuel, a significant disadvantage in this time of high oil prices, and it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, a worker with a brush and dirt pan is a far more environmentally friendly method for dealing with dead leaves, as well as being considerably more effective in windy places.

Prof Chris Reason,
Department of Oceanography

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