By Nick Enge

In winter 2011, the Woods Institute and the Stanford University Office of Sustainability once again sponsored "Greening Buildings & Behavior" - aka Civil and Environmental Engineering/Earth Systems 109 - a service learning course that brings together Stanford students from diverse academic backgrounds to learn about and contribute to institutionalizing sustainability on campus.

Through lectures on energy, water, waste, food, transportation and behavior change - along with onsite sustainability audits at Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service - students in CEE/ES 109 learned how much the university has already done, and how many opportunities remain for further improvement. Based on what they learned, participants developed several proposals that will help the Sustainable Haas Committee prepare for successful implementation of the Stanford Building Level Sustainability Program - an individual, action-based resource conservation program implemented at the building level. 

After each topic-specific audit, students submitted personal reflections. The following excerpts from assignments on energy, water and waste highlight the positive impact of CEE/ES 109 on student awareness and understanding.

Energy

It's fascinating to see how many basic opportunities there are to reduce energy consumption in our built environment, and it's humbling to know that many of these techniques have been around for thousands of years; for instance, orienting the building so that south-facing windows can absorb the Sun's radiant heat and passively use daylight to keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer (using window shades), or commissioning a building to make sure that HVAC systems are working properly. Seems obvious, right? But then we're sitting here at Stanford, in our energy-efficient jewel, Y2E2 [Yang Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building], and we hear that for the first two years the systems were fighting each other. So now when people ask me what I'm doing at Stanford, I respond without sarcasm by saying, "I'm studying common sense."
- Signo Uddenberg

During our audit of the Haas Center, the class noticed that right off the bat there were some quick fixes for reducing energy consumption, and that the people we talked to were very open to changing their behaviors. Overall it was a fun field study, and I'm looking forward to working with the Haas Center in the next few weeks!
- Alex Pulido

Water

The water audit was really cool and practical, because I can use what we learned in my dorm, home and everywhere I go. The things I felt that were most valuable were learning how to identify the models of fixtures in bathrooms. The labels for toilets and urinals are on the porcelain, usually next to the flusher, which include both the brand and number of gallons of water per flush. The faucets say the gallons per minutes on the end of the faucet. For the toilets, urinals and faucets, it is best to actually time the amount of water used per flush or minute instead of just trusting the manufacturers. We were given equations that estimate the water usage and during our audit, the calculated values were similar to those given by the manufacturer.
- Marielle Price

The water-consumption tracking project taught me a lot about my own water use. Just by changing small habits, like shortening my showers, I can reduce my daily water use by half. That would be going from about 50 gallons a day to 25. It is habit changes like shortening showers that make an immediate difference in overall water consumption. Also, I learned that I drink a little over a gallon of water a day, but that the water I drink barely makes a dent in the amount of water I consume daily with other activities.
- Nathalia Bailey

Waste

The waste audit was just an incredible experience. I wasn't sure what to expect when it was first mentioned that we were going to sort through trash for an hour. After all, you never know what crazy concoctions students create that they want to throw away. At the beginning, I honestly didn't know what went where. The only areas I knew were bottles and cans, paper towels (pretty self-explanatory) and organic materials. Actually, all of those are pretty obvious. However, all of the 0's, 1's and 2's on the materials threw me off! I have actually never seen a 0 - the fact that you can compost a spoon is unreal! It was quite exciting to see this. I didn't know the difference between the paper plates with the plastic lining and the non-plastic lining. I had no idea where candy wrappers went, didn't know where plastic bags went, no clue what to do with Starbucks or Jamba Juice cups - the list goes on and on. 
- Cassidy Horn

The benefits of proper recycling span from reduced harmful emissions from landfills, and reduced resource extraction and pollution from mining and manufacturing, to less energy-intensive feedstocks for new production. Whereas only 26 percent of what Stanford sends to the landfill is really trash, the university does divert 64 percent of its waste stream into recycling of some sort. This compares favorably with California's 58 percent and the U.S. average of 33 percent waste diversion. It is interesting to note that out of Stanford's total waste stream, 17 percent is diverted as basic recyclables, 31 percent as organic material and 16 percent as construction debris, adding up to the 64 percent mentioned above. We are well on our way towards our "zero waste" goal. 
- Lawrence Garwin

CEE/ES 109: Winter 2011

  • Faculty sponsor: Jeffrey Koseff (co-director-Woods Institute and professor-Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Instructor: Fahmida Ahmed (associate director-Office of Sustainability)
  • Building Audit Lead: Jiffy Vermylen (sustainability coordinator-Office of Sustainability)

Nick Enge, a graduate student in the School of Earth Sciences, was the teaching assistant for CEE/ES 109 in winter 2011. This report is based on an article from the spring 2011 issue of Cardinal Green published by the Stanford Office of Sustainability.