College should ‘invest green’ instead of ‘think green’

Recently, the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB) received some attention after they announced their plan to save money by switching the default email font from Arial to Century Gothic.

…we have decided to change the default font for Outlook across campus to Century Gothic. Of course, you may change back to a different default font if you wish, but we hope you will “think green” as you make your choice.

There are a lot of questions here and number one is, “Who still prints email?” Perhaps removing the ‘Print’ button from the default toolbar in Outlook would make more sense. I think that changing users’ behavior, while more difficult, will result in a larger savings because users carry the conservation strategies they’ve learned into other areas of their life. I think it would be better if UWGB spent some time encouraging users to look before they print. (Or they could ban those half page signatures that some people put at the bottom of every email message they send that includes all 14 ways to contact them, a cutesy logo and their three favorite Lombardi quotes.)

Another problem with this simple font change is the increased space the new font takes up. The study UWGB cited ranks 10pt Century Gothic higher than a 11pt Arial font.

Century Gothic is longer

UWGB is choosing a smaller font over a larger font while the smaller font still takes up more space and therefore more paper. A page of text printed in Arial will often take up two pages when printed out in Century Gothic.

UWGB might be excited to ‘think green’ but are they actually doing anything? How will they even know if this move is worth it? I didn’t see their plan to measure the results (intended or unintended) from this experiment.

The font change did get them some press but it also supported the idea that conservation and sustainable living is easy. That it can be achieved with a click of a mouse. Typical efficiency changes are not like this. They require a larger cost up front with the hopes of a long-term pay-off. Even the simple act of changing an incandescent light bulb to a compact florescent lamp requires the initial investment for the new bulbs and a lesson about how to properly handle breakage and dispose of them.

Along with teaching users to print less, perhaps UWGB should replace those ink jet printers with more efficient laser printers or convert all their printers so they print on both sides of the paper by default. Measures that ‘invest green’ and ‘teach green’ are more effective long-term approaches.

P.S. I can’t stand how the question mark looks in Century Gothic

Resize margins- a simple way to save

margin2.jpgIn a recent episode of Stuff Happens, a new show on Planet Green, host Bill Nye explained how simply reducing the margins on the documents that we print can decrease the amount of paper we use by five percent.

If everyone in the U.S. shrunk their margins from ½ to ¼ inch we would save six million trees. This would prevent ½ million tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere. That’s like taking 133,000 cars off road. (Check out the project these kids did; they got similar numbers.)

But it’s not just about trees; paper isn’t cheap. Many schools are looking for ways to cut costs. Here is a five percent savings that can be done with just a few clicks. Read More

Save paper. Look before you print.

Today’s Green Fact: The average employee prints 6 wasted pages per day, that’s 1,410 wasted pages per year! [learn more]

I think a lot of that wasted paper comes from people printing pages off the Internet.

Below is a quick video with some page saving tips when printing with Internet Explorer.

Don’t wait. Change your light bulbs.

I’m a compact florescent light bulb.Here’s a green fact: a 26 Watt compact florescent light (CFL) is as bright as a 100 Watt incandescent bulb and only uses a quarter of the energy. To top that off—the CFL can last 7-10 years longer.

That’s money in the bank. Why wouldn’t you buy the CFL?

Some people are concerned about the mercury in florescent bulbs. It’s a legitimate concern; mercury is a toxin. However, the mercury is manageable. If you break a CFL, get out of house and let it air out for fifteen minutes. When the bulbs burn out, they need to be recycled—don’t throw them in the trash.

The folks at share five ways to recycle a CFL. They suggest as a place to lookup recycling centers in your area. However, I found more success by calling my county’s local waste and recycling center.

Finally, in case you need a celebrity endorsement to change your bulbs, here’s an interview with Bill Nye that Brian Bartel and I did for the National Science Teachers Association. (He talks about CFLs 16 minutes and 10 seconds into the show.)

This website is going green!

PC Magazine Green CoverageLast month PC Magazine had a Green Issue that featured all things green in the technology world. So in the spirit of Earth Day this website is going green for the week.

To start things off I’d like to point you to PC Magazine’s Green Coverage. Here you will learn about:

Kudos to PC Magazine for its Green Coverage. They’ve put together some great resources that I think are perfect for consumers and work well in the classroom too.

For example, I put their 48 green facts into a slideshow for students to watch as they shuffle into class on Earth Day. Below is the slideshow or you can download the PowerPoint version to use in your own class.

Happy Earth Day!

Don’t turn off the Earth Day shows

With Earth Day just around the corner, several television stations are serving up informative and conservation-friendly programs. Unfortunately, next week is also Turnoff TV Week. (I’ve ranted about this before; I’m not a fan of the cause.)

Find Earth Day Related TV

It appears that the folks at the TV-Turnoff Network have broadened their focus since last year. They’re now calling themselves the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (CSTA). This seems like a step in the right direction but did they have to run Turnoff TV Week at the same time as Earth Day? I suppose that turning off the TV will save energy but you might miss some great learning opportunities too.

So, in the spirit of “screen-time awareness” I like to suggest TV Guide’s website as a way to start “taking control of the electronic media.” TV Guide’s website has an excellent TV Listings page that allows you to customize the view and show only the channels that you want to watch with your children.

Find an Earth Day program that is just right for you. Perhaps PBS or The Science Channel might be a good place to start.