The polar ice caps are melting and some experts say that will eventually lead to flooding of the major cities along the coastlines of the world.
Ocean temperatures are on the rise, causing hurricanes to strengthen in power in the Atlantic, while causing a more permanent El Nino effect in the Pacific. But should those in the high elevation and temperate zone of Putnam County Indiana care?
The public has been inundated in the media within the last year about the current projections of global warming. Needless to say, the projections are disturbing no matter what the perspective any one person holds. Mayors in cities across the nation have begun signing the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. These cities include 11 within Indiana alone. Greencastle has not yet signed.
All the talk about global warming can sometimes cause one's eyes to glaze over and render them indifferent.
"People are not evil in wondering, 'What's in it for us?" says Depauw Professor and part time Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Everett. "The benefits need to be shown on a local level."
Mayor Sue Murray entered her new role by talking on a community sustainability expo panel at DePauw recently. "Focus the Nation" allowed businesses both large and small from around the county to show what they are doing to become more green. One energy efficient change Mayor Murray has implemented is to order one new LED (Light Emitting Diode) stoplight to be installed at Indianapolis Rd/10th Street that will complement the two INDOT has installed at the Washington/Indiana Street and Washington/Jackson Street intersections.
Greencastle Schools Superintendent Robert Green has reported a decline in the high school's natural gas consumption due to the newly commissioned corn burning boiler installed there last year. This boiler is the first in Indiana to be permitted for use in schools. Coinciding with this, the high school was updated with new windows and has added insulation in the walls.
"The use of utilities is more efficient now," Green said. "We have been participating in energy education for two years. The first full year we saw a 14-percent savings. This year we are already at 25 percent"
All schools now use florescent bulbs, and buses now run on soy diesel.
These implementations do come at a price. In order to obtain the permit to burn corn in the boiler, a fee of $10,000 must be paid. In this instance it was paid by the manufacturer of the boiler at no cost to the school.
The old adage "You have to spend money to make money," comes to mind.
"We must focus on the long-term gain rather than the short-term loss," Everett said in reference to how much money is saved by making changes.
DePauw has a new budget to help sustainability initiatives. An investment fund is in place where $12,000 is to be used for these programs. The money comes from the simple change to waterless urinals at the Indoor Tennis and Track Center. The new Prindle Institute will also be a green building, possibly LEED Gold. LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification provides verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures.
The city has also begun looking at its usage and waste. Shannon Norman, city planner reported that city hall is currently enacting an audit of all departments, being spearheaded by DePauw Senior and Bonner Scholar Ross O'Connor. These audits are simple and can be run by businesses and individual homes alike.
One town in England even had its middle school aged children trained to run these audits and give the businesses suggestions on how to run more efficiently. This allowed the audits to be run for free, while also involving the education of the children.
The architects of the new Ivy Tech building have registered their design with the USGBC, which is the first step in having a building become LEED certified. The actual certification won't take place until after it is built.
People also need to be aware of "vampire loads." This is the energy that is wasted by leaving items like DVD players, computers or televisions on standby. When on standby, most appliances now have little red lights, or a display that uses energy. By plugging these into a separate electrical strip, they can be turned off when not in use.
"Everyone wants to save money…[vampire loads] are a waste of money," states Everett. She challenged, "Are you willing to just waste money by being lazy?
"This is not about a moral obligation to others in far away lands, or polar bear extinction. This is about saving money as well as helping children from getting asthma due to the poor air quality as a result of wasted energy."
Drafty windows and doors, vampire loads, and the use of non-CFL (compact fluorescent light bulbs) all consume energy that is created by the burning of coal. According to The Sierra Club "Coal-fired power plants are a leading cause of respiratory illness, and already account for more than 40 percent of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions, the lead cause of global warming."
For more information on Greencastle's environmental initiatives, contact Shannon Norman 653-7719.