Palm oil, an edible oil derived from the fruit of the African oil palm, has become a major contributor to environmental degradation. It became a sort of “miracle product” that can be found in everything from cookies to shampoo as it is very versatile and cheap to produce.
However, mass palm oil production has many negative environmental consequences such as habitat destruction, increased carbon emissions, and deforestation. Learn more from the infographics below!
With many countries, states, and cities around the world releasing “stay at home” orders to promote social distancing and try to control the spread of COVID-19, the travel industry has been hit hard. People aren’t driving, flying, or even taking public transport and, as these industries are in lesser demand, the need for oil also falls. Although the drastic changes in everyday life for the average person are undeniable, these practices may have the surprising benefit of curtailing carbon emissions.
Reports from China estimate that carbon emissions have been 25% lower than usual over the past month, directly correlating with the coronavirus pandemic and the strict regulations on travel and social gatherings released by the Chinese government.
What does this mean for long term CO2 accumulation? Will this help to curtail climate change?
For the past 62 years, global carbon dioxide accumulation in our atmosphere has been tracked daily by the Keeling Curve, developed by Scripps Oceanography geochemist Ralph Keeling. According to his calculations, “fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10% around the world and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels” in order for this to be reflected in the Keeling Curve data as short term variations are often barely distinguishable in contrast to the long term trends.
According to Scripps Oceanography scientist Robert Monroe, these sudden decreases in CO2 emissions will unfortunately have little impact on climate change in the long term as historically, following economic crises, CO2 typically returns to its previous levels as travel and economic activity returns to normal.
For more information on how coronavirus is affecting CO2 emissions:
A few weeks ago, members of the Inter-Sustainability Council along with other sustainability minded UC San Diego students had the opportunity to tour EDCO’s recycling facility – the location to which all recyclables collected on campus are sent. We learned about what happens to everything placed in that blue bin and how exactly each different material is recycled. Slides from Bob Hill’s presentation can be found here. Below you can find some pictures from within the facility!
To learn more about this new campus initiative, I conversed with Robbie Jacob, the Associate Director of Logistics here at UC San Diego.
Can you briefly describe Logistics 2.0 and how it works?
The Logistics 2.0 project revolves around aligning the logistics operations for UC San Diego to the LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) published by UC San Diego. Supporting campus growth, the need to remove vehicles from campus, therefore congestion and provide a better delivery service to support world class education and research.
How is this a more sustainable alternative to the prior delivery system?
The Logistics 2.0 initiative has 5 pillars, one of which is a Carbon Neutral last mile. The UC President, Janet Nipalitano, set the course for schools to be carbon neutral by 2025. We are doing our part by transitioning our last mile delivery method to be 100% carbon neutral over the next few years. Over the past 8 months we have tested a few electric vehicles to deliver items to campus customers and the plan is to transition 2 vehicles per year over the next few years to be electric delivery vehicles. This removes over 180 tons of carbon for last mile delivery to campus. We are also going to be utilizing electric bicycles to deliver to non-vehicle access areas once some construction projects on campus are complete.
With the help of RMP, our facility is a living laboratory for UC San Diego with solar panels on the roof, a battery storage facility on site and electric chargers at our facility we are set up to be the first in higher education to provide a 100% carbon neutral last mile delivery to support campus. Our goal is not only to be sustainable, but by aligning with the LRDP we can help campus envision the future state without the congestion of delivery vehicles impacting campus employees and visitors.
What was the inspiration for this initiative?
Over 30 years ago, leadership of UC San Diego decided that a central receiving operation was imperative in supporting campus needs. Now, more than ever, it is critical to have an operation where delivering to a central location and allowing us to consolidate with our resources can remove over 7,000 truck trips a year on our campus. UC San Diego is transitioning to a walking campus, and the question is how do you deliver to locations where vehicles are not allowed. UPS / Fed Ex do not want to spend their time walking across 15 acres of non-vehicle access to deliver items. We are evolving the Logistics operation to support this transition.
What are some of the challenges in trying to become more sustainable on campus?
We are lucky that we are a living laboratory and have some infrastructure in place to pursue this. That being said, there are more enhancements needed at our facility to support 100% carbon neutral last mile delivery. Electric delivery vehicles are new to the market and are first iterations of future products so testing vehicles and implementing the technology is a challenge.
Are there any other sustainability related projects that you are currently working on?
Eventually we would like our Logistics operation to be an asset for campus on the disposition of packing material (boxes and air bags). We are working to build into Logistics 2.0 a way that we can support RMP or campus initiatives around removing cardboard and packaging materials from campus. This would include us “backhauling” materials from campus to our facility to be recycled.
Beginning November 25, 2019, UC San Diego Transportation Services has expanded their new pay-by-plate program, using the app Parkmobile as part of their goal of phasing out plastic and paper permits. TS sent out a notice about this expansion, stating:
“Transportation Services (TS) will be expanding the pay-by-plate program for all pay stations (excluding patient parking) starting November 25, 2019. Using license plates as a parking credential enables TS to verify parking fee payments by electronically reading vehicle license plates; essentially, the plate becomes the permit. This added expansion is part of our commitment to our environment, reducing the need for plastic and paper permits. Using license plates as the parking credential also safeguards permitholders from warnings or citations when permits fall or are forgotten.
In this next phase, campus pay stations will be reconfigured to accept license plate information, eliminating the need for visitors to display a paper permit on their dashboard. The pay-by-plate conversion starts November 25, 2019 with the pay stations located in lots P703, P704, and P705. We will continue to convert the pay stations on campus and we will be completed by no later than December 20, 2019. Signage will be posted at the entrance of the lots and on the pay station’s screen.
In the future, UC San Diego will move towards using license plates in lieu of physical permits for our faculty, staff and students. In preparation, we ask that you log into your parking account at transportation.ucsd.edu and review the vehicle(s) you have listed. Please ensure that both license plates and vehicles are accurate and update your account, as needed.”
Although this may seem to be a small change, thinking about the number of plastic student, faculty, and staff permits are made every quarter, in addition to the paper visitor passes, phasing out these physical permits in exchange for a pay-by-plate program would have a fairly large environmental impact!
Textiles such as clothes and shoes make up a large part of landfill mass. Did you know that these items can be repurposed? Learn more about the repurposing of shoes in Haiti below. If you would like to donate your old shoes that are still in good condition, please reach out to email@example.com!
Have fun kicking off Homecoming Weekend with live music, Triton spirit, and much more during regular Farmer’s Market hours on Tuesday, October 15th from 11 AM – 2 PM. Register today for special perks at the Farmer’s Market! Shop local, shop sustainable.
This month, in honor of Plastic Free July, the Library’s Sustainability Committee has created a single-use plastic exhibit in Geisel 2 East. Go check it out anytime this month and find out more about the exhibit here!
Additionally, the Library’s Sustainability Committee invites you to sign up for the challenge. Plastic Free July started in 2011 in Australia, and it has quickly become a global movement. Help make a difference!
Rather than simply paying off your overdue book fines from Spring Quarter, donate food items to Geisel Library or the Biomedical Library Building Front Desks from June 2 to June 15 to pay off your library fines from this quarter! All donated items will go to UC San Diego’s Triton Food Pantry.
For more information about the program and item values, click here.