Skip to content

By Emma West

Do you commute to an internship each day? What’s your go-to off-campus hangout spot? How do you get around when you leave Foggy Bottom?

 

DC is a very walkable, bike-friendly city, but when it’s 90 degrees outside or you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you might ditch your bike (or scooter!) in favor of a Lyft, the free Circulator bus, or Metro. There are many ways to get around the city, some better for the environment than others—so let’s take a moment to think about how sustainability plays into your daily transportation habits. 

 

Metro customers waiting for Pentagon Express shuttle bus – Summer 2019

 

The transportation sector currently accounts for the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States at about 30%. Now more than ever, low-carbon transportation needs to be a priority as cities and states turn to real solutions to fight climate change. And there's no doubt that climate change is affecting all of us in the DC region. According to the EPA, "The region has warmed by more than two degrees (F) in the last century, hot days and heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and the tidal Potomac is rising about one inch every eight years." (To read more about the impact of climate change on the District, check out this fact sheet.)

 

But don’t get too discouraged: you can make a difference! The easiest and most impactful choice you can make each day to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to leave your car at home, forget about your ride-hailing app, and, instead, hop on a Capital Bikeshare bike, get some extra exercise by walking, or take Metro.

 

7000-series train pulling out of NoMa-Gallaudet U station

 

Did you know that each trip you take on Metrorail produces 40% less CO2 than taking the same trip in a car? Each year, Metro riders avoid emissions equal to 370,000 metric tons of CO2—an amount equivalent to the emissions from 41 million gallons of gasoline. 

 

And while public transit is already an efficient low-carbon mode of transportation, Metro is committed to making its internal operations even more sustainable. Since 2014, Metro has become approximately 6% more efficient, using less energy and fuel per vehicle mile.

 

Some exciting initiatives underway include:

  1. Lighting: Upgrading all station and facility lighting to energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED)
  2. Regenerative Braking: Integrating braking energy recovery into traction power upgrades 
  3. Service Improvements: Investing in modern fare payment technology, developing an electric bus strategy, and strengthening the regional bus network
  4. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): Designing all new and significantly renovated facilities to meet LEED Platinum standards
  5. Solar: Designating four station parking lots/garage rooftops for renewable energy development that will produce 7–9MW of power

 

About the Author: Emma West is an alumna of GWU and proud 2017 graduate of the Sustainability minor. Despite always having been passionate about environmental issues, it wasn’t until she landed an internship at Metro through the DC Sustainable Energy Utility that she truly embraced public transit for its role in fighting climate change. Emma works in the Office of Sustainability at Metro, tracking energy data and supporting project managers to quantify and implement energy efficiency projects across the organization. If you, like Emma, never knew Metro had a sustainability office and are interested in internship opportunities, or are just curious about what it is like to work in the transit industry, you can reach out by email at Metro_Sustainability@wmata.com

1

5G is on its way. The fifth generation cellular network technology is primed to be ridiculously fast - fast enough to change the way you go about your daily life. 

Today, the top corner of your phone screen probably says 3G, or 4G LTE, and these are symbols that stand for the different generations of broadcasting technology. 1G, or first generation, gave us the ability to make calls, 2G allowed us to send and receive messages, 3G let us access the internet, and 4G made accessing the internet markedly faster. LTE is a classification used to symbolize signal connection speeds in between 3G and 4G. 

The speeds of these connections are partly measured in something called latency, which  marks the time it takes for information to travel from one area to another. As the fastest widespread broadband, 4G boasts a latency rate of 300 milliseconds. This is remarkable, as the average human reaction times between 200 and 300 milliseconds. At best, human reaction time is only slightly faster than the time it takes for a device to retrieve information from a host on 4G.

5G, on the other hand, as some engineers have stated, will have a reaction time around one millisecond. Almost instantaneous. This is why when 5g reaches peak connectivity and is introduced to the world, it will allow for a new age of technology. Things like self driving cars and augmented reality become not only plausible, but markedly better alternatives to what exists today. A one millisecond delay time means an almost instantaneous reaction to a possible collision in a 5G self-driving vehicle, which would hypothetically reduce the amount of death and injury every year from car accidents substantially. It also means technology like virtual reality will be experienced in near real-time. While all of this promises to alter the way in which we experience the world around us, it also guarantees that many of the devices that we use today will quickly go obsolete. 

In this fast-paced age of technology, the newest and most advanced products seem like a necessity for our everyday lives. As the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports, Americans spent almost 71 billion dollars on telephone and communication technology in 2017, which is five times more than they spent in 2010 even when adjusted for inflation. Technological corporations have been feeding into this ‘newer is better’ model, reducing the lifespan of a device and regularly unveiling newer, more advanced devices and enticing consumers with discounts for upgrades. This sort of mentality is great for profit, but produces a large amount of electronic waste, which is much harder to recycle than plastic or paper. 

Electronic waste can not be simply placed in a recycling bin because the precious metals hidden inside these products can be flammable or radioactive. They must be sent to specialized recycling centers that focus on taking apart technological devices and salvaging parts that can be used in making future electronics. Because of this difficulty, most obsolete technological parts end up incinerated or in landfills.

With the introduction of 5G, this is only going to get worse. As Alana Semeuls of TIME magazine reports, electronics waste is the fastest growing solid waste stream in the world, and it will “turn into a torrent as the world upgrades to 5G”. E-cycling facilities forecast an explosion of the number of devices in the waste stream and are preparing to expand their capacity in order to meet these demands. However, these devices will never reach their facilities if they are not disposed of properly. At this time, more than ever, the GW community should turn its attention to the blue e-waste collection towers located throughout the campus. The university has contracted eAsset Solutions, a recycling center located in Falls Church to pick-up and recycle any technological parts placed in these collection towers, which are pictured below:

E-waste collection tower located in Gelman Library on the second basement level

There are eight collection towers located across the three main GW campuses:

  • Marvin Center (Ground Floor next to elevator)
  • Science and Engineering Hall (1st Floor West)
  • Gelman Library (Basement Level 2).
  • Shenkman Hall (1st Floor Elevators)
  • Thurston Hall (Mail Boxes)
  • West Hall  @ Mount Vernon Campus (Lower Level 1)
  • District House (Level B-1 on H Street side near restrooms)
  • Enterprise Hall @ VSTC (Loading Dock)

Electronic recycling is only a short-term solution, as technological companies rapidly increasing the rate of obsolescence has accelerated the rate of resource depletion to something completely unsustainable and detrimental to our environment. Until companies like Apple and Amazon feel pressure from their consumers to create more long-lasting products, e-waste will continue to pollute nature at an alarming rate. Today, all we can do is dispose of electronics in a smart and safe way in the wake of 5G technology.

...continue reading "The Dark Side of 5G Technology"

Hello! My name is Ragavendra Maripudi and I am the newest intern for the Office of Sustainability at GW. With each and every experience I have with this position, it becomes increasingly evident to me that the driving force behind the sustainability movement is a collective spirit that is strengthened by meaningful collaboration. This spirit is a dedication to the conservation of the very Earth that sustains us, and I have felt the immense power of this collaboration since the day I started working with the Office of Sustainability: when I was asked to volunteer at the GW Green Move-Out.

It was a hot and lethargic morning when I walked into South Hall on my first day as an intern. My eyes were transfixed on a group of people in matching white t-shirts, each holding a garbage bag, jostling for position around a seemingly endless pile of household supplies. There was a deep, tangible passion that seemed to connect every one of these people. I was handed a bag myself and asked to gather ‘household goods’ (anything other than food and textiles) until I had filled the bag. As I approached the pile, I could feel the energy and  excitement radiating off of every person, and as I reached for the pile, I felt it rushing through my own body. From an outside perspective, our task would have seemed relatively mundane, yet every single person seemed deeply engaged. In a flurry, we replaced the pile with organized stacks of garbage bags and within two hours, we loaded them onto multiple trucks to be taken to a recycling center. It was engaging, effective, and fun. It was a clear example of what it takes to bring people together around sustainability.

GW Green Move-Out is an initiative that encourages students to drop off recyclable items such as clothing, perishable food, small furniture, and kitchenware in cardboard boxes in the lobbies of their residence halls as they move out for the summer. A bevy of volunteers then work to sort the left-behind goods and send them to recycling centers and charity partners. In 2014, when the initiative began, Mr. Kris Ferguson, the Zero Waste Coordinator at George Washington’s Facilities Resources and Planning Department, reported that Green Move-Out collected and donated 44,010 pounds of materials to recycle. This May, Mr. Ferguson’s team recorded 59,792 pounds, or almost 30 tons, of materials collected, the most it has ever collected. 

This staggering increase is due to collaboration efforts between different communities on and off campus to help preserve these reusable materials. For example, the Department of Energy and Environment for DC has helped through a program called Re-Thread DC to place year-round recycled clothing bins in three residence halls, where they are easily accessible to students and faculty. Green Move-Out has also partnered with “The Store”, GW’s student-run food pantry for food insecure members of the community, to put out boxes for food recycling and monitored them for contamination. Green Move-Out is working to involve every individual and organization in the GW community to recycle massive amounts of materials during late May and early June. 

With my experience volunteering for them, I learned Green Move-Out is more than simply a service for a few weeks in the year. It is a movement that brings people together in their passion to do something, no matter how small, to conserve the massive amounts of waste we produce. The kind of camaraderie that this campaign produces fosters a feeling of tremendous love for the conservation of our earth. In order to face climate change with a bold attitude, we must create more emotional and meaningful movements like the GW Green Move-Out.

For more information about Green Move-Out and to sign up for volunteering, check out: https://living.gwu.edu/green-move-out

Skip to toolbar