Tag Archives: Penn State

Student groups on sustainability

Someone asked me after class yesterday whether I could point them to a list of student groups or clubs related to the theme of the class.

Asking around, I found that PSU’s Sustainability Institute maintains a list of such groups at


The groups range from ones with a very specific campus focused mission  to ones with a wider community or global mission.  If you are looking to follow up on the course experience, perhaps one of these will be the right opportunity.

I should mention also that towards the end of the semester, Susannah Barsom of Sustainability Institute will do one of our “case study” sessions to talk about other academic and non-academic opportunities to work on sustainability issues during your time at PSU.

Blogging for Week 9

I’m going to keep the proposed theme for week 8 (alternative energy sources) open for another week.  That’s partly because not many people have posted yet, and partly because you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Andrew Gutberlet whose case study presentation had to be postponed because of the weather.  You will get to hear him this Wednesday (March 18th), and I think his talk will suggest several ideas related to this theme.

Remember that the themes are only suggestions.  You can post about any topic that is relevant and interesting.  Read here for details about the Alternative Energy Sources theme.

I expect that the next case study session I conduct (Wednesday March 25th) will be specifically about blogging. Stay tuned for more information about that.  The second blogging assessment period ends on March 27th and the third and final period will begin at that time.


Blogging Theme Week 8

The second blogging period ends on March 27th, that is in four weeks time. As you are thinking about your posts for this period, I’d encourage you to read my post summarizing the results of grading for period 1.  To improve your posts, I’d encourage you contact me, Sara or Kaley and make an appointment to talk in office hours or at another time.  We will be happy to provide advice and suggestions, including specific feedback on your current posts if you ask.

A brief general reminder about blogging requirements: you may post on anything related to the course (the “theme” for the week is only a suggestion), and your postings will be graded according to the rubric that appears in the syllabus,  The rubric involves five grading elements: frequency of posting, mathematical content, thematic content, organization and presentation, references and connections.  Blogging is your only “homework” for this course and a high standard will be expected.

The suggested blogging theme for this week is Alternative Energy Sources. I suggest that you take one possible source of non-fossil-fuel based energy and discuss it from the perspectives of economics (cost), feasibility (how near are we to commercial-level application), energy return on energy invested, plant lifetime, distribution mechanisms, long-term sustainability and so on.  Among the sources you could discuss might be

  • Onshore wind energy
  • Offshore wind energy
  • Solar photovoltaic
  • Solar thermal
  • Geothermal
  • Hydro-electric
  • Nuclear fission
  • Nuclear fusion
  • Space-based photovoltaic
  • Wave energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel)
  • Wood

And you could talk about these from a global perspective, from a national perspective, or specifically with reference to Penn State (Andrew Gutberlet’s presentation will provide a lot of useful information here.)

A good general reference for calculations about renewable energy is http://www.withouthotair.com/   Another is Do the Math.

Remember, you are also welcome to post on any of the earlier themes (or on any other relevant topic).

Slides posted for Peak Oil case study

Hi all

I have posted the slides for today’s case study on Peak Oil.   They are available at


I’ve also had the chance to preview the slides for Andrew Gutberlet’s case study next Wednesday.  If you remember, Andrew is manager of engineering services for Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant, and he will be talking about Penn States greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction objectives, with lots of PSU-specific data.  This looks to be a really interesting presentation.


The “Hockey Stick” graph

There is an interesting article on Penn State’s sustainability site today about the “hockey stick” graph and the controversy surrounding it.

hockeystickThis graph, devised by Penn State scientist Michael Mann and his collaborators, shows a reconstructed temperature record for the Northern Hemisphere going back a thousand years. As the Penn State news post explains, this graph became an “icon” of climate change and thrust Mann into an unexpected (and probably unwelcome) public spotlight.

Mann has also written a book-length account of the whole affair, in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.

Sustainability Institute seeks public comment on University goal setting process

I’m not sure this is directly relevant to the course, but students may be interested:

“Penn State’s upper administration and the community have looked to the University’s Sustainability Institute as a convener of conversations and engagement processes around various sustainability issues, such as the concept of zero-carbon communities and a stakeholder assessment of the recent natural gas pipeline controversy. To that end, the institute commissioned and is now publicly releasing the results of a recent project that proposes a new community and stakeholder engagement process for setting University-wide goals for sustainability, starting with energy. In order to explore how the process might best be adapted and refined, the institute is seeking public comment on the report until Feb. 18; details on how to access the report and where to submit comments, can be found below.”

Read more here


Follow up to Al Matyasovsky Presentation.

I have uploaded a PDF of Al’s slides.  You can find it at the link below:

Waste Mgmt Spring 2014 V3

Also, I found his tour of PSU’s waste management facilities very interesting when I took it a couple of years back.  You can contact him at aem3@psu.edu to find out when there is an opportunity.  Or comment below and if enough are interested, maybe we could arrange a group tour for this class.


PSIEE Water Symposium

I received this announcement from PSIEE (Penn State Institute for Energy and the Environment), and thought it might be interesting to those who want to follow up on last week’s topic.





Join the Penn State community this Earth Day, April 22, 2015, as we highlight and celebrate the wealth of water research and study at the university. We are planning a full day of interdisciplinary presentations in the HUB. Limited space is available, so RSVP as soon as possible.

Speakers, research posters, art pieces, performance, or other exhibits/presentations related to water are welcome. Please see attached flyer for details, and you can RSVP directly here: http://psiee.psu.edu/support/rsvp_water_symposium.asp

Campus departments or organizations that would like to participate on a larger level can email psiee@psu.edu to inquire about opportunities.

Please forward to anyone you feel appropriate. For questions, contact psiee@psu.edu.

Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment, Land & Water Research Building, 1A.  Ph. (814) 863-0291

Blogging Theme, week 3

The blogging theme for this week is Penn State Campus.   A brief reminder about blogging requirements: you may post on anything related to the course (the “theme” for the week is only a suggestion), and your postings will be graded according to the rubric that appears in the syllabus,  The rubric involves five grading elements: frequency of posting, mathematical content, thematic content, organization and presentation, references and connections.

It is suggested that you post about some measurement or estimate related to sustainability on the Penn State (UP) campus. Example topics (many more are possible).

  • Waste and recycling – see http://sustainability.psu.edu/mobius, and listen and respond to Al Matyasovsky’s presentation on Wednesday.
  • Over the winter break (approx December 24th – January 5th), the Office of Physical Plant “sets back” temperatures in most PSU buildings from their normal 70 degrees (F) to about 50 degrees. How much difference does this make to PSU’s energy consumption?
  • Estimate the environmental impact of a big football game.
  • Learn about the UP campus’ water consumption. Where does our water come from? Is the supply sustainable (define this term how you wish, but make sure you answer the question in terms of your definition). What activities on campus use the most water?
  • Blog about the work of Penn State’s Consortium for Building Energy Innovation at the Philadelphia Navy yard (http://cbei.psu.edu) What is their goal? How do they plan to achieve it? Is it realistic?
  • Conversion of the PSU steam plant from coal to natural gas. (http://www.opp.psu.edu/planning-construction/penn-states-switch-from-coal-to-natural-gas)
  • Estimate how many showers per day are taken on the Penn State campus.   How much energy is used to heat the water for them?
  • Interview some faculty members about their academic travel.   Estimate the number of barrels of oil per year used by faculty academic travel. Are there alternatives?
  • If we covered the roof of a dorm with solar panels, what fraction of that building’s energy needs might they realistically supply?