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David Brittan, Editor

The Issue

Green and Greener

When it comes to saving the planet, there are those who talk the talk and those who—like a certain magazine editor you might know—walk the walk. I speak with the pure heart of one who has been through an energy audit. Yes, my wife and I are certified green now. A man with a clipboard walked around our house replacing all our incandescent light bulbs with the new dim ones, and then told us we needed $2,000 worth of insulation. We gladly handed over the money, reckoning it would get our carbon footprint down to about a women’s size four. We find it especially pleasant to reminisce about our energy audit as we sit before a crackling wood fire, our only protection against the Arctic blast from the gaping hole that is our fireplace.

If the energy audit doesn’t make us stewards of the earth, certainly our new Prius does. I feel justified in calling it “our” Prius because even though, technically, it is my mother’s Prius, I played a key role in its purchase. That is to say, she bequeathed me her old Volvo, which we then shipped across the county on a car carrier the size of the Tobin Bridge. Never mind that the Volvo, which gets 25 mpg, does the 80-mile commute to and from Tufts, while the Prius, which gets 50 mpg, does the weekly visit to the San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church, a pilgrimage of some eight blocks. Surely the important thing is to believe one is making a difference.

Of course, if you want to get all rational about your carbon emissions, you can read “The Three Percent Solution.” It’s by the Fletcher School’s William Moomaw, who seems to think that just because he won the Nobel Peace Prize (along with other members of the Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Al Gore), he knows more about cutting greenhouse gases than the rest of us. His article is accompanied by essays from other top thinkers on climate change, who just happen to have congregated at Tufts (you can meet a few of them at go.tufts.edu/climatequestions).

Maybe they’re here because Tufts is one of the green universities. The Sierra Club recently named it one of “Ten Schools That Get It,” noting Tufts’ status as “home of the first university environmental policy in the country” (yep, 1990). Even though the United States is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, Tufts is—it has cut its energy use by 5,901,396 kilowatt-hours, enough to power 397 homes for a year. That’s thanks to fluorescent lights, motion sensors, more efficient steam heating technology, and other measures. And the recognition keeps pouring in: National Grid’s Excellence in Energy Efficiency award and, just last October, the EPA Climate Protection Award. In fact, there’s so much green stuff at Tufts that you’ll have to visit the Tufts Climate Initiative website (go.tufts.edu/climate) to read about it.

Ah, but the best is the enemy of the good. Surrounded by such enlightened environmentalism, even a man of my green bona fides sometimes feels he’s walking the walk with a noticeable limp.

  © 2008 Tufts University Tufts Publications, 80 George St., Medford, MA 02155