Everyday Actions, Enduring Results
WINNER: Best Contribution to Sustainability Concepts
In the Fall of 2010, the Student Government Association (SGA) at the Johns Hopkins University reformed the student transportation service to improve mobility by creating an expansive van-based route system. However, these reforms led to an increase in fuel-consumption by the 12 passenger vans. This inspired one student named Michael St. Germain, a member of the SGA, to explore alternative fuel options for these light-duty vans. The Director of Transportation, Greg Smith, was supportive but also stipulated that any proposal for a new form of transportation did not diminish the capability, reliability or comfort of the vehicle fleet.
Michael’s goal was to reduce carbon emissions and gasoline consumption while saving the university money. It became clear that no hybrid electric option would be available as there is currently no 12-passenger van on the market that has a hybrid powertrain. The next option to be considered was natural gas. After crunching numbers Michael determined that a compressed natural gas powertrain would be the best option for the university. While infrastructure to fuel the vans needed to be built and there was a van conversion premium the project would in fact pay for itself in only five and a half years and cut carbon emissions by over 25%!
While innovative projects like this are great, sustainability requires that many people contribute to the effort by making small modifications in their everyday lives to reduce waste. At Johns Hopkins, many students are making smart, sustainable decisions. This can be as simple as recycling instead of throwing something away or drinking water from a reusable bottle rather than a disposable plastic water bottle. Innovation and individual action are the two essential components of creating an America built to last.
David Forster • almost 11 years ago
500,000$ from T-Boone Pickens as an undergrad...clearly the best contestant
shannon mikus • almost 11 years ago
One must ask why such an obviously powerful mind stopped at the simple and obvious step of changing to natural gas, which places more pressure on American energy infrastructure, and why this contestant didn't find a truly better alternative. For $500K he should have looked at building a local cable car system that runs on electricity from solar and wind power or another LOCALLY procured energy source. Even Mr Pickens seems STUCK in an unsustainable paradigm!!!
David Forster • almost 11 years ago
Shannon, perhaps my comment was too aggressive. I am just excited to see a Johns Hopkins student, my class senator/university treasurer, in the running for this competitive prize.
However, I do want to respond to your criticism. Wind power is not possible in Baltimore simply because Baltimore is not in an ideal location: http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/maps_template.asp?stateab=md. And solar power is inefficient in any city not only because there is not enough space, but also because power generation is dependent on weather. In addition, a cable car system with routes throughout Baltimore would cost far more than $500k. This would include vast city planning with local groups as well as the city as a whole.
Wind power and solar power are great ideas, but natural gas in certainly a step in the right direction.
big pla • almost 11 years ago
This is a good idea that would actually work. They appear to be able to get a payback (without a government subsidy) within 6 years. Good for you Michael S, Max B, and Andrew T!
Criticizing them for saving "only" 25% of the carbon usage, in favor of an as-yet unattainable 50% or 60%, is silly.
A real problem in the environmental movement is utopian criticism of practical improvements. These guys seem to have something that can actually work. That's always better than something that won't work.