Monday, December 22, 2014

Arts and Humanities at Babson College

This year, Babson College introduced a new required first-year class that is integrated into the curriculum: Arts and Humanities / History and Society Foundation (AHS Foudnation). Professor Fritz Fleischmann, a teacher of over 25 years here at Babson, is piloting this new course, with a specific focus on “Nature and Environment.” After taking one of his first exploratory classes with this topic of the semester, my perspective on nature and the environment has completely changed.


Yes, reading books can create inspiration. Yes, watching movies about our planet facing environmental jeopardies can create inspiration. But how do books and movies create inspiration? As I finish my first semester at Babson, I  have realized that my AHS class is by far one of the best classes I have ever taken in all my schooling. While I volunteer for an environmental organization back home—doing this from painting recycling bins to visiting state parks and participating in cleanups—the class’s focus on nature and the environment gave me a new perspective, and it started with a book called A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold.


One of the themes that provides a foundation for this book is that nature should not be seen as a commodity, but rather as a community. I look around today, and see how humans have abused nature. On campus, I see cans, candy wrappers, and an occasional beer can just lying in the woods. I walk into a residence hall, and I see people walking around, wearing extravagant fur coats, leather jackets, and synthetic shoes. Chances are, the majority of the stuff we own will be thrown away in a short amount of time. How do I know this? In my AHS class, we watched a short movie, called “The Story of Stuff.” (I highly recommend watching this video: it’s just over 20 minutes and really blew my mind…the link is below.) Never have I seen people—let alone students—so disgusted by how we as a society treat the world around us. We buy stuff, use it, and then throw it away shortly thereafter. More often than not, stuff is just thrown away and hauled off to a landfill, where it will sit for hundreds or thousands of years.


After watching this video, I was shocked by how much people have abused our environment. However, the video is just a small nick of the damage done to our planet already. One of the books Professor Fleischmann had his AHS classes read was called Eaarth, written by Bill McKibben. One might wonder, why the letter “a” twice? Upon completing the book, I now understand McKibben’s intentions. The letter “a” appears twice because humans have so greatly changed the planet’s dynamics, that our planet “Earth” is now “Eaarth” (in a figurative sense, of course).


One of the things that I have learned from AHS—in connection with my FME class—is that corporate social responsibility (CSR) plays a major role in a company’s image. If a business is a major advocate for CSR, then it is likely that a business will gain a strong reputation. On the contrary, if a business is notorious for pollution and is not environmentally conscious, its reputation is hurt. I am determined that regardless of whether I start my own business, or, if I enter another business as a high-end executive, I am confident that I will make corporate social responsibility a major mission that keeps my business driven and progressive. However, it is not only business that I am learning about. I need to take all that I have learned from AHS and incorporate it into my personal life, so that I can teach others how to make an impact on the world in which we live in.

2103 Excellence

Convert crosstab data to regular list data using VBA in Excel. This is a very useful piece of code Just record a dummy Macro in Excel and edit it. Replace with the code you find following the link. Then just highlight the data and run the macro. That’s it!

The 2013 Eco Rep Symposium

Off of the buzzing, always busy streets of Boston, representatives from different colleges were gathering together for the 2013 Eco Rep Symposium at Boston University. Some traveled from Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and more. They were all gathered to discuss their Eco Rep programs back at their colleges and to feed off of others’ ideas. Each school was at a different stage of their program, from very successful and popular within the school to an itty-bitty program that didn’t have a name yet, only passion. That was one thing all the schools had in common- they were all passionate about sustainability and making their peers and school in general more aware of their impact on the environment.


The event started off with a lunch to meet and chat with some students from the different schools and get to know their programs better. Even at the Symposium, there were waste goalies, because even Eco-Reps mess up which items can go into the trash, compost, or be recycled. After the lunch, we went off to hear different presentations created by Eco Reps. The presentations were split into three categories: Programs, Engagement and Communications. I listened to the Engagement presentations because I wanted to hear about how other schools are getting students involved, and how we can apply what they do to Babson. The first presentation was from a student at Boston University about how they have discussion nights, where students sign up to talk about different subjects related to the environment. This was a hit at their school, and we even had a discussion of our own, writing down comments on large pieces of paper that had quotes on them such as, “only if we understand, we can care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved”, by Jane Goodall. The second presentation was by a student at UMass Dartmouth about having a “sustainable spring break”, and caught my attention as something we could try at Babson. The school had a five day program over spring break that students could sign up for to work on different trails, learn about the environment, and be outdoorsy. Usually most students try to go somewhere warm, but the trips are a nice change of pace from the usual spring break, and were also offered as community service hours. I could see Babson offering a similar program, especially because we have such an ideal location.


After the first round of presentations, we regrouped with all of the Eco-Reps and had the “Failure in 5” presentations. This was probably my favorite part of the day, because the stories were fascinating and none were truly “failures”, because they all amounted to a lesson learned or a different project. For instance, one group tried to create a pyramid out of beer cans and Solo cups to show how much students use when they drink and how it can all be recycled. The story went that after a night of hard work putting the pyramid together, they put it outside so people would see it in the morning, only to find out in the morning that it had been destroyed. As funny as the story was, it taught them that maybe a pyramid isn’t the best solution. After the other stories of “failure” the group split to listen to more presentations.


This round I chose to listen to the Engagement presentations. The first presentation was about freshmen orientation and making students aware of sustainability on campus, something that Babson has been pursuing as well. Mount Holyoke presented a video during their freshmen orientation to get awareness out, something that Babson could consider doing as well. In their video, they included that they have a free-bin, where students can put items they no longer want and other students are allowed to take anything from it. This is an idea that Babson has been considering, so we were curious to see how it was implemented. The final presentation I listened to was by Babson’s own Sarah Lehnert. She talked about communication between different organizations, and how we create a more uniform appearance for templates and clubs to bring everyone together. The presentations throughout the day gave us many ideas of how we can improve our sustainability program or different ideas we can implement, and it was a great way to network and meet other Eco Reps.

Improved Trash Rooms

One of the great sustainable features at Babson College is our mixed recycling system, which allows you to put all recyclables into one bin instead of tediously sorting it out into multiple bins.  However, this system has its drawbacks.  For instance, it’s difficult to remember if plastic bags go in the trash or the recycling (for the record, they are not recyclable at Babson).  Because of some challenging items like plastic bags or food wrappers, single-stream recycling can be a great tool, but it requires education.  Step in the Eco-Reps.  After observing the waste disposal systems and behaviors in several residence halls, the Eco-Reps have designed and implemented three pilot ideas that could potentially be permanent changes (and improvements) on campus to increase Babson’s recycling rate.


One of these pilots targeted the trash & recycling rooms found in residence halls such as Park Manor Central and North.  When initially observed, the waste bins were scattered in the room with the recycling bins tucked in the far back corner.  Not only that, but some of the rooms had unnecessary shelving that took up lots of space.  This made it hard to even reach the recycling bins, let alone understand what to put in them!  Because the bins were difficult to reach, many people just left their trash bags and boxes on the floor.  The bins that were filled with waste were contaminated with the wrong materials; trash was in the recycling bins, and recycling was in the trash bins.  Facilities staff also pointed out that electrical panels were blocked by trash, which is a violation of building code.  Clearly there was a need for a better layout to the trash rooms.

Taking into account the factors of accessibility, space, and consistency, the Eco-Reps designed new layouts room by room for Park Manor Central.  Components of the design include: putting the recycling bins in the central line of vision at the door entrance, having the same types of bins next to each other, lining the bins up so it is easy to walk from one to the next, keeping the lids open, and removing the shelving taking up space.  Each room design was organized into a comprehensive picture for Facilities staff to follow.  These plans were approved by Steve Tolley, Romeo Lopez, and Aaron Masterson of Babson’s Facilities team.


The Eco-Reps are now closely examining the effects of these new layouts in our pilot area trials.  If they are shown to increase recycling and decrease contamination, then expect to see new designs for the rest of the trash rooms on campus for all the students to benefit from.

Pilot Round III: Marketing

If you read our last two blog posts, you’ll already know that the Babson Eco Reps have been hard at work on a pilot study to improve the rate of recycling in our dorms on campus. The pilot is a multi-pronged approach that consists of educating our peers, redesigning bin layouts, and marketing the awesome system we have in place. We’re fortunate to have single stream recycling on campus as it reduces the guesswork people often confront when trying to recycle: everything that can be recycled goes into the same bin! But anyone who has discovered or introduced a method or tool to make people’s lives easier will know that getting people to actually use that something can be wildly difficult! When technology improves our lives so efficiently it almost seems to good to believe, people often become suspicious and hesitant to change the way they do things.


That’s where marketing comes in.


Marketing on college campuses is a really interesting phenomenon- it resembles the marketing seen in the world outside of higher education, but heightened because there’s absolutely so much clutter on a school campus! There’s really one of two strategies when it comes to marketing a message: either bombard your audience by repeating your message through sheer numbers, or creating a more quality, memorable message. Either tends to work, but as Eco Reps at a Business Management school, we’re all for conserving our resources and increasing efficiency.


With this in mind, we crafted our pilot’s marketing campaign around the idea of our school’s mascot, Biz E Beaver, tackling students who acted unsustainably. While incredibly entertaining a concept, this was a little risqué- not to mention, potentially dangerous! We had no intention of actually harming anyone! So to pull off our concept, we shot a series of videos using well-recognized students on our campus to star as actors in safe and controlled situations. These videos were hosted on YouTube, shared via social media channels, and paired with a poster hung in one of the dorms involved in the pilot. These videos were kept short and educational to maximize their value and shareability. What do you think of them? Check them out and give us your thoughts!