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Going Green

Going GreenAs part of its decades-long focus on environmentalism, Tufts faculty, students and staff are turning -- more and more frequently -- to renewable resources like solar energy.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.13.02] At first glance, the Medford home of Tufts professors Lois Grossman and Mark DeVoto doesn't look much different than the surrounding houses. Neither does the Fairmont House or the Schmalz House on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus. But all three buildings share an important, and relatively rare, feature in common -- environmentally-friendly solar panels.

"The power company sent us an advertisement for their energy conserving program," DeVoto, a professor of music, told the Medford Transcript. "We realized it would be a substantial investment of cash, but it was something we wanted to do."

The Tufts professors' home was one of 10 buildings to take part in the Medford Solar Project, initiated in 1999. Tufts' Fairmont House was another.

"Tufts installed solar panels in the Fairmont House, a small dorm in the Medford section of the campus, three years ago," reported the Transcript. "Fairmont houses about 15 to 20 students and the solar panels decrease the amount of electricity used in the dorm."

Several years ago, a group of Tufts students installed a solar-operated water heater in the Schmalz House, a wood-framed dorm housing 14 students. According to an article in The Boston Globe, the energy-efficient system has reduced natural gas usage by at least 50 percent.

According to Tufts' energy manager Betsy Isenstein, the University has had energy conservation practices in place for decades. Solar panels are just one example.

Energy efficient light bulbs and laundry machines are fixtures across campus and have helped Tufts cut over 100 metric tons of carbon emissions. In fact, Tufts was the first university in the country to sign the EPA's "Green Lights Pledge" to upgrade the lighting in 90 percent of the Universit's floorspace -- which is now complete.

Tufts also uses an energy-efficient vehicle and has a program in place to compost close to 200 tons of leaves and food waste every year.

These measures have led newspapers like the Globe to call Tufts one of the most environmentally-active campuses in the region. And the National Wildlife Federation listed the University as a national leader in energy efficiency in this year's "Campus Environmental Report Card."

The decision to conserve was an easy one, said romance languages professor Lois Grossman -- who, along with her husband and representatives from Tufts, was honored by Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn during an Earth Day celebration last week.

"The important thing is this is second nature to us," she told the Transcript. "I don't consider it a burden or a nuisance."

But many people are reluctant to try, Grossman said.

"The first reason people don't bother conserving is they don't believe their own individual contributions have meaning," she told the Transcript. "And the second reason is change is always painful."

But there are many ways to make a difference -- even if it's just a minor change.

"If everyone did a small thing then they would make a big difference," she told the newspaper.

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