Wednesday, May 20, 2009

  • Green computing could save $$
  • More green + business at Waterloo
  • What's going on here
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

UW students at Bonneville salt flats, UtahSalt shakers Earth and environmental sciences and geological engineering students recently returned from their Earth 490 field trip to the south-western United States. They studied sustainable mineral resources, the environmental impact of mining and climate change, and examined different geological environments — including Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the site of this exuberant photo from earth and environmental sciences professor Robert Linnen.

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Green computing could save $$

by Emily Kunz Purser and Anne Grant of the Faculty of Environment

We’ve heard it all: recycle everything, turn down the thermostat, avoid plastic water bottles, eat less meat, carpool, bring reusable bags everywhere, and so on.

There is, however, an advancing culprit that is consuming 1 per cent of the world’s electricity and contributing 0.3 per cent to our total carbon dioxide emissions; in perspective, the airline industry contributes 0.6 per cent. The culprit is the data centres that host our email, web services, disk space, and other computer needs.

Many organizations are beginning to realize the impact that their IT equipment is having on the environment, and in order to decrease IT carbon footprints, people are turning to green computing methods. Green computing involves using computing resources efficiently and accounting for the triple bottom line (economical, ecological, and social aspects) in order to measure success.

Green computing, or Green IT, is emerging in the UW community. On December 2, Anne Grant of ENV and Lowell Williamson of applied health sciences presented the concept of green computing at WatITis, a conference for UW IT staff. Later, they presented their successes in reducing their environmental footprint to an information systems and technology professional development seminar, and more recently they gave a presentation to the University Committee for Information Systems and Technology highlighting green activities already under way in those two faculties.

This academic term the ENV computing support group (MAD) hired student Emily Kunz Purser as the Green IT Coordinator. She started by compiling a full computing equipment inventory, calculating IT energy consumption, carbon emissions and the financial cost to run all the computing equipment in ENV. Her findings show that there could be up to 60 per cent savings and reduction of resources if computing equipment (not including servers) were turned off after normal working hours each night.

A faculty computing inventory is not uncommon on campus — Math and other faculties have their own — but calculating financial cost to the university and carbon dioxide output is unprecedented. Purser was responsible for researching ways to reduce the faculty’s environmental footprint as it relates to green computing. This includes reducing paper consumption, energy consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions, and properly disposing of old computing equipment. She researched what other institutions are up to and what innovative ways could be implemented at UW. Waterloo thus becomes the first university in Canada to conduct such a detailed equipment analysis and an assessment of its impact on the environment.

A brief list of green computing accomplishments in ENV:

  • IT equipment inventory; calculated baseline energy and carbon emissions data
  • All PC student labs are on (or soon to be on) a shutdown script; Mac labs are set to sleep mode
  • Endorsing virtual systems rather than physical devices
  • Installing EcoFont, which uses 20 per cent less toner in student labs
  • Understanding user needs and physical versus virtual requirements
  • Recommending efficient systems for replacement if applicable
  • Endorsing 100 per cent post-consumer recycled and chlorine free paper
  • Using and promoting default duplex printing; print accounting in place to track usage on all networked printers
  • Setting printers to go into standby after being inactive for a period of time
  • Encouraging “Think before you Print” mindset and electronic versions of documents over paper output
  • Informing and encouraging other faculties on campus of green computing and its benefits in energy savings and the environment

Meanwhile, AHS has implemented many of the same accomplishments. In addition IST has begun an inventory, and the university secretariat has taken interest.

Throughout Purser’s work term, she has been in contact with sustainability leaders at the University of British Columbia and University of Florida, where there’s also a desire to implement green computing practices. It’s quite plausible that UW can become the leading university in green computing, particularly if these techniques are embraced and applied campus-wide. For example, she calculates that there is a possibility for savings up to $750,000 through simply adapting energy-efficient management practices. And this number doesn’t include any savings on students’ personal systems.

With UCIST’s mandate to support the effective use of information systems and technology at UW, there is now a subcommittee to start drafting a campus-wide green computing statement.

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More green + business at Waterloo

from the Centre for Environment and Business, Faculty of Environment

Business sustainability, defined as “the incorporation of social and environmental considerations into business” by the Research Network for Business Sustainability, is the focus of the new senate-approved Master of Environment and Business (MEB) degree.

The degree will be housed in the recently created School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) within UW’s Faculty of Environment. SEED will also include two currently offered undergraduate programs: a Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) in Environment and Business and a BES in International Development.

An increasing number of businesses and other organizations are dedicating efforts towards sustainable development and environment activities.

“The business community has expressed a strong need for managers and leaders who understand the benefits and risks of issues like carbon credits, green buildings and environmental performance measurement,” says Steve Young, director of the Centre for Environment and Business.

The Master of Environment and Business program is aimed at meeting this growing need for business sustainability professionals as a distinct group of knowledgeable, skilled, confident and motivated individuals with the knowledge, tools and expertise to integrate environment with business in very practical ways.

This professional course-based program will prepare its graduates for senior-level positions in private companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Initially offered as a part-time program of studies, and eventually full-time, the courses will be offered through distance education, with minimal required on-campus study, and course materials distributed over the Internet. Interactions with other students along with face-to-face exchanges with professors will be facilitated.

The program is expected to appeal to working professionals wanting to upgrade their education on a part-time basis; most applicants are likely to be mature students with a four-year degree along with work experience in a business context. The MEB program will enhance analytic and management skills, and develop knowledge in tools and concepts through course work in business sustainability.

The official launch of the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) is scheduled for fall 2009 with the entry of the first MEB class in September 2010.

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What's going on here

The second SHARCNET Symposium on GPU and Cell Computing, also known as SHARCFest 2009, takes place today in the Davis Centre, room 1302. From the poster: “This one-day symposium will explore the use of GPUs and Cell processors for scientific and high performance computing. SHARCNET has deployed high-performance clusters containing both architectures, and this symposium will give researchers the chance to learn about these new technologies from keynote speakers who are at the forefront of research in this field: John Stone, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, speaking on 'Accelerating Biomolecular Modeling Applications with GPU Computing,' and Paul R. Woodward, University of Minnesota, on 'Computational Fluid Dynamics on the Los Alamos Roadrunner Machine.'” SHARCNET (Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network) is a cooperative effort by several Canadian academic institutions, including Waterloo’s math faculty.

Faculty members who are interested in writing more effective reference letters for their students will be attending a Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop today, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the FLEX Lab in Dana Porter. From the CTE site: "Three experienced (and successful) writers of reference letters for graduate students, Sandra Burt (Political Science), Ian Rowlands (Environment and Resource Studies) and Ralph Haas (Civil and Environmental Engineering), will share their advice and expertise. How do you write a letter for a mediocre student? For a good one? For a great one? How do you make your letter stand out? How should letters for academic programs, professional programs and jobs differ? A panel discussion will be followed by a question and answer period. Co-sponsored by UW's Learning Community on Supervising Graduate Students."

Chantal BlouinThe Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Canadian International Council present a lecture by foreign policy specialist Chantal Blouin (left) of Carleton University at 7 p.m. in the CIGI atrium, 57 Erb Street West, Waterloo. CIGI says: "In recent years, the Canadian government has affirmed its desire to strengthen its engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean, but has not provided many details on the specific strategies to do so. A stable, safe, democratic and prosperous hemispheric neighborhood in is Canada’s own interests; it provides, among other things, a positive business environment for Canadian firms and investors engaged in the region. However, given the modesty of the Canadian economic footprint in Latin America and the Caribbean overall, one can wonder what contributions Canadian economic foreign policy can make to achieve this goal. In this lecture, Chantal Blouin argues that we should build on Canada’s existing strengths in terms of economic engagement in the region and that the mining sector is one of this key area of strengths, where Canada matters to the region and the region matters to Canada."

Just last weekend, biology PhD student Adriano Senatore, holder of the NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, won the George Holeton Award at the Canadian Society of Zoologists' Annual Meeting at the University of Toronto for his poster "Identification and Characterization of an Invertebrate T-type Calcium Channel." The George Holeton Award is presented for the most outstanding poster within the Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry section of the Canadian Society of Zoologists, reports Senatore's superviser, David Spafford, a professor in the Department of Biology. His poster was first out of 67 entries.

CPA staff

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When and where

UW Stratford Institute announcement hosted by UW’s president and dean of arts, by invitation, 9:30 a.m., University Club.

Career workshop: “Explore Your Personality Type” (first of two sessions) 10 a.m., Tatham Centre room 1113. Details.

UW Book Club. Prisoner of Tehran by Merina Nemat, 12:05, Dana Porter Library room 407. Details on UWRC webpage.

‘The Wedding Singer’ produced by K-W Musical Productions, continues to Saturday at 8 p.m., also Saturday 2 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $29 at Humanities box office.

Research Advancement Centre (475 Wes Graham Way) electrical power shutdown Thursday 6 to 9 a.m.

Sharcnet Research Day with two keynote speakers and presentations on high-performance computing, Thursday Arts Lecture Hall. Details.

Avogadro Exam offered by UW department of chemistry for high school science students, Thursday. Details.

‘So You Want to Be a Faculty Member?’ workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Thursday 9:30 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Garden designer and artist Pat Webster speaks to a class about recycling historical and geographical elements in a landscape, Thursday 11:20 a.m., Environment II room 2002, seating limited.

Relaxation sessions presented by the Employee Assistance Program. Cortical relaxation, Thursday 12:15-12:45, Math and Computing room 2018.

Computer science Distinguished Lecture: Thomas A. Furness III, University of Washington, “Cobwebs in a Virtual Brain” Thursday 4:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Introducing Windows Azure. Free talk by Microsoft's Paul Laberge Thursday, 5 - 7:30 p.m., Accelerator Centre Building main foyer, 295 Hagey Blvd, Waterloo. RSVP.

Last day to drop or withdraw from courses with 100 per cent fee refund; “drop, no penalty” period ends, May 22.

Pension and benefits committee Friday 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Microteaching session organized by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Friday 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Bombshelter Pub concert: “My Darkest Days” with “Age of Daze” Friday, doors open 9 p.m., $10 at door.

You@Waterloo Day open house for students who have received offers of admission to UW, and their families, Saturday 10 to 2, headquarters in Student Life Centre. Details. Bookstore, UW Shop, TechWorx and Campus TechShop open noon to 4.

Niagara Region wine tour organized by UW staff association, Saturday. Details.

Renison University College 50th anniversary alumni dinner, speaker Bob Rae, Saturday 6:30 p.m., tickets $100, information ext. 28657.

Bike repair for beginners sponsored by UW Bike Centre and Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, Sunday, May 24 and 31, 1 to 5 p.m., Student Life Centre. Details.

Winter term grades become official May 25 on Quest.

Library workshop: “GIS for Grads” Tuesday, May 26, 10:30, Map Library, Environment I. Details.

Career workshop: “Networking 101” Tuesday, May 26, 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

‘Understanding the Learner’ workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Wednesday, May 27, 12:30, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Smarter Health seminar: Carolyn McGregor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, “Neonatal Health Informatics: Uncharted Discovery” Wednesday, May 27, 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Career workshops Wednesday, May 27: “Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions” 2:30, “Basics of Starting a Business” 4:30, both in Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

‘Learning from Ontario’s Best Lecturers’ workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Thursday, May 28, 10:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

International Spouses “Grow Your Own Herb Garden” presentation by Samm McKay, Thursday, May 28, 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre, pre-register by e-mail (dtamsg@ by May 22. Details.

‘University-Industry Connection: Win-Win Strategies’ sponsored by engineering research office, Thursday, May 28, 1:30, Davis Centre room 1304.

Library workshop: “Google Earth 5.0” Thursday, May 28, 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Health and Healing lecture series launches with talk by Pharmacy director Jake Thiessen, "Building a Healthier Future: Discovery and Innovation at the Health Sciences Campus." Thursday, May 28, 7 pm, School of Pharmacy, 10 Victoria Street South, Kitchener. Free. RSVP by email or 519-888-4499

Final day for fee arrangements for spring term, May 29.

9/11 Research Group presents Annie Machon, “MI5 Whistleblower Speaks Out”, Sunday, May 31, 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

President’s Golf Tournament in support of athletic scholarships, Monday, June 1, Westmount Golf and Country Club. Details.

Math alumni in Vancouver: lunch at Sage Bistro, University of British Columbia, Monday, June 1. Details.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department:

• Administrative co-ordinator, research services, Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, USG 5
• Administrative co-ordinator for undergraduate studies, Recreation and Leisure Studies, USG 5
• Information systems specialist, Information Systems and Technology, USG 10

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