April 20, 2009

With Eye on Climate, Students Resolve Not to Drive

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“It was exhilarating,” Eric O’Hanlon ’10 said after skateboarding for the first time in honor of Engineers for a Sustainable World’s annual event, Drive Not to Drive.
In celebration of Earth Day, this week long event hopes to promote sustainable methods of transportation. Drive Not to Drive kicked off last Wednesday in front of Carpenter Library and will culminate on Earth Day, Wednesday April 22, with a showcasing of their parabolic oven on Ho Plaza.
As participant learned how to bike and skateboard on a sunny Friday afternoon, ESW members were trying to bring Cornell students’ attention to the issue of unnecessary driving.
“On a day to day basis people drive to the library at night which is just not necessary,” said co-president Vicky Tian ’10. She added that Cornellians should also cut out driving to classes and utilize the bus system and carpooling more.[img_assist|nid=37038|title=So much exercise|desc=Engineering students bike and skateboard last week as part of the event “Drive Not to Drive,” which took place to honor earth day.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
From 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, club members stationed in front of the Engineering Library handed out free buttons and offered enticing bike-related prizes in an effort to get people to commit to a week without driving. The hope for the event was that participants would become more aware of alternative modes of transportation and possibly alter their routine behavior. The ESW received a total of 210 pledges.
“It was great, I was talking with people the entire two hours. People actually stopped and we had very engaging conversations,” said Tian, who added that one of the goals of the event was simply to raise environmental awareness.
In years past, the ESW organized an alternative transportation race between running, biking and unicycling. This year’s idea of teaching people how to ride and skateboard was inspired by Tian.
During a club meeting Tian mentioned that she wished she could give up driving all the time but didn’t know how to ride a bike. Thus, in addition to teaching Tian on Friday, the club offered biking and skateboarding lessons to the Cornell community.
“We wanted to teach people how to be more sustainable,”
said Tian.
Remarking on her first experience riding a bike, Tian said, “It was awesome. It’s not as hard as I thought … it’s a lot more fun than driving.”
Raivo Lindemann ’10, who stopped by the Arts Quad to check out the event, had positive comments about the organization’s initiative.
“I think it’s a good idea to encourage people to be environmentally conscious,” Lindermann said.
In addition to organizing the Drive not to Drive event, the ESW also partakes in different projects and organizes other events to further their mission, which is to get engineers who care about the environment to apply the knowledge they receive in the classroom to environmentally conscious initiatives.
“Engineers have usually focused on a different orientation,” said Tian, who is an operations research major. “I feel like usually we focus on building stuff and industrial projects, but for [the ESW], we’re using the stuff we learn in class but putting it in a more sustainable direction.”
Currently, the ESW is working on the “Veggie Van,” a van that has been converted to run on vegetable oil. Each semester the club constructs a solar cooker, something like a boxed oven, and brings it down Nicaragua. The oven would decrease wood usage by relying on energy from the sun.
The ESW will showcase their parabolic oven on Ho Plaza for Earth Day. The organization also showcased their oven at the Farmers’ market this past weekend. The oven, called “Solar Death Ray,” is designed to reflect light on to a focal point.
Its particular specialty being roasting marshmallows, according to ESW members.
In addition to working on projects, the ESW also recently organized a competition among the residence halls on North Campus to see which dorm could save the most energy. The February energy usage of each dorm was compared to the energy used by the same dorm in the previous year. With the greatest improvement, the Latino Living Center won this year’s North Campus Residential Resources Battle.
“I love sustainability and the environment, if I see someone litter it hurts me inside.” said Harry Ko ’11, vice president of outreach and education for ESW. “I don’t understand how people don’t care … if the earth goes, we go.”