Doing more with less
topic of Elon forum


Photos and story by Jacob Potter

Elon University's Fall Environmental Conference was predominately focused on the idea of sustainability; essentially, how to do more with less.

The conference, titled "Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow By Design," featured several speakers and exhibits that informed students, professors and the public on the various areas which need to be improved to make the world an environmentally friendlier place.

During the morning session, keynote speaker Dr. David Orr, a professor and chair of the environmental studies program at Oberlin College in Ohio, delivered a speech titled "The Search For Order" Orr talked about the ways in which various design failures have led to the declining condition of the environment.

The evidence he presented included the fact that 11 calories of energy are being burned to produce one calorie of food, and his estimate that $14,000 is being spent on security every second in the U.S. He said Americans need to think long-term in designing a world that is conscious of the big picture. "We are not prepared to think in such a fashion," Orr said. He said all the experts can't be wrong, and he quoted the World Scientists' Warning, issued in 1992, in which dozens of top experts warned that the future of the planet depends on immediate attention to environmental challenges.

Hart looks at business and sustainability

Also presenting at the conference was Dr. Stuart Hart, the Professor of Management in the Johnson School at Cornell University. Hart, an expert on sustainability in the corporate sense, presented a speech titled "Creating Sustainable Value: Fusing the Business & Sustainability Agendas." He focused primarily on the internal and external issues facing corporations in terms of sustainability today and tomorrow.

"A company becoming radically transitive is better than a company becoming radically transparent," said Hart. One example Hart used in describing how businesses can execute "disruptive innovation" by beginning at the "bottom of the pyramid" was the way in which PCs were able to integrate themselves into a world that had been dominated by mainframe computers.

Hart mentioned in a conversation after his speech that corporations need to think of ways to meet the needs of people in the third world, to "go elsewhere and find the people who have the greatest need for cost-effective solutions."

Vehicles offer alternatives

Outside of the Moseley Center the day of the environmental forum, several exhibitors were on hand to show off alternative-fuel vehicles. Event participants were even invited to test-drive the vehicles. Carlos Neito, a dealer from Cox Toyota, was demonstrating the Prius, a hybrid vehicle which runs off gas and electrical power.

Neito mentioned that such a car was more beneficial for city driving versus highway driving.

"The car gets 55 miles per gallon in the cities and 62 miles per gallon on the highway" said Neito, who pointed out that the car would run on pure electrical power at slow rates of speed and would combine fuel and electrical power as the speeds increased.

Jack Martin, a professor in the North Carolina A&T school of technology, demonstrated biodiesel, a fuel substance which can be used as a substitute for regular diesel in an automobile.

"Biodiesel is an ester, which starts in a soybean or vegetable oil, and is then diluted in water," said Martin, describing the process in which biodiesel is made. Martin also noted that the U.S. military is responsible for 50 percent of the biodiesel purchases in the U.S.

Chris Carter of Solar Village was also exhibiting energy alternatives at the conference. Carter installs solar- and wind-powered home energy systems in the area. He said the costs for a complete system installed in a normal-sized house would ultimately run around $55,000. He said solar energy is not accepted by the average consumer at this point. "It's more about energy efficiency and how you use it than having the power," said Carter, who noted that the stored energy could be used for a multitude of functions, such as charging an electric car.

"Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow by Design" is the fourth annual environmental forum hosted at Elon University. Events were held all day Oct. 8, and included a culinary clash featuring local products, as well as several panel discussions involving leaders around the Triad area.



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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