The recent update on campus construction projects and their impact on parking/navigating around campus was very informative (Sept. 24 "Campus Improvements To Affect Parking...). The article helped me put some perspective on the purpose for all of the construction trailers, fencing, and equipment around campus.
Nevertheless, you may want to solicit an article explaining efforts by NIH to improve its employee shuttle service. I have recently needed to use our shuttles more frequently than in the past, and I am appalled at how lax the service is. Disregard for established routes, schedules, and the safety of their riders seems to be the modus operandi of some of the drivers. As the parking crunch on campus intensifies, improved (i.e., good) shuttle service will be imperative for employees already frazzled by on-campus parking dilemmas. I am sure other readers would agree that a future Record article outlining shuttle problems/solutions/standards would be worthwhile.
I applaud Carl Henn's observations on recycling and other environmental concerns as related in his letter to the Record (Sept. 24) on a "sustainable economy. " Carl is learning first-hand how difficult it is to open our collective mind to thinking past our primary goals of health care and research, to address the more fundamental issues underlying human health.
I can provide an example of one NIH success story: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, through the efforts of our volunteer environmental awareness advisory committee, actually has had a pretty comprehensive recycling program for more than 3 years. This past month, we passed the million-pounds-recycled mark; the figure shows how much we've recycled. More than 90 percent of the total is accounted for by papers and cardboard but there are markets for other materials (glass, cans, aluminum to name only a few) and we supply those where we can. Our nonhazardous lab plastics section (both polystyrene culture-ware and polypropylene) is the fastest-growing section of our recycling stream.
You're right, Carl, in pointing out that being "Earth-wise" is not limited to recycling. In conjunction with our Facilities Engineering Branch, we've replaced the incandescent lamps with quick-start fluorescents, have automatic light switches in many conference rooms, have greatly improved the efficiency of some major machinery in the building, and have a "turn-off-the-lights" program that the security guards help with (so the building is now mostly dark when we come to work). There are lots of other "Nature friendly" initiatives that are ongoing, including a bluebird house trail, roadside clean-up, and the worm-composting of cafeteria kitchen vegetable waste.
You were correct, Carl, that we should be aggressive in procuring recycled-content materials. Unfortunately, government procurement is a complex process that can be, I gather, only slightly influenced at the local level. I urge you to keep trying, for only by buying recycled-content products will there be any market for all the stuff we're trying to recycle.
The key to making all this happen is a solid commitment from management, and a group of employees willing to make it work. NIEHS is lucky to have both. One also needs money, because it costs us about $30,000/year for our 800-person institute. And I must point out it's considerably easier to get something started for one institute than for the entire main campus, but I do know that the Bethesda campus of NIH definitely has the employee dedication, and various folks up to and including Drs. Gottesman and Varmus have expressed their support for the idea. And NIH has, for a couple of years, had a group of folks looking at this problem, and taking steps where they could. Contact Dr. Kira Lueders (Bldg. 37, Rm. 4C03, phone: 6-6855, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). What's keeping more from happening is a mystery to many of us. Keep pushing, I'm sure it can be done.
It seems a small solution to the parking problems would be to paint lines in street parking areas (e.g., Convent Drive) so that people are forced to park correctly.
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