Friday, April 19, 2013

Connie Fox wins the 2013 Campus Sustainability Award

As part of Earth Day's celebrations, Ms. Connie Fox will be presented with the 2013 Campus Sustainability Award at a campus reception April 22 for her tireless efforts in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  Since 1984 she has served as the department's laboratory director and oversees the teaching labs (with some 300+ students every semester) and plays a critical role in the research labs of faculty. Her many responsibilities include ordering chemicals, updating inventory, and arranging for disposal of the chemicals. She is also in charge of laboratory safety, updating laboratory manuals, and routinely teaches laboratory and discussion sections for some of the freshman courses.  A few years ago Fox found a simple and cheap way to implement the new inventory system introduced by the division of chemical safety at IU Bloomington. This lets us easily keep track of what chemicals we already have so we can avoid duplication.

The following are examples of what Fox has done to deserve this award:

Reduce: Fox has scaled down experiments in our many freshman classes, especially those for non-science majors where qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis is often sufficient. Well-plates and droppers replace test tubes and burets without sacrificing results. Few experiments now deal with heavy metals and mercury thermometers are a thing of the past.

Reuse: Decades ago disposable equipment was all the rage. Now the attitude is reversed and cheaper disposable pipettes and droppers are reused to lessen waste. Rather than recycle emptied chemical bottles for their glass value, Fox keeps them on hand as free waste jars and disposal containers.

Recycle: Fox has organic chemistry students distill waste acetone to recover it for the next year. This has become a routine part of our teaching program and not only cuts costs and reduces waste, but instills in students the expectation that recycling is a central feature of any chemistry experiment.

Recover: Unfortunately (or fortunately), federal and state law prohibits the burning of chemical waste by schools to recover the heat energy stored within them. Otherwise, we are are sure Fox would find a way to take advantage of this final "R" in waste management!

Under Fox's initiatives we have not only reduced our landfills, but our lab costs as well. Thank you, Ms. Fox, not only for the efforts that led to this award, but your devotion to chemical safety and rigorous instruction. To say that our department would be at a loss without you is an understatement - our department could not function without you!