Green Tweets

Seidenberg Professor Catherine Dwyer examines if Twitter can truly be the tipping point for climate change.

“You have people clicking the ‘like’ button or retweeting and feeling like they’ve actually done something for the environment instead of say recycling,” says Catherine Dwyer, PhD, Seidenberg associate professor and member of Special Interest Group on Green Information Systems (SIGGreen). The group, which brings together a wide variety of Green IS professionals and researchers, uses technology to facilitate transglobal collaboration and research. SIGGreen members recently traveled to Barcelona where Dwyer presented her research on Twitter’s role in the issue of climate change.

Dwyer presenting in Barcelona, Spain.

“Everybody is on Twitter and there is a goodwill feeling that has a role in advocacy. We saw it with the Arab Spring and other political events and it certainly has enabled a lot of connections between people who were not connected before,” says Dwyer. “But can Twitter really make a difference in something as complex and interconnected as climate change?”

Using Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis from his article “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” Dwyer mapped his findings onto the issue of climate change. “He had terrible timing—In October 2010 he writes that Twitter basically doesn’t matter, and along comes the Arab Spring in early 2011,” explains Dwyer. “It looked as though he was completely wrong, but he really made some good points.”

Twitter, she agrees, is great for making connections with different people and sharing information, but the degree to which people are engaged hasn’t been measured yet. So is all of this liking and retweeting just a superficial phenomenon in social media?

The answer is yes and no. While Dwyer and other Green IS professionals are working out the nuts and bolts of recognizing, measuring, and optimizing engagement, Dwyer has noted a trend. Most social media, she believes, seems to be most successful in the advocacy arena when related to a current or ongoing event like the Gulf oil spill. “Organizations were all over Twitter then, and they were breaking all kinds of news stories,” she says “but we don’t have those sorts of events every day.”

To learn more about SIGGreen and the work they’re doing, click here.

Talking Trash

Judith Pajo, PhD, has brought her anthropological approach to studying the habits of New York City households and the complex ways in which society views recycling.

“Our lifestyle is paradoxically both resourceful and wasteful,” says Judith Pajo, PhD, who is studying how New Yorkers deal with trash. “Population growth does not make the waste part better. In the 1800s, the world had fewer than one billion people. Currently, we are nearly seven billion and growing.” Population growth, industrialization, and other factors, have led to pollution and global climate changes. “Our planet is getting warmer and our way of life is just not sustainable,” says Pajo, who decided to dig deeper into the topic.

Sustainability is a large research field that involves many disciplines.  And it impacts academia as well as several industries and governmental and legislative bodies.  Pajo decided to take an unusual approach. “When it comes to sustainability, many people feel the government isn’t doing enough to keep the industry in check. But I focus on consumers. We live in a consumer society,” she says. “Goods are produced because we consume them; at the heart of production is consumption.  I look at our current unsustainability as a way to understand sustainability.”

Currently, she is researching household practices within New York City. “As a cultural anthropologist I take a holistic approach to data,” says Pajo. For her dissertation, at the University of California, she studied recycling in Germany—following the path of waste from the home, to the truck, to the sorting facility in the city of Berlin, and interviewing actors from producers of waste and recycling facility workers to government and private sector experts.  In her current research, Pajo is developing further several aspects of her earlier work.  She hopes that her findings will help us understand how New York City households, and U.S. households more generally, make complicated decisions about sustainability.

“There is something peculiar anthropologists recognize during my research,” Pajo laughs. She calls it “shared stories” because many people would relate them over and over, as though they had happened to each one personally. For example, many of the people she interviewed had seen sorted recycled materials being dumped into a garbage truck or mixed together. “I thought to myself, there is something going on at a deeper level,” she says.

“The information we have about what actually happens with recycling is very simplistic.  As consumers, we want to know more about what happens to the things we recycle.  To be responsible actors, people need a complex view of the recycling process. Information about the process can help inform decisions about consumption,” Pajo explains.  Ultimately, Pajo aims to turn her findings into a book that will help individuals and households answer a question we ask ourselves: Should we recycle?

Are you interested in working with an undergraduate student to conduct research during the 2011-2012 year? Pace is committed to strengthening the undergraduate research climate through a new pilot program designed to increase opportunities for students to undertake research and scholarship with faculty. Click here for more information.

Sustainability at Pace

As we celebrate Earth Month at Pace, I want to congratulate all of our GreenPace Award winners and say a special thank you to Angelo Spillo, director of the Pace University Environmental Center, for coordinating many of this month’s events. The Pace Community and our neighbors in Pleasantville are invited to attend a number of fascinating talks and walks.

President's CornerDear Colleagues,

As we celebrate Earth Month at Pace, I want to congratulate all of our GreenPace Award winners and say a special thank you to Angelo Spillo, director of the Pace University Environmental Center, for coordinating many of this month’s events. The Pace Community and our neighbors in Pleasantville are invited to attend a number of fascinating talks and walks. Visit for the full line-up of activities.

We hear the word “sustainability” quite often these days. Many people equate it with being a narrow concept of environmental correctness. Sustainability is really a broader concept—a construct that can shape our solutions to a broad range of challenges.

If you haven’t visited the Pace sustainability site, I encourage you to do so. In it, you will find everything we are doing to be sustainable, from monitoring the pricing of energy to timing Pace’s purchases with favorable market conditions, to reducing building temperatures during the night and University breaks, offering Green Mountain “Fair Trade” coffee in all facilities, planting native plants and grasses on campus, and using linen tablecloths instead of paper for catering. These are just a few examples of how we have changed our business practices to reduce the impact we have on the environment.

Three members of the Pace Community—Bill Link, University Director of Physical Plant; Sue Maxam, University Director for Student Success; and Robyn Mery, an Environmental Studies Major—were recently recognized for their efforts in sustainability with the 2010 GreenPace Awards. This award acknowledges members of the Pace Community who develop innovative programs and services that assist Pace in meeting its commitment to sustainable practices. I encourage you to nominate anyone who is deserving of this honor.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen J. Friedman