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April 1, 2015

hamster-wheel

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY!

We admit it. This article is a total fake. Sorry. Someday, however, something just like this could happen.

As of April 1, 2015, the ASU Sustainability website will be carbon neutral, thanks to the dedication and endurance of School of Sustainability staff. If you visit Wrigley Hall today, you won't find typical desk setups. All have been replaced with standing desks - or perhaps walking desks is a better descriptor. The desks are stationed within 8-foot-diameter wheels, which the staff walk or jog on to generate electricity.

Chris Walken, one member of the team, shared his initial reaction to the change.

"At first, I was a little insulted," says Walken. "I thought that maybe people didn't respect IT-types, and then they announced that they want us to power the website using what essentially looks like a giant hamster wheel."

But Walken and other members of the team soon realized the change was nothing short of genius.

Mary Joggenplace explained, "Here we are, promoting sustainability, but what are we actually doing to help? Sure, some of us ride our bikes to work or carpool, but I've always thought there had to be something more we could do. This is the answer we've been waiting for!"

The wheels took some getting used to, but the staff are now able to walk at least 90% of the day. When they aren't walking, they can pull the desk to one side of the wheel, where a chair is waiting. They are burning extra calories, of course, but they are re-fueled by organic, free trade coffee and almond milk.

An HR employee said, "At first, I was worried they would be too busy walking to do much work. But in reality, they can't talk as much, so productivity is up 55%. Plus, they are staying active, which should result in fewer medical claims and sick days. As far as I can tell, this change is a win-win."

Many in the department agree, and some professors hope to expand production so that their students will be in wheels during lectures.

One professor noted, "Let's face it: it's tough to text and walk. If this solves the smartphone-during-class epidemic, I'm all for it."

Of course, some believe the plan is too good to be true.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," stated one employee who chose to not be named. "You think people walking in a giant wheel all day aren't going to eventually fall and sue the university? Plus, people breathe a lot more when they're exercising, increasing CO2 output. So this isn't carbon neutral at all!"

The employee then left to get more coffee and returned to his wheel, no longer answering questions.

Still, morale is generally high for the pioneering staff members.

"This could change the world," said Fred Kinetic. "You can get very reliable electric output, as long as you know the person on the wheel won't stop randomly. And we have a button to press a minute before we get off the wheel, so others know they have to increase production. In a way, we're a lot better source of energy than something like wind or solar, which can stop randomly."

Betty Stepps chimed in, "A lot of companies are installing treadmills at desks. This is like that, but helps both the employees and the world."

The staff grinned at each other, clearly glad to be a part of this new experiment. Perhaps it was just the caffeine, but it sure felt like they were ready to change the world - one wheely good idea at a time.