So MUCH To Do, APRIL 2014

Happy Earth Month, Y’all!

Everyday is Earth Day, of course, but this is the month we take extra time to celebrate all that is wonderful on this big blue planet, how we can behave to support its health and ultimately our health as communities and individuals.

Check out all the great events happening this Earth Month here at MVCC.

Also, there’s a really cool energy reduction challenge happening in Crawley Hall! You can watch real time energy demand and see how the building users are doing as they attempt to reduce their energy demands!

And here’s a bit from the US EPA on how to stay involved nationally and digitally. They have some pretty cool campaigns this month; definitely worth checking out.

Happy Earth Month from EPA!

April 22 is Earth Day, but we’re celebrating all month, sharing a new tip each day to help you act on climate change.

Below, we’ve listed many ways you can take action yourself and spread the word to your friends and family. Try one or many, but either way, let’s all #ActOnClimate!

Help us get the message out
Please help us share a message at noon on Earth Day, along with the link to a page full of things everyone can do to act on climate. We’re using a new system called Thunderclap to coordinate, so a message will go out from everyone at noon on Earth Day. Here’s the catch: we need 500 people to sign up or the message won’t go.

The message is: “For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! #ActOnClimate http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/

We need your help, both to send the message and to invite your friends to send it, too. Join the effort or if you want more information about how it works, see our blog post.

Share daily tips through our website and social media
We’ve created 30 daily tips to act on climate, and we’ll post one each day. Help us get them out there:

Join a Twitter chat about climate issues
We’re going to have EPA experts available to discuss various climate issues on our @EPAlive account every Tuesday in April:

  • April 8, 2:00pm EDT – What can I do to act on climate?
  • April 15, 2:00pm EDT – What is EPA doing to act on climate?
  • April 22, 2:00pm EDT – EPA Research and Climate: What does the research show about climate change and what we can do about it.
  • April 29, 2:00pm EDT – Why is climate action important for our water?

How can you join the conversation? Just follow @EPAlive and the #ActOnClimate hashtag on Twitter. Ask us a question or share your ideas, or just read along with the conversation. In addition to using Twitter, we’ll publish a blog post for each chat, and you can ask your questions or send your thoughts as comments on the post. Here’s the first one: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/04/lets-chat-about-how-to-act-on-climate/

We look forward to working with you to #ActOnClimate!

Love Honey Maid

As I am sure a lot of people have seen the “controversy” over the advertisement from Honey Maid on the wholesomeness of love of a variety of families: a family with two fathers, a rocker family, a single father family, an interracial family, and a military family. I am bewildered as to why in the current time that this is “controversial”. Love is love. When a person shows love for another it should not be questioned, just observed in awe. We often forget that there are three converging pillars of sustainability and one is social justice of which I feel this falls under. Honey Maid presented an even more moving response to the negative as well as the positive responses to their advertisement campaign. I got choked up viewing it. Please enjoy it here and pass it on to your loved ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBC-pRFt9OM.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Cosmos Bring Science Education to Fox

An interesting new science series with one of my favorite scientists, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, premiered on Fox last week. It is an attempt to promote science literacy and bring sound scientific information, like that of climate change, to an audience that may have doubts. Neil DeGrasse Tyson expressed the ability to air a show like this on Fox as a way to educate those that are not part of the choir. Tyson has been vocal about his frustrations of the media using the excuse of providing viewers with an equal and balanced presentation of the “facts” of climate science to promote political agendas. “The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson said. “The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.” In regard to this topic, Tyson emphasizes a point that President Obama made last about not giving time to the “flat earthers”. He uses the idea of not talking any more about the very old idea that the earth was once flat versus the fact of it being round to compare to the political debate of climate scientists and the climate deniers of today. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”

If you missed the first episode, you can check it out here: http://www.cosmosontv.com/watch/195050051992.

iNsaN3 # of Ev3nt5 4 EARTH MONTH 2014

Well, we did it again. Earth Day or Earth Week isn’t enough for Moraine Valley…no, no, we celebrate all year long, of course, but this year we’re giving special attention during the month of April- or as we endearingly call it, Earth Month. And… This April actually has to carry over into May! Sheesh. It’s great, for real, just hang on to the safety bar because it’s going to be fast, fun ride!

Stay tuned for a full line up and schedule both here in this blog, on our sustainability Facebook page and our college sustainability webpage. Until then, I hope you talk this up with your students, friends and colleagues.

Of special notice is this great opportunity for our students. The Student Sustainability Summit is one day of professional development and networking for college students. They will learn about the sustainability of food with speakers and workshops. The event is free, they will be fed wonderful food, and special to non-students— we can attend the keynote speaker! Please register. Click the flyer below.

StudentSustainabilitySummit2014_Register

 

A More Sustainable Valentine’s Day Gift

Thinking about what to get your sweetie on Friday for Valentine’s Day? How about a gift with sustainability in mind? Perhaps even don’t spend any money at all and give coupons to be redeemed for acts of kindness: doing some cleaning the other person usually does; laundry duty; a homemade vegetarian or vegan meal; taking the kids for an afternoon or a weekend off; sleeping in while the kids are taken out of the house so it is truly peaceful. Or how about making something homemade like grocery store bags or a great smelling shampoo? You could also go to a local owned store and buy something locally made. There is the option if you live near a grocery store that has sustainable products (most do these days though), like Whole Foods or Trader Joes, to buy some fair trade organic coffee or chocolate or Rainforest Alliance certified flowers. Remember, it doesn’t have to cost money to let someone know you love them. It really is the (sustainable) thought that counts!

Green Challenges and Competitions

H2Otel Challenge

The EPA just announced a new challenge for Hotels to get involved in water savings, the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge. It’s a national awareness campaign to encourage hotels to save water and money, as well as reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This program enables agency partners and other organizations to encourage hotels to use best management practices that help mitigate a hotel’s contribution to climate disruption issues 

“Hotels that reduce their water use will not only help their community save precious resources, but can gain a competitive edge in today’s green marketplace,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “Since 2006, WaterSense has helped Americans save more than 487 billion gallons of water, and now we’re building on that success to help hotels take their sustainability efforts to the next level.”

Hotels across the country will take a pledge to “ACT”—Assess, Change, and Track water use in the following ways:

- Assess water use and savings opportunities throughout the hotel.

- Change products and processes to more water-efficient models and methods.

- Track water reduction progress before and after incorporating best management practices.

Interestingly, Caesars Entertainment was the first to sign up for the H2Otel Challenge. That’s great news to me, considering their huge footprint in drought stricken areas like La Vegas. Kudos, Caesars!  Here’s some help from the EPA WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities. For more information about the challenge, visit the WaterSense website atwww.epa.gov/watersense/challenge.

CAMPUS CONSERVATION NATIONALS

There are plenty of other green challenges out there for all types of industry- including higher education. In April, Moraine Valley will compete in the Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN), the largest electricity and water reduction competition program for colleges and universities in the world. Colleges and Universities across North America,work together (through friendly competition of course) to reduce consumption and mitigate the impacts of climate change. CCN is jointly organized by the U.S. Green Building CouncilLucidNational Wildlife Federation, and Alliance to Save Energy.

Partnering with the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN), Moraine Valley has received some funding to purchase monitoring equipment and energy saving devices like, smart strips and vending misers. These will be installed in Crawley Hall and for 3 weeks we’ll lead a campaign to engage all users of the building in energy saving behavior changes. This is a national competition and can be tracked here to see who is saving the most. The goal is that after the 3 weeks all users of the campus facilities will develop habits that last to save energy and water in the buildings. 

Stay tuned for updates and to learn how you can get involved!

On Climate Change: Reasons for Hope

Sometimes it’s hard to see the positive influence of your work. Especially in a field where you feel like your work needs to create an immediate response, i.e., behavior changes for sustainability-related issues like Climate Change. Sometimes this level of responsibility, plus seemingly slow or non-existent change can be overwhelming and often leaves one feeling defeated, burnt-out, and ready to give up. Of course, we folks in this field are not quitters- we’re in it to win it!

Recently, colleagues have been sharing works of literature and research that are intended to inspire and help reignite momentum, to forge on and continue this work for the greater good. This article, Reasons for Optimism on Climate Change by Michael Northrop, is certainly helpful and hopeful.

Northrop provides a thorough summary of the recent changes, both nationally and internationally, in legislation, regulation, policy, and marketplace/consumerism behavior as it relates to climate change, Co2 emissions, and renewable energy technology.

Some of the information within might shock you. Did you know our U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are down to 1996 levels right now?

Or that the “Energy Information Agency, which tracks U.S. emissions, calculates that anticipated energy use in 2030 could be 40 percent lower in the U.S. than was anticipated in 2005″? Why? Because, amazingly, the private sector is realizing it’s cheaper to do business by going green! Northrop, I have to agree when you say: It is illuminating to realize that these declines in energy use are being driven by leadership fractions of owners and developers who are out ahead of policy because of the economic benefits of moving faster.

In light of the recent poll from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication that indicates U.S. citizens are increasingly doubting climate change, I am hopeful to read from Northrop the number of folks who believe the Obama Administration should put more emphasis on the development of renewables is on the rise. Apparently and thankfully their disbelief in climate change does not interfere with the common sense of renewable energy technologies.

It is heartening to read of the international response to climate change and renewables, too. So often we read of China’s exponentially fast growing coal energy growth and it is depressing. However, as Northrop summarized, the International Energy Agency declares that “renewable energy is the fastest growing sector of the global power market and that it will be 25 percent of all energy generation worldwide by 2018. Wind and solar are powering this jump, the IEA says, doubling between 2011 and 2018.”

I’ve only touched the tip of the hopeful iceberg (pun intended) that Northrop exposes in his article. It’s a great read, highly recommended to get you optimistic for 2014. It also helps you know what to keep an eye on as improvements continue to be made, like the currently volatile Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Here’s to living the green dream in 2014!

 

***

Stephenie Presseller, Sustainability Manager-Center for Sustainability, Moraine Valley Community College.

Happy New Year- Now what to do with that phone book?

With a new year comes a lot of new things- new commitments and goals, maybe even new presents from the holidays, and…new phone books! I know I just found mine last night waiting at my door when I returned home from work. Yours is probably already delivered or will be soon, too.

Maybe you asked the same thing as me: But we have the internet?!?! What do we need a phone book for?

Actually, there are a lot of people still without the convenience of high speed internet at their fingertips. While attempts are being made nation-wide to change this, the phone book providers will still need to make assumptions that everyone still needs or wants a phone book.

But what if you don’t need it or want it?

You can visit the National Yellow Pages website and customize your delivery or opt out altogether. Choosing to eliminate or reduce your delivery means you’re helping to minimize waste, increase smart use of resources and lessen your personal CO2 footprint from the energy used to produce and transport them.

Ok, so it’s too late to stop the 2014 phone book, so then what?

Whatever you do, make sure your phone book doesn’t end up in the landfill. Less than 10% of all phone books printed are recycled, even though they can be recycled into everything from ceiling tiles to cereal boxes. 

Because they are mostly paper, phone books are typically accepted by curbside programs. You can search for the ebst local recycling option using Earth911’s directory, which a great tool for other recycling questions, too!.

Earth911.org reminds us this useful tip: “In the event that your phone book arrives with any additional packaging such as a plastic bag or magnets, be sure to separate those prior to recycling.”

I always try to find a reuse for something before I just put it to the curb for recycling, which is often downcycling. So what am I going to do with my phone book? I’ll take the non-color sheets and shred them to make bedding for my worms! Worms love this kind of paper for mixing with the leftover food scraps I feed them…then they make me dirt for my garden. It’s a win-win.

What else can you do with them?

Here is one blogger’s ideas, including to use the pages instead of paper towels to pick up “icky things”…love it!

And some good crafty and gardening applications using the pages can be found here.

Also, in case you’re interested in trying something else new this year, here are some lovely vermi-composting resources:

http://www.urbanwormgirl.com

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/