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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!
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 Council, Lucid, National 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!
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!
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!
Also, in case you’re interested in trying something else new this year, here are some lovely vermi-composting resources:
Because I am a subscriber of many different e-zines and blogs that focus on creating a better world, my Inbox is filled with several suggestions for green gifting. I just received another one that provided a nice digest of several other websites offering such sage advice for greening up the holidays.
EarthShare Guide to Green Gift Guides
Plenty of great, green ideas from last-minute to DIY and everything in between. Happy Holidays!
Okay, zero-waste is really, really challenging (at first) so let’s take this one step at a time.
According to GreenAmerica.org, “Americans will spend a total of $586.1 billion dollars in November and December — and an average of $646 per person on gifts alone. The impact on people and planet of all our consumption is staggering. Pledge to shift 20% or more of your holiday spending away from cookie-cutter consumerism and one-use waste—instead supporting local, green, handmade and homegrown businesses!”
There are a lot of really great ways to reduce waste this holiday season. One way is to think about gift giving and all the potential waste involved. Here’s an example from my own holiday story:
My family celebrates Christmas. So we do the traditional gift giving for everyone in the family and special friends. Each year, there seems to be more and more folks for which I need a gift. It’s really hard to keep up! I should put thought and care into the gifts, right? Right. Another important point to make: On January 1st of this year, I pledged with my friends to Buy Nothing New for 1 Year. That includes things for others. So…
…this year I am making my gifts. A great way to reduce waste, indeed, since nearly nothing will have enormous amounts of packaging and nearly everything is coming second-hand or as a found object (except the cheese kit). I am making re-usable produce bags out of old, mismatched pillow cases for the families; washcloth puppets for bath time with the little kids in the family; I’ll be sewing a pair of Minecraft Sweeper Fingerless Gloves for my lil’ gamer nephew tonight; I scored a huge bag of colorful needlework thread at a rummage sale which will go to the eldest niece (she loves to make friendship bracelets and this stuff is perfect for it!); and the ladies will all get a lovely sugar-body scrub (Peppermint for some and Vanilla-Honey for others).
But for me, the men are the harder ones to cover…so, the gift of experience comes into play here. Except for Dad; for him, I’m making him a belt pouch to hold necessities while he works his farmer’s market stands (shallow front shirt pockets are no place for phones or spectacles when you’re in a hurry serving up fine cheese!). For one, I got a pair of movie tickets and a free night of babysitting for date night with the lovely Misses. And the last one is getting a cheese-making kit made with compostable packaging.
“Americans generate an additional five million tons of waste during the holidays. Of that, four million tons come from shopping bags and wrapping paper alone.”
Everyone will receive their gifts wrapped in the funny pages or some cool, old map. Old sewing patterns make great wrapping, too! Plenty of resources to think outside the shirt-box for your wrapping needs here! And, of course, the cards will be handmade, too. But that’s really easy! Hard cardstock + fun magazine images + glue stick = viola! Custom cards for each of your loved ones.
What other ways can we eliminate waste during the holidays (and beyond, of course)? Consider what will be on the dinner table, where you’ll be traveling or who will be traveling to you. I’m sure you can think of several ways to shed a few pounds of waste. Let’s hear about it!
Happy Waste-less Holidays!
I have posted about GMOs previously (see Debating GMO Crops and Supporting Global Populations), and I thought I would share this article, GMOs May Feed the World Using Fewer Pesticides, which supports the same idea. Basically, GMOs may be the only avenue that exists to move toward sustainable living.
Whenever (and it is rare) I find myself with a night of nothing to do, I always think: well, I should watch a movie! But then I am overwhelmed by my Netflix choices. Sometimes I want to be entertained and sometimes I want to learn something, a lesson, some facts, etc. Actually, this weekend I think I have a night that I’ll be able to watch a movie…so what will it be?
I often turn to a theme I personally love: Sustainability. And there are a lot of sustainability-related movies available today. One of the first times I remember when I made a conscious connection to enjoying a cartoon and learning an eco-lesson, was FernGully: the last rainforest, in 1992. But it was, according to Karl Burkart of MNN.com, 1973 that the environmental film-making was born. That year, Chinatown and Soylent Green both hit the big screens. From there, we’ve enjoyed (and possibly been frightened by or disgusted by): The Day after Tomorrow, Whale Rider, Avatar, Erin Brockovich, WALL-E, March of the Penquins, and Happy Feet. Even Finding Nemo has an sustainability-story as viewers explore the exotic fish trade, diversity issues, and water/ocean pollution.
and then there are the eco-mentaries, more documentary than entertaining and mostly fiction like: Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, Who Killed the Electric Car, Food, Inc., Crude, Forks Over Knives, King Corn, and The Cove just to name a few.
Want more? There are repeats of above, but there are some others not yet listed in the following articles and lists.
Here’s a list of the Huffington Post’s top picks for the 2000-2010 decade.
Mother Nature Network shares several movies in this entry: The best of 2010: environmental picks that include documentaries, fiction and even kid movies.
Earth911.org, one of my go-to-favorite sites for a lot of really useful green info, shares this top 11 eco-flicks the kids and adults can enjoy together and then this top 5 eco-documentaries they think are must-sees (I have to agree) that are all available on Netflix!
So what’s your top eco-flick? Have you watched any of these listed here? Have a suggestion for something missing? Head on over to the Moraine Valley Sustainability Facebook page and let us know.
Boo! Happy Halloween!
If you’re still working on your ideas for Halloween or want some ideas for next year, check out these sites to get you on the green-fright-train!
Remember, the best way to minimize impact is to minimize use and waste. If you can re-use something, that’s great! If your something doesn’t create a lot of waste, at least a lot of non-recyclable waste, even better! Candy and stuff is great and for special occasions it’s fine; but you could start the neighborhood trend of giving Fair-Trade chocolates (usually sans HFCS too!) and promote social justice during the holiday. What else can you do to green your Halloween? Go over to the Moraine Valley Center for Sustainability Facebook page and let us know!