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!
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!
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.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group ranks supermarket produce by its pesticide load. The top most loaded with pesticides become the Dirty Dozen, the fruits and vegetables you should consider buying in their organic form. I’ve been aware of this list for years and turn to it for guidance often.
But then, I just learned of another “dirty dozen” the EWG has released. They’ve partnered with the Keep-A-Breast Foundation to develop a new list; this one involves everyday toxins, not just those in food.
“EWG researchers compiled the new Dirty Dozen list by scouring the scientific literature and identifying the most hazardous and widely used hormone-disrupting chemicals that pollute the environment and ultimately our bodies.” Find the full press release here.
Hormone-disrupting chemicals are being blamed for a ton of ailments, including breast and other cancers. The new list includes things like, BPA, phthalates and other well-known endocrine disruptors that are widespread in consumer products such as plastic containers, food cans and fragrances. The list also includes things often not understood as hormone disruptors like arsenic, mercury, lead and others that are less familiar, such as glycol ethers and perfluorinated chemicals. The guide is intended for consumers of all ages, particularly young people who are most at risk from these dangerous chemicals.
Is exposure to these chemicals completely avoidable? No. It’s not likely. But we can take steps to reduce our exposure by avoiding as many as possible, whenever possible, to minimize any compounding effects. We can also reduce risks by keeping an active voice in democracy. For example, a group of very active folks (mostly moms) were responsible for getting the dangerous endocrine disruptor, BPA, out of baby bottles back in 2012. I wonder (and hope it is) is it possible to continue that effort to eliminate more?
Obama Moves to Limit Greenhouse Gases Emissions Through Executive Order
SUMMARY: In an address at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama announced a new climate change plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The president zeroed in on new and existing power plants that burn coal, and called for public lands to generate power via wind and solar energy projects. Gwen Ifill reports.
Watch Obama to Limit Greenhouse Emissions Through Executive Order on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
I appreciate the ominous image selected for the topic of this article: hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.
State Capitol in Springfield. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune / November 10, 2011)
Governor Quinn signed legislation yesterday that aims to allow, but (hopefully at the least) heavily regulate fracking in the state of Illinois. Fracking involves huge volumes of highly pressurized water and chemicals pumped into shale beneath the earth’s surface to release otherwise trapped natural gas. Apparently the oil and gas industry is already engaged in this type of gas attainment, but it has done so with little regulation or oversight. That is a serious problem.
Many claim this new legislation will help keep communities safe from threats of the fracking procedures. In fact, Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, calls the law “the most comprehensive environmental regulatory bill in the country on hydraulic fracturing.” But what threats is it is potentially regulating? How about contaminated drinking water from chemicals used in the process- several known to cause cancer, like methane, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
Popular Mechanics has an interesting point:counterpoint slide show on the industry and its threats. Speaking to these chemicals, the Popular Mechanics e-zine slide-show shares, “Even if these chemicals can be found under kitchen sinks, as industry points out, they’re poured down wells in much greater volumes: about 5000 gallons of additives for every 1 million gallons of water and sand. A more pressing question is what to do with this fluid once it rises back to the surface”.
While the legislation is supposed to be strict and provide safeguards against exposure, accidents do and likely (odds are) will happen. Colorado residents experienced this when 241 barrels of fracking fluid mixture spilled onto the ground, eventually contaminating drinking water supplies. Or more recently in Wyoming when a well started spewing wastewater for hours, uncontained.
And that’s just one incident of one of the potential threats to the way of life for those around the fracking sites. This list and summative statement from NYC’s Environmental Protection department describes several other implications of the industry’s impact and potential risks: water consumption, wastewater disposal, use of toxic chemicals, substantial truck traffic, air pollution, noise from the loud, twenty-four hour hydrofracking operations, potential groundwater and well water contamination, deforestation, roadbuilding and surface water runoff from these large industrial sites. The cumulative effect of these impacts may indeed transform entire communities – turning previously rural, agrarian areas into “fractured communities.”
It will be interesting to see how this new legislation in Illinois can balance all of these threats, keep our environmental resources safe (e.g. clean drinking water and healthy and safe places to hunt, fish and swim), while allowing for an economic growth that is truly beneficial to the local community and not some small group of disconnected business people. I also hope, when drafting the actual rules to the legislation, they consider the future- what happens when the gas reserve is depleted?
A reminder about this upcoming Earth Day event!
Sustainability Around the Globe for Folks With Short Attention Spans
Monday, April 22, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm, Library Lounge, Building L
Students of the Intensive English Language Program will be presenting on sustainability initiatives from around the globe in this interactive workshop. Come enjoy museum-style presentations, with several students placing posters around the room so that visitors can walk around and choose various or multiple presentations.