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!

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/

A zero-waste holiday!? Yup!

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 are your plans? Need some crafty ideas? Check out this page- I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the possibilities! Especially the Childhood page. Very cool ideas!

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!

Movie Night!

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 FeetEven 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.

And, Jill from OdeWire, asks “Are These the 11 Most Inspiring Eco Movies Available Online?

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.

Moraine Valley takes steps to tackle climate change!

HOORAY!!!

Dr. Jenkins agreed to sign the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to eliminate Moraine Valley’s net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a reasonable period of time.

The ACUPCC defines climate neutrality as having no net GHG emissions, to be achieved by eliminating net GHG emissions, or by minimizing GHG emissions as much as possible, and using carbon offsets or other measures to mitigate the remaining emissions.

Through Dr. Jenkins’ leadership, Moraine Valley now joins the other signatories in the necessary cooperative and united action to make positive change for today and tomorrow.

Contact sustainability@morainevalley.edu for more information about this new effort. Please read the formal press release below for more. This is really exciting news!

Moraine Valley President Dr. Sylvia Jenkins signs Presidents’ Climate Commitment

Moraine Valley Community College President Dr. Sylvia Jenkins joined a growing list of university, college and community college presidents across the country who have signed a commitment to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from their campus operations before 2050. She signed the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment on Sept. 30.

Through this commitment, Moraine Valley agrees to complete an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions; create and implement a climate action plan; reduce emissions while the plan is being developed; integrate sustainability into the curriculum; and make the plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available annually. An important element of this pact is to educate students about climate neutrality—having no net greenhouse gas emissions—and sustainability.

By signing, Moraine Valley joins more than 670 institutions concerned about the growing adverse effects of global warming on people’s health, economy and the environment. This group recognizes the need to reduce emissions by 80 percent by at least mid-century to avert further global disaster.

“I’m pleased that we can join in this effort, and I know that Moraine Valley is fully committed to accepting this challenge and meeting those expectations well before the 2050 deadline,” Dr. Jenkins said. “We have worked hard over the last few years to cut down our greenhouse gas emissions and improve our sustainability efforts. We already have a LEED platinum certified campus center in Tinley Park and have earned a bronze rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System that are testament to our dedication to this cause.”

MVCC president Dr. Jenkins signing climate commitment

PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, center, signs the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment with members of Moraine Valley Community College’s Green Team as witnesses.

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            For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley public relations generalist, at (708) 974-5742 or VizzaM@morainevalley.edu.

 

Your state is polluting my state’s air- what are you gonna do about it?

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the EPA’s ability to force state governments to curb local emissions that pollute the air of neighboring states. Under review is the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The CSPAR requires 28 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states.

Supporters of the rule say it would avert the loss of nearly 2 million work and school days each year to respiratory illnesses. Business groups say the rule would cost $800 million in 2014 and be otherwise economically harmful.

In a nutshell: States are required to clean their air and keep it clean. But if pollution is coming from some other state, at what point is that state responsible to help clean the impacted state’s air? That’s the question the EPA is attempting to answer with this rule.

The full report can be found here. A quick briefing of the rule is here, plus a quick synopsis of why EPA and others are asking SCOTUS to a previous D.C. appeals court ruling that invalidated it. The wind blows in all directions.   There are also several articles about this, one in the Economist and another here. Both highlight cost perspectives compared to impact. It’s an interesting concept, one I hope to see get some footing and help mitigate air pollution in general.

Is it really THAT radical?

“It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis,” writes Christian Parenti in his article A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.

Parenti provides a comprehensive yet easy to understand overview of the state of our climate crisis as well as how capitalism and government influence may be the way to getting us out of it. But they can do nothing without, what he calls, radical reform.  I particularly like this piece because his idea of radical reform does not hail to the ideals that we all return to living off the land, eating grasses and raising our own foods.

No, he defines it as: reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes. And suggests that the only way this will  happen is if we, the people, rise up and demand it. We do so by putting pressure on our government bodies as well as our business entities. The result is a shift in government behaviors which would naturally drive the costs of fossil fuels up and renewables down. I am not going into detail here because Parenti does a very fine job of explaining this in his article, which can be found in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine or at  Resilience.org

Plenty of others are in agreement with many of the points Parenti makes, including the idea of charging for polluting (some call it a carbon tax). For example, Severin Borenstein, Bad Incentives For Green Choices, explains, “The near-unanimous view of economists is that the best way to deal with pollution externalities is by pricing them, generally through a pollution tax or cap and trade program. Yet, policy makers still prefer to reward “good” behavior rather than impose costs on bad behavior…”

What happens over the next seven years or so is pivotal. Some might argue it’s too late. Call me a bit pie-eyed, perhaps even quixotic, but I’ll hold out hope for change before 2020.

weather stress, climate change, & < 28 year olds…??

Checking the Weather Channel’s online weather update is usually a quick in and out for me, as I am there mostly to answer one question: what’s the weather going to be like today? But sometimes the site has interesting articles, photographs, videos, etc. that catch my eye. Today was one of those times.

I found a brief article with interactive graphics depicting “what climate change looks like“. It’s a really concise view of the trends of our warming planet. Following the article is also a brief video about “Weather Stress” or the psychological threats climate change poses to our mental health.

Within, I found this fact to be particularly remarkable:

“In fact, according to NOAA’s data set, each month for more than 28 years has had a global average temperature that was above the 20th century average, meaning that anyone younger than 28 years old has never experienced a cooler-than-average month on earth.”

Whoa.

Of course, this Weather Channel’s article covers global trends. Want to see what’s been happening just in the States? ClimateCentral.com has some really interesting graphics (great classroom material!) that depict warming trends for the nation.

Read the full article and watch the video here.

Interestingly, the site has a lot about climate change and health impacts. In fact, there is another brief but informative article here about current climate change health risk factors. It’s not about the future, it’s about the here and now and it’s definitely time to pay attention and take precautions.

 

Changing the future on a…train?

Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.

Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery. 

Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.

All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American- and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:

I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!

The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.

Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!

Staying Hungry for Justice

Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.

Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:

  • …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”

Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:

  • From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.

And these students and others across the nation are serious!  80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.

At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.