Tuesday, December 9, 2008

dleep seprivation

Lecture halls full of unwashed hair, glazed over eyes, and significantly lowered mental acuity are pretty common during the weeks leading to finals.

How do most choose to alleviate the symptoms of procrastination induced sleep deprivation?

Coffee. And lots of it. Amounts that would make Juan Valdez cringe.

So coffee sustains us, but is coffee itself sustainable?
Here is some info on organic/fair trade and all that other hip coffee lingo.


Monday, December 8, 2008

making a white christmas a green one

answer from last time (oh, the suspense): Theodore Roosevelt banned a tree for environmental reasons...Pretty cool

I guess on the same note as my last post, another trend of recent years would be the use of LED in place of incandescent lights. Even the tree in Rockefeller Center is sporting some rad LED lights.

Oh, also this article is good. I mean the headline "We're Not Economic Girlie Men" alone...


Sunday, December 7, 2008

the christmas tree is always greener...

All the recent holiday hoopla got me thinking about the environmental impact of the Christmas tree. It's almost heartbreaking to imagine a forest full of snow covered evergreen tress being chopped down only to be hoisted on top of someone's SUV and decorated until ultimately being thrown in the trash after the 25th (or sometime way after New Years if your like my fam). But really, not only do tree farms lower CO2, the branches can be recycled or even used as mulch. A win for promoting a sustainable environment, and a win for promoting a festive family room rivaling that of Clark Griswald's.

Also, tree farms are usually maintained on previously barren land, so the absorption of CO2 becomes a major asset directly resulting from the Christmas tree industry. That all sounds great, but what about pesticides and chemicals to enhance and prevent the infamous "Charlie Brown Christmas tree look". What about the total lack of variety in species and the promotion of a dangerous monoculture which prevents secondary succession? Genetic modification and the absence of variety are incredibly problematic, as a single infestation of bug or disease could wipe out the entire farm.

The tradition of a fresh tree isn't entirely environmentally sound, yet consider those drawbacks with the alternative of an artificial tree. The artificial trees contain lead and PVC's resulting in hazardous dioxins and carcinogenic compounds being released into the air. Unlike the recyclable fresh version of the tree, the artificials never breakdown, and are destined to spend eternity in a landfill if disposed.

Not to make an ethical issue out of the happy happy holiday, but the tree industry producing 31.3 million trees, with an average price being $41.50....meaning Christmas trees are a $1.3 Billion industry.

So what is the eco-friendly celebrator of Christmas to do? Some farms are producing organic christmas trees with consideration of runoff and pesticides in their farming practices. Some synthetic trees are being made without PVC's/lead and more environmentally sound production techniques.

Trivia: Which President banned a Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons?
(answer next blog post)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2008 College Sustainability Report

Grist ranked musicians, but what are universities doing to go green?
Surprisingly, only 15 schools earned an A-. I was surprised my school earned a C in the category of student involvement...

University of Illinois overall grade:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a new sustainability office and a sustainability council that is chaired by the chancellor of the flagship campus. The sustainability coordinator, located in the facilities and services department, develops and leads a coherent, campus-wide sustainability program.

Climate Change & Energy
UI has an energy policy with goals of reducing energy consumption 10 percent by the year 2011 and 20 percent by the year 2016. The campus has performed a range of efficiency upgrades, and a new building includes a solar array. The university is pursuing the purchase of a utility-scale wind turbine, which will meet roughly 1 percent of campus electricity needs.

Food & Recycling
A local dairy processes milk from the university farm and sells it back to dining services. In 2008, UI diverted nearly 50 percent of its campus waste, including paper, cardboard, scrap metal, landscape waste, and pallets. Dining services donates all excess food to local shelters and waste cooking oil is used for biodiesel production for campus vehicles.

Green Building
UI's facilities department standards require projects over $5 million to be LEED Silver-certified, at a minimum, and projects under $5 million to comply with LEED Silver requirements to the greatest extent possible. The Business Instructional Facility, which opened in August 2008, is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

Student Involvement
The student sustainability committee is empowered to allocate funding from a clean energy technology fee and a sustainable campus environment fee. Campus administration and the facilities and services department work with students to implement their approved projects. A pilot energy-reduction competition is in development for the residence halls.

The UI campus is fully integrated into local municipal transit networks, including trains and private carriers. All students, faculty, and staff ride city buses for free. There is a pilot bike-share program, and all unclaimed, impounded bicycles are donated to the Bike Project cooperative.

Endowment Transparency
The university makes a list of endowment holdings and its shareholder voting record available to the public as per open records law. Information is sent to individuals upon request.

Investment Priorities
The university aims to optimize investment return and has not made any public statements about investigating or investing in renewable energy funds or community development loan funds.

Shareholder Engagement
The university has not made any public statements about active ownership or a proxy voting policy.
Check out rankings at http://www.greenreportcard.org/.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

don't fret...pearl jam has our backs

Grist compiled a list of 15 green musicians. I am not quite sure what the guidelines were for ranking the bands, but here they are with Pearl Jam ranked number one (Who would have thought beneath all that flannel plaid lived the heart of an environmentalist?)

Pearl Jam
The Roots
Sarah Harmer
Green Day
Jack Johnson
Thom Yorke
Willie Nelson
KT Tunstall
Perry Farrell
Sheryl Crow
Barenaked Ladies
Cloud Cult
Bonnie Raitt


oh, and I would like to apologize for my recent generic posts. Finals madness seems to have hit me hard and suppressed my creative juices.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

stuff environmentalists like....

The same concept as the book/blog "stuff white people like" (worth checking out if you haven't already)

This is excellent. Plenty Magazine is featuring a beginners guide to befriending and exploiting green people.

They include conversation starters/ways to avoid tempeh:

If conversation starts to lull, it’s always a good idea to bring up a paradox that engages the entire table. The most pressing question of our generation is: local or organic? This subject is sure to create a lively distraction while you grab whatever delicious food remains, leaving only the tempeh and brown rice for the other guests.

...and how to exploit the environmentalist's innate desire to "offset things":

Once the meal is over, it’s always good manners to insist on doing the dishes. But do not worry about actually having to do them. Simply walk into the kitchen, put the dishes in the sink, turn on the hot water, return to the host, and say, “I’m just waiting for the water to heat up.” They will bolt into the kitchen and shut off the faucet to prevent wasting both water and energy. Feign ignorance. They will finish the job and try to offset the awkwardness of the situation by giving you the leftover local, organic peach cobbler to take home. Environmentalists like to offset things.


Monday, December 1, 2008

CFL=cool freaking lightbulb

The producer of An Inconvenient Truth made this pretty sweet website called "Unscrew America" about CFL's.

You should check it.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Party Cup: An Inconvenient Truth

The National Recycling Coalition declared today America Recycles Day. With this “holiday” on my mind, as I was walking down a street heavily populated by frat houses, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of cans and party cups scattered across the sidewalk.

This didn’t bother me quite as much as I would have expected. Perhaps I have been desensitized, as a lawn freckled with shiny red plastic cups is commonplace every Saturday morning here on campus. Yet part of me (the part enabling my friends to test, at my expense, their repertoire of granola eating-birkenstock wearing-tree hugging humor) wondered what becomes of the usual remnants of a Friday night. Party cups, an undeniable staple of collegiate nightlife, are as wasteful as they are convenient. I don’t mean to pin this down solely on the Greek kids on campus; lack of recycling is something to which we are all guilty.
Just a thought. Happy recycling day.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

urban ecology: an oxymoron?

Edible City Trailer 1 from East Bay Pictures on Vimeo.

Edible City is a documentary scheduled for release in fall of 2009, and focuses on the modern food crisis as an issue of social justice and community development. It opens with a powerful and counterintuitive statement explaining that record grain harvests and record profits of the industry are accompanied by record levels of hunger. The program makes me really pleased and I hope to see more of this in my neighborhood!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

free coffee+democracy

(A little election day humor) .

Monday, November 3, 2008

"drill baby drill"

Fueled (no pun intended) by my Halloween costume and a speech given by Sarah Palin on energy this past week, I feel the need to question her concept of energy independence.

Palin’s speech emphasized the need for America to become energy independent. I found it peculiar that she cited offshore drilling as a viable answer, but neglected to emphasize that to which her audience of Xunlight employees/engineers advocates: solar energy.

The problem, I feel, is deeply rooted in the flawed way we view energy use in America. I feel like this platform taken here feeds the addiction rather than offering alternatives. Our culture endorses over consumption (on multiple levels), and it is rather absurd to believe that we can eliminate dependence on foreign oil solely through offshore drilling without significant investment in alternative energy technologies and conservation efforts. America consumes 25% of the world’s oil, and owns a mere 3% of the world’s oil reserves. The answer to this crisis lies not with finding more oil, but in weaning ourselves from the “addiction” through legislation focusing on conservation, and promotion of alternative energy sources. There needs to be a change in the way we perceive energy use.

I guess “Conserve baby conserve” or “Alternative energy baby alternative energy” doesn’t roll of the tongue nearly as nicely as “drill baby drill”...

Wouldn’t a drastic change in the way our culture views energy use, rather than sustaining habits detrimental to the environment, be an idea a self proclaimed “maverick” would support?

“You Betcha”.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

eat the view?

Okay, probably one of the more cheesy youtube videos out there, but the initiative corresponds with the whole theme of this blog. The idea here is to utilize the eighteen acres of land around the White House to create something reminiscent of a victory garden, encouraging the next administration to promote organic gardening and sustainable living practices.

This "Eat the View Campaign" made me think about how much Americans truly value the notion of a front lawn (the video cites that there are 23 million acres of lawns). I've seen the South lawn and will admit it's pretty, yet I can't help but wonder how much water and chemicals it takes to maintain...

I suppose the initiative serves as more of a symbolic statement granting the next president the opportunity to set an iconic example to Americans. Is the conversion of the "beautiful" South lawn into a contemporary victory garden really a feasible request to bestow upon future president?