March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s March 22nd, so you know what that means? It’s the UN World Water Day! This year, it could not come as a more perfect time, as everyone in the Northeast is experiencing uncharacteristic heat, and therefore increased need for water. Since it’s establishment in 1993, World Water Day has served as a yearly reminder to the world that water is our most important research. Each year, a different theme is used, and is sponsored by a different UN/International organization. In the recent past, themes have included « Read the rest of this entry »
March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
Spring is here. There’s absolutely no denying it. When it’s 80 Degrees in Syracuse in mid-March, and similarly – abnormally – warm
across the country, environmentalists all seem to take the opportunity to remind the world about global warming. I’m not. Today, I’m going to talk about how to keep cool in this heat in the most sustainable way possible.
- Dress appropriately. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s that time of year again. Spring is fast approaching, baseball season is starting, and of course, March Madness has begun! The yearly NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship started last Thursday (3/15), and this Thursday (3/22) starts the third round of play, affectionately known as the Sweet Sixteen. The teams are competing for one of the most prestigious and well-know titles in all of sports, and fans around the country are following every game on national TV, cheering for their favorites and filling out brackets with their predictions of who will win. Even President Obama is in the sprit – each year of his presidency he has revealed his picks in TV segments called “Barack-etology.” However, there’s a whole other group of sixteen colleges and universities competing for a lesser known, but equally, if not more important title: The National College Sustainability Championship, AKA the other March Madness.
The contest works similar to the NCAA tournament, and occurs « Read the rest of this entry »
March 16, 2012 § 1 Comment
A few weeks ago, I attended the Shades of Green conference in Madison County, NY. One of the many topics covered in the breakout session was energy efficiency, covered by Sam Gordon of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board. The presentation, “Home Energy Efficiency: Save Energy, Save Money, Save the Planet” was a perfect example about how being sustainable benefits you as well as the environment.
The session began with Mr. Gordon presenting a simple concept: The recommended temperature to save energy at home is 68 degrees. Yes, it’s that simple. Keep your home at an incredibly comfortable 68 degrees, and you save energy, and therefore money! He continues on to discuss other simple, easy, DIY energy conservation techniques. Gordon cites his own personal example: By replacing appliances, like his fridge and dehumidifier, and lightbulbs, with more energy efficient brands, as well as practicing basic conservation, such as turning off lights and unplugging appliances that don’t need to be running very often, he cut his home energy use in half. So what does this mean? He can now make his home greener by installing solar panels for electricity, but now he can cut the amount (and therefore the cost) in half, saving himself a ton of money.
Some statistics followed this example: Residential uses make up one fourth of US energy consumption. Another 28% is used for transportation. Within the home itself, 60% of energy is consumed by heating and cooling systems, another 16% for water heating, and 12% each for your refrigerator and lighting/other appliances. An interesting and surprising fact was that your cable box can actually use almost as much energy as your refrigerator – many people don’t realize this, but it’s plugged in, running all day, consuming energy – even when you’re not watching TV. The European Union actually has laws regarding these boxes, enforcing mandator energy efficiency standards.
So how do we encourage this kind of efficiency and sustainability? To those who have learned about it, things like changing to an EnergyStar dryer in your home is a clear win-win situation. However, many don’t realize the benefits to your wallet, and see changes like these as solely good for the environment. According to Gordon, people need to start by making a commitment to energy efficiency. To do this, however, we need to establish social norms that say it’s ok to talk about energy and sustainability in everyday conversation. Mr. Gordon wants it so that you can talk to your neighbors about their home energy efficiency just like you would exchange tips for lawn care or ask them for a good dentist’s phone number.
To do this, National Grid has started a pilot program in the CNY area. Participants receive a smiley or frowny face on their energy bills, which is assigned by comparing their home energy efficiency to that of the average consumer. The central idea behind this goes something like this: People talk about their lawns, because they receive feedback from others on the state of their lawns.Therefore, if people receive feedback about the state of their energy usage, they will talk about it with their neighbors as well. According to Gordon, this feedback serves as both personal and comparative motivation.
Lastly, Mr. Gordon discussed the new CNY Energy Challenge, another pilot program with two main goals: First, to educate CNY residents about energy usage/conservation, and second, to encourage and facilitate the discussion about energy and sustainability topics between neighbors. The program is made up of 80 people, starting first in the city of Syracuse. The people are organized into groups of households, headed by a facilitator, who work as a group and meet biweekly for 12 weeks. As part of the program, the households learn from a five unit curriculum, which covers topics such as: determining your energy intake, household lighting, powering down electronics, heating and cooling systems, and the Home Energy Audit. The units are designed to teach the mechanics of, reasons behind, and benefits of each topic discussed. The program has another benefit – 10% discounts at local stores to buy energy efficient products, in order to act upon what they are learning.
Once again, Mr. Gordon’s presentation has shown exactly what it is that people need to realize: Sustainability, especially energy efficiency and conservation, serves to benefit the environment, your neighborhood, and your wallet.
On another note, if you are a SU student and are interested in joining Eco-Reps, please email SUEcoReps@gmail.com.
March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Are you a Syracuse University Student? Well, then Eco-Reps Wants YOU!
What’s an Eco-Rep?
– A Leader
– An Educator
– An Ambassador
Eco-Reps is a new organization on campus, with the goals of inspiring and educating the student body about environmental and sustainability issues facing our campus, our country, and the world. We aim to do this in a fun, engaging way, through campus-wide programing that is exciting and unique, in addition to being informative and eye-opening. Some examples of past and planned programs include: Water Taste Tests, Tray Waste Audits, Recycled Fashion Show, Junkyard Wars, and more!
As a newly forming organization on campus, we are looking for interested Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors who want to be part of this one of a kind opportunity.
So what makes a good Eco-Rep? An Eco-Rep is a strong leader, organized, outspoken, full of energy, and passionate about sustainability. We’re looking for people of all disciplines, colleges, and majors!
Interested? If you’re ready to go or if you just want to know more, email SUEcoReps@gmail.com!
March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
After a week of midterms, two days of traveling, and a slightly skeevy Super 8, (which all hopefully explain and justify the lack of recent posts,) I’ve finally arrived in Myrtle Beach, SC, and man, it is NICE! As I sit and look out at the beautiful beach and ocean, it hit me. This is what I’m working to save. Everything I’m doing here, with this blog, and with my life, is so that the world can continue to enjoy places as naturally incredible as these.
Another thing hit me, a little later in the day. As I came back to take a shower, I stumbled upon something I had seen many times, and in various permutations.
Think about the last time you went to a hotel – you definitely saw one of the little signs somewhere in your bathroom that reminded you to save water by reusing your towels. There’s even a universal code for how to tell the cleaning staff what you’re doing – dirty towels on the floor, ones you plan to reuse get hung up. But have you ever considered the logic behind all this? The history? The actual environmental impact? Well, I’ll answer the questions you’ve always had, and maybe even a few you never though of:
Let’s do a little Q &A:
Q: What environmental benefits do these policies have?
A: According to Practically Green, a hotel of 250 rooms operating at 80% capacity can expect to save 220,000 gallons of water each year (and $66,000!). Energy, too, is also saved, since most laundry is done in hot water, and therefore requires a lot of energy to heat it to the desired temperature, as well as to power the washing machines and dryers. Chemicals such as chlorine and bleach are often used as detergents, and a decrease in laundry-doing is equivalent to a decrease in the entrance of these chemicals into our environments. Also, many hotels donate a portion of saved funds to worthy environmental causes, which is just an added bonus.
Q: Why do guests follow these procedures?
A: It’s easy. Well, that’s part of it at least. But think about it – it’s the same as if you were at home, except instead of having to take your own towels out of the bathroom or make them neat, housekeeping will do it for you. But that doesn’t fully explain why people do it. One argument is they know that by saving water, the hotel saves money, and therefore charges them less, so by following the procedures, they’re saving themselves money. A Scientific American article points out an interesting observation to take into account. According to the article, people tend to reuse towels more if they think others are also doing the same. Oh, and let’s not forget pure, good-hearted interest in saving the environment as a reason to reuse hotel towels.
Q: Is it a law that there must be these signs in hotel rooms?
A: Nope. Though it might seem like it, since a vast majority of American hotels have the reusing polices and resulting signs, it is purely the hotel’s decision.
Q: If it’s not a law, why do hotels do it?
A: There’s a few reasons for that. First of all, there’s the obvious reason: to help the environment. Now, we all should hope that environmental sustainability is a core belief and goal of every person and organization in the world, but let’s not be too naive. So why do it? Well, there’s the idea of personal gain. The hotels that participate in these policies have something to gain from them. A hotel has plenty of space, but most of it is front of house, guest-accessible space, with little left for waste management – i.e. trash, recycling, and laundry. Therefore, to successfully manage waste, hotels need to actively and masterfully design their programs. So in terms of towels, if guests reuse even a fraction of the towels they use daily, that’s a whole bunch of towels that the hotel does not need to be washing, and therefore less space, time, personnel, and money they need to dedicate to laundry.Oh, and speaking of money, hotels pay utilities just like everyone else, so each towel they don’t wash saves them money on their water and energy bills, and therefore creates more profit for them. (Special thanks to Waste Management World for help with this one).
Hope you found this informative! Have questions you want answered? Let me know!