Here’s a story from Swarthmore College about climate change, agriculture, and the potential for war. Our own professor Matt Mariola is interviewed about 24 minutes into the story. Recent visitor Richard Matthew is also featured. It’s a spin on climate change that many people don’t think about.
If you have not yet noticed, along the path between Lowry Student Center and Kauke Hall is a String of Disposable Paper Cups hung between the trees. This display aims to convey the amount of disposable cup waste we generate on campus.
This awareness project was organized and carried out by Rita Frost, Alissa Weinman, Erin Flannelly, Daniela Bartlett-Asenjo, and Sara Tebeau.
These five students worked everyday for four weeks, collecting disposable cups out of the trash bins around campus. They took five hours last Sunday to string and put the display up.
This string is representative of the amount and types of disposable cups our campus consumes in one day: 829 cups.
That amounts to 207 pounds of CO2 emitted just from drinking coffee on our campus each day. It also decreases natural habitat potential by 770 square feet. In addition, all of these cups were retrieved from the trash, even though EVERYTHING you see on this string is recyclable!
Did you know that when we verbally prompted you about utilizing your reusable mug, mug usage on campus went up 20%? We want to encourage you to use your mug every time you get a drink not just when you are prompted. Not only do you reduce the amount of waste that the campus produces, but you save $0.25! Like your own cup better? go ahead & use it! LUG YOUR MUG, y’all!
175,976 coffee cups are used on campus per year. If we assume that the campus is representative of the nation, and 65% of the roughly 2,000 students are the ones using these cups for this coffee, then the average student is responsible for 135 cups.
The Environmental Defense Fund informs us that ONE paper coffee cup has a ¼ pound of CO2 emissions. Additionally, the loss of natural habitat potential from that same paper coffee cup is about 0.93 square feet.
In sum, ONE College of Wooster student is responsible for 33 pounds of CO2 emissions and the loss of 125 square feet of natural habitat due to drinking coffee each school year. (statisticbrain.com & Environmental Defense Fund)
Wildlife suffers when we drink from paper coffee cups. Trees are cut down, petroleum is expended, habitat is destroyed. At the College of Wooster, we want to help squirrels, birds, and ultimately, ourselves and the sustainability of our planet and one way we are doing this is through the reusable mug program. You can use this handy mug for hot AND cold drinks and get a $0.25 discount(!). You can also use your own mug if you would prefer. Every student gets one free mug per year… we’ll even wash it for you.
Do you know about the reusable mug program? Every student, faculty, and staff member is allotted 1 free mug to use with any drink purchase every single semester. Dining services will wash the mug, hold on to it for you, & give you a $0.25 discount EVERY TIME you use it. This same discount goes for if you use your own preferred container. On campus, we throw away 175,976 every year. Help decrease this by using your reusable mug. REDUCE disposable cups on campus. REUSE your mug. RECYCLE disposable cups if you have to use one.
Information credit to Gus Fuguitt
Photos Credit to Anna Reagan
Beginning today, the listed price of drinks at MacLeod’s and Old Main will drop $0.25. The truth is, beverages have always had a misleading price. Considering the reusable mug program, you’ve always been able to get a drink at the new, lower price; some people just never knew it. The original price of all beverages included the cost of a disposable cup, lid and cardboard sleeve all along. Now, the cost of that disposable cup will be added, only after the drink is ordered and no reusable mug is presented.
Under the previous system, a $0.25 discount was offered on a drink purchase when a reusable mug was used; the incentive was purely a financial benefit. You would normally spend that quarter on a disposable cup, but you remembered your mug today, good for you, you deserve a reward. The only motivation for sustainable action is the reward of a quarter. This sounds nice, and it helped to establish the reusable mug program as a viable and worth-while program for the school, but it is not enough to create behavior change.
Today, when anyone purchases a drink, a $0.25 fee will be added to the purchase price of a drink without a reusable mug. This will hopefully permeate the whole interaction of a beverage purchase to discourage the use of disposable cups. Our goal is to make reusable mugs the norm on campus, be it student, staff or visitor who is ordering the drink.
A reusable mug has been provided to every student, staff and faculty via a credit on their ID card. At any point, anyone may ‘check out’ a mug for use. This same mug can also be ‘checked in’ to reinstate the mug credit, or it can be traded for a clean mug, at MacLeod’s and Old Main. There is also a mug exchange at the spiral stairwell swiper into Lowry cafeteria, where you can get a clean mug in exchange for a dirty one as you enter.
The black Wooster reusable mug is not the only reusable mug. Anyone can provide their own mug or reusable container of any shape and size for their beverage of choice to avoid the disposable fee.
COW may have quit coal, but we have replaced it with another dirty habit: natural gas. The switch was official as of March 1st, 2013. While the decision to switch had a lot of financial bearing, some will remember the 2011 protest at 7am to demand action. The protest was respectful, organized, and well received. The students ran a successful campaign because they were heard by trustees, and the trustees acted quickly in response. Since then, the physical plant has been upgrading boilers, coolers and everything in between. As we have made this transition, I hear concerns from many environmentally-aware students about the new dangers presented by technological advances in hydraulic fracturing, and the lack of regulation that came with the natural gas boom.
Don’t get me wrong, coal is really, really bad. Not only does it emit unimaginable amounts CO2, but also a slew of air pollutants that we will simply stop emitting by making the switch. This across-the-board emissions reduction will reduce EPA emissions fees, maintenance costs, and health risks to coal plant employees (making this a worthy investment for the College in my book). The trouble is, the emissions reduction is limited to the point of combustion.
Natural gas does emit significantly less air pollutants compared to coal when burned, but that is not the only point of emissions for natural gas. From extraction (flowback releases its dissolved methane when it reaches the surface) to transportation (methane leaks from pipelines, 2% to 9%), these emissions add up. Now that we have more of the full picture, natural gas is comparable to coal in greenhouse effects.
As our college moves forward, and continues to burn natural gas, we must acknowledge that we have moved from lead and mercury emissions to constant methane emissions (25x the greenhouse effects of CO2); mountaintop removal to fracking; one quickly disappearing, increasingly dangerous fossil fuel to another. Don’t kid yourself and say it’s the lesser of two evils; it will save us money, and it is easier to switch to clean energy from a natural gas system than from a coal system. Now we are presented with a great opportunity, I can only hope that the money saved will be invested in a truly clean energy as soon as possible.
A new book, edited by ethologist Mark Bekoff, presents an argument for why we need to change our attitudes about nature. His goal is to critique the implicit (and sometimes explicit) attitude of domination and exploitation with which humans approach the natural world, and replace it with an attitude of “compassionate conservation”.
The chapters in the book are organized into sections on ”Ethics, conservation, and animal protection”, “Conservation behavior and enlightened management”, “Conservation economics and politics”, “Human dimensions of justice, empathy, and compassion” (in which section I’m pleased to have a chapter included), and “Culture, religion, and spirituality”. The goal is to look at animal conservation from all sides, including practical and moral perspectives, human and animal concerns, and make a strong argument for thinking about our responsibility to the natural world.
Kimberly Curtis in The Journal of Sustainability Education
Coming out of the 2008 recession, educational institutions responded to cuts in state legislature and drops in endowment by implementing multiple cost cutting measures. However, Curtis believes that work into sustainable studies requires a shift in thinking and initiatives, of which requires financial support. In the article, she describes an initiative started in Northern Arizona University which attempts to resist the ‘dark ages’, which she characterizes as the contemporary dynamics of delocalization and dehistoricization. To challenge this ‘dark age’, she believes our pedagogy should be formed by the challenges of the present, therefore able to resist the “dominant pedagogical model’s demand that the learning and the teaching self empty itself in the service of detached knowing”. She proposes that pedagogy today must teach the skills and cultivate an ethos of democratic organizing.
In light of this idea, a pilot Resident Learning Community project in NAU was created, and called SEED (Sustainable Environments and Engaged Democracy). This project suggested that books are simply insufficient to teach the political arts, and the actual practice of democratic processes was needed. Within SEED, teams were split into 7 groups, where each group was a mix of multi-age participants to create an environment of reciprocal learning. Each group had a community based project to engage in, and applying the democratic process in working the project. As a result a “community of practice” where the diversity of age, institutional affiliations, power, and training aided the ability for creative work for the project. The article talks to greater lengths about the specific examples of practical democracy. As a conclusion, Curtis believes that this pioneer project has helped to reenchant the art of democracy in pedagogy.
I recently attended the meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans. (I know, tough life.) What made this conference distinctive, and convinced me to attend, was the day-long preconference devoted to a discussion of how psychology can contribute to sustainability. (The preconference was called SPSPSP.)
In a great example of the integration of academic research with social concerns, we spent the morning listening to each other talk about research on such topics as, how do we get people to care more about environmental issues? What are the social consequences of environmentalism? And how can sustainable behavior be encouraged?
We then, however, spent the afternoon looking at ways in which people are working to make New Orleans more sustainable. We listened to an interesting presentation from an entrepreneur (and liberal arts college graduate!) who works with local businesses to help them become “greener”, and also to make “green” be profitable for them. They can be part of a Green Card program that helps them connect with customers who want to incorporate their values.
Of course, we had to also get around using green transportation — in this case, pedicabs operated by a squad of cheerful and strong cyclists.
Many of us went back and dined at one of the green restaurants that evening. It was an excellent way to walk the talk about sustainability!
Many students were taken aback by the sight of their professors and peers scraping food into barrels on Tuesday night. This was the first of a two-part weigh-in to see how much food we’re wasting at Lowry.
Around the country, tons of food are wasted on college campuses (not to mention in restaurants and private homes) as students decide to sample several things before deciding what they like, or overestimate how hungry they are. We waste a lot less food than we did several years ago, before the dining halls went trayless. But there’s room for improvement.
Why should we care? This is one of those cases where environmental sustainability and economy go hand in hand. Sure, the college will save money if they don’t have to pay for (and prepare) food that goes straight into the dumpster. That saved money could be spent on student services, or lower tuition increases.
But food is also an enviromental resource. It takes land, water, and energy to grow the food, transport it, prepare it, and serve it. When the food is not eaten it takes up space in a landfill (though we compost some of it). The College’s environmental footprint would be reduced if we didn’t get more food than we needed or wanted.
Last Tuesday we scraped 185 pounds of edible food off of plates, or about 2 ounces per person. That’s not too bad. But we can do better. When you eat at Lowry, think about taking 2 ounces less food on your plate. If you want more, you can go back and get it later! If everyone chooses their food more carefully, together it can make a big difference.
Next month we’ll do another weigh-in to see what changes have been made!
Kelly Biedenweg, Martha C. Monroe, and Annie Oxarart in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Although the college has a course on environmental ethics, the greater question perhaps is whether environmental ethics is important in the discourse or the practical application of sustainability. Studying within a Liberal Arts College, it is perhaps normal that ethical discourse generally permeates our education. Biedenwag, Monroe, and Oxarart argue that a foundation in ethics provide a structure to understand the moral basis for decision making processes for students when they embark on professional careers, especially in fields pertaining to sustainability. They formulated a sustainability ethics course targeted specifically at students from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); fields where emphasis is not placed on the ethical or social considerations of sustainability. However, they argue that ethical considerations in these fields are important for these fields are the ones that contribute fresh ideas that further society’s development.
The course was arranged into three sections. The first tackled the challenges to sustainability and the role of technology in meeting these challenges. The second section emphasized how ethical issues related to sustainability issues. Lastly, the course covered specific ethical principles, namely, social justice concepts of equitable distribution, the precautionary principle, and the golden and platinum rules. These principles were paired with practical tools that include systems thinking, multi-stakeholder processes, full-cost analyses, and polluter pays policies. During the course evaluation, students were especially taken in by the multi-stakeholder process role-play for determining policies. Additionally, they remarked on the greater understanding of diverse ethical principles normally passed over, or left out of discussions pertaining to technology and decision-making. Critically for the students, they felt that the ability to visualize and understand how to clearly, and practically implement ethical principles within their professional fields was necessary. The writers conclude that research within the field of sustainability should consider at what stage of a student’s education, and in what fields, would a course in sustainability ethics be most effective.
Experiential education does not have to mean an internship or apprenticeship. Here students in ENVS 220: Farm to Table thresh bundles of rye by hand to learn a visceral lesson about the nature of food processing and (non)industrial farm methods. Not to mention that old saw: “where your food comes from.” They’ll never look at rye bread the same way again!