Green Tip - Fill it Forward
Wednesday, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. What better way to help celebrate than to reduce use of plastic bottles *and* help provide clean water to those in need.
Cupanion is a company that promotes using refillable drinking bottles. Every Cupanion product ships with a tag that connects to the Fill it ForwardTM app allowing users to give clean water with each refill, track their environmental impact and stay hydrated. You can also buy a Fill it Forward tag to place on your own refillable bottle. Each time you refill, you scan the tag in the app and with every scan Cupanion makes a donation equal to a 'cup of clean water.' Plus when you use the app, you will be able to track your environmental impact and set hydration goals for yourself.
With current physical distancing due to COVID-19, Cupanion has introduced the Fill It Forward Virtual Tag--a free tag that can be scanned at home. They write "We hope it helps spread some positivity and optimism when we all need it the most." The virtual tag will be available until April 13th or until the project is fully funded at https://cupanion.com/virtual-fif-tag/.
To participate, simply download the Fill it Forward app for free and scan the virtual tag every time you refill your reusable at home -- even a glass counts! With each scan in the app, you will help bring clean water to a First Nations Community through our amazing charitable partner Water First!
You can make a difference--virtually! Every glass counts!
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip: Plastic Bag Ban Starts March 1, 2020
On April 22, 2019 Governor Cuomo signed the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act. The sale of single-use plastic bags in New York will be banned as of March 1, 2020. Plastic bags will still be allowed for uncooked meat/fish/poultry, bulk items (produce, candy), sliced or prepared foods, newspapers (delivered), prescription drugs, carryout orders at restaurants/taverns, garment bags, and bags prepackaged for sale to a customer (trash bags, food storage bags).
Remember to take a reusable bag with you when you are shopping. It might be easiest to just leave one or two in your car so you always have a bag available whether you are going to the grocery store, shopping for clothes, or picking up something to complete your to do list at the local hardware store
Retail stores will still collect the produce, bulk, and other plastic bags as well as film plastics (wraps that come over cases of water and toilet paper for example. Don't put them in your blue bin!
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip: Recycle, Don't Wishcycle
Did being eco-friendly make your New Year's resolutions this year? Bring your own shopping bags. Cook from scratch. Bring your own water bottle. Recycle, don't wishcycle!
Wishcycling? What is that? That is when you put something into the recycling bin without checking if it really belongs there. Wishcyclers want to do the right thing, and feel that the more that can be recycled, the better. Unfortunately, wishcyclers do more harm than good by contaminating good recyclables. Remember this rule - when in doubt, throw it out!
According to Susan Robinson from Waste Management, as of 2018, about 25% of materials collected in curbside recycling programs didn't belong. That equates to 500 pounds of every 2000 pounds collected ultimately being discarded as non-recyclable. To learn more view the two minute video "What is Recycling Contamination?"
In Monroe County - ALWAYS place in your curbside bin:
- Cardboard - flattened, including CLEAN pizza boxes
- Clean Paper and Wrapping Paper (not metallic)
- Plastic bottles, jugs, jars, and tubs - recycle by shape!
- Cans, bottles, and cartons
NEVER place in your bin:
- Electronics- use a specialty recycler or take to Ecopark
- Styrofoam - packing Styrofoam can be brought to Ecopark
- Plastic bags, film, shipping envelopes - take to retailers or Ecopark
- Pharmaceutical bottles - take to Ecopark
- Single Use Plastics (such as cups, plates, utensils) - place in trash
- Bows, ribbons, wire, twine, decorations
- Cooking oil or food
Remember - When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip: Climate Change
Climate change and global warming are hot topics. In September, a record 7.6 million people took to the streets to strike for climate action world-wide in a Global Climate Strike to demand urgent action on what is described as an ecological emergency. "World Scientists' Warning of a Climate Emergency" was published on November 5 in the Viewpoint section of BioScience which states "...we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency." https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a unit created by the United Nations to provide policymakers with scientific assessments related to climate change, issued a special report warning that temperature rise must be limited to 1.5°C in order to avoid the most drastic effects of global warming. We are already past 1°C as compared to pre-industrial levels.
What can be done?
Aside from the multitudes of researchers studying the climate and changes currently, there are also several organizations working to identify and implement solutions such as Project Drawdown which is "shifting the global conversation about climate change from "doom and gloom" defeatism to one of possibility, opportunity, action, and empowerment."
Some colleges are taking action to reduce campus emissions, such as the University of Pennsylvania with President Gutmann's 100x42 carbon neutrality pledge--a 100% carbon neutral campus by 2042 in the Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0.
There are numerous suggestions for personal lifestyle changes that can help reduce your carbon impact on the climate. Here are some suggestions from "10 Solutions for Climate Change" published in Scientific American. Pick one or two and make a change!
1. Transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
Move closer to work, work from home, use mass transit, walk, cycle, or carpool.
1. Cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels burned to extract, produce, and ship goods.
Buy less stuff. Carry a reusable shopping bag, buy items that are projected to last longer, buy in bulk so there is less packaging.
1. Americans spend around $165 per household per year (totaling $19 billion nation-wide) for electricity for devices that are off. All things plugged in will bleed some energy, called 'standby', 'phantom', or 'vampire' electricity loss, since even turned off, many appliances will still draw power.
Unplug! Use power strips to make this job easier. Turn off your monitor since screen savers don't save energy. Turn items off even if you don't unplug since devices turned on consume the most power.
Sustainability Steering Committee's Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Greening the Gift
According to Jodi Smits Anderson, Dormitory Authority State of New York, the holy trinity of greener gifting is:
Green the Gift -- think of the receiver
- re-gift treasures or re-task (an old photo framed or made into a magnet)
- make something (start early!)
- sustainable items (glass or durable straws as stocking stuffers, bar shampoo and conditioner --locally made and no plastic bottles)
- give an experience (theatre tickets, game night (with a board game), that undone chore)
Green the Packaging
- wrap with re-purposed materials (comics, brown paper - plain or with potato prints or drawings)
- wrap with a gift--make the packaging part of the gift (wrap a book with a pashmina, paint a mason jar to hold bath salts)
- durable - make reusable cotton cloth bags to put gifts in
Green the Giving
- slow down and make traditions - be mindful
- make a theme and each gift must relate to the theme (duct tape, Star Wars, elements)
- give 'em a clue - two photos on the gift tag so they had to guess what the gift is, word search, riddles
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Sustainability Webinar Series
Sustainability is a term we hear often but what does it really mean? According to Investopedia, sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. There are three main pillars of sustainability - social, economic, and environmental. Our focus is most often on environmental sustainability.
New York State's Office of General Services has a webinar series on "How to Build Sustainability in Your Life." The last webinar will be on the 8th of October at NOON (free but pre-registration is required) - "Energy Efficiency for Renters." Past webinars can be viewed at the Lunchtime Learning web site and cover topics such as Composting, Greener Gifting, Home Weatherization and Plastics Avoidance. This is a perfect opportunity to learn more about sustainability during Campus Sustainability Month.
To register for the October 8th webinar, go the Lunchtime Learning page and click on Register Now (https://ogs.ny.gov/greenny/lunchtime-learning).
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Bags, Bags, Bags!
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, (www.biologicaldiversity.org), the average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of these bags are properly returned for recycling. So that is around 1,485 bags per family that end up in landfills or as litter. Up to 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution enters from the land, and nearly 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
How can you help? If you are getting your groceries bagged, recycle the bags once you are done with them--but not in the blue bins at home or at MCC. Most major retail stores (Walmart, Target, Wegmans, Tops, etc.) accept CLEAN and DRY plastic bags and product wrap for recycling. You can find the closest store that accepts the plastic bags by searching your zip code at the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) or the American Chemistry Council. https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/find-drop-off-location/
According to Monroe County's Ecopark site, to determine if a plastic bag/wrap is recyclable, try this rule of thumb -if you can put your thumb through the plastic and it stretches (also marked #2 or #4), it is likely the correct type of plastic film for recycling at major retail stores like Wegmans or Tops. Examples of items that are usually acceptable for recycling include newspaper bags, cereal/cracker box liners, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, zip-type bags (cut off the sliding mechanism), shrink wrap, bubble wrap, plastic shipping envelopes. Ecopark also accepts CLEAN and DRY bags.
New York State legislators have agreed to ban single-use plastic bags from retail sales (California banned the bags in 2016 and all counties in Hawaii have a ban). The ban would begin March 1, 2020. You can prepare for the ban by purchasing reusable bags or repurposing a cloth tote or bag you already own. Start using those instead of plastic or paper bags now!
Remember single use retail plastic bags don't go in curbside bins or MCC blue recycle bins. Take them back to the store!
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Cap It!
What do you do with your bottle caps? Toss them in the garbage? Put them in recycling?
Did you know that while on their own bottle caps can clog recycling sorters but with improvements in processing equipment, they are more easily processed when they are attached to their bottle!
Research by the North Sea Foundation found that bottle caps are among the top 5 items found during beach cleaning around the world! Over the last 30 years, more than 20 million bottle caps and lids were found on beaches world-wide during cleaning activities! Plastic bottle caps are among the top 5 ocean trash items that are deadly to sea life.
So next time you finish your soda - empty the contents, rinse it, and cap it!
This also can be done with shampoo and conditioner bottles, laundry detergents, ketchup, yogurt and other food containers and plastic bottles and containers you use regularly at home.
Remember- clean, empty containers go in the single-stream blue "recycle" bins at MCC.
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Reusable Containers
Sure popping that sandwich into a resealable zipper storage plastic bag is super easy, but are you throwing one of those bags into the trash everyday? According to the EPA, together food and packaging/containers account for almost 45 percent of the materials landfilled in the United States.
Consider using a more sustainable option - dishwasher safe sandwich boxes, Japanese Bento boxes or one of the several stainless steel lunch boxes that are plastic free, ocean friendly and nontoxic. There is even an eco-friendly snack and sandwich bag alternative made from cotton with a food safe/medical grade waterproof liner available. Even just switching to one of the plastic containers you have at home that you will reuse daily is a good step in supporting sustainability. When that container needs replacing, be sure to recycle it appropriately and consider purchasing a more sustainable replacement.
Sustainability Steering Committee’s Recycling Committee
Green Tip - Changing Our Driving Habits to Help Our Environment
Is it an antisocial behavior that a driver races from red light to red light with little regard for how much energy s/he consumes? That is what Tim Castleman suggests. Castleman is the person behind the “Drive 55” campaign that aims to bring public awareness of the advantages of driving slower. Such advantages that have been documented from research include cost savings and reduction in carbon emissions. While it may arguably be a social norm that people drive faster than the speed limit, perhaps we could start making some adjustments in our driving habits. Consider these facts:
A car’s gas mileage peaks at speeds around 40 miles per hour (depending on the car).“The Department of Energy has estimated that, at most, a national speed limit of 55 mph would save 100 million barrels of oil annually; the United States currently consumes 21 million barrels per day.”“Fuel economy decreases about 1% for each mph over 55. Driving 65 mph vs. 75 mph, for example, increases fuel economy by about 10%” (National Automobile Dealers Association).“’Jack-rabbit’ starts and hard braking alone can increase fuel consumption by 40% but reduce travel time by only 4%” ("http://www.eartheasy.com").By driving slower, we can save ourselves some money and contribute to a cleaner environment.
ESOL and Foreign Languages
Green Tip - Support Species Survival
Donors to Seneca Park Zoo's Annual Appeal support the preservation of endangered species because our zoo participates in many Species Survival Plans as an affiliate of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To get to know the particular species and the specific zoo residents covered by these plans, visit: https://www.senecaparkzoo.org
Click on "Animals" and any of the following species:
Black and White Ruffed Lemur
Golden Lion Tamarin
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
Panamanian Golden Frog
Green Tip - The Geography of Food - Food Miles
Where does your food come from? How many miles does your food have to travel before it hits your dinner plate?
Not so long ago, for most of humanity, the majority of our food came from areas we could walk to or at least from within our own countries. These days our food is increasingly from many thousands of miles away. We can express this distance as food miles which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.
It's amazing that we can enjoy many foods out of season and at relatively low cost, but the price paid in terms of environmental damage can be very high.
The environmental impact is mainly related to freight and shipping - more trucks, more planes, more ships, more consumption of oil and more greenhouse gas emissions. Produce in the U.S. travels, on average, 1300 - 2000 miles from farm to consumer. Since 1970, truck shipping has dramatically increased, replacing more energy efficient transportation by rail and water (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service). Also, food imported from some countries may have been grown in very unsustainable ways. For example, rainforests may have been cleared, and toxic effluent released into the environment from processing and inappropriate use of pesticides and herbicides applied to crops.
A brand of coffee I drink is grown in Brazil. That's a distance of over 3,000 miles (over 5,000 kilometers) as the crow flies. I then switched to buying a fair trade brand from Guatemala - under 2,000 miles - around 3,200 kilometers. Just to illustrate the difference, take a look at the map in the link below showing the distance comparison between the origins of my usual brand of coffee (Brazil) and new brand of fair trade coffee (Guatemala).
You can take action on your next shopping trip. Try to buy local where you can - even if it's just one or two more products that you regularly use. Read labels on cans and learn more about what foods are in season within your country and try to utilize those more as there will be less chance of you accidentally purchasing imported foods. Better yet, consider starting a vegetable garden for your back yard (next spring). It will greatly reduce your food mile impact from thousands of miles to a few feet - plus saving you money!
Article modified from Michael Bloch
Green Tip - Green Blogs
Going green? Stay informed with blogs. Blogs are an ideal vehicle for journalists, scientists and other experts to share news about environmental issues with like-minded readers.
Here are four green blogs that get this librarian's stamp of approval:
Dot Earth - https://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com
NY Times reporter Andrew Revkin tracks the latest environmental news. Visit the comments section of each post for lively discussion with readers and experts.
Apartment Therapy - https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/collection/green-living
Go to this blog to learn how to green your living space.
TreeHugger - https://www.treehugger.com
The folks at TreeHugger are dedicated to making sustainability mainstream.
Yale Environment 360 - https://e360.yale.edu
Despite its Ivy League pedigree, this blog is surprisingly accessible to the layperson. Entries are written by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people.
Green Tip - A Simple Start
All the glory and grace that comes with each new school year is always accompanied by the age-old question: How am I going to keep up with all of my work AND become a cutting-edge, go green, sustainability guru? Well, my advice is to dream big but start small. Here are a few green tips to start saving energy right away that won't take more than an extra thought:
Turn off the lights when you leave a room. When I was younger, my family had a fishbowl that we had to put a quarter in every time anyone left a light on in an unoccupied room. Needless to say I spent those years of my life penniless, but I learned my lesson. Also, if you have a dimmer switch on your household lights, use it! I like to think of it as turning down the lights and turning up the ambiance.
Turn down the heat in the winter. We all know Rochester can get frigid pretty quickly, but that doesn't mean you have to keep the inside of your house at a tropical temperature. Keep things reasonably comfortable but don't be afraid to wear a sweater and slippers around the house. Also, setting your household heating on a timer is a great way to save energy and money. I've heard that you turn the heat down 1 degree for every hour you will be out of the house. You can also put an extra blanket on your bed and turn the heat down a bit at night.
Carpool to work. Carpooling to work has always been a great way to help save the environment, save on parking, and make new friends. And if you're close enough, you should consider dusting off your bicycle. A great way to get to work AND get some exercise!
Get a reusable grocery bag. At Wegmans they are only 99 cents, and they last a really long time. Plastic grocery bags take about 100 years to degrade.
Don't leave the water running. When you're doing the dishes or brushing your teeth, don't just leave the water running - only turn it on when you really need it!
Green Tip - Unplug "Vampires"
Electronics like computers, televisions and cell phone chargers continue to draw power even when you're not using them so kill these "vampires" at the source. Power outlets in New Zealand have handy on/off switches, and residents are encouraged to keep their switches in the off position. We're hoping that trend will migrate to the United States, but until then you can save power by plugging your desktop, printer, and fax machine into a "smart" power strip. Smart strips can sense when electronics are idle and cut off the power flow to vampires. Devices like the Wattstopper and the Smart Strip Power Strip can be ordered online. While you're awaiting the arrival of your new smart strip, you can accomplish the "smart" part by simply unplugging unused appliances yourself.
Green is the Color of Love
Some tips for making your Valentine’s Day more eco-friendly:
- Flowers: Did you know that non-organic flowers can contain up to 50 times the amount of pesticides that are federally allowed for food? Try organically grown flowers to avoid the pesticides, or better yet, choose a potted plant which lasts longer!
- Chocolate: Did you know that of all crops, cocoa demands the second highest use of pesticides? Try organic and fair trade chocolates instead and you will find that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor by giving up the pesticides. There are many yummy brands that are locally available. Some of my favorites include Endangered Species Chocolates and Equal Exchange Chocolates.
- Wine: Try an organic wine or champagne this year. Many local wine stores have a nice selection of eco-friendly wines and the selections are growing in quantity and improving in quality as the demand increases.
- Dinner: There are many ways to incorporate a more eco-friendly approach to dinner. Try a vegetarian restaurant, one that uses local produce and products in their cooking, select sustainably harvested fish, or simply cut back on your intake of meat and try a delicious dish of pasta instead. (It worked for Lady & the Tramp!)
- And finally, remember that homemade valentines are the most eco-friendly and most romantic way to go. Recycle some old gift wrap or construction paper, get out the glue & scissors, brush up on your poetry skills and make your valentine a special gift from the heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Green Tip - Let Your Fingers Do the Driving for Research
You can save gas and paper and keep up with sustainability issues by doing research in the MCC Libraries’ online databases.
You can do your searching online from any computer with an Internet connection. You’ll only need to go to the library to pick up physical items such as MCC Libraries books, or items obtained from other libraries through interlibrary loan.
You can access the MCC Libraries’ 50 online article, reference, and e-book databases, as well as the MCC Libraries’ book and media catalog, from on- or off-campus from any computer with an Internet connection.
The EBSCO GreenFILE database (funded by SUNYConnect) indexes offer some full text of articles about all aspects of human impact to the environment from scholarly, government, and general-interest journals and magazines. GreenFILE is an easy way to keep up with developments in areas such as global warming, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more. The database provides indexing and abstracts for more than 384,000 records, as well as full text for more than 4,700 records, and covers such titles as Agriculture & Environment (04/01/1981 to present), the Journal of Ecology (03/01/1913 to present), and the Journal of Environment & Development (03/01/1996 to present).
Green Tip - Recycling Works
When one sees a classroom recycling bin filled with an assortment of unrecyclable garbage, it is easy to form the perception that MCC is utterly hopeless at recycling. This perception, however, is false. According to a waste audit study conducted in April of 2008, MCC diverts 41% of its waste stream to recycling facilities. Much of this is paper, but an increasing number of containers are also being recycled, thanks in part to those recycling bins with round holes that one sees in some of the public areas on campus. A 41% diversion rate is quite good, but we can certainly improve even further if we encourage each other to deposit containers in the appropriate bins, and to put only paper in the open-topped, classroom bins.
Green Tip - The Number 350
Please take 90 seconds to view a video that explains why 350 is such an important number:
If you are still not convinced or want more information about 350, check out the additional links under "About". Are you convinced now? Why not see what you can do under the "Get Involved" tab? Want to do even more? How about clicking on the "Donate" tab and giving...even $5 will make a difference. Lastly, use the icons in the upper right corner to add your name to the email list or to share this website through Facebook or Twitter.
Only with your help can we address the greatest crisis human civilization faces.
Green Tip - E-Waste - Know Where Your Garbage is Going
Before you drop off your old computer, cell phone, BlackBerry or any other e-waste you may have, make sure you know where your waste is going. Companies all over the country are taking consumer e-waste and unethically and illegally shipping it overseas to towns such as Guiyu, China, where the individuals living in this community are being poisoned each day!
60 Minutes did a story on American e-waste and the companies who collect it and the communities that live with it.
Who Was Following Whom? 60 Minutes' Solly Granatstein On Being Tailed On the Toxic Trail in China: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/who-was-following-whom/
"E-waste is junked old computers, TVs, cell phones, printers, most of it toxic, and much coming to this shabby corner of China from wealthier environs like America." Our best intentions to be green have ended up poisoning children in Guiyu, China, to where their lead levels and other dangerous materials in these products have and continue to cause permanent brain damage and birth defects, where the air quality is at poisonous levels, and where the precious metal mine workers show up at work each day because the pay is better. "The place was a hell on earth of acrid smoke and noxious smells. The pungent air scorched the back of our throats."
Americans throw out 130,000 computers each day and 100 million cell phones each year – not to mention the TVs and other electronic equipment tossed. We have developed a culture where our electronics are disposable as soon as the next best thing comes out on the market. This lifestyle has not come without a huge cost to human life. E-recycling companies all across America claim to recycle our e-waste responsibly. As discovered in the 60 Minutes story, on too many occasions this does not happen. Companies will tell you that they are disposing of the waste in non-hazardous ways, but will then ship the items overseas to communities who burn the components and pollute the air. This waste is illegally exported to poor, remote towns and villages where community members are more willing to accept the waste.
Why? With the waste comes employment opportunities and money to feed themselves and their families. How can this possibly happen? Taken from the website:
GAO Releases New Report on Toxic E-Waste Export: EPA unable to enforce rules, holds "little concern for the environment in other countries" 17 September 2008 – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report on electronic waste today during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national coalition of environmental and consumer groups promoting responsible recycling and green design in the electronics industry, applauded the report, hailing it as the U.S. government's first comprehensive look at the magnitude of the problem of exporting toxic e-waste to developing nations. The report finds that few regulations exist to control this problem, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fails to enforce those that do exist, which only cover old cathode ray tube TVs and monitors. To test compliance with the regulations, the GAO posed as foreign buyers of broken cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and found 43 U.S. companies willing to ignore the EPA CRT rule and export nonworking CRT monitors to foreign countries in direct opposition to U.S. regulations. Some of these are companies who promote themselves publicly as environmentally responsible companies, with at least 3 of them holding Earth Day electronics recycling events in 2008.
The GAO's findings include: "US regulatory controls do little to stem the export of potentially hazardous used electronics." "US Exports of potentially harmful used electronics flow virtually unrestricted." Existing regulations focus only on CRTs, but companies easily circumvent the CRT regulations, because they are confident that they will not get caught. "EPA has done little to enforce the CRT rule" which went into effect in January 2007. Only one company has been fined so far, and that July 2008 penalty resulted from a problem the GAO identified. The EPA does not plan to enforce the CRT regulations. "They have no plans, and no timetable for developing the basic components of an enforcement strategy…"
So, how can you make sure that your e-waste recycling company is not illegally shipping waste overseas? The Basel Action Network certifies ethical recyclers right here in the U.S. <https://www.ban.org>. You can check out the company you plan on recycling with to make sure that they are ethical re-cyclers.
Green Tip - Green Your Holidays
Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday season than any other time of year? This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash, or about one million extra tons of garbage per week. (Bob Lilienfeld/The Use Less Stuff Report)
Here are some thoughts for a sustainable holiday season:
- November is harvest season in our area. All kinds of food are available from local farmers, such as squash, onions, potatoes, brussel sprouts, kale, apples, pumpkins, and much more. Check out MCC's own Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute's "Buy Local" page (https://www.monroecc.edu/depts/agriculture/buy-local/) for more information.
- If your holiday traditions include gift-giving, discuss with your family some alternative gift ideas. Gifts of time or services, such as babysitting, cleaning, or dog-walking, are often appreciated as much as material objects. You could also consider giving a charitable donation on behalf of one of your gift recipients. Another option is to give consumable goods, such as home-baked cookies, specialty jams, or Finger Lakes wine, which have less impact on the environment and bring pleasure to the senses. If you do give material objects, consider any of the following options for gift wrapping: buying recycled gift wrap, re-using gift wrap from previous years, or wrapping in a re-usable scarf or cloth bag.
- Consider natural decorations and homemade ornaments to decorate your home. The internet is full of craft sites with ideas, such as https://makezine.com/.
Several local business and organizations offer workshops and/or products to help you out, such as Hurd Orchards (http://www.hurdorchards.com), and the Rochester Civic Garden Center (https://nyheritage.org/contributors/rochester-civic-garden-center).
Green Tip - Pick Ugly Veggies
Choose ugly veggies. Odd shapes and unusual pigments generally have no impact on the flavor of produce but, by insisting on strict uniformity, supermarkets force farmers to waste huge amounts of food and limit the variety sold. This also cuts the farmers' profit margins, driving them to more intensive methods. Let retailers know you'd be delighted to eat varied veggies and funny fruit, and enjoy the diversity in shape, color, and size that nature intended.
From "1001 Ways to Save the World" by Joanna Yarrow
Green Tip - Wintertime Savings!
Imagine all the little leaky spots where the cold gets into your house. Imagine your heating dollars slipping away!
Here is your annual reminder before winter gets a grip:
Insulate your attic. It is relatively easy, yet very cost-effective, to add insulation to your attic. The Department of Energy (DOE) suggests a minimum attic insulation level of R-38 (R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow), equivalent to 12 to 15 inches of insulation. The DOE provides a map on its website that lists recommended insulation levels for U.S. climates.
Seal air leaks. Weather stripping, door sweeps, window shrink wrap, and other materials can be purchased at your local hardware store for $50 or less, and can save you as much as 10 percent in energy costs. If you have an old fireplace, consider installing glass doors (which can cost a couple hundred dollars or more) to help prevent heat from escaping out the chimney when not in use.
Seal heating ducts. Leaky ducts from forced-air or heat pump systems can allow up to 20 percent of the warm air to escape. While most ductwork is hidden in walls and floors, you can seal duct leaks on your own in attics, basements, or garages, and in areas where ducts meet floor or wall vents. The DOE estimates that sealing leaky ducts can save you up to $140 annually.
Install a programmable thermostat. An Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat can cost as little as $30 but save you $100 or more each year on heating costs by automatically turning the heat down when you are asleep or away (so you don't have to remember to do it yourself).
Upgrade your furnace. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-rated model to cut your energy costs by up to 30 percent. Before you buy, make your home as efficient as possible first (following the tips above) so you can purchase the smallest system to fit your heating needs.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists. https://www.ucsusa.org
Visual and Performing Arts (VaPA)
Green Tip - Time for a new TV?
It appears that some of us have recently been lured by giant yet thin, flat screen, space-saving, televisions (especially with the upcoming changes to digital cable). If you are one of those folks who recently turned in the old TV for a shiny new TV but still has the old one sitting in the basement (or on the way to the curb), now is the time to send it to a better place! Older televisions can contain up to four pounds of lead, so please don’t just send them to landfills.
Besides the lead in TVs (and computer monitors), here are some additional reasons to recycle electronics:
- Only about 10% of electronics are recycled in the U.S. per year (according to the Environmental Protection Agency – EPA) which leads to millions of tons being put into landfills each year.
- 70% of toxic wastes in landfills come from breakdown electronics which releases carcinogenic metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium into the air, groundwater and soil.
- Recycling and re-using electronic materials means there will be a decreased need for removal of metallic and non-metallic raw resources which means less alteration of the Earth’s surface and shallow interior due mining and fewer impacts of mining like air, soil and water pollution.
- 90% of a computer’s content (metals, non-metals/plastics) can be recycled or re-used!
- The production of new electronics requires more energy (primarily obtained by the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in the release of greenhouse gases as well as air, soil and water pollution) than recycling and re-using old ones.
Green Tip - Seasonal Green Tips
Experience nature. Visit a pumpkin farm. Pick fresh apples. Buy pumpkins, apples and other seasonal items from a farmers market. Produce bought at farmers markets will not only taste better but saves energy. "Most foods in the United States travel an average of 1,300 miles before reaching us, burning large amounts of fossil fuels," according to the web site for the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America held in Detroit in 1999. Buying produce directly from the farmer also cuts out the "middleman" and increases the farmers' cut or share of the profits.
Give out healthy treats. Finding nutritional treats has to be one of Halloween's challenges. But with some serious thought, it can be done. Some ideas that come to mind include:
- Hand out individual microwave popcorn packs. Newman's Own Organic has three varieties of organic popcorn — butter, light butter and no butter/no salt.
- Pick up some honey sticks or fruit leather at health food stores or tea shops. Stash tea sells honey sticks in bulk at its web site. Each $7 pack contains 35 sticks. Fruit leather is available in bulk at Stretch Island Fruit Leather.
- There are also plenty of healthy candy bars on the market these days. Sundrops is billed as "a natural alternative to M&Ms." The candy-coated chocolate drops are pricey at about 89 cents a bag but they look like and almost taste like the real thing without having the artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Make use of all pumpkin parts. After carving a pumpkin, be sure to save the seeds. Bake them and serve them to party guests or feed them to our fine feathered bird friends. There's no problem putting pumpkin seeds out for birds, wet or dry, confirms Dr. Ellen Dierenfeld, a nutritionist at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Serve healthy and seasonal foods. The options are endless.
- Remember pumpkins are not just decorative items. Healthy recipes for all things pumpkin are posted at Vegweb, from vegetarian pumpkin chili to pumpkin bread. Recipes for the sweet squash are also plentiful at epicurious.com/recipes.
- Apples also are at their best this time of year. So make use of the crunchy fruit. Fill party bowls with several varieties of fresh apples, from tart Pippins to sweet Spartans. Serve cider hot or cold. Bake a few apples for healthy, tasty dessert.
Make your own costume or buy one at a second-hand shop. An old sheet still makes a great ghost. Just make sure that the sheet costs less than a commercial ghost costume.
Chemistry & Geosciences
Green Tip - Gas-saving Tips
The Internet abounds with gas-savings tips. You can decide if they are myths or reality after examining the evidence of experts. For example I received these claims in a recent email:
Claim #1. Only buy or fill up your car in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground, the denser the gasoline will be. When it gets warmer gasoline expands, so when buying in the afternoon or in the evening your gallon is not exactly a gallon.
Claim #2. Fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY. The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.
Here's the website that takes a stand on the question of myth or reality regarding these claims and others: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tips-for-pumping-gas/
What most experts agree actually will save gas:
- Drive more efficiently. Don't stop and start the engine unnecessarily.
- Don't rev the engine. Don't accelerate unnecessarily.
- Keep your car in shape. Keep tires properly inflated.
- Plan and combine trips.
- Choose a more efficient vehicle.
- Avoid filling the gas tank beyond the top. Overfilling results in sloshing over and out of the tank. Never fill gas tank past the first "click" of fuel nozzle, if nozzle is automatic.
- Think ahead when approaching hills. If you accelerate, do it before you reach the hill, not while you're already on it.
- Keep windows closed when traveling at highway speeds.
Green Tip - Composting
(Disclaimer: Composting can be addictive. I began composting because I garden, but now I garden because I compost.)
With spring's arrival, most people start thinking about flowers, birds, and picnics. I start thinking about compost.
Composting is an excellent way to cut down on your household waste stream and add some quality to your garden soil. The process could not be simpler: pile up your yard and kitchen waste in an out-of-the-way spot in your backyard and let it rot; once you get a good pile going, start a new one next to it so that the first can finish. You can periodically turn the piles with a pitchfork, which mixes and aerates the compost, speeding up decomposition. When the compost turns into what looks like black, crumbly dirt, it is ready to use.
If the system above doesn't sound practical, there are countless alternatives. People with limited space often build compost bins out of wood and chicken wire, or similar materials. Some people buy specially-designed composters that look like horizontal, 55 gallon drums with legs. Some people are too impatient to let the compost finish, and turn it into their gardens while it is still slimy and chunky. All of these things are acceptable.
All organic material will compost, but it is usually best to keep some things out of your pile. Meat, dairy, and cooking oil will not only make your pile stink, but they may attract some strange and unwelcome critters to your backyard. Animal waste, such as cat and dog feces, is worth avoiding for the same reasons. On the other hand, kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit and vegetables make excellent compost material. Grass clippings, fallen leaves, and weeds (before they have gone to seed) are also excellent materials.
Compost can be used in edible or ornamental gardens. Most gardeners turn their compost into the soil, but if you practice conservation tillage, you can layer it on top of the soil, and it will work just as well. While compost will replace some trace nutrients in the soil, its most noticeable benefit is the way it improves the tilth of the soil by keeping it friable and improving its ability to retain water.
Green Tip - What's NOT Foolish
Just for fun on April Fool's Day, perhaps celebrating "What's NOT Foolish" could be an interesting exercise.
A typical motor-commute of 7.5 miles though Rochester city streets might normally take 20 minutes. Taking the freeway around might save 5 minutes, but could nearly double the miles traveled and shorten the warranty period of the car. That same commute on a bicycle (at a gentle, sweat-free pace) would normally take 35 minutes. Maybe a couple more to stop and chat with the neighbor out running or walking the dog before work.
Getting up and leaving for work on a bicycle only 15 minutes earlier would get the bicyclist to work at the same time, but possibly sooner if the motorist on the same route has to stop at the gas pump ($$$) on the way.
(Let's leave it to the math department to compare the relative greenhouse gas emissions produced by the typical motorist using 1/4 to 1/3 gallon of gas vs that produced by a bicyclist fueled by a bowl of Cheerios.)
The bicyclist probably won't stop for coffee, saving another 5-to-10 minutes and a couple more bucks as well. The bicyclist won't risk spilling coffee all over the car or his/her clothing, or having an accident due to the spill.
What if they both have a flat tire on the way?
The bicyclist can repair a flat in 5 minutes using a patch kit, or 30 seconds using Slime and CO2 cartridge. The motorist will lose an hour waiting for road service. A do-it-yourself motorist will lose 15-20 minutes changing the spare, and another 30 minutes (and several bucks) taking the ruined slacks to the dry cleaners.
The bicyclist can lock the bike to a bike rack near the building entrance, while the motorist is still looking for a parking space in the parking lot.
OK ... The motorist gets 100 extra steps by walking across the parking lot!
(But the bicyclist already scored 7000 steps on the commute ... and that's just coming IN to work.)
Hopefully, the motorists' coffee has started to kick in and slowly the motorist feels ready for work. The bicyclist already feels energized and ready for the day while wondering why everyone else seems so grumpy today.
By the end of the day, the motorist feels absolutely stuffed trying to fit in 5 WHOLE SERVINGS of fruits and vegetables, and is starting to question the marketing of Wegmans' "Eat Well Live Well" program. Meanwhile, the bicyclist is practically starving after ONLY 5 servings and reaches for that Hershey bar, guilt free!
The motorist personally "runs out of gas" at the end of a long hard day and collapses in front of the TV at home.
The bicyclist gets home late and misses dinner. It was a nice day, so he took the long way home.
Visual and Performing Arts (VaPA)
Green Tip - Paper Use at MCC
How much do you think about the paper that YOU use everyday here at MCC? Most people would be surprised to hear some "paper" facts specific to MCC.
Currently, MCC buys and uses 3,780 cartons of white paper a year. That amounts to 378 tons or 756,000 pounds of paper used by MCC annually. How much of that paper is recycled? Since all fiber-based materials are recycled together (office paper, cardboard, etc.), it is difficult to tell how much of the 80,100 tons of fiber recycled at MCC each year is paper. However, it is estimated that MCC misses AT LEAST 90 tons or 180,000 pounds of paper each year that goes into a landfill rather than to a recycling center.
Here are some estimates of "savings" associated with using a ton of recycled paper compared to the production of a ton of paper from virgin wood:
- Saves 2 tons of wood
- Saves 4064% of energy use
- Saves 3 cubic meters of land fill space (that's a volume equivalent to 792 gallons!)
- Reduces water pollution by 35% and air pollution by 74%
MCC does its part for the environment when it comes to paper by attempting to purchase only paper that contains 30% post-consumer fiber (recycled paper).
Here are some quick tips to increase your paper "efficiency":
- Print and copy everything double-sided.
- Send electronic versions of documents when possible.
- Decrease margins from 1.25" to 1" or even 0.70.5" when possible.
- Reuse single-sided printed documents as scratch paper or for draft printing.
- Print fliers and informational documents as needed. Don't stockpile printed copies. When you do need to update these documents, fewer will be wasted especially if you reuse them for scratch paper or rough drafts.
- Encourage students and colleagues to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Last, but not least, recycle all office paper in the blue recycling bins or in the document shredder rather than the trash.
You too can help reduce costs at MCC, save landfill space, save trees, save energy, and reduce air and water pollution. Please incorporate some or all of these tips into your daily routine. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!!
Many thanks to Fred McCullough of Building Services, Patrick Bates of Purchasing and Bill Gruhn of ETS Printing Services for the MCC specific statistics.
Green Tip - Saving Money and Helping the Environment
Going green can save you cash while reducing the impact on earth. You can literally knock off at least 10% of your electrical bill by turning things off. For example:
- Turning off your computer and appliances (coffee pot, TV) when not in use can reduce your energy. Your TV and computer and anything with an adapter take energy when not in use. This is called "phantom load." The annual collective phantom load from households in the USA is around 8 gigawatts, equivalent to the electricity production of eight large power plants.
- Turn lights off when not in use.
- Change from incandescent lighting to CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) or LED
Chemistry and Geosciences
Green Tip - Bottled Water
Another pervasive product with a severe environmental footprint which can be eliminated by small lifestyle changes is bottled water.
For starters, plastic bottles are made from oil - an obvious problem. Oil is continually increasing in price and our peak oil production (many scientists believe) has already been reached, meaning scarcity will increase indefinitely. Why allocate an increasingly limited resource to the production of bottles? It is estimated that (if one includes all the energy into producing and transporting a bottle of water) that the amount of oil used to produce a single bottle would fill it 1/3 of the way.
The cost is reason enough to give up bottled water. The average price of a bottle of water is a buck. When one fills up a glass at the faucet, the cost of that water is a fraction of a penny. And quality is not a factor for Monroe County - we have some of the best water in the world. The quality of bottled water is equal to, perhaps less than, that of our tap water.
Lastly, proper disposal is rare. Forty million plastic water bottles go into the trash every day. Overall, only 12 percent of the plastic water bottles get recycled. The bottles are adding to landfills at an increasing rate. Recycling plastic bottles cuts down on the emissions that are inherent in burning fossil fuels to create new ones.
There are obvious solutions to this problem: purchase a reusable bottle or re-fill plastic water bottles more than once. Find a drinking fountain. And please, if you want to recycle your plastic bottle (or aluminum can) do NOT throw it into the knee-high blue recycling bins in your classroom. This will cause cross-contamination, because these recycling bins are meant for paper recycling only - the entire bin will be thrown in the garbage, paper included. Look for the chest high blue recycling bins that are for plastic bottles only. This is the proper way to recycle your bottles.
Campus Environmental Coordinator for SGA
Green Tip - Reducing your Coffee Footprint
When it comes to sustainability, small efforts can make a big difference and making environmentally-friendly decisions in your everyday life can be fairly easy. Why not start with something you probably do everyday? Drinking coffee.
If you brew your own coffee, you can eliminate paper filters by purchasing a reusable filter. Filters are usually available for just a few dollars. White paper filters pollute water with chlorine and other harmful chemicals. Unbleached filters are an improvement but are still an unnecessary waste of paper.
If you are like me and make a stop for coffee every morning on the way to work, bring your own reusable cup with you. You'll save paper, reduce chlorine used to bleach cups, and reduce your contribution to landfills. Many coffee shops will also provide a discount if you use your own cup.
Whether you make your own or purchase it on the go, look for shade-grown, organic, sustainable and fair trade coffees. Each has its benefits and most of the local coffee shops carry some of the following:
Sustainable: Sustainable coffee farming uses renewable resources whenever possible, minimizes pollution, and takes steps to care for the environment and surrounding community. Coffee produced through sustainable farming has less of an overall environmental impact and is often also organic, shade-grown or fair trade.
Organic: Organic coffee is produced without the use of pesticides or herbicides.
Fair Trade: Fair trade, or equal exchange coffee, bypasses the middle man (the coffee trader) and establishes direct relationships between the coffee producer and the coffee roaster. This brings greater economic stability to the small coffee farms, many of which use sustainable farming methods.
Shade Grown/Bird Friendly: Shade-grown coffee reduces the need for fertilizers and herbicides and promotes biodiversity. Approximately 150 bird species live on farms of shade-grown coffee, compared to only 20-50 species supported by non-shade coffee farms. Not only do shade-grown coffee farms benefit migratory birds, but shade-grown coffee often tastes better than non-shade grown kind. The shade has the effect of slowing coffee growth which results in the production of more sugars and better flavor overall.
Whatever choices you make for your next coffee beverage, keep in mind these simple tips to make a more environmentally conscious choice. Overtime, your small, daily steps can add up to make a big difference.