Older Green Tips

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 90% of a computer’s content (metals, non-metals/plastics) can be recycled or re-used!
  5. 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.

Jessica Barone

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.

Jonathon Little
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.

Snopes takes a stand on the question of myth or reality regarding these claims and others.

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.

David Boni
Transitional Studies

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.

Matthew Fox
Transitional Studies

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.

Consider ...
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.

Brian Managan
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.

Jennifer Hill

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Turn lights off when not in use.
  3. Change from incandescent lighting to CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) or LED

Jonathon Little
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.

Clayton Munnings
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.

Bethany Gizzi

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%” (Source: eartheasy).By driving slower, we can save ourselves some money and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Michael Weingart
ESOL and Foreign Languages