Friday, July 31, 2009

Laying Down the Law

Allegheny's own Allen Law was premiered on the front page of the Meadville Tribune earlier this week for his work this summer on getting a ZipCar program on campus.

For those of you who don't know, ZipCar is a car-share program that is present on over 100 colleges and universities across North America and is prominent in lots of major cities.

How it works (according to the nifty flash video on their website...)

1. Join - I'm assuming Mr. Law will be giving us lots of info on how to do that in the future
2. Reserve- go online or use your cell... and you can reserve these dudes for a trip to the grocery store, or for a day trip to Presque Isle, or something more academic-y, if you really want
3. Unlock- just hold your zipcard (which I'm assuming will not be integrated onto the Allcard we all know and love?) to the windshield to unlock the doors, and then it's smooth sailing and hello, freedom.
4. Drive- go for a cruise, do what you gotta do, and return the car to its reserved parking spot

So, it's kind of like MotorPool, but way more student friendly, and I'm also assuming that these cars are hybrids (at least, I think that's what Allen told me.)

I lived in Brooks for two years, and let me tell you, I hated finding parking spots. In addition to the fact that there was never parking close to the building, I also often forgot which lot I was parked in and had to call whoever I was with the last time I drove to ask them if they remembered. Let's just say it led to a lot of wandering around pressing the panic button...

This program won't be coming to campus until at least Spring Semester 2010, at the earliest, but keep your eyes peeled for more info on how to get involved!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dance Dance ... Revolution!

So imagine this.  It's a Friday night in Meadville, and all you want to do is dance (and maybe throw back a few drinks with your buds.)  Ever think that all that energy you expend dancing the night away at the frat's dance party or the bar could be harnessed to create electricity for the music you're listening to and the lights that set the mood?  IT CAN!

A revolutionary (maybe I just think it's revolutionary) new product, the Sustainable Dance Floor, does just that.  

I, for one, think this is probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  As for the energy saving... just imagine if all of the clubs in the U.S. switched to Sustainable Dance Floors... that's a lot of energy!

I don't see this being an investment Sportsgarden or Otters will be making anytime soon, but it's a really interesting idea.  Any entrepreneurs out there looking to own a club after graduation...?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can I get a light, man?

So we've all heard the evil horror stories about Wal-Mart and other "big box" stores (at least, I'm pretty sure it wasn't just my mom pestering me about shopping more responsibly.)  Well, I recently read an article that might make you feel a little less horrible about saving money by spending at Wally World... maybe.

Wal-mart has started harvesting daylight and switched to electronic ballasts (more energy efficient that the old school magnetic ballasts commonly used by many big box retailers) in 2450 of their stores, and hopes to add 500 more stores to that number this year.  So basically, these 24-hour shopping playgrounds use far less energy than they ever have before (not to mention they're saving tons... probably literally... of money on their electricity bills, unless their employees generate their energy for them for free in their unaccounted for overtime...ZING!)

In 2007, Wal-Mart also made a giant retailer's step towards "going green."  They made it their goal to sell 100 million CFLs over the year.  This included giving the energy efficient bulbs better shelf space and even using valuable space to set up displays boasting the benefits of the bulbs to eager consumers.  

While Wal-Mart succeeded in their goal, a commendable triumph, I feel as though there may be some ulterior motives behind these switches.  To me, it seems like a giant publicity stunt to get back in the good graces of the American public after all of the nasty news that's been flying around regarding their stores over the past decade, and it conveniently saves them lots of money, something Wal-Mart is notorious for.  Is their idea of "going green" just saving their own green and getting us to spend ours?

I also think the idea of "daylight harvesting" is really ironic for a Wal-Mart because I don't EVER recall seeing any windows, other than the doors, inside any Wal-Mart I've ever been in (and that's quite a few, I have to admit) except for in the green house.  I don't even think their Lawn and Garden section has windows.  It kind of reminds me of a casino, actually.  They don't have windows so you never know what time it is outside, so you just wander up and down the aisles aimlessly shopping for hours completely oblivious to what's going on around you...

Okay, maybe a grim outlook.  But, regardless of their intentions, Wal-Mart's making efforts to lead the Big Box Store World to green change.  Maybe it will help influence other stores and businesses to follow in their footsteps.  And because we all know that Wal-Mart is our safety blanket go-to store for all of our Alleghenian needs, maybe we'll feel a little less guilty the next time we zip up there for the shampoo we suddenly realize we're out of at 2AM.  Maybe.

Too bad it doesn't rain beer...

One of the constant topics of discussion here on campus is the weather. Now, as cliche as that may sound, we all know it's true. Mainly, we're all complaining about how it's raining (or snowing) and we don't feel like walking to the Library to work on a paper, or to the Campus Center for a meeting because we don't want to walk through the horrible Meadville Precipitation. I'm sitting in the library writing this, and I just heard one of the librarians ask one of the student workers how she was doing "on this rainy day." See, I told you. We talk about it ALL THE TIME.

Well I've been reading a bit about rainwater harvesting. I first got inclined to learn more about it when I read an article about how harvesting is being BANNED in many western states. People are fighting legal battles for the right to harvest the little bit of rain that falls in their neighborhood, and all we can manage to do is whine about how it's getting in the way of our "productivity?" Something seems off here.

I didn't really know a whole lot about what rainwater harvesting was. I had heard of families harvesting rainwater at their homes, but I wasn't quite sure if that was a process that could translate to, let's say, Allegheny. From the research I've done-- and anyone who knows more about the subject is certainly free to add and comment on this-- it seems as though rainwater harvesting could actually be a feasible idea for Allegheny.

Just think about all of the things we use water for, especially water that doesn't necessarily have to be up to drinking par. For example, the trays in Brooks. They wash those after every use. People don't actually eat off of them, but they get sanitized after every use. Why not use treated rainwater that we collect to wash them? What about all of the water we use in Doane? Amara Geffen, a professor of Art (who also happens to be my boss) pointed out that students use gallons and gallons of water every day washing out their brushes. That water might not even need to be treated! Or how about all of the toilets on campus? Surely we don't need treated water for those either.

Kelly Boulton, the Sustainability coordinator said there had been talk of some sort of rainwater harvesting in the renovations of Carr Hall. But, from the sound of it, things were in the preliminary talking stages. Think it's a good idea? Start talking about it. If the College thinks the students are all for it, they're more likely to spend the time (and money) to make it happen.

My point is, there are lots of things we use a lot of water for. And instead of complaining about how it's always raining, maybe we could do something productive with all that rain. On top of the obvious extra water benefits, it would also reduce flooding around campus. Maybe then, on your sprint to Carnegie for that 8AM (or 11AM) you're about to miss the beginning of, you wouldn't have to run all the way around Shultz lawn because it was too muddy to run across. I, for one, can say I had to run all the way around the lawn due to mud quite a few times.

Well, ironically, I'm holed up in the library until the rain subsides, so I'm going to work on some other green projects! Welcome to Mud-ville, everyone!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Drop that bottle!

I just stumbled upon an interesting tidbit on the NYTimes GreenInc Blog.

A couple of weeks ago, a town in Australia (yes, a WHOLE TOWN) voted to ban bottled water. Apparently 400 people showed up in support of the ban, and only 2 people voted against it. According to the blog article, the town will be installing free water fountains around town to replace the banned bottles.

The blog claims the reason behind the ban is to reduce carbon emissions associated with bottled water.

Another town in Belgium is making Thursdays a meatless day.

Check out the article, it's pretty interesting.

Now THAT is what I call activism!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Keep Your Coins, I Want Change

A friend recently sent me an article just published in Orion Magazine entitled "Forget Shorter Showers: Why personal change does not equal political change" by Derrick Jensen.

I tend to be an eternal optimist (well, maybe not "eternal," but MOST of the time) and this article struck me as slightly pessimistic, but very true, and very to the point. And, to be honest, I'm kind of a sucker when I hear the word "activism."
Photo Credit: michaelpickard

He starts off his article by provocatively comparing daily "green tasks" (some of which I may have attempted to persuade you to pick up in this blog) to major historical events from around the world:

Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

He goes on throughout the article debunking common beliefs about personal changes (such as taking a shorter shower and reducing our waste output) equaling global changes (such as halting global warming.) I'm not going to lie, I was a little discouraged by all of this until I got to this next part.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

In the long run, personal changes aren't enough to save the world from imminent doom.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

Is it still important to reduce, reuse and recycle? Of course. Little things do help a little bit. That plastic bag you recycle instead of throwing into the trash could be the plastic bag that would have otherwise killed a fish or a whale. Maybe it's just for my own peace of mind, but I still like to think that one person can make a difference. But in order for one person to make a difference, we have to gain support for a cause, and we have to be active. So, stop reading (yes, I'm telling you to stop reading my blog...) and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Seriously. Read the whole article. If nothing else, it will get you thinking, and that's the first step to activism.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reuse It or Lose It!

Photo credit: National Recycling Coaltion

Uncle Ben, from the movie "Accepted," might have said it best:
Look, we throw a lot of fancy words in front of these kids in order to attract them to going to school in the belief that they're gonna have a better life, and we know that all we're doing is breeding a whole new generation of buyers and sellers, BUYERS AND SELLERS! Pimps and whores, PIMPS AND WHORES! and indoctrinating them into a life long hell of debt and indecision!
We like THINGS. We like to buy them, we like to have them, we like to look at them sit on our shelves (or in our drawers, in my case) and watch them gather dust. I'm just of guilty of it as anyone else. We're a nation of consumers, and consuming is what we do best.

Unfortunately, that mass consumption we're so good at isn't so great for Mother Earth. If you don't understand what I mean, watch the video "The Story of Stuff" that I uploaded in the previous post.

So how can we still feed our addiction to consuming without breaking the bank and more importantly, the environment?

My Mom is renting an apartment in Meadville for the summer (she just can't stay away from this place!) And, instead of going to Big Lots or Wal-Mart and buying a whole new set of dishes and housewares, she did all of her shopping at the various Salvation Army, Goodwill and other thrift stores around Meadville. She bought just about everything she needed to live in her apartment for the summer for about $20. And, on top of the fact that it was super cheap, it's also all reused! Score for Mom Goloway and Mom Earth!

When she goes back home to Pittsburgh at the end of the summer, she has full intentions of recycling her reusables by donating them to my lovely house (add "score for Jinnie!") or donating them right back to the places she got them from in the first place. On top of the obvious environmental benefits, there's also the fact that you're helping local charities AND supporting local businesses!

We're obviously going to buy things. We're college students, and that's what we've been raised to do. Instead of telling you to stop shopping (hell, I couldn't tell you to do something I couldn't do myself!) be conscious of how much you buy (buy used things if you can!) and whether or not you actually need it. Again, Uncle Ben says it best, "In life, it's important to distinguish between need and want. You think you want something because you've been conditioned to want it." And if you don't get that, then... "Listen you insolent little snot! There are kids right now in Asia, who are sewing your stupid shoes together, so that their family can have a bowl of rice to eat tonight!"

Chew on THAT for a minute before you make your next purchase at Wal-Mart!