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18

Oct

Rethinking Nutrition Labels and Exercise

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According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mere 8 percent of Americans use nutritional information when ordering food. Many overlook the recommended daily caloric intake in favor of cost savings. Cheap equals good when you can get a meal, soda and some chips and pay less than $5. So why skip the 16 ounce soda and the 240 extra calories when it isn’t costing me more money?

But, what if you relayed the same information and used the amount of exercise required to burn off these calories? What if the information read like this,

“a typical 20-ounce soda has 240 calories, to burn it off would require walking 5 miles, or a 50 minute run for the average 110-pound adolescent”

To read more on this topic, click here.

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13

Oct

The Future of Water

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Across the U.S., cities like Los Angeles and Toledo have experienced historic droughts and water-quality threats, placing the nation’s water supply in the headlines. Following three consecutive years of drought, California declared a drought emergency in January and called for Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent.

This year while under severe drought emergency, wildfire season hit new highs with a reported 5,066 wildfires, and costing at least $184.02 million for the year. While droughts strained the states water supply, infrastructure problems added new challenges. In July, the UCLA campus experienced a 90-year-old water main break that flooded 1,000 cars, and damaged six campus facilities, and 10 inches of water pooling the Pauley Pavillion. The water main break resulted in:

  • water reaching heights of 30 feet in the air for about 3 ½ hours
  • the equivalent to about 4% of the cities average daily total water use escaped
  • an estimated 35,000 gallons a minute and 20 million gallons of water loss on campus

The same week, Toledo, Ohio declared a water emergency as its city water was unsafe to drink due to the toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie. The city’s 73-year-old water-treatment plant regularly manages water toxicity resulting from warm summer temperatures and agricultural runoff entering the lake that ignite the algae growth. To neutralize the toxins, it will cost the city $4.7 million, up $1.7 million from recent years for chemical water treatment.

Water is our most essential resource for life on earth, yet for many it is also the most undervalued. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with water scarcity and another two-thirds of the world’s population living will experience water-stress due to misuse, population growth and climate change. 

 

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01

Oct

Green Halloween Costume Swap - powered by Tradepal

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This year, Halloween falls on a Friday and Americans are expected to spend a whopping $2.8 billion on costumes. To break it down, consumers will spend $1 billion on children’s costumes, $1.4 billion on adult costumes and about $350 million to outfit their pets. The estimated overall cash outlay including candy, decor and costumes will amount to about $77.52 per person, or $20.00 per pet.

Tradepal invites campuses to celebrate with a Green Halloween Costume Swap. Go green this Halloween by keeping the cash in your pocket and join in the fun with a campus swap. We have partnered with Campus Sustainability Day to be held on October 22, and it’s a perfect time to promote year-round savings while taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint through reuse.

How to participate:

image join your campus network on Tradepal and list your costumes, masks and items to swap

image browse the listings on your network and request to trade items and accept offers for items of interest

image join others on campus to exchange items and complete trades  

Join the fun and host a sustainable alternative to Halloween shopping by swapping last years costumes, masks, wigs and tutus. Invite friends to participate by listing items they wish to trade on Tradepal. To build awareness, rally students who support the Peoples Climate March, sustainability clubs, residence halls, SGA, sororities and greeks to co-organize a Green Halloween Costume Swap and join in the fun.

Get the word out on campus and create an event to post and share for everyone to meet and exchange their items in person. Get recognized and find out what is happening around the country by visiting the Campus Sustainability Day website to add your event, and R.S.V.P. for the 2014 Keynote broadcast.   

Happy Trading! image

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23

Sep

Leonardo DiCaprio: A Message from a Concerned Citizen

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has designated Leonardo DiCaprio as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change. On September 23, DiCaprio addressed world leaders at the UN Climate Summit 2014 where they are expected to announce the bold steps they will take to tackle climate change.

Some excerpts from his speech:

“I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen. One of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis.”

“None of this is rhetoric and none it is hysteria. It is fact. Climate change is our single greatest security threat.”

“My friends, this body - perhaps more than any other gathering in human history - now faces this difficult but achievable task. You can make history - or you will be vilified by it.”

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31

Aug

How Many Things Do You Own?

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A recent study by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has revealed that U.S. households have more possessions than any other society in history. Following the 4-year study, a new book titled, Life at Home in the 21st Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, reveals the material culture of 32 Los Angeles area families as it explores their accumulation of stuff.

The results of the study: an average of three rooms held more than 2,200 possessions; 75% of garages had nowhere to store a car; possessions increased 30% with the addition of each pre-school aged child. Another statistic worth noting; the U.S. has 3.1% of the world’s children and consumes 40% of the world’s toys.

The study reveals how modern American families reflect attitudes and values about consumerism, sustainability, and solvency. 

“The purpose of the study is to help us to think about how we consume objects - think about the number and types of toys we give to our children.”

“We have many mechanisms by which we accumulate possessions in our home, but we have few mechanisms or processes for unloading these objects.”

- Anthony Graesch - CELF Specialization: Archaeological Anthropology & Ethnoarchaeology

Households have many channels whereby items are accumulated including holiday gifts, toys, collectibles, shoes, books and family heirlooms. This accumulation of stuff is piled in corners of home offices, stacked in garages, spare bedrooms and on countertops. Furthermore, this hyper-consumerism has resulted in an increased level of stress due to the burden of managing a crowded and cluttered household.

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06

Aug

Find a Farmer’s Market Near You

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Photo credits: djjewelz, Flickr 

We all love fresh produce. What better way than getting fruit and vegetables directly from your local farmer. In honor of National Farmers’ Week, gather some friends, grab your reusable bags and visit your neighborhood farmer’s market.

With over 8.200 listings in the USDA Farmers Market Directory, it’s easy to locate a market near you. Simply enter your zip code into the following link:

http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/mobile/mobile.html

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25

Jul

College Textbooks Unaffordability

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Could the spiraling cost of textbooks cause a ripple effect on the academic decisions of college students? A recent survey, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market” conducted by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGS in the fall of 2013, included over 150 universities and 2,039 participating students, revealed the following:

  • $1,200: the amount the average student spends annually on course materials

  • 65% of students surveyed decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive

  • 800% is the amount the cost of textbooks has risen over the past 3 decades

  • 94% of students who had foregone purchasing a textbook worried about the future impact it would have on their grade

The textbook publishing model is a nearly $14 billion industry controlled by a handful of textbook publishers. As the publishing industry continues to consolidate and ultimately reduce price competition, the cost of textbooks will continue to rise. 

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Source: USPIRG.org

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05

Jul

The Mystery of Carbon Sequestration

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by Tamar Burton

On July 2, the United Launch Alliance Delta II carrying NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite launched. The observatory was sent to orbit to measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in the Earth’s climate. Since the 1950’s scientists have measured carbon dioxide from ground level, towers and above ground using aircraft within a limited network of 100 monitoring stations. The orbiting OCO-2 will improve measurements within the atmosphere and is expected to return between 100,000 and 200,000 measurements of carbon dioxide from across the Earth daily for at least 2 years. 

The missions primary science objective is to take measurements to locate sources of carbon and carbon sinks and get a more complete understanding of the geographic distribution of sinks of carbon dioxide emissions located on Earth. The three major sinks for human carbon emissions are the atmosphere, the oceans and the land (forests, grasslands, soils). This process will also determine how these carbon sources and sinks vary by month, season, and year.  

According to David Crisp, OCO-2 science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California:

"Scientists currently don’t know exactly where and how Earth’s oceans and plants have absorbed more than half the carbon dioxide that human activities have emitted into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era."

"Because of this, we cannot predict precisely how these processes will operate in the future as climate changes. For society to better manage carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, we need to be able to measure the natural source and sink processes."

The mission engineers and scientists admittedly won’t provide data for the purpose of convincing climate-change deniers to listen to scientific consensus. The data will instead be used to aid scientists in learning the details of targeting research for the purpose of gaining more information about future carbon sequestration and the potential for sinks becoming sources of emissions.

To learn more about Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, visit oco.jpl.nasa.gov

See Also:

The Real Life Impact of the New Clean Power Plan

Financial Implications of Climate Change

The Global Carbon Balance and its Vulnerabilities

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04

Jul

Happy 4th of July Pals!

Wishing you a great celebration with memorable moments with friends and family!

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23

Jun

Financial Implications of Climate Change

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In 2006, the world’s most authoritative climate economist, Lord Stern, a professor at the Grantham Institute, a research centre at the London School of Economics, wrote a hugely influential review on the financial implications of climate change. His report exposed some startling revelations pertaining to the economic models that have been used to calculate the fiscal fallout from climate change. Lord Stern’s review found the economic models used greatly underestimate the scale of the threat of climate change.

“It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the IPCC report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its … impacts on the economy,”

- Lord Stern

The goal of his research was to shed light on these flawed economic models and for economists to strive for better models and thereby help policy-makers and the public to recognize the magnitude of the potential risks of climate change.

According to Dr. Simon Dietz, a colleague of Lord Stern, standard models are based on a false assumption that the risks are known and are small. In contrast, the new economic model goes beyond reporting only the potential damage to economic output and also includes damage to productivity as greenhouse gases reach dangerous levels.   

More information about their research is available, here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Working-Paper-180-Dietz-and-Stern-2014.pdf

See Also:

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

The Next Industrial Revolution

What is Your Impact from Reuse?

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19

Jun

The Global Rise of Materials Consumption

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The continued extraction of materials is increasingly impacting our planet and leading to scarcity concerns. As the poorest 80 percent of the planet achieves a living standard that is equal to a third of what populations in rich countries possess, the planet should anticipate the growing consumption of materials for future generations.

Some interesting statistics about materials:

- the cement industry now accounts for about 5 percent of all carbon-dioxide emissions

- at least 6.4 million tons of plastic litter enter the oceans every year

- in the last 3 years China used more concrete than the U.S. used in the entire 20th Century

The ultimate conclusion; the planet cannot sustain another century of massive material growth. We need to limit the use of raw materials and do a better job with recycling, reusing and reducing our consumption.

For more on the subject, Vaclav Smil, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba and the author of Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization makes a compelling case in this video.

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08

Jun

Celebrating Our Oceans on World Oceans Day

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Our oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet less than 1 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh water and only 6 percent is drinkable. Today, as we celebrate our oceans, communities participate by attending events to raise awareness on World Oceans Day.

Following decades of burning fossil fuels, combined with the continued clear cutting of forests, we must shift our focus to the impacts from billions of tons of CO2 that are emitted annually. Unlike the role of trees in carbon sequestration, the ocean’s role as carbon sinks absorbing about 2 billion metric tons of carbon annually is a lesser known benefit of the oceans.  

Facts and Figures Courtesy of NOAA

• Oceans cover three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water and represent 99 percent of the living space on the planet by volume.

• Oceans absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

• Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.

• Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.

• As much as 40 percent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries and loss of coastal habitats.

Issues Facing Our Oceans:

One metric used to provide a snapshot of the trash filling our oceans is the Ocean Trash Index. By learning what is polluting our oceans, we can take action to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place.

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According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags are used annually in the U.S. Of these, approximately 100 billion are plastic shopping bags, requiring at least 12 million barrels of oil to be manufactured that are disposed of annually. These bags and other plastics contribute to the increasing acidification of our oceans. Acidification results from an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that increases the sea acidity as it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid - also known as “the other CO2 problem.” In addition to combating pollution, every ton of CO2 the oceans remove from the atmosphere also contributes to the oceans increasing acidity. 

A 2013 study claimed acidity was increasing at a rate 10 times faster than in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history.

"surface waters are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested. It’s yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out."

- Jane Lubchenco, head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

How We Can Help:

The carcass of an albatross full of colorful plastics and sea turtles deformed by 6-pack plastic are familiar images of pollution’s effects on marine creatures. While there is no simple solution, taking steps to change our behaviors including incorporating reusable shopping bags, while reducing and repurposing are important steps. In addition to the 3 R’s and daily efforts to make a difference, communities can participate by joining local beach cleanups held annually around the U.S. by various organizations. This year, the International Coastal Cleanup is scheduled on September 20, 2014. 

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04

Jun

The Real Life Impact of the New Clean Power Plan

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By Tamar Burton

The EPA’s State-by-State Collaboration for Climate Change

As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, on June 2, 2014 the EPA proposed a new rule called the Clean Power Plan, to address roughly one-third of all domestic green-house gas emissions. The plan will effectively force power plants to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, establishing the first-ever national carbon emissions limits.

If approved, the carbon savings impact is equivalent to removing two-thirds of all vehicles from America’s roads. From the perspective of the Health Care Act, the savings are attributed to preventing up to:

  • 490,000 missed work or school days

  • 6,600 premature deaths

  • 150,000 asthma attacks in children

According to Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s administrator, the plan is a “wake-up call” that will spur innovation, protect our health and environment, and fight climate change. The plan affords states flexibility to pick from a menu of policy options to set state-by-state targets for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants. Compliance can be achieved by electing to shut down coal plants, installing clean technologies including solar and power, and energy-efficiency technology. States may elect to join the Northeastern or California cap-and-trade programs or choose to enact a state-level tax on carbon pollution.

“California is proof positive that states can fashion creative policies that improve their environmental and economic bottom line, and that’s exactly what will be needed to make EPA’s Clean Power Plan a durable and resounding success.”  

- Derek Walker, Associate Vice President of the US Climate and Energy Program for Environmental Defense Fund

The proposal was developed under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which directs the EPA to set goals and allow states to submit plans to achieve those goals. To find out more, visit, http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule

See also:

Making Reuse Convenient

What is Your Impact from Reuse?

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

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01

Jun

The Millennial Economic Shift

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Source: The Brookings Institution

"A recent Intelligence Group study found that 64% of millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring."

By 2025, millennials will represent 75 percent of the workforce, dominate corporate culture and hold the purchasing power of the U.S. economy.

The implications of this generationally-driven economic shift are disclosed in the Brookings study, “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America” by co-authors Mike Hais and Morley Winograd.

The study shows that millennials are lending their support to socially responsible corporations. Here’s some insight about millennials from the study:

  • they are drivers for inclusion of social and ethical causes within the workplace

  • they favor corporations that foster programs where employees are recognized for external contributions “to better the planet”

  • they keep more assets in cash, and less in financial markets as they distrust financial institutions

  • they desire employers who support social or ethical causes they consider important

For more on the study, please download here.

See also:

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Food Labeling: Confuse and Conquer

Making Reuse Convenient

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27

May

The Spiraling Negative Economic Impact of Student Debt

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by Tamar Burton

In recent years, each graduating class has been bestowed with the title, “the most indebted”, and the class of 2014 is no exception. This summer, new graduates will enter the professional world strapped with an average student loan debt of $33,607. 

According to Bloomberg, the student debt drag is having a strong effect on the spending power of these 20-something consumers for large purchases. This may be part of a cultural shift as young graduates are failing to enter the housing market or purchase cars as they face lower expectations for future earnings.

The millennial generation represents 80 million members with a combined annual buying power of $200 billion and represent 25% of the population. The Census Bureau reports 20-somethings have taken the lead. For the first time since 1947, 22-year-olds are the most represented age group in America, with 23- and 21-year-olds claiming the second- and third-rank, and Baby Boomers now ranking fourth.

The impact of a growing millennial population, combined with a questionable disposable income, is having a significant effect on the future direction of our economy. 

See also:

What is Your Impact from Reuse?

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Tradepal Announces New Clinton Global Initiative to Make Reuse Convenient for College Students

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