Archive for November, 2011

Green Lessons from Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving may not seem like the pinnacle of eco-friendly behavior. Turkey-Day, and the Black Friday shopping extravaganza that follows, both celebrate excess – with the best of intentions, of course. Cooking and feasting with family and friends and sharing gifts to show we care are fundamental to the holiday season, but these traditions often result in cooking too much food and buying too many things that we don’t really need. Look past the surface, though; Thanksgiving is full of lessons on green living, and opportunities to improve our practices.

Let’s start with food. A Thanksgiving prepared from local, seasonal foods can reduce your carbon footprint and promote friendly farming practices, but it can also help you get in touch with the roots of the holiday. The first Thanksgiving feast was a local, seasonal affair by necessity. Thanksgiving, a feast of turkey but also of hearty vegetables like potatoes, squash and turnips, is also a great time to consider going vegetarian. I’ve always found these dishes just as filling as meat, and they can decrease your Thanksgiving carbon footprint. I mentioned cooking too much food at the beginning of my post, but that’s not necessarily a problem. Thanksgiving is a great time to practice food preservation techniques like canning and freezing, so you can enjoy the leftovers from your feast well into the winter.

Black Friday, and the shopping season that follows, is a bit harder to make excuses for. Before hitting the stores, consider greener alternatives, including gifts that are homemade or sustainably produced. This Wednesday, the International Justice Mission at William & Mary will be hosting an Alternative Gift Fair in the Sadler Center, where you can invest in gifts that support social justice and environmental sustainability. Consider making your own gifts and cards, as well.

Lastly, the spirit of the season contains a strong message of sustainability and environmental responsibility: Be thankful for what have, and most importantly for those immaterial things – friends and family. Integrating sustainable practices into Thanksgiving celebrations may detract from the excessive spending and cooking that have come to define the holiday. At the same time, however, it can put us in touch with the Thanksgiving history of making do with what we have, and emphasize the sense of gratefulness that is at the heart of the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sharon Hartzell
William & Mary ’14

November 28th, 2011

Wordless Wednesday – I’d Tap That Campaign: Environmental Impact

Corbett Drummey
I’d Tap That Campaign

November 17th, 2011

The national energy debate hits close to home – the shores of Virginia

“[W]e will champion environmentally-safe offshore energy exploration and production, bringing with it thousands of new jobs,” Governor McDonnell told Virginians at his inaugural address last year. Specifically, the governor was talking about putting an oil rig 50 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, after President Obama proposed to lift a nearly 30 year ban on drilling off the Atlantic coast. Plans to expand drilling to Virginia were disappointed, though, when the BP oil company threw a wrench in the design. That summer, the biggest oil spill in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico made President Obama rethink the drilling expansion.

The 5-year Proposed Oil and Gas Leasing Program released last week by the Department of the Interior does not allow for drilling in waters off of Virginia. Although the plan includes drilling expansion to some new areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, it is a far cry from the announcement last year that the Interior would expand drilling to the mid- and south-Atlantic, specifically Virginia – areas that have been off-limits to drilling for about 30 years due to laws enacted in the wake of previous devastating spills like the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, the largest in U.S. history until the BP spill last year.

Not surprisingly, the new policy garners mixed reviews. Oil companies see miles of coastline on the east and west coasts available for drilling, yet those locations are off-limits, while demand and the price of oil stays high. Political advocates praise drilling as a jobs creator and a way to release the country from the control of foreign oil producers. Environmental groups fear another spill would kill wetlands and wildlife in sensitive areas in the arctic (where cleanup would be more difficult because of the harsher climate) or the already crippled Gulf of Mexico. They add that the economic argument for drilling is miscommunicated – the cost reduction would be too small to make a difference to gas prices and would take a long time to achieve, all the while threatening other coastal economic ventures like tourism and fishing should another accident happen.

The issue in Virginia has not been so predictable in terms of political support. Senator Webb and Senator Warner, Democrats, have both been vocal about their agreement with Republican Governor McDonnell in disappointment with President Obama’s plan. All three politicians support drilling off the Virginia coast, contingent upon a profit-splitting plan where the state would get a cut of oil proceeds to fund programs like transportation improvements.

The drilling question being decided may help our state’s leaders focus their attention on an alternative use of our positioning on the coast. Virginia is primely situated for wind energy. Encouragingly, it seems like there is enough political support for a wind farm off the coast of Virginia, but difficulties remain regarding regulation, funding and permitting for the budding wind industry. At least the Interior Department’s recent drilling plan eliminates the question of whether a wind turbine would complicate oil operations in the same area.

Caitlin Kilpatrick
Master of Public Policy Candidate, Class of 2013
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy

November 16th, 2011

Behind the Blue Bin: What to Recycle?

And now to address the question many of you have been waiting for: What IS acceptable to put in blue bins on-campus. The list is fairly basic, with one minor exception that needs a fair amount of explanation for it to make complete sense.

First, a quick note:

Because I know too many people that do this, and it will be important when we get to plastics, I’m going to say it again very explicitly.

Resist your deep-seated TWAMPyness and do not stress over the smallest amounts of residue in an item; today’s infrastructure is able to handle this. As far as recycling bottles with or without the caps, it is not a major issue for TFC; infrastructure can handle small amounts of contamination.

At the same time, do not go blow your nose with a tissue and put that thing anywhere near a blue bin; needless to say, that paper is a bit too contaminated (tissues and paper towels are also not a high enough quality of paper to be recycled).

Without further ado, here is the official list of the kinds of material, when not severely contaminated, that can be put in blue bins at our College***:

-PAPER
Non-shredded. It can be newsprint, magazines, that two month old flier that’s STILL on the first floor of Morton Hall advertising something you don’t care about, whatever. This INCLUDES items that are paper-like as well. Cardboard, cereal boxes and things of that nature, we’re looking at you.

-ALUMINUM CANS AND FOIL
When asked specifically about contamination (i.e. that tiny bit of soda that never seems to leave the can), Farron insisted that that would not have a huge effect on the quality of the overall product. As always, however, use good judgment (the aluminum foil covering that roasted chicken may not be able to be salvaged, for instance).

-GLASS
Preferably not broken ☺.

-TIN/STEEL CANS
That can of tomato soup you just enjoyed belongs in the recycling bin before you dig in.

-PLASTICS
Ok, now here is where you need to pay attention. Students, as well as faculty and staff, often do not look for the number that is located on every plastic used in America (those few items that seem like plastic but don’t have a number are not recyclable). Yet often times on the bottom of most items, the key number to consider is there (If you want to learn about the numbers and listen the same part of a Jack Johnson song TWICE, here’s a basic video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPLD5EzTlW0

For recycling on-campus, #1 and #2 in the shape of a bottle are the only kinds of plastic that can be recycled (SEAC, however, is currently working on a way to recycle the other numbers of plastic…stay tuned on that front). Thanks to private enterprise and investment in recouping material mainly by the likes of beverage companies, items of this nature can be recycled with great ease, making it worthwhile to recycle by companies like TFC.

Now, that’s not an endorsement to go and drink as many 20 oz. Pepsis or Cokes as you want. According to Larron, it is due to the beverage industry’s work to help recover their plastic (admittedly to lower their costs) that TFC is able to collect BOTTLE-SHAPED #1 and #2 plastics.

Why not other plastics, you ask? Well, surprise, surprise; the answer comes down to an economical concern. Due to the type of resin, opaque-ness, and certain other chemicals found in the product, items such as an empty tub of margarine are not cost-effective enough to sell out to recyclers of plastic by TFC, even if it does sport a #1 or #2 on the bottom.

So, to summarize the plastics section:

Is your plastic bottle-shaped?
If yes, continue. If no, do not recycle (reuse if possible).

Is your plastic a #1 or #2?
If yes, RECYCLE. If no, do not recycle (reuse if possible).

There, that is not so hard, right? If it is, I suggest you go and listen to what Jack Johnson was talking about again and consider two things:

-He’s got elementary school kids singing along, so they know what’s up.
-If Jack Johnson is singing about it, it’s probably something that is good to do.

Even if you do not want to bro out, I would be absolutely shocked if you were not threatened by this video from the greatest Nicktoon of the 90’s, Rocko’s Modern Life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyZbw8waVwk


http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/5/rocko3l.jpg/sr=1
“That was a HOOT!!”

***This list excludes special items such as electronics, shoes, and plastic bags that have other means of getting recycled on-campus. For information on that, visit: http://www.wm.edu/sites/sustainability/initiatives/recycling/index.php

By: Jamison Shabanowitz

November 14th, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: I’d Tap That: Energy Impact

Corbett Drummey
I’d Tap That Campaign

November 9th, 2011

Corporate & College Collaborative for Sustainability (3CS)

Last year, William and Mary hosted the first ever Corporate & College Collaborative for Sustainability, uniting business leaders, faculty, and students to discuss innovations in sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and business education. As a freshman last year, I heard about the inaugural conference and immediately decided to attend; sustainability and business had always been an interest of mine and I was curious to learn more about how they could be combined.

Little did I know that two realms of sustainability would come smashing together at the collaborative: the abstract world of academia we live in here at the College and the practical, real world that business leaders operate in every day. It was dynamic, it was exciting, and most importantly, it was an experience that helped me to understand how my interest in sustainability can make a real difference in the world while I am in school and once I graduate.

This Friday, November 11th and Saturday, November 12, the collaborative is returning to Miller Hall, providing the opportunity for us to interact with like-minded students, faculty, and business leaders to discuss diverse solutions to sustainability issues.

Tickets are $10, cash or express, and include breakfast, lunch, breaks for both days and Chipotle Cookout Social on Friday evening Please visit the event website page to learn more about this outstanding opportunity for networking, experiential learning, and fun insightful discussion!

Learn more at the 3CS Site!

-Net Impact

November 9th, 2011

The Story of charity: water

“Water is an astonishingly complex and subtle force in an economy. It is the single constraint on the expansion of every city, and bankers and corporate executives have cited it as the only natural limit to economic growth.”
– Margaret Catley-Carlson, Vice-Chair, World Economic Forum

IRC Cares, the service committee of the International Relations Club, chooses a different NGO to support every year. This year, we have chosen charity: water, a non-profit organization dedicated to resolving the water crisis around the world. charity: water’s simple yet challenging mission to bring clean and safe-drinking water to people in developing nations appealed to us the most. Any W&M student can relate to and understand how valuable water is; water is a necessity that affects all of us. We feel that water is an important issue that we must pay our attention to. Although we live in an environment in which water is highly accessible, places around the world are in dire need of clean water. In fact, “diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.”

This Thursday, November 10th from 7pm-8pm in McGlothlin 20, IRC Cares and SEAC will be hosting The Story of charity: water, a short 40 minute film describing the founding behind charity: water and the water crisis. Free pizza from Domino’s will be provided at the event! IRC Cares will also be collecting donations for charity: water. 100% of donations to charity: water directly fund water projects!

If you want to learn more about charity: water, visit www.charitywater.org. Or, if you may be interested in helping the cause at W&M, come to our service club meetings on Sundays at 1:30pm in Blair 228!

-IRC Cares

November 8th, 2011

Behind the Blue Bin -Why can’t we recycle more? A peek inside TFC’s Recycling Plant

A nasty Nor’easter stormed into the Tidewater area on Friday, October 28th, as did heaps of paper, plastic, glass and metal into the TFC Recycling facility as their 3:30 shift began. At once, thousands of mechanical gears went into motion and dozens of workers assigned to assure quality control of the operation sift through the morass of recyclables hurried through the line on conveyor belts.

Recycling facilities are not for the faint at heart, yet, considering the volume of material that comes through the Chesapeake location (something to the tune of 40 tons an HOUR for 16 hours a day, according to TFC’s Nicholas Larron), it appears as if single stream recycling is handled as efficiently as possible.

Why is that good news? Well, because our wonderful College sends our recyclable material (well, most of it; we’ll discuss this later) here. I did not manage to spot any Flat Hats or Informers in the newspaper area of the facility, but rest assured, this place could handle five William and Marys worth of recycling.

Ignoring the nearly absurd amount of material that gets sorted, the process is really quite simple. TFC simply collects alike items into bundles for shipment to vendors who reprocess the material in question. It is important to remember, however, exactly WHAT can be recycled within the program that the College has signed up for.

TFC collects a wide spectrum of material, yet the College’s recycling policy is specifically tailored to fit what items the company receives in its single-stream warehouse, the building in which I witnessed the processes at work. Other warehouses take care of high-grade paper, plastics from packaging, and other plastics are associated with more durable items (there were a few bales of water coolers which Larron explained come from local visitors). Single-stream recycling, the program that the College uses, does not include these other special capabilities.

The reason comes down to what else—money. It is simply too expensive to send one of TFC’s 140 trucks to Williamsburg at least once a week to pick up specialized items that unfortunately cannot be handled already by the specific system the College uses. The College would need to pay more for increased recycling services from TFC.

After a few years around the issue of recycling on-campus, I have to point out that this understanding has not made it back to the community. In talking with my classmates and colleagues, many express dissatisfaction with the recycling program, requesting that TFC be more flexible with the items they accept. The new phenomenon of placing bins and boxes for more and more specific items for recycling through other vendors run the risk of causing confusion as to what items go in which bin. Yet the issue is not in what TFC is willing to accept; they have a great amount of capabilities. The key is in what is economically feasible for the College to send to TFC for recycling.


http://media.hamptonroads.com/cache/files/images/452221000.jpg

By Jamison Shabanowitz

November 6th, 2011

Iron Chef: William & Mary Edition

Like the show, but even better, William & Mary Dining hosted the 3rd Annual Iron Chef Competition in the Commons on Friday, October 28th . However, this year our competition went green! Three teams of four W&M students had the opportunity to show their culinary genius and battle against the W&M Dining sustainability interns Rebecca Starr, Colleen Swingle, and Molly Hilberg. This epic event brought Dining’s fun filled Week of Sustainability to an exciting close.


Sustainability Interns at the competition

No experience was necessary for the four teams participating. Chef hats and aprons were distributed for contestants to wear while they were briefed by W&M Executive Chef, Denis Callinan, on rules and safety guidelines. A group walk-thru of the stations revealed what equipment was at their disposal and the additional pantry items they were able to use. The pantry consisted of a variety of locally purchased items including herbs from the campus garden.

Contestants were given an hour and 15 minutes to create and present an entrée and dessert. To add to the challenge, a mystery basket, containing many locally purchased goods, was placed at each station and teams were required to use at least six of the ten items inside. Items included: Gluten Free Rice Krispies, potatoes, apples, grapes, chipotle peppers, watermelon radish, Rockfish (Striped Bass), pork tenderloin, peanuts, and roasted squash.


The Winning Dish from Team 4

An esteemed panel of judges watched the competition unfold while the food they were soon to eat was prepared. Ginger Ambler, VP of Student Affairs, Sarah Hanke, W&M Sustainability Fellow, Bee McLeod, Swem Board of Directors Chair, and Kate Slevin, Vice Provost of Academic Affiars, were accompanied by Arnie Preib, Special Diets Chef for the Commons Dining Hall, who was the kitchen judge as the panel of tasters.


The Whole Crew: Team members, chefs and judges

Winners received gift cards to Trader Joe’s and will compete against VCU in the spring. The winning team was made up of Aaron Murphy, Sara McNeil, Michael Curcio, and Thompson Hangen. We are so proud of our W&M students that participated and all of the green fun that we had during this competition! We look forward to the championship next semester!

-W&M Dining

November 6th, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: I’d Tap That

Corbett Drummey
I’d Tap That Campaign

November 2nd, 2011

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About:

Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact Madeleine Boel, Committee on Sustainability Web Assistant, at mgboel@email.wm.edu.
Make sure to visit Sustainability at W&M for all of W&M's progress on sustainability efforts. Catch up with William & Mary Sustainability on Twitter at WM_GreenisGold
To learn what William & Mary's Environmental Law Society is up to, visit their blog at http://envirols.blogs.wm.edu/.

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