Earth Day

Apr 21 2014 • Posted by

With Earth Day approaching on Tuesday, April 22nd, I started to wonder how this day came about. I did some research and discovered that it was created decades before I was born. It was created in 1970 by a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson in response to the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He tried to channel the energy being put into the anti-war movement and redirect it toward bringing awareness to air and water pollution. The greatest outcomes of the first Earth Day was the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. This is a vision that a pioneer and an inspiration of mine, Rachel Carson had in 1962, when she wrote “Silent Spring.”

Today, Earth Day needs to be more than one day of caring for the environment; it needs to be Earth Everyday. Too many people take our resources for granted and believe that we live in a world with unlimited resources. In reality, we need to live more sustainable lives. We need to have a continual consciousness of how our actions will affect our future and the future of our children.

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Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

Apr 21 2014 • Posted by

With the weather starting to feel like spring, it’s time for spring cleaning! Spring cleaning can involve any of the three “R”s. If you are going through your clothes closet, you may want to reduce clothes that are either too small or too big for you, so that someone else may reuse them. If you are reducing the clutter in your basement, you may find this system helpful. I set up three containers. One is for recyclables, one is for donating to The Salvation Army, and one is for garbage. The garbage container is usually the smallest container since there are few things that can’t be recycled. I am amazed at the amount of clutter that accumulates over the winter. To finish my spring cleaning, I move to the outdoors to rake leaves and collect garden debris, usually filling a dozen paper yard bags. I haul the lawn bags and recycle bins to the end of my driveway for my town to pick up. Ahhh, spring is in the air!

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UN Report: Shocked by Effects of Climate Change

Apr 21 2014 • Posted by

A very startling article has come out  recently on the official UN’s report on climate change, and the results are startling.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26810559

The report lists off multiple statistics for what the world will face in 2050, but what really startled me is the anticipated 25% reduction in maize (corn). This is extremely shocking considering the importance that corn has in our food system. Acting as a food stock, it is in nearly everything; so having this resource deplete due to climate change will be devastating for the U.S.

It’s great that the United Nations has conducted this research, as now they can provide a worldwide platform to spread the truth about the effects human pollution has on the environment.

 

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Why not grow year round?

Apr 21 2014 • Posted by

This week my cousin Luke and I wanted to be a little creative after being inspired about the simple techniques of having a hydroponic garden. So we decided to make one of our own, one that would be simple to build and take care of. The materials needed are three 10 foot long 3 inches wide PVC piping, ten 3 inch (in diameter) PVC elbows, two 5 foot high fencing posts sturdy enough to hold a considerable amount of weight, a tote to catch the water, 10 foot plank, PVC cement, zip ties, plenty of screws, a fish tank pump with 10 feet of tubing, a sawzall, tape measure, marker and a drill with a hole saw 3 inches in diameter attachment. First we cut the end of the three 10 foot PVC pipes into five 3inch pieces, make sure to leave all three of the PVC pipes at least 9 feet so that you can cut them in half into six 4 1/2 foot piping. With the marker put a marketing every 9 inches up the tubing, this is done so you can take the whole saw and drill into those markings for the plants to be placed in. Next step is to cut the 10 foot wooden board into one 4 foot and two 3 foot pieces. The 4 foot piece of wood you just cut is to connect the two fence posts and the other two 3 foot pieces are used to drill under the fence posts in order to stand them up. Believe it or not you are almost done.  Take your drill and on the right post drill a screw in half way in leaving some of it exposed. Drill in two more screws down from the previous one so that 11 inches separates each of them. The post over to the left drill in two screws also separated by 11 inches but start after measuring 11 inches down from the top. On the opposite side of the posts mirror screwing in nails but start from bottom to top. Take the zip ties and wrap them to the exposed screws so that there is just enough space to slip the PVC tubing you cut. The idea is to have the tubing connect to the elbows, elbows to the 3 inch PVC’s and again to an elbow continuing this process so that the PVC wraps around the erect fence posts like a slide. The PVC cement can be applied reattaching the PVC tubing making the adjustments permanent. Lastly is to put the water pump into the top part of the tubing connecting it from view reservoir where the water will slide back down. Next week I will talk about what I used to keep the plants in place and the nutrients needed to grow.

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Positively Canvas

Apr 21 2014 • Posted by

Today, driving home from one of the outreach events, I came to the realization that this internship has almost acted as an intervention towards my poor sustainability habits. Thinking back to how I used to be, the amount of ignorance I had towards the way I was living was pretty horrific. Even going to the grocery store I came to the realization of the things I used to be unaware of; simple changes I was able to make with little to no effort.

One of the things I noticed I did without thinking was making sure I brought canvas bags with me to the store when I went to pick up some chips. I have been finding myself actually grossed out with the amount of plastic consumed and I am trying to do everything in my power to reduce my own plastic use and it’s impact on the environment. Now when I go shopping, I approach the situation with the attitude that I won’t be leaving the store with plastic bags- period. Typically, purchasing reusable bags isn’t that expensive if I do happen to forget them. I see purchasing more of them as a positive thing, because the more of them I have, the less likely I am to forget bringing them into the store.

I really enjoy this new lifestyle of being environmentally conscious a lot. In fact, when I bring my bags to the counter or ask the cashier to remove the plastic disposable ones, I often get compliments and often will even start a conversation about how they’re more durable, spacious, and less tacky looking than the bags we’re all used to getting. I hope that my, and all of our, choices to be more sustainable will inspire others to make the same changes in their life to help save them time and save the environment.

And this rant sort of relates to my last blog, the one about how environmental consciousness shouldn’t be pushed on people by shaming them or making them feel helpless about the repercussions of not making any  of these changes. I think people should promote this lifestyle through  positive means. Just smiling as your bring your bags up to the cashier might make them think twice about choosing plastic next time.

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SouthCoast Rail – Something Worth Supporting

Apr 14 2014 • Posted by

during this past wee, Lucas and I attended a local community event in support of the South Coast Rail project.  I have  never been to a meeting like this and I tough it was going to be comedically bad, perhaps due to the  amount of Parks & Recreation  that I watch.  I was so glad I was wrong. The sense of community in the room and support of the local project, the police, and the state representative, was off the charts. I learned so much about the projects underway and how crime had dropped in the area due to increased patrols.

The Rail project itself has high hopes for bringing in much needed revenue to the South Coast areas like Fall River and New Bedford. We have so much to offer on this side of the state that no one up north seems to be aware of. The area itself will grow exponentially once the project is complete.

To learn more about the actions of the South Coast Rail, visit www.southcoastrail.com

Next week I will be updating with more info on it after I have thoroughly researched it.

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Making Energy Audits a Norm

Apr 14 2014 • Posted by

I have discovered a new way for people to educate people on having an energy assessment done. I plan on discussing this during the next team meeting, but I am posting this as a blog post because I believe that this saying can be used by other people to simply make energy assessments a more common occurrence.

“Have you completed your energy audit this year?” I asked people today. This statement implies that an energy audit is something they should have been doing already. When I asked this, many people were taken aback, scared that they have been doing something wrong. And they HAVE- not saving energy and money is awful! If people are aware of energy audits, then I can happily share the information about the SouthCoast Energy Challenge and then tell them that the service is at no cost to them. This makes them feel like they are back in the loop and there is an easy way to get there. For those that don’t know, this allows me to start from the beginning and give them the pitch about our nonprofit organization and why saving energy and money is good- something most people can relate to easily.

Even if you are not one of the interns giving your pitch, people in conversation could bring this up. Hopefully getting your energy audit done every 3 years will be as common as asking someone if they have done taxes this year.

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Week 8 “Tiny Houses”

Apr 14 2014 • Posted by

Hey all,

So this week has been a busy one. Wednesday I ventured to New Bedford for the Ocean Explorium “Solar Decathalon” event. The event was a showcase of a team building a unique solar home that would compete in an event overseas. It was interesting to see the team of young women from Brown University explain their home, which claimed a 90% energy efficiency and a design that promotes the use of solar for the changing seasons in France, where the competion will be held.

This inspired me a bit. We watched “The End of Suburbia at this week’s team meeting.  Since I’m studying Urban Sociology, I was already quite aware of how problematic our suburbs are, particularly in their energy consumption. I had to wonder where our motivation for a big house, big yard, and fancy cars came from. No doubt the prevalence of suburbia enforced these desires, but I can’t come to terms with them considering their impact.  I have begun looking at alternative ways to live.

I have discovered the tiny house movement, which promotes small houses that are sustainable and efficient for heat and energy use. Obviously the smaller the house, the easier it is to heat/power. Responding to the issue that suburbs present will require a re-assessment of our most basically held assumptions about a desired life, especially if we want a sustainable future. Here’s a link to an article about tiny houses

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26964724

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“The End of Suburbia” Reaction

Apr 14 2014 • Posted by

The documentary, “The End of Suburbia”, described the impact of keeping the American Dream in the form of continuous building of suburban communities. I had always assumed that suburbs grew simply due to a growing population.  There were  flaws with the system, but there was not much we could have done to prevent this. However, this is not the case. After WWII, America had a lot of soldiers coming home, tired of war and tightly packed cities. To house these soldiers and the population that would soon swell, many neighborhoods were built surrounding cities with clusters of houses with their own yards. The automobile became the main transportation unit, making the distance from the cities and work not a problem due to new road construction.  Resources could now be brought into these areas without production in the same area.

Clearly, suburbs did not just “happen”. Through conscious effort of making these inefficient areas thrive, we have now been wasting space and energy for quite some time. Almost everyone owns or at least uses a car today. Cars use gasoline, polluting the air with each commute. Getting food from large organizations has become the norm as they can transport huge quantities of food into an area (which has even MORE problems that I have ranted about in past blogs).

What was great about the documentary was that it showed the issues about suburban life that people may not have thought about. Seeing the causes gets me more interested because it shows that sometimes we make mistakes and not everything that bad that happens, or will happen, is out of our control. This movie did not motivate me to change my everyday life, but it did change my outlook on the future.

The solution to suburban life is living in areas that promote “new urbanism”. Taking urban-like designs for multi-family living while promoting walking and public transportation is a more efficient approach to how we live in neighborhoods. Communities become closer and we might use less energy as these areas develop. Some parts of the U.S. are creating these environments, but in areas that are already established, it is difficult to make this change. Around long strips of road we can put in bushes and trees. As large corporations move out of an area, chunks of land fall into disuse, so that will be the perfect time to transform those areas into new urbanism living environments.

If you want to see more about new urbanism, this is an interesting site: http://www.newurbanism.org/

Though not too many new urbanism sites are near the Massachusetts south coast, perhaps in time we can make that happen.

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Facing suburban reality

Apr 14 2014 • Posted by

Are we blindly heading to disaster….distracted by the toys of modern-day living and charmed by politicians who tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear?   After watching “The End of Suburbia” at our team meeting, I was disturbed because nothing much has changed since the documentary was released a decade ago.   Has “The American Dream” become a noose around our collective necks rather than a call for collective action representing the best qualities of American life…stubborn determination, inventiveness and a sense of “e pluribus unum (one of many one)”.  At times, I fear for the future of our country and our planet; at other times, I am hopeful that, despite our self-destructive ways, we will eventually do the right thing.   In some ways, I cannot blame ordinary Americans; they want a better life for themselves and future generations.   They looked to nature as a balm for the dirty, crowded cities where they felt like captives.  Unfortunately, the bucolic idyll that they envisioned when they moved to the suburban subdivisions that sprouted like invasive weeds after World War II was a false promise.   The only thing bucolic was the name of the suburban neighborhood — Peaceful Meadows, Fox Run, etc. — and the result was more dependence on cars and clogged highways..   This car-centric lifestyle is no longer sustainable; we have reached the tipping point for energy production and must consume less.   A world of less energy resources and severe climate change is scary — extreme weather, geopolitical unrest, food and water shortages, etc. — and it is very hard to tell the American public that they must change their way of life.   How do you tell them that there will be less money to go around and that they will need to pay more for food, energy and all of life’s essentials?  Life is tough enough; don’t tell me that is going to get worse.    What’s the point of trying if we are doomed.   Politicians, especially those who want to get elected and re-elected, know they need to tell the American public what it wants to hear — and deliver bad news in an upbeat manner.   Even though smart politicians — those who have read the environmental briefings –  know we are facing disaster unless we alter the American way of life, they have peddled the mythology of boundless abundance for so long that it is very hard to start singing a different tune.   Yes, we are facing environment and financial disaster unless we change and consume less – but change may be scary but it may lead the way to a more pleasing future.   Rather than sitting in endless traffic jams, imagine walkable communities where we work and live and are closer to our food sources.   We may have less money but we may be happier in the long run with neighbors helping neighbors in a more balanced and cooperative lifestyle.

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