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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Michael Broadbent’s Efficient Dorm – Week 5

Apr 01 2014 • Posted by

(Long story short, I was on spring break this week and thus didn’t really have the opportunity for any ‘efficient dorm’ progress.  Thus, I decided to get a bit… creative with my blog post.  Enjoy.)

Spring break.  An entire week off from college.  No worries about homework, classes, and even the magic of dorm living for a full 9 days.

I lie in my bed at home, looking forward to the days of rest that will soon come.  All is quiet and peaceful, except for the quiet hum of the heating system.  For a moment, all is bliss.

“MICHAEL ,WAIT!  HOLD ON! DID YOU REMEMBER TO UNPLUG THE MICROWAVE BEFORE YOU LEFT?” my brain suddenly screeches, jolting me awake.  I pause for a moment in thought.  Did I remember to unplug my microwave?  I know I emptied my fridge, turned off my clock, and brought my laptop home with me.  But the microwave.  Surely I didn’t forget something so obvious?

My room was closed for break, and thus I have no choice but to resist the urge to go check.  But for all I know, my microwave could be sitting there in my dorm, leeching energy.  ’Do microwaves use that much electricity while idle?’ I wonder. ‘Surely they wouldn’t have to use that much, since they really only have to power the clock on the front, right?’   I quickly shake my head and shove the thought away.  No, it doesn’t matter how much energy it is really using.  It’s the principle of it!  I had gone through all that effort to make myself more energy efficient, and now I simply leave an appliance plugged in for over a week!  It’s unacceptable!

I get out of bed and begin pacing around my room.  There had to be a solution.  But what?  I quickly think of a couple plans.  One would be to break into the school, sneak into my dorm, and unplug the microwave.   That, however, would be both difficult and illegal.  Another, more rational, plan would be to call a friend who was able to keep their room over spring break and ask THEM to unplug it.

I reach for my phone, but stop just before dialing.  No, that wouldn’t work either.  They didn’t have my keys, and driving over to give it to them could potentially use more energy than I’d save.

It is at this point I realize that there is no way out.  I am simply a failure.  It is now the future, and I have failed.  The Apocalypse will not be averted, and it is all my fault.

Days pass.  I spend the rest of my spring break in agony.  Unable to think about anything other than the incredible amounts of energy waste which I was no doubt creating.  Any and all joy and relaxation is sapped from my being, my stay at home no longer being a paradise but a prison.

Finally, the ‘vacation’ comes to an end.  Not wasting any time, I gather my things and speed off back to my school, dashing up the stairs of my building faster than any would believe possible.  I ram my key into the lock and swing open the door to my room.  In one swift movement, I step inside and slide over to my microwave.

It is unplugged.

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Local Environmental Action’s 2014 Conference

Mar 24 2014 • Posted by

On March 2, 2014, I attended the Local Environmental Action Conference which was held at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Both the Massachusetts Climate Action Network and the Toxics Action Center hosted this event. The Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) is an organization that coordinates the work of locally organized groups across Massachusetts fighting the climate crisis. The Toxics Action Center’s mission is to “work side-by-side with communities, providing you with the skills and resources needed to prevent or clean up pollution at the local level.” This event occurs every year and this was my first year attending, but certainly not my last.

We started the day with our first keynote speaker, Teri Blanton, a fellow of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She explained the issue of mountaintop removal in Kentucky which she has been working on for over 30 years. I had never heard of mountaintop removal before this conference. To explain it in layman’s terms, it occurs when coal companies run out of coal underground and under the mountains, so they resort to utilizing the small amounts of coal in the top of the mountain. There are only thin strips of coal located in the mountain tops, but if the coal companies see coal they’ll do anything to harvest it. They clear cut all the trees and shrubs off of the mountaintop, then burn it. Using explosives to blow off the top of the mountain causes toxic particulates to end up in the air. The coal companies use harsh toxic chemicals to separate the coal from the soil. These chemicals end up in the water, making the water toxic for people in the surrounding communities to drink, bathe, cook with, etc. After listening to Teri Blanton, I learned what an atrocity the people of Kentucky and ultimately the entire country is facing. Teri Blanton is an amazing woman who has the charisma that everybody in the room could feel and it was good to know that she will continue with her amazing work to end mountaintop removal.

The first workshop that I attended was entitled “Mission Possible: Zero Waste Communities” and was presented by Brooke Nash, branch chief of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and Christin Walth, project manager for Toward Zero Waste Newburyport. Brooke Nash emphasized that if a product can’t be reused or recycled, it should have never been made in the first place. I definitely agree because it really brings up the issue of plastic bags and Styrofoam products. She went on with a very technical breakdown of waste production in Massachusetts. She talked about how effective Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash programs are and how there is a direct correlation to an increase in recycling among towns. She went on to explain all of the benefits of the Pay As You Throw program in towns. Christin Walth spoke next and she focused on organic waste disposal. She opened a lot of our eyes by explaining how food waste accounts for 25% of the waste that we produce. Given this, she explained how our state legislation recently passed an Organic Waste Disposal Ban which will be implemented in October of 2014. This would ban businesses and institutions from throwing more than one ton of organic waste per week in the trash. It was made very clear that organics are the key to living a zero waste lifestyle. To sum up their presentation, they stated that moving towards zero waste is “an evolution, not a revolution” which was a great way to conclude.

The next workshop that I attended was entitled “Sharing Our Resources: Co-ops, Time Banks and Peer-to-Peer Renting” and was presented by Katherine Fisher, Mike Brown, and Judy Bennett. Katherine Fisher talked about her new three-person solar company that she has been working on for the past few years. She taught everybody about co-ops and explained how they work. Mike Brown is the co-founder of GearCommons, a sharing website that focuses on outdoor equipment. He explained how his business works and what led to its development. Brown also stressed and brought awareness to how important sharing is – environmentally and financially. The last speaker, Judy Bennett, talked about the work that she has been doing for Time Trade Circle. The way Time Trade Circle works is that someone does work for someone else and gets online credits. You can then spend your credits by having someone else work for you.

In the afternoon, we had our second keynote speaker, Robin Chase, the founder and CEO of Buzzcar, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, and founder of GoLoco. Robin Chase talked to us about how she has shifted her life focus to bringing awareness to climate change. She gave us a bone-chilling statistic that by the 2060s, the earth will increase in temperature by seven degrees Fahrenheit, but on land, it will increase by eleven degrees Fahrenheit. She explained how worried she is for her three children and their future. She also wanted people to remember that climate change is going to affect them, as well as their children. The three key points that she wanted everybody to leave with, and focus on, is the importance of energy, consumption, and community.

The last workshop that I attended was entitled “What we can (and must) do about our massive food waste problem” and was presented by Randi Mail and Elise Vergnano. They presented all of the different ways that organic waste can be disposed of other than in your trash. We found out that residential waste accounts for 60% of all waste and commercial waste accounts for the other 40%. They showed how municipal waste is only the tip of the iceberg since manufacturing waste is seventy times greater than municipal waste. Then we learned how awful incinerators are for our environment. They are more polluting to our environment than coal burning plants. This was surprising to me and made think that we should be shutting down all incinerating plants before coal burning plants. Idealistically, they should all be shut down immediately and replaced with alternative forms of energy. One of their shocking statistics was that 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted: from the source and all the way down to your home. Massachusetts produces one million tons of food waste annually and only 10% of that waste is diverted from landfills. Regarding the Commercial Organics Ban that is supposed to be implemented this October, they showed an ideal form of composting that is being implemented in Cambridge, MA, beginning in April of 2014. Cambridge is starting a curbside composting program where everybody receives totes that they put out every week to be collected by composting trucks.

This was my entire day at the Local Environmental Action Conference. Everybody was able to choose which workshops they went to and those were the workshops that I chose. I would highly recommend that all environmentalists and frankly, anybody that cares about our future, should attend this annual event.

This is the website for the conference: http://localenvironmentalaction.org/

 

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Two Easy Ways to Conserve Water

Mar 24 2014 • Posted by

My family likes to take advantage of any opportunity to save resources. Here are easy and simple ideas to try:

Take a pitcher, old milk gallon or even watering pot that you don’t normally use and place it by any sink or shower. While you are running the faucet and waiting for it to warm up to a certain temperature, use the container you’ve placed by the sink or shower to collect the water that is too cold and would end up running down the drain. Use that water to water plants or use it for something else.

Another way to conserve water may seem odd, but has been surprisingly successful for me. I take a Gatorade bottle (any similar plastic bottle will work) and fill it up with water.  I then take the back lid off of my toilet so that I can place the bottle in the corner or in a secure tight space so it doesn’t move. When the toilet is used it will fill the back compartment with water until an apparatus signals the water level is high enough. The Gatorade bottle will displace 20 oz. of water, saving that much with every flush. This water savings will add up; plus, you’re not throwing away a plastic bottle but putting it to good use.

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TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Mar 18 2014 • Posted by

AFTER THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR, OUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS SEEM TO DRIFT AWAY. RECENTLY, I BECAME AN INTERN WITH THE SOUTHCOAST ENERGY CHALLENGE AND I WAS REMINDED OF THE IMPORTANCE OF ACHIEVING A GOAL. SOME RESOLUTIONS I MADE IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR WAS TO LEARN HOW TO MANAGE TIME AND MONEY AND AS THE MOTHER OF A 6YR OLD, MY LIFE GETS PRETTY BUSY AND I AM ALWAYS ON TOP OF FINDING THE RIGHT SOLUTION QUICK AND ON A BUDGET! AND THE CHALLENGE IS TO MAKE IT A HABIT. I BELIEVE THAT BASICS SOMETIMES HELPS YOU THROUGH THE DAY AND HELPS YOU SAVE THE DAY!

SIMPLE RECIPES LIKE THE FOLLOWING MAKE IT EASIER TO MAINTAIN A GOAL, SAVE TIME, MONEY AND MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD WHILE DOING GOOD!

  • SUPER CLEANER – 4 INGREDIENTS, MANY POSSIBILITIES.

- ½ CUP OF VINEGAR

- ¼ CUP OF BAKING SODA

- ½ TSP OF DAWN DISH SOAP

- ½ CUP CITRUS VINEGAR (PEELS OF ORANGE, LIME OR LEMON KEPT IN A SMALL MASON JAR FILLED WITH VINEGAR)

o   MIX ALL INGREDIENTS IN A SPRAY BOTTLE AND SPRAY ON ALL COUNTER TOPS, SINKS, BATHROOM, MOP YOUR FLOOR, CLEAN WINDOWS, TV, ETC. FOR BEST RESULTS WARM THE VINEGAR FOR 30 SECS TO ACTIVATE ITS POWERFUL POWER! (SOME FIZZING WHEN THE BAKING SODA IS ADDED.)

 

·         DIY LAUNDRY DETERGENT – EASY, CHEAP AND WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE?

- 1 SMALL OXI CLEAN BOTTLE

- 1 BOX OF BORAX

- 1 BOX OF BAKING SODA

- 1 GRATED NAPA BAR SOAP

o   MIX THESE INGREDIENTS ONCE AND USE THEM FOR OVER 3 MONTHS, STORE IN AIR TIGHT CONTAINER IN A DARK PLACE. WHITES COME OUR BRIGHT WHITE WITH COLD WATER AND CLOTHES SMELL FRESH!

 

·         WEDNESDAY DINNER SAVER – A QUICK MEAL THAT GETS ME OVER THE WEEK’S HUMP.

- 1 PCKG OF SOFT TORTILLAS

- 1 PCKG OF MOZZARELLA SHREDDED CHEESE

- 1 CUP OF ROTISSERIE SHREDDED CHICKEN

- 1 SLICED AVOCADO

- GREEK YOGURT DRESSING (SALT, PEPPER, SMOKED PAPRIKA)

o   SAVORY AND QUICK DINNER AND CAN BE EASILY REPLACED WITH OTHER INGREDIENTS, SUCH AS PULLED PORK & BBQ, CHICKEN BUFFALO, ONION PEPPER AND TOMATO,ETC

LIFE CAN BE EASY OR DIFFICULT BUT IT IS UP TO YOU TO TAKE THE CHALLENGE AND FIND OUT!

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

    IT IS LACK OF FAITH THAT MAKES PEOPLE AFRAID OF MEETING CHALLENGES, AND I BELIEVE IN MYSELF  -  MUHAMMAD ALI

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King Corn – It’s looming over us

Mar 18 2014 • Posted by

Earlier this week, I saw a documentary on the corn industry in the American Midwest called King Corn. These two regular guys from Taunton, my hometwon, went off to find out more about how the corn industry works. What they found was extremely shocking. For just growing the corn, the government gives massive subsidies. You make more from the government than you do selling the corn itself. That was the first part that made me angry. The next part was the way the cows were handled and treated at the ranches. Their 80% diet of corn makes them extremely sick. Cows stomachs are not designed to digest that amount of starch, therefore giving them ulcers and open wounds that go straight into their stomachs.

Not only are the cows getting sick, they have literally no room to move around. That is by design to fatten them up as quickly as possible to get to the slaughterhouse faster. Not only does the corn make the cows sick, it is making us sick as well especially through diabetes. The amount of high fructose corn syrup that I found in my own pantry made me panic. I feel overwhelmed by it. The documentary did not leave a good taste in my mouth and I know, from now on, I will be actively avoiding high fructose corn syrup as much as possible. This documentary also strongly inspired me to keep to my “no more soda” decision. I’ll try to get as many people as I can to watch this because this is something that is not OK anymore. Not even the farmers who grow the corn want to eat it and people need to be aware of that.

Personally, however, I am comforted by the fact that the milk we get comes from Monroe Dairy in Rhode Island. If you haven’t tried their milk or other products, I highly recommend you do as soon as possible. Their cows sleep on WATERBEDS. These cows are less stressed and produce better products. If there is any hope,  it is from places like Monroe Dairy.

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Michael Broadbent’s Efficient Dorm – Week 3

Mar 17 2014 • Posted by

Week 3.  Not much has changed.  I continue to endlessly march forward in my quest to live more efficiently.  But the march has become a slog – I’ve figured out all of the obvious issues.  I’ve even decided on a solution for the water situation (I’ve begun buying much larger containers of water and using more re-usable containers).  Once all creative solutions and free-thinking are through, all that’s left is repetition and work.  There’s no excitement to that!  What joy is there to be found in doing the same thing I did yesterday?  Is it really an accomplishment, continuing to do something I’m already doing?  Or am I simply setting my own standards too high – looking for constant improvement at a rate that is simply unrealistic?

Perhaps I should review what I’ve done from the beginning.  I’ve ensured that all my unused appliances and electronics are unplugged whenever possible.  I’ve begun taking shorter showers.  I’ve made sure to recycle anything that can be recycled.  Lastly, I’ve changed the way I acquire drinking water to reduce waste.  I drive less so as to conserve gas.  When I list everything I’ve done in a row like that, it doesn’t seem like a lot.  Read aloud, it sounds almost as if I’ve barely begun.  But there isn’t much that I do in my life.  I’m the kind of person who’s satisfied with little more than a computer and perhaps a book or two.  However, in any situation, there is always improvement to be made – fat to be cut.  There is more that I can do.  There has to be.  I just have to figure out what, why, and how.

Maybe I need to re-analyze things I take for granted.  What kind of potentially waste-creating things do I do that are so “normal” that I don’t even think about it?  Perhaps I… use too many napkins?  After all, disposable paper DOES end up as waste.  But what’s the alternative?  Using a washable cloth of some kind would create less paper-waste, sure, but the water and soap usage would just cancel out any efficiency gained.  Should I eat more food that doesn’t need to be cooked?  Stop using heat or air conditioning when I’m in my car?  Become a hermit in the woods, and live off the land?

I’m definitely over-thinking this, but hey, at least it makes for moderately interesting blogging.  My internal conflict and slow descent into madness will likely continue next week.  I’m going to have to start getting needlessly poetic to keep these things interesting!  STAY TUNED.

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Drinking Out of Straws

Mar 17 2014 • Posted by

It’s been a good two weeks since I checked in with my sustainability goal of creating less and less plastic waste. I’m certainty more conscious of my output, but I can’t say I’m as earth friendly of a person as I would hope to be.

I am guilty of using plastic straws at restaurants and takeout places! Every time I drink from a straw I imagine baby turtles, seals, and dolphins choking on these non-biodegradable pieces of plastic. Why exactly do we drink out of straws? From the time we were small children (and all through adulthood) restaurants provide us with the norm of drinking out of straws for “sanitary reasons.” I’m all for being sanitary and healthy when it comes to food, but I often stop and think- why do we need straws for drinking when the glasses we use have been washed and sterilized by a dishwasher?

If drinking directly out of clean glasses at restaurants seems sketchy because other people used them, then we  should be avoiding restaurants. If straws are needed to ensure cleanliness, then we would be eating off of only single-use items. I don’t think people want to i use paper plates and plastic utensils for fine dining experiences!

If people are okay with using forks and knives that have been washed, why is it socially expected to drink from a straw rather than right from the glass at restaurants? Why is it okay to drink from a wine glass without a straw, but not a soft-drink glass? Just imagine the amount of waste that would be saved if every restaurant stopped automatically serving their drinks with straws. If straws weren’t given, people would have to ask for them. And people may not notice or they may realize that yes, we can get on without straws.

Next time I give my drink order,  I’m going to remember to explicitly request no straw with my beverage. If enough people begin doing this, waitresses will automatically ask their customers if they would like to drink from a straw. That would be pretty neat.

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Michael Broadbent’s Efficient Dorm – Week 1

Mar 07 2014 • Posted by

Seven days have passed since I first began my goal: to reduce my energy usage in my college dorm.  It started easily, of course.  I began by unplugging everything that wasn’t currently in use – my microwave (which I almost never use anyway), printer, phone charger, etc.  At first, I felt pretty good about that, until a little thought in the back of my brain spoke up:  ”Michael!” it said, ” You have to do more than that to save the world!  A few unplugged appliances aren’t going to save the Earth!”  I nodded in agreement with my own brain – it made a good point, after all.

My dorm is littered with used water bottles – the water that comes from our sinks in our bathroom is… less than drinkable, so water needs to be purchased from stores and brought here.  Normally, I’d buy water bottles in bulk and use them whenever I get thirsty, and recycle them after I was finished.  However, plastic water bottles, even when recycled, are terrible for the environment.  At this point, I have two choices – both of which involve reusable water bottles in some fashion.  I could use reusable water bottles to get water from the sinks in the bathroom.  This is probably the most environmentally-friendly of the two options, though it would turn drinking water- one of my favorite activities – into something horrible indeed.  The other option would be to buy large 1-2 gallon containers of water from a store to fill my reusable water bottles.  This would still create plastic waste, but a lot less of it.  Hopefully, there’s a third option somewhere that I just haven’t discovered yet, which is better than either of the two options.

Sadly, that’s all the real progress I’ve made over the past week – not much (at all), but it’s a start.  Remembering to keep things I’m not using unplugged is slightly tougher than I expected.  Forming new habits is never easy.  Hopefully I’ll be able to make more significant progress in the future.  I’ve got a lot more research and brainstorming to do!

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