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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Moving Forward

Mar 03 2014 • Posted by

Last week I came up with a few, personal, sustainability goals that I felt would make an immediate difference in my everyday life. If I remember correctly, they are: 1) Drink less soda 2) Buy a reusable container 3) Reduce energy usage in my own room/buy a power strip 4) Take shorter showers. So far, I think I am doing well with most of these. I bought a thermos for everyday usage and I usually make tea in it for classes. I don’t have to buy anything from the vending machines anymore which is quite nice. I know those dollars will add up eventually. It also stops me from adding to the waste of the school, even if they can be recycled. I have found that I run out of tea pretty quickly throughout the day so I started bringing more tea bags with me to stop me from drinking soda. I guess I’m killing two birds with one stone there.

I also scrounged around at home and found some power strips that apparently no one was using. Good news for me, right? I have just about all of my commonly used electronics plugged into one strip and when I remember, I make sure to shut it off before I leave for the day. I forgot a couple times because I was in a rush. I’ll have to think of something that helps me remember. Maybe I’ll leave my laptop on that side of the desk instead of near my bed because I bring my laptop with me everywhere.

The last thing is my most difficult task to modify: shorter showers. I don’t like singing in the shower so I let my phone play internet radio on its own battery. I’m still working on a solution to that.

As for this week, I’d say my goals are to figure out some sort of musically limited shower solution and try and convince my mom to become more sustainable. I’ll start small with her the same way I started. Travel mugs, eating out less, and eventually buying new light bulbs for the house. We definitely need them. Especially in a house with 4 guys who are terrible at shutting lights off.

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Week 1 was a go!

Mar 03 2014 • Posted by

I have to say that my first week went pretty well when it came to sticking with my goal.

There was one day when I forgot my cup. It was Tuesday, and I ended up getting an iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. I was shocked when the employee automatically put a Styrofoam cup underneath my plastic cup.

I happen to work at a Dunkin’ Donuts one day a week. After going through the training for The Challenge and seeing how waste can affect my carbon footprint and how humans have such a big impact, it opened my eyes to all the wrong things my fellow employees and I were doing.

The amount of plastic cups and Styrofoam cups that are just thrown away because they were marked wrong or fell on the ground was astonishing. I am hoping to talk to my manager and try to come up with some ways to reduce the amount of wasted plastic throughout the store.

Also, I really want to work on my ability to chose to recycle. I am so negligent when it comes to recycling!  I’m definitely one of those people who just throws things away because it’s convenient. For some reason I have it in my head that walking to the recycling bin is so much more work than throwing it away. I know my mindset will change.


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Andrew Breiter-Wu…

Mar 03 2014 • Posted by

Not to be cliché, but I felt like I was born with a destiny to make a difference in the world. Throughout my life, I have made progress toward my goal of saving the environment. As early as age three, I realized the difference in environmental quality when my family visited Taiwan. The smog and strong smell of sulfur filled the air in Taipei. The air pollution was so strong that my eyes watered continuously. When I came home from the awful environmental conditions in China, I knew that I didn’t want the same thing to happen in America. So I took the first step and began recycling in my home. This wasn’t a popular thing to do at the time, but I knew the benefits of recycling would pay off in the long run.

In middle school I expanded upon my recycling efforts. At my house, I designed an entire composting system to reduce the amount of trash that we produced. This helped me to reduce so much trash that we only had one bag of trash per month. This was also the age that I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in environmental engineering.

In high school I become involved in major actions.  I joined the Seekonk Land Conservation Trust, meeting people in the environmental field. I was nominated to the Recycling Committee, placing me in a political position to make changes in the recycling program in my town.

I’ve taken a lot of steps to implement change, but I realized that I needed to speed up the process to spread the word and educate the public. This is when the opportunity to work for the SouthCoast Energy Challenge came along. It was the perfect outlet to share my passion for preserving the environment and educating the public. This semester, as a lead intern, I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm and guiding the new interns to a successful semester.

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Michael Broadbent’s Efficient Dorm Living Adventure

Mar 03 2014 • Posted by

The year is the future.  Humanity’s years of irresponsible energy usage and pollution have finally come home to roost.  An aging and sickly man slowly hobbles forward across the desolate wasteland.  The ground is soft – moist with undrinkable water, and more like sand than dirt.  Very little vegetation remains, most having long since withered and died from the unending and blistering heat.  The man pauses for a second, grimaces, and then spits out a tooth.  Examining it, he frowns.  That was his last one.  A woman, even more elderly and sickly, approaches.  In her former life, she was a physician, but now she is simply another wanderer, one of the last vestiges of humanity.  ”Tell me doctor,” the man says, struggling to muster the energy to speak, “How could all of this been prevented?  Was there anything we could have done?  That I could have done?”  The woman thinks for a moment, and then shrugs.  ”I guess if just one more dumb college kid wasn’t so energy inefficient in their dorm, it all could have been avoided.  It was pretty close, honestly.”  The man, upon hearing this, begins crying tears of guilt and falls to his knees.  The reason for this is quite simple: that old man is me, and I am a dumb college kid living in an energy inefficient dorm.

However, the year is not yet the future.  The environmental disaster can still be prevented (or, at the very least, mitigated somewhat), and I will do my best to contribute.  My plan is simple – take whatever actions possible to make my personal college dorm less wasteful and more efficient.  This will likely require a large number of small actions rather than one simple (yet large) lifestyle change.

To start, the simplest thing to do would be to ensure nothing is plugged in unless I am using it.  Phantom energy isn’t just limited to computers and electronics – things such as plugged-in cell phones and appliances can leech energy as well.  Beyond that, things start to get a bit more complicated.  Since I have to bring my own drinkable water, I tend to go through a lot of plastic water bottles.  Much of my food is packaged in plastic as well.  I should try to buy more things in bulk rather than in individual bottles or bags.

There are surely more things that I could do beyond those, but more research is required.  For now, it is my goal to simply use less. To aid in my quest, I can use educational websites, and the campus resources provided rather than buying things for myself.  The main barrier to my success is my own hubris and laziness – nothing I plan to do is ‘hard’ per se, but it’ll be a major change in habit, and that always takes a lot of effort.  To remember, I’ll simply put something noticeable on my desk that isn’t normally there.  Every time I see it, I’ll think “Oh right, I’m supposed to not be wasting energy,” and hopefully continue my efficiency journey as planned.  This isn’t something I can just do every once in a while – it will require a constant stream of effort and a complete change in lifestyle.  My family, friends, and roommate will likely be able to help me, at least in some way, so I will make sure not to disregard them.

If I succeed, I’ll lead a cleaner, healthier, cheaper, and more efficient life.  Though, admittedly, I won’t be seeing most of the financial benefits since energy usage doesn’t affect how much tuition costs. These new habits will hopefully stay with me as I move forward in life.  If I fail, my lifestyle will continue to be unhealthy and wasteful.  Also, the aforementioned apocalypse.

My journey begins now!  Or, rather, in a couple of days when I go back to my dorm.  Either way, relatively soon.  Stay tuned!

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Research and Accountability

Feb 24 2014 • Posted by

The numbers are staggering. I spent a long researching and crunching the numbers and admit that I am embarrassed to even share my findings.  However, follow through with commitments, so here it is..

My family’s food CO2 is above average at 47,313 lbs/week.

I expected we would come out above average which, in the case of CO2 consumption, is obviously not a good thing.

What shocks and shames me is our ratio of CO2 consumed by eating out versus eating at home.

Our take home groceries averages 15,711 lbs/CO2 per week. This means the difference of 31,602 lbs is accumulated by eating out.

For every one meal we eat at/from home, we eat out twice? Or maybe the  a 2:1 ratio is  based on the fact that I could buy a wee’ks worth of groceries on what is spent on one meal out?

These are preliminary findings and additional work is required.


Home – 6.2%
Travel -16.1%
Food – 66.6%
Your Totals: 47,313lbs CO2
Average Household of 4 people: 30,395lbs CO2

Stuff – 3.3%
Trash – 7.8%

Tomorrow marks seven days and I can tell you this:

My saving go-to food this week has been spinach wraps. A big box of organic spinach costs $7. The healthy(ish) oat/flax wraps I buy are also about $7 and there are 8 wraps in a package. (I buy two at a time) The hom made salad dressing I make from plain greek yogurt with seasonings costs approx $7 too! WOW. The power of 7′s! I didn’t plan that or make it up. And it trumps my 6′s above. (Did anyone else notice the 6′s? yikes!)

This means that, for $28, I can make SIXTEEN meals! For a family of four, that’s about the cost of one trip to the worst, cheapest, fast food places there is. I think I picked a great goal for us and see nothing but good for all of us coming from this.

I hope to share not only a reduced carbon footprint, but financial benefits soon

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Taking Off the Rose-tinted Glasses

Feb 18 2014 • Posted by

I’m new here at the Challenge, but I feel that I am definitely in the right place.

Have you ever seen a movie or heard a song that, after seeing, you can’t help relate everything in the real world to? In a way, that’s how I’m currently feeling. After training and learning all about how deep our impact would be if we simply changed how we saw convenience, I’m slowly but surely starting to see new ways I can change my behavior. I’m starting to see my daily routine in terms of sustainability. Granted, I still have my habits and those are going to be difficult to change, but I think if I keep that mindset, I will slowly but surely become more sustainable as an individual. Once that happens, I can pass that on to my family. Currently, I live with five other people at home. You can imagine how difficult it can be to conserve water and how expensive it can be to go out to eat. I know it’s going to be difficult to rub off on the rest of them, but I guess the saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is applicable here.

I have set a few personal goals for the beginning of my time here, and I’m sure the list will grow. I know I need to drink less soda. It has been something I have been working on previously, but due to its’ convenience, it has been so difficult. I think one key way to cut down is to start bringing my own bottle filled with water or tea with me in a reusable bottle. Another goal is to minimize the amount of electronics used in my room. Let’s be honest, my game station in my room is a force to be reckoned with. I have game consoles ranging generations, a TV the size of a car door, and a sound system that I know I can keep my neighbors awake with. One of the main things I know I should be doing is cutting off the power to the items I’m not currently using. I need to buy another power strip so I can plug in those specific systems that don’t get as much usage so I can switch off their power completely. Finally, on my list, is the length of showers. Who doesn’t love a good, long shower? Especially during this time of year. Well, as much as I love them, I know I need to start taking shorter ones. Personally, I think the best way I can do this is set up a playlist on my iPod and make sure the songs are shorter than a certain amount of time and try to get out before the playlist is over.

Once I’ve become more comfortable with those changes, I will definitely be adding more on the list. Personally, it will be easier for me to focus on just a few small things at a time so I can put much more effort into them instead of spreading my energy out too thin. I will be tracking my progress and, more than likely, posting it in these blogs. Thanks for tuning in.


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Romina’s Sustainability Goal

Feb 17 2014 • Posted by

Start Date: February 15th, 2014 (1:00 PM) 

My goals for the next 60 days are:

  • To stop using plastic bags
  • To stop eating out
  • To turn the heat down when I  leave your house

To Accomplish This:

  • Actions needed to achieve my goals?
  • To stop plastic bags usage:
  • Make sure to have reusable bags in my car at all times.
  • Remind myself my goal (Sticky notes in my car, refrigerator, doors etc.)
  • Conditioning myself to complete my goal.
  • Do more research about the topic to learn more and stay engage on my mission.
  • To stop eating out:
  • Write down the things I want to cook for the week.
  • Go grocery shopping & bring my OWN REUSABLE BAGS!
  • Keep a food journal
  • Try to engage the ones around me to do the same.
  • To turn heat down when leaving the house and unplug electronics:
  • Make sure to have reminders around the house and in my car.
  • Write down a list and check it off daily.
  • What resources are at my disposal?
    • Grocery Stores
    • Farmers Markets
    • Quality time with friends and family
  • What is the barrier to my success?
  • Giving into what’s easy and convenient
  • Feeling pressure by friends
  • What is the plan?
    • Stay Motivated
    • Look at new recipes and keep it interesting
    • Involve family and friends
    • Track days accomplished
    • Acknowledge the difference I’m making
  • What are you going to do to remember?
    • STICKY NOTES (my new best friend)
    • Phone Reminders
    • My Journal
    • Updating my blog
  • How often will I be doing this?
    • I want to make it a lifestyle
    • Aim to not go out to eat for the next 60 days and after completing my goal, go out to eat only once a week.
  • Who can I ask help from?
    • Family, friends, boyfriend and coworkers.
  • What will I earn if I succeed?
    • Personal satisfaction for completing my goal and making a change.
    • Reduced carbon footprint
    • Save money
    • Make better eating choices
  • What happens if I fail?
    • Continue my bad habits, lose the chance to save money, and not be able to contribute to reducing my carbon footprint. 

We’ll see what happens! I have a very good feeling about this. Stay Tuned for updates of my challenge. 

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Catherine’s Sustainability Goal

Feb 17 2014 • Posted by

My goal for this semester, and hopefully for a longer period of time, is to reduce or eliminate the usage of plastic cups and/or Styrofoam when buying coffee. Here’s my plan of action, while answering the questions presented during the training:

1. Describe the actions needed to achieve that goal, in detail: 

I will make sure I have clean, reusable cups ready in the morning.  I am hoping that I won’t even buy a coffee from a franchise and just make it at home. Also, I am planning on keeping a spare mug in my car, just in case I forget.

2. What resources are at your disposal?

Homemade coffee, the number of reusable cups that I own, and the willpower that I have to accomplish this.

3. What are you going to do to remember?

I am going to set an alarm to remind me when I get up, and planning on leaving my reusable cup either by the door or by my coffee machine.

4. How often are you going to do this?

The plan is for this spring semester, but I am hoping that the habit will stick and I will continue with it for a longer period of time.

5. What do I earn if I succeed?

First of all, I will help to reduce my carbon footprint. I will also be saving money with using my reusable cup or just by making coffee at home.

I was reading an article the other day on the Earth Resource Foundation website about the effects of Styrofoam on the environment. Styrofoam contains a chemical called Styrene that can be released into your food or coffee when heated up. There are some minor and major health effects that go along with that. In addition to that, if you think you’re recycling your Styrofoam, you’re more than likely not. Plants that recycle Styrofoam are becoming increasingly obsolete, so all those products that we thought we were recycling are just going to the landfills.


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