My Weight in Carbon

About week ago my lab instructor handed the class a packet and told us lab was cancelled and we would be using the time to calculate our carbon foot print and coming up with ways to reduce it. He sent us out the door with the warning “don’t procrastinate on this” and away we went. A few days before the lab was due I pulled it out and started reading, I was asked to go to the EPA website and use their carbon calculator to figure out my or my family’s weight in carbon. I live in the dorms so I figured I’d ring home, get my numbers and do the assignment. I have always considered myself “green”, I took the bus to and from school almost every day in high school, I’ve been using green shopping bags since before they we’re in and I’ve been avidly recycling and pushing others to do so since I was 12. So I’m sure you can imagine my shock and disbelief when my weight in carbon was 26,730 POUNDS. The weight for the average American is 20,750 pounds. Not only was my carbon foot print big, it was obese. I felt shocked and hypocritical so I’ve come up with some ways that I am committing to shrinking that MASSIVE number.
To begin, I feel it is important to point out that the EPA survey only asked about household things like cars and commuting, heating the home and recycling so this bulky number is a number that doesn’t take into account the clothes I wear, the food I eat and the stuff I buy, all things that if looked at critically would make my foot print even bigger. So to start I can work these personal things down. As far as my diet goes, committing to not eating meat is a huge step that I could take to shrinking this big foot sized carbon print. Since this is a tough first step and since I already don’t eat red meat I can commit to ONLY eating local, organic meat that doesn’t travel cross country to end up on my plate. I can also swear to shop organically, locally and with my own personal reusable bag (courtesy of the FLC Environmental Center).
These steps are easy to do on my own but the big steps come from the data I got from the EPA, aka my morbidly obese carbon foot print. The data I used was all data from my house, parents and little brother which means they also have obese carbon foot prints despite recycling and flicking the switch off when the leave a room. The true way to reduce my carbon foot print to a manageable size is going to come from working with my family.
To being we have got to use less heat and electricity, switching out light bulbs and turning things off when we leave the house, even if it’s just a quick walk around the park with the dogs. This could save us a ton in electricity and heating costs as well as reduce our foot prints. Another thing we as a family can do is drive less. My younger brother takes the bus to school, but this is because he can’t legally drive yet. He is looking forward to the convince of a car. I take the bus whenever I’m home but to be honest it’s because I wrecked my car a couple months back, the universe telling me to get on public transportation no doubt. Keeping my brother on the bus is a good step, but getting my parents on a bus is a tougher one. My home town has a crappy bus system where residents feel the only way to do anything in a timely fashion is to drive there. Showing the city we need a better bus system is a huge project to take on that would reduce the whole town’s carbon output. A simpler way to encourage the use of public transportation is to promote biking and walking to work and carpooling when necessary. If my parents start doing this they can inspire their colleagues, and they can inspire their families, so on and so forth. In theory a pay it forward system starts and everyone is feeling greener.
Aside from heating and cooling, busing, walking and biking something we can do is use less plastic. Less plastic pop bottles, plastic wrap, plastic silverware and plastic containers. Plastic is pure evil and results in the use of a lot of carbon to produce. If we minimize this in our lives we will no doubt shrink some of our footprint. Another thing we can do is look into green energy. My idealist dad has wanted to strap solar panels to our roof for as long as I can remember and now would be the time to jump on that. For the longest time I thought he was a crazy dreamer but green energy was at the top of the suggestion list from the EPA.
There are a lot of things we can do to reduce our foot prints and become “below the average American.” I’m going to start with the things I can from campus and one of these things that’s easiest to do is educate my friends and family. I heard a speaker say once, “we all have one small thing that we can do, what’s yours going to be?” so I’m declaring my “one small thing” educate those around me and take on all the tasks mentioned above; eating, shopping and busing locally as well as supporting my dad in his solar energy crusade. I know that by this time next year I can shrink my foot print as well as my families, all it takes is a little energy.

By: Morgan Boaman

Honey, do you remember when we had honey?

Bees

Did you know the honey bees are disappearing? Biologists are still unsure of the exact cause, but in recent years populations of bees have dropped as much as 70% due to this problem now called colony collapse disorder (CCD). If we lose the honey bee, we don’t just lose honey (although that in itself would be terrible!) we lose all the crops that rely on the bee for pollination. (About 1/3 of our food!)

What can you do to save the honey bee???

  1. Avoid leading a chemical-laden life. Chemicals are believed to be a major cause of CCD. During their daily pollination rounds, honeybees pick up the chemical pesticides and herbicides that are so widely used in modern industrial agriculture. Commercial bee-hives also directly spray the beehives to keep destructive mites away. Try and make your life as chemical-free as you can and encourage others to do the same. Consider what foods you are eating, what personal products you use and use compost or compost tea instead of chemical fertilizers for lawn/garden care.
  2. Eat good, real foods! Another leading suspect of CCD is genetically modified crops, which may generate pollen with compromised nutritional value. Organic bee colonies, where chemicals and genetically modified crops are avoided, are not experiencing the same kind of catastrophic collapses. So if you buy honey, buy organic or local (which can also help you ward off allergies) instead of honey from large corporations. The flavor alone is worth the extra cost!
  3. Take a break from your phone and play in nature without technology. Growing numbers of cell-phone users and wireless communication towers have led to an increase in atmospheric electromagnetic radiation which may interfere with bees’ ability to navigate. One German study found that bees would not return to their hives when mobile phones were placed nearby.
  4. Lower your overall environmental impact and encourage others to do the same. Global warming may amplify the growth rates of pathogens such as the mites, viruses and fungi that are known to hurt bee colonies. Turn off your lights, ride bikes, and question your consumption!
  5. Tell the EPA and USDA to ban Bayer’s insecticide imidacloprid! (Which could be a major cause of CCD) To write your senators go to: http://www.capwiz.com/grassrootsnetroots/mailapp/
  6. Learn more! Research the problem and watch: http://www.vanishingbees.com/trailer/

~ Kate Shavel

Honey At The Table
It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees – – – a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found.

Mary Oliver

Follow Up: Food Retreat 2011

This year, the Home Grown Food Retreat was more than a success. With more than 100 community members and students gathering in the Vallecito Room* on the Fort Lewis College campus, many ideas were expressed, and some spurred action right in that very room. Keynote Speaker Mark Winne showed a great example of how his community in Sane Fe is working to advance food security in small and simple steps. His precedence initiated an endeavor by the citizens of Durango to form our very own local food council, which will be working to make Durango a better place in the “food” atmosphere of our community. Although Durango is very focused on the “loca-vore” food movement, there are many places we can expand in food culture to make our city a food advocate example for the rest of the country.
There were four main speakers from the Durango community that put on great workshops for everyone to choose from. These workshops included a demonstration of having local homegrown food year around, gardens as a means for strengthening our youth and community, climate considerations, garden planning and design, and also voting with your wallet, how shopping local determines the community economy.
Overall, there was a wonderful turnout this year, that encouraged change to make a difference in the Durango community. Everyone from the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center would like to give a big thanks to everyone who contributed, and the the community members who participated, and especially to ours speaker, Mark Winne. We can’t wait for next year!

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”