First-ever “Bike, Walk, Bus” event a success, saving 452 lbs. of carbon

 

On Tuesday, October 15, the Climate Action team had their “Bike,

Photo by: Environmental Center

Walk, Bus” event on campus, where we had prizes for people that commuted to school cleanly. The goal for this whole event was to encourage people to take advantage of all of the alternative means of transportation that can be found in the Durango area. Through informally questioning people on campus, we found some didn’t have a Durango Transit sticker on the back of their Skycard, which inhibits them from taking the transit and is making them lose money. As a transit bus pass is purchased through student fees, by not using it, one is in turn losing money. We registered students at our table with Durango Transit, furthering clean commuting practices and helping students to take advantage of the transit service available to them.

The big attraction for our Climate Action table was the “Bike Blender,” provided to us by Turtle Lake Refuge.  This seemed to be a main attractor and good selling point to people in passing. We peaked the passerby’s interest in our Bike, Walk, Bus event by offering free samples of smoothie, trying to get across the message that self-powered pedaling reaped large rewards.  One of the pitches we used to get people to participate was, “Burn calories to make your food!”

We tried to demonstrate how the energy of self-powering the blender was a simple investment of one’s energy, which is the same with choosing to clean commute.  A raffle included clean commuters who signed up at the table; those picked were able to receive giveaways such as helmets for skateboarding, snowboarding and bike riding, all thanks to the organization, Gray Matters.  This was another hook in order for us to relay educational information of the need to commute sustainably, emphasizing it can be an easy process.  We also explained that even if no other option is available to get to school but driving one’s own car to campus, at least find ways to carpool.

Throughout the day of tracking, we saved 452 pounds of carbon based on those who clean commuted and participated in the event. We had 120 bikers, 72 bus goers, 88 walkers, 132 carpoolers and 40 that were classified as other means, such as skate and long boarders, and those who just enjoy rollerblading. Considering this was the first occurrence of this event, the amount of people that participated were a great turnout.

 

By Dylan Malewska, Climate Action Team member

The consequences of commodity consumption

Many aspects of our daily lives include the use of a disposable material, whether it is made of plastic, paper or metals. All of these items come from a resource somewhere on earth, and while a zero waste standard is undoubtedly unachievable, reducing their use to attain a higher level of efficiency is crucial. In regards to paper coffee cups, it may be easy to imagine the consequences of using them, like millions of trees cut down and the emission of greenhouse gases. The word “paper” may make seem like less of an impact, but most coffee cups are coated with polyethylene, making composting very uncommon. In a report done by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (April 2000), they stated, “…the majority of customers take their hot beverages in disposable paper cups lined with polyethylene and topped with a polystyrene lid. In the past, two paper cups were frequently nested together for better insulation”. The fundamental design of the paper coffee cup and Styrofoam cups is the main contributor to these negative impacts, as they’re one-time-use materials.

Single-use products waste the environment, symbolized by this coffee cup disposed of improperly and only after one use.
Photo by: Environmental Action Association

The number of coffee cups used by Americans on a daily basis is very staggering, and with the majority of Americans drinking coffee regularly, the waste adds up at a very tremendous rate. “Over 50 percent of Americans over 18 years of age drink coffee every day. This represents over 150 million daily drinkers. It means that Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day or equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world” (Environmental Action Association). On top of using 400 million cups for coffee a day, the amount of waste this produces is remarkable, and disposable containers, like coffee cups, make up a significant segment of American trash output. “These disposable containers make up 18 percent of America’s garbage, and beverage cups made of virgin paper or Styrofoam make up a large chunk of that waste”  (Environmental Action Association). That is a very high rate of waste output for a one-time-use disposable commodity. Not only is it unnecessary, but in this country, it has become way too easy to be wasteful.  This rate of consumption is having serious effects on our environment: “Each paper cup manufactured is responsible for 0.24 lbs. of CO2 emissions” (Environmental Action Association). That means that if we throw away just half of the cups we currently consume, there is still going to be 48 million pounds of CO2 emissions delivered by Americans straight into the atmosphere every day. Paper cups also play a small part in deforestation: “…more than 6.5 million trees were cut down in 2006 to create the 16 billion paper cups thrown away” (Tabakin). With this in mind, the solution does not just call for more biodegradable and compost-able containers, but for an elimination of our overall output of waste itself.

Using reusable cups or mugs is the best way to make a difference, and while there still are environmental impacts in their production, over time it is much less wasteful, and can even be cost effective. “A study done by sustainability engineer Pablo Päster found that one stainless steel mug is equivalent to 24 paper cups in terms of material intensity” (Carry Your Cup). The long run is what counts when searching for more efficient material use, and reusing is the most maintainable way to reduce the negative characteristics of using paper cups. Choose to re-use!

Works Cited

“A Report of the Starbucks Coffee Company.” Alliance for Environmental Innovation Joint Task Force.  15 April. 2000. Web. 19 Feb. 2013

“Carry Your Cup.” Get the Facts. 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

“Save a Cup, Save the Earth.” Environmental Action Association. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Tabakin, Dudley. “Deforestation and Coffee Cups.” Blogspot.com. 1 Feb 2009. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Image from: http://www.environmentaa.org/images/image24.jpg

 

By Russell Penasa, Zero Waste Team member

Colorado flooding – exposing the risks of riverside oil wells

Photo by: John Wark, AP

In the past month, it seems that environmental cataclysms are moving closer to home. The recent catastrophic floods in northern Colorado have done quite a bit of damage. Ten people died in the flooding, and about 18,000 houses were impacted by the floods. The residents are still attempting to clear up the damage from the floods, and it will continue to be a lot of work. However, besides these apparent damages, oil and gas wells were also affected. Weld County is the center of oil and gas drilling in Colorado, and it was unfortunately heavily affected by the flooding. The county contains about 20,000 oil and gas wells, many of which sit along the southern floodplains of the Platte River. The wells are supposed to be very sturdy, but the intense flooding swept debris down the river, breaking pipes and spilling about 37,000 gallons of oil (as currently estimated). The Colorado Oil and Gas Association argues that compared to all of the other damage, this amount of oil spilled should not be of concern.

Environmentalists take a different stance on this matter. They worry that water sources are now contaminated from this spillage, small as it may seem. Because most of the damaged oil and gas wells are on the floodplains of the river, the oil wouldn’t have to travel very far to seep into the water sources. In addition, any spilled oil could easily leak into groundwater no matter where it was. Environmentalists are taking this chance to point out the risks of riverside oil wells. They wanted all drilling to be stopped to take a look at damage, but currently only the 1,900 damaged wells have been shut down, while the rest continue to run to fuel our addiction to fossil fuels.

This fall, there are several towns in Colorado that are going to be voting on banning fracking, following suit of Longmont’s decision to ban it last year. It will be interesting to see whether this oil spill will have any effect on these ballot decisions. Unfortunately, I think it is these disastrous events that make people take action against climate change. When the dangers are close to home people tend to take more of an interest in doing something to make their homes safer. In this case, the potential contamination of water sources may make Colorado residents reconsider our system of continuously taking a nonrenewable resource out of our earth.

Information from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/27/us/after-the-floods-a-deluge-of-worry-about-oil.html?ref=earth&_r=0

For more information visit:

Fracking: http://www.what-is-fracking.com/

Colorado Flooding: http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/09/25/colorado-flood-report/2870191/

Here are some crazy pictures of the flooding: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/09/historic-flooding-across-colorado/100591/

By Jessica Smyke, Zero Waste Team member