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

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”

Zach Conde: A Look at the NEW EC Intern and His Projects

My name is Zach Conde and I am doing an internship at the Environmental Center. I have joined the Zero Waste team, and I am working on auditing the Sustainability Action Plan. I started my internship at the beginning of the semester and I have jumped into many great projects and I am already having a blast doing them.

First of all I would like to comment on what a great group of people that are involved in all aspects of the EC. They have welcomed me with open arms and have been awesome in helping me transition to a new work environment. From the time Rebecca Schild told me I could do my internship at the EC until now, everyone has been very friendly and nice. So a big thanks to all my coworkers!

The Zero Waste team that I have joined is a group with many great ideas and we have some really cool projects going on. Our “Conservation Campaign” has multiple themes which change every month.

We have started out with “reuse” for the month of February. For this we have focused on trying make the campus community aware of how many things can and should be reused instead of just being thrown away. For this you may have seen our “free Store” which has been in and around the student union building every Thursday. Here students can drop off items to the EC, and they are showcased and given away for free on Thursdays to anyone who wants them. We also had a reusable bag decoration table set up in the student union building on Thursday February 17th, where we had free reusable bags for students to decorate and use for many years to come. We also are hosting a “get crafty” competition which invites students to send a picture of themselves and their reused item via email to ec_waste@fortlewis.edu. These pictures are due by Friday February 25th 2011, and we will be holding a table in or outside the student union building on Monday February 28th to have people vote for who they think has the most useful, most creative and most reused material. The winners will be awarded with gift certificates to local businesses. If you haven’t submitted anything yet, do so immediately because YOU could be a winner!

For the month of March we plan to have the theme of “recycle”. For this we will be focusing on making the campus community more aware of the impacts they can have on the planet by recycling or not. We will be having tables set up once a week with demonstrations on how to recycle properly. We will also be providing each residence hall with new recycle bins, and allow people from each hall decorate their bins as they see fit.

The month of April will be dedicated to “reduce”. Here we will be focusing on trying to make the campus community have a smaller impact on the environment by reducing the amount of consumption. We will be showing the movie “Tapped” to make people more aware of the impacts of bottled water. We will also be promoting reusable water bottles instead of single use plastic water bottles.

I am also working individually on auditing the Sustainability Action Plan. This is a Plan that has a goal to make Fort Lewis a more sustainable campus. It is a very comprehensive plan with many small goals within the big goals that have been set. Improving our sustainable performance, making the community more educated and engaged on becoming more sustainable, providing service, research and partnerships to the entire region, and getting coordination and support from the community are the main goals to the plan.

Stewardship is a goal within performance which strives to decrease and maximize our water use on campus, maximize our land use on campus, and make the surrounding environment as healthy as possible. Another goal within performance is consumption which strives to reduce our purchasing consumption, reduce our waste stream, and increase our recycling rates. The last big goal within performance is climate. This goal is to build more sustainable buildings, decrease our overall energy on campus, and reduce our impacts to the earth from transportation.

Education and Engagement is a big goal for the SAP. This goal specifically focuses on getting the community educated, trained and have there be a big public involvement with the goals for the plan. This goal is very important to the entire plan. We need the involvement of not only the Fort Lewis community, but also the entire community of La Plata County in order to gain the support we need to achieve all the goals.

All of these goals are imperative to the completion of the SAP. The plan is set to be complete by 2015 and was started in 2010. The reason for my auditing of the plan is to see that everything is being done that possibly can be done at this time. There are responsibilities that each department is involved with achieving these goals. Keeping each department on track is the focus of my audit and will provide future students with a stepping stone to use the next time the plan needs to be audited.

Working at the EC has been a great experience so far. The people that work there and the projects that we are taking on are awesome! Keep your ears and eyes open for these people and projects as the semester continues in order to recognize and get involved with the fun we are having!