Are you Comfortable?: When Environmental Issues Become Human Rights Ones

04.25.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

Some people may be skeptical and ask “When do environmental issues become more than just a tree-hugger’s big problem?” As consumers who completely rely upon the resources that our environment has to offer us, environmental issues should be everyone’s big problem.

However, just because we all should be concerned does not mean that everyone actually is concerned about the environment. Usually, it is the conscientious individuals or those who have been directly affected by environmental issues that are the spokes people towards sustainable and green practices within their own households and communities. As a participant in the West Virginia H.O.P.E. program I was able to see firsthand the sort of issues that occurred when environmental issues became a much bigger problem for communities.

West Virginia is a big energy producer especially when it comes to coal which has become a big part of their culture, economically and symbolically. But like any typical boom and bust economy business is only good when the money-making companies are there. The same ones that create many of the environmental issues that affect the local community. As a result people within these communities have conflicting emotions about their need for jobs and the issues that these companies create.

One of the new energy sources in West Virginia is natural gas, which is extracted from the earth using a method called hydraulic fracturing, nicknamed fracking. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal does however, one disastrous side effect that fracking can cause is contaminated ground water.  To extract and release the natural gas, companies pump a “secret recipe” of chemicals, water, and sand deep into the earth to break shale formations and to keep them open. Not all of what they pump into the earth comes back up and the “produced water” that does, is unsalvageably toxic and useless. Nevertheless the biggest problem is that many of these chemicals are known carcinogens. And these carcinogens are being pumped into local family’s houses through contaminated water sources; to their sinks, bathtubs, and washing machines. Along with these carcinogens are things like methane which has resulted in some pretty spectacular displays of individuals lighting their drinking water on fire.

And this is the point when environmental issues become so much more than just an environmentalist’s problem. When individuals are being denied access to clean water in their own homes due to the irresponsibility of money hungry corporations it takes a step past environmental problems into the realm of human rights issues. As citizens of the United States this is an issue that is generally thought to be a third-world problem only. But as I’ve seen for myself, access to clean water is still an issue here in the U.S. So the real question is, are you comfortable knowing that people in our own country don’t have access to clean water and as a consumer, you are part of the problem? The answer may be you shouldn’t be and maybe more corporations should be held accountable for the issues that they create. So the next time you see an environmental issue pop up in the news, think of what other effects such problems can have on a community; it may not be just environmental.

 

Acknowledgements go to the 2013 West Virginia H.O.P.E. trip (  in particular to the student and teacher trip leaders) for an enlightening experience and many insightfully led group discussions

Creative for a Cause

04.23.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

In the last couple of weeks you may have seen a lot of new activity on campus. Maybe you’ve seen a variety of list serves or posters proclaiming the “Grab the Green” week, or maybe you wandered over to the Sustainability Fair on the quad. Have you participated in the Meatless Mondays and composting or learned about the Real Food Challenge? Have your peers talked to your class about Hydraulic Fracturing in West Virginia? Anyone notice the new shower heads, heard about Fossil Fuel Divestment, or the Green kits for the incoming freshmen?

These are just some of the ways in which the Stonehill Community has been exposed to being creative for a cause. By using creative methods to bring awareness to environmental issues we as a community are working towards creating a more sustainable campus. But more importantly we are working towards creating more conscientious individuals who have learned to be creative to make a difference. Our efforts here on campus can have wide reaching effects in other communities, and countries all over as we take what we learn here to go out and explore the world. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and motivation to make a difference.

The results of creative and motivated individuals/groups can be seen throughout campus even by those who are less aware of the issues that are being addressed.  Even the most unaware individual on campus has some idea what measures are being taken to make Stonehill more sustainable. All they have to do is look around! The reduction of our carbon footprint, water, electricity and consumer waste, as well as the promotion of the benefits of local food, sustainable living, and going green, can be seen everywhere. Everything from Grab the green week, Meatless Mondays, the Sustainability Fair, the Real Food Challenge,  Fossil Fuel Divestment, to composting, the new shower heads and the West Virginia presentations shows the ways in which Stonehill is getting creative. And I, for one, am glad to be a part of it!

Have you grabbed your Green?

04.23.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

Last week, the students at Stonehill ran a one-week initiative to reduce the amount of plastic, disposable containers used on campus. Most schools require students to eat at the cafeteria area, so that fact that food can be taken out is a rare treat. For one week, students were not permitted to buy the to-go containers provided by Sodexo. Instead, students were encouraged to “Grab the Green” and buy the green reusable containers sold by Sodexo. To sweeten the deal, approximately 1,000 containers were donated and given away to students. The privilege of these plastic containers is no small fee to the company, as the student body uses about 4,000 of these disposable containers per week at a total cost of over $45,000 a year! While a reusable container only cost $3, the disposable containers are 0.33 cents per use. Just 10 uses of these plastic containers is more expensive than using the green, reusable containers for every single meal eaten at the commons. The reusable containers have huge environmental benefits in addition to the economic advantages. The United States is a main contributor to rising global carbon emissions because of the energy it uses. If less energy is spent producing these containers, along with other good environmental practices, we can reverse the process of climate change and the negative impacts that are brought along with it.

-Chanel MazzoneECOREPSTo Go 1

Power Shift 2013

04.18.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

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Power Shift is an annual youth summit which has been held in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Other Power Shift Conferences are also being organised by members of the International Youth Climate Movement including Africa, Japan and India. The focus of the events is on climate change policy. This fall, 10,000+ youth leaders will converge to fight for our future on October 18-21 in Pittsburgh, PA. Sign up for the conference and use your voice to build the movement to fight fracking, divest from fossil fuels, build a clean energy future, and stop the climate crisis.  If Stonehill gets a certain number of students interested in going to Power Shift, we can go for free!

 

Join at: http://2013.wearepowershift.org/

 

Megan Rebeschi

Skipping to Recycling

04.16.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

Many people these days often think of Recycling as the only thing they can do to help the environment but that is not the first step we should take to be sustainable. Reducing and Reusing, eliminates the need to recycle. Reducing the amount of materials and resources we use ultimately decreases the amount of material that needs to be reused and recycled and often times thrown into the trash. There are many ways one can reduce. Simply not driving your car as often and taking public transportation or biking decreases the amount of crude oil used. It also decreases the number of fossil fuels we are putting into the atmosphere. Another way to reduce is simply putting less on your plate. By not over filling your plate, less food is thrown out which is wasted. Many do not know the amount of resources need to make food as simple as a hamburger. Another step is Reusing. By reusing items, we eliminate the need to buy new items and use less materials, therefore being more sustainable. Reusing is a step often not used because everyone throws something away once they have no other need for it. However many items can be reused. Recycle is not the first step that we need to take and if we follow the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle, we can greatly decrease our carbon footprint.

Spring Clean Up Tips

04.16.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

Spring is arriving and many people will be cleaning out their house and yards along with college students moving out of dorm rooms. Many things are thrown away when people are having a spring cleaning that can either be recycled or reused. When cleaning the house for a spring cleaning, instead of throwing out items, yard sales can be a great alternative to throwing out items and you can gain some money. People can buy these items for less money than they would brand new and it is a much more sustainable idea because instead of items being thrown away into landfills, they can be reused by other people.

Another idea is the items can be donated to charities or recycled. Many companies collect items and reuse them to make other items. Charities are always looking for donations and you can find many charities that take a wide variety of items from clothing to toys to furniture. This is a great way of helping others and keeping items of landfills.

This is the same idea for students moving out of dorm rooms for the summer. If they have items that they do not want anymore, they can send them to charities or sell them to other students. Also items like ink cartridges are often thrown out. These items such as ink cartridges, keyboards, monitors, batteries and other electronics are known as e-waste. They are often thrown out by students in the trash. These items end up in landfills where they either do not decay  or cause run-off into streams. One example of this is batteries. Over time when batteries are in landfills, they breakdown and the acid in them can runoff into streams, rivers and other water ways, disrupting ecosystems and soil ph.

Spring clean up is often not very sustainable, but with a few steps, we can reduce waste and reuse many items we would otherwise throw out.

Sustainable Summer

04.16.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

sustainable summer

As we reach the end of the semester and enjoy the nice weather, we can’t help but think about the summer ahead of us. Even though most of us won’t be on campus anymore, there are some sustainable tips to take home with you!
• Planning a cookout? Whoever has a propane gas grill or electric one should be in charge of the cooking! Charcoal grills can really do damage to the air quality and propane burns a lot cleaner.
• Also at a cookout, use plastic plates and silverware that can easily be rinsed off and recycled, or even better, look for ones that are biodegradable! And meanwhile, make it known that you’re trying to go green by visibly labeling barrels and bins for recyclables!
• Try a new all natural sunscreen that won’t pollute the waters or bleach the coral, but also keeps you well protected!
• Everyone loves a fun summer project, maybe this summer you could try creating your own compost bin! Show your parents how much food you don’t have to waste by allowing it to decompose and build rich soil.
• Take advantage of the nice weather and choose a bike ride or hike nearby (depending on where you live) instead of a road trip, which can also get pretty expensive. Take a walk to a local market or farm stand and support the business and also provide yourself with fresh fruits and veggies or just enjoy the nature around you.
• If you’re not up for a hike or bike ride, try bringing nature to you by starting a small garden of herbs on a windowsill, or grow a few veggies in the backyard. If it goes well, start preparing your soil for an even bigger garden for next season!
• Keep a close eye on that thermostat! AC can sometimes feel like the best thing ever, but take advantage of the fresh air by keeping the windows open. Ceiling fans are another energy efficient way of staying cool, and if that still doesn’t do the trick, turning the thermostat up a few degrees won’t make too big of a difference and you can save more money than you think!
• We all know mosquitoes are a pain, but before spraying the whole yard, take a second look at what you’re putting down. It can harm a lot of the insect and plant life in your yard and it probably isn’t the best for the family dog. Some plant life is also naturally helpful at mosquito repelling such as rosemary. Look into some other possible options if you want to keep your yard sustainable
Now all we have to do is make it through these last few weeks and we can be on our way to a healthy, green summer!

By Sarah Dunsing

Running the Numbers

04.15.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

Chris Jordan, a talented artist and cultural activist, looks at contemporary American culture and portrays statistics through captivating photos. Each image he has created shows a specific number–whether it be the two million plastic beverage bottles used in the U.S. every five minutes or 1.14 million brown paper bags used in the U.S. every hour. Chris Jordan uses statistics through his lens in hopes to portray these quantities in a more effective way than just seeing the number on a piece of paper. It allows an individual to actually connect to the data and understand how much of a detrimental effect one person can have on the environment.

Check out these images at http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/rtn/#unsinkable

Each image is different and exemplifies a different statistic of consumption in the U.S.

Click on each image to zoom in and see just how many items each picture contains.

Breanne Penkala

Stonehill, Dig In to Real Food!

04.14.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

As a result of taking the Food Politics LC with Chris Wetzel and Bridget Meigs, seven students became particularly interested in our food system at Stonehill. Accompanied by Bridget Meigs, the Stonehill Farm manager and environmental professor at Stonehill, five of us attended the Breaking Ground 2013 Summit in Baltimore this February. This summit is a part of the program Real Food Challenge, an independent and self-funded movement that sprouted from the Food Project based out of Boston. The Real Food Challenge is working to get 20%real food” on college campuses by 2020, shifting $1 billion spent by colleges on food from industrial agriculture, towards more sustainable options.

What is “real food”?

Food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth

  • local and community based
  • fair (workers’ and their wages)
  • ecologically sound
  • humane (animals’ rights)
What is "real food"?

Real Food Wheel

 

Why does real food matter and why is it important at Stonehill College?

  • Real food is better for our health (safer and more nutritious) and the environment
  • It is a step in the right direction towards social justice for all and a longer-lasting environment for each of us to thrive in
  • It keeps money within local communities and pays fair wages to workers
  • It allows us to understand what foods we are putting into our bodies and where they come from

 

How can you get involved?

  • Visit our table at the sustainability fair and Jamnesty and ask us questions!
  • Attend our screening of Food Inc. on Monday, April 22nd at 7pm
  • Sign our petition to show your support on getting more real food at Stonehill
  • Take part in our real food photo campaign and tell us why you think real food is important and why it is needed at Stonehill
  • Like our page on Facebook: “Real Food Stonehill”
  • Visit http://www.realfoodchallenge.org/ for more information

 

DIG IN TO REAL FOOD.

Breanne Penkala

Earth Art

04.11.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

350
This picture represents people from a community displaying a piece of eARTh, as 350.org calls it. People from all around the world have been coming together and using different forms of art to grasp the attention of others on global climate change. Many of them gather and create a design or word that supports 350.org and spreads the word about decreasing our carbon footprint. Immediately when I saw this, I thought it would be a great success (but also a challenge) to get the Stonehill community together and give it a shot. All of the environmental groups could join, along with any other student, staff, or faculty. Bringing everyone together and most likely educating others on what 350 represents and why we are doing it, would be key to keep this campaign growing.
Even if this may be too large a project for us, I loved the idea of using art in general. Art is always a fun and interesting form of expression, and I know I’ve seen that talent here on campus. Incorporating art into a campaign can make it stand out to people. It’s another way to catch people’s attention and make then stop and listen. If you’re working on an environmental project and want to get creative, think of something along the lines of eARTh. It may bring together more people than you would imagine.
There is a video I found on the 350.org website that shows other communities doing the same, here’s the link.
http://art.350.org/blog/2010/10/29/4/