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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Take Action Today: Your Part in Helping the Environment

Today is Blog Action Day. I don't know how many people know this - I actually just learned about it about a week ago and it hit home. Blog action day is the day where over 12,000 bloggers have come together and blog about the same topic - The Environment.

I'm 32 years old and I'm plan to do my part to preserve the planet for future generations. It sounds pretty intense, I know. I've been concerned about the environment since I was about 15 years-old. I would do little things like starting a compost pile in my parent's backyard or recycle, reuse, and replenish things as best I could. As I got older, the only thing I can really remember intentionally not using was styrofoam. Somehow the effort waned throughout my college years and even up until this past year.

Working in student affairs we use A LOT of paper, plastic and other disposable things. It's crazy to think about how much waste we produce. On my journey to Oregon State University for a student leadership conference they have a "Green Campaign". I thought about their efforts. Wow, they encourage people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. They REALLY ENCOURAGE recycling on their campus and if you don't recycle you get a funny look from people. I started feeling guilty about taking the elevator or not recycling or using paper unnecessarily. It's a good kind of guilty (if there is such a thing). I mean, think about it - what you do today affects tomorrow. You probably think (or sincerely hope) to be a living, breathing person 20, 30, 40, 50 - plus years from now. What are you doing to ensure that this planet is capable of providing us with all its resources that keep us healthy?

I know that as educators we strive to teach students what words are inappropriate, to have compassion for others, to get involved in community service and organizations and to be instruments for social change. However, I couldn't tell you the last time I've heard a student affairs professional say, "Hey, be sure to recycle that!", "Let's buy _______ so that we can use it again." , or "How can we do our part to be environmentally friendly and less wasteful?" We're often quick to pull someone to the side and educating them for saying that something is "Gay" or "Retarded", or counsel them through the repercussions of their actions. We are in the business of improving each other and ourselves to be better human beings so let's make sustainability another concern.

Today I want to challenge you, your department, your institution, etc to "Go Green" and educate all those around you on steps they can take to improve their wasteful behavior. We can take baby steps. I know I'm just an infant in my efforts but hopefully each year I'll grow.

The first step I've taken is to recycle in my office. My office houses the RA, RHA, NRHH, Complex Council resource room. We recycle all of the paper that is unused - and sadly, it's quite a bit but at least it's not ending up in a trash heap. This past Friday I took another step - recycling plastic and I'm encouraging my students to do the same. The next goal is the individual offices and then our department. Eventually I hope to reach the rest of the campus with the help of others.

The following video is the trailer for an upcoming movie/documentary called "The 11th Hour"

Here are some tips on how you can get started in your office.

  1. See what your institution does for recycling. If there's nothing in place challenge them to do something. This is the perfect time for you to CHALLENGE AND find SUPPORT. If your institution doesn't already offer the service, look for an independent recycling firm that can come and pick up your office recyclables on a weekly or biweekly basis. If this isn’t an option in your area, work with individuals in your office to encourage people to take their recyclables home with them to put in their own residential curbside recycling.
  2. Send email memos instead of paper.
  3. When you send email attachments to staff members to read before the next meeting - indicate that you will bring copies with you to the meeting so they will not print unnecessarily and save a branch or two!
  4. If your institution has a newsletter - ask if it's possible to offer the newsletter in electronic form. Those who care to have a paper version can then print the document.
  5. Conserve paper. Challenge staffs to refrain from printing documents until they've proofed it several times. This will prevent printing unnecessary copies until you have a final draft. If you do have papers that are printed on one side, flip it over and use it again as note paper, to-do lists, or use it to print on the other side - fax machines are another great option! You can also use "previously used paper" for any number of things. It can be shredded and used as cushioning for shipping boxes. Switch your paper supply to 100% reccycled. Don't forget to make photocopies on BOTH SIDES of the paper. Lastly, consider receiving bills and statements electronically. Sometimes, a cell phone bill can be a good 10 pages long - what a waste!
  6. Have a box or other receptacle in your office to recycle paper, plastic and aluminum.
  7. Express to your students and colleagues how important recycling is to you and why you do it. It's an educational moment. Eventually someone will begin to follow your lead.
  8. If you're a programmer, think of ways to get the word out without printing a large number of posters. We all know that many students don't always get their information from posters anyway. Try publicizing on Facebook, MySpace or on a university listserv. If there isn't one, consider making one.
  9. Consider taking the stairs if you're able-bodied. It's good for you and saves electrical energy. Encourage others who are with you to take the stairs too. Sometimes all they need is a boost of "you can do it".
  10. Consider using reusable plates, cups, utensils, etc in your office. It takes a little more effort (like 3 minutes) to wash them but you're not creating more waste! Consider taking your own mug to the coffee shop and having them pour your drink into it.
  11. Don't offer an endless supply of bottlesd water. Ask students and staffs to bring reusable water bottles such as a "Nalgene" and have a common source of water. Consider purchasing the 5 gallon bottles for retreats and other office functions. Oh and tap water isn't horrible - we've just gotten spoiled. Besides, tap water is WAY cheap!
  12. Don't take a bag if you truly don't need one. If you do take a bag, try reusing it for something else - trash bags, storage, padding for shipping boxes. Also think about buying a reusable sack for groceries and whatever else you purchase. Trader Joe's, Ikea, Albertson's and Von's have all begun offering these bags.
  13. Switch your lights to compact florescent bulbs. They last MUCH longer and use far less energy. While the initial investment may cost more than conventional bulbs, CFLs last longer-- so over time your office will save money and save energy.
  14. Hold an in-service or training activity that allows participants brainstorm ways they can do their part to preserve our planet.
  15. Offer incentives to encourage people to take public transportation, walk, bike, or car pool.
For additional tips on how you can take action, visit these sites:

Ideal Bite - Great tips for the everyday, busy person!

Green Shopping Tips - How you can affect change at the market!

Earth 911 - The nations premier environmental resource

Find out how much carbon you're producing. Carbon emissions contribute to our climate change and you can do your part to slow the change. Carbon Calculator

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