I want you to take a moment to think about how much concrete is used within the world. Think about your community, think about this country, then think globally about how much concrete is used. Concrete is a huge producer of C02 emissions which greatly impacts global warming. Concrete is used in most construction projects around the world. Now think about if we could make a difference by capturing Co2 emissions and injecting it into concrete mix which would greatly reduce the emissions released into the atmosphere. Great news, this technology exists and now is the time to make a change within all of our cement manufacturing facilities to help reduce global warming and help save the planet.
Concrete will always be used within construction because it is strong and long lasting. Why don’t we help to reduce the damage to our planet by using carbon concrete technology. This technology can be easily installed to any existing cement facilities. According to Carboncure’s Sustainable Concrete “When CO2 is injected into the concrete mix it makes the concrete stronger and reduces the amount of mix need per batch”. This means the cost of installing this new technology will be offset by the money the company will be saving on mix in the long term. If we can spread the awareness about this technology in our communities I believe more people will start using carbon concrete in their construction projects. Since learning about carbon concrete technology I am now passionate about it and would love to use concrete that will help save our planet. If we don’t start to make a change this planet will not be able to sustain itself. When we inject the co2 into the concrete the co2 is bonded to the concrete and can never be released into the atmosphere. According to Carboncure’s Sustainable Concrete “One cubic yard of carbon capture concrete saves 25lbs of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere”. If we take those numbers and think about how many cubic yards of concrete are in a residential home, office building, or a high rise building. Then think about how much Co2 could be captured and stored if we used this new technology in our future construction projects. This concrete can be used both residentially and commercially. Anywhere concrete is used today we can choose to start replacing it with carbon capture concrete.
Co2 emissions are causing global warming and literally killing this planet. This is something that everyone is starting to see and feel around the world. In the past many people were in denial and now people see the science and the changes that are happening around the world so they no longer can deny the truth. This is the time for us to spread awareness to our communities, politicians, and all elected official about anyway that we can help reduce climate change. One way that we can do this is to increase awareness about the Carbon Capture concrete technology that exists in the world today. When we spread awareness we can increase facilities that produce carbon capture concrete and we can start making positive strides toward reduce our global carbon dioxide emissions. Next time you start a construction project find a carbon capture facility near you. This is a change that starts locally but has potential to save the world.
Carboncure’s Sustainable Concrete Solution. CarbonCure Technologies Inc. (2022, August 23). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.carboncure.com/
Buckthorn is a large shrub that is native to most of Europe and west Asia.1 Buckthorn was intentionally introduced to North America from Europe as an ornamental species during the mid-1800s.2 Since its introduction it has spread rapidly throughout the United States, establishing itself as dense thickets. Due to its rapid expansion and establishment, it is illegal in many states to import, sell, and transport this invasive non-native. The import, selling, and transfer of buckthorn became illegal in Minnesota when it was added to Minnesota’s Noxious Weeds List in 1999.3
Common Buckthorn can be found in dry to wet soils, though it prefers well-drained soils.2 It grows in both shade and sun, thriving in partial shade.4 It can be found in forests, prairies, fields, parks, yards, and roadsides. 2
Glossy Buckthorn prefers wet soils but can be found in drier soils. 2 It grows in both shade and sun and can be observed in open forests, wetlands, and fields.4
Can grow to be ten to twenty-five feet tall and the trunk can reach ten inches in diameter.2
Can grow to be ten to twenty-five feet tall and the trunk can reach ten inches in diameter.2 This type of Buckthorn is more upright in form 4
When young, the bark is gray to brown, as the species grows the bark becomes a brown-black color and is roughly textured.2 Lenticels run parallel to the bark and are lighter in color.2 Heartwood is pink to orange. Spines can be found at the tip of twigs.4
The smooth bark is gray to brown and has light colored lenticels that run parallel to the park and are slightly raised.2 Twigs can be a red-brown color and contain hairs.4 Heartwood is pinkish to orange.2 Glossy Buckthorn lacks the thorns observed in Common Buckthorn.4
The leaves are dark green, can be glossy to dull, oval, serrated, and have a pointed tip.4 Veins are curved towards the tip and are in pairs of three to five.2 They are simple and grow opposite of each other, although can grow alternately. 2 Leaves stay green late into the fall.4
Glossy Buckthorn leaves are alternate but can be opposite.2 Leaves are untoothed, pointed at the tip, oval, smooth, and dark green.4 Leaves are glossy on the top side and can be dull and hairy underneath.2 Eight to nine veins form a V at the midrib.4 Leaves do change color but remain on the shrub longer than leaves on native plants.2
Flowers are small and yellowish green in color. They have four petals and bloom late May to June.4
Flowers are small and pale yellow. Flowers contain five petals and bloom in late May to June.4
Fruit clusters are round and black. They grow at leaf axils or along the stems. Fruits contain three to four seeds that are viable for up to three years.2 Berries ripen from August to September.2 The berries can remain throughout the winter and are toxic.2
Fruit is often in pairs but can be in clusters. Fruit is round and changes from red to black as it ripens.2 Each fruit has two to three seeds that are viable for two to three years.4 Berries ripen from July to September.2 Berries do not persist through the winter and are considered mildly toxic.4
Native Species with Similar Characteristics
American Plum – The American Plum can be mistaken for Buckthorn when young because the bark looks similar between the two species.5 The leaves of the plum are serrated but leaf veins move from the midrib to the outer edge, unlike with Common Buckthorn, which moves towards the tip. Leaves are also narrower than both types of buckthorns. Flowers and fruits are distinctly different from buckthorn.
Black Chokeberry – Both Black Chokeberry and Common Buckthorn have serrated leaves and veins that run from the midrib to the tips of the leaf.6 However, the fruit of the Black Chokeberry hangs downwards from long stems while buckthorn fruits grow in short clusters. Additionally, this species has red, smooth, and pointed buds while Common Buckthorn has dark brown buds with scales and Glossy Buckthorn has red hairy buds.6
Black Cherry – Black Cherry trees have bark very similar to both types of buckthorns when young. The cambium layer of Black Cherry is green while that of the buckthorns is orange.7 The leaves of both species are oval in shape but the leaves of Black Cherry tend to be narrower. Glossy Buckthorn has shiny leaves while Black Cherries do not, and the veins of the Black Cherry leaves go towards the outer edge while they go towards the tip in Common Buckthorn.8 Fruits look similar to buckthorn species but flowers are distinct.
Chokecherry – Like with Black Cherry, the Chokecherry has bark like buckthorns but a green cambium layer underneath.7 Like with Black Cherry, the leaf similarities and differences are the same.8 Flowers looks different from buckthorn species and Chokecherry fruits have a reddish tone
Problems with Buckthorn
Buckthorn is a problem because it outcompetes other native plant species. Buckthorn produces heavy shade which limits the ability of native tree seedlings and saplings as well as other native ground layer plants to thrive. 2 In addition to light competition, this species also outcompetes native species for water and nutrients. As a result, the health of the habitat that Buckthorn invades is severely threatened. The introduction of Buckthorn limits habitat for wildlife. It also contributes to soil erosion because the species that would normally prevent erosion are not able to thrive. Buckthorn can function as a host for pests, such as the Crown Rust Fungus and Soybean Aphid, that may harm native species, such as native grasses, while Buckthorn itself lacks pests that would be able to serve as a control limiting its growth.4, 9 In addition to not having pests to control its growth, a mutualistic relationship with invasive earthworms may actually give Buckthorn a competitive advantage over its native counterparts. Research suggests that Buckthorn creates an optimal environment for earthworms by creating shade and leaf litter while the earthworms assist buckthorn with germination by exposing soil through their consumption of leaflitter.10 Not only does Buckthorn get a competitive advantage from earthworms but the presence of earthworms is actually a disadvantage to native vegetation because their consumption of leaflitter eliminates the duff layer that protects young native seedlings and other native woodland vegetation.11 Another interesting relationship that Buckthorn has is with native bird species. Birds are the primary dispersers of Buckthorn seeds.12 Birds consume buckthorn fruit as food, the fruit has a laxative effect on birds who then disperse the seeds in a new location with a natural fertilizer.12 The relationship that buckthorn has with birds helps to enable its spread and ultimately contributes to its invasion of the United States. These factors allow buckthorn to thrive making it a huge threat to native Minnesota flora and fauna.
Buckthorn is easiest to find in the fall because buckthorn leaves will still be green while native shrubs and trees will have started turning colors or lost their leaves.4 Since buckthorn seeds stay viable for multiple years, follow up control may be required until the seed bank is depleted. 4 Buckthorn can be controlled using mechanical and/or chemical methods.2 While research has been conducted to biologically control buckthorn using European agents, no promising agents have been discovered because their potential to become invasive is too high.13
Small plants can be pulled by hand or with leverage tools, such as a weed wrench or root talon, when the soil is wet.2 With larger shrubs, the shrub can be cut, and the stump can be covered for two to three years with a tin can or plastic which limits resprouting.4 Controlled burns are another option when the buckthorn population is dense and growing in a habitat where the native plant community is fire adapted, such as in a prarire.2 These are best performed during the spring or fall when foliage is dryer. Burns can be especially effective when there are many seedlings present.2
Buckthorn can also be controlled by using herbicides. Common chemicals used to control buckthorn include glyphosate (Round-up, Rodeo, etc…), triclopyr amine (Vastlan, Garlon 3, etc…), and triclopyr ester (Garlon 4 or Pathfinder II).4 Glyphosate and triclopyr amine are best used when temperatures are above freezing because they are water based while triclopyr ester is best used when temperatures are below freezing because it is oil-based.4 While all herbicides should be used carefully, users should be especially careful when using glyphosate because it is a non-selective herbicide which means that it will kill most plants.14 Triclopyr herbicides on the other hand target woody plants and broadleaf weeds, making it more plant selective.15 Care must also be taken when using herbicides near water sources, check that the chemicals are safe to use near water if planning to chemically treat buckthorn near water. Caution and awareness should always be taken when handling herbicides, make sure to read instructions and follow proper administration and safety practices. The most common methods of controlling buckthorn using herbicides are foliar treatment, basal bark treatment, and cut stump treatment.2Foliar treatments are best for areas that are badly infested with buckthorn.2 The herbicide is applied directly to the leaves and should be done after a hard frost when native species have gone dormant for the winter.2 Buckthorn that is less than 5 inches in diameter can be treated using the basal bark method.2 With this method of treatment, the herbicide is absorbed through the bark.4 The herbicide used for this treatment must contain triclopyr ester which is oil based.2 The herbicide should be applied from the bottom of the shrub to about twelve to eighteen inches above the bottom. 4Cut stump treatments are best applied when shrubs are larger than two inches in diameter. 4 This method involves cutting the trunk flush with the soil and then treating the stump with herbicide. The herbicide should be applied to the outermost growth rings.4 The best time to treat buckthorn using this method is from the late summer to the fall.2
Heneghan, Liam, et. al. “Interactions of an Introduced Shrub and Introduced Earthworms in an Illinois Urban Woodland: Impact on Leaf Litter Decomposition.” Pedobiologia, vol. 50, no. 6, pp. 543-551, 4 Jan. 2007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedobi.2006.10.002
As society rapidly approaches an irreversible and disastrous climate induced future, many different economic sectors have proposed unique solutions to solve the issue, especially the tech industry. Fortunately, these solutions provide hope for the future generations, which is vital if humans plan to overcome this challenge. More important than hope is the essential realization that humans need to drastically change their behaviors to save the planet. Furthermore, the only way humans can overcome climate change is by recognizing that technological innovation alone is not enough if they don’t fundamentally change their behaviors and combat the normalization of ecocide.
Overreliance on technological innovation guarantees a bleak future as the tech industry is ill equipped to handle the climate crisis. Furthermore, the tech industry’s primary goal is to maximize profits, which means sourcing materials and labor for as cheap as possible. For example, current electric vehicle batteries are dependent on Congolese cobalt mining as the country supplies 70 percent of the world’s cobalt (Campbell). Not surprisingly, cobalt mining “has significant environmental impacts ranging from habitat destruction to water and air pollution” (Buxton). Moreover, this highlights the contradictory nature of tech-based solutions because in this example they mitigate one environmental disaster (climate change) by contributing to another (environmental destruction in the Congo). Next, tech-based solutions often value short term gains and fail to recognize long term consequences. For instance, the Green Revolution rapidly changed agriculture by drastically increasing yields through technological advancements like GMOs, pesticides, fertilizers, and machinery, which subsequently lowered consumer costs and increased consumption. Not surprisingly, these same technological advancements have led to modern problems ranging from pollinator decline, carcinogenic pesticides, loss of seed diversity, hypoxic dead zones, soil degradation, and the collapse of family farms (Jackson). Also, depending on technology means enabling a delay in climate action until more sustainable forms of technology are created and distributed globally. This is a bad idea considering the massification of this technology would take years as fossil fuels account for “more than 80% of energy consumption” globally (Ritchie and Roser). It’s an even worse idea considering that some moderate climate models predict society will reach 1.5 °C of global warming between 2030 and 2032 (Hausfather). In short, relying solely on a tech industry plagued by negative externalities and poor future analysis of consequences to effectively mitigate the time sensitive climate crisis will not work.
The question that remains is how will society effectively mitigate climate change? Furthermore, the solution to climate change lies in the unsustainable obsession with blind materialism and overconsumption that normalizes environmental destruction. Additionally, people in global north countries must recognize how disconnected their relationship with the planet is because economic development has been prioritized over the health of the earth. Still, many people are oblivious to how their seemingly innocent actions have serious environmental consequences. For example, the jeans one purchased at their favorite retailer likely involved carcinogenic pesticides, fertilizer runoff, toxic chemical dyes, and extreme water pollution. Not surprisingly, this ignorance did not happen on accident as corporations, special interest groups, and bureaucracies have benefitted from legislation and marketing campaigns that have effectively indoctrinated citizens with lies that benefit their industries at the expense of the environment. To overcome this, society must deploy all its social, cultural, ethical, and spiritual resources to reconsider current operations and behaviors that are fueling the destruction of the earth. Fortunately, recent protest like those against the Keystone XL pipeline have shown that when people band together with this in mind, they can stop corporations from harming the earth. Notably, it is not easy work to fight against industries with immense economic power, but it is a fight that must continue to happen to ensure the preservation of the natural world. Importantly, it is not too late to change and create a culture that emphasizes the health of the planet alongside economic development. While the future is uncertain, the coronavirus pandemic has made one thing clear: humans are capable of drastically changing their behaviors on short notice and establishing a new normal, but now it’s for the planet and our collective future depends on it.
I peered across the river at a little boy, who couldn’t have been older than four. In his hands, he held a little yellow jug as he proceeded to submerge it in the clay-colored water. Mama Grace had warned us of the river’s polluted conditions but I wasn’t expecting them to be this extensive.
In 2019, I traveled to Kenya under a scholarship with 9 other students from across Minnesota. We were all passionate about one topic or another but we were commonly united by our concern for access to clean water.
So many of us are accustomed to the crystal clear water that comes from our faucet or a bottle. For some, this is a thing only of their dreams. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that over 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This is roughly ⅓ of the world and 7 times the U.S. population of 329.5 million. The United States is no stranger to this issue, with people in Flint Michigan still suffering the effects of consuming unsafe water. Without vital access to water, we run into problems that impede human rights to education, as well as produce food insecurity and illness.
Children, typically girls, in developing countries are often tasked with collecting water for daily needs. For some, the trip can take all day. School attendance rates are often very low because of the repercussions that come with consuming unsafe water. Children will skip school to collect water, take care of sick parents and/or siblings, or get a job to support their family after a premature death.
As I spoke with Phillip, our Massai guide, and Nicole, our trip facilitator, they discussed that most girls throughout Kenya rely on education to create a better life for themselves. Those who are fortunate enough to stay in school have the opportunity to attend secondary school and even college. The lucky few go on to become doctors and teachers to return and help the kids in their communities. The girls who did not have a chance to stay in school are often forced into arranged marriages.
Water is required for the nourishment and growth of all types of food. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, the animals we harvest meat from, and many more. In 2017 alone, Minnesota used 95 billion gallons of clean water for farming irrigation. Without clean water, food sources can carry illnesses such as E. Coli and Giardia that can be contracted when consumed. These illnesses can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Without proper treatment, these symptoms could result in death. Those who have to resort to collecting polluted water often contract these diseases and have little or no access to treatment when sickness occurs.
Steps that we can take to reduce and clarify water include using wells or groundwater, implementing water treatment facilities, and teaching safer practices. Wells or the extraction of groundwater can provide a safe alternative to streams and rivers. Water treatment plants can ensure the water is tested, treated, and safe for consumption. Lastly, safer practices such as separation of gray water, better sanitization, and water/food handling procedures can help reduce contamination.
Everyone deserves a fair chance at life but these people are set up for failure the minute they are forced to consume the unsafe water. This issue may not be affecting you directly but people all over the world are suffering the consequences. It is important to take care of the people around you which is why it is vital that we advocate for safe practices, water treatment facilities and wells. We may, someday, be able to provide people with a fair chance at life and fully sustain our future generations, but it won’t be easy.
Guest Blog by Ramona Ilea & Monica Janzen (linked with permission from the APA)
We invite you to visit the latest Blog of the American Philosophical Association (APA), co-written by ARCC Philosophy Professor Mo Janzen, to learn about course projects designed to create positive change in the world. These projects are particularly important in the face of our current climate crisis and other environmental disasters, and act as a way not only to better our world but to also help to encourage hope and counter feelings of despair.
Evidently, face masks have become a necessity in today’s pandemic-struck world. Seeing everyone around you wearing face masks in public is a hopeful, heart-warming feeling. However, disposable medical masks, one of the most popular choices for face masks, aren’t as beneficial as you might think they are in terms of their effect on our planet.
While saving millions of lives from COVID-19, disposable masks are terrible for the environment. THE UN Environment Program (UNEP) stated that if this large increase of disposable, single-use plastics isn’t handled properly it may result in uncontrolled dumping (United Nations, 2020). Not only is it increasing pollution, an infected surgical mask can spread the virus to people and animals. “In certain conditions, the virus can survive on a plastic surgical mask for seven days” (Roberts, 2021).
The use of these disposable has become so normalized that most people don’t even think twice about using them. With many countries putting nation-wide mask mandates on public places, surgical masks (which can now be found at gas stations and free at the entrances to many buildings) have become a common way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
A quick Google search can expose the dangers these disposable masks can cause long-term damage to animals and plants. Smothered environments and ecosystems forcefully broken up are a couple results of large amounts of plastic waste. Smaller animals can become entangled or suffocate in the material of disposable masks; Larger animals can also eat bits and pieces of these masks and over time become malnourished from their stomachs filling up with plastic waste (Roberts, 2021).
Larger issues like this one usually take a significant amount of time to research and come up with the best solution, but with disposable masks, our answer has been right under our noses since the beginning of this pandemic: Reusable face masks.
A reusable face mask is any face mask that can be infinitely washed and worn again. They’re more stylish, better for the environment, and catered to your exact preferences. They come in every color, style, thickness and material you could ask for. A lot of these reusable masks also have slots for (reusable) filters that can be inserted for extra protection. These reusable masks aren’t hard to get your hands on, either. Almost every single retail store I’ve been to since the pandemic is selling reusable face masks: Target, Walmart, Ulta, and Pacsun are just a few.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have already made the switch from disposable to reusable, and if you haven’t, it’s your turn. Say goodbye to our beloved medical masks that have gotten us through the pandemic thus far and make room for the reusable fashion statements so many have already adopted.
“Five Things You Should Know about Disposable Masks and Plastic Pollution | | UN News.” United Nations, United Nations, 30 July 2020, news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1069151#:~:text=The%20potential%20consequences%2C%20says%20UNEP,transmission%20of%20diseases%20to%20humans.
Roberts, Keiron Philip, et al. “Coronavirus Face Masks: an Environmental Disaster That Might Last Generations.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2021, theconversation.com/coronavirus-face-masks-an-environmental-disaster-that-might-last-generations-144328.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
I think it’s safe to say that this has been a challenging few weeks for all of us, and admittedly more so for some than others. The threat of COVID-19 has forced us into our homes, distanced us from loved ones, and made simple acts like going to the grocery store something that can generate fear. Our neighbors are facing unemployment, food insecurity, and new realities for which they may not feel prepared. For those working in service sector positions–grocery workers, delivery people, health care professionals, etc.–who have to interact with many people daily, that fear is undoubtedly elevated even more. There are days when the gloom and dread of our new reality can be overwhelming, which is why reconnecting with the earth to support our physical and mental well being is more important now than ever.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and while normally we in the Sustainability community would be busy hosting clean-up events, talks by environmental experts, and other activities to get people engaged, this year we’re being forced to rethink how we encourage people to connect to the Earth. It may seem like we’ve lost an opportunity, but if we change our perspective perhaps this experience gives us more of a chance to appreciate our global home. As we have turned to screens for learning, working, and communicating with those we love, many of us have also started to recognize (or perhaps remember) how much we need to step away from the screen sometimes too.
The great news is that there are tons of things that you can do to celebrate Earth Month from the comfort of your home and/or neighborhood! Here are some of our favorite suggestions and we encourage you to join the ARCC Sustainability Team for the Earth Day Ecochallenge for more ideas on ways that you can make this a memorable and impactful Earth Day.
While it’s still too early to plant most things and to clean up your garden beds (shh! Many pollinators are still sleeping. Check out this post from the University of Minnesota Extension about when to do your spring garden clean up), it’s not too early to start thinking about supporting our pollinator friends this growing season. The state of Minnesota is offering grants this year through the Lawns to Legumes Program to Minnesotans who are willing to plant pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns. The second application period for Fall 2020 plantings is now open (through June 2nd). Learn more about the Lawns to Legumes Program, and find tons of resources on planting for beneficial pollinators, at the Board of Water and Soil Resources’s Lawns to Legumes page.
We may not be able to participate in “official” community clean-up events this spring, but the good news is that getting outside (while maintaining proper social distancing of at least 6 feet from other people) is highly recommended! Why not use that outdoor time to also help clean up your surroundings? The Friends of the Mississippi River have a great post about picking up litter as part of #DIYEarthMonth, so we encourage you to check out their post for tips. Remember to bring a trash bag (or waste disposal collection device of some sort) and wear gloves. We’d LOVE to see your good work, so feel free to comment on this post and/or post on your favorite social media with the hashtag #ARCCSustainability.
ARCC Psychology Professor Jim Biederman cleaning his local storm drain.
Jim and Ryan estimate that in two hours they cleaned about 300 lbs. of waste, filling twelve yard waste bags!
Jim’s husband Ryan cleaning one of their five drains.
Another wonderful program available here in Minnesota is the Adopt-a-Drain program. This program, run out of Hamline University, asks participants to locate storm drains near them using their online mapping tool, then to “adopt” one or more drains. As an adoptive drain parent, you’re asked to keep your drain clear of leaves, trash, and other debris throughout the year. The website has wonderful suggestions about how to do this safely, as well as how best to keep waste from your yard from making it to your storm drain, and eventually our local waterways.
Plant a Victory Garden
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” -Audrey Hepburn
While our food supply chain in the United States is still intact, the experience of being forced to stay-at-home has caused many people to think about their own personal food supply, and ways to make themselves more food secure. We can, of course, still make trips to the grocery store during this time, but why not also use this time to plan for longer term food sustainability? Victory Gardens were planted throughout the United States during World War II, and were promoted by the federal government as a way for citizens to provide their own fruits and vegetables when labor, and transportation shortages, as well as rationing, made it difficult to obtain them through markets. Seed companies have seen massive increases in demand over the past few weeks as a result of this global pandemic. Your Victory Garden could be as small or as large as you like, and the good news is that there’s still lots of time to plan and start seeds indoors before the outdoor gardening season begins in earnest. Here are some tips for Designing Your Coronavirus Victory Garden from Mother Earth News.
Monitor Invasive Species
Many invasive species threaten our state, and one thing that we can do during this time of social distancing is to identify, and potentially remove, those that are starting to show their face this time of the year. One such plant is Garlic Mustard. Garlic Mustard is beginning to be visible but has yet to go to seed, which makes it a great time to identify and/or pick it. If you’re interested simply in identifying it, check out the document at right, and consider downloading the Water Reporter app. This app allows you to take pictures of the Garlic Mustard you find and log where you found it using the #garlicmustard hashtag. If you want to pick it, be sure to pull it out at the root and dispose of it promptly in a trash bag.
Explore Natural Areas
“Recent research has shown that the smell of humus exerts a physiological effect on humans. Breathing in the scent of Mother Earth stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, the same chemical that promotes bonding between mother and child, between lovers. Held in loving arms, no wonder we sing in response.”
-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Finally, not everyone has extra time on their hands right now, but if you do find yourself in that situation this is a wonderful time to get outdoors and explore your local parks and natural areas. Empirically-based studies support the beneficial impacts of being exposed to nature on our overall well-being and cognitive functions. We here in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are blessed with a wealth of options for getting outdoors, many of them within our very neighborhoods. While events have been cancelled, most parks are still open, and the City of Minneapolis has even recently closed the boulevards adjacent to some popular trails to allow for further social distancing. For ideas of places to explore close to home, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Three Rivers Parks District, and Discover the Forest.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that you’re not doing it alone! We may be physically separated from one another at this time, but we are still very much interconnected and our actions can help to make our Earth a happier, healthier, and more sustainable place. Don’t forget to join the Earth Day Ecochallenge and Happy Earth Month!
The holiday season is upon us, and while we love the idea of sleeping in, spending time with family, and enjoying a few (or twenty) holiday cookies, the season is also ripe with waste. According to the Centers for Disease Control “Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.” Yikes!! The good news is that there are a ton of great ideas and resources out there for making your holidays a little bit more green. Here are some of our favorite suggestions!
Cut Down Your Food Waste
The holidays are a time filled with abundance, which frequently means that we prepare more food than we can actually eat, and/or we eat way more than we actually need. While it’s understandable to want to indulge in the delights of the season, keep in mind that avoiding food waste will save you money and at the same time help the planet! According to Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, “up to 35% of food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers” (2017, 43). Consider reducing the amount of food you make in the first place, but if you do have leftovers, get creative! Can you make a turkey and wild rice soup with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey? Would those potatoes be tasty on a Shepard’s Pie? Be prepared to properly store leftover food in advance too–lots of foods freeze really well, and consider how great it would be to dig that Thanksgiving meal out of the freezer come late January! In the event that you do have food waste, consider either backyard composting or organics recycling. For more tips on food preparation and preservation in order to reduce food waste, check out Save the Food.
Source Your Food Locally
We’re privileged here in Minnesota to have a lot of amazing farmer’s markets as well as local options for sourcing sustainable foods, and while you may think that the arrival of cold weather means those options are off the table, think again! Throughout the state there are Winter Farmers Markets, as well as opportunities to source directly from farmers. The food miles that our turkeys, potatoes, and cranberries travel to get to our dinner table add up, as does their carbon footprint. Locally sourced products from smaller scale farmers not only are frequently more sustainably raised/grown, but they also help to boost our local economy. Looking to skip the turkey altogether this year and opt for a more plant based diet? Thanks to Herbivorous Butcher, there are even local options for plant-based meat alternatives! For more information on where to find local turkeys, wine, veggies, and more, check out Minnesota Grown.
Rethink Your Purchases (and Green Your Black Friday!)
According to the National Retail Federation, 165.3 million US consumers are expected to shop either online or in-store over the coming Thanksgiving weekend. While we know that the deals are sometimes seemingly too good to pass up, the unfortunate reality is that our high levels of consumption are also leading to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions. All of those televisions, iPhones, plastic toys, and clothes are embedded with materials that can be costly to our climate as well as environmentally burdensome to the communities producing them (externalized costs). Instead of buying more things that you (or your family and friends) don’t actually need, consider these alternative gift-giving ideas:
Homemade Gifts: Breads, teas, hand-sewn clothes, canned goods, and upcycled items are thoughtful and sustainable alternatives – who doesn’t enjoy a gift made with love?
Experience Gifts: Buy your family members tickets to a movie, passes to go ice skating, or even a gift certificate for a massage. Not only will they appreciate the lack of waste, you’ll also potentially be contributing to their wellness!
Buy Secondhand: While it may not be for everyone, previously loved items frequently still have a lot of life left in them and are less expensive then their newer cousins. Worried your family won’t like that it’s used? Just call it “vintage.”
Give an IOU ____________ Coupon: While things can be nice, who wouldn’t LOVE to come home to a clean house, be able to call upon a babysitter, or have help in their garden? Give the gift of your time and energy in the form of a coupon for something your friends and family will truly appreciate.
Support a Cause: Consider donating a small amount to an organization that’s meaningful to the gift recipient. Not only do you avoid producing waste, you’re supporting an awesome cause!
Buy Local: If you are going to buy something new, can you find it in a local store? You’ll be supporting the local economy while also reducing the carbon footprint of shipping directly to your house.
The aisles of Target are filled with adorable llama and RV-print wrapping paper, and while it may be tempting to snatch up the newest and cutest ones, keep in mind that they will likely be admired for all of 15 seconds before the excited recipients open their presents. Consider saving money and cutting down waste by wrapping with items around your house. Have an old map collection that you don’t mind parting with? Maps make for awesome wrapping paper! Done with the Sunday paper? Cover your gifts with the funnies! Have some old towels or handkerchiefs on hand? Try out Furoshiki, the Japanese Art of Fabric Wrapping. Finally, if you’re a die hard ribbon user, keep in mind that cloth ribbon can be used over and over again – after the unwrapping madness is over, collect your ribbons for reuse next year!
Traveling? Buy Carbon Offsets
Flying is unfortunately a huge source of our carbon emissions both in the U.S. and worldwide, and while driving is better, if you’re using petroleum you’re still emitting greenhouse gases. One smart option might be to forego a trip altogether, but if your family is far away (as mine is), the holidays might be one of the only chances you have to see them. While carbon offsets aren’t a perfect solution, they are one way to at least account for your emissions. Interested in offsetting? Check out this article from the New York Times on How to Buy Carbon Offsets.
Whether you choose to use natural decorations instead of plastic ones (remember: plastics are nearly always petroleum based, and therefore also have a high carbon footprint!), to make your holiday meals entirely plant-based, to stay home instead of traveling, or to wrap your gifts in magazine covers, keep in mind that your actions do have a collective impact, and your family and friends will notice! After I asked for a sustainable bridal shower last year, my family chose to stop using plastic water bottles at family events and to instead buy reusable containers and cups. It may not seem like you, as one person, can make a difference, but you can! Happy Holidays to all, and may your days be merry and green!
How do you get to school or work? Do you drive, walk, take public transit, bike, or canoe (we really hope you canoe)? For residents in the north metro, and for much of the rest of the Twin Cities, the answer is that you drive. You may commute 30 minutes or more one way, and sit in traffic for half of that. Once you make it to your destination, you likely have to fight for a parking spot (in the case of the Coon Rapids campus of ARCC, this hunt is akin to the tributes’ fight over resources at the Cornucopia in the Hunger Games. Rest assured, it will go well for basically no one). What if there was a way to commute peacefully while also getting exercise, spending time outdoors, and allowing you to score a front row parking spot once you arrive? There is!
In September the Sustainability Committee hosted our first “Bike Week” on the Coon Rapids campus. The week’s events included a Student Lunch Ride to Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, a Park & Ride event, an academic talk, and a Faculty/Staff Ride.
For many students, staff and faculty at ARCC bike commuting all the way from their homes may seem like a daunting task. One faculty member who has occasionally commuted by bike from St. Paul said she is faced with a 44 mile round trip ride, or just under 2 hours in each direction. The time alone is something that most of our community doesn’t feel they have to offer, and that’s not to mention the physical exhaustion association with biking that far. What’s an eco-enthusiast to do?
The Park & Ride event was designed as a solution to that problem. Participants met at various Metro Transit Park & Ride locations throughout the Twin Cities and rode in together to ARCC, dramatically shortening their bike commutes but still allowing them to receive the benefits of it. The Park & Ride strategy turned the St. Paul faculty member’s 44 mile round trip ride into an 18.6 mile one, and most of that was through beautiful trails along the Mississippi River.
Choosing the right gear can make your bike commute a much more enjoyable experience. Beyond the bike, you’ll also want a water bottle cage and water bottle, front and real tail lights in case you find yourself biking at night (thanks to Pioneer Cycle, some of our students were the recipients of brand new water bottles and tail lights for their rides!), and a sturdy lock (we recommend a U-lock). Another smart investment is a pannier bag, which allows you to carry a change of clothes, a repair kit, a snack, and anything else you might need along the ride or once reaching your destination. Pannier bags can be attached and removed easily from a rear rack and come in a variety of styles. While they will cost a little up front, think of all of the money you’re saving on gas! Finally, front and rear fenders can help to keep you from getting the dreaded “stripe” up your back (see below). If you do find yourself with the dreaded “stripe,” remember that ARCC has showers available in the Health and Wellness Center, as well as a brand new bike repair station by the bike racks for any repair needs.
In case you need more incentive to try biking, there are enormous environmental benefits from pedaling on two wheels. Check out this sampling of statistics from PeopleforBikes:
A NASA analysis found that motor vehicles are the greatest contributor to atmospheric warming because they release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it. NASA, 2010 – Road Transportation Emerges as Key Driver of Warming
Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen prevents 90,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted annually. City of Copenhagen, 2010 – Bicycle Account, 2010“
Ready to pedal off into the sunset (or at least to class)? We are too! Look out for our forthcoming Transit Survey, which will help us to understand current commuting habits and to gauge what barriers ARCC community members have to biking to campus. Happy Biking!
Think back to your last “first day of class.” You might have walked in, sat down, and been handed apaper syllabus 6-8 pages long (or more! Professors can be long-winded!). How often did you look back upon that syllabus over the course of the semester?
Professors, of course, hope that the answer is every single day, but in truth it was probably a couple of times throughout the semester. What happened to that syllabus after the class ended? Did you throw it away? Did you recycle it? Is it still stuffed somewhere in a folder, tucked into the back of the drawer, forgotten for the next twenty years (that’s where mine are…)?
Last year at Anoka-Ramsey the Sustainability Committee was contacted by our campus’s Central Services, who handles the printing for the college, to see if we could assist them in encouraging faculty to reduce their printing amounts. Like everything it seems, the cost of printing was increasing, and if printing continued at the current rates there was a risk that departments might greatly exceed their printing budgets for the year (and this doesn’t even touch on the environmental costs of using so much paper). The Sustainability Committee, led by Math Professor Christina Sonnek, decided to challenge departments to reduce their printing, and the results were somewhat staggering. Compared to the same month the previous year, faculty managed to save 52,844 sheets of paper in August 2017 and 101,811 sheets of paper in September 2017, for a grand total of 154,655 sheets of paper saved! If that wasn’t enough, the financial savings amounted to a massive $12,210.17!
How did they do it? Some departments did choose to go entirely “paperless,” putting course documents on D2L Brightspace and other websites, but it’s important to remember that even small actions can have a huge impact. The next time you need to print, consider:
Can you put it online instead (quizzes, exams, notes, etc.)?
If it needs to be printed, can you put it online and have students print it (eliminating the “extra” copies)?
Set your default page margins to small (this uses 14% less paper!)
Print double-sided–make this your default setting (Google how to do this or ask your friendly IT person)
Change your line spacing to “Exactly,” and your spacing to 0 pt. when creating documents on Microsoft Word
Can you have students turn it in online instead (via the Assignments folder in D2L Brightspace or turnitin.com, etc.)?
If you need to write something down, can you use scrap paper instead?
If you need to print something small out, can you put it on a half sheet of paper instead? Central Services even has a handy-dandy cutting service!
Don’t forget, once it’s been printed, used, and is ready for disposal, RECYCLE it! Even small actions can make a BIG difference!
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