David Zindler

Earth Week!? Fun Stuff to Do This Spring!

Obviously, temperatures have started to rise, rain has started to fall, and finally it is here.  Spring, that is.  After sitting inside all winter, you may be wondering, what kind of fun stuff can I do this spring?  A fun suggestion I have is participate in Earth Week!

Earth Week begins on Monday, April 21st, and is an exciting way to have some fun and help your environment all at the same time.  There will be a number of events going on on campus, and there are tons of ways you can get involved or just keep yourself busy!

Monday is going to be a packed day, with all sorts of stuff going on.  PEACE and SAGE will be presenting a double feature of two awesome movies in the Summers Auditorium.  At 1PM they will begin showing Who Killed the Electric Car, which is a documentary about the reasons why electric cars failed in the 1990′s and beginning of the 2000′s.  This will be followed by Revenge of the Electric Car, which is a follow-up documentary made after the rise in popularity of electric vehicles that we have seen since the end of the 2000′s.

Across campus, at 4PM, there will be an alternative fuel vehicle show outside of the Young Auditorium.  You can stop by and check out all kinds of cool, cutting edge new cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.   This event is leading up to Monday night’s main event! At 7PM, the director of Who Killed the Electric Car and Revenge of the Electric Car, Chris Paine, will be giving a special lecture.  It is titled “How Many Light Bulbs Does it Take to Power an Electric Car?” and will surely put in perspective the advantages and advantages of alternative fuel vehicles!

 

Tuesday is officially Earth Day, and you can bet that means even more great things to do!  Not only will there be another film double feature at 1PM in the Summers Auditorium, but starting at 10am outside the UC, you can go and get FREE bike checkups and basic maintenance from BicycleWise, all organized by the UW-Whitewater Cycling Club.  Also starting at 10am is a Birds of Prey feature in the Upham atrium.  You can come watch flight demonstrations and get to see owls, hawks, and other birds of prey right up close!

 

Wednesday might even be the best day of the week yet!  We will be hosting a Recyclable Fashion Show in the Hyland Hall Timmerman Auditorium starting at 4PM.  This may sound girly, but it’s not! It’s for men and women alike!  You don’t have to come and make a dress.  Be creative!  Perhaps you do make a dress, or perhaps you design a suit of armor! We’ve had all sorts of different ideas win in the past, so who knows what the winning outfits might look like this year.

There will also be an ECOFair Wednesday, at 12PM in the Hamilton Ballroom.  This is something brand new to campus, and it has been in the works for several years.  There will be many organizations and companies coming to talk about sustainability, hand out swag, and (most importantly) hand out jobs and internships, all in the field of sustainability!!!

Clearly, there are all kinds of great things to do during Earth Week, so we can’t wait to see you all there and getting involved!

 

Earth Initiative

David Zindler

Earth Week

Sustainability Measures on Campus-

If there is one thing that I think UW-Whitewater has really improved on in the last couple years, it has been the awareness of sustainability on campus. Yes, not everyone knows about it but being sustainable has helped us develop many more resources that we can use on campus. You now are starting to see alternative fuel vehicles, and new buildings that are being developed that rely partially on solar energy, which makes the environment “greener” and which is also what we are trying to do campus wide whether it is in the dorms, cafeterias, or classrooms. There are many activities around campus that you can be involved with and help be a part of, so everyone can be allowed to make a difference!

 

Earth Week-

Earth Week takes place every year and is just a week of events that will include guest speakers, films and activities to allow the student body to get involved and be more aware of how and why we should be more sustainable. There are Facebook and Twitter pages titled, “Sustainability at UW-Whitewater” that students can keep track of if they are interested in any other upcoming events, or maybe just learn a couple of fun facts.  Keep track of these over the coming weeks, because our full Earth Week event schedule will be posted there!  Remember, Earth Week begins on Monday, April 21st!

 

Getting Involved-

A lot of people will tell you that when you first come to college, you should get involved. Well, this is a great opportunity to do just that. So many campus groups are involved with being sustainable and provide a comfortable atmosphere for students to be a part of.

 

 

David Zindler

Plastics in the Environment

Information on Environmental Impact of Plastics

Plastic is used in our lives every day. It’s used for things such as carrying our groceries, building new technology and even when communicating with each other. But do we really know the harmful effects that go into making it and/or what happens to the environment if we keep using it? The awareness of people knowing the effects from plastic I think are not all that great. A lot of companies are doing whatever they can to be sustainable at their workplace so they can bring awareness to consumers on things they can do to be more environmental friendly.

 

 

What is the Problem with Plastic?

One of the main problems with plastic is that it does not biodegrade. Meaning there is not really a process that can routinely break it down and be turned into new plastic or other product. With this happening, there is a lot of plastic particles that can get to as far out as the oceans and poison animals in the ocean that eat food and can cause them to be very sick and can even lead to death.

 

How can you help?

Creating more awareness in your community is a good way to start showing people what exactly can happen if plastic is not recycled. Provide information to businesses that maybe aren’t being as “sustainable” as what they could be and give them insight on what happens with plastic once it goes into the garbage. Also, just as simple as being a great example around your friends when throwing away plastic can be an impact, no matter how big or small it is.

 

Earth Initiative

David Zindler

Recyclemania

 

What is Recyclemania and how did it get started?

Recylcemania is a non-profit organization that is made up by a board of directors and also sustainability managers from Universities all across the country. Recyclemania started in 2001 when a simple challenge between two universities from Miami and Ohio drew a spark. The challenge was simply who could recycle the most during the 10-week period.  Miami was the winning school with approximately 41.2 pounds collected per person, with Ohio having about 32. 6 pounds collected per person.  The year after, more schools were invited and participated in the event and it has been a success ever since. With this success, Recyclemania has accumulated numerous sponsors such as The Coca Cola Company, SCA Tissue, Alcoa Foundation and the American Forest and Paper Association.

 

Why is there a Desire?

There are many colleges out there that do recycling programs that can be very educational and get many students involved. But yet, there are very challenging tasks to get more students and even staff involved in those programs. So Recyclemania’s idea was an instant success when it could bring many universities together and be competitive at the same time not through sports, but through recycling.  With many schools participating, the opportunity to spread awareness about Recyclemania is at an all-time high. The goal for Recylemania is to bring awareness to these college kids just how important recycling at a younger age can be so they can carry out these habits for the rest of their lives.

 

How do I get involved?

All Universities in the United States and Canada are all eligible for the competition. Each school is responsible for their own collection of recyclables and there is no cost to joining the Recyclemania Tournament.

 

For more information, the Recyclemania website is listed below for you to check out!

recyclemaniacs.org

 

Sustainability full color image

David Zindler

Recycling and Reducing

Have you ever finished your dinner and had some left over plastics, but chose not to recycle them? Did you just think, why bother?

Some people are under the impression that recycling doesn’t make a difference, or that it all ends up going to the same place, but that is a myth.  Furthermore, there are some great things being done with some of your recycled materials that you may not know about.

First, check out this video showing how a real recycling center works.  It shows the line where recycling is sorted into different categories, and trash is pulled out.  Clearly, everything there is not going to the same place.  It’s actually all being carefully sorted and placed for recycling in the correct manner.  Some fun facts, not everything that you probably think is recyclable, is actually recyclable.  For example, did you know that plastics and cardboard contaminated by leftover food cannot be recycled? Most people have no idea!

How Does a Recycling Center Work?

So what ends up being done with the plastics and other recyclables that you use? Well, sometimes they are used to make other goods and consumables.  For example, a lot of containers are made from recycled plastics.  The same holds true with a lot of other recyclable materials.

What you probably haven’t heard of is some of the other exciting recycling advances that are being made today.

Every time you hold something that is made of plastic, in a way it is kind of like you are holding oil! Oil from the Earth is put through chemical processes to make plastic products.  Unfortunately, there is only so much oil in the Earth.  The reason this should concern you is that we have to make the best of the fuels and plastics we have now, because we are using up our natural resources at an alarming rate!

Luckily, scientists have developed a new way that we can be more efficient.  They have found a way to recycle used plastic goods, such as plastic bags (which are normally very inefficient to recycle), into diesel and other fuels!  Not only are we not putting otherwise useless plastic bags in landfills, but we are getting a valuable resource from an efficient process.  The conversion ends up producing more energy than it takes to complete the process, preventing some needless waste!

Check out the article about the advances being made!

Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

Really, the key in general is not only to recycle, but to use less in the first place.  Cut down on “one-use” plastics, and save our resources for future generations!

Some of you may be wondering what Earth Initiative’s plans are for the spring semester, after a cold and blustery winter!  We have a lot of great ideas for new events this semester, as well as bringing back a few that we know all of you enjoyed in the past.

On Wednesday, April 23rd, for example, we will be holding the second annual Recyclable Fashion Show in the Timmerman Atrium at 4pm!  If you didn’t attend last year, organizations from around campus come to work in groups.  Each group makes an outfit out of recyclables, and one person from your group gets to model it.  The outfits are judged, and the winners get prizes in different categories such as creativity!  Remember to check this out, and bring your org or reshall!

Throughout the semester, we will be tabling in the UC, at basketball games, and at other locations around campus as well! We’ll be handing out free stuff, playing games, and of course providing useful information about how you can be more sustainable, so keep an eye out for us.

One new project for this semester will be a sustainable Instagram competition.  If you see something sustainable around campus or even back home,  take a picture or a video using Instagram! At the end of the semester, we will award the winners in various categories free prizes.  Remember to tell your friends or your organizations about this.

If your org might be interested in collaborating on an event with Earth Initiative, please send our Facebook page (Sustainability at UW-Whitewater) a message, and we’ll get right back to you!

 

Earth Initiative

David Zindler

Renewable Energy?

 

A lot of people think that renewable energy may be a distant pipe dream looking at our society today.  Cars, trucks, and other vehicles constantly burn fossil fuels and pump out harmful gases into the atmosphere.  Electricity is still mostly produced from burning coal and other non-renewable sources.  Our energy sources are far from sustainable.

However, a lot of experts say that a sustainable society isn’t far off.  Some civil engineers and city planners have speculated that the United States could convert their infrastructure to be able to gather the vast majority of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  Canada, after all, has already achieved this feat.  Canada now uses wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, and other renewable sources to achieve over a 60% rate of renewable electricity generation.

Those same experts say that even in metropolitan areas that aren’t thought of as “windy areas” could be completely self-sustaining in the coming decades through wind turbines alone.  The United States does not need to wait to start making the switch.

Many European countries have been very successful in reducing fossil fuel consumption through the use of financial incentives.  Germany, for example, incentivizes both individuals and businesses for reducing their carbon footprint and fuel use.

With a concerted effort, it is possible by 2030 that the only use for natural gas and other fossil fuels in electricity production is in case of emergency.  It goes to show that taking steps towards being sustainable CAN make an impact, and WILL in your lifetime.

 

-David Zindler

 

Earth Initiative

David Zindler

Are Our Diets Unsustainable?

What you eat is your business, but so is what you choose to recycle, and how much energy you decide to use.  When you sit down for a meal and enjoy a juicy burger or sizzling steak, you might not have considered what impact on the environment the environment your beef may have had.  Meat consumption in the United States is going down based on a per person average, but Americans still consume twice the USDA daily recommended amount of meat.  While I enjoy beef as much as the next person,  it is important to consider that it may not sustainable in the long run as the population continues to grow.  There are several threats that raising livestock poses to the environment. Foremost, is deforestation.

Think about it this way.  The Earth has been around for an estimated 4.6 billion years. If you scaled that to 45 years, humans have only been on Earth for 4 hours of that time, and the industrial revolution only began 1 minute ago out of 45 years.   Yet in that time we have managed to destroy over 50% of the world’s forests, and much of that has been to clear land for agriculture and cattle.

Another potential issue is that cattle produce greenhouse gasses!  You may not want to imagine it, but huge cattle farms where your food comes from are massive sources of pollution  as cows and other animals “pass gas”.   In just the last 250 years, the concentration of those gases in the atmosphere has increased as much as 150%, with cattle representing an estimated 18% of that pollution.

As the food productivity of land fails to keep up with the population growth in the United States and elsewhere, it’s important to consider the impact that your diet has on the environment.

 

Earth Initiative

David Zindler

Water Recycling

On the International Space Station, astronauts could drink and shower with the same water for well over a year before they would be forced to get water from another ship.  That raises the question, why are most of us so wasteful with water in our everyday life?

Being sustainable while saving money at the same time is something we can all get behind. In our everyday lives, there are many opportunities for us to make sustainable choices. One of these ways is through the conservation of water.  Simply turning off your faucet while brushing your teeth, cutting back on shower times, and waiting until the dishwasher is full are all easy ways that we can reduce our water usage at home or in student housing. Rainwater can also be collected and reused to irrigate gardens or other landscaping. During the hot summer months, this can be especially important. Rainfall can also be filtered to remove pollutants, leaving the water potable (drinkable).  These minor changes can end up meaning savings on your water bills, but what else makes water conservation and filtration so important?

 

Water filtration is an increasingly important factor in countries that do not have easy access to drinkable water. Many times, drinkable water is used for non-potable reasons such as watering plants. However, non-potable water cannot be used to drink due to pollutants present in the water. Discovering ways that we can better collect, conserve, and filter water can mean great benefits for all of us.

 

David Zindler

Campus Prairie Restoration

Have you ever been behind the Wells Towers, and seen the large prairie down the road?  Have you ever wondered what it is, or why it is there? What that area actually is, is a nature preserve where the campus is making efforts to restore native prairie species.

About 15,000 years ago, two small glacial formations (Drumlins) formed there and created the 110 acre area that you see today.  There are lots of trails you can hike, but the area in and of itself is quite interesting.  Each week, staff and students go into the prairie and collect seeds from the native species.  Before winter, those seeds are spread out to areas where we hope to expand the prairie to, and to promote biodiversity.

The area has grown rapidly since the restoration project began, and the prairie is thriving.  It is not only plant species that this restoration benefits either!  Pictured below is the Upland Plover. This rare bird is one of 8 species currently being considered for “endangered” status by the state of Wisconsin.  However, one of these birds was recently spotted in the prairie, and this has gained attention from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Below, you can see the bird, as well as several of the plant species that are commonly found in the prairie.  Don’t forget, you can always help! The UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative, SAGE, and other orgs come to help collect seeds every Friday morning at 10am, and you can too!  Not only is it fun and sustainable, but you can get volunteer hours for your efforts!

Check out this video below, which shows what one of these prairie seed collections looks like, and provides some more insights as to the purpose of collecting and seeding the prairie!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3f9LB-_zQA

Pictured (left to right): Upland Plover, Rattlesnake Master, Showy Goldenrod

220px-UplandSandpiperOntarioCroppedRattlesnake Mastergoldenrod

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