Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 bottle filling stations at Penn State University Park

There are now 10 bottle-filling stations across campus! Though it's still technically in its pilot phase, it looks as though these things are going to stay. After getting a ton of emails this past spring requesting a machine or information on how to get them, I've been so happy to see new ones installed. That's fewer single-use plastic bottles in landfills.

In fact, this morning I used the Pattee Library bottle station. Its meter read over 24,000 plastic bottles saved! Yesterday I used the one in Chambers - over 10,000 bottles!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green Careers in Energy

We have had a splash in the nation's educational/schooling publishing wing with the release of Green Careers in Energy (linked through Powell's Books). I wrote an essay, titled "Education and Action to Achieve Sustainability" featured in Chapter 1: Essays on the Importance of Sustainability. Several people in the club, especially Zach B, Jared B, and Derek L contributed to the thinking and writing of the essay. Having read the other essays, we are the "bomb throwers" so to speak because we/I reject the global growth economy outright and demand place-based solutions.

I concluded the essay (with Zach's input!):
In the end, we must reduce our economy. We must not just learn about reduction. If we want a verdant planet, then we will need to educate ourselves by unlearning the consumption economy and retool culture to live while using less. Only then, will we live in a truly green economy, and will humans and all life flourish on Earth.
I think it's a hallmark of our progress and our society's progress that this can even make it into a book that informs "the economy." While not mainstream, we have people listening and reading and that is reason for hope.

The book, by the way, is a reasonably comprehensive guide to the opening field of renewable energy jobs and programs. Certainly, it provides a way for people to think and act on ways to retrain themselves in the emerging "green economy" and it helps students out there in undergraduate and graduate degrees or in their searches for the "greenest one." By the way, 3E-COE has a big fat blurb on page 242! Nicely done folks. Keep it up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bill McKibben coming to Penn State on October 4th

Noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben to speak on October 4, 2010

Bill McKibben will speak on the University Park Campus on Monday October 4, 2010 as part of the annual Colloquium on the Environment Speaker Series. His lecture, “The Most Important Number in the World,” is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of the HUB-Robeson Center. A book signing will immediately follow his lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming and alternative energy and advocates for more localized economies. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist." In 2009 he led the organization of, which coordinated what Foreign Policy magazine called “the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind,” with 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. The magazine named him to its inaugural list of the 100 most important global thinkers, and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009.

“Penn State continues on its path to achieve a 17.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 and is currently working on the next plan. We are looking forward to Bill McKibben’s presentation and hope to be inspired to do even more,” explained Steve Maruszewski, Assistant Vice President of Physical Plant and Manager of the Finance & Business Environmental Key Initiative.

McKibben is the author of numerous books. His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. In March 2007, McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise. In April of 2010, he published Eaarth. In Eaarth, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we’ve waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

The annual colloquium is sponsored by Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the Finance and Business Environmental Stewardship Strategy at Penn State. This year’s event is also sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and Penn State Outreach. The event has brought numerous high-profile guests to campus including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christine Todd Whitman, William McDonough, Amory Lovins, and David Suzuki.

Contact for more information:

Patricia Craig

Paul Ruskin

Milea A. Perry
Program Coordinator
Penn State University
Campus Sustainability Office

1 Land and Water Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-865-2714


Monday, September 6, 2010

BPA in plastics - No certainty about its safety

The New York Times has an interesting article on the science and the politics surrounding bisphenol-A, a chemical found in many plastics and linings in food packaging. It is a known endochrine disruptor and some studies have linked it to a several health problems not the least of which are cancer and disruption of male development in mammals. Being that one of our major thrusts has been to convince Penn State to eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles, it might serve to get a good read on this.

Here is a speck from the middle that I think nicely highlights how groups are arrayed in this fight:
Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue of whether BPA is safe has become highly partisan.

Environmental groups and many Democrats want BPA banned, blaming it for an array of ills that includes cancer, obesity, infertility and behavior problems. Environmentalists think the United States should adopt the “precautionary principle,” a better-safe-than-sorry approach favored in the European Union. The principle says, in essence, that if there are plausible health concerns about a chemical, even if they are not proved, people should not be exposed to it until studies show it is safe. The United States takes the opposite approach: chemicals are not banned unless there is proof of harm.

Many Republicans, anti-regulation activists and the food-packaging and chemical industries insist that BPA is harmless and all but indispensable to keeping canned food safe by sealing the cans and preventing corrosion, and to producing many other products at reasonable prices. They argue that the chemical has been demonized, and that adopting the precautionary principle would lead to needless and ruinously expensive bans on safe and useful products. Both sides are closely watching the issue unfold, because BPA is widely seen as a test case in an era of mounting worry about household chemicals, pollution and the possible links between illness and environmental exposures, especially in fetuses and young children.

“This isn’t the only endocrine-disrupting chemical on the block,” said Patricia Hunt, a biologist at Washington State University, in Pullman. “It’s just the one that’s captured the attention, because researchers like me have gotten into the field and gone, ‘Holy cats! We’re all exposed to this.’ There’s been a heavy industry response, and we’ve gathered our forces together a little more strongly to shine a light on it. This is the poster child for this group of chemicals. Academic scientists are saying we need to do something, and we need to do it fast.”
Read on here.