Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 – United Nations Climate Change Conference

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This year in December, the conversation around the planet’s changing climate will continue in Paris as many delegates and representatives gather from countries around the world. According to the homepage for main issues, “the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.” This is a lofty goal for a conference that is less than two weeks long with numerous diverse parties from both private and public sectors.

Now less than a week away this conference has all the details figured out. I’m going to highlight a few of the basics, but feel free to explore the links provided as your interest is peaked.

If you’re interested in getting a crash course on what the conference is all about, you can dive in to this quick read written in July. It outlines why there is a conference in the first place and how businesses are involved. Continue reading

Water conservation sign proof

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Water Conservation on Campus & the Water Crisis around the world

A central theme of sustainability is avoiding waste of resources in order to create a better foundation for the future. I thought I’d share some ways SPU is stepping up its game and asking students to engage on the issue of water. If you live on campus, you may have noticed some new signage in your bathroom bringing attention water conservation and giving students a few practical ways to do so. In a previous post, I described this summer’s  water shortage and the subsequent voluntary reduction implemented by Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma. In addition to the operational changes we made this summer to reduce campus water consumption, we are asking students to help reduce water use this fall.

There are many benefits to saving water:

  • Saving water just means using less so that it can be used by others in your area. When water is used it must go through a treatment or cleaning process before it can be used again. The typical treatment for our drinking water in the United States is a five step process that is regulated on a federal level; it uses time, energy and financial resources to clean our water. So limiting the need for that redundant process is beneficial to everyone, especially if you live in a water scare region or in times of drought.
  • Conserving water isn’t just based on communal concern, but can also be based on finances; using less means paying for less. This is also key when the cost of water varies from place to place and certain people are controlling how much you must pay for clean water (be on the look-out for a future a post on the privatization of water!). As fresh water is a limited resource to be used by people, we have to think about how that 1% of the Earth’s water is shared among the approximately 3 billion people.

An update on Seattle and the surrounding areas was published just last week. While it seems that collectively there were great efforts in reduction, we aren’t in the clear just yet. Fall rains have yet to hit in full force refilling our reservoirs. If you don’t live in the Seattle area, take a look at your local watershed and see if seasonal rains have improved your reserves or if you need to do some conserving yourself.

Some additional tips in on top of our basics for students include reusing clothing or towels before washing them to do less laundry, updating your appliances, and so many more!

Lastly, I want to highlight some wonderful groups of people that help others have access to clean water the way we do in the US. If you find that your conservation efforts result in some extra cash, consider donating funds to a project that could benefit people beyond your watershed (if you’re into that sort of thing). If you’re looking for one stop shopping, check out a few articles that have lists of water organizations, or you can check them out individually. These are just a small handful of people working to beat the water crisis, feel free to comment about any organizations you really like and find out more about the 780 million people (2013, UNESCO) that don’t have access to clean water.

One Days Wages           charity: water          The Water Project   

Water Charity            Just a Drop            H2O for Life

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Reusable Water Bottles –There is a plethora of options, so do you have one yet?

It’s fairly known and understood that single use plastic water bottles are bad, especially when they aren’t recycled and then end up in landfills and oceans. Yet, they still get used and used a LOT because of their perceived convenience. We wrote about this several years ago, yet newer statistics have been difficult to come by. Generally speaking though, single use plastic bottles are harmful because they take a lot of energy and a lot of water to produce (check fact #5). Also, paying for bottled water when your tap water is just as good (or could be) is a waste of money.

In case you haven’t yet adopted a reusable water bottle solution, I thought I’d highlight some companies that are working not only to reduce waste, but also doing some pretty cool stuff with their profits. All of these companies have been in business for at least 5 years, and most are West Coast based. They also want to fight the bottled water market by providing unique and interesting alternatives, so I encourage you to check out these people a bit more (two are SPU alumni!).

Klean Kanteen –Est. 2005 in Chico California

Joined 1% for the Planet in 2008, donating more than 1% of annual sales to nonprofits working to protect and promote the health of the planet. With a simple statement: “our bottom line is simple: to provide affordable, safe, healthy, high quality products and accessories and to promote and encourage health, sustainability and environmental awareness.”  Continue reading

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Dumpster Diving (Part 2) –Success is sweet!

*Disclaimer- SPU is not paying me to look through your (or anyone’s) dumpster, nor is it advocating any type of illegal behavior. *

Check out part one of this series.

This is a follow up post with the results of my experience on dumpster diving for food! I wanted to share my experience to show that it really can be a fun and waste saving experience for everyone! Here’s the scoop on what we found. Photo 1 . The box of donuts was on top of the compostable bags, not actually inside them, in the dumpster at a local donut shop. It was pretty convenient and they were very delicious!Photo 2

Photo 3

The other foods were found inside one of the eight compostable bags outside of a local bakery. It was all about finding the bag with the uneaten food and not the bags from consumers after they’ve eaten filled with crumbs, napkins, and wrappers. I went with a fellow dumpster diving novice as well as a more experienced friend who showed us the ropes. He explained how to look for the best bags, and he actually climbed inside both dumpsters! We used our phones’ flashlights and didn’t have cars, so walked about 30 minutes with our spoils back to my friend’s house, where we enjoyed some donuts and saved the rest for lunches. This was a great experience and I learned so much about our waste here in Seattle!Photo 4

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Dumpster Diving –Just for hippies or for everyone?

With the end of my lease in September, I did a lot of preparing to move, which included taking an inventory of all the items I currently own and what I would need in my new place. I used to live in an apartment with six people but now live in an apartment with just two! This means that I had to do some searching for furniture, particularly free furniture (because who wants to pay for it when you have to pay first and last month’s rent and a safety deposit). Tim previously wrote a post on Shopping Alternatives that mentioned various forms of freeganism, but I’m diving head first into the topic (pun intended).

My version of dumpster diving doesn’t actually involve getting in dumpsters thankfully, but I’m not opposed to it Continue reading

Graffiti artist Mauro Palotta says Pope Francis is the only world leader who stands on the side of the people.


The Connection between Sustainability and Faith: Lines of Approach and Action (Part 3)

This is the final entry in a three part reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

The first and second posts in this series discuss growing ecological problems and some characteristics of solutions that are needed to combat those problems. This post includes more specific lines of actions, specifically for Christians. The following is a list compiled in the encyclical of ways to address the issue of our changing environment:

  • Dialogue on the Environment in the International Community
  • Dialogue for New National and Local Policies
  • Dialogue and Transparency in Decision-Making
  • Politics and Economy in Dialogue for Human Fulfilment
  • Religions in Dialogue with Science

It is clear that the first step in changing our world on a large scale is talking about it, and talking to the right people. Some of these conversations will be happening at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in December. This is at a global level, but the US Congress is in the position to make national conversations. Conversations can also take place within our churches and schools about the changes that need to be made to be better stewards of the planet. Yet, it is also possible to begin making changes on a smaller scale that starts with the concerned individual and moves outward as they educate and encourage others around them about their concerns.

There are people who oppose this conversation and change as being too difficult or not really important, and often Christians are among those people. “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” This to me is devastating, because I feel that in the belief in Christ and his teachings, there is a strong theme of connection and restoration, and accepting those themes but rejecting their practical application is not seeing those themes for the true value that they have in the Christian story. It is not that these themes are separate from the saving grace of Christ, but that they are integral and that redemption is not only for humanity, but all of Creation. Continue reading


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The Connection between Sustainability and Faith: Stewardship and Solutions (Part 2)

This is part two of a three part reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

In part one of this reflection, I touched on how we need to focus on stewardship and not ownership. The idea of being a steward of the earth and its resources is not only why I want to contribute to solutions for ecological issues, it also informs other areas of my faith. I truly believe the statement the Pope uses about our role in restoring the planet: “Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” At the same time, these values are not self-sacrificing; as a steward, my efforts to protect the earth are in essence caring for myself and other humans on the earth. The Pope affirms this care as a clear aim of the church, stating that, “The work of the Church seeks not only to remind everyone of the duty to care for nature, but at the same time ‘she must above all protect mankind from self-destruction’.” This is no easy task though, and it’s clear from the extensive list of woes outlined that this will be a long process of problem solving and collaboration. This list of problems challenges us to thoughtful in the way we fulfill our roles as stewards on the earth. We have to be aware of our limits to solve the problems we’ve created. For some people, this may mean reintroducing the idea of limits being there for our own good and not as a punishment from God. There are limits on how much food we can produce currently and there is a limit on the fossil fuels that exist–these are limits that can spur us on to be creative problem solvers.

What kind of solutions do we need?

The solutions outlined in the letter aren’t specifics, but more guidelines of characteristics that the solutions should include. The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to include environmental, economical, and social ecology. This is to say that any solution we come up with needs to be multi-faceted and inclusive of different areas of life. Because everything is so interconnected, solutions have to address the realms of business, ecology, and cultures around the world. “Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals related to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” These solutions also cannot just be for ourselves, but must be inclusive of the future generations and in thoughtful reflection of those who have come before us and what we can do to change the current patterns.

“The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity.”


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