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


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COP21 -The Paris Talks Resolution


COP21 –The Paris Talks Resolution

As a follow up to my previous post announcing the COP21 or SIF15 Climate Change talks happening in Paris, I’m going to look at some of the outcomes and highlights following the conference.

The conference ended on December 12th after additional days being added for continued negotiation. There has been an agreement drafted and signed by 195 countries to reduce climate change, with specific plans outlined in that document.

The conference included over 75 speakers and included the Sustainable Innovation Forum, which was the largest business event that engaged NGO’s, individuals, and investors to be a part of the climate change around the world, in a positive way. Speeches given provided examples of ways that businesses can see profits from being energy efficient or creating zero-carbon alternatives to current products adding to carbon emissions.

Many people had a lot to say about the agreement and how they think it will have impacts for our future. The majority seem to say that it was monumental for an international agreement to be reached around the growing issue of climate change. Yale Climate Connections compiled some of the earliest thoughts on the results of the conference just days after it had concluded.cop21-unfccc-paris-agreement-1550x804

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions put together some bullet points to help sum up the conclusion of the agreement:

  • The goal to limit global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius
  • Commit all countries to reporting progress on their emissions regularly
  • Establish and reaffirm binding commitments to make “nationally determined contributions”, and resubmit these contributions every five years
  • Extending a mechanism to address loss and damage from climate change, which won’t require liability or compensation
  • Require parties engaging in international emissions trading to avoid double counting

Today, countries are signing the agreement in honor of Earth day in New York. This is a monumental occasion and I think one of the best ways to honor the earth we live on. Over 130 countries have agreed to sign the agreement, initiating their process towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change, specifically the 2 degree target.

Additionally, from the “Why not?” speech given by the UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, the hope is that developing countries could skip the steps of the developed nations and go straight to low-carbon and low-impact transport solutions. The focus of his speech is really how private sector businesses can make a huge impact on how the future of emissions changes.

It is an exciting day in history, so celebrate the Earth today and the rest of your days!


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Sustainability & Film: Mad Max and Water Wars


(Spoiler alert* If you haven’t seen it I don’t want to ruin it for you, go watch it*)

*Mad Max Fury Road contains violence and some nudity, it is rated R, suggested for ages 16 and up because it has intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.*

“Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!” –Immortan Joe

I recently watched the new Mad Max film and really enjoyed it. It’s not only an exciting action flick with great cinematography, it touches on social issues in ways that I was not expecting at all. If you have read reviews of the plot, you know that the setting for the movies is a desert wasteland, and most of the film takes place across a wide expanse of empty land. The New Yorker has a great review has more to do with the plot and style of the film, but I’m going to focus on something the movie also shows us, the importance of water.

In other recent blog posts, I’ve touched on water use reduction and how our campus is doing our part, but this movie takes water scarcity to the extreme. Mad Max shows us that water is vital, when most of us take it for granted. I consistently fill up my water bottle with clean cold water (and I sometimes complain when it rains), but the characters in this film are for the most part very careful with their water. They clamor to fill bowls and pitchers when the aquifer rains down water on top of them.

Water scarcity is in the forefront of the plot and a driving force behind the way the characters travel in the movie. It is part of the reason they leave their location at the beginning of the movie, and finding water is the goal of their travelling. Although difficult for us in Seattle to imagine, this drought-stricken wasteland could be our possible future, and Hollywood’s focus on water scarcity is a way of warning us about our current problems. One of these problems is the privatization of water, which I plan to follow up on with an additional blog post as part of my water series.

An additional similarity is that water will be a source of conflict, and according to James Fergusson at Newsweek, this is already contributing to the unrest in the countries of Syria and Yemen.  His article goes into the history of how there have been many conflicts related to water scarcity.

This however does not just happen in the Middle East, but our own droughts in recent years have severely affected the state of California. Currently 61% of the state is an extreme or exceptional drought according to the United States Drought Monitor, and groundwater was until recently unregulated. This allowed land owners to do as much pumping of groundwater as they pleased. After the 2014 summer, the need for groundwater legislation came to the forefront to end the battling between landowners for water. California state legislation was passed in September of 2014 and then updated this year with Senate bill 13 that amends and clarifies previous Water Code sections of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. These changes create regulation of groundwater basins and provide a foundation for local agencies to limit excessive use of basin water. This is the first step in ensure water is used to keep people healthy and safe during warm months.

Mad Max Fury Road shows us the importance of respecting the resources we have, especially in light of our own water troubles. So the next time you turn on the faucet, think of that dry dusty landscape—and respect the water that comes out of that faucet for the valuable resource it is.


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Follow up on the Food Waste Fight and Faith


In some of my previous posts I touched on the problems of food waste , as well as some solutions for the rising problem in America. I also appreciated and reflected on parts of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter in a 3 part series about how faith and sustainable practices go hand in hand. The Pope is not the only person who has noticed this connection and is asking faith communities to step up to the issue of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency here in the states has also recognized how the faith community can partner in helping the planet. With this thought, the EPA has launched their Food Steward’s Pledge to help reach the goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent in the next 14 years.

This move towards encouraging members of the faith community is based on changing food waste through systemic channels. In an interview with NPR, Gina McCarthy the EPA Administrator says that this strategy allows the EPA to tap “into incredibly motivated and dedicated people”. NPR’s report goes on to highlight many religious groups who are taking part in the food waste fight, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other faith groups.

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What do you want?


Hello Readers!

This blog post is a little out of the ordinary, because it’s all about you. I’m curious to know what the audience of a Sustainability blog is interested and how SustainableSPU can be different from other blogs you may follow. We as an institution are committed to pursuing sustainability, but that doesn’t mean just through one venue. Educating and informing students, faculty, staff, and community members is a big part of my goal as a Sustainability Intern, and considering I have just a few short months until graduation I’d like to do the best I can now. Please comment below with how you found our blog and what you would like to see more of so that this blog can serve its followers. Thank you! Lauren


Water Restrictions no more: The rain is back!


Just over a week ago it was officially declared that regional water supply for Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma is back to normal due to some recent heavy rains. The state is still technically in a declared drought, but our region on the west side has filled reservoirs and saturated ground.Shower-memeedited

Despite this, it is important to remember the weather of El Nino this year could be warmer and have a lower snow pack in the coming months. It is also key that just because restrictions have been lifted that people don’t abandon all of their newly-acquired conservation habits. Currently Seattle’s reservoirs are full or rising and each mayor from the different cities in the region thanks residents for their cooperation during the restrictions. To get more information, check out the official report released from Seattle Public Utilities.

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


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.

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