sustainablespu

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

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Ride Sharing: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others–are they good for the environment?


Through marketing (mostly radio ads and Facebook) and my friends, I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Lyft and Uber. Sidecar isn’t as popular here in Seattle, but it still got my attention while researching ridesharing applications. Former sustainability assistant and blogger extrodinaireTim wrote a post about Lyft two years ago when they first started becoming popular here in Seattle, and since then there has been a bit of controversy about the legality and regulation about these kind of application based vehicle services (dubbed Transportation Network Companies by the city). Although these services were legalized in Seattle about a year ago, there are still concerns about insurance and potential conflict between statewide and local legislation.

Image Credit: Jeff Blucher, Flickr

Image Credit: Jeff Blucher, Flickr

As a car owner, I know how bad traffic can be, especially during rush hour. I also know that I contribute to traffic, and I feel especially guilty when I’m driving a short distance I could be walking, or when I’m the only one in my car. With all the hype I’ve heard lately, I wanted to know more and know if the companies are helping to alleviate the use of personal vehicles for single occupants.

Photo Credit Rob Barrett, NY Times, 2008

Image Credit: Rob Barrett, NY Times, 2008

After reading a number of articles, I found some on the basics of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and others relating to the politics and the environmental factors. These articles all helped me to better understand about the issues at hand.

What’s legal here in Seattle and what was all the controversy about?

The current regulations on TNCs were passed in July of 2014 and include:

  • Licensing and insurance requirements for drivers in the networks (there are specific requirements, but all listed pretty generally in news articles).
  • Removal of the cap on the number of drivers for each TNC, so there can be many drivers from Uber, Lyft, or other companies.
  • The creation of an Accessibility fund, which charges 10 cents per ride in vehicles not equipped for wheelchairs in order to create a wheelchair accessible taxi service.
  • Changes made to benefit taxis and for-hire drivers. The City will increase the number of taxi licenses they issue over the next four years, and for-hire drivers are now allowed to pick up passengers that hail them on the street instead of being restricted to arrange-in-advance rides only.Ridesharelogos

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Ways to Avoid Wasting Water


For those of you not in Seattle, this summer has been a bit hotter than normal, to the point where extra heat has had an effect on the typically conscientious water use of Seattleites, creating an increased demand and usage. The combination of heat and  record low river levels has put Seattle on edge, and as a precaution the city implemented the second stage of its water shortage plan  on August 11th, along with nearby cities Tacoma and Everett. This stage is voluntary, with the cities asking customers to reduce their water consumption by 10%. I have joined this voluntary stage by timing my shower this morning to cut back on my water use (Down to 7 minutes! My goal is 4 by the end of the week.).

Infographic

There are so many tips out there for how to avoid wasting water, including some the city references specifically on their website, but I also found an awesome infographic that I wanted to share.  This infographic was last updated in 2013, so I’m hoping there has been some progress since then on our water conservation, but these are still shocking statistics. (Infographic found at greenerideal, originally created by elocal).

Seattle Pacific has already made some hardware upgrades to help reduce water, and we limit our watering to specific areas on campus during the summer. There are low flow shower heads in all of the residence halls and dual flush toilets in various locations across campus that use less than the average bathroom fixtures. In an effort to be a conscientious community member, the University is currently assessing different options to meet the City’s request, such as modifying and reducing irrigation schedules—more details to come. In addition, you can help SPU save water by reporting any leaks you notice on campus to the Building Maintenance line and by cutting down your personal usage of water. Continue reading

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Solutions to the Food Waste Fight


Food Waste Challenge –Launched 2 years ago

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is my go to source for what is officially happening here, and their website has a wealth of information. I particularly found the Food Waste Challenge launched in 2013 interesting, as well as the USDA’s Commitments and Deliverables through 2014. The Food Waste Challenge is a joint effort between the USDA and the EPA to call people along the food chain to help reduce, recover, and recycle (compost) more food so that it isn’t wasted, but instead used to its fullest potential. The specifics of the goal include 400 participants by 2015, and 1000 by 2020. Participants aren’t individuals, but schools, religious groups, businesses, or local government branches. Membership however is currently at 4,024, including 113 universities. Wow.

As part of this challenge there are also federal marketing orders that allow donations or alternate uses of fresh produce that don’t meet the federal marketing order requirements. These orders include crops of citrus fruits, avocados, kiwis, cherries, olives, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and dates. Since the launch of this program there have been fewer reports on food waste statistics, so we’ll see how effective it is. For tips and resources on how you can get involved, check out their Frequently Asked Questions page. Continue reading

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Food Waste Coming into the Limelight –Highlights from John Oliver


The issue of food waste is not just one here in Seattle—it’s a nationwide issue that starts with the way we produce food and only becomes more of a problem as food finds its way to consumers. John Oliver recently dedicated a segment of his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to this growing problem (Warning: It’s John Oliver, so be prepared for your facts to come served with a sprinkling of obscenity and a hearty side portion of dark humor). This caught the attention of many media sites, which is great news! The more people who become aware of this problem, the more we can do to change it. Here are some of the highlights of his 17 minute segment.

The Stats

In 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported “40% of the food in the United States today goes uneaten.” The USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) Economic Research Service 2010 data puts the national percentage at a more conservative 31%. Roughly translated, this means that a third of all the food produced in America is wasted.

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Food Waste in a landfill in California

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3 tips from Zero Waste “Gurus”


What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a philosophy of reduction and recycling that leads to the production of no (or very little) garbage. It is a way of living that changes how much garbage you produce, but doesn’t have to change everything about you. You can still be yourself, but a more resourceful version of yourself that is kinder to the planet and your wallet. There’s a graphic that I think is really helpful in explaining what zero waste is all about that I’ve pulled from our department’s main website.
flowchart1zerowastecycleedit_Page_1

The top portion is a traditional waste stream that puts most items directly into the landfill while using lots of natural resources and energy to get them there.

The second graphic however, is a cycle that continues to reuse the same resources over and over again, with very little or nothing headed to the landfill. This cycle not only uses fewer natural resources, but also saves energy in production through reusing materials many times before recycling. Using recycled materials also reduces energy and cost for manufacturers. Continue reading


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S.P.A.C.E., Summer Veggies and the Benefits of Gardening


S.P.A.C.E. stands for Seattle Pacific Agriculture for the Community and Environment, and is a club on campus that stewards over the community garden for SPU. That garden is located on 4th Ave. W. behind the Dravus Lot, and is a great place to get involved over the summer. From my experience very few people I’ve talked to on campus even know that it exists, and that’s why I’m writing about it!DSCN1009

This garden I have visited a few times, but have yet to put much work into. I have contacted the club leaders and will start watering the plants this week. Summer is a great season for plants to soak up the sun here in Seattle, and there are many fruits and veggies that thrive in the warm weather that we’ve been having with the proper care and watering. I’m going to outline a few below, and use this research to help me narrow down which ones to plant in addition to the ones already growing in our garden. Continue reading


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Summer start up!


As the summer weeks are now in full swing, and the first official day of summer is coming up our campus is implementing compost! We’ll start placing bins in office buildings, with the residence halls to follow. The bin in our office This is the bin in our Facilities office that is right at home next to our recycling.

Our warehouse is filled with bins eagerly awaiting deployment, but in need of compostable bags to go with. Some bins will go out today, and others around campus have been re-labeled for composting capacity, in common spaces like the lobby of Demaray Hall and near Common Grounds in Weter.
Lg Compost BinsThese bins are part of the campus implementation of the city ordinance that started January 1st of this year that prohibits compostable or recyclable items from being disposed of as garbage. In addition to the many small bins on campus inside the buildings being added, there are 8 new pick up locations for all of our food waste to go.

Other bins have been ordered to increase recycling on campus and will be added to our indoor recycling program.Recycling & Counter top bins

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