sustainablespu

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


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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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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


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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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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The Connection between Sustainability and Faith: A reflection in regards to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter (Part 1)


Following up on the release of the Papal encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home  earlier this year, Pope Francis designated September 1 within the Catholic Church as “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” (shout out to the Orthodox Church, which has been observing this day of prayer since 1989). While Seattle Pacific’s roots are distinctively Wesleyan, we also consider ourselves whole-heartedly ecumenical, believing that our faith can be enriched and our learning increased when we listen to voices from a variety of denominations. And indeed here, in relation to the Pope’s emphasis on environmental stewardship, there is much to be gleaned.

For you non-Catholic, non-theology majors, a papal encyclical is a written teaching focusing on a particular doctrinal issue, usually addressed to leaders within the Catholic Church. Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”) is unique because it is addressed to the entire world, not just bishops or Catholics. It’s also unique because it is unheard of for a major religious leader to place care for creation so centrally to what it means to be Christian, or for that matter, what it means to be human. That Pope Francis chose this topic for his first encyclical speaks volumes.[1]

There are a number of fantastic summaries of Laudato Si’—and in fact, this post was inspired by one of them—but there’s enough content in the encyclical that I thought it was worth spending a few posts summarizing and reflecting on it.

Current Problems

The Pope’s list of current problems includes pollution and climate change, the issue of water (is it clean? who has access?), loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, global inequality, and weak responses. This is just all in chapter one, and it is really sobering and difficult to read. There are just so many problems to tackle and taking a step back and letting them sink in is tough. The Pope also takes aim at economics-centered thinking, stating that “when nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society,” consequences that are evident in the current issues we face.

What gives me the most hope though is that, as a Christian, the tenants of my faith provide both deep motivation to change these issues and direction on how to go about bringing change. The Pope notes this when he comments on “the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity.” He goes on to state that, “Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” As a nursing major, I am particularly fond of science, so these statements are powerful to encouraging me and others to include both faith and science in our dialogue about change. Continue reading


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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