sustainablespu

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


Aotearoa New Zealand: Sweet As!


Eighteen students, thirty-thousand sheep, two Kiwis, twelve days, and one incredible experience in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

These numbers only begin to describe the study abroad I recently participated in. This trip was organized for more than two years by two Kiwis: Dr. Ross Stewart, SBGE Dean and Professor of Accounting, and Dr. Daniel Schofield, Professor of Chemistry.

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Daniel and Ross at the Waimangu Inferno Crater Lake. Photo courtesy of Daniel Schofield.

After Fall Quarter finals, eighteen students studied abroad in Aotearoa New Zealand. We focused on aspects of environmental and cultural sustainability from both accounting and chemistry perspectives.

“Aotearoa is the [indigenous] Māori name for the country of New Zealand. The literal translation of Aotearoa is ‘land of the long white cloud’” (Māori Tourism Lmtd.).

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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!

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


The Coffee Obsession (Part 2) – What is fair trade really about?


Along with knowing what kind of milk and how much syrup is in our specialty drinks every morning, we should be even more concerned about where the beans that create those delicious nutty undertones come from. Some of the biggest regions that produce coffee are Central and South America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. Many countries’ economies are wrapped up in the global trade of coffee.

A good place to start in learning about coffee beans is the different types. There are two kinds of beans that are used most often for making coffee, Robusta and Arabica. The differences in these two relate to their flavor, growing conditions, and price.  Robusta has a stronger, harsher taste with grain and peanut overtones and can have twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. These beans however, are considered lower quality when compared to Arabica beans in most cases. There are a few growers of Robusta that are higher quality and used in espressos for their rich flavor and caffeine content.

Arabica beans are common in pricier coffee circles, where Robusta is common in the grocery store. Arabica beans are more acidic and tend to have the fruitier tones that can be associated with specialty coffees. The two different kinds of beans are grown in different locations as well. Arabica beans grow at higher altitudes and take longer to produce than the Robusta beans which are very hearty and grow quickly.  This information was all found at http://www.thekitchn.com but there are many other sites out there. The types of beans grown determine the price that growers can sell them at and how much and how fast they can grow. Continue reading


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Green Careers


Solar_PowerWelp, graduation is approaching fast for us SPU seniors, and the desperate search for a new job is well underway for many. Whether or not you’ll be stepping away from SPU this June, the field of sustainability is a constantly growing one, and green career options are expanding past the ones you may already know about. If you’re at all interested in going into sustainability after school, or if you’re in the thick of it and trying to look ahead, check out the following list of possible future jobs in under-sought areas within the sustainable framework. Continue reading


Steelhead Breakout!


fronttest3No matter how you feel about fish hatcheries, this story of 25,000 steelhead being broken out of a hatchery east of Seattle is pretty interesting. The police are currently looking for whoever broke into the hatchery and released the fish, and details are little about the suspicion of a certain “disgruntled angler.” The Wild Fish Conservancy has called out the hatchery program for its harmful effect on the steelhead population, which has declined 97% in Puget Sound waters since 1895. The idea is that these hatcheries, with the way they concentrate populations, may contribute to overfishing. While this problem won’t necessarily be aided by the breakout, it’s interesting to consider the motive behind the operation. We’ve all had fantasies about breaking into the zoo and releasing the animals, but of course, in our urban environment, those animals probably wouldn’t get far. Here’s to hoping that this steelhead liberation contributes in some small way to the restoration of their presence in Pacific Northwest waters.


Good News for the Amazon Rain Forest


amazon-rainforest-heroUnfortunately, there’s a lot of bad news in the sustainability field these days. It’s easy to get discouraged, but there’s always somewhere to find encouragement, and today that positivity can be attained from the fact that Brazil and co. have recently agreed to create a 215 million dollar fund to expand protection of the Amazon rain forest by 34,000 square miles. In an area where logging is a constant threat, it’s good to know that the government is making continual effort towards conserving as much of the epic rain forest as possible. So, if you needed 34,000 square miles of environmental mood boost today, there you go.