sustainablespu

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


Sustainable Creativity as Healing


 

This month has been a tough one for me and many in the SPU community, especially with the current political, economic, and social unrest happening in our nation and world. Closer to home, a fellow student, dear friend, and committed social justice advocate recently died in a car accident while traveling to Seattle from North Dakota. Erin Kimminau and a handful of others were on their way back from showing their solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its protest against the construction of the 1,200 mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This pipeline is set to be done in early January 2017 and spans from North Dakota to Illinois. It will transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily, thus impacting the tribe’s access to drinking water and disrupting sacred burial grounds.

Before the accident, I had bought fabric at a sustainable craft store in Greenwood, and the trip could not have come at a more opportune time. I brought home four different patterns of scrap fabric and planned to use them for Christmas presents. Instead, ripped strips of the fabric were offered to folks to pray over and tie together into a beautiful garland as a way to tangibly honor Erin’s life. Being able to contribute this reused and reclaimed fabric was special for me, especially after seeing the ways in which it ministered to, comforted, and healed the pain that many of us were (are) experiencing.

From the looks of Seattle ReCreative, nestled on a busy part of Greenwood Avenue, one wouldn’t imagine the potential crafting opportunities contained within the store. Here’s the creative space’s mission:seattle-recreative

“Seattle ReCreative is a non-profit organization dedicated
to promoting creativity, community and environmental
stewardship through creative reuse & art education.”

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The Commute


Almost half of SPU’s student body commutes to campus. Have you ever wondered how all of that time getting to and from campus contributes to overall student wellness and SPU’s environmental footprint? Over the last few months, we’ve collected a bit of data to find out.

In terms of happiness, studies connect commuting to lower rates of well-being, physical exercise, political activity, and life satisfaction as well as higher levels of emotional and relational stress. At the same time, some studies have found that the happiest commuters are those who walk, cycle, or take the train to work. In addition to increasing happiness, fewer greenhouse gas emissions are emitted into the environment by commuters who are able to take advantage of these options. If you’re a commuter unable to walk or cycle, consider carpooling or taking public transportation even a few times throughout the year to decrease your eco-footprint – every bit helps. Additionally, be sure to check out the resources offered by SPU’s wellness initiative! 

As far as environmental footprint goes, commuting mileage has a bigger institutional impact than one might think. In 2011, faculty and staff commuting made up 6% and student commuting accounted for 23% of our total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.  To continue our efforts in effectively measuring and lowering SPU’s GHG emissions, we conduct an annual Student Commute Survey. Continue reading


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.


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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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