sustainablespu

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


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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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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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


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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


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Dumpster Diving –Just for hippies or for everyone?


With the end of my lease in September, I did a lot of preparing to move, which included taking an inventory of all the items I currently own and what I would need in my new place. I used to live in an apartment with six people but now live in an apartment with just two! This means that I had to do some searching for furniture, particularly free furniture (because who wants to pay for it when you have to pay first and last month’s rent and a safety deposit). Tim previously wrote a post on Shopping Alternatives that mentioned various forms of freeganism, but I’m diving head first into the topic (pun intended).

My version of dumpster diving doesn’t actually involve getting in dumpsters thankfully, but I’m not opposed to it Continue reading