sustainablespu

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


Mottainai: Waste Nothing, Respect All


Have you ever thought about how much waste you generate on a daily basis? If you’ve spent any time in Japan, you may be more aware of your waste habits. Last December, my sister visited the country and got first-hand experience of this. She was struck by Japan’s lack of public trashcans and surprisingly litter-free streets. Some municipalities have over 44 different garbage categories and people often carry around their trash all day to dispose of it properly at home.

Waste is a serious matter in Japan, guided for centuries by the cultural concept of Mottainai

having respect for the resources around you, to not waste these resources and to use them with a sense of gratitude.”

This way of life and disposal makes sense for an island country with limited landfill space. It’s encouraging that affluent, consumer-based countries have created such dynamic cultural waste norms, especially in light of America’s throw-away habits. For food waste alone, it’s estimated that the U.S. tosses 30-40% of its food produced annually, costing about $165 billion and producing almost 34 million tons of waste. Considering that every ton of food wasted creates 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the scope of this issue is staggering. What’s more, globally about $1 trillion or one-third of all food produced goes uneaten.

Due to these realities, we conduct an audit to track SPU’s waste contribution. This year with the implementation of a campus-wide compost program, it was a lengthier collection and recording process. Over the course of May, we analyzed about 820 cubic yards or 310,535 lbs. of waste: 26% garbage, 61% recyclables, and 13% compostables.  Continue reading

Advertisements


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

Continue reading