sustainablespu

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


Compost Champs


If you read our last waste-related post from the summer, you may be hungry for updates on how SPU is doing this school year. As we will be conducting our next waste audit come May 2017, we thought we’d give a mid-year update, specifically regarding compost.

In its second year, SPU’s compost program is already diverting more food and yard waste as compared to last school year. Here’s a graph detailing our campus compost by tons for the last year and a half:

compost-comparison-fy Continue reading

Connecting the Missing Link


This summer I’ve enjoyed running on the Burke Gilman Trail (BGT). Some evenings I’ll use the trail to connect my route from SPU to Gasworks Park; other times I’ll run from yoga in Ballard towards Fremont to get back home. Rain or shine, thousands of cyclists and pedestrians frequent the 19.8-mile trail every day. Extending from Bothell to Ballard, the multi-use trail runs alongside various bodies of water including Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Fremont Cut, Salmon Bay, and Shilshole Bay.

bgtmapwithpins

The Burke Gilman trail with various road access and recreational points along the way.

The BGT has been one of the best surprises and most accessible places for me to exercise, although I’ve always felt leery (Leary) about running through the Missing Link. Following those feelings, I decided to do some research on the mile-and-a-half portion and how its completion may affect trail-users at SPU.  Continue reading


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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


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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.


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


Staying Warm Sans Heat


blog photosIn case you haven’t noticed, Seattle has recently turned into an urban icebox, winter announcing its arrival in staggeringly brisk form. I’ve been wearing a total of four layers outside, and have still been cold. It’s super tempting to get the heat going inside, but I’m doing my best to hold off as long as possible. It seems natural to take off our layers once we get home, but keeping on a sweatshirt or two can do the trick when looking to stay warm in sustainable fashion. This is the time to put those old sweaters you don’t want to be seen with anymore to use. Continue reading