So, I know this is a merry season, a time to relax with family and friends. And it is wonderful; but I always feel discouraged after spending time in a mall or shopping area, seeing how many things people are buying and thinking about our culture of endless consumerism. The holiday season is rampant with materialism; in fact,

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging.

– Robert Lilienfield, co-author of the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are, notes that if every family reused just 2 feet [0.6 meter] of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

I work for Campus Life at Cornell as Student Sustainability Director, and one of the things I do for my job is send out weekly emails with sustainability tips to the staff. Here’s one of my recent ones:


  1. Instead of giving more items to people, consider giving a more personal gift such as tickets to an event, a coupon for a free night/day of babysitting or gourmet meal, or donating to a charity in someone’s name:
    1. Oxfamamericaunwrapped.com invites donors to “buy,” for example, a sheep ($45), building tools ($25) or the planting of 50 trees ($30) as a way to support Oxfam’s programs in developing countries (the recipient gets a card with a photo, not an actual sheep).
    2. Go to http://www.treehugger.com/giftguide/ for a very extensive guide to the best affordable, low- environmental impact, and fun gifts.
  2. Wrap presents in posters, decorated grocery-store bags or pages from glossy fashion magazines. Or put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift. If you love traditional wrapping paper, buy the recycled versions from sites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics .com ($4.99 for two 24- by 36-inch sheets).
  3. And if you do go to the mall, don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags! Keep some in the trunk of your car in case you forget (also handy for grocery shopping).

I recently went to the mall carrying my big canvas bag…I felt a little strange, especially since I think salespeople thought I would shoplift with my large bag. But it turned out to be really nice because I had lots of space for my Sigg bottle, and it felt good every time I told the cashier “No Thanks” to a bag.

Happy Holidays!


While I find it nerve-racking that many people are expecting president elect Barack Obama to solve ALL our country’s issues (I’ve heard this in regard to Health care, Economic woes, International development etc), it is inspiring that citizens passionately want our country to move in a new direction these next 4 years.

This article, compiled by blog writer Andrew C. Revkin, exemplifies this idea in regards to new green policy.

A couple of my favorite ideas by people include:

  1. A science advisory board

    “President-elect Obama has much on his plate, but I would encourage him to establish a high-level Science Advisory Board and to make clear to those around him, including members of Congress, that science, not politics, would inform his decision-making in every appropriate area of concern. This nation can no longer afford either voodoo economics or voodoo science if we are to retain our leadership in the 21st century.”

  2. A Green New Deal

    “I would ask President Obama to combine economic recovery and a new energy agenda (renewable energy, alternative transportation infrastructure, energy efficiency, smart grid and smart land use) into a Green New Deal. Several economists, for example 2008 Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, are talking about the need for a Keynesian type fiscal stimulus akin to F.D.R.’s New Deal. And others are talking about the need to make it green.”

What are your ideas on how the environment can play a more important political and economic role?




Green Resource Hub

Green Resource HubThe Green Resource Hub of the Finger Lakes now offers a calendar of all events sustainable for a wide region. As their tagline states, “Expanding the Regional Marketplace for Sustainable Living,” they now have program listings of great events in the greater Ithaca region. They cater to four focus areas: Energy efficiency, Renewable energy, Green building, and Green purchasing.

Other programs run by the Green Resource Hub volunteers include in-home gatherings to show energy efficiency in the home with power monitoring devices, and workshops on consumer education of what green goods are worth buying, and which can be made easily at home such as cleaning products.

I’m looking forward to seeing this calendar fill up with events. There are already many in Ithaca, and many more in the surrounding areas. The GRH also accepts suggestions of other events not listed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this calendar grows fast. Non-profit organizations such as this one are going to be increasingly popular as prices for consumer good increase while demand for alternative options soars also. There are so many programs, products, and people touting all things green, but without any guidance it is difficult for the general public to know which are simply scams and which are truly looking at a more sustainable future. I’m glad to see a resource hub which can help consumers find the answers they need towards living better.

The website for the Green Resource Hub is: http://www.greenresourcehub.org and a link to their calendar is available from there.

Saturday Cyclovia

I got an email a few weeks ago now about a new tradition in Ithaca. The concept was borrowed from the Cyclovia in the country of Columbia, where streets are blocked off for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and any other non-motorized transportation. Cars can use other roads during these times, but this gives bikers and pedestrians much more access to safe roads that they can use without worrying about cars flying past.

So Ithaca’s Cyclovia is a much smaller scale version of this. Each Saturday at 10:00am, bikers meet at DeWitt park downtown and as a group, they bike to the farmer’s market. This week I joined in among the small crowd for an easy going bike ride to the market. While it was a lot slower than my general pace (there were small children biking with us so we went slow), it was fun to take over one small piece of Ithaca and ride safely. I really hope that this group grows every week, and reaches a mass large enough that cars have to just drive slowly behind the bikers.

The problem with cars and bikes coexisting, is that in most places, there are not adequate bike paths. A real bike path needs to allow for bikers to move swiftly along a road, while not interfering with traffic, but still able to turn onto other roads when they need to. Ithaca doesn’t have bike paths that allow that though. This causes a problem because most people bike much slower than cars want to go. In the city, it is really pointless for a car to scoot past a bike, because it usually results in waiting at the next red light or stop sign anyway – but that is how it happens.

But lately with the price of gas rising, people are talking about other ways of getting around, and riding bicycles as a group to also support the farmer’s market will help push Ithaca towards a more sustainable lifestyle. So, please, join the group and bike to the farmer’s market next week!

Ithaca Carshare

Ithaca Carshare
On Tuesday, Ithaca Carshare started accepting membership to their program, which should be running in June. Members can borrow Ithaca Carshare vehicles by logging into the website www.ithacacarshare.org and see the availability and placement of the vehicles. For getting around when a car is needed, this looks to be a great alternative to owning a car and paying for all of the associated costs. Considering the cost of ownership with repairs, maintenance, gasoline and insurance, this service might be a well needed relief to those who own cars currently but don’t drive them often enough to make the costs economical.
Ithaca Carshare is starting with two plans: “It’s my car” is $20 per month and $4.95 per hour of usage, and “Just in case” is $50 a year plus $7.95 per hour. Both plans charge 20 cents per mile driven also. I did the math, and if you plan on using this service for more than 63 hours in a year, than the “It’s my car” plan becomes cheaper. The application fee is regularly $30, but there is a reduced price of $15 if you sign up before May 5th.
According to the website, every shared car is equivalent to taking 15 personal vehicles off the road. With the economy in a bit of a slump and gasoline prices increasing, it becomes more viable to not own cars – or get rid of the second car at least – when a service like this can help support your travel needs. Of course walking and biking still use less resources and energy, but for those times when a car is needed, Ithaca Carshare is a great option.

Credit to Krisy Gashler in the Ithaca Journal:

ITHACA — The winds are changing in Tompkins County.

After some notable recent setbacks, wind energy proponents in the county have several projects to look forward to again.

Ithaca College recently received approval to set up a meteorological tower on part of its South Hill property to measure wind and see whether conditions are appropriate for building a wind turbine.

The Enfield wind farm proposal, after being killed by a questionable law late last year, has new life with a new town board.And the Town of Ithaca is nearing approval of a Small Wind Energy Facility law to make it easier for residents to install their own residential-scale windmills.

“Obviously we all want to transition to more sustainable energy sources and wind is certainly one of them,” said Edward Marx, Tompkins County commissioner of Planning and Public Works. “If it can be appropriately sited in ways that benefit overall the community and minimize negative impacts, it hopefully can be part of our energy future in the county.”

Continue Reading »

Credit to Aaron Munzer in the Ithaca Journal:

ITHACA — Cornell University President David Skorton spoke Tuesday night to an audience of almost 70 community members about how the university he heads is trying to be a good neighbor — and a good steward of the planet.

In an Earth Day speech in Ithaca High School’s Kulp Auditorium to members of local service-based organizations such as the Kiwanis Club and Lions Club, Skorton outlined some of the university’s efforts to become a more sustainable and open institution.

“I want … to look at some of the broader challenges we face as a university and the impact they may have on the community,” he said. “The focus of our education is dependent on a bilateral partnership with the community.”

The event was coordinated by the Ithaca Rotary Club, a service-based organization of which Skorton is an honorary member.

Foremost in his speech was the creation of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, which will focus research and education on energy use, environmental problems, and economic development issues such as poverty alleviation. The school has allocated $10 million in seed money for the project.

Continue Reading »