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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!


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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?




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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.”


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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.


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Credit to Michelle Sun in the Cornell Daily Sun:

As the earth warms up, the human race must also speed up its alternative energy technologies to increase its efficiency, at least according to Nobel Laureate Steven Chu.

“The fact that the earth is warming up is not a matter of debate,” Chu told a crowd last night at the 2008 Hans Bethe lecture. The debate, according to Chu, is about whether or not the climate change is due to humans, which he believes research strongly suggests is true. Either way, temperature fluctuations are much more rapid than predicted and have far-reaching consequences.

Improved calculations show that in the first half of the century, California will lose about 26 percent of the snow packed in the Sierra.

“If you’re down by 25 percent for two or three years in a row, it’s a disaster. This is forever,”emphasized Chu.

Similar environmental scenarios are reflected around the world, which he believes merit increased public knowledge and attention.

A professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Chu holds “an astonishing corpus of work” of “extraordinary breadth,” according to Peter Lepage, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who introduced the Nobel laureate. Chu is very important in advising the nation and government on energy issues.


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From TheIthacanOnline, Oct. 25th

PowerShift Ithaca College Participants

Thousands of students, including 31 from Ithaca College, will rally on the steps of Capitol Hill next week to demand positive action for climate control at the Power Shift 2007 conference.The youth summit, sponsored by the Energy Action Coalition, will be held from Nov. 2 to 5 at the University of Maryland College Park campus. An estimated 5,000 students from all 50 states and Canada are expected to attend.

Junior Sarah Brylinsky, a double major in communication management and design (CMD) and environmental studies, said she plans to attend the conference to make a difference.

“It’s going to be the movement of our generation,” she said. (more…)

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Once again, someone reached out and asked a question that engaged my “start philosophical wax” cycle button. MMB

Question: How did this [campus sustainability] movement evolve [at Ithaca College]: was it, to your knowledge, student driven, staff driven? Has it turned over in almost an Al Gore minute? (I know for me, Al has played a big role in my personal sea change).

My reply: It’s an interesting question. And actually, there are several interesting questions imbedded within this one. Sorry in advance, but you’ve hit one of my “engage philosophical stream” buttons. Here goes:


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