The refill station that was installed over
winter breakhas already saved over
100,000 8oz plastic water bottles.
Through a Presidential Green Grant I have funded the installation of three water refill stations to be added to the athletic facilities. One has been added to the basement of Messa Rink outside of the Travis J. Clark '00 Strength Training Facility and the Varsity Athletic Training Room. Another refill station has been added to the recently renovated field house, and a third will be added to the main workout space of the Breazzano Fitness Center.
The bottle refill stations are easy add-ons to existing water fountains. They make it easier to completely fill a reusable water bottle which is important for a few reasons. Firstly, the stations help to encourage healthy hydration habits. These stations are around campus in academic buildings and student centers. It is important that the athletic facilities also have these refill stations as athletes and those who exercise need to drink water. Secondly, reusable water bottles significantly reduce landfill waste and contamination and fossil fuel use in the production and transportation of the bottles. Thirdly, reusable water bottles are healthier for people because the plastic of single use water bottles leaches toxins into the water that are harmful to humans. These refill stations are meant to make it easier for people to refill their water bottles to encourage people to use them. The stations also show a digital counter of how many 8oz plastic water bottles have been saved by using the refill station.
On Wednesday I went to the rally against fracking and for renewable energies in New York state. There were a surprising number of young people and children. A middle school class on a field trip was walking up and down the protest line, equipped with signs and their backpacks. There were native american drummers and a harmonious group singing "we shall not be fracked" to the tune of "we shall overcome". There were also the gun rights activists and the medical marijuana advocates sprinkled throughout the corridor. But, the majority of the signs were about banning fracking in New York. There were a few people who took the positive side of developing renewable energies, but the overwhelming message was NO. And while this has its place in the hydrofracking debate, I am not sure it is the most productive discourse.
Saying NO is easily dismissed as the unrealistic or idealist demands of the crazy environmentalists. By only saying NO, it appears that the environmental groups do not fully understand, or do not care to understand, the reality of the situation: there is a whole lot of natural gas in New York state, and at our current levels of consumption said gas will be needed as we work to develop more efficient alternative energies.
Saying YES to renewables or YES to strong regulations on fracking in New York is a much more productive dialogue. Cuomo would have to look at these demands as what the people want and therefore ideally he would consider honoring them. But if politicians only hear the people demanding him to not do something, they give up, knowing that they cannot please everyone, and do what they want. This is far riskier because by only saying NO there has been little or no discourse about what the people want if fracking is allowed, and therefore Cuomo and his fellow politicians are left to make their own decisions on fracking. Instead of saying NO, we should be saying PLEASE DON'T FRACK, BUT IF YOU MUST, DO IT THIS WAY SO THAT MY DRINKING WATER CANNOT BE LIT ON FIRE...
Unfortunately, this does not fit so nicely on a sign. It also requires a group of activists-or protesters-or whatever you would like to call them-who have done their research and who have thought critically about ways to make fracking safer. Fracking is going to happen in New York, it is only a matter of time.
So instead of an overwhelming NO, I would have liked to see a more productive and creative approach to the issue. Perhaps it was not the place nor the time. I understand that. I also understand that many people have lost faith in regulations that are meant to protect the environment, but really just protect business interests. People say NO because they see no other way to ensure safe drinking water because there is no way to ensure that fracking companies will value the health and safety of the local people and environment over maximizing their profits. Hydrofracking has caused serious environmental harm and people have suffered as a direct consequence; there is no denying that. Right now the discourse that dominates is to ban hydrofracking, but as this is not realistically going to happen I believe that alternatives and ways to make hydrofracking safer is the only way environmental groups are going to really see success in their movement.
It's been a long six weeks, but we're finally back. Snow has blanketed the campus and it's already clear that we're in for a long winter. Classes are beginning and everything is slowly settling back into place, but now that the New Year has begun, let's take this opportunity to commit to living more sustainably in the upcoming year.
Here are a few steps that we can take to make a difference in 2014!
There are recycling bins all throughout campus-- in dorms, dining halls, academic buildings-- and they're here for a reason!
Or better yet...
2. Consume less.
This may seem like an obvious, though somewhat daunting task, but even the little things (like swapping out those awful plastic bottles for reusable ones) can help! Try applying this to all areas of your life-- set timers during your showers, turn out the lights, walk or bike to town instead of driving, etc.
3. Consider becoming a weekday vegetarian
(or give up red meat!)
If becoming a full-fledged veggie seems too difficult, why not try a part-time vegetarian diet? When it comes down to it, livestock produce about 22% of global methane emissions from human-related activities. That's 80 million metric tons of methane annually, created by cattle. Graham Hill gives a great TED talk arguing why weekday vegetarianism just makes sense. Just some food for thought!
Happy New Year and good luck with your green resolutions!