Monthly Archives: November 2009

Taking care of the earth can be, well, expensive: How do you get around the costs of going green?

I work for an educational institution that would love to “go green.” We have a great sustainability center and many ideas for what we could do to reduce our impact on the earth. We have many ideas, but we also have one problem–doing the right thing gets difficult really quickly.

Example: This year, some colleagues and I tried to introduce single-stream recycling into our campus’ residence halls. We were very excited about this, as we felt it would make things simple for students (no separating materials!) and ease many new students into recycling for the first time. We did not foresee how hard it really is to change people’s behavior. The single stream program was anything but a success, even as we tried harder and pushed stronger with marketing. We even had a year opening barbecue dedicated to sustainability in the residence halls, but recycling participation rates have  gotten more and more dismal.

What’s more, some staff members started turning against recycling. After all, it cost us three times as much to recycle as it would have cost us to ship the same items to the landfill. Those are startling numbers indeed. We were suddenly faced with a poor economy and the question “Do we abandon what’s right? Can we afford what’s right?”

It is a very sad situation when it becomes so costly to do what’s right. Not only does the program physically cost more, but it costs employee time to sort the contaminates out of the mix, and as they say, time is money.

However, we were not willing to give up this fight. Some leaders of this project have done some research and found ways to reduce cost while still making the program simple to students. Instead of trying to do single stream, which was actually more complicated for many students and costly to us, we will be offering recycling on a hall-by-hall basis for papers and plastics. This means halls have to opt in and have a recycling chair. Our own staff members will collect and separate the recyclables, which will erase the cost that the city would charge. Hopefully this new solution will work, but the situation just goes to show how complicated so many issues are. I am glad I have a team of people by my side that is committed to doing the right thing, however.

In a similar sticky situation? Here are some tips that I would suggest before abandoning your project all together:

1. Search for alternatives to the way that you are currently trying to do things. A really great tool would be to visit other organizations and see how they are battling the same issue. You can often find great ideas if not practices to duplicate.

2. Look for grants to help you get started. Not all businesses or organizations can afford to go green on their own. If you come up with a great idea and an action plan however, there is a chance that you can get someone else to help fun your project.

3. If all else fails, perhaps you should explore other ways your business or organization can go green that make more sense for your budget and goals.

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Where did all the sane people go?

Disclaimer: I consider myself moderate and sane. I am in no way promoting any political party in this blog.

Watching politics for the past year I have several times been inclined to ask, “Where did all the sane people go?” Although I do not identify with either major political party in the United States completely, the side that bothers me time and again are the Republicans.

First it was the radio and television personalities such as Newt Gingrich and Michael Savage, host of the Savage Nation. I recently moved to a somewhat rural area of the Inland Northwest and I was suddenly catapulted into a world where the Savage Nation plays on the radio like clockwork at 5 p.m. everyday and congressmen fight against having young men and women live in the same residence halls.

Then comes the new breed of Republican politicians. People who disrupt the President when he is speaking during a national address much as a third grader would interrupt a teacher. People like Sarah Palin, who insist on distorting facts and using scare tactics to lure people to her side (think death panels). People who paint faces on the President’s portrait and liken him to Adolf Hitler. Then there are the everyday citizens who seem intelligent enough until they accuse the president of not being born in the United States. You’ve seen the town hall videos–some of these people are crazy.

What I am confused about is what all of the commotion is about. Why did all the crazies come out of the woodwork all of a sudden?

Some people say it is because there are many whites who are afraid that a black man is in power. That may be true in some cases, but I feel a large majority of people lack the facts. Many people have core values, which I will not deride. These values include anti-abortion and Christian values. I do not think this is wrong. What I think is wrong is that the leaders of a party that tries to portray itself as “Christian” commit acts daily that are un-Christian. How is fear mongering, accusing someone of not being a citizen and plain lying “Christian?” The problem here is these leaders are very good at persuading certain groups of people that they are right and they are taking care of them when they are simply taking care of themselves.

Another problem I have with this “Christian” cover by this party is the lack of support they have for other people. Case in point is the outcry against socialized programs.  Would not Christ himself favor “socialism” over letting people fend for themselves? If someone is truly Christian, I would think they  would be supportive of systems that help those less fortunate than themselves.

So I will suggest a call to action to all the sane Republicans left out there. Please speak out against the crazies in your group and put them in check. Right now they are representing you all poorly and making people like myself second guess the intelligence of anyone who would choose to be associated with a party such as this.

Pit bulls: Hate the humans, not the dog

I would like to take a moment to talk about something that boils my blood–the misinformed hysteria regarding a certain breed of dog.

The pit bull.

What comes to your mind when you think about a pit bull? For many people across the world feelings of fear immediately pop up. But where does this fear really come from? How many of these people have actually spent enough time with a pit bull to judge its behavior?

I own a pit bull mix. I used to introduce her as a lab mix for fear of judgment from the people I talked to. I knew that if she got into one scuffle at the dog park she would automatically be labeled as “that pit bull” by people who know nothing of this dog’s true nature. In fact, once a dog started attempting to mount my dog, she snapped at him as if to say “get off of me” and immediately the owner said, “Oh you hate to see that happen. Is that a pit bull?”  I thought, “Yes, I do hate to see stupid dogs trying to molest my dog.”

My dog is as sweet as can be. She has absolutely no dog aggression and she behaves as many pit bulls I have met over the years-extremely fond of people and tolerant, if not downright playful, with other dogs. Anyone who truly has met several pit bulls will soon learn how sweet they are and what poor guard dogs they can be since they are so fond of humans and crave affection. Yet, when I introduced her to a man from Europe he ran away from her terrified even though he’d never met a pit bull and my dog had what I could only describe as a “love me please” face on and expressed absolutely no interest in him.

The sad truth, however, is that some evil people have trained some of these dogs for violence and that is what people focus on.  Moreover, some people buy pit bulls thinking that they will protect their property or look “cool.” This makes the good dogs and the good owners suffer. The pit bull is not for the weak of heart. Having a dog with such a negative social stigma is not to be taken lightly. There is no doubt it is a strong dog and its capabilities should not be brushed aside. As with any dog, you must take caution when it is in a new environment, with new dogs or new people. You must watch your dog. You must train your dog. YOU must take responsibility for your dog.

I have heard people say we should not keep pit bulls because they are dangerous just like a wolf or lion–it is their opinion that all pit bulls should be euthanized or banned from cities. I wonder if someone of this opinion would then like to ban all domesticated dogs. After all, they are all descendants of wolves and their nature could turn at any moment. In fact, when I am at the dog park I find other breeds of dogs more likely to attack than the well-trained pits.

It constantly amazes me how people are scared of something that they have no first-hand knowledge of and that is statistically never going to affect them. Far more people die from smoking then getting bitten by a dog of any kind. Yet what are we trying to ban?

I say blame the humans, don’t blame the dog. I had a friend that was bitten by a dog (which happened to be a pit)  about a year ago and this is what set me on a quest to right the wrongs against this breed. This dog was euthanized because it was abused by its owners, not properly trained, and then it snapped. This dog could have had the potential to be a great dog but it never had a chance with these horrible owners.

My final message would be this: Know your dog’s breed and train it appropriately. To those against pit bulls, learn more about this breed above and beyond the slanted media stories and you will see a completely different side to the story.

Read an interesting story about pit bulls from Newsweek.