What is Sustain Champlain?

Sustain Champlain is a campus-wide initiative strives to infuse sustainability concepts and practices across Champlain College by coordinating and promoting best practices within four areas: our institution, academics, operations, and culture.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Going Mindful- Second Hand Clothes & Holiday Recycling

Hello Beavers,

Winter is already here, and I’m sure many of ya’ll have brought out your big jackets or are tempted by all the winter collections at your favorite store. I’ve been eying some lovely cardigans that are being sold at Urban Outfitters....Too rich for my blood, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that this applies too. Thankfully, Burlington and the surrounding area has a plethora of second hand shops.

Second hand shops, also called thrift stores, are treasure troves and they can help save the environment. How? In case you haven’t noticed, it’s part of the American Culture to accumulate lots of stuff and we love to accumulate clothes. I don’t mean to always use the French as a counter example, but look at how they buy clothes. They buy expensive, quality items that are going to last for many years, whereas we have a tendency buy what’s on sale. Because of this, we end up with lots of clothes we don’t like and they can find their way into our landfills. According to a Huffingpost Article, the EPA says that “Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year and clothing and other textiles represent about 6.3% of the municipal solid waste (in major cities like New York and Chicago alone, textiles make up a whopping 10% of all municipal waste).” This can be avoided for the most part by considering how we dispose of our clothing. Instead of throwing your clothes away, take the time to bring them to The Good Will, Salvation Army, or any centers that organize items for families in need.

You can also bring your more in style and gently worn clothes to consignment shops. If you don’t know what those are, let me graciously elaborate; I absolutely love these places. Consignment shops give you money for clothes they want to sell. Some stores will give you money up front so you don’t have to check in to see if someone has bought your once beloved pants that didn’t fit so well after the freshman fifteen. Now, if you bought a $200 dollar jacket a few years ago you probably won’t get offered more than $20. You might only even be offered $1 for an item, but $1 is better than $0. Battery Street Jeans (which is located on Pine Street…not Battery Street) gives you this option. Plato’s closet in Williston also gives you money upfront, though they usually only take really ‘in-style’ items, so be especially critical of items you want to bring her. Other stores will take what they want to sell, mark them, and you’ll get a percentage the money after they have been bought. Check into these stores to see what the policy is. I know that if you want money upfront at Battery Street, they will give you a lesser percentage. But, if you decide to keep what has been sold for store credit to be used there, the amount will be a bit higher. Just ask if you’re confused and the managers will gladly explain.

I believe that thrifting is one of the more ‘fun’ things to do to Be Mindful. Composting is good and great, but I’m sure most people don’t love turning steaming piles of leftovers. Being Mindful doesn’t always have to be hard. It’s also fairly cheap once you get good at it. Ladies, you can find tons of oversize sweaters and cardigans that are always in season, and I know I can find lots of flannels for my very Vermont beau with minimal searching required. And you can shop at ‘higher’ end consignment stores. If you love vintage, and I mean actual vintage, Old Gold on Main Street is an excellent place to check it out. If you love the way Seven for All Man Kind jeans (or any premium denim) make your booty look, check out Second Time Around on Church Street. You’ll pay anywhere from $60-$100 for a pair of the iconic jeans, but that’s a lot better than paying $200 and up. And who doesn’t love jeans that have already been worn in.

Some of my favorite thrifty finds have been:

$5 pair of Frye Boots (usually $230)—they didn’t fit well, so I sold them on Ebay for $110. Cha-ching!

$15 American Apparel Hoodie (usually $45)

$7 Men’s Ralf Lauren Sweater (God only knows how much that cost)

$5 Prana Yoga Pants (usually $70....Probably the most comfortable pants ever)

Consumerism is another related topic. Most American’s know that the clothing they wear hasn’t been stitched, button, and packaged by workers who receive enough money or proper working conditions. It is up to you to decide if you want to support a certain company, and I cannot have a holier than thou attitude because my entire closet was probably pieced together in sweatshops. Even if your favorite business is not using sweatshop labor, they might be throwing away perfectly good clothing. One notable store is H&M. An article ran in the New Yorker, written by Jim Dwyer in the beginning of 2010, about the clothing store cutting circles into jackets and shirts they hadn’t sold and putting them into dumpsters. Walmart and other non-clothing stores like Home Depot have also been accused of doing the same.

After reading through the comments, I found several reasons why this may happen. Clothing stores that had donated their left over goods noticed people trying to return the clothes for money or store credit. Another reason to dispose of the clothing is for tax purposes. A question that can be asked is why are these companies making so many extra clothes that they have to throw them out. Surely, they must have some analyst that is tracking trends to see what will likely be bought and what won’t. It seems that this excessive waste is unnecessary. You buying one second hand shirt isn’t going to derail an entire company. It’ll take many people and probably many years before these company's see a dent in their wallets. Waste is unnecessary and is costing them money as well, but something in the system is causing them to still do so.

On my final note, it’s Christmas Eve and if you’re like me you’re frantically wrapping your presents. If you haven’t, stop! We generate so much extra waste this holiday through wrapping paper that is just ripped off. According to the website earth911, the wrapping paper industry makes 2.6 billion a year. Instead, think of other things you can use to wrap presents. If you have a family member, perhaps a sister, who is really into fashion, rip out pages from a Vogue or Nylon and use that to cover your gift. Newspaper is highly ubiquitous; gift bags can be reused, and so can wrapping paper if you open veryyyy carefully! I know that unwrapping a gift is a fun part of Christmas (and any other holiday!!!), but for me at least, closing my eyes and holding out my hand is just as exciting too.

If you’ve already wrapped your gifts, don’t fret. There are still ways for you to be mindful. Now that you’ve opened your gifts, you have to do something with the leftovers. Don’t rest on your laurels and throw everything into one big bag. If your parents got something shipped to the house and just wrapped it, make sure you break down the box. If there was a Styrofoam block inside you cannot recycle that. The same goes with those plastic pillows. First I suggest stuffing them down the back of your pants and pretending you have a booty. The holidays are prime time for silliness! Afterward, pop them and you can bring them in with shopping bags to the grocery store, where they can be recycle. Wrapping paper is harder to place because it contains a lot of dye, laminates, and the quality probably isn’t good enough for recycling. This is a time where you can probably them out. However, some towns organize mass collections. You can also contact your local recycler and ask them what you should throw out and what you can recycle.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and get a chance to be absolutely lazy before the new semester starts. I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about next time, so it’ll be a surprise!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going Mindful- Different 'Flavors' of Car

Hello Mindful Beavers,

All ya’ll have probably seen a Prius or two, or twenty, as you’re walking about Burlington. But is every driver suited to drive one? Let’s do a general break down of ‘eco-friendly’ cars. First there are hybrids, then there hybrid plug-ins, and finally there are all electric cars.

I’m actually going to start with the electric car. The Nissan Leaf, a car that has no tail pipe and no gas emissions, is now for sale in the United States. You might think that this is a really revolutionary advancement, but electric cars were around in California back in 1996. The story is outlined in a documentary called “Who Killed the Electric Car.” I admit I produced a teeny tiny tear after watching this movie, which is pretty impressive when the main characters are motor vehicles. During the 80’s and 90’s, California had terrible smog levels. In 1990, The California Air Resource Board passed the Zero Emissions Mandate, which forced car companies in California to offer a zero emissions car, and GM went about manufacturing this vehicle. As you can imagine, not everyone bought onto this. But many, including movie star Mel Gibson, fell in love with the electric vehicle (EV). They were zippy, quiet, and not hard to maintain. Unfortunately, California auto makers sued the California Air Resource Board and won. Slowly but surely they started reclaiming electric cars that hadn’t been bought. When people’s leases ran out they wouldn’t let them resign. They promised the parts to make the cars would be recycled; instead they brought these cars to be destroyed. Essentially, GM killed its own child, and tried to get the public to move toward the use of the hydrogen cell car… I highly suggest you watch the documentary to see how the engineers and owners fought back.

Moving forward fourteen years, we again have an electric car. A plus to the electric car is, like stated above, it does not directly give off any emissions, and as we know CO2 is a major greenhouse gas. It still takes energy to create the electricity to charge the vehicles. Now this is where a potential buyer, someone who is most likely very keen on protecting the environment, needs to consider some other points. They have to look at where there electricity is coming from. Sometimes electricity is produced at plants that burn coal to generate energy. Coal is not the ‘nicest’ thing we can be burning. Although, according to experts, an EV is more efficient than a regular car, even if the electricity comes from a coal burning plant. Electricity can also be generated through nuclear waste, which outside of France always seems to be a controversial topic. Steam, wind, and water are three other options that are more environmentally friendly. In this area of VT we get electricity for four different plants. Burlington Electric, McNeil Power Station which uses steam, VT Yankee which uses nuclear, and Hydro Quebec. The ‘mixture’ we use is different every day and can be seen on the Burlington Electric website. So some days we could be using energy from McNeil and other days VT Yankee. A person looking to purchase an EV should be looking at where there electricity is coming from.

The range of the Nissan Leaf is what seems to turn people off. It can only go 100 miles on a charge and can take up to 8 hours to recharge (there is a fast charge option as well). However, many people primarily use their cars to go to work and back, so this would still be a very viable option, and EV car owners in Burlington can also charge up there car’s at City Market. I think this is a great break through and could be especially useful for people who mainly commute.

Next are hybrids and their cousin hybrid plug-ins. You’re probably most familiar with hybrid cause because nearly every car company that sells cars from $13,000 to $400,000 has a hybrid. These types of cars have two engines: one that is powered by gas and one that’s powered by electricity. This combination gives the car a better gas mileage and lower emissions. Hybrid cars are great for people who live in New York City because fuel efficiency and savings are usually seen in the city mpg numbers. They’re also effective for people who live in flat areas because the car uses more energy when going up hills. Hybrid plug-ins are cars that can run on gas and electricity; a Prius is the most notable example. A plug-in is part Nissan Leaf part regular car. They can run on electricity and then switch over to gas if needed; you still need to keep some gas in the tank though. Chevy unveiled the Volt, a plug in car for sale in the United States. However, at $40,000 ($32,000 after tax incentives), it’s still a very expensive car and not immediately feasible for most people. Hybrids have received flack from those who question their eco-friendliness. The electric batteries are made from Nickel which takes a lot of energy to extract and is usually shipped many places to be built. The batteries need to be properly disposed of after the car has met its end because the components are toxic, and rescuing someone in hybrid or electric car raises the risk of rescuer electrocution. The question is do we accept these downsides and work to answer the questions, or do we ignore what these cars can offer?

You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a hybrid or electric car for better gas mileage or to be more Mindful. Many regular cars have wonderful mileage and don’t cost nearly as much as their hybrid counter parts. The way people drive also factors into how efficient their cars are. If you have a Prius but still drive irresponsible, like slamming on the gas, slamming on the breaks, not keeping your car in tune, etc, you won’t be getting the added efficiency. When I was in high school my rock climbing instructor, who was allowed to drive a red Ford Mustang as a teenager, bought a Prius. His wife was so frustrated with him because he drove it like he drove the Mustang, and the couple thousand extra for added efficiency was going down the drain. Here are some tips to help your car.

1.) 1.Don’t be a speed demon. Okay, I kind of have a lead foot myself, but driving fast decreases efficiency. It also doesn’t get you were you need to go that much faster and you risk getting a ticket. I find that 73mph is a speed when the posted limit is 65. It’s still not the best for your mileage, but it’ll appease the speeder inside. You’re keeping up with or going a little faster than traffic and you might be able to talk your way out of a ticket. However, note that once you’re going over 60 your efficiency will start to falter.

2.) 2. Keep your tires properly inflated.

3.) 3. to love the windows during the summer. A/C is a huge energy waster.

4.) 4. Cruise control is futuristic and will help increase your cars mileage. That’s because it keeps a steady speed, which is something your foot cannot. My first car used to have a digital monitor telling me how many mpg I was getting. The more I used cruise control the more those numbers rose. I admit it took several, several, several, months to go from 19mpg to 23 mpg, but there was lots of satisfaction in seeing that my good driving habits were paying off.

5.) 5. There’s no need for junk in the trunk. Literally. Take out all that extra weight!

6.) 6. It’s summer time and that roof rack on the top of your car is only holding you back because it isn’t creating the most aerodynamic flow.

7.) 7. Think about if you actually need to drive somewhere. Is it possible for you to walk? Can you do more than one thing when you’re out? Is car pooling an option? (funny story, when I was little I used to think car pools were cars that had pools in them…)

8.) 8. When necessary try not to idle. Also, it’s a good idea to warm your car up a little in the winter, but you don’t need to let it warm up for five to ten minutes. Newer cars have more sophisticated engines.

And you can find a lot more tips online! Hybrids, Plug-ins, EV, and regular cars all have their pros and cons. What will work for some might not work for others. These are all things to keep in mind as technology changes and you approach the age where you have to buy your own car. Go into it open minded. I feel that too many people turn down hybrids and EV because they have flaws. Of course they’re going to have flaws. Issues of gas and climate are not going to be solved with one solution, just like there is not one solution for all cars.

Next week I will be talking about how you can shop, save money, look great, and help the environment! This’ll be tied in with consumerism during the holiday season and how you can still spread your chrismahanukwanzakah cheer and help out the planet.

Keep on Being Mindful!

Here is a link for more info on hybrid cars