Saturday, August 31, 2013

Welcome New Readers

Photo by Mario Gomez.
I've had a number of new readers to On the Brink over the last several weeks due to exposure of my sinkhole research on CBS, CNN, and other outlets.  However, the largest influx of new readers came from a number of media sources that picked up the joint interviews conducted with Catholic Ecology blogger, William Patenaude.  For those of you interested in the topic of faith and sustainability, stay tuned.  I have two other interviews coming up with important thinkers on the topic.

If you scroll through the last few weeks of posts on this blog, you'll see the interview and some of the media posts that have drawn the most interest.  I encourage you to look in the archives to get a sense of some of the themes I cover.

If you are new to On the Brink, let me tell you a bit about this blog.  I try to blend a bit of current events and opinion on environment, sustainability, and higher education.  I am a professor of sustainability, environment, and geology at Hofstra University in Long Island New York.  I am also active with a number of cave and karst organizations and write about landscapes of soluble rock.  I also consult with the United Nations and do research in China.  I try to mix up serious topics with some lighter issues that emerge in the zeitgeist.  If you have any thoughts on how to improve the blog or topics you would like me to cover, send a note.  There is a new post almost every day and the archives have a great deal of content for you to explore.

Several others contribute occasionally to the blog.  If you are an environmentalist and interested in contributing a piece to the blog, please contact me.  I am interested in featuring writers that address or comment on sustainability, environment, and higher education issues.

Please stop back now and again to catch up with On the Brink.  Also please bookmark the page.  If you like it, share it with your friends of link to it on your website.  Also, please comment on posts.  While I moderate comments to keep out inappropriate and profane comments, I never edit comments that disagree with me or offer an alternative viewpoint.

Thanks to all of my readers for stopping by.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grand Teton National Park

I've been derelict in my efforts to feature all the U.S. National Parks on my blog as an extended series I started January first this year.  My last post on the Grand Canyon dates back to May 6th!  So today I am back with the series. This post continues my effort to highlight interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks.  Today we travel to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming for some views of this spectacular mountainous national park.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.

Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts on the National Parks.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Discovery Group Prepares New Student Garden for Will Allen Visit

Will Allen will be visiting Hofstra University to give a lecture on his work on urban agriculture.  All of the incoming students read his book over the summer and they will have an opportunity to meet him and get their book signed.

We decided to memorialize this visit by putting in a new student garden near Stuyvesant Hall.  The grounds department did the initial garden prep and students from the Discovery Program in Student Affairs completed the final efforts.

Check out the photos below of their efforts.




I'm giving the final keynote for the Discovery Group today.  The theme of the talk is 525,600 Minutes:  How Do You Measure a Year?

I stole the idea from Rent's Seasons of Love of course.

If you are not familiar with Hofstra's Discovery Program, it is for students "who wish to be actively engaged through advocacy, community service, outdoor recreation and reflection."  The Discovery students started their first minutes as new students at Hofstra doing great things including working with Habitat to Humanity, feeding the poor, working at a bird sanctuary, cleaning the Manorhaven Trail, and putting in a new garden on campus.  What a start to the year!

How are you going to spend your 525,600 minutes this year?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fukushima Nightmare Continues

Click for photo credit.
I've written quite a bit about the Fukushima nuclear accident and how it is a continuing problem for Japan.  According to this report from Reuters, hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water is leaking from the site into groundwater and the Pacific Ocean. I remain against nuclear power due to the long-term waste problems imposed on generations for thousands of years.
and the broader world.

Japan may dip into a $3.6 billion fund to pay for the clean up.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Manorhaven Preserve Trail Clean Up

Yesterday several students from Hofstra's Discovery Program did a clean up of the Manorhaven Preserve Trail.  This is a new preserve that was established by the village of Manorhaven.  Big thanks to the folks with the Discovery Program for making this happen.  The students did an amazing job clearing garbage and construction debris that was dumped on the site illegally in the past.  Big thanks to everyone for a great job!



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dances with Raccoon YouTube Star Loses Pet to State

The lovable hillbilly who became a viral video star dancing with a raccoon to Aretha Franklin music on his porch in Tennessee had his pet raccoon taken away by the state. He didn't have the right permit. You can see the video here.

The raccoon in the video died, but he was raising a new raccoon as a pet. This new one is the one that was taken away. Mark Brown, the gentleman in the video, is a former wildlife control officer. The video below shows him showering with the new raccoon.

What do you think? Should the raccoon have been taken away? I have a little hillbilly in me and I can't imagine raising a raccoon as a pet, but I don't have anything against the idea. I remember my father cooking raccoon for one memorable Thanksgiving dinner. There are a zillion raccoons in the world and I am not entirely sure why Mr. Brown can't enjoy a shower with one. I would imagine that thousands are shot every year as nuisance animals in Tennessee and I can't see the harm in this case.

If you are interested, there is a petition to allow him to keep his raccoon here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

An American View of Chinese Students

Check out this article by Ken Ellingwood in the Chronicle of Higher Education about his view of

Chinese students.  He discusses how they are distinctly different from previous generations in that they are much more pragmatic and interested in improving their lives and their country.  As he says in the article, "...1990's kids have come too far to waste their lives in traffic."

I think this is true of America's upcoming generation.  They are pretty sick of the blue and red divisions  and the overall politics of mutual destruction.  I would look for the emerging generation in the U.S. and China to do great things that do away with the discord of our current era.

I know that a number of college students and professors read this blog.  Do you agree with me?  Do you think that the current college generation is ready to transcend the status quo?

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Podcast Episode of Thriving in the Anthropocene with Guest, Neil Schloth

Check out the latest podcast episode of Thriving in the Anthropocene with Guest, Neil Schloth.  We discuss student gardens, student life at Hofstra, and Sustainability Studies.  You can download it here.

Friday Poetry Blogging

Click for photo credit.

Before Dawn on Bluff Road

by August Kleinzahler

The crow’s raw hectoring cry   
scoops clean an oval divot
of sky, its fading echo
among the oaks and poplars swallowed
first by a jet banking west
then the Erie-Lackawanna
sounding its horn as it comes through the tunnel
through the cliffs to the river
and around the bend of King’s Cove Bluff,
full of timber, Ford chassis, rock salt.

You can hear it in the dark
from beyond what was once the amusement park.
And the wind carries along as well,
from down by the river,
when the tide’s just so,
the drainage just so,
the chemical ghost of old factories,
the rotted piers and warehouses:
lye, pigfat, copra from Lever Bros.,
formaldehyde from the coffee plant,
dyes, unimaginable solvents—
a soup of polymers, oxides,
tailings fifty years old
seeping through the mud, the aroma
almost comforting by now, like food,
wafting into my childhood room
with its fevers and dreams.
My old parents asleep,
only a few yards across the hall,
door open—lest I cry?
                                 I remember
almost nothing of my life.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Arizona State University sustainability initiatives

Hello from the state of Arizona! If you don't already know, I left my position as research assistant at Hofstra University to join the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. This morning I will begin my first class as a PhD student!

I drove down to Arizona from New York, making stops in Atlanta, New Orleans, and El Paso. Driving through the United States and seeing the different landscapes was breathtaking, but that story is for another day.

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre
I arrived in Arizona on August 5th and I immediately was impressed with the various sustainability efforts being made in Tempe and at the school.

Transportation

There are bike trails all over Tempe. Men, women, children, young, and old use these trails to ride their bikes or skateboards. The bike trails are clearly marked and make riding along side a car less threatening. When it gets cooler, I might ride a bike to school.


Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre
There are many options for getting around the campus and neighborhood. I've been on the Orbit, a free neighborhood shuttle and while it is budget friendly, the stop is about a mile from my home and the heat is taxing. Monday, I decided to purchase the student discounted pass for a year of unlimited rail and bus rides. I also purchased an eco-pass which a parking supplement for transit riders. It allows for 30 uses an academic year of the parking garages on campus. This will be beneficial for days that I might need to be on campus early or need to make presentations.

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre
ASU this semester created a new initiative to promote pedestrian safety and has walk-only zones. There are many people on campus riding bikes or skateboarding and several times I almost got hit by bikes and skateboards; so this section of campus is almost a refuge of sorts.


Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre
Recycling on Campus

There are many recycling bins on campus marked with illustrations that show what can and cannot be recycled. There also is a recycling bin for electronics, which I found impressive.

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre

Solar Panels

There are solar panels throughout the campus, many as a covering for parking lots and structures. One solar panel area is being constructed and it is almost complete. However, I'm not exactly sure what it is powering; I will need to do more research

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre


Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre

Food

I haven't seen many options for vegetarians or vegans, but there is a new CSA inspired organic food program that is starting in the fall called Box Well. Box Well will offer a box of produce at various price points  and is a program that is tied in with the new juice bar that will be housed in the fitness center. In addition to this CSA program, there is a weekly Farmer's Market on campus that starts in October.

Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre


There are probably many more sustainability projects on campus, but these were a few that stood out to me as I walked around the campus for the past two weeks.

As I navigate through the campus and this semester, I look forward to participating in some of the ASU campus sustainability initiatives and events!

***Lisa-Marie









Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Restates Position

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
The new report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was leaked to the press this week.  It didn't say anything unexpected.  Climate change is continuing and it is caused by human activity.  Although we've had a cool year, the overall long-term trend is still going up (see this post that has a video that explains the ups and downs during long-term trends).

This New York Times article explains the contents of the report.  One of the aspects about the IPCC is that they have been criticized in the past for being too conservative on their estimates about temperature and sea level rise.  The new report uses conservative numbers for the rate of climate change as well as its impacts on coastlines.

One of the fascinating issues about our present era is that the science of climate change was decided definitively over a decade ago.  Even the major climate change deniers have gotten on board with the reality of anthropogenic climate change.  I don't know of any serious scientist out there  who really is in the denial camp.  But large numbers of the public do not believe in climate change.  Those who do not believe are not scientists who have looked at the issue in any great detail, but instead made some sort of decision that climate science is a bunch of hooey.  There is an interesting article on this in Time.

There was definitely a clear campaign by some in the energy industry to protect their interests by denying the existence of climate change.  They funded extensive media pieces and funded politicians who would block any serious policy and deny the science.  Perhaps this is the root of the climate change denialism.  Or, it could be that people are just uncomfortable with thinking of the Earth as changing over relatively short periods of time.

Even 30 years after scientists started to sound the alarm on global climate change and after every scientific organization of note encouraged action to prevent climate change, we still have vast numbers of people unwilling to accept the science.  Of course, this is changing, but at this point, we still do not have a strong coherent national effort for global climate change and we do not have strong international policy that addresses this issue.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interview with William Patenaude, Author of Catholic Ecology

In the coming weeks, I will share with you interviews with three writers on issues of sustainability and faith.  As my readers know, I work within the nexus of science and policy.  However, science and policy can only do so much to try to deal with the environmental issues we are facing.  Our broader culture has a great influence on the planet in ways that transcend any type of policy directive we can try to bring forward.  Religion is a great way to examine the environment and the human condition.

William Patenaude, author of
Catholic Ecology.
Today's interview is with William Patenaude, the writer of the blog, Catholic Ecology. William is an environmental regulator with a Master of Arts in theology. His thesis examined the influences of St. Bonaventure on Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. In 2010 he was inducted into the Theta Alpha Kappa honor society for theological studies. Most recently he presented at the 2012 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Bill is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island in mechanical engineering. He is a 24-year employee with Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management, for which he has received numerous state and federal awards. Since 2004, Bill has been writing “Catholic Ecology” for the Rhode Island Catholic. He also writes about Catholicism and social commentary for local and national publications, including Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insights. Bill has most recently completed his new book Catholic Ecology: Its place in Orthodoxy, a Culture of Life, and the New Evangelization. Mr. Patenaude is also a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

1.  Your blog, Catholic Ecology, has an interesting mix of science, policy, and Catholic teaching on the environment.  How do you think the Catholic Church adds to the discussion on the environment?

Good question. First, I’d note the importance of recognizing how the Church is described as being universal—that’s the origin of the word catholic (“καθολικός” in Greek, an adjective meaning “universal.”) The Church has been around for just under 2,000 years. She’s seen all sorts of cultures and nations rise and fall around her for all sorts of reasons. So the Church brings to the table an immense memory about humanity’s choices and the consequences thereof.

Photo by Mario Gomez.
In our own age, the Church is present most everywhere on the planet. And even for all the faults of individual Catholics, the Church remains respected in lots of circles. Many nations consider it valuable to maintain diplomatic relations with the Vatican and many scientists appreciate the work done by Church organs such as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. And so the Church can hold a unique place in discussing global sustainability.

Interestingly, the Church’s voice in ecological issues benefits from the same sorts of teachings that often result in criticism against it. Within her teachings, the Church speaks about the need for restraint and self-control. The virtue of temperance comes to mind. These are consistent themes in Catholic teachings and they impact all areas in which human beings exist and interact with each other and with the entire cosmos. So whether we’re speaking of individual sexual mores, social welfare, or the over-consumption of Earth’s resources, the Church wishes to offer a word about the laws of nature, which we ignore at our peril. These laws exist within natural ecological systems and they exist within what Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis call “human ecology”—that is, how humans relate to each other, the entirety of creation, and with God. The consistency of these messages about individual responsibility offer important insights to the many social and environmental issues that governments and private organizations sometimes struggle with.

2.  You are have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, but you also have a masters in theology.  This is a very unlikely combination.  What moved you to get a masters in theology and how have these two degrees influenced how you see the world?

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I was raised Catholic and left the Church when I was 15, after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a young man I was extremely interested in science and I wrongly thought that Church was not. I was also influenced by the culture around me and I didn’t get many answers that satisfied my questions in my religious education experience. So I wandered. I was an atheist for a brief time; also an agnostic. I dabbled in pagan religions. This all happened in high school and during my studies in engineering, as well as my twenties and early thirties. Then, fourteen years ago, I met a joyful priest that let me ask all sorts of questions, as engineers will do. This priest introduced me to other priests and laity that enjoyed chatting about my questions and concerns. Hearing their thoughtful and informed answers, I began to see an inner logic and a historical continuity within the Church that no one had taught me before (or if they had, I hadn’t paid attention.) I reentered the Church and developed a passion to learn and teach all this “new” information. Eventually it made sense to do this formally. I am blessed that Providence College—run by the Dominican Order—is in my backyard and that they have a wonderful graduate theology program. And so I entered knowing that I would need a master’s degree if I wanted to keep writing on Church issues.

My engineering and theology degrees actually have much in common. One educated me about what we know of the laws of nature and how to be mindful of these laws as we go about building earthly cities. The other educated me about what has been revealed to the human race about God and how we can be mindful of that as we seek to build a more just, merciful, loving, and sustainable world here on earth. Moreover, the training in logic that I received in my engineering studies helped me with the logic needed in studying theology. (Seminaries, for instance, train future priests in philosophy and logic before they study theology.) 

3.  You are an expert on the writings of Pope Benedict the XVI.  Many people do not know that he wrote quite a bit about the environment, nature, and creation.  Can you briefly summarize some of his contributions to the modern discourse on the environment in the church?

Photo by Mario Gomez.
Summarizing Benedict is both impossible (because he was so prolific) and at the same time quite simple. The overriding theme of his life is preaching that God is love, which we read in the New Testament’s 1 John (chapter 4, verse 16). The first Christians used a Greek term for love that was rarely used in the first century. This term meant love that sacrifices—that gives itself away so that the other may live. There is a lot to unpack here. But given today’s crises—ecological and otherwise—it’s easy to see that loving sacrificially is necessary to live in a sustainable fashion. Benedict XVI deconstructs all this in his three major letters to the Church. The first is titled just that, “God is Love.” The second is on hope. The third, “Love/Charity in Truth” looks more formally at how Christian themes impact people, cultures, nations, and ecosystems.

Elsewhere, Benedict XVI taught us that this love must reorient our “interior attitudes” so that we can live in a more sustainable, charitable way. There’s lots more to say about all this, clearly. But that’s the short answer.



4.  Pope Francis has made many statements about the environment since he became Pontiff.  Plus, his simple style and directives have made a number of Catholics take note about the change of tone in the leadership of the church.  You wrote about one of his statements in your blog post on his critique of our modern culture of waste here:  http://catholicecology.blogspot.com/2013/06/pope-francis-culture-of-waste-requires.html.  For my readers who don't know anything about Pope Francis, what should they know about his views on the environment and sustainability?

Photo by Mario Gomez.
There’s an unfortunate sense that Pope Francis is a huge departure from Benedict XVI. Putting aside style and personality, that is simply not the case. They both teach us the same things. As for formal teachings on ecology, those began bubbling to the surface with Pope Paul VI in the 1960s. John Paul II repeatedly elevated the issue in ways that most never would have expected. And then a great many were surprised when Benedict XVI did the same, incorporating them more deeply into Catholic theology and social thought. Now early on in his pontificate, Pope Francis is doing the same. And really, this should come as no surprise. Ecological issues are real; they relate to issues like life, justice, and virtue that deeply concern the Church. Pope Francis has seen the destruction done by man’s seemingly insatiable appetites in a unique way in South America. He’s seen how these issues connect with issues of poverty and social justice—not to mention salvation. And so he can build off the work of his predecessors as he maintains the challenge for humanity to change our ways—to sacrifice—or suffer very serious consequences.

5.  What does the Catholic Church teach one individually about living a more environmentally-friendly life?

Living a sustainable, environmentally friendly life is really just part of the Church’s desire for individual holiness. As we see in the lives of the saints, holiness implies virtuous living, and virtuous living means temperate, sober lifestyles. This does not mean that we don’t enjoy the beauty and goodness of creation. It means we do so in moderation so that this goodness and beauty can be passed along to future generations. If your aim is to be holy, you’ll be working to protect creation whether you want to or not.

6.  While teaching about environmental policy in universities, we often focus on the government actions and well-known non-profits that drive policy such as The Sierra Club or The Center for Biological Diversity.  Churches are not particularly well-known for driving environmental policy.  Of course there are some well-known exceptions and I don't want readers to think that faith based organizations aren't concerned about the environment.  But overall, how do you think churches can contribute to the development of environmental policy?

Photo by Mario Gomez.
First, Christians need a culture that allows us a voice in public affairs, and I believe that of late just the opposite is happening. We must be allowed to offer the fullness of our teachings on what it means to be human and what it means to be holy. Most importantly, for believers, the Church offers a place for communal connections with divinity—with God’s grace—because God seeks to be in relation with the human family. As I know firsthand, elevating our personal natures is not easy. We really do need God and a family to help us with this.

In addition, from my previous answer I’d stress that the Church’s encouragement of holiness can bring about what John Paul II called an “ecological conversion” on an individual and communal level—and that can have major impacts on cultures. But these teachings can only be offered. There is an old saying that you cannot legislate morality. Unlike any other assembly of people, churches can help people connect with a moral foundation that includes a radical care for the created order, but we really cannot force it (or any of our views) on others.

7.  What are the roots of environmentalism in the Catholic Church?  How far back does it go?

Photo by Mario Gomez.
It goes back to the beginning—to those early mystics within the nascent people of Israel who recorded (orally at first and then in writing) that in the beginning God created everything good and orderly. Hebrew Scriptures are a love story about God’s relationship with humanity and the entire cosmos. It’s a revelation about the innate goodness of all creation. What we often don’t appreciate is how this message was a radical addition to human thought made by the early Jewish people. All around them—in ancient Babylon and Assyria—much more powerful nations taught that evil existed before the creation of the world. The Jewish people, inspired by God within human history, said no to this. Interestingly, this teaching on the goodness of creation that we find in Genesis (which we all know is not a science book) survived and remains with us today while the Babylonian creation stories (which presupposed evil) were lost for centuries in the sands of the Middle East.

This insistence that creation is good because God created it is a central reality within Christianity. Christians proclaim that the Word of God entered the human condition in Jesus Christ. That alone elevates the natural world. And then, as taught by Christ, the natural world becomes a vehicle of coming into contact with God’s grace—for instance, through baptism with the use of water; Communion through the sacrificial offering of bread and wine; reconciliation, with the familiar use of human dialogue; healing, with primitive oils. And then there is Mary. She also connects creation with the divine in an amazing demonstration of love and relation. Again, there is much more to say about her, but we’ll have to leave that for another time.

All of this presupposes that mankind must be wise, just, temperate stewards of creation. Of course, mankind has not always acted so—especially in the West. But that is not an error of authentic Christian teachings; it is an example of what happens when you don’t live what the faith professes.

8.  Some Catholic Parishes have been active with environmental sustainability issues and some have not.  Why do we see such differences in Catholic practice if environmental and sustainability concerns are part of the overall teaching of the Church?

Photo by Mario Gomez
Every Christian community—Catholic parishes included—eventually form a particular spirituality. One hopes that this communal spirituality embraces all Church teachings, but that is not necessarily the case. Indeed, Catholic parishes reflect the cultural realities of the wider community in which they reside. Thus some will be more attuned to matters of social justice, some will focus on personal sanctification, and some will focus on other aspects of the faith. St. Paul talks about this with his language of the Church having many parts, like the human body has different parts that do different things but they all make up one body.

All that said, the message of environmental protection is slowly filtering into parish communities. My own parish just added a section on ecology to its pro-life newsletter. But other of my brothers and sisters are suspicious of the environmental movement—and they are not always without justification. There are voices in some secular environmental communities that suggest solutions that run counter to Christian teachings. And so there is a tension—as there is in all things in which humanity exists. That’s why dialogue, like this interview, is always so very important. Dialogue helps build relationships, which help build understanding and trust, which, when oriented toward truth, can work miracles.

9.  Do you find that your knowledge about the environment deepens your faith?

Absolutely. There is a long Christian tradition of better knowing and loving the Creator by better knowing His creation—and science is an important way of doing that. The early Christians extolled this; St. Augustine did the same three centuries later. The little known St. Giles did so in the seventh century. So did St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Francis, and St. Bonaventure in the twelfth and thirteenth. And on it goes. Again, creation is good for a reason—many reasons. Helping us to better know God is just one of them.

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
10.  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes: my profound thanks for offering to interview me and share this thoughts with your readers. While it may be surprising to some today, there is an ancient Christian appreciation for the relation between faith and reason. This interview and the work that we share is a modern example of how this relation benefits us all. I look forward to more collaboration in the future!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Interview for Catholic Ecology

Photo by Mario Gomez
This week I was interviewed by William Patenaude, the writer behind the blog, Catholic Ecology.  You can check it out here.

If you are not familiar with Patenaude's blog, it is an interesting mix of commentary about the environment and the Catholic Church.

Patenaude's interview focuses on my work on international sustainability issues and how approaches to sustainability varies around the world.

I'll be doing a series of interviews myself in the coming weeks on the role of faith and religion in sustainability.  One of the interviews will be with William.

A big thanks to to Catholic Ecology for taking the time to include me on the blog!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

5 Tips to Green Your College Experience

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
While Orange is the New Black is the latest pop culture hit, everyone on campus knows that green is truly the new black and that getting involved with the environment has never been more "in".  That is why I thought I would give some advice for first-time college students seeking to live a greener life, meet new great like-minded people, and be the coolest kids on campus.

1.  Leave the Car at Home.  Did you know that there is usually a charge to park your car on campus?  Do you need that expense when there are so many other options?  The truth is you really don't need a car.  Campuses are mini-cities and there is a ton of stuff to do almost 24 hours a day.  While it is nice to get off campus every once in a while, you are likely to do this with a group of friends.  You can share cab fare or take a bus together.  Many campuses are transit hubs and some also offer special trips for students to local or distant shopping, attractions, or events.  It is a bonding experience to do these things with your friends.  Plus, most campuses offer the Zipcar or some other car rental service.

2.  Meatless Monday.  Did you know that most college students put on considerable amount of weight their freshman year?  Those of us in the business call it the Freshman 15.  We can see you expand before our eyes!  The reason for this is that when college students are on their own for the first time, there is greater stress and greater access to unhealthy food options.  Plus, let's face it, some start to experiment with alcohol which adds lots of calories to the diet.  Try to limit the weight gain by finding healthy options on campus and by going meatless one or two days a week.  The animals will thank you.

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
3.  Join a Green Student Organization.  College campuses often have several environmentally oriented student organizations that range from political action types of groups to those that might focus on outdoor experiences like camping or hiking.  You could find yourself joining a group protesting in Washington or camping in the Appalachians.  Either way, you'll find that most of the activities are free and you'll also find life-long friends.

4.  Get Involved with Campus Sustainability.  Campuses are working hard to try to go green by improving sustainability of energy, water, food, and transportation.  Some have gardens or farms.  Find out who is in charge of these projects and volunteer to help.  Most of these efforts are poorly funded or understaffed.  You might start answering phones, but this could lead to amazing experiences and internship opportunities.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann

5.  Pick a Green Major.  At Hofstra, we offer several green degrees including a BS and BA in sustainability studies.  My students are doing amazing things and I try to get them involved in my sustainability research on and off campus.  This summer, one of my students interned at a green start up company and started his own green business. Another interned with the sustainability officer for a major government organization.  There is a great deal of work in the environment and if you major in it you will do something that will make you happy and that will make a contribution for future generations.