Friday, August 27, 2021

30 Day Sustainability Challenge Parts 6-10

 Each time I run the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge it is different. Now that I run them on YouTube, they are there for anyone to participate and start the challenge at any time. Here are Days 6-10 from the August/September 2021 cycle that you can watch when you are ready to join. Also, feel free to join an upcoming cycle--each time they are different and tend to focus on somewhat different topics. I'll run another one starting in October or November. Here's a link to Days 1-5.

Day 6. Local Ecosystems

Day 7. Waste Inventory

Day 8. Understanding Carbon Credits

Day 9. Understanding Vegetarianism and Veganism

Day 10. Saving Energy in Homes and Green Building

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

New IPCC Report Indicates Significant Changes Ahead for Climate

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The new IPCC Report that came out recently indicates that climate has changed significantly and that significant change is ahead. The report, linked here, is worth a read or at least a scan so that you can see the graphs and tables that summarize much of the information.

As a reminder, the IPCC does not create new research, but instead summarizes the research output of hundreds of scientists from around the world. Thus, the report provides a glimpse of what is happening around the world on a range of climate issues--and the results are not great.

Overall, the world is warming. Plus, we are seeing more extreme weather and extreme droughts. In addition, the climate models suggest significant loss of sea and continental ice in the coming decades and lots of issues with agriculture. Temperatures are expected to rise between 1 degree and 5.7 degrees C by the close of the century. We are also likely to see more extreme weather events such as extreme precipitation and heat waves.

Of course, there is still time to make a shift away from a carbon economy. But, we are very quickly running out of time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

30 Day Sustainability Challenge Parts 1-5

Each time I run the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge it is different. Now that I run them on YouTube, they are there for anyone to participate and start the challenge at any time. Here are Days 1-5 from the August/September 2021 cycle that you can watch when you are ready to join. Also, feel free to join an upcoming cycle--each time they are different and tend to focus on somewhat different topics. I'll run another one starting in October or November.

Day 1. Understanding Sustainability

Day 2. Meatless Monday

Day 3. Understanding Climate Change

Day 4. Calculating Your Greenhouse Gas Footprint

Day 5. Supporting Local and Small Businesses 

Sustainability Case Studies 26: Environmental Purchasing in the City of Phoenix

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This is the 26th post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the review.

Today's chapter, by Nicole Darnall, Lily Hsueh, Justin M. Stritch, and Stuart Bretchneider of Arizona State University focuses on the efforts of the City of Phoenix to meet some of its sustainability goals through green purchasing initiatives.  

The chapter begins by noting that cities have stepped up to try to address environmental issues, particularly after the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accord. One way they have done this is through environmental purchasing policies (EPP's). Cities have tremendous purchasing power and thus can impact their supply and service providers to follow particular green guidelines. For a number of reasons, cities have had mixed results in applying EPP's and the case study follows how things went in Phoenix in trying to implement an EPP.

Phoenix' EPP is not that old. Indeed, it was only in 2007 that the City Council passed a resolution to grant authority to the city to develop and EPP and it was designed by 2012 although not fully implemented until 2016. It took time to develop the policy because purchasing was not a central activity and budget cuts forced purchasers to focus mainly on price as opposed to green priorities. The challenges of the rollout of the EEP led the City to develop a partnership with Arizona State University to assess what was impeding and facilitating EPP development and how the EPP implementation could be improved.

The resulting research identified key areas that facilitated and challenged the development of the EPP. The areas that assisted in the rollout were:

  • Knowledge of environmentally preferred alternatives
  • Cost-effective and financial incentives
  • E-procurement systems
  • Department culture
  • Executive-level directives
The challenges for the rollout were:
  • Purchasing management structures
  • Purchasing employee's service priorities
  • Scope of work or technical specifications
  • Burdens of executive-level directives
  • Budget concerns
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Overall the research team came up with several recommendations and ways to improve the EPP process that took into consideration the challenges and the opportunities. They are:
  • Reinvigorate the City's EPP team
  • Network to share best practices
  • Broaden representation on the City's Strategic Purchasing Team
  • Implement EPP training
  • Integrate eco label information into e-procurement 
  • Expand life-cycle costing
  • Develop and executive directive for environmentally preferred purchasing
  • Create incentives for EPP implementation 
After the completion of the study and the presentation of the findings, the EPP was revised and there is more guidance given to employees about green purchasing. In addition, the city has expanded its purchasing guidelines with the intent that they will aid the city in reaching its sustainability goals.

Click here for more information about the book.

Here are some class discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on green procurement and environmental purchasing. 

1. Why do you think the City of Phoenix is so interested in green procurement?

2. What methods did the researchers use to study the EPP?

3. Knowledge about environmentally preferred options seemed to be more of a significant indicator of a facilitator of EPP over executive level directives. Why do you think that was the case?

4. Why do you think the e-procurement system was considered a positive development for the EPP?

5. The most important barrier to EPP development was the purchasing management structure. Can you explain why?

6. Another barrier was the purchasing employees' service priorities. They felt that they were trying to meet the needs of the departments over the EPP. How could that be overcome?

7. Why do you think the top recommendation was to reinvigorate the City's EPP team?

8. Does your job or school follow an EPP?

Previous Entries in This Series

Monday, August 23, 2021

Hovenweep National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Hovenweep National Monument in Colorado and Utah. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the former president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

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Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Castillo de San Marco National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument
César E. Chávez National Monument
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Stanwix National Monument
Fort Union National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Freedom Riders National Monument
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
George Washington Carver National Monument
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gold Butte National Monument
Governors Island National Monument

Monday, August 9, 2021

Meatless Monday Part 5: Deepening Your Commitment

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I am concluding my Meatless Monday Series today with a look at how to deepen your commitment to Meatless Monday. Links to the previous posts in the series are at the end of today's post. 

Okay, so you've been doing Meatless Monday more or less for a while now. What's next? How can you make a deeper commitment to a more healthy diet and to eating in a way that is better for the planet? Here are three ways that you can take what you experienced with Meatless Monday and take it to another level.

1. Go meatless twice a week. Meatless Monday does a great deal to improve conditions on our planet. However, by committing to going meatless twice a week will make twice the impact. You could even take it one step further and make a commitment to try out vegetarianism or veganism. No matter what options you try, you can try to go beyond just once a week.

2. Explore food communities. Meatless Monday is just one of many food initiatives out there. There are many international organizations working on food issues. For example, Slow Food International, focuses on local food systems and seeks to preserve a range of traditional, local food cultures such as agricultural practices and local food processing. If you want to get more local, you could look for small farms or membership farms where you can get to know your food producers and others interested in local food. You could even start small and start a local vegetarian cookbook club or meet up. The options are endless.

3. Examine food waste and local food insecurity issues. We waste a huge amount of food every year--and that food has a distinct planetary impact.  The decomposition of the wasted food produces greenhouse gases and the production, processing, and transportation of the wasted food also impacts water, soil, and climate. It is worth considering how you can reduce your own personal food waste. Finally, research has shown that more and more people are growing food insecure. It is worth considering how you can share your own bounty with others through donations at local food pantries.

Previous post in the series follow.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Meatless Monday Part 4: Eating Out

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I am continuing my Meatless Monday Series today with a look at how to do Meatless Mondays at restaurants. Links to the previous posts in the series are at the end of today's post. 

Last time, I wrote about how some of my favorite Meatless Monday meals and how I manage meatless Monday at home. But what about restaurants? What do you do if you are out to eat on a Monday? 

I am happy to report as someone who LOVES to go out to eat that it is getting easier and easier to go meatless at restaurants. In fact, I have a personal rule about eating out. If there is something interesting on the menu that is vegan or vegetarian, I always order it. This means that I generally eat vegan or vegetarian about 80% of the time. 

Plus, many specific ethnic restaurants have lots of vegetarian and (usually) vegan options. Thus, you can usually steer your friends to particular restaurants where you know you can get something you can eat. I have some favorites that I like so I am pretty safe at Chinese restaurants (spicy eggplant, steamed vegetables with tofu, or vegan spring rolls), Thai restaurants (a range of vegan curry dishes and vegan pad Thai), Italian restaurants (eggplant parm, pumpkin ravioli, pasta with pesto), and Middle Eastern or Greek restaurants (hummus and pita, all kinds of salads, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves).

You can also talk to the wait staff and ask what they recommend that is either vegetarian or vegan. Most of the time, they can make a menu recommendation or they know whether the chef can pull something together that is off menu.

However, if you really can't find what you want, and you are not a strict vegetarian or vegan, don't beat yourself up over it and order what looks good to you. Just commit to finding another day of the week to eat meatless. Or, if you want to maintain meatless, order a side salad, some vegetarian sides, or appetizers and let it go. Going out to eat is not just about the food. It is also the people. I never let my inability to find exactly what I want get in the way of having a good time with my friends and family.

The final post in the series will take a look at how you can deepen your commitment to Meatless Monday. Previous links in the series are below.

Meatless Monday Part 3:  Five Favorite Go To Meals