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  • Cars at night

    KRLX starts rideshare system

    October 5, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    KRLX, Carleton's student-run radio station, has recently initiated a rideshare program. The system, which is in its infancy, allows students who need rides or who can provide rides to various concerts to sign up on a sheet outside of the KRLX studio (in the basement of Sayles-Hill Campus Center). Students can leave their name, email address, the date and the artist of the concert, and whether they're looking for or providing a ride, and other students can contact them. While this is a great way to give students opportunities for transportation that they may not otherwise have, it also makes sense from an environmental perspective. Limiting the number of vehicles necessary to go between Northfield and the Twin Cities can minimize the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our music-loving ways.

  • Fair Trade Logo

    Happy Fair Trade Month!

    October 5, 2007 at 9:57 am

    It’s not just another phrase to tag on to organic, shade grown, dark roast, with cream, or no sugar. Fair Trade means ensuring that farmers in poor countries get a fair deal in the chaotic world marketplace that can so easily pass them over. It means guaranteeing farmers a fair price that covers the cost of production and provides a living income through long-term contracts that provide real business security. And it also means tasty coffee.

    In conventional trading schemes, local speculators (called “coyotes”) take advantages of price fluctuations and farmers’ lack of access to market information, often paying farmers less than the market place. After the transaction takes place, the beans can go through a dizzying circuit of middlemen including exporters, brokers, roasters and distributors. In the fair trade model, roasters work directly with farming cooperatives to create sustainable contracts that often pay farmers100-200% more than conventional trading systems.

    Fair Trade certification isn’t easy. The long list of regulations is often daunting for farmers, but they are quickly rewarded by the premium price that they receive for fair trade beans, and the assurance of a more secure, reliable market for their crop. Various Fair Trade Certification programs exist but all of them require fair prices, fair labor conditions, democratic and transparent organization, direct trade, environmental sustainability (no agrochemicals or GMOs) and community development projects like scholarship programs or quality improvement trainings. Additionally, Fair Trade systems often incorporate insurance programs to protect farmers from natural disasters that could devastate not only their crops, but also their livelihoods.

    After extensive conversations with students, Carleton Dining Services decided to buy all Fair Trade coffee from the Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Green Mountain was rated above the other contender, Starbucks, because of their stellar corporate social responsibility principles. The company’s stated purpose is to “create the ultimate coffee experience in every life [they] touch from tree to cup—transforming the way the world understands business.” They allocate 5% of their pre-tax profit to social and environmental causes and have extensive principles regarding coffee sourcing, community partnerships, environmental practices and the maintenance of a thriving workplace. At Carleton, Sodexho serves a variety Green Mountain’s organic, fair trade coffees, including many of their seasonal flavored varieties, even though they come at a significantly higher economic cost.

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  • Druid

    A New Debate: Engineers vs Druids

    October 5, 2007 at 9:14 am

    For those reading Shrinking Footprints, I feel that few people need to be convinced that global warming is happening and caused by humans. Where the greater debate might be is how we are going to address this problem- what technologies should we use and how will we reconcile the costs of abatement versus economic growth?

    In a recent piece for ABC news, Paul Saffo from the Long Now foundation, describes a growing divide between what he terms “engineers” and “druids”. As he explains,

    “On one side are "engineers," people convinced that we must work our way out of the climate crisis by engaging in planet-scale efforts like sequestering carbon, unfurling orbital sunshades, tossing dust high in the atmosphere to block sunlight, or moving wholesale to nuclear power to eliminate coal-based emissions. On the opposite side are individuals -- call them "druids"-- who are equally convinced that the only sensible option is reduce our human planetary footprint, to conserve, preserve and remediate the threatened natural environment.”

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  • Dr. Steven Chu

    Nobel Laureate Chu calls on youth to combat climate change

    October 4, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    On Tuesday I had the opportunity to listen to Nobel Laureate Steven Chu speak at the Nobel Conference held at Gustavus Adolphus College. In his speech, Chu moved brilliantly between the scientific evidence for global warming and the rationale and policies that he sees as most effective in providing an answer to warming. He pointed out the need for regulation and commitment from the United States government. Most impressive and inspiring, though, were Chu’s words about the process of science and the opportunities that it holds for young, bright individuals.


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  • Earth Tub

    What about the Earth Tub?

    October 2, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Excitement about Carleton’s new compost program has left lots of students wondering about the compost grant proposal written by Beth Bennett (’07). Beth did extensive research about the possibilities of composting at Carleton which she used to enter an Environmental Protection Agency grant proposal competition last spring. In June, she found out that the $10,000 grant had been awarded to Carleton for the purchase of one Earth Tub, a large composting container, with the possibility of receiving up to $70,000 for more Earth Tubs in the future.


    SOPE President Shaun Sawtell has taken up the project along with SOPE’s Composting Task Force and the new Sustainability Assistants. At this point, Carleton will be using the grant to purchase at least the initial Earth Tub for use as an educational tool and perhaps a receptacle for off-campus or townhouse compost.


  • From the farm to the table

    Gary Holthaus Speaks at Carleton’s Harvest Fest

    October 1, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    This past Saturday afternoon a crowd of Carleton students squeezed into Parr House’s living room to drink mulled cider, eat pumpkin muffins and most importantly, to hear what author of From the Farm to the Table: What all Americans Need to Know about Agriculture, Gary Holthaus had to say. Holthaus, an ordained minister who currently lives in Red Wing, MN is known for his poetry, essays and work in theatre, in addition to lifelong commitment to social justice work. At Parr House, he prefaced his talk by reminding everyone that he is no scholar. He simply devotes his time educating himself about agricultural issues because he finds them to be incredibly important.

    He does not see his lack of expertise in any one area to be particularly problematic because our current agriculture system can only be fixed with an interdisciplinary approach. There is no one scientist who will have all the answers to all the problems.

    Holthaus went on to explain that his interest in agriculture stems from his commitment to the environment and social justice, which intersect in agriculture—he briefly described a recent trip to farms in Owotanna, MN where he spoke to migrant workers about issues related to housing, health care, working conditions and gender.

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  • Corn Field

    Corn Politics: Looking into Ethanol and Development

    October 1, 2007 at 11:21 am

    For years, corn has been an essential ingredient in Americans’ diets, sneaking into places we wouldn’t expect to find it, comprising the carbon compound for almost all of the meat, sweeteners, and processed food we eat. Heavily subsidized by the American government, corn is the only thing that makes sense for many American farmers to grow, although it’s almost never lucrative.

    Concerns about gas prices and global warming, however, have given corn a whole new purpose—saving the planet. Demand for ethanol, a petroleum-substitute made out of corn, has been skyrocketing. Corn is also the ingredient from which all of Carleton’s new compostable cups, plates, cutlery and plastics are made. As these practices become trendier, for the first time in decades, corn farmers are actually making money

    So corn steps in and saves the day; we become independent of oil, stop global warming, and Schumann’s Happy Farmer becomes an American reality. Right? Well, not quite that easily. As the prices of corn and soybeans, both influenced by the demand for ethanol, rise, food becomes harder to afford—and these two crops together comprise a surprising percentage of our diet.

    A New York Times article on Saturday morning reveals that the United States, the world’s largest food donor, purchased less than half the food aid this year it did in 2000, partly because of how ethanol has impacted the world food market. Rising food prices also makes it harder for the poor to purchase food for themselves.

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  • Introducing Carleton's Sustainability Assistants

    October 1, 2007 at 10:09 am

    After several years of discussion and planning, the ENTS Department and the Environmental Advisory Committee have unleashed some wild new creatures upon Carleton’s campus: Sustainability Assistants! Charged with the task of working with staff and students to bring a better understanding and implementation of sustainability to the Carleton community, these four students work one-on-one with heads of Dining Services, Facilities, Grounds, and Intercultural Life and are assigned to be resources for individual dorms. And now, introductions:

    Becky Dernbach is working with the Office of Intercultural Life on social and cultural sustainability. She is very concerned that American environmentalism is often seen, and with good reason, as a privileged movement, so she is thrilled, though daunted, to take on the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to mend that chasm at Carleton this year. Building bridges, making connections, and hopefully inciting compassionate revolution are among her goals for the year. Becky is the sustainability assistant for Burton, Davis, and Sevy.

    As the Sustainability Assistant focusing on Carbon Neutrality and Energy, Eliza Berry is working with Rob Lamppa, the Director of Energy Management in Facilities. This term, she hopes to publish a Code of Sustainable Conduct for all members of the Carleton community that will list easy ways in which students, faculty and staff can support sustainability in their daily lives. She is also researching the energy saving capability of the “Vending Misers” that have been proposed for the Sustainability Revolving Fund. “Vending Misers” are small devices that use motion detectors to put vending machines into a hibernation mode when there is no one around (such as late at night), thus hopefully cutting energy costs. Eliza has been really excited to learn all that that Facilities is doing to help create a greener campus. She is the Sustainability Assistant for Musser and Watson.

    Katie Blanchard loves food and is therefore perfectly placed as the Sustainability Assistant with Joe Winegardner in Dining Services. She is currently working to increase awareness about the new Carleton Composts program and get it off to a good, efficient start. Additionally, she will be promoting local foods that are served in the Dining Halls and general understanding about all that it takes to serve thousands and thousands of meals every week at Carleton. Katie dreams of a Carleton Community Farm and Fair Trade bananas in the Dining Halls. She is the Sustainability Assistant to Goodhue and Evans.

    As an STA working with Buildings and Grounds in the Facilities Department, Laura Oxtoby will be looking into chemical use on campus (lawn maintenance and snow removal are examples), helping to expand and improve Carleton's composting program, and exploring the feasibility of clean energy maintenance equipment. She is especially excited to work on is landscaping at Carleton. Thinking about physical spaces and considering ways that outdoor areas can serve different purposes (enhance campus beauty, provide habitat for local wildlife, reduce runoff) is incredibly important to living more sustainably as a community. She loves sustainability because it's a holistic, healthy mindset that inspires us to think of others and to think ahead. Laura is the Sustainability Assistant for Meyers and Nourse.

    Together, the Sustainability Assistants are hoping to improved communication between faculty, staff, administration and student organizations about sustainability issues and projects.

  • Parking Lot

    The Perils of Parking Lots

    October 1, 2007 at 9:48 am

    A recent study undertaken by a researcher at Purdue University has found that in one Midwestern county, parking spaces outnumber residents three to one. Using software based upon aerial photographs, researcher Bryan Pijanowski has discovered that parking spaces are taking over Tippecanoe County in Indiana. This study has important environmental ramifications that connect to pollution, land use, and even global warming.

    Even at Carleton, there is a lot of land dedicated to parking. Last year, on a Friday during convocation, student volunteers counted 588 vehicles on campus, roughly one car for every three students on campus. Furthermore, last year there were 455 student permits issued, along with 1,178 faculty/staff permits.

    Parking stress has been a critical issue on campus and the demand for more parking spaces does not come without its costs. You wouldn’t think it when you look at them, but parking lots are hotspots of environmental degradation. Certainly, on a most basic level, parking lots mean less space for plants and animals to inhabit, but the environmental impacts of parking go much deeper.

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  • Compost

    What's going on with composting at Carleton?

    September 28, 2007 at 9:32 am

    You finished your sandwich, you’re wiping your hands on your napkin and you reach to start munching on your plate…

    This is perhaps not the new order of events at lunchtime in the Snack Bar, but it could be. The new Carleton Composts program on campus is changing the way students and staff think about their trash. A collaboration between Facilities and Dining Services, the program is turning overflowing garbage cans into organic matter treasure chests. What used to receive trash in the Snack Bar are now receptacles for compost, and yellow bins for compost can be found throughout the dining halls. So, where did this new system come from?

    Facilities and Dining Services had been discussing the possibility of a composting program for several years, inspired in great part by the enthusiasm of many students on campus. After evaluating the options of doing entirely on-site composting or contracting an outside company, they decided on the latter. Based on the sheer volume of compost generated on campus, it seemed difficult, if not impossible, to find space to compost such quantity on-site. As Rob Lamppa, Director of Energy Management, said, “We’ll have the [compost] experts do what they do best.”

    A contract was made with Resource Recovery Technologies (RRT) of Bloomington, Minnesota, the largest processor of organic materials in the Midwest. Carleton is the first college in Minnesota to contract with RRT and implement such an ambitious, wide-ranging compost program. Waste Management transports Carleton’s compost to one of RRT’s facilities where it is inspected, mixed with yard waste, ground, cured and finally analyzed by an independent laboratory to ensure that it meets the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's requirements. At this juncture, after 3-12 months of curing, the compost is used in gardens, as fill when planting trees and shrubs, and on golf courses and playing fields.

    Currently, compost receptacles can be found in both Dining Halls and in the Snack Bar, and Sodexho is composting behind the scenes in the kitchens as well. In the winter, receptacles will be available in all of the dorms as well. The new Sustainability Assistants are working with Houses to get composting going even in the campus periphery.

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  • Carleton's green roof

    Re-familiarizing Ourselves with One of Carleton’s Green Assets

    September 27, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Although the Carleton College Green Roof is still in its infancy at two and half years old, it’s legacy is already starting to fade. Few people on Carleton’s campus notice the small, 666 sq ft. patch of prairie located on a roof outside the Olin- Mudd indoor “link”. The informational sign overlooking the green roof is now sun-bleached and tattered. Even fewer people at Carleton, with the exception of only a handful of current seniors, remember the week of May 13th-19th, 2005 when Dave Holman (’06), Jason Lord (’06), Jake Gold (’07), Mandi Fix (’08), and Andrew Kaplan (‘08) spent countless hours on top of the Olin chemical storage facility installing the roof.

    Why the decline in excitement and activity surrounding the green roof on campus? It’s important to acknowledge that students aren’t entirely responsible for this seeming lack of focus. After all, the annual flux of new freshman and graduated seniors doesn’t make it easy to keep long-term projects like the green roof alive. So how can students rise to the challenge of overcoming the generational disconnect created every four years and simultaneously ensure that Carleton students don’t reinvent the wheel? The simple answer is this: through reeducation. Students at Carleton need to be informed about projects others might consider to be long finished in order to inspire and equip the next generation of Carleton students to build from those initiatives.

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