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  • Skiing in Aspen

    Going Green, Not Always So Easy (A perspective from the Aspen Skiing Co.)

    October 26, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Stories of corporations going green are everywhere. Companies are hiring "sustainability" managers, making large reductions in GHG emissions (despite only a few policy incentives), and publicizing their sustainability profiles in their quarterly financial reports.


    While this is great news if we are really heading towards a paradigm shift from business as usual to a more sustainable model, getting there isn't always very easy. In a Business Week article titled "Little Green Lies", a former Rocky Mountain Institute employee who now works at Aspen Skiing Co. explains the struggles of going green.

    From the story:

    "Environmental stewardship has become a centerpiece of corporate image-crafting. General Electric (GE ) says it is spending nearly all of its multimillion-dollar corporate advertising budget on "Ecomagination," its collection of environmentally friendly products, even though they make up only 8% of the conglomerate's sales. Yahoo! (YHOO ) and Google (GOOG ) have proclaimed that by 2008 their offices and computer centers will become "carbon neutral." Fueling the public relations frenzy is the notion that preserving the climate is better than cost-effective. But Schendler, who only a few years ago considered himself a leading proponent of this theory, now offers a searing refutation of the belief that green corporate practices beget green of the pecuniary variety."

    "His former mentor [Amory] Lovins says Schendler could find further cost-saving energy efficiencies with more support from his superiors. But this mind-set, Schendler warns, could influence companies to pursue exclusively projects with quick payoffs: "The idea that green is fun, it's easy, and it's profitable is dangerous. This is hard work. It's messy. It's not always profitable. And companies have to get off the mark and start actually doing stuff."

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  • Green Tide

    Private Sector Money Pours into Renewable Investments

    October 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    With all the talk in Washington of finally adopting climate legislation, it's easy to lose track of how seriously some private investors are taking renewable energy. From the Green Wombat blog:

    "Venture capitalists poured $1.74 billion into North American and European green technology startups in the third quarter, according to a survey by the Cleantech Network, a coalition of investors and companies. That brings total investment to $3.64 billion so far this year, a 13 percent rise over the same period in 2006. Most of the action was in North America, where green tech investment in the third quarter rose to $1.3 billion, a 36 percent jump over 2006. VCs are placing their biggest bets on green energy, which soaked up about 92 percent of the cash. North American investments in solar rose 16 percent to $410 million in the third quarter from the previous quarter while biofuels attracted $215 million."

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  • Correlation vs. Causation

    Stats 215: Global Warming Discussion

    October 25, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Correlation or Causation?

    To see the image click the "read more" link below

  • Sustainable Endowments

    Carleton receives Highest Marks on Sustainability

    October 25, 2007 at 9:57 am

    In the most recent release of college sustainability grades from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, Carleton was one of six schools to receive an A- (the highest grade awarded).

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  • Paul and Shiela Wellstone's grave site

    Reflecting on Wellstone Week

    October 24, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    "Politics is what we create by what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine."

    -Paul Wellstone

    This week Carleton celebrates the life and work of Paul Wellstone, a former political science professor at Carleton and U.S. Senator from Minnesota. A number of campus events have been organized in his honor this week, as tomorrow will mark the five-year anniversary of his tragic death in a plane crash. At Shrinking Footprints, we thought that it would be appropriate to take this opportunity to reflect upon the late Senator's support for environmental issues. In addition to his tireless efforts to reform legislation involving campaign finance, health care, veterans, and mental health issues, Wellstone was known in the Senate as a dogged supporter environmental protection. From his involvement in a dispute about the placement of power lines in the 1970s that made him an early advocate for decentralized, renewable energy to a 2001 battle against the confirmation of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Wellstone was on the front lines of many congressional environmental debates.

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  • La Jolla 11:35 am, 2:50 pm

    Fires in Southern California (from Space)

    October 24, 2007 at 10:03 am

    From NASA's Earth Observatory:

    "Driven by Santa Ana winds, several large wildfires flared across Southern California over the weekend of October 20, 2007. This pair of images of the area around Los Angeles on October 21 shows just how rapidly the fires grew. The top image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite at 11:35 a.m. local time, shows several active fires (outlined in red) emitting small plumes of smoke. By 2:50 p.m., when the Aqua satellite passed overhead, smoke was pouring from several large blazes northwest of Los Angeles. Although Aqua MODIS only caught the edge of the scene during this satellite overpass, the plumes of smoke and dust that can be seen blowing off the coast in the large image indicate the intensity of the winds and the presence of additional fires farther south."

    To See the satellite images click the "read more" link below

  • Opaque Skies over China

    Trade Balances Impact Global Emissions Accounting

    October 23, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Without a doubt, emissions in China will have to be addressed if we are to solve climate change. China is currently adding two coal plants to its electricity grid every week. If this pace continues, global emissions will rise above any stabilization threshold, whether its James Hansen’s 450 ppm or the more conventional 550ppm.

    However, what few people are pointing out today is what sectors China’s emissions are coming from. A recently released Tyndall Center report found that China’s net exports account for more than 23% of GHG emissions. These emissions are roughly equal to all of the UK. While the concept of exporting emissions isn’t a new topic, this is, as far as I know, the first time a number was estimated for China.

    The Tyndall Report illustrates how the current GHG accounting process fails to fully account for western nations’ emissions and consumption. If US, UK, or Canadian products are produced in China, I don’t think we should be let off the hook for those emissions. If the US does implement legislation for reducing GHG emissions, in most scenarios, these exports will not be counted. Furthermore, if this is the case, will it not become an incentive to take more manufacturing jobs offshore? Perhaps this is good for development and growth in those countries, but shouldn’t the developing countries be allowed to increase emissions for their own economies but not for western nations’ consumption?

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  • A Prairie Restoration Project

    A College on a Prairie?

    October 22, 2007 at 11:23 am

    While it is easy to justify the use of native plantings near and around the Arboretum at Carleton, some argue that prairie restoration patches closer to central campus are inappropriate and a nuisance. Depending on the season, prairie can look like dry weeds and it also requires regular burning to maintain. What should the landscape on campus look like? A well-irrigated golf course? An ornamental garden? Native prairie? The jury is still out.

    As Carleton enters into a new phase of construction with a new Arts Building and one or more dormitory projects, the College is increasingly forced think about space. Believe it or not, space is limited on our campus. As a result, the placement of every landscape feature, ranging from our large recreation center to the kale now sitting in the Sayles planters, is intentional. Given the pending expansion of the Carleton student body, it is in the college’s best interest to maintain green space as well as to make the green spaces it has more green. How does the college incorporate sustainability into its landscaping operations? While Carleton does not have a specific provision in its landscaping operational guidelines that formally incorporates sustainability, there is an intentional effort to do so.

    First and foremost, Carleton strives to use plants native to southeastern Minnesota in its design scheme. According to an unofficial landscaping document drafted in the summer of 2007, the campus is divided into a variety of zones, each with their own design parameters (vegetation choices and placement, maintenance specifications, etc). Vegetation in Zone 1 (which encompasses the Rec Center/ Goodhue building sites) is expected to consist of species native to southeastern MN. Non-native plants are to be used sparingly and only when similar native species are not available in the proper size, form, or quantity. Vegetation in Zones 2 and 3 (the Arboretum Corridor and the Arboretum itself) are even more specified. Plants in these areas are limited to vegetation common to Rice County and, in the Arb, should be arranged “randomly or in associations typically found in the area”. The fourth and last landscaping zone includes campus and off-campus properties. This zone is perhaps the most important and the most difficult to design. With respect to Zone 4, the unofficial landscaping document states, “While there are no established limitations regarding the use of non-native plant material, it is understood that responsible and sustainable landscaping practices favor the selection and predominant use of fully hardy species native and adapted to the region.”

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  • Compact Fluorescent Float

    Compact Fluorescent Lights (aka CFLs)

    October 22, 2007 at 11:06 am

    The college gives away Compact Fluorescent Lights, so why not limit the amount of energy you use in your dorm room by simply installing them in your desk lamp?


    Having recognized the major energy savings of using Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFLs) (they use about a quarter of the energy used by traditional incandescent bulbs), the college has put CFLs in most light fixtures around campus (including dorm rooms) in the last few years. Because the college cannot control the type of bulbs students use in their personal lamps, Facilities simply gives CFLs to students for free. Call Facilities at x 4133.

    And, make the switch soon. There is no need to wait until the incandescent bulb in your desk lamp burns out. Simply throw your incandescent light bulb in the trash. The sooner you make the switch, the sooner you’ll start saving energy. Currently, Facilities distributes the equivalent of 60 and 100 watt incandescent bulbs (used by most lamps) CFLs to students.

    As a CFL user, there are a few things you should know. While naturally CFL use minimizes the amount of the pollutants (including mercury) pumped out of power plants, the CFLs themselves do contain trace amounts of mercury. While not a huge safety hazard, there are certain precautions you can take in the event that a CFL breaks or if you would simply like to get rid of them once they burn out.

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  • Climate Challenge Game

    Save the World! (In a Computer Game)

    October 19, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Have you ever dream of being a president or prime minister and saving the world?

    This Climate Challenge game from the BBC simulates the important decisions the prime minister of the UK will have to make in order to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. While you are attempting to cut emissions, you also have to manage the country’s economy and maintain political support.

    Check out the game here.

    How well can you do? Feel free to post your scores in the comments section.

  • Soup fishies

    Food Musings: Edible Communities

    October 19, 2007 at 10:06 am

    First one at the co-op, that stylish matte paper displaying fluted, orange-hued orbs of winter squash, “celebrating the abundance of local foods, season by season.” Then another arrived in the mail, “celebrating the abundance of North Central New Mexico, season by season.” Proclaiming stories such as “A Homegrown Wedding” and “Got Raw Milk?” these publications of edible TWIN CITIES and edible SANTA FE are two of a collection of thirty-plus magazines published regionally around the United States to promote the bounty and beauty of local foods.

    As an organization, edible Communities strives to “connect consumers with family farmers, growers, chefs, and food artisans of all kinds” and believes that “every person has the right to affordable, fresh, healthful food on a daily basis and that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing.” The edible Communities website details how individuals can begin an edible publication in their region, and the benefits of belonging to a larger food-impassioned organization as opposed to starting up on your own. Current publications stretch from Toronto to San Diego and from Cape Cod to Portland. Individuals can purchase multi-region subscriptions and receive publications from three different regions throughout the year.

    Both edible publications I have in from of me are remarkable in their beauty and accessibility. Now delicious, elegant food is featured not only on the glossy pages of advertisement-heavy mega-magazines with intimidating titles. The recipes and writing in edible publications feel approachable because they are familiar. A Minnesotan has perhaps visited one of the featured restaurants, shopped at several of the farmer’s markets listed and certainly has the ingredients for all of the recipes available to them, if not in their own backyard. The Santa Fe issue feels appropriately less familiar to a reader from the Midwest in features such as “A Tribute to Red Chile,” but the passion for strong communities formed around good, regional food reverberates through its pages, uniting it with the Twin Cities edition and all of the regional publications.