- Being in the Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Helping your Child Walk or Bike to School
- Cycling Success Stories Mainly About Women
- Introducing the Durable Human Manifesto
- Meet the DC Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Replant Native Trees that Turbocharge Nature
- A Prospective Author’s Perspective 2013
- How Free Content Can Boost Book Sales
- Tips for Effective Email Marketing
- Give Some Guidance with that Gadget
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When replanting a tree, choosing just the right native can turbo-charge the natural environment. So says renowned plant expert Douglas Tallamy who has compiled a list of native plants that deliver a bigger biodiversity bang for the buck because they attract more insects, birds and other animals. “All native plants are not equal when it comes to supporting insect herbivores and thus other forms of wildlife.”
The news comes just in time for the northeast U.S. where thousands of trees destroyed in Superstorm Sandy are being replanted by residents and towns which may be focusing more on trees that are “utility friendly” than friendly to the natural environment. more »
At least one Washington-area commuter is making her Try Transit week permanent. When a person cancels the contract on a parking spot in her own office building, you know she has to be serious.
My cousin loves her car – a 2009 Infiniti G37 coupe. Color: liquid platinum. But her enthusiasm for driving was significantly curbed in June when she was involved in an accident in heavy rush-hour traffic for the second time in two months. Not only did it give her jitters behind the wheel – her insurance payment doubled.
Knowing what I do about how taking transit saves money, burns calories and frees up time, I gingerly made The Ask. Since I was commuting downtown for the summer, I suggested we take the bus to the Metro from the stop right outside her development in central Tysons Corner. Before the accidents, she may have laughed it off, but instead she said yes.
Here’s how it went that first day in mid-August (the other voice you hear is mine):
Now that my cousin’s been riding a while, I e-mailed her a few questions.
Has switching to Metro saved you money?
The cost of using Metro per month is $196 (bus + train). Parking at the office is $270/month (which I pay for) plus $210/month in gas. So turns out my total monthly savings is $284. Additional pluses are less mileage on the car as well as wear and tear on the tires. Also there is less chance of getting in an accident (my personal favorite).
Cons: I don’t love being stuck at the mercy of the Metro bus and train schedules. Also, driving can take less time. The 11-mile commute by car ranges from 30 minutes on the best day to 90+ on bad days. Plus – I like to have the option to stop on my way home which you cannot do on public transportation.
Pros: It’s less stressful. I used to arrive at work all stressed out from the traffic delays, constant construction and really poor driving going on around me. I can work on my way in as I get service for the BlackBerry on the bus and train.
Buses are really clean with great air conditioning. Bus timetables are pretty accurate. I have two different bus routes 1 block from my home.
The bus dropoff at West Falls Church is covered so you don’t get wet. The bus area has a dedicated, separate entrance to trains. 95% of the time I get a seat both ways. Metro commute is 50 minutes door-to-door coming from my area behind Tysons II.
Using SmartCard, I have a pre-tax benefit through my firm’s WMATA SmartBenefits program.
Was it easier or harder than driving on the earthquake, hurricane and flood days?
In general, easier. While there were time delays, the traffic seemed way worse. On Earthquake day, it took almost twice as long due to lower speed limit on tracks to allow for checking to make sure no structural damage to tracks. On the Thursday Tropical Storm Lee blew through, I waited an hour for the bus – which I expected. But I equated traffic around Tysons to Christmas Eve: gridlock. I was very glad to be on the bus.
What are your words of wisdom to anyone considering a bus/Metro commute?
Hmm, I would say had you not suggested I give this a try and at the same time accompanied me for the first few days, I would not have even considered it. I absolutely love my car and, let’s face it, I am fairly lazy where walking is concerned from growing up in the suburbs where you drove everywhere from the first day you get your license. It’s a way of life/frame of mind. I like to have the option to stop on my way home which you cannot do on public transportation.
Having said that, my advice would be to try it for a week, take the time to do the math and calculate the savings – and have an open mind.
I begrudgingly (still) have to admit I am a public transportation convert. Check back with me in November when the cold and snow has settled in.
And so I will.
Crossposted at Greater Greater Washington
Could it be that it’s easier to forget your child in the car than realize your cellphone is missing? A tragic number is telling.
At last count, 513 American kids have died inside hot, closed cars since record-keeping began in 1998. About half were forgotten by a parent or caregiver.
Because the death toll continues to climb, authorities met in Washington, D.C. this week to propose immediate action. “It’s so urgent that we find effective sets of countermeasures that we all can take right now,” said David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as quoted in the Washington Post.
And what do experts suggest as a top countermeasure? Put your cellphone in the back seat with your child.
The advocacy group Kids and Cars.org has a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God perspective. Says founder Janette Fennel: “People think these people must be terrible parents, they must be monsters, because if we think that, we can’t relate to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The truth is that any of us can fall prey to a single act of absent-mindedness which could have horrific results. To avoid that, parents and caregivers must be mindful and informed.
Some life-saving advice from KidsandCars:
- Your child gets hot faster than you do – up to five times faster.
- A closed car can reach a broiling 125 degrees in only minutes.
- Cracking the windows does not slow the heating.
Practice safe habits:
- Don’t leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
- Look before you lock. Open the back door and check inside before you walk away.
- Instruct your babysitter or childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t show up when he or she is expected.
And, yes – lest you forget: when you buckle up your child, put your go-to things in the back seat, too – which will surely include a cellphone.
Bike share gives you another way to travel short distances, such as from a Metro station to a nearby restaurant. 110 of the solar-powered bike share stations have sprung up in the busier areas of Washington and Arlington.
Rolling away from the station outside the entrance to the Crystal City Metro, I immediately felt comfortable on my CaBi bike. The weight of the sturdy frame and the three gears kept my progress slow and under control as we negotiated stop-and-go car traffic.
Since I was used to seeing Crystal City from a car window, I thought it wasn’t much more than a drab concrete jungle. But gliding slowly along, I got a closeup view of how much had changed since I moved from the area thirty years ago. Now, beautiful potted plants dot street corners. Graceful shade trees sway in the breeze. Sidewalk cafes beckon.
And bike share stations are located every couple of blocks. That close proximity is what makes the system a viable form of transportation. Our tourguide tells us that lots of people now grab a bike instead of a taxi or bus. They predict that as Metrorail gets more crowded, bike share will become a desired alternative for more people and actually free up spaces on trains.
I liked my bike in D.C. better than the one I rode last summer in Milan. For one thing, a bungy cord secures your stuff in the cargo rack. We were bummed in Italy when our new DSLR camera slid out of the open metal basket and crashed on the sidewalk. Capital Bikeshare maintenance folks report their bikes are much more reliable then the finicky fleet in Paris.
I wore business clothes for the ride and soon realized one’s outfit should rarely be an impediment. Truth be told, if you’re wearing high heels and have to go any distance at all, it’s a lot more comfortable to ride a bike than it is to walk.
Capital Bikeshare is remarkably safe. More than 700,000 rides have been taken on the system since CaBi opened last fall, but there have been very few accidents. In fact, medical assistance has only been necessary in only about a dozen instances. CaBi adds an additional measure of safety by teaming up with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to offer free classes in negotiating city traffic.
Bike share is a great deal. You’ll need to pay to get into the system. A year-long membership costs $75. It’s $30 for a month and $5 for a day. But having done that, any time you use a bike, the first half hour is free. If you time it right, you could take as many short hops as you want and never pay another dime.
As for tech support, clear instructions and a bike locator map are on the CaBi website. A free smart phone app, www.SpotCycle.net, is an easy way to check as you’re riding whether there is an open spot to return your bike at your destination.
Scores of new bike share stations are planned for new places, including Montgomery County and Alexandria. But there’s no need to wait for a full build-out. If, for instance, you want to go from Capitol Hill to a meeting on K Street, it may be faster and cheaper to check out a CaBi than to wait for a cab and risk getting caught in traffic.
Larry Knighten is dean of students at Joyce Kilmer Middle School, which is located within walking distance of traffic-choked Tysons Corner, Virginia. Recently, Larry noticed a problem. Every day, the single bike rack outside the school was filled to overflowing. Bikes were locked haphazardly to fences and trees.
It all started when the county transportation department built a little bridge over a nearby creek to create a direct connection to the many neighborhoods on the other side. What resulted is that many kids who had never been able to walk and bike to school before decided to give it a go.
But, rather than getting mad at the bicycle mishmash, Larry got creative with a few school system dollars. Not only did he buy more bike racks, he built a beautiful concrete pad to go underneath so the kids and the ground wouldn’t get muddy.
The school is so excited, they held a ribbon-cutting – and even a U.S. congressman dropped in to celebrate.
A couple of student onlookers commented on how they roll.
“I ride to school because it’s faster than walking and, you know, it’s just fun because you get a little bit of exercise in the morning,” said one young man.
Another sees the practical advantages: “The bus is a lot earlier than I’d like to leave and if I leave on my bike I can leave later and it’s not that far. It’s really nice and I just think it’s a good experience to ride your bike to school.”
Sleep. Exercise. Autonomy. Just what pre-teens (and the rest of us) need to be healthy and happy.
Below, Larry talks about the benefits of biking to school, and Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly explains how strategic, small government investments like the Kilmer bridge can lead to less car traffic and a more livable community. .
In pre-digital times, parents were the ones who craved time off to recharge their batteries. But in today’s switched-on world, entire families are in need of unplugged rest and relaxation. A spot within easy driving distance from Washington helps everyone get back on a healthier beat.
“Non-ado” is a sweet term I learned from Martin Ogle, longtime Chief Naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Virginia. He was invited recently to speak to the outdoor education advocacy group, NoVA Outside. Martin says nature proceeds at its own unrushed, regular rhythm. Non-ado, and the Taoist concept of Wu-wei, refer to one’s ability to exist in harmony with that age-old cadence.
Martin joins spiritualist Thomas Merton and author Walter Kerr, who contend that our hyper-busy, high-tech society is out of sync with the rhythm of nature, causing us maladies ranging from anxiety to depression. In other words, we are suffering because we no longer go with Nature’s flow. Spending time outside helps rectify new-age angst. Or, in Martin’s words, “there are a lot of questions that being outdoors helps answer.”
Recently, our family went in search of spring break tranquility. It might have been the rustle of spanish moss on the massive live oaks – or the hammocks beckoning beneath - but it was easy to slip into a state of non-ado at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
Comfy porch rockers invite you to chill out at this warm South Carolina hideaway only six hours from the Nation’s Capital.
But Walt Disney would never be content with only DIY amusement. Helpful employees called “cast members” assist with all kinds of activities which have an emphasis on nature.
Working with paintbrush and paper at large wooden tables, kids have plenty of elbow room for gyotaku, the ancient Japanese art of fish rubbing. Teens head out with the cast to play mini-golf or games on the beach. When they want to be together, families can don rubber boots for outings such as exploring the marsh at low tide with a naturalist.
The resort’s flat, white sand beach is located about a mile across the island, but there’s no reason to get in the car. Take the free shuttle or ride the flat, protected bike trails instead. Try to BYOB (bring your own bikes) because rentals are pricey.
Each unit has at least a cook top and fridge, if not a full kitchen. Remember to pick up provisions on the way because the gift shop carries only the basics. If you want to splurge for dinner, many restaurants are just a short stroll past the gleaming yachts docked in Shelter Cove.
While it’s true that price can put a Disney resort out of reach, there’s no harm in borrowing Walt’s ideas. Creating Wu-wei in your own back yard or nearby park doesn’t take much - just some creativity and the will to put the gadgets aside and let Nature set the tempo.
In President Obama’s address last night about US military action in Libya, he said that the US and its allies should “mobilize for collective action.” Esteemed Big Thinker Lester Brown knows exactly what they should do.
Step One would be to watch the documentary ”Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization” streaming now on PBS. The movie is based on Brown’s new book, World on the Edge. They will soon learn that so many of the world’s vital natural support systems have been damaged or destroyed that the future of civilization is now in jeopardy. The founder of the Earth Policy Institute says dwindling water supplies, soil erosion, deforestation and over-reliance on disappearing energy sources have become the world’s most pressing security concerns. Among the measures in Brown’s ambitious vision: reducing carbon emissions by 80% within the next 8 years, stabilizing world population at 8 billion, converting to renewable sources of energy, and retooling US security and defense.
I spoke with Lester after Plan B premiered at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. He says the changes sweeping north Africa and the Middle East are comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall and present a critical opportunity to offer a new kind of assistance to states in need:
Terrifying nuclear crises, ominous cyber-wars, oil and food prices in a race to the top – if there is a Plan A for saving us from simultaneous global catastrophies, it’s not working. But there is another option.
Enter Lester Brown, esteemed Big Thinker and founder of the Earth Policy Institute. In his new book, World on the Edge, Brown unveils “Plan B” – a sweeping vision to retool the world economy and re-balance earth’s ecosystems so its people can survive. For Plan B to come to the rescue in time, he proposes an immediate about-face in U.S. security policy. Struggles in the Middle East are what could catapult America into action.
Brown calls his plan ”the new defense budget, the one that addresses the most serious threats to both national and global security.” It costs $187 billion, or about one-fourth of the current U.S. Defense budget.
These are the basic building blocks of Plan B:
Keep water flowing and farmland fertile. Right now, many countries are draining the last precious drops from their water supplies. Water tables are dangerously low for half the world’s population. To prevent widespread deaths and mass migrations due to thirst and starvation, Brown’s plan would assist dry countries by helping them conserve water and grow food through efficient irrigation systems and water-efficient crops.
Because so many forests have been cut down and grasslands are being heavily overgrazed, precious topsoil is gone or disappearing in many areas. To prevent future wars over dwindling food supplies, Plan B ends deforestation worldwide and calls for restoring grasslands and the planting of billions of trees. It would also create marine reserves in oceans around the world to provide sustainable and vast supplies of edible fish. In the meantime, an international food reserve would help stabilize prices so everyone has at least something to eat.
Within 8 years, reduce carbon emissions by 80%. This would be achieved by speeding the shift from worldwide dependence on fossil fuels to the use of the renewable, safe, and limitless energy sources of wind, waves, solar and geothermal. The plan would lower taxes on incomes but raise them on carbon-producing fuels like gasoline. This would push the world toward transportation and manufacturing practices which use less oil and coal. That way, world output of carbon dioxide will drop, slowing the rise of sea and air temperature. Less melting of arctic ice means fewer people and livelihoods would be inundated by rising water.
Stabilize the world population at 8 billion people. Slowing runaway population growth will make it easier to conserve earth’s remaining resources and stretch food supplies. Recent history shows that educated women have fewer children. So, in countries where birth rates are highest, Brown’s plan calls for the education of all young people, especially girls. Providing access to decent healthcare and reproductive services would also shrink family size.
Re-tool U.S. defense and security. When states are in turmoil, they can’t perform basic functions like collecting taxes, paying their bills or providing jobs. Such instability also threatens global security. As Brown points out, “Efforts to control international terrorism also depend on cooperation among functioning nation states. As more and more states fail, this cooperation becomes less and less effective.”
Brown envisions a new cabinet-level U.S. agency called the “Department of Global Security” which would help shaky countries get back on their feet by providing sustainable security, economic and environmental solutions. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. and other nation partners could help set up methods for sustainable farming, generating renewable energy and conserving water.
At this time, a large part of the U.S. defense budget is spent on costly conventional weapons. Brown questions the continuing success of this strategy, asking: “What if the next war is fought in cyberspace or with terrorist insurgents? Vast investments in conventional weapons systems will be of limited use.” Indeed, those days are already upon us. As Michael Joseph Gross writes in April’s Vanity Fair, unprecedented, ultra-sophisticated cyber-attacks waged in 2009 on nuclear facilities in Iran were “the Hiroshima of cyber-war.” That’s why Brown says now’s the time to re-think defense priorities.
To find out more about Plan B, you can read World on the Edge or watch the film special streaming on PBS. If you think the idea has merit, share this post with your Congress members and Senators. It might save billions in the Defense budget, and maybe the planet, too.
As of last week, all the windows in the Empire State Building have been replaced…using the existing glass…repurposed right on site. Please excuse the ellipses, but this is really exciting.
As Kevin Surace of Serious Materials tells it — Tony Malkin, owner of the New York City landmark, wanted to save money on his energy bills, but didn’t want to waste his existing glass and Kevin said, “I can do that.”
So there, in a temporary shop on the fifth floor, Kevin’s crew remade each of the building’s 6,500 windows, crafting them into a new product which is 400% more efficient than what was there before.
The windows are part of an energy-efficiency retrofit that will achieve the astounding feat of making the Empire State greener than 90% of other office buildings. Tony expects it will save him $4.4 million a year.
Kevin Surace is a game-changer. He’s one of those rare individuals who give humans a good name because they’re so darn smart – not just in book learning (his degree is in Electrical Engineering Technology), but about how to influence other people to do what’s best for humanity at large.
As Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, he was featured speaker at the 2010 Rochester Institute of Technology Entrepreneurs Conference, giving a rapt crowd his ten secrets for building a great company:
1. Identify a problem. Buildings and making the the stuff they’re built from generate 52% of the world output of carbon dioxide.
2. Provide great solutions. Since dual-pane glass is basically ineffective at reducing heat and cold transfer, Kevin’s company has come up with something better.
3. Recognition by peers is important. Kevin showed two videos of President Obama extolling the fact that Serious re-opened a shuttered factory and put hundreds of people back to work making energy efficient products.
4. Hire the right people for the job. Most of his come from Silicon Valley not from the building industry.
5. Have a vision for the next 5 to 10 years (at least) into the future.
6. Amazing client references help a lot. 3.5 million people visit the Empire State Building every year. My guess is Kevin will find some way to tell them about the windows.
7. Disruptive innovation. Stand up and knock over the table of existing practice. Kevin believes nothing happens if no one takes risks.
8. Disruptive marketing. Be there the moment the customer needs you. Monthly newsletters don’t cut it any more. Own the online conversation about your product category.
9. People notice when you’re nice. Smiling faces of people you put back to work: Priceless.
10. Don’t be afraid to change everything we know.
Building Industry Business Advice economy Empire State Building Energy Efficiency Entrepreneurship environment finance Glass local economics New York City personal sustainability Rochester Institute of Technology Serious Materails sustainability technology Windows: environment technology
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For weeks I dreaded World Carfree Day, held this year on September 22, when we’re all supposed to find other ways to get around. I live near Tysons Corner, a traffic-clogged suburb of Washington, D.C., in one of America’s most congested regions. Trying to walk the walk for a whole day would not be easy.
The closest bus stop to my house is about two miles as the crow flies, and I’d need to be a crow to get there without driving. I don’t have the guts to walk or bike because the short stretches of sidewalk don’t connect and most of the streets don’t have shoulders. So, Step One was to rationalize I wasn’t cheating if I drove my son the short hop to his high school carpool. Returning to my home office would keep me off the roads a while, but only until his afternoon football game.
The idea of parking and taking transit the four miles over to school seemed fine until the Metro website told me the bus went in only one direction. Service on the 15M line stopped in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Then, in a desperate and underhanded move, I called and asked my cousin if she’d like to come to the game, never disclosing my ploy to get a ride back to my car. Luckily, I went undetected because she had allergies and didn’t want to go outside.
My last chance to go carless was to an evening meeting, three miles from home. But, after more investigation, I found that by the time I dropped off my son, drove to catch the first of two buses and walked the rest of the way, the meeting would be over.
Finally, the Day dawned and it was clear the message hadn’t penetrated the public consciousness as the radio reporter chirped, “Crazy traffic day! We’ll begin in the District – listen up!”
Feeling rather dejected later that night, I wandered over to worldcarfree.net. Turns out Carfree Day is actually a year-round effort to “remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society” and “to put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.”
Then it hit me. The meeting I had driven to earlier was held by the non-profit Fairfax Trails and Streams. There, a person from the Fairfax County Park Authority talked of plans to make trail connections between communities, parks and transportation. Afterward, an attendee informed the group about a public meeting to dicuss the new Tysons Corner bicycle master plan. And tomorrow, a blurb I wrote about the public buses which serve my son’s school would appear in the parent newsletter.
It was good to realize that even those who have to drive can be part of Carfree Day.
This blog is dedicated to my sister multi-modal maven, Fionnuala Quinn, who lives in the North Virginia car haven known as Fair Oaks.
Bike share programs are springing up all over the world. For an idea of how they work, a system in the bustling, northern Italian city of Milan provides a good example.
There’s no confusing a colorful bike share bike, which is clearly marked with municipality and conspicuous I.D. number (an effective theft-deterrent).
Bike stations are conveniently located around the city.
Kiosks contain a screen and keypad where you enter a password created when booking online. Sliding your credit card, your bike space number appears on the screen.
Automatically unlocked, the bike easily lifts off the rack.
Bikes are tough and sturdy, yet easy to steer. The ride is remarkably comfortable, even over bumps. Having only three to choose from takes the guesswork out of shifting gears.
No need for special cycling clothes. People in this fashion capital wear just about anything when they ride, including business suits and high heels. You can’t exert yourself too much or go too fast amid the traffic lights and other forms of transportation. Helmets don’t come with the rental and aren’t typically worn.
Best of all – the cost is only a few euros for a two-hour period – and the first half hour is free!
I give the Milan system an A-, due to some very minor quibbles. The heavy bikes develop so much momentum they’re somewhat tough to brake. While having a bungee is helpful, the metal bike basket is slippery and heavy objects are hard to secure. My husband’s new SLR camera slipped out and broke at our first sight-seeing stop. We’ll stow our stuff in a bag next time. Booking the bike was somewhat cumbersome because the system did not allow multiple bookings at one time, nor did it retain information from prior bookings.
But, all in all, bike share is a cheap and enjoyable alternative to taxis, a good bridge between different types of transport, and a great way to burn off the fantastic pasta and frequent gelato stops.
At this point in the new century, many of us do things to save dwindling resources and make better use of others. But decisions can be tricky. Where do we set the thermostat and still be comfortable? Should we eat the organic imported orange or the conventional local apple? Do we print out the PDF or read it online? Technology helps, but can complicate matters.
Large institutions have a harder time because they must meet disparate needs and demands. Take the example of American University, a school in Washington, D.C., which recently introduced a Green Teaching Certificate. Courses are “Green Certified” if teachers communicate online, use electronic books and readings, and let students use laptops in class, among other measures considered sustainable.
But the system is causing hiccups for the age-old craft of writing. Writing instructors and their first-year students were surveyed for a Literature Department teaching seminar aptly named “Going Green in the Classroom: Balancing Ecological and Learning Environments.”
It turns out that faculty members all do some things green, even if not officially certified. There is general agreement that posting assignments on the document-sharing platform, Blackboard, helps everyone stay organized. But working online apparently has its drawbacks.
Not being able to get their hands on the material is a common complaint of students. “You can’t take notes on readings online so it makes reading harder, ” was one of several similar student comments.
Yet, 95 of the 130 students surveyed don’t print out the readings. Three out of four don’t even read them. “I absolutely hate reading things online,” acknowledged one student. “Having a hard copy of readings is much more beneficial to my learning experience.”
Teachers also like good old pen and paper. One didn’t mince words: “Students who do not print out and mark up readings for e-reserves are completely useless in class.”
Not having anything to write on also takes its toll on the writing process. As a teacher understated, “The revision process is much more productive, in my experience, when students have hard copy in front of them.”
When material is printed, faculty members don’t like the university’s suggestion to make single-spaced, two-sided copies because there’s no space for notes and revisions.
But printouts—or lack thereof—have a price. One student explained the predicament: “While green courses may intend to help the environment, it really puts more of the burden of cost on the student. I am currently in 3 “green” courses and have had to use ALL my printing bucks…and have gone through two ink cartridges in order to print out all the readings I am required to do.”
To protect students, some teachers bear the burden, but shift the cost. “It’s either them or me, and for what they pay in tuition, I’ve decided it should be the university’s paper and Xerox machine.”
One teacher has a partial workaround: printing handouts for in-class use only. “I number them (making no more than ten—and requiring them to look on with a classmate) and collect them at the end of a class period.”
Laptops present another quandary. “There’s no way they’re not gonna check Facebook!” despaired a faculty member. Many students readily admit checking email and doing other “personal research” in class. The distraction factor is so high, one out of three teachers ban laptops. That’s fine, says a student, because some people don’t have one. “I think there should be some degree of understanding if the course is ‘green.’ ”
Beyond the ethical dilemmas is the irony that classrooms assigned to most AU College Writing Professors aren’t equipped with computers (but do have projectors). The Literature Department recently received its first scanner. But if the scanner is used so materials can be copied, then paper-using has only been perpetuated.
In the end, for faculty and students alike, decisions about eco-rules are personal and pragmatic. “As much as I would like to help the environment and not print out all the readings,” one student lamented, “the most effective way of learning is to read the paper copy and highlight and take notes rather than attempt to read on a computer screen.”
A teacher questioned the very nature of going green. “Blackboard is a great resource, and I like the way it has allowed me to save paper, etc., but it does not appear to me intentionally or pointedly green. All of this is peanuts compared to the real carbon footprint of driving to and from school.”
It would be instructive to know whether Lit is the only AU department, or AU the only school, which struggles with green policies. If you have some experience—please share your thoughts.
Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you try to eat locally-grown food? OK – that’s a pretty good number. How many keep your money in local banks? Hmmm – not too many. Now – whose 401K is invested in local companies? Anybody? …Anybody?
You must be like the folks in northern Virginia who invited economist/lawyer/wonk/author Michael Shuman to come and speak. Shuman asked them the same questions and they answered the same way – and they call their group “Sustainable Reston”!
Well, it’s time to wake up and smell the money.
Shuman says dollars showered on local business grow the local economy. It’s like water runoff. If rain falls on lawns and gardens, it soaks into the ground and is sucked up by thirsty plants. But the rain that falls on hard surfaces like sidewalks and streets, runs down the drain, is shunted away, and the plants don’t stand a chance.
In his book, The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition, Shuman has solid reasons why local business almost always spurs superior economic development. For one thing, hometown businesses don’t pack up and move away. They can be counted on to be there for the long term. Second, locally-run businesses spend more of their dollars locally. A study done in Austin shows that if two bookstores each make $100 in profit, the national chain store returns $13 to the local economy, while $40 is churned back into the economy by the local shop. Local businesses are typically small and lean, so they have a healthy influence on the community. Because their facilities are usually more compact than sprawling factories, they enhance smaller, walkable, more livable communities.
A case in point, says Shuman, is the nation’s only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team. The Green Bay Packers is actually owned by a bunch of Wisconsin Cheeseheads. According to Aaron Popkey, Packers Manager of Corporate Communications, 112,120 people have shares in the team. Over half of them live in Wisconsin. The arrangement has paid off richly for what was once the obscure, out-of-the-way town of Green Bay. Training Camp alone nets the local economy $30 million a year. Because so many people have a vested interest in keeping the team at home, “there is very little chance we would move,” Popkey understates. The shareholders have to vote to send the Pack packing.
But how does the average town become more self-reliant? The answer, says Shuman, is to come up with crafty ways to drum up business while maintaining positive cash flow. In Bellingham, Washington, for instance, coupon books which give discounts at participating local merchants are wildly popular. Coupon holders save money and the merchants make more. He says towns also need entrepreneurial business models, which include the ability to create local stock exchanges or community funds to buy and develop land, as hedges against Big Box pressure.
How can the average consumer make a difference? “It’s easy,” says Shuman. “Think local first.” When you go out to eat – at least consider the home town restaurants along with the national chains. When you need to buy something, remember the mom-and-pop store before automatically running to Target.
Who knows? Besides saving money, you might even save the world. After all, Shuman says, the global financial crisis was “the result of a separation of money and place. Local self-reliance is a key piece of the world solving its own problems.”