Category: Tufts Community News (page 3 of 43)

Environmental Justice

 

Take a moment to think about your environment, where you grew up, and where you currently live? Did you have a yard? Did you walk around and see trees along your street? Was the Flint Water Crisis the first time that you considered that some places in this country have unsafe drinking water?

The environment is central to all human activity, and the treatment of the environment is inherently linked to the treatment of the people who live there. The EPA has defined environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Historically, protection of environmental quality, like other resources such as money and time, has been unequally enforced across the country. Communities with more social capital and societal influences, therefore, have greater access to a healthy, safe, and livable environment with access to safe drinking water, clean air, and healthy, affordable food.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan found tremendous health impacts from entirely preventable leaching of lead in the predominately Black community’s drinking water. This is a classic example of environmental racism and brought the issue of environmental justice to the national spotlight. In the city, low-income areas and neighborhoods have disproportionally high levels of lead in their water. Globally, we see environmental injustices when discussing the future effects of climate change. According to The World Bank, the countries that will see the greatest negative impacts from our warming climate are disproportionately low-income nations.

Environmental injustices typically stem from lacking access to political capital and voice in government and industry decision-making. Wealthier communities have more disposable income and time to spend to have their voices and concerns heard. While historically the environment reinforces existing inequalities across communities, increasing awareness and advocacy for the environment through the lens of justice and health can achieve more equitable outcomes.

When advocating for the environment or any social justice issue, we all must recognize how our backgrounds or privileges have shaped us. White activists must recognize white privilege (https://www.pachamama.org/news/race-and-class-privilege-in-the-environmental-movement), and how historically white privilege has come at the cost of quality of life for communities of color and low-income globally. We can use their privileged position in society to advocate for historically disadvantaged communities and uplift their voices to be heard and protected.

Want to learn more about environmental justice and the inequalities between the global north and south? Read the Yale Environment 360’s article on how increased per capita consumption is a greater global threat than increased population.

What does 2018 mean for the environment?

Last year, 2017, was a year of extremes for our environment. According to NASA, 2017 is likely to be the second hottest year in recorded history. Here in the United States, we saw the extraordinary power of three devastating hurricanes: Irma, Harvey, and Maria. Residents are still recovering from the destruction of these hurricanes. Widespread wildfires in California destroyed thousands of acres of land, homes, and lives. The year ended with a cold snap that has spread throughout the Northeast, leading to record low temperatures across the country. There is mounting evidence from climatologist that these extreme weather events will become more frequent with the increase of the greenhouse gases we emit into our atmosphere that contribute to climate change.
On June 1st of 2017, President Trump announced the withdrawal of American participation from the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was the first of its kind, facilitated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)that bound all countries to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius of pre-industrial temperatures. The agreement allows each nation to set their own emissions goals in accordance with the goals of the agreement. Find more information about the Paris Agreement from the UNFCC.

However, not all environmental news in 2017 was negative. There was a new wave of environmental activism and commitment to combat climate change in reaction to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The “We are still in” movement was launched immediately; thousands of companies, cities, states, and institutions, including Tufts, affirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement despite the lack of federal support for the agreement. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, created the Make our Planet Great Again initiative to provide funding and support for all who wish to conduct environmental research.

While 2017 was a year of climate and environmental political extremes, it was also a year of great environmental activism and commitment to combat climate change. What does this mean for 2018? We need to continue our commitment to environmental activism this year. One important way to do so is by advocating for the environment through our votes in the 2018 midterm elections and volunteering in our local communities. Another great way is to work to lower your personal environmental impact by reducing your carbon and waste footprint.

Reduce your waste and carbon footprint:

  • Eat less meat- try to eat less or even eliminate factory farmed meat for your diet.
  • Buy used– look for previously used or owned items before buying new.
  • Eat local- Sign up for a CSA share or check out your local farmer’s market.
  •  Say yes to reusable items- Opt for reusable products over single-use items.
  • Consume less- Don’t buy unnecessary items that will just wind up in the landfill
  •  Bike, walk, use public transportation, and carpool – Not only will it lower your carbon footprint, but it will also improve your personal health.
  • Use less plastic- Find package free items to reduce your plastic consumption.
  •  Share and connect- Share your passion for environmental causes with others.

The uncertainty of our collective environmental future can be frightening at times, so let us do all that we can to reduce our individual impact on the environment and hold our representatives accountable to protect their constituents by protecting the environment. In 2018, let’s get more civically engaged, environmentally aware, and passionate than ever before.

Learn from Bae Johnson how to reduce your waste this year:

 

Sustainable Resolutions

Happy 2018! Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Maybe you’re trying to eat healthier, more organic or local food. Signing up for a local CSA is a great way to help you achieve that resolution, by signing up each week you’ll receive fresh and local fruits and veggies! Tufts partners with World PEAS to deliver farm shares right on campus, find out more information here! Or maybe for your resolution you want to get into better shape? Instead of driving where you need to go, try walking, running, or biking wherever possible! Not only will you be exercising more, but you will also be saving CO2 from entering the atmosphere and saving money that you would have spent on gas. Taking public transportation  and carpooling to get to your destination are other great ways to go further distances and cut down on your carbon emissions.

Another great resolution you may have is to use less disposable plastic this year. There are some easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption. One of the most convenient is to bring reusable bags with you everywhere you go. Another great way to cut down on your waste is to shop in bulk and bring your own containers. And a cool, newer option for online shopping is to opt for hassle free packaging when you check out.

Perhaps you have already incorporated these tips into your daily life. You avoid driving and single-use plastic,  and support local and sustainable farming through your eating habits. So how can you use your New Year’s Resolution to create more of an impact?

You’re in luck! This year, 2018,  is an election year, you can use your vote to elect representatives that align with your views on the environment. Organizations like the Environmental Voter Project help to inform the public about environmental issues and organize to “Get Out the Vote” before elections.Voters in every state can look up their registration status, elected officials, and polling place. Locate your MA polling place on the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts site. If you’re registered to vote outside of Massachusetts organizations like Headcount can help you find out how and where to vote. Our democracy is strengthened when more people turn out to vote, especially during mid-term elections. America has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed nations. This new year, you can strengthen our democracy and make your voice heard by voting!

Do you want to give back to your local community this year? Volunteering with organizations that share your values is a great way to increase your civic engagement. Find a list of national environmental organizations with local chapters all across the country here. Read more tips from the EPA about how to get more involved with local environmental organizations.

The Office of Sustainability wishes you a happy 2018! We can’t wait to collaborate more with you all to make 2018 a more sustainable year full of civic-engagement and community building!

 

 

 

Bring Home Sustainability

Congratulations, you finished the semester! You’re done with finals and are heading home for winter break. We know that before you left campus, you made sure to unplug all of your electronics, turn the heat down to 1, and close all of your windows.

You’re officially ready to leave for break, but don’t forget about sustainability while you’re at home. While at school, we are often shielded from a lot of the waste that is created on our behalf. In the dining halls, we often don’t see all of the packaging that goes into food production and all of the food waste at the end of meals. At home, we can be more aware of the waste we produce.

How to bring sustainability home with you:

Remember to recycle!

At home, it can be easy to put all waste into the trash bin. So, remember all of the good recycling habits that you learned at Tufts and bring them home with you. Always sort your waste into bins destined for the landfill or recycling.

Care to compost!

At Tufts, the Eco-Reps take out compost from the dorms, but at home, there might not be a city-wide composting program. If you don’t, talk to your family starting your own compost pile at home. When food waste is sent to the landfill, it releases methane gas. When food waste is recycled to form fertile soil. Learn more about how to create a compost at home from the EPA.

Reduce your food waste.

Holiday meals are notorious for their large spreads of food. Make sure you eat what you can and that you save any leftovers. Read more tips for a sustainable, food-centric holiday from our Thanksgiving blog.

Think before you buy!

Have you ever thought about how much energy, labor, water, and raw materials go into everything that you buy? Before buying new, try reusing what you already have, or buy used and save money. Watch The Story of Stuff to learn more about the life cycle of some of our most used goods.

Be wary of plastic packaging! 

Plastic film cannot be recycled and is used in many single-use items. Before you buy something in plastic wrapping, try looking for a bulk size to cut down on packaging waste or find a similar item that’s not wrapped in plastic.

Make sustainability your New Year’s resolution!

In 2018, commit to being more sustainable and taking steps to reduce your environmental impact. Read some great tips for how to live more sustainably from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Bring on the sweater weather!

Put on a sweater before turning up the heat. Save energy in your home by keeping the temperature down, and if you get chilly, then put on a sweater and some cozy socks before turning up the heat.

Connect and engage!

Being home is a great time to reconnect with your family, friends, and community. Share your passion for sustainability with your communities at home. Here are some tips for .

Enjoy your time off from lectures, exams, and projects, but don’t forget about your environmental impact and responsibilities. Enjoy a restful and sustainable winter break!

 

Finals Heat, Winter Needs, and Holiday Greets

Picture Credits: Tufts University

Stressed about finals? Excited about winter break? Procrastinating moving out? Have no fear! Follow our tips and tricks to handle your end-of-year stress in the most efficient and sustainable way!

Stay Toasty in a Sweater

Heaters use up a lot of energy. While we don’t encourage anyone to freeze in their rooms, remember to be conscious of how high your heat is turned up. Often times wearing a sweater or warmer clothes can help keep your dorm heating low while allowing you to be warm and cozy.

Closing Up When You Leave

Remember to shut all windows when you move out so that heat doesn’t escape the room. This helps save energy and money! Leave your heat setting to no.1- not on the snowflake- so the pipes don’t freeze. If your windows don’t close, be sure to put in a work order request before you leave!

Pull the Plug

Electronics and power cords run the risk of short circuiting or fuse bursting if left plugged in. Avoid any possibilities of mishaps and unplug all power chords and cables from sockets.

Gateway to Winter

Your mini-fridges can often get moldy and smelly if left shut and unplugged for a long time. Don’t forget to keep your fridge door open with a towel underneath to catch the melting ice.

Donate Instead of Waste

Finals are stressful. Often times we don’t want to take a second look at our books after we are done. If you already plan to get rid of your leftover paper, books, pens, and other materials, donate them. Someone else could benefit from your donations, and so will the environment!

Pizza Crusts and Coffee Mugs

Finals season calls for higher doses of caffeine and late-night snacks. If you are an avid beverage drinker, be mindful of the waste you generate. Reusable coffee mugs are a great way to reduce the number of visits you make to the trashcan.

While you enjoy snacks, and stock up on them in your dorms, composting leftovers is an effective way to dispose of your waste rather than throwing it in bins. Find composting tips and tricks from Facilities Services.

Santa in the Papers

Exchanging presents and goodies is a tradition for a lot of people this season. However, wrapping paper wastes a lot of plastic and is harmful to the environment. Get creative instead; wrap your presents in newspapers that are self-painted or designed. Your loved ones will appreciate the personal touch, and the environment will also be smiling!

 

The Office of Sustainability wishes everyone speedy finals and happy holidays! Remember to do your part in keeping your surroundings clean, green, and healthy.

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