What to pack for spring break

Are you traveling next week? Remember to pack these items to reduce waste on your trip!

Eating: Bring a fork, spoon, and knife. Or, to save space, bring a spork or chopsticks! Make sure you only bring a knife in your checked luggage. In addition, bring a few cloth napkins – they double as handkerchiefs.

Drinking: Definitely remember to pack a reusable water bottle. You may even want a travel mug for coffee and tea, too.

Transporting: Once you’re done eating, you’ll need Tupperware for leftovers. Carry the Tupperware and your Tufts Office of Sustainability reusable sandwich bag in a reusable shopping bag.

Toiletries: Invest in small reusable containers to bring small amounts of shampoo, sunscreen, and face wash on your trip instead of buying the travel size toiletries. Also, pack a wash cloth and a menstrual cup.


Last, but not least, bring mindfulness about your waste and consumption on your trip! As a visitor, treat your destination with respect.

Wolves Impact Ecosystem and Geography of Yellowstone Title Image, background has phases of moon cycle.

In 1995, Yellowstone brought the wolves back to the park. After 70 years without wolves, the reintroduction caused unanticipated change in Yellowstone’s ecosystem and even its physical geography. The process of change starting from the top of the food chain and flowing through to the bottom is called trophic cascades.  According to Yellowstone National Park, here are a few ways the wolves have reshaped the park:

Deer: It’s true that wolves kill deer, diminishing their population, but wolves also change the deer’s behavior. When threatened by wolves, deer don’t graze as much and move around more, aerating the soil.

Grass and Trees: As a result of the deer’s changed eating habits, the grassy valleys regenerated. Trees in the park grew to as much as five times their previous height in only six years!

Birds and Bears: These new and bigger trees provide a place for songbirds to live and grew berries for bears to eat. The healthier bear population then killed more elk, contributing to the cycle the wolves started.

Beavers and other animals: Trees and vegetation also allowed beaver populations to flourish. Their dam building habits provided habitats for muskrats, amphibians, ducks, fish, reptiles, and otters.

Mammals: Wolves also kill coyotes, thereby increasing the populations of rabbits and mice. This creates a larger food source for hawks, weasels, foxes, and badgers.

Scavengers: Ravens and bald eagles fed off of larger mammal’s kills.

Most surprisingly, the land: Soil erosion had caused much more variation in the path of the river. But with elk on the run and more vegetation growing next to rivers, the river banks stabilized. Now, the wolves have changed Yellowstone’s physical geography.

The story of wolf reintroduction demonstrates how crucial every member of an ecosystem is important to a landscape.

Learn more about the wolves in Yellowstone, background wolves in grass


Overconsumption in the Global North

Graph showing global carbon dioxide emissions: 50% from the richest 7% and 7% from the poorest 50%

A common scapegoat for global warming is overpopulation. Skyscrapers drowning in a sea of smog in China certainly point to the country’s detrimental impact on the environment.  It’s true that growing populations, especially ones undergoing industrialization like China, hurt the environment. However, many people are not aware that richer countries’ contributions to climate change are much greater than the Global South’s.

Fred Pearce’s article, “Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat,” highlights several statistics that point to wealthy countries’ abuse of privilege:

  • The richest 7% of Earth’s population emit 50% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Conversely, the poorest 50% are responsible for only 7% of emissions.
  • The average American’s footprint, or the area of the earth required to provide each of us with food, clothing, and other resources, is 9.5 hectares. For comparison, the world average is 2.7 hectares. China is still below that figure at 2.1 hectares, while India and most of Africa are at or below 1.0.
  • The factory farming of meat is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Americans eat more than 120 kilograms of meat a year per person, while Indians consume 6 kilos.

Before you claim that people in the Global South are having “too many babies,” consider your own carbon footprint. In fact, try this carbon footprint calculator.  Our per capita emissions eclipse countries with larger populations. It’s time to challenge the Global North’s culture of overconsumption.

Earth Lovers

Happy Valentine’s day from the Office of Sustainability! Who is your special Valentine this year? This year (and every year) our valentine is the Earth! We love the Earth, because it is our home and like any home, we have to care for it and show our appreciation every day. The Earth gives so much to us and asks for so little in return, but every now and then, our beautiful home could use some help and appreciation.

Valentine’s Day may only be one day a year, but you can show the Earth how much you love it every day!

These are just some of the things we do to show Earth love today and every day:

  • Conserve energy: turn off the lights!
  • Grab a reusable mug to get some coffee.
  • Bundle up, instead of turning up the heat.
  • Be prepared: carry a reusable shopping bag everywhere!
  • Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot
  • Compost: turn spoil into soil.
  • Unplug all electronic devices and spend time with friends and family.

How do you show your love for the Earth?

We asked the Eco-Reps to send us their thoughts about loving the Earth. Here are a couple of their responses:

Plastic Bag Ban in Boston

The other day, I was walking home with a friend when suddenly she stopped and grabbed my arm “Look, its an owl in the tree!” she exclaimed! Upon closer inspection, our owl was really a white plastic bag perched in the branches. Unfortunately, this experience is not a novel one; every day, we walk past plastic litter in the streets and without thinking twice about it, but the City of Boston has decided to do something about this. This past December, Boston became the 60th community in Massachusetts to introduce a “ban” on plastic bags. The “ban” that will go into effect December of 2018, but it isn’t exactly a ban. Consumers will still be able to use plastic bags in the city, but there will be a 5 cent charge for each bag used. This ban is essentially a tax on plastic bags, incentivizing consumers to bring their own bags while shopping in Boston.

There is strong evidence that these plastic bag bans are extremely effective at reducing the amount of plastic waste in the environment. According to Scientific American, the plastic bag tax which was implemented in Ireland in 2002 has to lead to 95% reduction in plastic bag litter in the Irish environment. In San Jose, a plastic bag ban has reduced the amount of plastic bags found in storm drains by 90%.

Only time will tell how effective the ban will we at reducing plastic waste in Boston, but there are simple actions that consumers can do to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment. The easiest way to reduce your plastic consumption is to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping!

For more tips on reducing your waste while shopping checks out some tips from Bea Johnson!

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