Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our first ever Eco-charrette!

On November 17, 2009, College Prep teamed with Ratcliffe Architects to hold our first "Eco-charrette." An eco-charrette is intended to be intense meeting, generally lasting at last half a day or more (ours ran from 4-8 PM) in which all participants brainstorm about how to improve ecological sustainability. The group generates goals and then develops strategies for accomplishing those goals. Eco-charrettes, also called sustainable design or environmental design charrettes, are becoming a common element in the design of "green" buildings, and the Ratcliffe team helped us to co-opt the term to focus our path towards reducing our ecological footprint.

By the way, the term "charrette" is derived from the French word for cart. At the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 19th century, proctors would circulate with charrettes at the deadline hour, collecting the drawings of the student apprentices for delivery to the master artist for critique. Apprentices would jump onto the carts with their drawings, often still frantically making last-minute changes. Thus, the word conveys a sense of the intensive, concentrated effort.

At our eco-charrette, Kit Ratcliffe and Brian Feagans presented the assembled group of students, faculty, parents, and administrators, with the results of an extensive audit that the Ratcliffe firm did regarding College Prep's campus carbon footprint, waste production, and water usage. The results were startling, but gave us a great benchmark against which to measure our future progress.

November's event was only a first step, and there will be future eco-charrettes to help us focus our attention and energy. Let us know if you are interested in participating!

Monday, October 19, 2009

S.F. composting, recycling becomes law Wednesday!

I saw this article in the Chronicle this morning, and I thought you all might find it interesting. One notable:

"The amount of material turned into "San Francisco gold," compost that cuts down on methane emissions from landfill, returns carbon to the soil and is prized by farmers and vintners for its rich nutrients, has grown in the past year from 400 tons a day to about 500, Reed said."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Green Summer Jobs for Youth

Rising Sun Energy Center in downtown Berkeley will soon be
interviewing and hiring young people for California Youth Energy
Services, their annual summer jobs program located in various Bay Area
sites. No prior experience is needed; successful applicants receive
paid training to be ''youth energy specialists.''

* 7-week summer job: June 22nd-August 7th
* Regular work schedule: Tuesday–Friday with (2) mandatory Saturdays,
10:30am – 6:00pm
* Starting pay: $9.00 /hour
* Job involves visiting houses in the community (by scheduled
appointment) and helping residents save energy by: doing a
comprehensive energy audit of the home; replacing incandescent light
bulbs for energy-efficient CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights);
installing clotheslines; and providing other information on how to
save energy. Youth work in pairs and visit 3-10 appointments per day
depending on location.

CYES is a popular program, so if you are interested, check it out within the next week. For qualification and application info, call 510/665-1501, ext. 14; or visit
www.risingsunenergy.org and follow the CYES link.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 22 is World Water Day.

In 1992, the United Nations designated March 22nd as World Water Day. They wanted to highlight and raise awareness about the global water and sanitation crisis affecting the planet.

One billion
people on the planet don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation, specifically a toilet.

I found a website for a specific group called Charity:water who is working in the Central African Republic (the CAR) to provide fresh water. There is a good video posted on the website - I urge you to check it out. I spent 6 months living with Baka Pygmies (basically the same ethnic group as described on the webpage) and know that the details presented here are correct.

I hope you will take even a few seconds today to reflect on the notion that while we argue the merits of greening our laptops, up to 20% of the human beings living on this planet don't have access to fresh drinking water, a resource that even the poorest of us in this country take for granted.

We can't instantly change that situation, but we can at least appreciate what we have.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learn a bit more about Obama's environmental team.

This is cut and pasted from the APES blog, so you might be unfamiliar with some of the references, but I thought a more general audience might be interested in learning more about Obama's picks for major science/environmental posts.

There is a short article in today's NY Times about Jane Lubchenco, the new head of NOAA, a critical agency involved in the management of the oceans and atmosphere. I knew Jane when I started grad school at Oregon State....she is married to Bruce Menge, of the Menge-Sutherland model you read about in the paper on trophic cascades by Mary Power; she also worked with Mary on the optional paper I gave you on how to define a keystone species (she and Mary are good friends). Additionally, she did critical experiments on the role of disturbance in intertidal ecosystems. All of the professional and academic ecologists and environmental scientists that I know were extremely excited by her appointment to this important post, which once again shows that the Obama team are using a very educated, thoughtful, smart approach to filling these positions. The article linked above discusses Lubchenco's view regarding the idea of adding iron to the ocean to stimulate algal primary productivity - you might recall that there is a Bio case study on this topic, and it was the focus of Abby Halperin's APES project last year.

There are also links to an info and an interview with John Haldren, a Harvard scientist who is Obama's new Science Advisor - he will surely have a strong say in determining how the Obama administration approaches climate change and other environmental issues.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Less Pesticide Intensive Food

Announcing a new update to an old favorite: it's the 5th edition of EWG's classic Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, now with the latest government data. This handy guide shows you the fruits and veggies with the most and least pesticides, so you know which to always buy organic and which are pretty clean even when conventionally grown.


Find out what changed about bananas, carrots, and spinach (among others), and get a printable version of the wallet-sized guide.


See the list of all 47 fruits and vegetables we analyzed to find out where your favorites rank.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Green Schools Conference

Green Vision Green Schools K-12 Conference

April 4, 2009, 8AM to 5PM, San José Fairmont Hotel

Sponsored by City of San José Environmental Services

The City of San José’s third annual environmental schools conference, Green Vision / Green Schools, will be held Saturday, April 4, 2009, from 8AM to 5PM at the San José Fairmont Hotel, 170 South Market Street, San José.

Teachers, parents, principals, students, counselors, and other community members from throughout the South Bay Area are invited to attend. We especially encourage school district superintendents, administrators, and school board members to participate.

The conference links the City’s Green Vision, a landmark fifteen year plan to create a green future for San José, with the greening of San José’s schools. The conference will showcase ways schools and school districts can save money while protecting natural resources and fostering the next generation of environmental stewards.

The conference this year is organized around four themes or tracks:

· Gold from Green: Green School Facilities Saving Energy, Water, Waste and School Budgets

for school district superintendents, administrators, school board members

· Green Schools 101: Basic How tos for Beginners

(recycling, composting, gardens, funding…)

· Green Schools Beyond the Basics: Next Steps for Intermediate Green Schoolers

· Connecting Children with Nature: Environmental Education / Local Nature Field Trips

Keynote speakers include Stephen Bantillo, assistant director of the California Department of Conservation’s Beverage Recycling Program, and local environmental studies teaching legend Frank Schiavo.

To register or for further information, go to the conference website or email the San José Go Green Schools Program: