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:



Thursday, February 26, 2009

MINUTES for Meeting #3

Green Council Minutes


a. Waste Management is the company we are going to use starting in March
i. They will come once a week and take everything
ii. 5 or 6 locations for the bins on campus, we have purchased a few containers
iii. bins for composting near Penelope’s kitchen
iv. single-source recycling (all in one dumpster)


a. Communal utensils
i. Plastic, pie tins
1. Families could donate pie tins
2. StuCo

ii. Cleaning up?
1. Faculty advisors connected to clubs could make sure it gets done


a. Freshmen/Sophomore/Junior involvement
b. Zip code parties
c. Freshman foundations
d. Orientation/freshman retreat
e. Senior advisors

a. Big push for sustainability
b. Solar panel costs are going down
i. Will cost $200,000 after rebates
c. Financing issues
d. Probably happening, but no guarantees
e. Investment pool
f. 60% of school’s energy would be from solar power

a. Platinum LEED certification is attainable, standard will be set high
b. CPS will shoot for platinum, but costs might prevent us
c. Environmentally Friendly Product Purchasing
i. Green Business Program Certification
ii. Green Products like dry erase markers, fluorescent lights

d. Just picked a general contractor

a. Parking lot (will be expanded on the side with the wooden retaining wall)
b. Bicycle racks need to be covered
c. Bicycle ramp on Golden Gate in place of stairs (CPS Day?)

U-Tube about "Clean Coal"

Here's an entertaining item I received --

When it comes to making cutting edge films like "Fargo," "No Country for Old Men," and "The Big Lebowski," Joel and Ethan Coen are the real deal.

Now, they've got one more title on that impressive list.

"Air Freshener" is directed by the Coen brothers, and we're proud to say it's Reality's latest ad -- calling out the coal industry's ridiculous claims that coal is clean as only the Coen brothers can. Watch it now:

"Air Freshener" Spot

A lot has happened since we launched the Reality Campaign to call out the coal industry for their dirty lies. The devastating coal ash spill in Tennessee last December was a painful reminder that using "clean" to describe coal doesn't make it true. And last week, the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to reconsider carbon dioxide regulation was a tremendous wake-up call to the coal industry.

Now is a crucial moment. Our message is working, and we've got to take this opportunity to turn up the heat. With help from folks like the Coen brothers, it's a little easier (and funnier). Will you help spread the word, too?

Watch how this Air Freshener "cleans," and join the Reality Campaign to help push the coal industry to come clean about dirty coal.


It's time for the coal industry to make an immediate investment in new technology, to show real commitment to clean energy solutions. The ball is in their court.


Brian Hardwick
Reality Coalition

P.S. After you watch the video, check out the Reality blog, the newest addition to ThisIsReality.org

Cool Rooftops!

In thinking about LEED certification, I remembered past class discussions in AP Environmental Science about the value, in terms of energy saved and increased albedo,of white rooftops. I heard a great interview on NPRs "Living on Earth" about this topic a few weeks ago, and was surprised to learn that California has had a requirement since 2005 that flat roofs be painted white, and starting next year, will require new buildings in the warmest parts of the state to have roofs painted either white, or with new "cool pigment" paints that reflect light. You can see the transcript of the discussion here. I also found a terrific summary of the entire issue; the pdf can be found here.

What is LEED Certification?

I was recently told that CPS has decided to have all of our new construction built in accordance with the standards required for the highest level of LEED certification, platinum. Whether or not we pay the cost of actually becoming certified will be decided later, and is somewhat beside the point. If you would like to find out more about LEED certification and what aspiring towards platinum involves, go to the main LEED website.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

MINUTES for Meeting #2

New construction
Recently did a green construction project at Prospect Sierra
• Want student input (unclear as to when/how this will occur)

o Mary suggested white roofing


• Location? for new bins (EnvAc and EmChen have been working on this)
• New bins will be more clearly marked: compost, cans, plastic
• Currently no way to recycle film plastics & meat
• The Waste Management service quota gets filled quickly, Dave Clerici (CFO) looking for a new recycling company

Solar Panels

• Board Member Dave Carniglia said they were “seriously considering”
• Still hearing concerns about leaking and roofing: solar companies have dealt with this, not an issue

o This seems to be more of a smoke screen...
• Recap of the history:
o We were really close to signing off, concerns about someone else owning them
o Steve Holtzman had the idea for parents to form a corporation, would get tax benefits

• Shosh suggested we have sq. feet of solar panels available for sale to parents as a donation (good graduation present)
• Alumni donors would be good, Solar City managed by an alum
• Energy Advisory Group has been formed and is discussing things

We want to make some visible progress, hard if there are no direct links to people with power to make these decisions (no administrators were attending: Jonna, several parents and students).
• What about having a designated “green” administrator or board member whose job it would be to attend these meetings and focus on the environmental issues?

• Total: 1,294, 000 lbs carbon dioxide (rounded #s)
o 151, 000 lbs from electricity
o 300,000 lbs from gas
o 544, 000 lbs from cars
o 17,000 lbs from buses
o 283, 000 lbs form waste (very rough figure)

• Notice how large a portion car usage is!


- Carpooling
• Send vans to a few locations to pick people up
• Replace vans with at least biodiesel
• Zip code party
• Problems with timing for BART shuttles at the end of the day (people with 7th free or with sports until 6 pm)
• Incentives for carpooling, charging for parking?
• Also problems in the morning, usually there are twice as many people waiting than can fit in the van, need another driver! Fighting for seats!
• Zip cars?
• After school carpooling: we should make a catalogue of people who have to stay late for sports, dance, music, etc. & what time they leave & where they live
• List of students and their zip codes in the packets sent out at the beginning of the year

- Non-car transportation
• Better bike parking needed, we have an unused rack that needs to be bolted down somewhere
• BART/Chia
• sacrifice ~7 mins for BART, can do work/sleep unlike if you are driving
• If everyone who could take BART did, we would remove 770,000 lbs of carbon dioxide (not sure about sources for that number)

• Chia’s idea: everyone for whom the journey to BART is shorter than the journey to school should take BART!
• everyone who lived outside the radius from Rockridge to the next station on either side would take BART = half the school (right now only ~50 students take BART)
• transportation costs would be lower because you can get a student card from Faith Chia (50% discount)
• leniency on the tardy policy to account for delays, etc
• some parents worried about kids taking BART

- Waste
• “Non-waste” lunches?
o Not really viable
• HRS-CPS waste competition
o They would pwn.
o Maybe competition between classes?

Getting the word out
• CPS DAY/Forum
• Periscope, posters
• “Webinar”?

• Talk to StuLife about a forum for CPS Day
• Publicize info
o 50% off BART cards for students
o figure out a better late policy

• Make questionnaire about who would be interested in testing out the shuttle idea (alternative to BART)
• Talk about budget to buy incentives (iTunes cards?)