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You already know Wikipedia— the sometimes controversial, collaborative online encyclopedia. With it, you can find information (true, false and all the shades in between) about everything from the Danish movie “Stealing Rembrandt” to “East Fife (UK Parliament constituency)” (Wikipedia’s Random Article button is a lot fun!). If you have a quick info need or some info to share with others, Wikipedia is the place to go.

Now the Green Wiki (http://green.wikia.com/wiki/Wikia_Green) does the same for the environment and sustainability that Wikipedia has done for, well, every topic out there!

You can use the Green Wiki as a resource for information on environmental issues, sustainable living, the local movement and many other green topics. The article on Renewable Energy, for example covers the basics and gives some background on eight types of renewable energy. To further your research, the Green Wiki provides sources and external resources.

The Green Wiki is fairly new, so you may find some empty entries. I was surprised to find that no one had yet provided any information for Composting. Of course, this is where the collaborative nature of wikis kicks in. Instead of information about composting, you get a request: Help out Wikia Green by writing a definition of this word! And why not? If you feel that you have something to say on a topic in the Green Wiki, go ahead and register and contribute! Like any social software, a wiki like the Green Wiki is made better with each contribution made by its community members. You can learn more about how to contribute and what the Green Wiki is looking for on their About page.

So dive right in– start browsing, do some research and share your own green knowledge with the community!

I see changes on this campus

Full bicycle rack on campus

Full bicycle rack on campus

I see changes on this campus. People are commuting by bike a lot more than they have. A year ago, it would be rare to see this many bicycles on our campus. I applaud those who can and choose to do so. 

So, bike riders, who are you? Why do you ride? How far do you travel? Tell us your story.

–Christine

   I am in the Kermit the Frog camp: trying, yet discovering that “it’s just not that easy being green!” Or is it? Kermit and I might also say “it’s just not that easy to ‘think green’ either.”  Especially when we “live in plenty.” However, times when I “live in want,” when necessity becomes the mother of invention, Mother Nature and I benefit.  

   My husband lost his job three months ago. We have been forced to “think green” more than ever before. Unfortunately, I don’t mean in the environmentally friendly way; I mean we have far less “green stuff” available for managing our budget. We have been forced to get creative in order to save where we can to protect our world, as we know it. It was not easy to cut luxuries and frills that we perceived as “must haves.” We quickly discovered the difference between wants and needs, have developed a plan to stay afloat, and are doing what we have to do. We have found comfort in working together and contentment in how  these changes have become second nature.

   I don’t do the grocery shopping for the household anymore. I used to when I was a stay-at-home-Mom, although it was not in my nature. I loathed everything about it: the inventory control, the list making, the coupon cutting, the shopping with two kids in tow, the loading and unloading of the car, and the putting away of everything . I am ever grateful that my husband and his brother have taken over these duties. All I am responsible for now is buying and hanging a long magnetic pad of paper on the refrigerator so that our four-adult household can write their wants and needs on the list and, like magic, those wants and needs appear.

   Last week, my husband reminded me that we were almost out of paper on the magnetic pad. I found myself “thinking green” when I was deciding about replacing that pad of paper, and I became content when I decided to get creative in an effort to save and protect both my personal and global worlds in any small, baby-step way that I could.

   I did not run out to buy a new magnetic pad of paper. Instead, I tripped back in time to a childhood memory of my Aunt Dot—a delightful, inspiring ninety year old who has always been eco-friendly and highly organized when frugality rather than awareness dictated it. I can visualize her grocery lists on her harvest gold refrigerator. Now, my lists look just like hers. I have emptied the “junk mail” that arrives in plain envelopes and have placed these envelopes in the cabinet near the refrigerator. As needed, I let a dual purpose magnet–Dr./Dentist appointment or the magnet ripped off the used up pad of paper–hold the envelope to the refrigerator. The flap-side of the envelope becomes the perfect blank page for the grocery list, while the envelope itself houses coupons and receipts.

   Maybe it is easier than we think…this “being green.”

 

Green Blogs

I’ve found that the best way to keep a challenge fresh and new is to get regular doses of inspiration. Going green or making lifestyle changes that positively impact the environment is definitely one of those challenges that benefit from getting occasional boosts of creativity to stimulate action.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to subscribe to a few good blogs. Reading a few tips and tricks or getting insight into how others are making a difference in their lives or in their communities can be just the little boost I need to take that additional step—an incentive to convince me to turn off my work printer and computer speakers at the end of the day; a spark of insight into how to make my home garden more sustainable; a nudge to replace my not-so-Earth-friendly cleaners with homemade natural ones.

Here are a few green blogs you might enjoy as you make and meet your own personal and professional challenges.

Treehugger
http://www.treehugger.com/
TreeHugger is the leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream.

EcoGeek – Clean Technology
http://www.ecogeek.org/
EcoGeek devotes its pages to exploring the symbiosis between nature and technology.

The Daily Green
http://www.thedailygreen.com/
Environmental issues, global warming news, green living tips

Environmental Graffiti – for environmentalists that don’t take themselves too seriously
http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/
Environmental Graffiti is a UK-based blog, focused on providing the most useful environmental knowledge and debate.

New Scientist Environment Blog
http://www.newscientist.com/blog/environment/
Environmental commentary and analysis from New Scientist magazine.

Lazy Environmentalist
http://www.lazyenvironmentalist.com/
The blog for a nationally syndicated (US) talk radio show about easy green living.

Gristmill: The environmental news blog
http://gristmill.grist.org/

Here’s a couple tips for finding more blogs on any subject:

  1. Got a favorite blog?  Take a look at that blogger’s “Blog Roll” or list of personal favorite or related blogs.  This list is a “readers of this blog will also like these” seal of approval.
  2. Use a blog search engine to find blogs or posts on the topic of your choice.  Tools like Technorati, and Google Blog Search will help you limit your search to just blogs.

Do you have any green blog favorites you’d like to share?

I’m 280, what are you?

I just took a 3 minute test to get my estimated carbon footprint. Carbon footprint numbers are meant to give us an indicator of our impact on the earth in terms of our enery use. This “van-driving, frequent flier, recyclable-bag carrying mom” registered a 280 on this test. I’m feeling pretty good about my number since the average score in America is 325. How do you rank?

Since I’m not a scientist (and don’t play one on television either) can anybody tell me how significant this number is? Should I be worried that my number isn’t smaller?

–Christine

Seven times in June and once in July, when I gassed up the tank of my 2000 Ford Focus, I recorded the number of gallons that went in, the price per gallon, the miles on the trip odometer, and the total dollars I paid. My math wiz friend told her math-challenged English teacher friend—me—that this information would be all I’d need to calculate if my car is really getting the 25 city/31 highway MPGs the manufacturer claims. That’s more MPGs than the 2008 model Ford Focus. And, unless you’re driving a Prius, Honda Hybrid, or Mini Cooper, that’s more MPGs than a lot of cars and all the SUVs on the road today. I was patting myself on the back for doing my economic and ecologic part.

Bike Racks Reduce Fuel Efficiency

Bike Racks Reduce Fuel Efficiency

Then, in the middle of August, I read on http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/factors.shtml that removing the rooftop rack results in better aerodynamics and increased fuel efficiency. What!! Guess who has a rooftop rack on her car? Me! It and a bike came with the car. And though I rode the bike, I never hoisted it up onto the bike rack because I don’t have the upper body strength. The rack has stayed on the roof because its value to me has always been that I could find my car in a parking lot, COD’s included. Knowing now that I could get even more MPGs, I decided I would take the rack off—it’s only held up there by hex socket cap screws—how hard could it be?

 

Very hard. I have the tools, but as of today, the rack is still on the roof. Why? I haven’t had the time. I don’t think I’m alone in the “I don’t have time” camp. We all truly want to do our best to preserve the only home we have—our planet—but there’s just not enough time and so much to do! Where does a person start? When I visited the National Geographic Museum this past summer, I picked up a copy of http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781426201134&ref=rec&name=display  True Green: 100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet. Inside are practical and doable strategies, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn that you didn’t know. In the back is a list of online resources for more information. Here’s advice #72, good for us all: put less on our plates and eat every bite.

Check back here in a month, and I’ll tell you how many MPGs I’m getting without the bike rack. 
–Linda

Greening the Library

Every office has its struggles with going green, whether it’s breaking people of bad habits (no, gum does not go in the blue bin) or encouraging new ones (Bring Your Coffee Mug to Work Day).  What most workplaces will tell you is to start small– even the most well-intentioned among us can’t transition from slovenly wastrel to Al Gore overnight.

Here in the Library, we started with something very simple and pretty uncontroversial:  getting rid of the Styrofoam cups in the break room.  Styrofoam, is of course, the bete noir of ecology movement, but despite its bad rap, it’s still widely used and seen as indispensable.  The cups are cheap and an easy solution for a workplace that wants to keep their employees well-caffeinated (and, despite the complete non-biodegradability of Styrofoam cups,  they are actually a more environmentally sound choice than paper cups, which take significantly more energy to make).  But who doesn’t have two, three, twelve extra mugs taking up space in their kitchen cabinet (if you don’t, let me know– I’ve got a few to spare)?  We used up the last of our Styrofoam cups and moved easily into drinking our beverages of choice out of our own cups, mugs and Mason jars.

That’s the behind the scene change in the Library– we have even more happening out in public for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, and community members.  Here’s a few highlights from our own little Green movement:

  • Two styles of Library travel mug available!Save the world, save some cash. The Library and our coffeeshop, Arbor Vitae, are now selling reusable travel mugs.  These cups not only help save the environment by reducing the number of paper cups in the trash, but they also help save our patrons money!  With every purchase of a stylish mug, the customer gets a free cup of coffee and a lifetime of $1.00 refills.
  • We’ll show you where to stick it. When we asked our students what they wanted for the Library, many of them told us they wanted more recycling bins!  We listened and added dozens of new paper and container recycling bins as well as additional garbage cans.  The new bins are clearly labeled and not hidden in off-the-beaten-path places like our old ones were.
  • Carry-home luggage. For our library patrons who like to read more than they can carry, we’ve always provided a sturdy plastic bag with our logo on the front.  Do any of those bags get reused or recycled?  Maybe just a small percentage.  Following the lead of supermarkets everywhere, the Library will be stocking up on reusable cloth bags.  Like our great new travel mugs, these will be available for sale in the Arbor Vitae Library Cafe.  We also hope to purchase some sturdy canvas bags that can be checked out at the Circulation Desk and returned with your books, CDs and DVDs.  Keep an eye on the Library blog to find out when these great bags will be available.

We’re pretty excited about these fairly simple changes that we’ve made– and we hope our patrons are, too.

What simple changes can you make that can have a big impact on the environment– at home or at C.O.D.?