Well, at long last, the time has come my friends. Time for me to sum up everything I’ve learned in this one semester and then bid you adieu as I merrily skip away from NYU into adulthood freedom.
This has been one of my favorite classes in my time here, mostly because it focuses almost entirely on a topic that I’m pretty obsessed with, the environment. I’m literally a tree-hugger (really, there are pics of me hugging trees everywhere) and I’m also into an artistic industry, so this class was perfect for me. It gave me the chance to really kick off my waste-free lifestyle and I’m excited to share with you guys what I’ve learned and accomplished so far, and what I plan on accomplishing in the weeks, months, and years to come.
My goal was simple: To identify the waste I’m contributing to landfills and start to take steps to move away from needing/using these materials. Pretty straightforward right? In order to accomplish this goal, I came up with 5 steps for myself.
I can tell you right now, I was hoping to be able to crash course myself into this kind of lifestyle, but just like anything else in life, this is gonna take some time. There are habits that have to be altered, materials that have to be purchased, and old goods that will need to be disposed of properly. I’ve already identified what needs to change and how to change it, so at this point in time I’m slowly starting to transition myself into actually making those changes.
STEP ONE! When I presented my midterm to you all, I talked about how I’d already tried keeping track of my landfill waste by writing notes for everything I tossed in my phone. I decided to try some good old-fashioned handwritten notes for my 2 week period, but guess what? It didn’t really work out that great. You know what did? Taking a video on my phone every time I put something in a trash can. You can see my lil compilation video right here. It forced me to really take notice of how often I was tossing something in and what it was I was tossing in. When I was just trying to write it down, I really believed that I was just throwing away the cotton rounds I used for makeup remover and maybe some food. Turns out, I was visiting the trash can a whole lot more!
STEPS TWO-FOUR! These three steps are still in the process of being undertaken. I’m going to include a link to my class presentation at the bottom of this post because it includes a lot of links to the websites I’ve been using to help me identify the products I need as well as where I plan on buying these products from.
STEP FIVE! Wowee you really can compost in NYC! This was a cool thing to learn about, and a slightly frustrating one too. Here’s a better look at the map of where they have brown bin collections in NYC:
Notice anything about this map? Besides the beautiful earth tones they went with for a color scheme, it pretty clearly shows that environmental activism is something really only available for the affluent. “Future Expansion” in all of the poorest neighborhoods of NYC. Awesome. On the one hand, this map is really helpful as I apartment hunt because I want to end up in a neighborhood that has the brown bin collection (if I can afford it). On the other hand, it enforces this idea that being eco-friendly is a rich person thing.
So where do I go from here? Social media of course! I’ve created an instagram account called @optimistic.recyclingbin and I plan on documenting my journey and sharing information as I continue down this path to Earth friendly enlightenment. I’ve already posted my trash video, and I have a few more posts already planned out, check them out below:
As I said earlier, this isn’t an overnight change. A waste-free lifestyle is an act of rebellion in our consumer based society, and it’s a lot of hard work to undo the mindset to use, use, use. I’m excited to keep learning, and I can’t wait to share this journey with all of you as I keep on working at it.
The video is live! Please feel free to share, thanks in advance!
|Every once in a while something happens where I have little to no sympathy. Good thing the New York Times article (below) chose not to include a comments section. There is a part of me that has a difficult time understanding how safeguards to protect investments in critical research (and money!) were not put in place. But then again, there was yet another oopsie-level event at the NSA so anything
Regardless, I couldn’t help but read the article and empathize with the loss of samples collected under the most extreme of conditions.
|Martin Sharp, the director of the Canadian Ice Core Archive, examining an ice core. A freezer storing part of the archive failed this month. Ice from the Canadian Arctic has completely melted, leaving puddles of water in its place and scientists devastated. O.K., this is what actually happened: Ice cores, millennia-old ice samples extracted by scientists from locations across the Canadian Arctic, melted because of a freezer malfunction in a lab at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The loss of these ice cores could hinder scientific research into how changes in the atmosphere have shaped Earth’s climate history, and how they could affect its future. On April 2, the temperature of a storage freezer in the Canadian Ice Core Archive rose to about 100 degrees — some part of the cooling system failed, “then tried to get itself back into action and in the process, piped hot air back into the room,” according to Martin Sharp, the director of the archive. The freezer became so hot that it tripped the fire alarm, Dr. Sharp said, and partially or fully melted 180 ice cores collected by government scientists since the mid-1970s from the snowy expanse of the Canadian Arctic.”|
|Here is a $65 solution from Amazon, with free shipping! A redundant system of even five of these in place would have probably still cost less than the research grade Fisher solution below:|
|Here’s a laboratory grade solution (if you have something really important to be concerned about):|
|But if you want to save money, have a tech or two on hand, or access to an engineering school, or the creative and committed minds at NYU’s ITP, you could build your own monitor using off the shelf, easily accessible parts to send alerts to cell phones or land lines:|
Recycling: Since hearing Dianne speak for one of our classes, I have become much more cognizant of how I recycle, whether I’m at home or in public. I make sure that my recyclables are clean before sorting them. If I can’t find a recycling bin for my paper materials in public, I’ll wait until I find one or just keep them in my backpack until I reach home and can place them in the recycling. I really believe that educating people on the importance of recycling will get them to start thinking about climate change in a way that they can personally and easily address.
Air: I often take for granted the air we breathe. When we learned that the EPA might be disbanded, I realize that I also take many government-mandated environmental initiatives, such as the Clear Air Act, for granted. The only way we can ensure a clean world is if we champion organizations that are protecting the environment and promote brands that are using eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing processes. The things we speak for and pay for really matter. My goal is to reuse as much as I can and support sustainable causes.
Pollution: I was shocked to hear that there were once fires on the Hudson because of all the chemicals in the river. It was fascinating to hear about The River Project and inspiring to learn that the water quality has improved drastically since then. It’s easy to forget the amazing biodiversity in the river right next to us. I also didn’t know that drainage during rainfall goes directly into the river, so I have decided to avoid showering or using large amounts of water while it’s raining.
Idling: Something that will always stay with me is the understanding of idling in New York City. It makes me relieved that I have no need for a car at the moment, because the guilt of producing such emissions is now just disturbing to me. When I see so many cars on the road, I think of all the pollution being added to the atmosphere. I’m interested in learning about ways large cities encourage more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation, like cycling.
Government: Garth Lenz emphasizes the limitations of the government in enacting laws that protect the environment and highlights the importance of the people in pushing for change. I haven’t believed so much in the impact of the public until this year, and now I really believe that this generation has the heaviest responsibility to encourage sustainable living.
As a young actor, I grew up hearing “all the world’s a stage.” The quote comes from Shakespeare, but it gets thrown around pretty casually. Recently I’ve been thinking, if the world is the stage then what does that make me? One of its players? Or just a voyeur?
As I thought about this assignment over the last week, I paid careful attention to when I was a player, and when I was a voyeur. Often I would see things happening around me and not stop to change them– either because I was in a rush or I was scared I would be stepping out of line. Below are some examples.
Take Out Tragedy
Here is a take out bag I picked up on Sunday night. Not only was it filled with extraneous plastic cutlery and napkins, but it came with two, TWO sets up plastic bags.
Big Bus Blues
The M57 and the M31 MTA stops are right outside my apartment, but recently I’ve noticed the M31 has been idling when traffic is good to stay on schedule.
Displacement of recycled materials because there wasn’t a public recycling bin for FOUR BLOCKS. (Believe me, I looked.)
As you can see, there were a of issues I noticed in just one week, but I became frustrated with myself for not doing anything to change them, or at least educate my community about changing them. I got frustrated enough with this to work up some courage, and the payoff felt good.
This morning I was in midtown on 8th Ave between 34th and 35th streets. (Or what I like to call the armpit of Manhattan). The avenue is usually packed bumper to bumper on either side of buses, utility trucks, vans, and private cars idling. So I said something… to four cars! And they all turned off their engines!!! It was easy. Here is a picture of some of them.
I even recorded an audio clip of asking one of them to turn off their engine, which they did immediately without any protest.
It felt pretty empowering to use my rights as a citizen, and has encouraged me to remain as active a player as I can. We really do have the power to change things.
If the Earth is our stage, then we’ve got some major “playing” to do.
Upon entering this class, I knew I would learn more about environmental issues, but I had no idea how in-depth we would actually get. I am thankful to say that I am leaving this class immensely more aware of the environmental problems we as a world face today and feel better equipped to make changes in my own life in hopes of lessening those negative effects. Here are some images I took (I thought we had to take the photos) that represent different concepts we have covered in class that I was not as aware of prior.
This storm drain represents the idea that during heavy rainfall in the city one should abstain from using the shower or running the dishwasher. Heavy rainfall makes it more likely that our sewer systems will back up and contaminate our clean water supply. I am glad that there are so many storm drains around to act as a friendly reminder of this important detail. It also acts as a reminder of other towns in our nation that are still without clean water and how essential that is to a healthy life.
I did not know much about littering before taking this class. I had thought that yes, it was bad, but I did not know exactly why or how it is governed by our law. According to a presentation from one of our classmates, throwing anything at all on the ground is considered littering, under the eye of the law. While this may be true, I have never once seen this law be enforced, except maybe in movies. Items that are commonly littered, like cigarette butts for example, contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate our water supply as well as our soil. I would hate to see our few parks lose beautiful foliage due to careless littering. Thankfully there are many effective cleanup teams employed by our city.
The most prominent thing I have not been able to “unsee” since taking this class is most definitely the issue of idling. There are countless amounts of statistics and studies claiming that our poor air quality is in large part due to the amount of car and machine activity in New York City. One of the only ways to combat this effect is by discouraging people from idling their cars. This pointless release of harmful chemicals into our air can be easily avoided by simply shutting your car off while waiting for someone or texting like the man pictured above. There are many people bringing this issue into the public eye and I hope that it becomes a law more aggressively enforced in the near future. I think it is safe to say that I’ll never idle again.
I recycle all the time, but one thing I did not know about recycling before taking this class is that liquid present in a shipment of recyclable material overseas can ruin a large part of the entire load. It is essential that you dump out whatever contents you have in your coffee cup or bottle before recycling because mold can form during shipment which sends the tons of recyclable material back overseas to a landfill, unnecessarily. I have made sure to tell each person I am with this important detail in hope that more of our recyclable material will actually get used in its intended way.
Garbage bags constantly line the sidewalks of our city and this image puts into perspective how much waste we contribute to landfills on an almost daily basis. There are many steps one can take to reduce their contribution to this pile, like using reusable bags when going grocery shopping or carrying around a reusable water bottle. I’ve implemented these changes and many more since taking this class and hope to continue this trend until I am as waste-free as my lifestyle allows.
In a globalized world, It can feel like an individual’s actions are insignificant, and sometimes this is true. There is huge change coming for the environment, whether we like it or not, but It is up to us if we learn from the mistakes of our past for a better future, or if we simply continue to dig in our heals and defend our current lifestyle. Because the world is changing on such a large scale, it’s hard to know what is happening, let alone what I should do about it. That’s why Green World was so helpful to me in my life, because awareness is the first step to change. Because of this course, I see things I wouldn’t have before, and I avoid products I wouldn’t necessarily know to avoid. Whether it be not supporting street vendors who run generators all day, to being aware of which means will have ractopamine, knowing that flicked cigarette butts most likely end up in the bay, or simply avoiding my Roommate’s scratched-to-hell Teflon pan, I’ve made positive change in my life because of this course. (Speaking of Teflon, I just read that any pasta which looks smooth to the surface (or not advertised as cast in copper molds) was molded in Teflon molds. I had no idea, but now I’ll be aware.) I’ve attached some photos I took while walking the streets of NYC, which illustrate these points.
p.s. I hope I posted this in the right spot…