Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Going green in the classroom--supporting a schoolwide initiative

I don't know how it is for every school but at my school the administration has put in place a school wide initiative for recycling.

What this means is that every classroom receives a blue plastic recycling bin for students to place papers and other recyclable materials. Every day one of the janitors will come by and pick up the recycling. Supposedly what will happen is that the materials are weighed and either the teachers compete amongst the grade level or the grade levels compete against each other.

Sounds like a brilliant idea right? Right.

In a middle school brilliant school-wide initiatives rarely work as they are designed. Too many of the children without proper instruction or discipline turn the recycling bin into a second or third trash can in the classroom. None of the material in that bin can be recycled.

Also, many of the teachers have so much else on their plate due to the fact that this is a Title 1 school with many other regulations imposed by receipt of federal money. They do not have either the time or the will power or even the desire to adequately instruct the students as to the proper use of the bin and constantly monitor what is deposited.

Even though I am not in charge of my own classroom yet I can see how easily it would be to just forget about the recycling bin or worse yet actually use the bin as yet another necessary trash can in the room so that the students don't resort to using the floor in that manner. (Trust me. It happens).

I also see the need for forming green habits at an early age. If a child learns the importance of recycling and other green techniques at the middle school level (or better yet in elementary school) then that child will be more likely to carry those habits on into adulthood.

What do you think?

Monday, January 26, 2009

A "Green" stop on our road trip

The first major stop on Jeni's "Getting to Know My Country" road trip in June will New Orleans. We both are really looking forward to this stop. There's history, music, literature, food and...Green innovation .

As the people of New Orleans still struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina, a group called Global Green USA has committed to melding rebuilding New Orleans, affordable housing and sustainable green housing. The project has been quite impressive with a national design contest, commitment to educating the Gulf Coast residents about environmentally friendly and sustainable living. I look forward to having an opportunity to see the results. I've been impressed with the winning designs for the housing and want to see it in person. Some of the ideas incorporated in the Project Holy Cross house can be used by any home owner now, while other aspects should be examined by home builders and designers country-wide. I'm not certain that every aspect of the project is practical all over and some of it is a stretch, but I believe the project is worthy of being investigated by folks wanting to build and live responsibly.

Check out their site: www.globalgreen.org and tell me what you think.

Also, any other suggestions on places to visit?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going green in the classroom

On Tuessday I start my student teaching. One of the many things that I have been thinking about is the challenge of going green in the classroom.

My students do not have a lot and do not have access to much. This also applies to the knowledge that they bring to the classroom. Part of my job as a teacher will be to provide what those students lack.

So at the same time that I am learning about all of these strategies to increase the students' literacy I have this question in the back of my mind: how can I possibly do this and not run out of copies after the first week?

In a sense, the budget crunch does help cut down on teachers' tendency to waste copies. In my own shoes I know that I would think hard and long before I made any copies to make sure that I used those copies wisely. I know how much damage wasted paper can do. Unfortunately the students I will be teaching are no where near as frugal as I am. :D

I'm sure that there are other green dilemmas for the classroom and that I will discover them in the coming weeks.

You can be sure that as soon as I discover them you will know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

There's a whole lot of...re-using...goin on!

Music makes my day, so when I can combine tunes with "going green" My face breaks out in a toothy smile.

Let's follow the re-using trail.

It starts a few years ago when one of the residents in the town homes I manage moved out and left behind an old style stereo. It had a record player (for those of you born in the Age of the CD, just picture really big cd's that make scratchy sounds as they played the music), a cd player and a dual tape deck. This electronics were housed in a flimsy presswood cabinet.
There's step one in my muscial re-using tale: stereo saved from the landfill gives me years of melodious enjoyment.

Recently, I wanted to replace my lost iPod, but I didn't want to buy a new one and a friend said she had a 4 gig one, so I bought it from her for $75.00 only to discover it was an 8 gig. Talk about a smile filling my face.
See step two: abandoned iPod rescued from the back of someone's dresser draw to herald music's finest to another person.

This Christmas, as I rearranged the lving room to make room for the tree, I discovered that my re-used stereo could no longer live in it's cabinet as it was falling apart. I took the cabinet apart and put the stereo in the closet. I wanted a system that would welcome my iPod to the party, and the old one was too stuck in it's ways to welcome my iPod. I bought a new, modest system with Mom's Christmas gift. Not wanting to resign my old faithful stereo to a life of collecting dust in the closet, I looked for a way for it to be re-used. It didn't take long. I found that one of my friend's wanted a stereo and was not hung up on it coming in a fancy cabinet, so I gave it to him.
Step three: old school stereo saved from obscurity to play music in the old formats for a friend.

There's just one final re-using step in this story. I want my new stereo to have it's own place to rest as it blesses me with iTunes favorites and classic cd music, so I'm building a book/cd shelf where it can sit on top on a glass tabletop and play in style. The wood for the cabinet will be culled from old closet shelves being discarded on a remodeling project and the glass table top is the former cabinet's door.

I tell you this story, not to brag on how Eco-friendly I am, but as an example of how easy being a responsible residents of planet Earth can be.

I'll post a picture when the new cabinet is finished.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Road Trip Update

View Larger Map
You can move the map around to see the whole trip.

As most of you know, this blog has a duel goal:
1). To encourage average folks to find ways to live responsibly as tenants of planet Earth.
2). To encourage folks to help me fund my daughter's graduation road trip. Ok, I would love to have corporate sponsorship for the over 7,000 mile road trip which is my gift to Jeni when she gets her Masters in May. I'm also sensible enough to know that the likelihood of Toyota, Comfort Inn, and Exxon sponsoring this trip is equal to my chances of winning the Boston Marathon, but it can't hurt to try (for sponsors, not the Boston Marathon, I am a fat man afterall..:D)

You can see our route across the country on the map above. The trip date has changed. We will now be leaving June 13th and returning June 28th. As I prepare for this trip, I am again reminded of how much this country has to offer. There is so much to see that we could stay out there for a month and not have scratched the surface of the wonders of America. I'm getting very excited.

One of the things we want to do on this trip is to see how other folks across the country practice living responsible. If you have any ideas of places we should visit, please let me know. Give us suggestions and we will post them here.

Join us on this trip, as we plan and as we go!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Going green even against Murphy's law

When I watched the news this evening I had to laugh a little at a story about an auto show. (I know that it has a name but I don't want to give it the wrong name.) The big three auto makers are all trotting out their new fuel efficient models and prototypes but the outlook is grim.

When gas hit four dollars a gallon earlier in 2008 people were scrambling for small, fuel efficient cars including hybrids such as the Prius. At the end of the year all of the increases in small car sales had evaporated in the mess that is the financial downturn.

Now the big three automakers face a conundrum. Do they continue to produce and invest in these fuel efficient cars like they should have been and the kind of cars that the government is demanding in return for money or do they go back to putting money into cheap cars that consumers will actually buy?

I wish that I could say that I would buy a hybrid or some other sort of fuel efficient car but to be completely honest I do not see the wisdom in buying a depreciable object that cost around the same amount of a potential year's wages.

Sometimes though businesses have to make hard choices in order to survive in the long term and become a brand that lasts. I hope that America's big three automakers have the courage and the financial wherewithal to make that choice. Otherwise we as consumers might be in quite a pickle when once again gas prices skyrocket and we are stuck with guzzlers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just one thing

So, how are those New Year's Resolutions coming along? Have we eaten that candy bar that you shouldn't have or missed the first day of going to the gym yet?

I purposely waited until now to talk about trying to make 2009 a different year when it comes to living responsibly on planet Earth because I really don't like New Year's Resolutions. We tend to make big resolutions, things that require us to alter our lifestyles in dramatic ways and then, well, let's be honest, about a week or two into the new year, they get blown.

There's nothing wrong with making changes in our lives to better ourselves and those around us. We just might start off small and work up to the major lifestyle changes; like maybe we'll start with not eating the entire tub of ice cream while watching the House marathon before we swear off ice cream entirely or deciding to walk around our yard or parking lot each day before entering the Boston Marathon.

Which brings me to my idea. Let's all decide to do ONE thing that is environmentally friendly, ONE thing that demonstrates that we are responsible tenants of this planet. Here are a few suggestions:
1).Have your local trash people bring you a recycling bin (if they have that program) and start throwing your recyclable trash in it rather than the trash can.
2). Collect those plastic bags you get each time you shop and drop them off at Publix or any other retailer that has a place to do that.
3). What about picking up a couple reusable shopping bags and using them some.
4). Get your oil changed on time and make sure your tires are inflated properly.
5). Plan you driving, so that you don't make 3 different trips when 1 would work.
6). Carpool
7). Instead of throwing away those items you don't use anymore, how about taking them to Good Will or Salvation Army. You could advertise them on Freecycle.org and not have to go anywhere, the people sould come to you.
8). Think twice before you throw something away if there is a way you could still use the item.

I think you get the idea. None of those things are that time consuming or would force you too alter your routine all that much. So how about it? Can we all do just one thing this year?

If you have any other suggestions, let me know and I would LOVE to hear what ONE thing you decided to do this year. I will have a post with all the things people are planning to do, so comment away.