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Inspiration, Alumni, & Sustainability in Portland, OR

By John Pumilio on November 28, 2014

I am still energized from my recent west coast visit to Portland, Oregon.  Steve Dickinson ’13, sustainability office program assistant, Katie Williams ’15, Geography and History double major, and I where in town for the annual higher education sustainability conference (AASHE 2014).  The conference attracted over 2,000 sustainability practitioners from across the country and beyond.  The sustainability movement in higher education has exploded over the past few years. Amazing progress has been made in areas of climate action planning, local and sustainable food procurement, alternative transportation, renewable energy, recycling and composting, water conservation, land use, and social justice issues.  The highlight of the conference was connecting with other Colgate graduates who are now doing incredible work in the field of sustainability.  Dr. Lisa Cleckner ’86 is the director of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Caitlin Steele ’01 is the Director of Sustainability & Energy at San Francisco State University.  Jessica Prata ’05 is now the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship at Columbia University.  And, Adam Costello ’10 is the Sustainability Fellow to the SUNY Office of Sustainability & Research Foundation.

Since 2009, Colgate’s sustainability program has gained national recognition and we are widely viewed as a national leader in sustainability in higher education.  Katie and I were at the conference to present on Colgate’s Campus Master Plan and our institutional commitment to carbon neutrality by 2019.  Katie represents Colgate very well and did a fantastic job during our presentation and fielding questions from the audience.  Perhaps she will be a future star in the growing field of sustainability professionals.  Our session was well-attended and generated significant discussion.

The highlight of my trip was meeting with the Alumni Club of Portland in a warm and cozy downtown Portland restaurant.  A huge thank you to Richard Beck ’71 and Ginny Haines ’72 for all their work organizing the group.  The atmosphere was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had with many of our devoted alumni and parents of current students.  Of course, we discussed my favorite topic – sustainability!  But I also had the chance to connect with a few of our alumni on a deeper level.  I learned about the life, work, and interests of alumni living in Portland.  I heard fascinating personal stories of roads traveled since Colgate.  We were all also impressed by Richard’s impassioned work on the West Coast Electric Highway—an impressive network of electric vehicle charging stations that run through Washington and Oregon and into California. Katie, Steve, and I shared our Colgate experience and why advancing sustainability is so important at Colgate and beyond.

I returned from Portland feeling motivated and privileged that I have the opportunity to collaborate with so many incredible Colgate alumni.  Thank you to Laura Masse and Tim McEvoy ’13, Assistant Directors of Alumni Relations, for making this trip possible.


A small way to make a big change

By Sustainability Office on November 28, 2014

By Ben Schick ’17

This summer I was walking with a few friends along the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal that borders the Potomac River. Being from Potomac, Maryland, I have enjoyed the perks of living with a National Historic Park basically in my backyard for my entire life. The beauty of the Potomac River and the wildlife that freely inhabits the surrounding territory consistently drew my friends, family and myself to the canal during the Spring, Summer and Fall.

After finishing a trek along the Billy Goat Trail this summer, I was walking along the canal and noticed an alarming sight that I never seen in the canal. At one of the locks, or blockages where water is allowed to continue down the canal in small amounts, there was a large buildup of plastic water bottles. As I walked father along the canal, I noticed the same buildup of plastic water bottles at another lock. It struck me as surprising and sad that in an environment as protected and beautiful as a National Historic Park there could be a buildup of harmful plastic. When I got home later that night, the sad feeling I had earlier in the day turned into a slight outrage at how this could possibly happen in a place that is meant to preserve wildlife and allow people to appreciate nature. I decided to do some research to find out why people use plastic water bottles and the negative effects these bottles have on the environment.

Ever since plastic was first mass-produced in the 1950’s, humans have come to rely on plastics as an integral part of their daily lives. Plastics have brought about many societal, medical and technological advances that have helped shape the world that we live in today. (Jstor2)

Although plastic water bottles are seemingly more convenient and safer than tap water, they pose numerous negative effects on the environment. In 2006, Americans consumed 36 billion bottles of water. It is estimated that the creation of the plastic water bottles required 17 million barrels of oil, produced 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and required an additional two liters of water for the production of every one liter bottle of water. These numbers do not include the energy required to transport the bottled water across the globe, and they are already incredibly high.

In addition to using vital resources in its production, bottled water poses catastrophic repercussions on the environment if disposed of improperly. Plastics that get into ecosystems entangle organisms and can limit their mobility to the point of death. Organisms also ingest small pieces of the plastic water bottles and die. In addition, chemicals that are used on plastic water bottles can get into the environment and have negative repercussions on both animal and human health. (Jstor2, Jstor1, Pacific Institute)

Reducing the negative effects of disposable plastic water bottles has a simple solution: drink tap water. Tap water tastes good, is easily accessible for most Americans, and costs next to nothing to drink. Constantly consuming plastic water bottles requires trips to the super market and costs money for every purchase. Drinking tap water requires no trips to the super market and only requires one purchase of a reusable water bottle. The switch to a reusable water bottle is easy to make and enables you to help the environment in a small but powerful way. It’s the small things that count.

Sources:


Eco-Fashion: A Sustainable Alternative or Social Trend?

By Sustainability Office on November 26, 2014

By Andrew Yurcik ’15

The fashion industry, always being on the forefront of social awareness, has previously played a significant role in environmentalism through donations and fundraisers. However, recently the rising trend of eco-fashion, a practice in which designers assure that their products are produced only from environmentally friendly materials and production practices, has brought in a new scope of how we define ones sustainable practices. Upon learning of this new trend, I wondered whether those buying these clothes actually were making an impactful decision or just following the next fashion trend.

Outside of materials or the production cycle for sustainable fashion, factors including extended shipping and special care or treatment needed for some “sustainable clothing” may be causing harmful impacts that are otherwise not apparent. Major fashion designers do not know all the ins and outs of sustainability so often aspects such as these are over looked when claiming their work to be sustainable created. Regardless of eco-fashion direct impact, its ability to raise awareness among fashion producers and the community at large is unquestioned. Most major fashion companies are moving towards more sustainable practices in their production even if their products cannot be completely deemed as eco-fashion. These changes are noticed by consumers who will lean towards sustainability if it economically feasible. However, the vagueness associated with producers claiming to be eco-friendly can be misleading to most shoppers. “When you only look at the raw materials to ask if something is really green, you are like the blind person holding the tail of the elephant,” said Chris Van Dyke, chief executive of Nau, a three-year-old outdoor clothing line founded on the principle of sustainable practices throughout its production cycle.1 Most consumers will not look beyond the tag that says “eco-friendly” on their new pair of organic cotton jeans.

So how can consumers and producers assure that they are actually being sustainable without overwhelming either side with litigation or long outlines on each part of sustainable fashion production?

One alternative is increased government involvement and regulation to determine what can be deemed sustainable clothing. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission revised its Green Guidelines to ensure that marketer’s claims they made about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive. In order to get a green certificate marketers must pass the outline requirements however it’s still possible for marketers to claim to use sustainable practices without needing a green certificate. In order to ensure true changes the FTC must implements more stringent requirements on green marketing.

A second adjustment including increased transparency between the producer and consumers allows for more educated decisions when buying eco-fashion. In industries, including food production, producers must outline the production process of their products. Similar practices could be required of fashion companies who wish to claim to be ecofriendly. By listing materials sources, and production processes, including all steps from creation to shipment and maintenance at stores via online websites, consumers will be able to fully informed on the products they are consuming. Thereby, consumers know if their purchases go beyond a social trend and are actually making impactful differences.

 

Sources:

http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/10/ftc-issues-revised-green-guides

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/style/13iht-13green.8728317.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.postconsumers.com/education/eco-fashion-facts/


Bees: where would we be without them?

By Sustainability Office on November 19, 2014

By Grace Dennis ’15

Have you ever thought of bees when you bit into an apple? Probably not, unless a swarm of bees was disrupting your picnic. Bees are much more than a buzzing nuisance; according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they are responsible for pollinating 35% of the food we eat. Many foods, from apples to avocados and almonds, wouldn’t be available without the help of bee colonies who pollinate the crops each year. Pollination is carried out by both wild bee colonies and farmed colonies raised by beekeepers that are “rented” by farmers each season.

In the past 10 years bees in the United States and across the globe have been spontaneously leaving their colonies and abandoning their pollination duty. This problem, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has already affected about one-third of bee colonies in the US (NRDC). CCD affects both wild bee colonies and farmed colonies and the exact cause is somewhat unknown. One possible cause of CCD is global warming, which is causing the bloom of flowers to come at different times, out of sync with bee hibernation cycles. Blooming flowers provide the food needed by the bees after they come out of hibernation. Another possible cause of CCD, primarily in wild colonies, is habitat destruction. Development has caused a loss of traditional honeybee habitats, which has decreased colony numbers. Pesticides are believed to be the primary cause of CCD, especially a type of widely used pesticides called neonicotinoids. Pesticides used on nearby crops and by beekeepers to control mites in the colonies harm the honeybees and may lead to CCD over time. Neonicotinoids have been banned for two years in many European countries in an effort to determine their effect on honeybee colonies.

Efforts at multiple scales are needed to help reverse the bee decline. Farmers can have the biggest impact on efforts to bring back bees. Farming practices that help preserve the natural habitat of bees could help bee colonies return to areas affected by CCD. Another major way farmers can help bring bee colonies back is to decrease pesticide use. The National Resources Defense Council recommends Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to decrease the need of toxic pesticides near bee colonies.

On a smaller scale bee colonies can be restored through the planting of household gardens. By growing plants that bloom at different times of the year, bees species that come out of hibernation at different times will have a source of food and a great habitat to colonize. The Colgate Community Garden grows a variety of plants that help create a healthy habitat for bees. Another way to support bee communities in Hamilton is through the planting of gardens around Broad Street houses. If you don’t have the most green thumb, another way to help restore bee colonies is to buy organic produce. Through supporting organic practices you can ensure toxic pesticides that could harm bee colonies were not used.

Global bee decline is estimated to cost $5.7 billion each year (NRDC). While actions taken by farmers to reverse this decline are extremely important, consumers can also make a big impact. Planting household gardens to increase bee habitats is an option reserved mostly for more suburban dwellers, but anyone who buys groceries can opt for organic in an effort to save the bees. By taking steps to bring back the bees we can all help avoid a world without the delicious produce we consume every day.


Forever Wild: the Adirondack State Park

By Sustainability Office on November 14, 2014

By Anna McHugh ’17

“The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the [Adirondack] forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”–Article XIV, Section 1: New York State Constitution[1]

At the 1894 Constitutional Convention in Albany, NY, the conservation of the Adirondack State Park was on everyone’s mind. The result was Article XIV, Section 1 which made land in the Adirondack Park “forever wild”[2] and protected from further development.

July 2013

My family spills into the small cabin with loud voices and far too many shoes. Summer would not be summer without a week in the Adirondacks in a cabin stuffed with almost everyone related to me.

I escape to the front porch, newspaper in hand, noticing hammer marks, saw cuts, and new paint. These are my grandfather’s fingerprints. The family unpacks while I open the weekly newspaper, The Adirondack Express. I always look for the graduating class picture; sixteen students in white robes and caps stand awkwardly squinting in the sun. I read three lines and decide to give up because it is summer after all. The massive boulder in the lawn peeks out from the earth reminding me of the annual picture taken there with my cousins; every year we see the subtle changes and developments.

The article remained on the porch until the next day when I opened the newspaper once again. I turn a page; the article read, “Legislature approves constitutional amendments authorizing land swaps.”[3] It described the approval of a proposed Constitutional Amendment, Proposition 5, allowing a swap in land that would expand the Forest Preserve by 1,507 acres while simultaneously authorizing NYCO Minerals of Willsboro to expand its mine in “forever wild” land areas. The 200 acres of old growth forest being given to the mining company will be cleared and open pit mined. In exchange, the Preserve will receive over 1,000 acres of heavily cut-over and used lands. In essence, the land that was originally said to be kept as wild forest would be used for mining and in return, the company would swap land previously used. I closed the newspaper and returned to the day’s activities with a heavy heart. In November of 2013, Proposition 5 was approved by 53%-47%.[4]The old growth forests that are being swapped for mining are very rich and complex. They are vital for the interactions of local wildlife. By destroying these forests, the health of the rest of the Preserve will be unstable.[5]

July 2014

Each year going back to the Adirondacks keeps me grounded as this place, my home, never seems to change. Each year, I am consistently amazed by it’s beauty. I walk down the porch stairs, book in hand, and see the water. I look up to see the clouds’ shadows rolling over the mountains and pieces of the sun bursting through the waves.

My family’s history is embedded in this landscape; I’ve grown up here. Knowing that this place is not as protected as it could be, scares me. Putting corporate interests over the “Forever Wild” Amendment can lead to the manipulation of this land for selfish and harmful gains. Proposition 5 is a slippery slope towards an unhealthy future where corporations can take previously preserved land for economic gain and in return preserves like The Adirondack Park will lose beauty, stability, and their wild.

 

For more information:

http://saveforeverwild.org/

http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2013/06/forest-preserve-advocates-differ-on-mine-land-exchange.html

 

[1]http://www.adirondack-park.net/history/article14-text.html

[2]http://www.adirondack-park.net/history/political/convention.html

[3]http://www.adirondackexpress.com/News/06252013_landswapnews

[4]http://www.nytimes.com/projects/elections/2013/general/ballot-measures/results.html

[5]http://saveforeverwild.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Vote-No-on-Proposition-5-FactSheet-3.pdf


Climate Action at Colgate

By John Pumilio on November 8, 2014

Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the synthesis report of their 2014 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).  The release of this major new United Nations report is the most troubling and scientifically conclusive report yet.  For me, the 100+ page report can be boiled down to three simple and profound scientific realities.

First, we must limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels or we will suffer from “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”  Temperatures have already risen 0.8 degrees Celsius.

Second, limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius gives us a remaining carbon budget of about 1 trillion tons.  That may sound like a lot, but given our current rate of burning fossil fuels, we have less than 30 years to wean ourselves off of coal and oil.  Since severe climate impacts are already upon us, the passing years promise to bring greater catastrophes and human suffering with every increased ton of carbon burned.

Third, the world’s major energy companies have several trillion tons of known fossil fuel carbon waiting in reserves.  These companies are valued on their known reserves and they have every intention of burning all of it.  To make matters worse, these companies are spending an addition $600 billion annually in search of new sources of coal and oil.  If these reserves are burned, we will be putting ourselves and our children and grandchildren in a very perilous situation.

2011-2015 Climate Action Plan Wedges Graph to Carbon Neutrality

2011-2015 Climate Action Plan.

As one of America’s top higher education institutions, Colgate University places great value on scientific research and integrity.  Our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2019 confirms our institution’s belief in the overwhelming and conclusive science behind climate change (see specific text of ACUPCC).  It is also Colgate University’s mission to educate and prepare students for civic life and work in the 21st Century (see the 13 Goals of a Colgate Education approved by the Academic Affairs Board in 2010).  In order to achieve this mission, we must not only educate all students on the science, impacts, and possible solutions to climate change, but we must also continue to reduce and eventually eliminate all carbon emissions associated with our campus operations.

Achieving this shared goal will not be easy, but it must be done.

Right now, faculty, staff, and students on Colgate’s Sustainability Council are working to develop our road-map to carbon neutrality by 2019.  We need your help.  Please comment below or share any ideas you have with the chair of the Sustainability Council, Catherine Cardelus (ccardelus@colgate.edu) or director of sustainability, John Pumilio (jpumilio@colgate.edu).


Give peas a chance

By Sustainability Office on November 5, 2014

By Rachel Hangley ’15

When people hear that I don’t eat meat, their first reaction is to ask “why?” and oftentimes, “do you miss it?”. I reply simply saying that no, I don’t miss meat and that it really wasn’t that hard to give up at all. Society is changing so that a person can easily find vegetarian options in the grocery store and at any restaurant, and they are just as tasty as anything else on the menu. The response to the first question of why I am a vegetarian has changed over the years, but as I get older I only come across more and more reasons that support my choice to give up meat.

I would have become a vegetarian much sooner if it weren’t for my parents fearing that I would not get enough protein (a myth about vegetarianism that people still believe despite having been proven false over and over). I have always loved animals and couldn’t stand to think about how they were so cruelly and inhumanely treated in order to get on my plate. When an argumentation essay was assigned in my English class in high school, I took the opportunity to thoroughly research why vegetarianism was a positive life choice and I used the paper to convince my parents on the subject. I finally decided to take control of my diet and personal choices and gave up eating meat, regardless of the push-back I faced from my family. This step was perhaps the first tangible way in which I became an activist for what I believe in. This choice originated in a desire to boycott an industry that grossly tortures billions of animals a year and neglects the value of life. As I learned more about sustainability and environmentalism, I found out that my choice to become a vegetarian also had myriad environmental benefits.

If you Google “vegetarianism,” you can find hundreds of facts and statistics about how much environmental harm is avoided by becoming a vegetarian. On average, the dietary greenhouse gas emissions for vegetarians are 50-54% lower than the mean, and for vegans they are a full 99-102% lower. If all Americans forewent meat, the environmental impact would be equal to removing 46 million cars from the road. Not to mention all of the direct environmental harms other than climate change that meat production contributes to, such as overuse of water and pollution of ecosystems.

The facts are staggering, but people do not have to completely give up animal products to have a significant positive impact on the environment. Meatless Mondays is a great program that is being implemented by individuals, families, schools, and companies all over the world in order to decrease meat consumption and its environmental impacts. For example, not eating simply one pound of beef per week, an individual can save the equivalent amount of water as they would by not showering for a full year. This shows that little steps can have a huge impact on the environment, especially when adopted by many people. Furthermore, giving up meat one day a week not only benefits the environment; it is better for one’s health. A primary goal of the Meatless Mondays campaign is also to educate people about the personal benefits of skipping on meat. Meals can be delicious, nutritious, and protein-packed without any animal products, and this is what Meatless Mondays is trying to show, one meal at a time. This is especially relevant in public schools, where young kids are beginning to form their lifelong conceptions of what their diet should consist of.

At Colgate, I’m hoping that Meatless Mondays will have the same effects. By implementing Meatless Mondays at Frank Dining Hall in just the main entree stations, it gives people the opportunity to try new, meat-free foods and maybe decide that they enjoy those options. We are not trying to completely overturn anyone’s lifestyle, but rather introduce students to different ways of living that incorporate the bigger picture. What one decides to eat is not a self-contained decision as it has a huge impact on both the environment and the lives of billions of animals, and one should at least take these into consideration when choosing what to have for lunch. Rather than seeing people who don’t eat meat as crazy, animal-loving tree-huggers (but what’s so bad about that, anyway?), it is my hope that the public will begin to appreciate the value and benefits of limiting the meat that they eat, even if it is only once a week.


Ready for Solar Energy in Central New York?

By John Pumilio on November 2, 2014

A few weeks ago, I attended the CNY Solar Summit in East Syracuse.  The event attracted state and local policy-makers, government officials, industry and community leaders, business owners, installers, homeowners, and curious New Yorkers from every walk of life.  The excitement throughout the day was palpable.  With good reason.  Solar energy in New York is poised to explode.  The NY-Sun initiative, launched in 2012, has created one of the greatest solar market opportunities in the country.  The response has been impressive.  Over the past two years, solar energy in New York grew by 316 megawatts—enough to power about 32,000 homes—eclipsing all installations from the previous decade combined.  Large manufacturers are also taking notice.  Last month, SolarCity, one of the leading solar companies in the world, announced plans to build a 1.2 million square-foot ‘Gigafactory’ in Buffalo.  Not only will this create thousands of new jobs but the manufacturing plant will turn out solar PV arrays at an attractive price using low-cost, carbon-free hydroelectricity from Niagara Falls.

Solar energy is already in our backyard.  You may remember that in 2012 and 2013 we initiated the Solarize Madison project.  By streamlining the installation process and through volume purchasing, we were able to reduce the cost of residential solar installations.  This first-of-a-kind project in New York resulted in over 40 solar installations on Madison County homes including the solar thermal installation on Creative Arts House (100 Broad Street).  The program is now being replicated in over a dozen other New York communities including Syracuse.

While Madison County’s solarize program has concluded, solar energy in New York is just getting started.  The NY-Sun initiative provides a convenient website to explore your options.  I often talk with local homeowners who are waiting on the sidelines for the technology to improve or for costs to come down.  My advice is to explore the option now—while the incentives are right and the cost is low.  If you determine that it makes sense for you now, then get in the game!

You can start the process by contacting a certified installer through the NY-Sun program for residents and small businesses.  The installer will work directly with you to evaluate your options and right-size your system.  The installer will also assist with all NY-Sun and NYSERDA paperwork, including financing options.

Do you think solar energy is right for you?  Share your thoughts on renewable and solar energy in New York. Visit us on Facebook, follow our Twitter feed, email us at sustainability@colgate.edu or comment on this blog post.


I did the 4 Liters Challenge, and so should you!

By Stephen Dickinson on October 22, 2014

Last week, I participated in the 4 Liters Challenge, an awareness campaign created by Dig Deep Water, a non-profit that is dedicated to raising awareness of global water issues and providing water infrastructure to those without quality water. According to Dig Deep, the majority of people in the world live on 4 liters of water every day. This is for all uses, including drinking, cooking, and hygiene. When you consider that the average toilet in the US uses at least 10 liters of water per flush, the majority of the world is getting along with far less water than Americans are.

Fresh, clean water is something almost all of us consider as a part of every day life and often take for granted. Before completing the challenge, I was certainly mindful of water conservation. I keep my showers to under 5 minutes and never leave the water running when I brush my teeth. However, I was blissfully unaware of the sheer volume of water I used.

I made the challenge a little easier on myself by not showering for the day, but ended up using almost half a liter brushing my teeth in the morning! After using so much of my water right off the bat, I decided it was necessary to really buckle down and work hard to conserve what water I had remaining.

I was able to make it through the rest of the day by utilizing water-free hand sanitizer after using the restroom, drinking only when I felt thirsty, and coming up with some creative methods to prepare my dinner. (Pro tip: filling a bowl with water to wash your lettuce works as well as running water from the tap over it.)

After my experience, I would highly recommend that everyone tries this challenge for at least one day. All too often, those with ready access to resources forget about how fortunate they are. I firmly believe that experiencing how someone else lives puts your privilege into perspective.


Traveling Green While Saving Green

By Sustainability Office on September 23, 2014

By Adam Berk ’15

If you were to ask the average Colgate student which aspects of campus contributed the most to our carbon footprint, you would probably receive a variety of answers: heating, electricity, water usage, and possibly even paper usage. Some, however, might tell you that transportation to and from Colgate is one of the largest greenhouse gas-emitting sources of the university—and they would be right. In fact, while the burning of fossil fuels for water and space heating has the largest impact, emissions from air travel closely trails behind, and with the inclusion those from commuting and ground travel, transportation as a whole is the largest producer of greenhouse gases at Colgate.

Emissions Graph

As one would expect, most of us need to travel—whether it be outside or inside of the village of Hamilton—so the question becomes: what can we do to abate our transportation emissions?

Biking is always a fun and healthy option for getting from place to place fuel-free, and if you don’t have your own bicycle, you can rent one for only $15 a month from our Green Bikes program! Or, if you’re fortunate enough to own an electric vehicle, you can bring it to campus and take advantage of our new EV charging station. For further trips, the Colgate Student Travel Agency provides discounts for daily bus trips to Utica and New York City, as well as a shuttle service to the Syracuse Airport during busy travel periods. You can, of course, also employ the several other options offered—taxis, zipcar rentals, and on-demand shuttles to name a few—by various offices and departments. And if none of these options appeal to you, you can always take advantage of the real-time ridesharing service provided by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Air travel, needless to say, is sometimes an unfortunate necessity, but recent steps taken by the Federal Aviation Administration shows hints of a promising and greener future. Their Destination 2025 plan seeks to “transform the Nation’s aviation system by 2025,” partly by providing renewable and more effective fuels for the majority of commercial aircrafts (as opposed to the usual leaded gasoline) by 2018. Furthermore, the Aviation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan promises to arrive at “carbon-neutral growth for U.S. commercial aviation by 2020” through improvements in technology, air traffic management, policies, practices, and, again, alternative fuels. This is projected to result in a reduction of 90-115 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of 209-267 barrels of oil. Under these directives, the administration’s CLEEN (Continuous Lower Emissions, Energy, and Noise) program, launched in 2010, seeks to “accelerate development and commercial deployment of environmentally promising aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative fuels” and implement these technologies beginning in 2015. With this program, the FAA is hoping to reduce fuel burn—and consequently energy consumption and carbon emissions—by at least 33%.

With our increasingly globalized world, it is unlikely that we are going to see momentous changes in our travel habits anytime soon, but we can make minor changes to our individual behavior that together make a major impact. And certainly, ambitious technological innovations that may seem like a dream are closer than we might think.

 

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