Welcome to The Vine, the blog of EarthCo., Columbia University's oldest environmental student group!

EarthCo. meets at 8 pm every Monday in Hamilton 413. For more, contact our friendly coordinators

EarthCo. is proud to be a Community Impact group. Please register as an official volunteer.
For general info about EarthCo...click here!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Caucuses and Primaries

Primary elections are coming up fast...you better vote! Now more than ever is it imperative that we put in Washington elected officials who will stand for the environment, especially on the big issues of climate change, energy use, and our national parks and public lands. So do two things.

First...Register to vote! (the link goes to Rock the Vote!, cause they're all hip and stuff). After you've registered, be sure to get an absentee ballot if you'll need one...some quick googling should get you some instructions, but do it sooner rather than later, there are serious deadlines and you may have to pick it up in person.

Second...Inform yourself! Grist.org, the excellent environmental news website, has where the candidates stand on the environment. Here's where they stand on climate change and energy, and here's where they stand on all environmental issues.

Oh yeah, there's one more thing for you to do...VOTE!

Friday, December 28, 2007

January 6 e-waste event!

The Lower East Side Ecology Center is holding another e-waste recycling event on January 6.

Sunday January 6, 2008,
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Union Square Park - North Plaza
Broadway & E 17th Street

Be sure to drop off any e-waste you may have after the holidays!


Have a question about EarthCo. or the environment? Contact one of our friendly coordinators...

Campus and Community Action:
Talia: ta2188@barnard.edu
Prospero: pjh2111@columbia.edu

Earth Tutors:
David: dp2344@columbia.edu
Jason: jmp2150@columbia.edu

Or, you're always welcome to our meetings every Monday night at 8pm in Hamilton 413!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lerner Recycling Center

If you've walked through Lerner lobby recently, then you may have noticed a big black recycling center. Here's what Bwog said. It looks good, right? Well, not exactly.

EarthCo. met a number of times since the beginning of the fall semester with the folks at the Office of Environmental Stewardship about implementing a recycling center in Lerner, and we've had some important requirements for what this center should do. Specifically, it should be able to collect basically every recyclable item (within reasonable size), while also serving as a one-stop center for recycling information. Unfortunately, it does neither of these.

Right now, the center accepts batteries, light bulbs, books, and miscellaneous e-waste. We want it to accept, in separate containers, the following:

-"regular" waste items: paper, plastic/metal/glass, trash
-batteries: small batteries, computer batteries
-light bulbs
-misc. e-waste (cell phones, wires, etc.)
-print cartridges
-plastic bags

*eyeglasses are already collected in Lerner lobby, we're hoping to incorporate this service into the recycling center

Furthermore, we want there to be information at the center about recycling. The displayed information is paramount to the success of the center as most of Columbia's recycling problems simply stem from individuals not knowing what, how, or where to recycle. We hope to include at the center how to recycle, what to recycle, how Columbia recycles, how New York City recycles, where waste goes, etc.

The Office of Environmental Stewardship told us in the fall that they would inform us when the bins in Lerner arrived so we could work to ensure that all of our requirements were met before the center was set up. Although they did not at all do so, (which is no problem...it's better to have something immediately than nothing at all), we are looking forward to working with them in the spring to modify the current center so that it more adequately fits our needs.

Community Gardening

In Spring '08 EarthCo. teamed up with the Food Sustainability Project to create a community garden on campus. It was implemented by the end of that semester, and continues to yield delicious, local produce for the Columbia community!

Earth Week

Earth Week is our biggest event series of the year, and is a really awesome time. For the entire week, from April 16-April 22 (Earth Day), we hold lectures, dinners, games, movie screenings, and more.

Last year, the keynote address was held in Low Library and delivered by Dr. Peter Eisenberger and Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky. They discussed the possibility of a global thermostat to regulate Earth's temperature and the policies necessary to bring developing and developed countries together to fight climate change in a mutually beneficial way. The week also included a screening of Cane Toads! An Unnatural History...the greatest movie every made about an invasive amphibian species. The week was capped off with the annual Earth Week Battle of the Bands co-sponsored with Bacchanal Special Events and featuring student bands along with CU Public Safety's very own Michael Layne.

We start planning our events for Earth Week early in the semester, so come to our meetings (Mondays, 8 pm, Hamilton 413) soon if you'd like to help out (although you're of course welcome at any time in the semester!). We're looking forward to a great Earth Week '08, and we'd love you to be involved!

Sustainable Seafood

One of our big successes this semester was our Sustainable Seafood campaign, spearheaded by Hannah Perls, CC '11. We emailed the friendly folks at Dining Services, and after one meeting got almost all our demands met...it was a great, and easy, success.

More specifically, we presented Joe Heavey, executive director of Dining Services, with a list of unsustainable seafood and various more sustainable alternatives. He then implemented a switch in John Jay's menu and purchasing to conform with our lists. These lists can be found here. For more general information on sustainable seafood, check out this website, and go here for wallet-sized guides for seafood choices.

The only fish not included in the switch to sustainability was salmon, and unfortunately salmon is one of the worst of seafood choices for the environment, unless one buys wild Alaskan salmon, which is expensive. We hope to work further with Dining Services to find a solution to this issue next semester. We also hope to extend this initiative to Hewitt dining hall. UPDATE: THEY'VE SWITCHED TO WILD ALASKAN SALMON. YAY!!

In the meantime, take care in knowing that the seafood you eat in John Jay, with the exception of salmon, is sustainable!

E-Waste Recycling

From November 10-12, 2007, EarthCo. teamed up with the Lower East Side Ecology Center for an e-waste recycling event for Morningside Heights. Parking a big red bin on 115th and Broadway, we collected any and all forms of e-waste, a total of 7,720 pounds (nearly 4 tons!) of unwanted electronics from 201 local residents. A huge success...thanks, LESEC!

We're hoping to make this an every-semester event, so keep your eye out for more e-waste collections in Morningside Heights in the spring.

Also, the LESEC has now arranged for a permanent drop off site for e-waste at Build It Green!NYC, located at 3-27 26th Ave, Astoria, Queens. Click here for more info.

UPDATE 10/28/08: Unfortunately, LESEC does not have the necessary funding to continue holding e-waste recycling events. Thus, we are unable to offer this event right now. However, remember that you can always recycle your cell phones, batteries, and other electronics in the Lerner Hall recycling center.

Earth Tutors

Earth Tutors is absolutely the most important of EarthCo.'s initiatives. Earth Tutors began in Spring '06 as a special tutoring program about environmental issues in the Urban Science Academy (USA), a South Bronx public school. In Fall '08 the program expanded to a new school, the Future Leaders Institute (FLI), in Harlem. For USA, Earth Tutors meets every Friday at 1:30 at the gates at Amsterdam and 116th, then we take the subway to the school in the South Bronx and return to campus around 4:15 pm. For FLI, Earth Tutors meets every Friday at 2:45 at the Amsterdam and 116th gates and walks to the school. We return from FLI around 5:15.

For its first semester, Earth Tutors guest taught once a week a class for 5th and 6th graders about environmental issues. The students were specially chosen for the course, and we covered topics such as air pollution, energy use, global warming, and asthma.

The program's format has changed somewhat this year. Instead of teaching an actual class, Earth Tutors now leads an after school club on Fridays open to all students in the 5th-7th grades. We cover topics such as biodiversity, recycling, and water use, emphasizing exciting hands-on experiments. In addition we hold two to three field trips each semester, including bringing the students to Columbia to learn about college life, and going to places in the city such as the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.

Earth Tutors has a fourfold goal:

1. Teaching about various environmental issues, emphasizing the science behind the issues.
2. Teaching how these issues affect the students in the South Bronx and Harlem.
3. Formulating action plans for dealing with environmental issues.
4. Provide weekly contact with college students.

The most recent action plan, designed by the students, has been to educate their peers about recycling and to place posters throughout their school and homes about recycling.

Earth Tutors is currently up and running, and we always accept new volunteers ready to commit to making a difference in the science education of local youth!

Go Cold Turkey!

Go Cold Turkey! is one of our favorite events of the year. Before Thanksgiving, we hold a campus-wide challenge for students to sign a pledge to Go Cold Turkey over the break to save some energy. The winning dorm then receives a free breakfast of apples, donuts, and cider from the Farmer's Market.

This year, over 320 students signed the pledge--a huge success! John Jay was the winning dorm with 121 pledges, a full 26% of the dorm's population.

Below is the text of the pledge, with some extra info at the bottom.

Pledge to Go COLD TURKEY! 5 + 1 steps to saving energy

1. If you're going home for the holiday, DON'T FORGET to turn off
all your lights
in your dorm room while you're away! It's also
important to unplug all your appliances (you'll need to plan ahead to
make sure you won't have any perishables left over in your fridge before you leave!) and other electronic equipment from the wall sockets. Even when they're off, or when there's no cell phone or ipod plugged in, they continue to use energy, so remove them from their sockets. Turn off any power strips you have too.
2. Close your windows tightly to prevent heat leaks.
3. Turn off heating/air conditioning systems, and don't block them when they are on.
4. When at home, convince your mum to turn down your thermostat a few degrees, and keep all windows and doors tightly shut.
5. Switch your light bulbs from regular incandescent to energy efficient Compact Fluorescent light bulbs. Each bulb can save 110 pounds of coal per year!
6. Change computer to "energy efficient" settings
• Windows 98/ME/2000/XP– Select Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Display. Select the Screen Saver tab. Choose a predominantly black screen saver and set it to wait for 5 minutes. Click on Power to reach the power management settings. Click the Shut Off Monitor box
and set for 10 minutes. Click Ok or Apply.
• Macintosh– Select System Preferences from the dock (OSX) or click the Apple and select Control Panels (OS9). Select Energy Saver. Under the Sleep tab you can enable your computer, display, and hard drive to go to sleep mode after a period of activity.

Please visit:
(be sure to check out the Guide to Green Living)
Contact adz2101@columbia.edu for info about Eco-Reps
for more information on how to save energy, or to page an EcoRep, see the EcoReps website: http://ecoreps.environment.columbia.edu/ecoreps-index.htm

Welcome to The Vine!

Ok, hello, welcome to EarthCo.'s new blog "The Vine", which isn't a great name. Here's some background info:

EarthCo. is Columbia's oldest student environmental group...but we're not entirely sure when it started. In the 60s? Early 90s? Who knows. But, it exists and its members do lots of great things for the environment and for Columbia...especially where those two entities intersect.

We meet every Monday at 8 pm in Hamilton 413. Sometimes there is free food. Meetings usually last about a half hour to an hour. Anyone from Columbia (Barnard, Columbia, Teacher's College, and more!) are welcome. You can contact the coordinators here.

EarthCo. operates as part of Community Impact, Columbia's wonderful non-profit service organization. Check out their website here. Community Impact is seriously an excellent organization, with 25 student groups and 950 student volunteers serving over 8000 people in the Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Washington Heights communities. You should participate in one or more of its many groups, even if not EarthCo.

EarthCo. has two branches: campus and community action and Earth Tutors.

The action side takes on a number of campaigns each year. We have some recurring events, such as Earth Tutors, Go Cold Turkey!, and of course our ever popular Earth Week events.
We'll also be continuing other projects, like community gardening and plastic bag recycling. We also try to tackle a number of other campaigns during the year. In the past we've headed letter writing campaigns against unsustainable mining and logging, worked to change Apple computer's environmental policies, encouraged Columbia's dining halls to convert their waste grease into usable biofuel, and most recently gotten Columbia's dining services to switch to sustainable seafood. Lastly, we're always ready to help out the many other Columbia environmental groups in their own initiatives, such as SEEJ's Wind Power Now campaign.

Earth Tutors is a tutoring program we began in spring 2006 where we teach public grade school students in the South Bronx about environmental issues. In Fall '08 Earth Tutors expanded to another school, the Future Leaders Institute, in Harlem. Earth Tutors is a truly great program for our campus and our community. Find out more details here.

I'll post some information soon about the campaigns listed above, and the many other things that we do, and hopefully make this website look a little better. If you want to see the old website, which looks really good but hasn't been updated since Spring '06, go here. If you have any sort of web design skills and want to help update that site, or help create a new one...please contact me!

Ok, I suppose that's about it. So if you are so inclined, stop by one of our meetings or send an email, we're always looking for new members and opinions!

Thanks for visiting!