Bing tracking

COVID-19: Fall 2020 plans and student resources ›

Auggies Act For Earth Week!

earth week announcementApril 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!! While we can’t celebrate in person, we invite you to take collective action with Auggies near and far.  The first Earth Day mobilized college students to demand action for clean air and water for everyone, and in this time of public health and climate crisis, we can still take action together towards long-term change that supports the health and wellbeing of us all. What can we transform? What could a revolutionary new normal look like? Whether you have the time, energy, and passion for taking small personal action, learning something new, building community, or advocating for policy change, we want to hear about it!

How can you participate?

  1. Join daily collective learning and action opportunities:
    • Monday (4/20), 3:30-4:30pm – (virtual) Q&A with Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association and author of Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal. RSVP here!
    • Tuesday (4/21) – “Contact your legislators” challenge! Check ESC facebook for details and/or go to this doc for information on how to call and what issues you can call in about!
    • Wednesday (4/22)EarthDayLive2020 – STRIKE theme, amplifying indigenous and youth stories (RSVP required).
    • Thursday (4/23) – (virtual) Sustainability Conversation with Augsburg Alum – details TBD
    • Friday (4/24), 7pm – (virtual) Movie Watch Party – details TBD.
  2. Find other opportunities to take personal communal, and systemic action on this list compiled by the Environmental Stewardship Coordinators team. Add your own ideas! Take action whenever you can, in whatever way you can!
  3. Share your actions with the ESC facebook page or on other social media platforms using #AuggieEarthWeek2020 (and any other hashtags your networks are using this week – for example, #EarthDay2020, #BetterTogether, #ClimateJustice4All, #StayHomeButNotSilent).
  4. Submit daily actions for a chance to win a sustainability care package!

 

Earth Month In A Time Of Transition

As Earth Month unfolds in ways we can’t predict towards the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, stay tuned for stories from the past, opportunities to take action towards a Just Transition mentioned below, and updates from what the Environmental Stewardship Coordinators are learning, doing, and processing during this time! Follow us here and on facebook.

(By Allyson Green, Chief Sustainability Officer)

On April 22, 1970, students across the country organized teaching-ins that demanded action on unrestrained pollution that threatened the ecological systems that support life. As our current reality of a global pandemic has shifted plans for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (and every other milestone the Augsburg community was planning to celebrate), the student Environmental Stewardship Coordinators and I have found ourselves grieving. What about the global climate strike we were going to mobilize students to participate in? What about the coffee tasting and panel that would highlight the connections between social, environmental, economic, and personal health? We are already anxious about what the climate crisis means for our current and future health and well-being, and now how will COVID-19 change that? Continue reading “Earth Month In A Time Of Transition”

Are you caucusing tonight?

Today is Caucus Day across Minnesota! Tonight at 7pm, neighbors will gather to shape party priorities for the Republican Party, Democratic-Farmer-Labor-Party, and the Green Party. Even if you’ve never caucused before and have no idea what to expect, attending a precinct caucus gives you insights into how political party decisions get made and how we can help shape those decisions.

Anna Cox (‘22) describes training and strategies for caucusing below:

This will be my first time caucusing, and at first the process and information was overwhelming and confusing. I feel this is the best way I can add my voice and advocate for issues I am passionate about. I will be joining others tonight at 7:00 at the University of Minnesota to caucus for climate change and for PlannedParenthood. If you would like to join meet in the Christensen lobby at 6:15 pm. If you are interested in caucusing for the Republican Party it will be held in Humphrey School of Public Affairs room 50B and for Democratic-Farmer-Labor will be held in Fraser Hall #101.

Caucus For An Issue:

Across the state, the 100% Campaign, a statewide coalition that includes MN350 who trained us on this process, is encouraging people to Caucus for the Climate – to attend precinct caucuses and volunteer to be a Climate Delegate who will bring climate on to the next level of decision-making within each party. On January 23rd the Environmental Stewardship Committee held a Caucus for the Climate House Party, led by Andrew Marks, Blongsha Hang, and Allyson Green, and there were about twenty-five student attendees. During the caucus house party there was a focus on the climate crisis, who is responsible for the crisis, and what action can be taken to address and resolve the climate crisis. Even within our own state, Minnesota winters are warming ten times faster than our summers, and the ripple effects of climate change will be experienced by everyone. Just a three to four degree increase would cause inevitable and reversible damage, and our failure to act will be felt by current and future generations. This is why caucusing is so important and needed. Climate action bills are stuck in state senate and caucusing is a way to bring up the issues and resolutions the everyday citizen is passionate about.

caucus for climate

Six of the Augsburg student attendees committed to being a Climate Delegate. This sounds scary but literally means sitting through lots of other decisions at the caucus meeting (and either participating or doing your homework) until it’s time to elect delegates to the next round of party gatherings in March/April. Then, you just raise your hand and volunteer to be a delegate who will ask potential candidates how they will lead on climate action. So, in order for those candidates to get your vote, they need to demonstrate how they will take action, and then you will be able to hold them accountable for that action if they get elected. Caucusing is the purest form of democracy that we currently have in today’s governmental system, and this is a way beyond voting where you can share your own voice.

**Want to Caucus for the Climate? Sign up here and and stop by the ShareShop to grab a button to show your support!**

Caucus For A Candidate:

Another strategy for participating in the caucuses is to become a delegate for a specific candidate, to help them gain the support of the party. People caucus for specific candidates on the local, state, and national level. On Thursday February 6th, Planned Parenthood and Minnesota360 held a caucus training and informational session at the University of Minnesota during which we discussed what caucusing is and why it’s important. The session focused on how to become a delegate for a specific presidential candidate, something especially relevant for the 2020 elections.

‘Tis The Season For Waste Prevention!

By Anna Cox (’22)

The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family, and create lasting memories. A time to have warm drinks, and bake homemade cookies, but among these traditions is another tradition that’s a bit more Grinch like. On average, Americans throw away almost twenty five percent more waste during the holidays than any other time of the year. Throw away holiday cards, wrapping paper, and colorful ribbons all contribute to a higher amount of waste. Adding on to that a higher amount of methane gas being released into the atmosphere due to the extra waste in landfills. This is definitely something you didn’t write on your list to Santa! With this in mind there are a few ways you can reduce your waste during the holidays.

First, use alternative wrapping paper or give a gift that needs no packing at all. Wrapping paper found in stores is not recyclable due to the colorful hues, foils, and shiny coatings therefore end up in landfills. For alternative wrapping paper you can use old newspapers, scraps of fabric, paper bags, jars, maps, and magazine covers are all great substitutes to use. Here are some more tips. Try giving a gift such as a travel destination or going to a movie. A gift that needs no packaging at all!

alternative wrapping paper

Second,use energy saving LED holiday lights. Lights are a great way to make your home look ready for the holidays, but their effect on your wallet isn’t so bright. By using non-LED lights your electricity bill could be raised by sixty dollars! However, when you use LED lights the amount of electricity you use is cut by ninety percent and you can put the sixty bucks back into your wallet.

Thirdly, recycle your Christmas trees. On average ten million Christmas trees end up landfills each holiday season, and there is a really simple solution to this issue. Recycle your Christmas tree! Many cities, including Minneapolis, offer services to turn your Christmas tree into reusable mulch or wood chips. Some services will even come to your home and pick up the tree for you.

Finally, if you do end up with more “stuff” than you think you’ll actually use or need to clean out and make space for new things, consider sharing! The Twin Cities have a great network of thrift stores, many with missions to give back to our local community, that will take donations of good quality, use-able items. Giving things away for free on Craigslist, Facebook, or NextDoor can be a great way to connect with neighbors. And don’t forget about Augsburg’s new ShareShop! Located in the basement of the old Science building, next to the Free Table and Campus Cupboard, this space is student-led and in need of good that students can check-out for a day, week, month, or semester. Sharing “stuff” reduces consumption and waste, and also makes moving easier for students in transition. Students are also hoping to set up the space for repurposing items, so if your favorite ugly Christmas sweater has too many holes in it, being it over and turn it into a new pair of mittens for the New Year! Stop by the ShareShop during open hours to check it out!

clothing available at share shop

 

End-of-year reflections from MN Greencorps member, Aaryn Wilson

2018-2019 was Augsburg’s second year hosting a MN Greencorps member in the Sabo Center. These positions have brought new perspectives and learning to us through the incredible young people who serve and have expanded Augsburg’s community as they go out into other professional experiences, taking what they’ve learned and who they’ve met here with them. We will especially miss Aaryn’s thoughtfulness around complex sustainability topics and ability to see areas for improvement with our waste systems.

students and staff perform waste audit
MN Greencorps member, Aaryn Wilson (left), finishes a waste audit with student intern Reiss Williams and graduate fellow Blongsha Hang

Hi, my name is Aaryn Wilson and this past year I served as Augsburg’s Minnesota GreenCorps member. The Minnesota GreenCorps program is affiliated with AmeriCorps. The program places AmeriCorps members with host organizations around the state to assist communities and local governments in addressing a variety of statewide needs, aiming to:

  • Reduce solid waste and increase recycling in Minnesota communities.
  • Reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants.
  • Reduce water runoff and improve water quality.
  • Assist community members to take eco-friendly actions.
  • Increase community resilience and build local capacity to respond to the threats of climate change.
  • Train new environmental professionals.

During my time at Augsburg I mainly focused on reducing solid waste and increasing recycling efforts already in place. To do this I had a lot of help from the Environmental Stewardship interns, staff, faculty, and students on campus. Some highlights from the year include:

  • Showed the film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste in the fall semester of 2018.
  • Conducted three waste audits on 12/10/2018, 1/31/2019, and 8/6/2019. To learn about two of the waste audit’s we did feel free to read this article written by the Echo.
  • During the month of March, I participated in Nexuses Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series. After the workshops I would share what I learned with students and staff at Augsburg.
  • Performed a number of waste sorts at the Commons just by simply standing near the three bin system and directing people as they through away their waste.
  • With our two Step-Up interns we waste mapped the three bin systems around campus. We noted where there were bins missing and were more could be added. This was done over the months of June and July. Overall only a couple areas on campus could be modified for more effective bin placement. Contact Allyson Green for full report.
  • Participated in a training with dining services staff on 1/11/2019 to teach them how to do waste sorting, organic recycling, recycling, and trash correctly.
  • Led a training with Staff Senate folks about waste reduction on 12/19/2018
  • Led a training with Residence Life (RAs) about waste reduction on 1/7/2019
  • Conducted one-to-one meetings with students, staff, a custodian, and another volunteer member serving at Augsburg.

Overall my most memorable experiences from my service year was doing the waste audits along with having conversations with people about what they thought belonged in or didn’t belong in the organics, recycling, and trash receptacles. I had a great experience overall and will miss the awesome faculty, staff, and students here at Augsburg the most. Thank You for allowing me to serve.

Sustainability vs. Festivals

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

With summer on its way (eventually!), festival season is around the corner. Festivals are a great way to hear a variety of music, meet different people, see some films, and just have an overall fun experience. For people who stay on the site of the festival, or just come for a few days, they often have to bring their resources for the duration of their stay,  and oftentimes these things are left behind. The lack of proper clean up after festivals as well as the exorbitant amount of people on a patch of land is detrimental to the environment. It is so harmful that it can have lasting effects on the area, and it is extremely difficult and rare for the area to return back to the state it was in prior to the festival. An example of the harmful relationship between festivals and the environment is Woodstock. This monument brought hundreds of thousands of people, but it also meant that there were hundreds of tons of litter. The trash was relocated to the town’s landfill and little to nothing was recycled because with all the mud and people walking around, the items were contaminated and unable to be recycled properly. With festivals of different kinds being popular worldwide, it is important to make changes now to prevent this.

Some factors that affect the environment include transportation, plastic usage, and water usage. When it comes to multiple day festivals, it is common for people to stay on site to avoid having to drive back and forth, or people do decide to drive back and forth. Regardless, the constant use of cars for transportation, as well as the power needed for those concerts emit large amounts of CO2 into the air. Fuel from these vehicles (a nonrenewable resource) are constantly used. This also plays a part in the stay on the festival site. When people stay on the site, by sleeping in tents, RVs, or cars, the grass dies quickly only leaving dirt. This is because of the number of vehicles and people present there. A possible solution for these problems are not allowing people to stay on the campsites and providing public transportation for large parties.

Plastic usage is a severe problem, and frequently the plastics that are left from the visitors end up in landfills. Single-use items (such as water bottles, straws, food trays, cable ties, and toiletry items) are brought for convenience; however, those items are  most likely left behind when their usefulness is complete. Melinda Watson, the founder of sustainability charity RAW, said: “Recycling is important, but it is far from the solution.” Sorting trash and recycling is just a bandaid to the issue, and just because waste bins are present does not mean that they will be used. A way that festivals can help is using multiple usage items such as metal straws, refillable water bottles, and reusable utensils.

Water usage is a necessity at festivals to make sure that the festival goers are staying hydrated and cool during the hot and long days. However, often times these designated areas have water running constantly and at excessive amounts. To change this, festival planners need to change the way that water is available for the people, but I’m personally unsure how to achieve this difference. The dynamic between festivals and the use of sustainability and regard for the environment needs to change before more damage occurs. However, here are 10 great environmentally friendly festivals that you can check out!

Current ways that some of the festivals are changing to be more environmentally friendly ranges from offering incentives like merchandise to people who recycle, using composting toilets, and providing on site activities that will turn their energy to electricity. Although these things are an amazing start to being sustainable it is important that these festivals continue these activities while also making a push to constantly change.

What does the possible Border Wall mean for the ecosystem?

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

The debate about the possible building of the border wall has been very tense since the election of President Trump, but a frequently overlooked problem is the effect that this may have to the ecosystem around the building site. The wall itself will separate the migration of some animals that would usually cross between the two countries without a problem. This will make food resources scarce for animals like jaguars, ocelots, and the Mexican gray wolf, and with these animals already struggling population-wise, the border wall could further these animal’s risk of extinction. The wall would  break up naturally formed habitats for these animals who have been essential in maintaining the food chain in an ecosystem that existed before humans drew a border through it.

According to a 2016 analysis of data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “More than 100 animals that are listed as threatened, endangered or candidates for such status under the Endangered Species Act from coast to coast could potentially be impacted by Trump’s proposal.” In addition to those mentioned above, among these animals are migratory birds. With the 30 foot wall in place, it will make it difficult for birds to migrate properly which will, in turn, affect the reproduction of the birds that are in the vicinity and may lead to more endangered animals, further weakening the ecosystems that we all depend on for our wellbeing. According to Vox, “The new sections of fence under contract are slated for the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and will cut right through a federal wildlife refuge, a state park, Native American gravesites, and the National Butterfly Center. Conservationists and wildlife managers consider this region to be one of the most ecologically valuable areas on the border.” With the blatant disregard of those who reside there – humans, ancestors, and animals – it is important that this is talked about at least in our community if it is not going to recognized by the President. However, to make a change that is generational it first has to be acknowledged by our President. This barrier will prevent animals from accessing food and water, disrupt migration and reproduction, and change the way animals interact with each other, forcing  adaptation to survive. Adaptation is a consistent part of life for human and nonhuman inhabitants of this planet, but we have the power to make decisions that support life rather than force a fight for survival.

The building of the border wall will be detrimental to all species and have an almost horrific domino effect to all animals and will, in turn, hurt humans as well, as our own well-being depends on thriving ecosystems. Much like national geographic suggests from this list of ways the border wall could disrupt the environment, it shows that this one action is contingent to various aspects of the environment. Check out the link below! https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/how-trump-us-mexico-border-wall-could-impact-environment-wildlife-water/

Existing border wall and jaguar movement corridors.
Existing border wall and jaguar movement corridors. (Source: Defenders of Wildlife, cited in “Trump’s Border Wall ‘Catastrophic’ for Environment, Endangered Species: Activists” NBC News)

A Sippy Cup Crisis On Campus?

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

A hot topic that I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about is how to best combat the use of plastic straws. A while ago, our very own Einstein’s on-campus made a step to take part in Augsburg University’s sustainability commitment by using compostable straws, but many people noted not knowing where the straws should go when tossing their waste. Recently, Einsteins changed from spendy compostable straws to a more “Sippy cup” method, as I’ve heard some call it, as well as paper straws.

cup with sippy lid
The smoothies are drinkable without letting it melt first… but it definitely takes extra effort!

I talked to some people about the change in cups as well as a someone who works at Einstein’s for their opinion. This change seemed unexpected to some but was not a surprise for customers who knew Einsteins workers. Some students were mad about the change because of preference, but some appreciated it. A student and customer at Einstein’s noted when I interviewed her,

“I don’t really like or care for the new cups all that much, but I do appreciate the thought of getting rid of plastic straw use on campus. It might be difficult for those with disabilities, so it’s nice that they at least have the straws on hand. The only difficult thing about it is that for the smoothies and blended drinks it doesn’t really work, but they have paper straws if need be. The con is that it does suck to use them if you leave the straw in the drink for a while.”

Even though the general reaction was mixed at first, it seems to be something that people do not mind now. However, in the effort to make the campus more sustainable, it has some drawbacks. Paper straws fall apart eventually in the drink, making the drink less appetizing. An Einsteins employee told me,

“I think it’s a great first step. If Augsburg’s truly committed to promoting sustainability, eliminating single-use plastics such as straws, and using compostable or recycled cups is a great start. The only challenge that is posted is the frozen drinks. The lids they’ve started using aren’t really built for someone to drink those unless you wait for them to melt.”

I agree that Einstein’s is doing a good job at becoming more sustainable and supporting Augsburg University’s commitment to sustainability. However, the quick change allowed for some messiness to come through. Sustainability is complex, and often solutions are not one-size-fits all (or one-lid-fits-all). Is there a way to reduce waste and still be able to drink smoothies without having to let them melt or having the straw falling apart?  If these things change, I believe people will have a more positive response and be willing to support sustainability efforts. Changing behaviors and habits and preferences can be slow and frustrating, and a positive response to change doesn’t happen easily. We’re adaptable creatures, though, and the urgency of our sustainability problems may require us to keep adapting and trying new things quickly!

Technology, Community, and the Polar Vortex

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

The polar vortex that happened in the Midwest has been in our daily conversation. It was not something expected or want to experience again! A polar vortex is  “A low pressure area—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—that is parked in polar regions. During winter, the polar vortex at the North Pole expands, sending cold air southward. This happens fairly regularly and is often associated with outbreaks of cold temperatures in the United States.” This was interesting to me because even though it is frequent, it’s just the first time I remember it’s been talked about so frequently.  For me, the polar vortex emphasized the importance of community when it comes to unexpected environmental experiences. During this time across my social media people were communicating to others where to find shelter if needed, how to get to places, as well as offering supplies. This kind of community allows for people to be aware of the different organizations that they can go to if they need help. The bond and conversation that is in place when times like these happen would be even more effective year round and over various topics.

The use of technology plays a big part when it comes to storms that may occur because it allows for a larger sense of community, as well as an exchange of goods and materials. Resilience is fundamental to the sustainability of a city, and I saw this through Facebook during the polar vortex. Being a part of various pages on the social media, I saw people asking for towing services, heating services, or just sharing with others where to get these resources if needed. Resilience is also important to those who may be secluded or an elder in the community. These are the people who are more likely to be harmed by the storm because of their lack of communication with others. By allowing for different circuits of communication open, it’ll prevent tragedies from happening with these people showing social sustainability. Sustainability has different realms, can be hard to define, and may be seen as scary to face. It can be showcased in various ways and I’m confident that when another polar vortex or snow storms happens, the Minneapolis community will not hesitate to help the people within it.