Stevens And The Lack Of Recycling

There was a rather interesting take in my Public Policy class last night where the professor asked how many students recycled. I don’t think I recall a single person raising their hand much to the dismay of the professor but that leads to an overlying situation on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology.

Although the administration on campus along with the students and faculty have tried to make efforts at times individually, but there is only so much they can do without an institution to support them. Until I moved into the 538 apartments, I never recycled on campus simply because there was no place to drop off the recyclable materials. Even moving off campus, it’s not like Stevens provided us with recycling bins which is something I learned about half way through the year — it turned out my roommate had gone out and purchased a bin for us that we have used since moving in. Even though I don’t know the exact amount, I would be fairly confident in taking the under if it O/U on our building was 1.5 apartment (not including us).

It is important to note that recycling on its own probably will not make that huge of a difference. People need to start making a concerted effort to reduce energy use on a person level by turning off lights in rooms that are not in use or turning the thermostat down a few degrees just as spring- and summer-time roll around. Students at Stevens live really close to the city and are most certainly within walking distance of almost every where they need to go so reducing the driving is not a very pressing issue. However, getting them to maintain this lifestyle once they are out of Hoboken is a much more troubling task.

There is a Green Engineering program at Stevens that claims the following mission statement:

The Green Initiatives Committee at Stevens represents all major constituencies on campus and is working to promote green approaches to all facets of the campus  environment, from academics to infrastructure, from purchasing practices to recycling. Most importantly it is fostering a green philosophy which is at the heart of reducing the carbon footprint of the campus and making sustainability a core value.

Not really sure how much of an impact they will really have on the day-to-day life on campus but the addition of solar panels have been good (not really sure how effectively they are being used) but its a start. Another positive step could be the addition of recycle bins through our very tiny campus and more reasonable usage of lighting probably wouldn’t hurt in the long run either.

Blog Action Day: Desert Ecosystems

I had been thinking for a couple of weeks on what topic I should write about for this upcoming Blog Action Day, which is today, when quite out of the blue I was talking to my friend Alex and we managed to stumble onto the obscure topic of desert ecosystems. The fact that they might be able to change if exposed to an unnatural amount of water or an alternating wind current in a varying time frame was a very appealing topic. So it looks like I have an off the wall topic but I say its close enough to be considered climate-related and this is what I will talk about.

First what my issue of discussion is — Are desert ecosystems changing at all? If they are, is it for better or for worse? If for worse, can we reverse course?

Let me just start by saying I am no expert on desert discussions. I had not even read anything on the matter until earlier yesterday and then all of a sudden I’m talking to someone about it. That’s just how things go sometimes. Given that, I think it is very fair to say that desert ecosystems are constantly changing all the time. Until only a few years back, we did not really know how the desert ecosystem interacted with others and what impact this has had on local environments.

That all changed when scientists at the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology conducted a study between these ecosystems back in 2004 which analyzed said impacts on climate change and its effect on the ecosystem. One of the main things it noted was that as much of an effect water may have on the environment and the fertility level of the ground, not enough attention is paid on wind currents and dust being blown into these areas which drain the ground of a lot of its nutrients.

Wind erosion, as it is called, is a considered a very fundamental process in systematic changes for ecosystem through the transportation of dust which have the ability to affect the entire planet. Understanding the dire consequences of such wind erosion on vegetation and soils will play a vital role in our understanding of the ecosystems at play. To an extent, these particles are any dust and sand particles that travel through the air as a part of the wind erosion. They have the ability to drain the nutrients and certainly over time can dry up an entire region of its vegetation.

Although that is a very basic summary of how wind erosion may affect the desert ecosystem, one question that lingers in my mind is can there be a reverse course using similar methods? Hypothetically, if the wind current were to shift patterns where these depleting nutrients were carried out, would that make way for non-desert-like vegetation to survive in such conditions? Can enough water accumulate over time to allow for such growth and drastic change in the environment?

Obviously, I am not knowledgeable enough to answer that question but I would think such a thing would be possible — whether it is naturally done by Mother Nature or by the ways of human-intervention to change course in an ecosystem.

Anyone who knows anything about this topic is more than welcome to correct me on anything I said, any assumption I made and certainly please enlighten me on the topic as I would love to learn more.

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Apple and the Environment

In my continuing assessment of Apple products and customer care and sometimes a lack of common sense, I think I have finally figured out why Apple products usually cost a million times more with them than anywhere else. Take a look at the tracking page from FedEx at the bottom of the post.

I believe this order was for a replacement headset that was covered under the AppleCare Protection Plan. No wonder this headset costs $29.00 if you buy it regularly since it is getting a 2-day shipping from Shenzhen, China to Hoboken, NJ.

A 0.2 lbs package being shipped half way around the world for something cost a maximum $2 to make. Also, I’m not sure what FedEx charges Apple but I’m guessing it is much less than the $30 quote that I got for a package of the same size shipping from and to the same location as the one above. (Converting the 216.14 Yuan is about $30 USD.) It’s probably safe to say that if Apple is charging $29 for a single headset, not being charged very much from FedEx and in the bulk amounts that they make these accessories, the profit they must be making

Disregard the monetary costs for a second and look at the carbon footprint being applied for a $2 headset. Apple means to tell us that there wasn’t a single headset in the entire United States that they could have shipped instead? Do all their orders for replacement accessories get shipped from China regardless of their destination?

But let us not forget Apple and the Environment, where they explicitly state that “Apple recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and continually strives to reduce the environmental impact of the work we do and the products we create.” I suppose that responsibility stops once they “create” these products and does not carry over when they are actually shipping them out to customers.