Add to Technorati Favorites cooltheplanet

Friday, September 5, 2008

Greening the college campus

It's been a busy summer, and imagine my chagrin when I realized just how much time had flown by since my last blog posting! I was in summer school at Harvard University, studying Energy and Environmental Politics as part of a Master's program in Environmental Management. Fascinating topic - and so transfixing that my blog was sadly neglected!

Spending time at Harvard, however, has raised a multitude of new topics, not least of all being college sustainability initiatives. I knew Harvard was a world-renowned learning institution, but until recently I wasn't aware just how aggressive and forward-thinking the university's sustainability initiatives are. From comprehensive recycling programs and local sourcing of dining hall food, to green building practices and reliance on renewable energy, Harvard is at the forefront of environmental sustainability.

But don't take my word for it - check out the Sustainable Endowments Institute's ( ) 2008 Report Card, which gave Harvard an overall A- rating for its efforts. And if you're in the process of selecting a school for your undergraduate or graduate education, check out the report as part of your decision-making process. Our buying decisions should reflect our environmental conservation ideals, and where you attend school is one of the biggest purchasing decisions you can make.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A gift for the person who has everything...and wants to share

There are endless gift ideas for 'the person who has everything', which inevitably manifest themselves in internet and magazine ads around the major gift-giving seasons. These are usually along the lines of ridiculously frivolous items - monogrammed key fobs and the like - the idea being to notch up the frivolity for those who are already maxed out on luxury items.

Kiva ( has come up with a concept for those-who-have-it-all and want to give back to those who need a helping hand. With the motto "loans that change lives", Kiva enables individuals to make micro-loans (as small as $25) to entrepreneurs in developing countries who are working to raise themselves out of poverty. As the entrepreneur achieves profitability, he/she pays back the loan, enabling the 'investor' to make another loan. As a gift idea, this couldn't be easier, since Kiva allows gift-givers to purchase on-line gift certificates for micro-loans, send the certificate to a recipient and let them choose a loan 'borrower'. Perfect for last-minute gifts and, of course, for those who have no need for more stuff in their lives.

Kiva represents a trend that I hope will expand in our American mentality, where many of us have so much that we can share with those who have very little. Twenty-five dollars may not seem like a lot, but to a grocery vendor in Rwanda, it can make all the difference in the world.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Now the primary race is getting exciting...

There's something incredibly exciting happening in the presidential primary right now (aside from the precedent-breaking candidates vying for the Democratic nomination). For the first time since I've been old enough to vote, the Republican and Democratic candidates are trying to out-do each other on the issue of environmental awareness, most specifically global warming.

Typically environmental protection (real environmental protection, that is, not the James Watt variety) has been the bastion of Democrats, with Republican political candidates largely championing the position of protecting corporations from environmental restriction or legislation. Not that Democrats have necessarily done an outstanding job of protecting this country's natural resources, but for the most part they've been the only environmentally-minded game in town.

John McCain has changed that equation in this year's primary by not only promising to address global warming and climate change if elected president, but also to enact mandatory CO2 reductions. If you read the fine print, of course, McCain's global warming mitigation plan is far weaker than either Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's (and far less aggressive than that advocated by the scientific and environmentalist community). But the point is that he has a plan, and that's a huge step forward for this country.

Without giving away my political leanings, I still have far more confidence in the Democratic party's commitment to environmental protection, but it gives me enormous hope to know that if McCain takes over the presidency, the cause won't be entirely abandoned. And to this tree-hugger, that's pretty exciting.