Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Most of us have the three R's of sustainability memorized: reduce, reuse and....upcycle? Now I know what you're probably thinking and let me just say no my fingers did not suffer a minor seizure and miss the letters "re";  a new word has entered into the fray and challenged recycling for its spot: upcycling.

Upcycling is a term for using items that have expired in their intended use by giving them a completely new purpose. It is not exactly reusing, because the item is not getting reused as it was used before, but rather it is getting used as something completely new. Recycling, also known as downcycling, is the process of converting an item into lesser quality by consuming energy. Upcycling (named in contrast to the term downcycling) adds value to an item by not decreasing its quality and not consuming energy, making it the greener contender among the two. Upcycling 1, Recyling 0. 

So how exactly do you upcycle? Well lets follow Sherri Brooks Vinton's example of upcycled canning jars. Ms. Vinton used regular canning jars, which pasta sauce or pickles are usually stored in, to create resuable straw cups. Had she decided to recycle the jars, energy and money would have gone into melting the glass and reforming it. She instead decided to convert them into adult "jar-chic sippy cups." I've heard that they are the buzz around all the hipster joints in town. But regardless, the cups themselves provide a valuable trendy kind of water bottle whose worth is much more than melted reformed glass. Upcycling: 2, Recycling: 0.

According to leading designer Danny Seo, if you have sharp scissors, a glue gun, an x-acto knife, drills, a staple gun, double stick tape, and a sewing kit then you are good to go to make one hundred upcycling projects at home. It seems like a long list, but if you think for just a minute, many of us have these items as a part of our household tool kits, and if you don't, this is a good time to go and restock. Recycling, on the other hand, requires a whole other facility with large machines (which have to be separately operated) that crush, melt, and crunch perfectly usable items and make them into "resuable human waste." I think, as environmentalists, we all have the mantra of "no waste" ringing through our ears right now. Upcycling: 3, Recycling: 0. 

Well, I believe we have a winner! Winning three to zero, upcycling takes the lead as the greener option. Upcycling is the cleaner and greener way to go, and the best part is, its not very difficult to do! So go out there and impress your friends with your new found lingo, all the while saving our planet. 

Happy Upcycling,

Dr. Green 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Green Teen Summit 2012

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending The Harker School's student organized Green Teen Summit. The purpose of this Green Teen Summit was to bring environmentally thinking teens from all high schools together to inspire, learn, and collaborate with one another.

The event kicked off with a Keynote address by Bill McKibben. Yes, that's right, BILL MCKIBBEN--the founder of 350.org! Bill McKibben is my idol and my hero and to be able to listen to him in person was surreal. Want to know what was even more incredible? I got to talk to Bill McKibben. He was so friendly and extremely approachable; he even offered to give me a tour of Middlebury College if our visits to Vermont ever coincided! His Keynote Speech addressed many important points, but one stood out to me specifically: In a perfect world, we kids would be able to focus on getting an education, on going to college, on finding a job, on making a family, and then worry about saving our planet. But unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and as such, our generation cannot afford to wait for all of our plans and futures to come together. We must act now. We must make environmental activism a part of our present rather than a goal set in our distant future.

Then ACE (Alliance for Climate Education) gave us a teaser presentation of its free assemblies on climate change. The ACE presentation was particularly interesting because it really fused the idea of using video technology coupled with "teen-identifiable" language to connect with their audience very well. I think they have really discovered something special: an effective way to outreach to students about climate change. That makes me especially happy because we're all faced with the question of how to get our peers to also engage in climate sustainability. I think ACE has done a great job and I can't wait to see the assembly they bring to my school!

We then got to hear from Ethan Burke, the famous driver of the BioBus. (Read more about Ethan and his BioBus experience here!) The biggest thing I loved about Mr. Burke's presentation was his focus on optimism rather than pessimism. We hear so often about the dangers and consequences of what will happen if we do not do anything to save our planet. But how many times do we get to hear about what will happen if we do protect Earth? His approach was refreshing and inspiring and made me believe more than anything else that each of us have the ability to make a lasting impact, whether its on a international, national, or community basis. He also stressed that any kind of positive impact, small or big, is necessary and helpful.

We later broke into group sessions and learned more about planning and leadership skills. The two workshops I attended were run by Daniel Swayne of Citizen Engagement Lab and Mr. Sutton, Harker's very own AP Environmental Science teacher. Both presentations were helpful in figuring out what someone can do on an individual level.

The most impressive part about the summit was that it was completely planned by the students in Harker's environmental club BOSS; three seniors in particular spearheaded the event: Daniella L, Shreya I., and Alisha M. Mad props to these ladies for pulling together an event that attracted nearly 80 people! I entered the event not sure what to expect, not knowing anyone there, but I can happily say that I walked out of the event with a couple extra friends and some truly exciting ideas. 

Still feeling the euphoria after meeting Bill McKibben,

-Dr. Green

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Green Teen Summit Saturday, April 14th, 2012!

Hello There! Here is the invitation to this year's Green Teen Summit at Harker School. This seems like a great opportunity for everyone in the Bay Area, adults and teens. Guess who else will be there? Bill McKibben! The founder of 350.org (which held Moving Planet Day). Buy your tickets today! If any school or organization can pledge to bring 20 students, all 20 tickets are free! I'll be there, will you? Check back in Sunday to see my coverage of the event as well! 

Who will I be seeing this Saturday?

-Dr. Green

Attention all Bay Area high school students!
Get inspiredconnected, and empowered at the Green Teen Summit, a half-day event hosted at Harker Upper School thisSaturday, April 14, 2012.
You will get a chance to:
  • hear from amazing keynote speaker Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org and "probably the world's leading environmentalist" (according to the The Boston Globe)
  • get trained to lead by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)
  • explore a solar-powered bus that toured America
  • attend skills workshops
  • have lunch with mentors already working in "green" business
  • and more!
Find additional information and register at greenteensummit.eventbrite.comTickets are $10 (including light breakfast & lunch). This is sure to be an EXCELLENT event!
No "green" experience is necessary! This event is targeted towards teens who are potentially interested in pursuing a sustainable project at their school or ones who are just interested in learning about more ways to be green! Three years ago, my co-organizers Shreya and Daniela randomly went to an optional assembly held by ACE as freshmen. They had ZERO green experience. After the amazing presentation, they decided they wanted to reduce our school's carbon footprint, applied for a grant from ACE, and won $5,500! Through months of hard work and successfully reducing our school's carbon footprint with an energy-savings project, they co-founded their own organization, SmartPowerEd (www.smartpowered.org). Since then, Shreya and Daniela have been featured at Powershift 2011, speak at the White House Grid Modernization Event and represent ACE at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Don’t be afraid to take action! If you have a great idea or question, reach out to someone, whether it be a teacher, parent, mentor, or someone from an organization like ACE. Who knows what will happen to you after you attend this summit and meet a number of phenomenal people with expertise in the "green" field? Don't pass up this incredible opportunity!
We hope you’ll join us! Be sure to visit greenteensummit.eventbrite.com to register or email me atalishamayor@gmail.com if you have any questions!
Thank you! :)
Alisha Mayor
Senior at the Harker Upper School
Green Teen Summit Outreach Leader

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Power of Voice

Severn Suzuki addressed the UN as a representative from ECO (Environmental Children's Organization) on the issue of the environment in 1992. Although this video may be old, her worlds ring loud and clear today. I urge you all to watch her speech to the UN:

Severn was twelve years old when she gave this address. Her courage and bravery are remarkable, but even more so is her passion. She is a living example of a youth taking on leadership and giving the adult world a reality check. She proved to us teens that we can have a voice among the adult world. Imagine hundreds and thousands of Savern's coming together and talking to their local governments. I think that would create quite the impact, don't you?

-Dr. Green

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keystone XL Rejected!

On January 18, 2012, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. For those of you who are unaware of what the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal is, here is a brief background:
TransCanada, a Canadian oil and gas company, proposed a $7 billion bid to build an oil pipeline linking the tar sands of Alberta to the oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. This would be a 1,700-mile route stretching through  the United States. The bill had major support from Republicans and labor unions.

The major support behind the bill that sparked huge protests in Washington D.C. and all over the world (as you saw on Moving Planet Day) came from the common debate over economy vs. the environment. The building of the pipeline was projected to create thousands of American jobs. As such, the President has been criticized for his decision. However, there are major consequences for building such a pipeline that the President (luckily!) took into account.

Tar sands production is a major source of pollution. In fact, during just tar sands production, the carbon dioxide emissions are three times that of conventional oil drilling. According to the Friends of Earth organization, the construction and use of the Keystone Pipeline would bring enough carbon emissions to equal six million new cars on U.S. roads. Tar Sands also create a large amount of water waste. For example, for every one barrel of oil received, three gallons of water are used. This polluted water would then enter and disturb the habitat and species reliant on those habitats. The communities, especially near the refineries, already face a largely polluted neighborhood. The tar sands would significantly increase the amount of pollution in those neighborhoods, exposing those people to major diseases like cancer.

The Obama administration's rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline bid is a huge victory for environmentalists in our country. However, it does not mean that there is no future to the pipeline. The Obama administration is still facing tremendous criticism for their decision. The truth is, while the economy is not good, environmental issues do not become a priority. Thanks to President Obama, this particular issue was made a priority. However, one thing I would like to point out is that the rejection of the bill only came after thousands and thousands of protesters gathered together around all parts of the country. We showed the Obama administration through our protests and letters how powerful our opinion is. So the next time a pressing environmental issue crops up in politics, do your part and get the word out there. The rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is proof enough that when we all make a resounding effort, our politicians do hear us.


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