Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Few Hopeful Words for Sustainability

The word "Sustainability" is often mentioned - with a great deal of credence, I might add - in this major.  For that matter, it's not uncommon to hear it everywhere else in this town, not to mention everywhere in liberal publications, on the internet, and in the hearts and minds of self-proclaimed caring people such as myself and probably, dare I say, most (at least some) other students at Western.  And that's just fine - great, even.  However, my fear, in part brought about by my own haphazard use of the word, is that it will, if it hasn't already, become just another vague term, lacking grounding in reality and serving as some arbitrary "conceptualization" of simple-minded "off the grid" mentalities.  I should probably explain that this rant of mine was spurred today by the combination of my gradual awareness of the increasingly-reckless use of the word, reading the mission statement on ORE's website, and, perhaps most of all, taking some advice given to me by our dear compatriot Dakota Becker and reading part of a letter from Donella Meadows, a so-called "systems analyst" who had some sincere, caring words on sustainability.  While she stated that sustainability is done, not talked about, she also gave an institutionally-accepted definition of the word.  Said definition is much like the one that has been discussed in a few of my ENVS classes: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the capacity of our children, grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren to be able to live beautifully.  Indeed, Donella raises an essential point: namely, that sustainability should not be confused with sustaining the current and obviously-destructive modern state of the world despite the incredible toll being taken on all of Earth.  Rather, there must be a fundamental change in the way people live, so that we can " together for a peaceful world," as it is written, instead of focusing on "sustaining" some half-baked state of scraping by in front of the television set while convincing ourselves that recycling, driving Toyota Priuses, and LEED-certified buildings are coming to the rescue.  Don't get me wrong, and sorry if I'm sounding like a broken record (I do love records, though) - these things (with the exception of Toyota Priuses, for reasons that I will discuss later) are a step in a good direction, and a few caring people doing a bunch of amazing things is just fantastic.  Now, we just need to focus more on good, careful, and meaningful work that doesn't serve to dig a more streamlined and convenient rut for ourselves.  Most importantly, we must carefully, sincerely, and lovingly sustain this important work.  So, instead of institutionalizing this great, many-syllabled word as some utopian concept or slinging it around arbitrarily, let's remember to speak Sustainability with enough gusto so that we may remember to work hard and well together for a peaceful world.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Influx of the ORE Pamphlets

Hello fellow ENVS crew,
     As of last week, I have made numerous stops around campus and around town for purposes of delivering a myriad of ORE brochures and pamphlets.  My hope is that these various caches of pamphlets will help to spread the word about ORE and all of their cool programs, which aim to both reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for Gunnison and Crested Butte.  These programs are each represented by their own pamphlets, and include EnergySmart and EnergySmart Business, which encourage homeowners and businesses (respectively) to reduce their energy consumption via retrofits and responsible energy usage; Local Farms First, a unique program that allows community members to order fresh food from local farmers via the internet; and the ever-persistent-and-growing Gunnison Valley Green Business Directory, which has compiled a great diversity of Gunnison Valley businesses who are working to adopt sustainability into the folds of their endeavors.

     All told, the different pamphlets that I have passed out are the Local Farms First brochure, the EnergySmart booklet, the EnergySmart Business pamphlet, a brochure with general information about the Office for Resource Efficiency, the Gunnison Valley Green Business Directory, and a handy-dandy "Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency."  These can be found at various locations around Western's campus, including Kelley Hall, Taylor Hall, the Leslie J. Savage Library, the University Center, and Freecycle (coming soon).  Around town, I have given stockpiles of goodies to Mocha's, the Natural Foods Store, The Bean, Brick Cellar, and Mario's Pizza.  I will announce any new locations that receive ORE stuff - in the meantime, take a look next time you swing by any of these places!

Here are a few photographs of some on-campus booklet stashes, just ready to jump in your unsuspecting backpacks!

All of the pamphlets lined up in Kelley Hall's Student Room

The Recycle Bins on Taylor Hall's first floor

ORE stuff positioned strategically along the Kelley main Recycle Bins
All of the booklets on the Library main table

The booklets in the University Center, right next to the front desk

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nifty Projects with ORE

A shout-out to all of my fellow ENVS students this semester! My name is Josh Chartowich, and I have been an "unofficial intern" at the Office for Resource Efficiency (also known as ORE, for short) since October. ORE is a local organization that is committed to bolstering local sustainability, instilling environmental consciousness in businesses and families, and saving people money (more on that later), to say the least. As of this semester, I have been promoted to just "intern" at ORE, and am poised to help them with a few nifty projects related to their various programs, including EnergySmart - which educates and aids homeowners in reducing home energy use and costs - and the already-acclaimed Gunnison Valley Green Business Directory, a sizable booklet that is a burgeoning compilation of local businesses who are taking steps toward their own and our community's (and for that matter, the entire World's) resilience and sustainability. The aforementioned projects involve both behind-the-scenes work and more public efforts, including building a database for the Green Business Directory and bombarding locations around Gunnison with barrages of (useful) pamphlets. Each week, I will give all of you newly-excited readers introductions, updates, and the like regarding these projects and ORE. I will also launch into some rants - I mean musings - on what all of this has to do with the "big picture" and "local picture." All of this discourse will take place in the form of posts on this nifty little ENVS blog. Just to get you all a little more jazzed, check out ORE's website at - and don't touch that proverbial dial!