Appreciation for a Green Campus

The efforts to reach sustainable living are extensive and complex, showing just how far modern society has strayed from living in harmony with nature. I got to witness this when the class took the trip to the sustainability office. The first thing that stood out to me was when it was said that sustainability was most focused on protecting the environment and nature’s systems. I knew that this was a part of it, but I assumed the main focus was on maintaining a way of life that prevents further damage rather than protecting. I was then able to get a better understanding of just how important it is that we make the efforts to be sustainable and given a few examples of how that is possible from OSU’s campus.

One of the things that stood out to me the most from this trip was discovering that some of the furniture from the beginning of Oklahoma State University is still being used. I did not realize that items could be cared for in such a way that makes them last that long. This got me thinking about exactly how many items I may be using besides furniture that can be cared for in the same way. Items such as my clothes and old decorations can be taken apart or repaired or even altered in ways I never imagined. This is something I will keep in mind now and in the future whenever I have my own furniture and utilities to take care of. I will now start to think about alternative solutions to items I feel I no longer need rather than just disposing of them.

In the end, the most mind blowing realization to me is that we once utilized no methods of sustainability. As I near the end of my journey in Wicked Problems, I have gained a new knowledge regarding the severity of climate change and I can no longer imagine a world in which we ignore this massive issue. The immense amount of paper and water bottles that would be piling up in landfills had it not been for sustainability efforts at OSU is terrible to even think about. I have gained a new appreciation for the sustainability efforts found at Oklahoma State and I will use mindfulness and make sure that I am taking the necessary measures to reduce my carbon footprint.

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Sustainability Office Visit

I did not attend the sustainability office visit. I learned from the presentation that sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I also learned that sustainability is good stewardship and that we are not here to save the planet.  I now understand better that our actions have consequences. In my career as an interior designer, I could use recycled materials and companies that push towards conservation. In my life, I can use natural light instead of always keeping electrical lights turned on during the day. I can also recycle materials and carpool more with my friends if we are all going to the same location.   I can turn off lights as part of my daily practice to help conserve energy. I can also reuse textbooks by doing textbook buybacks and donations. 

Is sustainability a wicked problem? How? What ways would you solve sustainability?

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OSU is Turning Green

Recently I visited and toured the OSU facilities office, which helped me have a better understanding of sustainability. The visit opened my eyes to a lot of new things that I did not even know about. For example, at The Ranchers Club there is a garden outside, and the chef uses the vegetables from it. They also buy produce from local places because that means plans do not have to fly to deliver it. There are so many small details that go into being sustainable. OSU puts in a lot of effort to be a sustainable campus, 70% of the electricity is produced by windfarms which is a huge amount. They mentioned that turning off your lights when you leave saves a huge amount of energy and my new goal is to turn the lights off in my dorm when I leave. They focus on the little details that no one notices, and I gained a new perceptive of OSU and the campus. The OSU facilities is like a hidden gem that no one knows about, but I really enjoyed the visit and learned a lot. While in the upholstery shop, they talked about the quality of their sewing machines and furniture. They emphasized that it is better to spend more on a sewing machine because it will last longer and not go to waste, they also said the same thing about furniture. Some furniture pieces in The Student Union are from the 1920s. This opened my eyes and I connected to it because I realized that in the future, I should not focus on the price of the sewing machine but instead the life of the sewing machine. The recycling center also opened my eyes. I have never been to a recycling center and have never seen the process of recycling. I really like that OSU puts in so much effort to be a more sustainable campus and make it one of its top goals. After this experience my question is, “What are new ideas or recommendations you can give the OSU facilities office to become a greener campus?”

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Solutions in Sustainability

I was surprised to learn of the extent of OSU’s commitment to sustainability. Sure, everyone hears about how important recycling is; Reduce-Reuse-Recycle has been a thing since about 1976, so it was a part of my own childhood. I think my mother even had a bag with the slogan on it – or maybe it was a tshirt. I can’t remember. Anyway, in the 11th Hour movie, someone says something about how people really do the best they can within the limited education (on the subject of climate change) that they have. That rings true to me, because outside of school, there’s no one really pushing that message. Target has recycle bins, and takes 5 cents off the total for every reusable bag you bring in, instead of using plastic. But mostly, it’s kind of hard to recycle. It’s just not a thing that’s made important in day to day life. 

OSU, though, has clearly put further thought into the concept, because there’s recycle bins everywhere (although the paper ones are harder to find, and I think it wouldn’t hurt to have separate ones for glass and plastic. They mentioned at the recycling center that paper and cardboard are different, too – that cardboard is corrugated. I also had no idea that those materials would be sold once they were baled, so that was interesting. 

We’ve started a compost in the backyard in an effort to keep food waste out of the landfill. The Recycling Center can’t do that because it requires special permits, but they did have a very healthy looking compost made primarily of paper and plants, which is used all over campus. I noticed in the autumn that it took them some time to clear up the spruce needles in front of Human Sciences, and that may just have been a shortage of enough help, but I hope it was on purpose, because it’s really much better for the insects. 

The upholstery shop was also really good. I would never have thought that they would go to the extent that they do to achieve cradle-to-cradle design – it’s great. LEED certified buildings are one thing; they’re kind of making a point in a visible way, but to be so committed as to actually reupholster furniture and make so many repairs is impressive. It’s not an easy undertaking.

As it is, the Earth isn’t able to cope with the sheer amount of waste that humans produce. If we were to stop recycling altogether, I can only imagine how quickly the problem would become utterly overwhelming. Aside from running out resources, the air would quickly become quite unhealthy, flooding would be even worse than it currently is, and we would escalate our current rate of self-destruction. Landfills, which are expected to last between thirty and fifty years, would fill yet more quickly, and all that trash, once covered over, would just go on producing methane, which would only contribute to heating the planet. As mentioned in the 11th Hour movie, the Earth itself would peacefully keep on going in circles round the Sun with or without us – and it would, eventually, recover from the damage we have so carelessly inflicted.

Largely due to the requirements OSU places on sustainability as part of the degree program, it’s impossible to ignore, even if one wanted to. In addition to that, a designer without LEED certification is almost a joke. Society is evolving, and finally figuring out that things can’t go on this way. Some private companies have taken it upon themselves to do better, using solar and wind power, that sort of thing. Green buildings are beginning to be the new normal, at least to some degree. Given how far we’ve come since that office burned and everyone died of smoke inhalation from the padding in the office chairs, I’d say every little bit is an improvement, and I hope to do my part in that, including becoming certified. I will also do my best to consider low-VOC finishes and materials, low-energy lighting and low-flow water installations. It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s not one that can ever be dropped, but I think it won’t be as hard as it seems. 

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A Tree For A Tree

“Money is to be respected. One of the worst things you can do is handle another person’s money without respect for how hard it was earned,” – T. Boone Pickens, 1928-2019.

An oil tycoon, a business mogul, but most importantly, the Ultimate Cowboy. T. Boone Pickens has had many famous quotes in which I have agreed with over the years. I side with the quote above, but to a certain extent. During our class reading for the week, my learning community was assigned the “YES” article, which begged the question about whether or not the market economy is better at transitioning to sustainability than the government. The article had many solid points about greenhouse gas emissions and how it affects not only the climate, but the overall economy. A major takeaway that stood out within the article was when the author, Paul Krugmen, mentioned “cap-and-trade” as an economical solution to greenhouse-gas emissions. In short, I agree. According to the quote from Mr. Pickens, the worst thing a person could do is spend another person’s money without an idea of how hard it was to earn it. As mentioned before, I agree, but when it comes to cap and trade or pollution taxes, I believe this is one step we would have to undergo in order to begin moving toward a more sustainable future.
Another interesting topic mentioned this week was the Wicked Problems website we glanced over during the lecture. The website defines what an actual wicked problem is through the ten characteristics developed by Horst Rittel. The website further explains social entrepreneurship –– the act of recognizing problems (i.e. inequality, education, food and water accessibility, environmental and sustainability) and actively seeking solutions to mitigate or resolve them. For instance, TenTree is a company focused on restoring destroyed woodlands across the world through fashion merchandising. With each apparel item sold, TenTree plants ten trees in one of seven areas: Madagascar, Nepal, Haiti, Cambodia, Senegal, Canada, and the United States. I have followed and supported this company for the past eight years, as deforestation is a topic I have been passionate about for some time now. I plan to use TenTree’s efforts and research to aid in the overall credibility of my investigative report. As for my career, I plan to incorporate sustainable design, such as green-buildings, to reduce the use of lumber in my projects, aiding in the mitigation of deforestation.

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Go Green

During the presentation I learned more about sustainability and little things I can do everyday to help save things like energy. For example, simply turning off the lights when you leave a room can save more energy than you think. Something that was also interesting to me was finding out that the water bottle refill stations seen on campus were originally designed by a student, and are now seen in almost every building you go to on campus. It’s just another reminder that a simple idea can turn into something great and can also in return help save our globe at the same time. I also got to learn about the things OSU does behind the scenes to be more sustainable which was also very exciting.

The upholstery shop was really interesting because we got to see the actual place where furniture and other interior items are fixed. One thing that they stressed about was the ages of the chairs and couches that are in the dorms and the student union. They talked about how old those pieces were and how they still are in great condition to this day, because they have been sustainable in keeping up with them. They said that some things may be more pricey up front, but you have to think of the quality and longevity of the item because this is what helps us to be sustainable. For example, the sewing and cushion presser machines in the shop were both very old, but they are more sustainable because they were good quality and are still running today. It was really cool to see the size of the recycling center, and then hearing the instructor say that it was usually filled to the top with cardboard. It gave perspective to see how much stuff, like cardboard, goes wasted everyday and how important it is to recycle. What also stood out to me was seeing the processing of  cardboard and paper and how they are pressed into bales. I never realized how much stuff it took to make one bail, how long the process is, and how heavy the bails are. I also didn’t know that the bails were sold to the highest bidder after they were processed which I think was really cool. The composting area was also interesting to see and to learn about what goes into the compost process. I learned that making compost was made with greens and horse manure to make a good compost. I think it’s cool that OSU and the surrounding farmers work together to make all of this happen. I also learned that farmers come to OSU to get left over food like vegetables and fruits and use it for their compost, and the farmers give OSU manure to also make compost.  

After all the things I have learned and taken away from this visit, I will definitely start to make use of all of the extra food, like vegetables and fruits, to help make compost when I go home for the summer. My family always starts a garden during spring time, and if I started to collect and reuse the food that we eat to make garden compost, we could save a lot of money and time that way. I also want to start to recycle plastic bottles, cardboard and paper in my dorm and at home because I now have seen the importance and the process that goes into it and I think it will be a good step in saving our globe. Learning about conserving energy and doing the little things to help our globe, I started to think about the things I do today that help contribute to that. First off, I am not very big on having lights on anyway because they are harsh and give me headaches, but everytime I do see a light on or know I could function without one on, I almost always turn it off. Same thing goes with running water. When brushing my teeth I know a lot of people leave the water running while doing this, but I always remind people to turn theres off and my own to help conserve water. My family also contributed to conserving energy when building our house by putting in many windows so our house is lit with natural light. By doing this we have saved a lot of money on electricity.

Thinking about if these practices, like recycling didn’t exist, we would be destroying all our natural habitats. By failing to rescue what we already have we will end up in a sticky situation and running out of resources. We would be up to our ears in garbage. Once you throw something away it has to go somewhere. If it weren’t for recycling our world would be a huge garbage can. My question is, what is stopping you from taking steps to being more sustainable? If you know the outcome of not being sustainable, why wouldn’t you start taking steps to being more sustainability now?

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23 Seconds

It’s only been a week since visiting the Sustainability Office at OSU, but I already find myself changing my habits at home. I thought it was very interesting that if you’re leaving the room for only 23 seconds, it is worth turning off your lights. Because of this, I’ve been turning off the lights in my house more frequently. I was shocked to learn that some of OSU’s furniture has been there since the 1920s because it is repaired so well. This shows that OSU has made sustainability a priority for almost 100 years. If this program had not been started, there would be an exorbitant amount of waste from OSU’s campus that did not occur. 

            I also walked away with almost a greater sense of pride towards being a student at OSU because of the fact that we reuse all of our compost – so not only is it from Oklahoma, it’s from our very own campus. I also loved that 40% of the food comes from Oklahoma. Not only is the recycling program good for OSU and the planet, but it’s also a money source because the recyclables are sold to the highest bidder, that is being paid for others’ waste. How much waste could fill the exact compost area we visited if no one cared about sustainability and did something about it for our campus? Would waste be an irreversible problem at this point? What if the leadership in our country prioritized sustainability the same way that the leadership at OSU prioritizes sustainability? I love how sustainability is a priority for Oklahoma State and is only increasing as time goes on.

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