Yay! Field Trip!

    Recently, my class took a field trip to the sustainability office. Even though I did not know this place existed, I still assumed OSU had something like it. The visit was interesting! The upholstery shop was cool to me because I love seeing things go from old to new or broken to fixed. I thought it was neat how they used old fabrics and materials to recreate or even upcycle old furniture. The placing of this building is kinda unique; it is right on the edge of campus and hidden to most students who have no idea what the building is used for! It is crazy how I didn’ t even know that this place existed and yet they are the reason the furniture in my dorm is sturdy and the things I use on a daily basis look so well-kept. If the hard work that I saw didn’t exist, OSU would not be saving money by repurposing old furniture, and honestly, the furniture may even make the campus look less presentable. I am so thankful for the men and women who spend their day there working to make our campus more sustainable. 

    I was truly inspired by the upholstery shop because in the future I want to make sure that I try and upcycle things of my own instead of wasting resources. One day, when I am a designer for a company, I want to be able to take old furniture and make it look brand new and incorporate it into my designs. 

 I also learned many things about how OSU’s campus is sustainable. One thing I learned was about how the buses run on a certain type of fuel that is good for the air. Also, it was interesting that the roof of the student union collects rainwater and uses it to water the garden in front of the union. I thought it was cool that the chef at Rancher’s uses some of the produce from the garden as well. I think I can add a couple of these practices to my daily life in order to go along with how well OSU is at being sustainable. I can choose to not idle in my car and maybe even walk to places. 

At the recycling center, I found out that they actually condense the paper and cardboard and sell it! This whole process kinda reminded me of the disney movie “Wallie,” where the Earth has become a wasteland and people decide to move to space. The movie’s main character, Wallie, is a tiny robot who neatly organizes the waste by condensing it into tiny cubes and creating buildings and roadways out of them! This movie came out when I was a kid, so let’s hope that society knows what’s in our future if we don’t act sustainably!!

    How can we as students act more sustainably if technology is only becoming more advanced and the resources we are using are not good for the environment? How will we change our ways if these things are increasing faster than we can think of a solution? 

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The Office

The visit to the sustainability office was very useful, in the fact that it is one of the many types of places I can use my degree for after I graduate. It gave me a view of how sustainable interior design can be. I was completely unaware of how much details they attended to around campus, down to repairing and reupholstering furniture. I think this is also something I can take away as well. Instead of throwing out broken or ripped up furniture, I kind of went into the visit thinking that we were mainly going to learn about where the items we put in the recycle bins go. I learned not only do the facility management save the university money, they are also sustainable in their efforts. They are also sustainable in other areas I did not think of. I was baffled learning that 40% of the food served on campus is locally sourced as well. If these efforts did not exist, I feel like school would be way more expensive than it is now. I think the question I would like to pose to the class is how might you be sustainable about the items you already own within your home?

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What Happens When You Recycle?

The visit to the sustainability office was an eye-opening experience for me. It was interesting to be able to see local recycling practices up close in person. Was any of the shredded paper that was turned into a bale in front of our eyes mine? Were any of the plastic bottles in the plastic bags mine at one point? The possibility was fascinating to think about. Before the field trip, I was unaware of most of the ways that our university practices sustainability. I knew some of the ways that the university tries to help students be more mindful when they throw something away. For example, next to most trash cans on campus is another bin for recyclable materials. In each computer lab, there is a paper recycling bin that students can use to recycle pages that may have misprint or pages they aren’t using anymore. All of these recyclable materials are sent to the recycling facilities on the edge of campus to be sorted and compacted. These materials are then resold to be upcycled in future projects. In addition to paper, the facility also recycles discarded cardboard from the university campus. Worn or damaged furniture from around campus is sent to the upholstery shop to be repaired and reupholstered so that the furniture can be used for many more years.   

The visit to the sustainability office has shown me many ways that I can practice sustainable design in my future career as a fashion designer. There are numerous ways to incorporate re-used or recycled materials to create quality fashionable garments that will last. Minimalist designs can increase the longevity of a garment. This type of design is trendy to individuals of all ages and body times. Garments that have simple construction will be much easier to repair to resize based on the needs of an individual verses garments that have complex construction.

At the sustainability office, I learned many practices that I will incorporate into my daily life. Most of these practices are easy habit changes that everyone should start doing, like turning the light off when you leave a room or recycling instead of throwing away. At home I will unplug cords when they are not in use, and I will wash clothes on the cool setting to decrease energy consumption. I will also be more mindful of my purchases, and try to seek out more environmentally friendly alternatives to items that are not traditionally eco-friendly.  

Why may people be aware of sustainable alternatives but still choose options that are harmful to the environment?

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discussions of a not so greek tragedy

Why is it that we are drawn to tragedy?

For example, the modern genre of “true crime” has skyrocketed in popularity over the last 20 years. This is because people love to learn about mysteries and to delve into the minds of serial killers and other criminals.

However, what all of us do not acknowledge is that a true crime novel could be written about each of us. We engage in criminal acts every day—murder, stealing, and even defacement of public property.

“How dare you! I am no criminal scum bag.” Is what you are probably thinking.

But you are. You, and I and everyone else are murdering, stealing, and defacing the natural habitat we call home.

We buy things that are manufactured by large chains of corporations. By doing so, we do not see the impact we make—these corporations contract with factories whose byproducts of production pollute the environment of the countries in which they reside. We do not see the animals and humans that perish because of this pollution. We do not see the pollution-dirtied pools of water from which underdeveloped countries take water to use for everyday life. We do not see the disease that humans in these environments contract because of pollution from factories. By supporting large corporations, we are stealing from our environment, from the lives of others, and from our future generations. In addition, the pollution created by corporations in their efforts to keep up with our demands negatively alters our environment’s appearance—sometimes irreversibly. If we truly abided by the laws of our land and of our world, each of us would face punishment and consequences for committing these crimes against humanity and against nature.

If we thought about our actions as if we were characters in a true crime story, do you think we would behave differently?

The waste we produce and the harm we inflict upon our environment can sometimes be helped. This was evident when our class visited the Sustainability office on campus. We were able to see first-hand some efforts that OSU is making to enforce and promote sustainability in Stillwater. We were refreshed on the triple bottom line, and encouraged to reduce, reuse, and recycle—in that order. The upholstery shop re-covers, repairs, and re-stains furniture from all over campus. The fabric used to re-cover these pieces of furniture is often recycled from various sources instead of bought new. The recycling center was apparently “cleaned out” before we got there, yet there was still quite a bit of waste inside. We learned the difference between different types of paper waste; for example, cardboard is different from junk mail is different from white paper. We were able to visit the composting yard to see how materials from all over campus are returned to the earth to be decomposed and enrich the soil. It seems as though the more we learn about the terrible things that humans are doing to our environment, we also learn about good things that mindful people are doing to help improve and offset tragedy.

From visiting the sustainability center, I learned some things that could help my own sustainability practices. For example, there are places around campus that anyone can go to and recycle textiles. They act as donation bins, and the sustainability office will pick up that material and use the textiles directly or break them down to their fibers to be recycled that way. So maybe the designers in DHM should collect all our scraps instead of throwing them “away” so that we can bring them to one of these textile recycling locations on campus. Another example of something I learned at the sustatinability office that helps me in my daily life is not only the concept of RRR, but the order. We were prompted to think first of how we can reduce our consumption, secondly on how we can reuse leftovers from consumption, and thirdly how we can recycle what is left after that. I like thinking of even the smallest of ways I can reduce my consumption, such as buying clothes secondhand instead of new or using less gas. I do not often buy disposable water bottles but refill a Nalgene throughout the day. Also, I really like to take my own shopping bags when I go grocery shopping and have made a habit out of this. I further understand from this visit to the sustainability office and from taking wicked problems that sustainability cannot happen unless we are mindful of our actions and in tune with ourselves.

In the future, I would like to use fashion as a vehicle for communicating important messages about sustainability to the world. I think that humans universally respond strongly to visual messages, and this is why I believe that fashion can be so impactful when its power is harnessed. From visiting the sustainability office’s recycling center, I was reminded of the large volume of trash humans create. It would be very interesting to explore ways to use this trash as components for apparel. It would be cool to make garments out of trash that were very bizarre in order to capture an audience, but also it would be beneficial to further research ways to incorporate trash into daily clothing. It might also be a fruitful effort to convey to people that the current volume of trash is not okay—it is ugly, harmful, and reckless. If this could somehow be conveyed through clothing, I think it would be a memorable message.

Maybe there is some hope for us–maybe we are destined to redeem ourselves from the criminal scumbag title. With determination and mindfulness, I believe we can achieve this feat. We should think of ways we can turn our life around because, as long as we are living, we can make a difference for the better. We can positively impact our own lives, our natural environment, and future generations to come.

To close, I would like to offer a proposition. Crime is something that many humans are naturally drawn to. Could it be a survival mechanism, or a primal instinct? Could it be that we are so frightened by the gory details that we feel the need for closure? Or is it something else entirely?

Maybe the reason we are drawn to tragedy is because we are so tragic ourselves.

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Sustainability Adventures

From the presentation during our sustainability office visit I learned that sustainability is: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability equals good stewardship of the environment, economy, and society. I learned that the student union was partly LEED certified due to a few systems such as water bottle refill systems as well as being built of reused material and the ranchers club has a garden up top which the chef picks fresh produce from, which also helps the classification. I also learned we cannot be a fully green campus until we have a system for food waste, however food waste is a complicated and expensive process. I also learned that our busses emit less fumes than typical buses and we have a place to rent bikes for alternate transportation. Oklahoma State also has an energy conservation program which was put in place in 2009 and set energy guidelines, where conservation was everyone’s responsibility. It focuses on  the behavioral changes of turning down HVAC systems, turning off lights and computer equipment, and energy efficiency. Overall this program has saved over $50 million system-wide. If these efforts did not exist, we would be spending a significantly greater amount of money on energy and contributing to the world’s waste and pollution even more greatly, since there is such a large population of people on campus. 

I may incorporate communicating green initiatives to students, staff, and faculty to bring awareness to sustainability in my future career, and can currently encourage my roommates to turn off the lights when we are not using them in order to conserve energy. I can also carpool with friends to create less pollution or walk or take other forms of transportation when possible. Every day, I wake up and get ready with the lights on, which contributes to energy use. I can be better about turning off lights when I am not using them and only having one light on at a time because that is all I truly need so that I am not being wasteful. Within my daily practices I can be more mindful and be sure to walk to classes as they are not far, rather than driving, or take the bus if necessary. 

A question I have is whether the notion of wicked problems offers any new insights on how to tackle wicked problems in policy practice? Has wickedness become a new frame to advocate already existing governance approaches or does it offer new governance ideas for tackling a specific type of problems?

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The Great Smog

I have always loved to travel.  I have been fortunate to go on many different vacations with my family. We have visited different countries and seen many different cultures.  One of my favorite vacations was when my parents took our whole family to London to celebrate my mother’s fiftieth birthday.  London is vastly different from Dallas where I grew up.  The buildings are old and ornamental, and still used today.  It was so interesting to see castles and royal guards.  I was shocked at all of the differences, but I was especially surprised at the weather.  London’s weather is cloudy and cooler than Dallas.  One morning I woke up and saw a fog over the city.  It seemed like peaceful cloud had come down out of the sky to rest among the buildings.  I asked our tour guide about it and they said that fog is common in London, then he went on to tell the story of the Great Smog in London in 1952.  It was an unbelievably thick haze that blanketed the city.  It was so dense drivers couldn’t see and police had to take to the street with flares in their hands to direct traffic.  The great smog had started out as an unusual weather event called a reverse cyclone.  This is where super cold air at the top of the atmosphere is pushed downward, causing a frigid downward wind.  The city’s temperature quickly dropped, and the coal powered electrical plants began burning more and more coal to keep up with the heating demands.   The smoke coming out of the power plants contained a variety of pollutants.  The smoke could not rise, because the winds from the reverse cyclone were blowing it back down toward the earth.  The air became thick with noxious fumes and between 4,000 and 10,000 people died as an outcome.  This was the first I had heard about this, and just like everyone else on the tour I was very intrigued.  It seemed unreal that something like that could occur.  It was a perfect example of how we, as a society, are enemies unto ourselves which makes me think of how sustainable our global culture is.

I am grateful to be part of a university that is making sustainability a priority.  I recently visited the Office of Sustainability on campus and was blown away by the initiatives that are being implemented campus wide.  I was told about the bus shelters that were installed.  The university has installed solar panels on the roof.  These panels collect solar energy that is then converted to electricity and stored in capacitors.  The energy is then used for all of the nighttime lighting.  The transportation department didn’t stop there.  The buses themselves run on compressed natural gas.  This is a more sustainable than burning gasoline, and puts less pollutants into the air.  Lastly, the university offers “Orange Ride” which is a bicycle rental service to reduce the number of cars on campus.  It also promotes healthy habits, it’s a win-win.  In addition to the solar energy harnessed for the buses, seventy percent of the electricity used on campus is powered by a wind farm.  Wind energy is sustainable and a clean form of energy just like solar energy.   The campus has many strong reduce and reuse programs.  The upholstery shop on campus is a great example of this.  At the shop it takes three days to fix furniture.  This is so nice because then the furniture will be reused and not end up in a landfill.  Additionally, the upholstery shop uses recycled fabrics, instead of old fabrics turning into rags or going into the landfill.  The shop can produce better quality furniture.  These are all great examples of what is going on currently around us at OSU.  We are so lucky that the president of our university is a champion of sustainable living for our current and future students.

I am so glad that I was able to take this class and see the wicked problems around me.  I am now recycling my own trash.  I have no longer drink water out of plastic water bottles, I bring my own refillable container everywhere.  I have also begun thinking about the recycled materials that you could use in the apparel industry.  Recycled fabrics are a huge step toward sustainability.  I also think there could be major impacts from reusing machinery parts once a machine has become obsolete.  There are a lot of opportunities.  I am grateful for all of the efforts that OSU is currently making.  The variety of energy sources that our campus uses are clean and renewable.  It makes me feel secure that on campus the “Great Smog” will not have a repeat appearance.  The city of London had no idea that they themselves were creating the smog.  As they burned coal to keep warm, they flooded the air with pollutants.  As the air became thicker, police were directing traffic with flares and this put even more pollutants into the air and made the smog thicker.  As the traffic slowed and was on the road longer, the vehicles poured even more exhaust into the air and made the smog even thicker and more polluted.  London was fighting the smog, but they were really fighting themselves.  Is that what we are now doing?  Are we just constantly fighting ourselves?  Wicked problems can only be solved when resolution is adopted globally.  We all need to decide to find a solution and instead of fighting ourselves, fight the problem.

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Small Changes Lead to Big Impacts

Visiting the Sustainability Office for last week’s class was a very eye opening opportunity. I was unaware that OSU had a sustainability office, recycling building and a compost plant. I learned so much about the little things OSU does to be more sustainable, and how those small actions all lead up to making a huge impact. Some things I learned OSU does to be more sustainable is the fact that we have an upholstery facility, where a lot of the furniture on campus and in residential life are taken for repairs. We also compost everything we can except for food, simply because the legal permits necessary to compost food are hard to obtain. OSU ends up saving hundreds of thousands of food waste, cardboard and trash waste from going into a landfill. Cardboard and paper bundles are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and the university actually makes money from recycling. I had no idea that recycled items are sold like this, but I am still confused as to what happens to the bundles after they are bought by someone. 

Visiting these facilities was very beneficial to me because I learned more about what exactly can be recycled, and that it is very available at OSU. Some small changes I can make are to be more aware of emptying containers before recycling them and checking labels to make sure they can be recycled in the first place. It was new to me that not all cardboard can be recycled. Old pizza boxes are unable to be recycled because of the grease and food residue. Overall, small changes like being more aware of what I recycle and the condition it is in when I recycle it, can make it much easier and more effective in the long run. I am thankful for this opportunity to see OSU’s recycling efforts in action!

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