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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Sustainability: Behind the Scenes

This past week, my sustainability class, Wicked Problems of Industrial Practice, visited the Oklahoma State sustainability office and recycling center. It really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes in recycling. I learned more about what the campus is doing to promote sustainability and what we as students can do to be more sustainable. A presentation we received from the head of OSU sustainability stated that over 200 classes at OSU involve sustainability, OSU transportation uses eco-friendly fuel, OSU food services offer vegetarian and vegan options while recycling also, and 70% percent of electricity on campus is powered by wind. I thought the most interesting part was the fact that 70% of our campus’ electricity comes from wind. I’ve always seen wind turbines when driving but I never knew that was where OSU got its power from. Along with this presentation we also visited the OSU upholstery shop where they take old furniture from campus and re-upholster it instead of buying all new furniture. Some things that stood out to me about the upholstery shop were the fact that it takes only three days to flip the furniture, some of the furniture they flip can be up to 100 years old, and the sewing machines they use are 50 years old and have no plastic parts, only metal. After all of this, we visited the recycling center and compost area. Some things that stood out to me about the recycling center were bottles and cans get bagged and put in a roll out container that goes all the way to Oklahoma City and the cardboard and paper get compressed and bailed separately and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some things that I found interesting about the compost area were the things accepted into the area are trees, brush, stumps, sticks, and shrubs and all of these things are mixed with horse manure. 

After we left the sustainability office and recycling center, I found myself thinking “What if these efforts did not exist?” Sustainability is all about conserving nature’s ecosystems, not saving the planet. The planet will survive no matter what, but the question is will we? I believe if none of these efforts ever existed the human race would be well on our way to extinction. These efforts help us to preserve the world we live in today so that it is still habitable for humans. Without recycling and sustainability efforts, our landfills could be overflowing with trash and our air could be much dirtier than it is today. 

Something the OSU head of sustainability mentioned in her presentation was that there are fabric recycling boxes around campus and Stillwater. Considering that I plan on starting my own clothing line when I graduate college, I think this would be a great addition to my company’s sewing centers. Sewing produces a large amount of fabric waste that just gets thrown in landfills and doesn’t decompose. With these fabric recycle bins we could do our part for the environment and keep fabric scraps from being thrown in landfills and reuse the scraps that otherwise would’ve gone to waste. 

All of my life I’ve always recycled all my paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles. Through this visit, I learned what happens when those recyclables leave my house! It really helped to open my eyes and make me mindful of how much trash people actually produce. One problem with promoting sustainability is most people never see the effects of their unsustainable practices, and showing people this would be a great way to boost their mindfulness of sustainability. All of this being said, the question I ask the class is:

What are some good ways our generation could help the younger generation be mindful of sustainability?

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The Sustainability Office Visit: What We Should All Take Away

I learned so much valuable information at the sustainability office visit and how I can apply to my life. I learned that sustainability is providing needs for today without jeopardizing future generations. We talked about the three pillars that include people, planet, and profit. It more about conserving than “saving”. We probably can’t save the earth, but we can conserve resources to help it thrive. I wasn’t aware of all the amazing things Oklahoma State has been doing to help with sustainability. They have over 200 class courses that teach or research about these issues and how we can help as a society. OSU also is a Tree Campus USA, that means we have to plant certain species of trees and we can’t spray chemicals. They use drip irrigation to not overuse water and they compost their landscape waste to be used for nourishment in other areas and to continue the good cycle. The buses at OSU run on a natural kind of gas instead of the regular diesel that pollutes so much. In the upholstery shop, I saw how they continue to fix up old pieces of furniture instead of throwing them and buying new ones. In the recycling center I observed how the process works and that we should be conscientious about what we put in our recycling bins so the people on the other side don’t have to sort through as much junk. The composting area was cool to see because they take from 700 acres and all you need is soil and greens to make it. Anyone can do this at their home or garden. If no one was doing anything about these issues of waste and pollution, our earth would be on a much faster decline. Even though some parts are still struggling it is good there are people in charge, like at the Sustainability Office at OSU that genuinely want to make a difference.

I want to do something myself that will help the environment. I want to make my own compost pile at home and I want to do more research on ways to keep the earth cleaner. I will choose to walk instead of always driving, I will recycle, and I will use cup and food products that I don’t throw away after every use. I plan to tell my peers about what I learned and how we can all work together to make little changes in our everyday lives. Instead of getting coffee at Starbucks and using plastic cups I will make coffee at home with a reusable mug. Little changes can make the biggest difference. One question I have for the class is what changes will you make going forward? And what can you do to get involved or to educate others? I believe we can make a big change within society if we really try.

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Oklahoma State is Making a Difference…Will You?

Who would’ve thought a more rural university like Oklahoma State would have such a passion for sustainability like they do?  I know I sure didn’t!  The trip to the sustainability office made me proud to go to this school seeing that so many individuals dedicate their careers to make the Stillwater campus just as green as it is orange!

The upholstery shop especially caught my eye during the tour of the sustainability office facility.  I never realized how old some of the classic furniture across campus was, and a lot of that is due to the incredible work they accomplish there!  It’s truly impressive to see how much is reused and revived into its former glory in that small upholstery shop, even down to the beautiful 50-year-old sewing machine!  Looking at this small operation made me think about how this practice could be applied to almost everything on this campus, including the architecture itself.  What if we utilized all of the older buildings on campus and adapted them to better fit our needs rather than simply tearing them down and throwing their materials into the dump?  The Donald W. Reynolds Architecture Building is proof that adaptive-reuse architecture is possible for this campus!  It is like the upholstery shop’s work…just on a much larger scale.  It would be keeping the most important parts of the building like they keep the most important parts of the furniture and updating the worn-out pieces.  Like I heard multiple times in the upholstery shop by multiple individuals, this practice “keeps cost down and quality up”.  That sure sounds like a win-win deal to me!

Aside from the upholstery shop, there were many areas of the sustainability office where I learned so much about all the amazing green work being done at OSU.  I’ve always wondered why we only recycled plastic bottles, aluminum cans, white paper, and cardboard instead of the full recycling scope, and it all became clear after taking a look at the recycling center.  It absolutely blew my mind how hard those men work to recycle all the paper products in the center…and it wasn’t even nearly as full as it could be!  When they described that cardboard sometimes was piled as high as the 30+ ft roof at the beginning of the school year, I could not even picture how different that location would look.  It truly made me think about how different our campus would function if we didn’t have the recycling center.  I still remember seeing the giant blue dumpster outside of my dorm filled to the brim with cardboard boxes after moving in as a freshman.  To think that all that cardboard would end up in the dump instead if we didn’t have the recycling center makes my stomach turn.  The campus would ultimately lose money in the long run, and our environment would hurt severely as well.  The gasses from the decomposing cardboard would give off would eventually make their way back to OSU’s campus and affect all the students’ lungs, doing who-knows-what to our bodies.

Looking at the piles of paper in the recycling center also made me think about how many times I choose the lazy route and simply throw away my extra pieces of paper of failed designs at my desk in the architecture building rather than walking the 20-30 steps to the white paper recycling bin.  I could’ve been looking at some of my draft floor plans that day, but I instead saw others’ good decision making to recycle their white paper.  I felt guilty at that moment… very guilty.  I wondered how many other students in the class felt the same during that time.  I know now every time I pass that recycling bin, I can see the piles of paper in my mind.  It reminds me of how each little action does add up in the end.  One decision to recycle instead of throwing away can truly make a difference.  Turning off your computer after completing an assignment can make a difference.  Choosing to ride a bike instead of driving your car on a nice day out can make a difference.  It makes a difference in sustainability, in the wicked problem of climate change, in the wicked problem of construction waste, and in many other areas of life.  The smallest action MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

Now the next step is just to ask yourself…

What small action am I going to do take towards solving the wicked problem of climate change through the use of sustainability in my life?

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What a Wickedly Cool Field Trip!!!

The visit to the sustainability office showed me how important that being sustainable is necessary for protecting Earth, and how hard OSU works to make sure they are helping out. Oklahoma State University has a furniture shop where they reupholster furniture so it can be used as long as possible. OSU also has a recycle and compost center where they bale cardboard to be recycled, and make compost for the landscapes around campus. On this trip I also learned many other things about sustainability. If these sustainability efforts at OSU did not exist the University would be paying a lot more money for energy they get from the windmills, and lower disposal costs. Without these efforts OSU would miss out on the improved human health, and improved quality of life. 

Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I also learned that the three pillars of sustainability are people, planet, and profit. I also learned that all things on the Earth are connected and that there are consequences for all actions. I also learned that turning the light off for 23 seconds at the least makes a difference in energy consumption. Since the sustainability trip I have made a few changes in my life to the things that I have learned. I have started turning the light off every single time I leave a room, which is something I didn’t do before because I thought it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I also now know that the recycling plant doesn’t count cereal boxes as cardboard, so I no longer put those boxes in the cardboard recycling bin. I also make sure to recycle all papers that i am finished with instead of throwing them away. 

My question for the class is: After this 8 week course ends how will you continue to change your life to be more sustainable? 

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The difference WE make

I recently got the pleasure of touring OSU’s facilities for sustainability and gained a new level of respect for the efforts our school makes for a better future. Our guide explained that the fundamentals of being sustainable is not a problem that can be solved but an effort made in the present to preserve the earth’s natural “income”  for the future and not overusing it as capital. Our group first toured the upholstery department which is one facet that contributes to this thought. Osu is huge in recycling many furniture pieces on campus have remained with keep up for an average of 30 years. Efforts are also made in almost every other department. I was astounded to learn that 70% of OSU’s electricity is generated by wind power as well as green centered dining options. Upon visiting the off-campus compost and recycling center I learned that our school turns 100 tons of waste into compost. I couldn’t imagine every ton of cardboard that wouldn’t be recycled going to a landfill if OSU didn’t make these efforts.

Going forward I can incorporate a multitude of the things I learned in my visit to become more sustainable. Recycling is present in every class building as well as in living situations. Learning to reuse or donate supplies helps create a circular life for objects. And flipping the light off is the way to go if you leave for more than 23 seconds. If I could question the class I might ask what sustainable fashion means to them.

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Sustainability is for Everyone!

Wow!  What an experience it was to visit the sustainability office as well as the recycling plant here at Oklahoma State University!  Before the field trip, I was oblivious that our campus was doing so much in efforts to be sustainable.  I learned many new things on the field trip, from how Burns Hargis is all for sustainability at OSU to how they repurpose furniture at the Student Union.  I was extremely pleased to learn both of those things and it honestly made me happy to learn that I attend a school where sustainability is important.  After seeing all these efforts, I realize how much waste and trash that would be created if we did not have facilities such as these.  I believe it is important to recycle, given that throwing something away, does not truly mean throwing it away.  It must go somewhere, so why not go to the appropriate place?  After visiting these places, I will now make a true effort in my life to put waste where it belongs.  Now that I can see that OSU is doing what it takes to be sustainable, I will try my hardest to contribute as well.  For example, I drink quite a bit of water and I will start recycling and reusing water bottles.   

My question for the class is: “how have your daily habits changed since you began this class, in terms of being more sustainable?”  

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