Project GreenPath

RecycleMania 2013 Takes Over Berkeley

RecycleMania logoGet your recycle bin ready and your carpooling plans in order — Berkeley College is participating in RecycleMania for the third year in a row. This year’s tournament kicked off on Sunday, February 3.

RecycleMania is an eight-week competition that aims to get students, faculty, and staff more involved in their college and passionate about the environment. The program, established in 2001, has grown exponentially over the past 12 years, expanding to about 605 U.S. colleges in 49 states. Some Canadian colleges have signed on as well.

In 2012, more than 6.2 million students and staff participated in the event, salvaging 94.4 million pounds of waste and preventing 148,897 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Colleges compete for awards in various categories, including waste minimization, paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, and electronics, a new category as of last year. Film plastics and game day recycling categories are new for 2013. All winners receive an eco-conscious trophy made from recycled goods and found materials; the grand champion category winner becomes the next host of the event. Ultimately, though, every participating school is a winner, as the event promotes good environmental habits that students, faculty, and staff can continue throughout the rest of their lives.

Get Involved

Berkeley College students, faculty, and staff can help the College’s RecycleMania efforts by placing recyclables in the noticeable bins at each location and setting up and participating in events that encourage recycling. Keep in mind that recycling is not just putting the right garbage in the right bin; recycling is also using items that would be considered garbage as useful products. Together, all of us here at Berkeley College can make a difference not only in terms of the competition but in the overall health of our planet.

--Kevin Cox, Berkeley College student

Totally Fracked

Producing natural gas from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is set to become part of American life for the next 100 years. In the U.S., proponents of fracking insist it provides a way to retrieve a natural and viable resource that will alleviate foreign energy dependency and rejuvenate the sluggish economy. However, there is a costly, more “dirty” side to fracking that the industry does not want made public. In states where fracking operations exist, the cases against the benefits and promises from fracking are clear and flamingly evident.

Fracking is an added step to the traditional oil drilling process, which drills deep vertical holes in the ground until oil reservoirs are reached. Fracking takes this a step further by drilling horizontally after drilling straight down to form an L-shaped burrow. The hole is then injected with millions of gallons of pressurized, chemically-treated water and sand. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, takes place as the toxic chemicals, sand, and pressurized water blast the layer of bedrock or shale, releasing the gases trapped within the bedrock itself, and making it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil. The process sounds simple, but comes with inherent typical drilling dangers, as well as additional threats that apparently are not alarming enough for energy companies or some states to enact preventative measures.

In Wyoming, for instance, despite the death of livestock and diesel-tainted water flowing from faucets, it was not until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a preliminary report citing “the Pavillion area of Wyoming as the one — and only — place in the nation where fracking has caused water contamination” that some action was taken. Wyoming was the first state to require full disclosure of the fracking chemical cocktail used by oil companies while drilling for natural gas. California, in a more precautionary step, was the first state to release fracking regulations in December 2012. While states like Vermont banned fracking altogether, Maryland and New York set moratoriums on the practice to assess the effects of the drilling process.

On the surface, natural gas drilling with the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” seems to be a wonderful advancement, but like the process itself, all of the action happens beneath the surface. First, it is not a sustainable solution. Second, the additional threats are quite incredible. Though certain advocates contend that water and air pollution problems from fracking are rare, their claims do not hold up against the evidence. Fracking has caused groundwater contamination, for instance, and there is evidence that there has been improper disposal of contaminated water and chemicals as well as noise and air pollution from escaping methane. There have also been reports of radiation poisoning. Many documentaries and movies have been made on the subject, and global media outlets have been reporting the hardships people are experiencing as a result of this practice. One famous case captured in the documentary film “Gasland” shows how tap water near one fracking area is so polluted by escaped gases that it literally ignites and bursts into flames when a lighter is held to it.

With all the negative reports and concerns, many on both sides maintain that natural gas use is a much greener fuel. In fact, a number of environmental groups have even embraced natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future. A report by the Worldwatch Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world, found that “over its full cycle of production, distribution, and use, natural gas emits just over half as many greenhouse gas emissions as coal for equivalent energy output.” But studies conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the EPA, and Cornell University found otherwise. Although natural gas itself is greener when burned compared to coal, their findings point to the entire process, or the cradle-to-grave process of producing natural gas, where released and leaked greenhouse gases could essentially negate global warming advantages over coal.

Worse yet, more recent studies conducted by scientists at Duke University and California State Polytechnic University at Pomona revealed that drinking water wells and aquifers across northeastern Pennsylvania had mixed with brine that closely matched brine thought to be from the Marcellus Shale or areas close to it. This is not just indicative of a grave problem, as fracking in the U.S. generates an estimated 8.1 trillion gallons of wastewater daily, but a consistent problem in most every state there is fracking. Has the government learned nothing from past oil company disasters?

Is regulation the key? If the regulations are all filler and not enforceable, then the answer is a resounding no. It is impractical to believe the hydraulic fracturing process will be totally perfected without aggressive, enforceable regulations and prohibitory protective measures. “Natural gas” is an eco-friendlier alternative, so it is a start in the right direction. However, solar or wind energy capture could conceivably be a better course of action.

Common sense clauses should be adopted into policy, such as treating wastewater as we do medical waste and increasing the 100- to 150-foot distance beyond the 500-foot purposed distance from homes or buildings. Better yet, there should be no fracking anywhere remotely close to people, food and drinking water supplies, clean water supplies, plants, and animals. Let’s hope New York governor Andrew Cuomo makes the right decision in implementing true rules come this February 27, when the state’s moratorium is set to end and a decision not to drill is finalized. If not, well, we New Yorkers may be totally FRACKED!

--Freddy Valle, Berkeley College alumnus

Farmers' Markets: Bringing the Farm Home

pieWhen I recall the best food I have ever tasted, I think about my childhood and the many meals on my grandparents’ farm. The setting was bucolic. There were cows to milk, eggs to gather, and the feeding and moving of livestock. At day’s end, I was primed for a great meal, and my grandma’s cooking never disappointed. Those were the most memorable meals with all of the freshest, best-tasting vegetables, fruit, meats, and eggs to be found anywhere.

Times have changed and job opportunities in metro areas have dictated quite a different lifestyle for many. However, there are many opportunities to buy farm-fresh food at farmers' markets throughout New York and New Jersey. Offerings vary by location and time of year, but most sell fish, meat, produce, and various local delicacies.

Buying local reaps many benefits, especially for the planet. Buying local lessens pollutants introduced into the environment from shipping. Those who make the choice to consume local enjoy superior quality, freshness, and convenience.

Find a farmers' market by visiting localharvest.com or localfarmmarkets.org and entering your city. Newer locations have opened indoor facilities to make shopping more convenient and comfortable, especially during winter months. New York City residents can find additional locations and resources at grownyc.org/ourmarkets. My personal favorite is Union Square Farmers Market, which is open every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Be an educated consumer; get to know your vendors and ask questions. Find out about their growing methods and if they use genetically modified (GM) seeds. Some farmers are not certified organic due to costs associated with accreditation, but may still adhere to organic standards and sustainable farming practices. Most are happy to share information about their growing practices and environmental disposition.

Some farmers' market tips:

  1. Many vendors discount items before closing down for the day. Some very good buys may be available to those who shop during the later part of the market hours.
  2. Bring a cloth or reusable bag to carry your purchases.
  3. Learn how to best store produce at home. Try some of the products on the market that claim to extend the freshness of produce, such as the Ethylene Gas Guardian (EGG), Debbie Meyer Green Bags, and ExtraLife green discs.
  4. Discounts may be available if you purchase large quantities.
  5. Some markets sell frequent buyers memberships. Check the main booth.
  6. Numerous inner-city markets now accept SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps). Double SNAP benefits are accepted in some cases. Check online or at the main booth on-site.

--Robert Nunemacher, Berkeley College student

Berkeley College Community Donates to Better World Books

Berkeley College student Amir HamzaThe Woodland Park, Paramus, and White Plains libraries shipped more than 100 boxes of used books to Better World Books following location-wide book drives and other purging efforts. Woodland Park has donated 95 boxes of books since September. Paramus donated eight boxes in December; White Plains recently donated 10 boxes. White Plains made its second donation to the organization, which collects and sells books online to distribute books and fund literacy initiatives around the world. So far, the organization, which calls itself “the online bookstore with a soul,” has raised almost $13.5 million for libraries and literacy.

Better World Books will donate part of the proceeds from the sale of the books to Sandy relief funds set up by the New York and New Jersey Library Associations. The organization will match funds generated from this campaign up to $5,000.

The White Plains library will continue to collect unwanted books. Check your location for donation opportunities. Pictured is Amir Hamza, the Berkeley College student who boxed the books donated by the White Plains community.