Thursday, May 28, 2015

Out Of The Classroom And Into The Woods

May 26, 2015
Emily Hanford
Partner content from American Public Media
Kids in the U.S. are spending less time outside. Even in kindergarten, recess is being cut back. But in the small town of Quechee, Vt., a teacher is bucking that trend: One day a week, she takes her students outside — for the entire school day.
It's called Forest Monday.
Eliza Minnucci got the idea after watching a documentary about a forest school in Switzerland where kids spend all day, every day, out in the woods.
"I would do that in a heartbeat," she thought to herself. Then reality hit. "We're in a public school in America. That's not going to happen."
But her principal at the Ottauquechee School in central Vermont surprised her by saying: Try it.
Every Monday morning, the kids suit up for a day outdoors. Rain or shine — even in the bitter cold — they go out. They head to the woods next to their school where they've built a home site with forts and a fire pit.
First thing, the kids go to their "sit spots." These are designated places — under a tree, on a log — where each kid sits quietly, alone, for 10 minutes. Their task is to notice what's changed in nature since last week.
"There's more moisture in the air," a boy named Orion Bee tells me. An astute observation: It's early April on the day I visit, and the snow is starting to melt, making the air feel slightly soggy.
Playtime is next. Kids run around and do all kinds of things they're not allowed to do inside, like yell and throw things. Down by the stream, two boys are working together to build a dam.
"We can't roll it," says one boy, pushing with all his might to try to move a downed tree onto the dam.
"We can roll it!" insists the other boy. They push and push, to no avail. Eventually, one of the boys realizes he can get leverage using the tree's branches. Teacher Eliza Minnucci is standing about 20 feet away, watching.
"We're supposed to study force and motion in kindergarten," she says — and these boys just got a real-world lesson. "Outside offers so much," she says. "It is sort of the deepest and widest environment for learning that we have."
There are formal lessons in the forest, too. After playtime, the kids visit learning stations. At one, they paint using natural materials. At another, they make letters out of sticks. One girl struggles to make an "S."
"I'm going to get some curvy sticks!" she declares. Realizing that curvy sticks are hard to come by, she soon comes up with the idea of making a backwards "Z" instead.
"Kids are so resourceful out here," says Minnucci. "In the classroom, we chunk everything into small pieces. We teach them discrete skills and facts and they put it together later. That's a good way to learn, but it's not the way the world works," she says. "I like giving them the opportunity to be in a really complex place where they need to think about how to build a dam with a peer and at the same time, think about staying dry and staying warm."
There are very few rules in the woods. Take care of yourself, take care of others, don't wander too far away; that's pretty much it. The goal is to let kids experience independence and help them learn the self-regulation skills that are so important to becoming a successful adult. Minnucci points to a kid sitting in the stream.
"It's 33 degrees out. He's sitting in water. And he's going to figure out whether that becomes uncomfortable or not," she says. "I don't need to make a rule for him. He's going to figure that out. This is a place where he can learn to take care of himself."
Minnucci worries that U.S. schools have become too focused on academics and test scores and not enough on "noncognitive" skills such as persistence and self-control. There is growing attention on the importance of these skills, but Minnucci doesn't think traditional school is set up to teach them very well.
Forest Mondays, however, provide lots of opportunities.
"I see some amazing grit," she says with a smile, looking over at the boys who have successfully moved the downed tree onto their dam.
At Ottauquechee School, taking children into the woods requires more adult supervision. Grants pay for an additional forest day teacher. And most Mondays, there's at least one parent volunteer. Chris Cooper comes often.
"I like spending time with my son," he says. "I think it's a really great idea that they get the kids out. They're able to just kind of explore and figure things out on their own."
And what do the students think?
"We get to play and we don't have to stay seated forever," says kindergartner Jacob Tyburski.
When Minnucci started this experiment two years ago, she knew it would be good for the rowdy boys, who clearly need to run around more than the typical school day offers.
What she didn't foresee was how good it would be for the children who can sit still and "do" school when they're 5 years old.
Kids who are good at school need to understand there's more to life than acing academics, says Minnucci. And students who aren't excelling at the academic stuff need to know there's value in the things they are good at.
Clearly there's a lot students are learning in the forest. But what about standardized test scores?
Minnucci says scores went up more last year than any other year she's been teaching. She's quick to point out there could be lots of reasons for that.
What her students gain from the experience might not be measurable, she says, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
Her principal, Amos Kornfeld, agrees. He says schools are being forced to think about everything in terms of data and measurable outcomes, but he doesn't need test scores to tell him forest kindergarten is working.
When the kids come back from the woods, they look happy and healthy, he says. "Schools need to be focusing on that, too."
Emily Hanford is an education correspondent for American Radio Works.
Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Public Works Sustainability Division
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Go to Your Happy Place: Understanding Why Nature Makes Us Feel Better

May 22, 2015  |  by: Bob Lalasz
Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Kathrin & Stefan Marks/Flickr, through a Creative Commons license.
Bob Lalasz is director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy.
Let’s say you’re prone to depression — like an estimated one in every 20 people worldwide.
What if there were a pill called “nature” — proven to quickly boost your mood, tailored to give you the maximum dose response, and able to change the way you think about yourself for the better?
Would you get out into nature more than you do now? Help conserve it? Live in cities that have more of it?
That “pill” is the Holy Grail scientist Greg Bratman is chasing through his research. While lots of past studies have argued that being in nature generally makes us feel better and perform better on cognitive tests, they haven’t increased rates of outdoor activity.
So Bratman (a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford) is diving deep to find out which kinds of nature at which lengths of exposure impact which groups of people the most, and for how long.
It’s state-of-the-art stuff, using tools such as MRI machines, skin conductance sensors, and working-memory tests delivered to people via cell phone as they’re on a nature walk. And the research is far from finished — Bratman’s first paper was just published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.
But if the data bear out Bratman’s hypothesis, it could open up another new way people would value and use nature: for its psychological benefits to them as individuals.
“A lot of people grasp intuitively that nature makes them feel better, and the research generally shows it,” Bratman says.
“But how do you push them over the tipping point and into action? How do you get cities designed so that more nature is set aside within them? Finding the mechanisms and modeling the benefits on an individual level will make the science much more convincing.”
Stop Brooding about It: More Nature, Less Rumination
But first: Why does being in nature make many people feel better than, say, being in a city?
Evolution offers one explanation: we’ve developed an innate preference for nature experiences — particularly those landscapes (such as savannas) that provided our ancestors with food and refuge from predators.
But Bratman’s new paper suggests another cause: nature is much better than urban environments at defeating our propensity to brood or ruminate (what Bratman calls “engaging in repetitive, negative autobiographical thoughts”).
And that anti-ruminative quality might be key to nature’s psychological benefits, because rumination is highly associated with depressive episodes, says Bratman — both their onset as well as prolonging them.
“I’m very interested in rumination because a shift in this type of attention allocation might help explain what nature experience is doing to the way we think, which could then explain the other mood benefits we see from getting out into nature,” says Bratman.
For the study, Bratman took 60 randomized subjects, gave them cognitive and mood assessments and then sent them either on a nature walk on the Stanford campus (a grassland with occasional trees) or a walk along a Palo Alto boulevard with heavy car traffic.
All the participants took 10 photos of “whatever captured their attention” during the walk, to prove that the walk took place and obscure the true purpose of the study. (They used a phone Bratman provided them, and were told not to use their own.)
Then they underwent 75 minutes of additional testing after the walk — self-assessments about how they felt as well as memory and other cognitive tests.
The self-assessments showed that being in nature does a much better job than city life at decreasing anxiety, rumination and negative emotions while also increasing positive emotions.
But is it just distraction from negative thought patterns, which other environments or experiences might also accomplish?
Or does nature provide something above and beyond distraction that cities or video games or movies can’t?
Reframing a Grunt: Emotion Regulation and Nature Experience
While his research into the mechanisms behind these results is just beginning, Bratman says that nature might be prompting what psychologists call “cognitive reappraisal” of events, thereby changing their emotional meaning.
“If I’m talking to you and you grunt when I say something,” says Bratman, “I could either think you’re grunting because I said something stupid or because you’re clearing your throat. Those interpretations are going to have vastly different kinds of emotional repercussions for me, and that’s just a silly example of what reappraisal can do — reframing an event that changes how I feel.”
Greg Bratman.
“So simple distraction can help people who have high levels of rumination and negative affect,” Bratman adds. “But there’s another type of emotion regulation that is a possibility as well: that nature is encouraging cognitive reappraisal, and that it encourages the ability to engage in this adaptive way of thinking that could help explain affective benefits.”
Again, it’s just a theory, and much more research is needed. But if nature experiences turn out to be particularly good at reappraisal, such findings could have ramifications for global mental health trends, says Bratman.
That’s because numerous studies suggest that recent increases in the levels of mental disorders globally are tied to increasing urbanization and people’s decreasing exposure to nature.
“We’re at 50 percent urbanization worldwide, and we’re headed toward 70 percent in a couple of decades,” says Bratman. “Our hypothesis is that urban life involves a constant stream of stressors that raise the baselines of our cognitive loads and rumination levels, adding to our risk factor for mental illness.”
In the meantime, Bratman has made important steps toward a better understanding of the link between nature and better moods, says Ben Levy, a co-author on the new paper and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco.
“Most of this [previous research] is correlational, which I didn’t find that compelling — a kid who has a view of nature outside his window will perform a little bit better than another kid who doesn’t have that view,” says Levy.
“Experimental research, like what we did here, where we have control over who gets exposed to nature and over other variables — like amount of exercise — is quite rare. Greg was very careful here, he included more measures of affect and cognition to see what is actually influenced. It’s clear from these findings you get an affective benefit from nature.”
Finding Your Happy Place: The Long Research Road Ahead
The ultimate goal of Bratman’s research agenda: To build a detailed “map” of which kinds of nature experiences deliver which emotional and cognitive impacts to which kinds of people (as well as most broadly overall).
People who tend to depression, for instance, might search that map to find the precise kind of forest or grassland walk that could best stop them from ruminating.
Or urban planners might use it to create “smart” nature experiences in their cities — oases that could  appeal to corporations looking to give their workforces an edge over the competition, say.
Such knowledge could turn the “nature = well-being” narrative from just a vague feel-good story into an amenity — one that citizens might seek out and demand in their communities.
“The field is moving toward figuring out the causal mechanisms behind these effects, and also they differ across cultures and individuals based on personality characteristics,” says Bratman. “What’s the dose-response relationship? How much nature does it take, and what kinds? Do different kinds of nature have different impacts?”
Bratman himself is digging into what he calls the “psycho-physiological impacts of nature experience on rumination” — tracking differences in heart rate, skin conductance, and other measures of bodily responses as people ruminate in both nature and urban settings, and examining if these different environments have different impacts on physiology and rumination.
(By the way, while Bratman’s experiment reaffirms the connection between nature experience and feeling better about yourself, he found only mixed evidence for the long-standing claim that “nature makes you smarter.” More about that in my post next week.)
The science needed to make the hard case for nature as a psychological amenity — one that you could map, administer in self-dosages, or even market — seems vast and painstaking: the work of a decade, perhaps.
But Levy thinks we might not need to wait for all the research to be in to act on the early findings.
“The questions about what exact natural environment provides the greatest benefit to whom are really interesting — but if you know that nature does provide this benefit, it certainly doesn’t hurt to start providing nature to people, right?” Levy says.
“Yeah, you might be able to find something else that’s equivalent, but if nature works, it works. You can take advantage of that observation.”
Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy. 
Posted In: Nature & Psychology
Bob Lalasz is the director of science communications at The Nature Conservancy and the editor of the new Cool Green Science. A long-time editor and writer, he was previously the Conservancy's associate director of digital marketing. He now blogs here about the Conservancy's scientific research and on-the-ground work as well as larger conservation science and science communications issues.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reinventing the wheel, 'Tron'-style

It looks cool, and it converts any bicycle into an electric bike. Oh, and it takes 5 minutes to install.
May 20, 2015
The GeoOrbital wheel in motion. That's not an optical illusion — the wheel is motionless as the tire spins. (Photo: GeoOrbital)
BOSTON—The first thing I noticed in Harvard Square this week was how many bicyclists there are, and the second thing was the GeoOrbital electric bike. It’s not often that a new invention stops you cold, but c’mon, these Cambridge guys have reinvented the wheel. Here's how GeoOrbital describes it:
Imagine a wheel that has a motor and a battery — a wheel that replaces your bike’s front wheel and makes your bike electric — a wheel that gets you up hills, around the park and to work without sweating. It’s the future and the early adopter price is $450.
I have two electric bikes, and they’re great fun. Beyond that, they’re a credible commuting option, especially if your journey involves hills (or you’re not as young as you used to be).
You definitely do a double take at GeoOrbital’s technology, because the wheel doesn’t actually turn — that’s the job of the tire, which rotates via three center-mounted hubs. A non-spinning wheel frees up a lot of space to mount the motor and battery, as well as some inevitable accessories — a cellphone charger, headlights, a speaker.
Michael Burtov with his evolving (and revolving) creation. (Photo: GeoOrbital)
Early versions weighed 35 pounds, but Dakota Decker, the company’s chief technology officer (and a former SpaceX guy) thinks that can be reduced to 20 or 25 pounds. Weight is the enemy in electric bikes, which can be heavy if pedaled without electric assist.
Michael Burtov, the non-engineer who co-founded GeoOrbital, said he got the idea from the motorcycles in the movie "Tron." But those fictional creations don’t make creative use of the empty inner wheel space. Burtov built a crude prototype, then brought some real designers on board. The company is still in its early stages — just three test examples have been built — but they're already taking pre-orders. After a few hundred pre-production wheels are sold, the first mass-market versions will be on the market in six months, Burtov said.
The inspiration: The motorcycle in the film "Tron." (Photo: Disney)
The beauty of the design is that the front-mounted wheel can be quickly mounted to any bike, and just as quickly removed and the pedaling bike restored. The cruising range, with a 350-watt electric motor and 10 amp-hour lithium-ion battery, is about 20 miles, though that extends to 50 miles with pedal assist (and optional extra battery packs will be available). The weight is on the front wheel, but Burtov denies that makes the bike front-heavy. "The weight doesn't spin," he said. "It's more like a saddlebag; it makes the bike more balanced."
GeoOrbital claims it takes only five minutes to install its wheel. The targeted bikes are “700c hybrid and 29er mountain bicycles found in specialty and big box stores.” Future versions will be aimed at 26-inch bikes, then other sizes. Burtov told me, "Our market is people who'd like to commute by bike, but don't want to sweat getting to work. It's all the people who would bike if it were easier and more practical." Is he a big biker? "I wasn't healthy enough to bike," he said. "I'm an avid biker now."
GeoOrbital deserves a lot of credit, though, for imagining not only that its wheel design could house a fully operational electric bicycle system, but that it could offer quick changes from conventional to electric.

For full article and a video of the GeoOrbital, go to:


Thursday, May 21, 2015

More than 44,000 people came together to set the Guinness World Record for reforestation.

More than 44,000 people came together to set the Guinness World Record for single-day reforestation efforts.
A group in Ecuador set a world record over the weekend by planting nearly 650,000 trees in a single day.
Agence France-Presse reports that on May 16, 2015, nearly 45,000 people took part in the largest single-day reforestation project ever. In total, 647,250 trees (and more than 220 species of plants) were planted on roughly 5,000 acres of land, marking a new Guinness World Record. Woo!
Volunteers begin reforesting an area near Catequilla, Ecuador. Photo by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.
Better than just a world record, these reforestation efforts will help Ecuador reach its own national target to conserve and restore more land than is deforested between 2008 and 2017.
Since 2008, the country's environment department notes, deforestation has been reduced by more than 50% of the historical rate, protecting 4.3% of the total land area (which comes out to the equivalent of something like 840 million trees, but who's really counting, anyway?).
A child plants one of more than 200 species of plants during Saturday's record-setting day. Photo by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.
Reforestation helps offset the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through "carbon sequestration."
Essentially, there are two approaches to reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere: reducing the amount of emissions being produced (obviously) and sequestration, which deals with the carbon itself.
Trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide, pulling it from the atmosphere and using it for — you guessed it — fuel. Trees have some other benefits, too, like improved air, water, and wildlife, and some protection against erosion.
Photo by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.
Trees are absolutely crucial to the fight against climate change.
While this seems pretty obvious, it's easy to forget. A great many things can affect climate change, from the things we eat to the cars we drive to the energy we use to power our homes. But the number of trees out there absorbing carbon are important factors, as well. Deforestation intensifies climate change, and reforestation and conservation efforts help push back.
Imagine how good things could be if every country had a day like this.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Here's What Happened When A Neighborhood Decided To Ban Cars For A Month

Everyone loved it, obviously. And the world didn't fall apart.
By Adele Peters  May 11, 2015
[All Photos: The Urban Idea]
Two years ago, an average neighborhood in the South Korean city of Suwon embarked on a radical experiment: For one month, the neighborhood suddenly got rid of every car.
Called the Ecomobility Festival, it was created as a way to help the city move much more quickly to a low-carbon future by helping citizens get a visceral sense of how that future could look.
"Usually in planning you do a computer simulation—an artificial picture of the future, and maybe a PowerPoint presentation," says Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, creative director at The Urban Idea, who helped mastermind the festival. "We're doing it in a different way: in a real city, with real people, in real time. It's like a piece of theater where the neighborhood is a stage."
When planning began, the neighborhood was filled with cars, and people typically drove everywhere, even pulling up on sidewalks to park in front of shops while they ran errands. "Most of the people could not envision how their neighborhood would be car-free," Otto-Zimmerman says. "They simply said it couldn't work."
The planning process took nearly two years and countless meetings to get support from skeptics. Finally, in September of 2013, 1,500 cars were moved out of the neighborhood to parking lots elsewhere in the city. The city handed out 400 temporary bikes and electric scooters to neighbors, and set up a bike school to teach the many residents who didn't know how to ride. Mail was delivered by electric vehicles. Shuttle buses ran every 15 minutes to take people to their cars.
The neighborhood transformed. Cafes and restaurants added new sidewalk seating, and the streets filled with people. It often looked a lot like car-free streets look during "Sunday Streets" events in other places, but the length of the experiment helped show how people could actually live without cars in everyday life.
"They live it for a month so their daily routines have to adapt," says Otto-Zimmerman. "If you only have a car-free weekend, many cities do that, this is not exciting anymore. If it's only a week, people can still reschedule their way to the dentist or whatever they have that week to work around it. It has to be a month in order to hit people's daily agenda, so they really experience ecomobility in their daily life."
Though the planners originally considered the idea of switching everything back to normal after the month-long experiment—and then letting citizens push for lasting changes—the city's mayor decided to add some permanent improvements before the festival, like widening sidewalks on major streets and adding new pocket parks.
"The mayor felt that, if after all this effort, and people changing their lives for a month, there would be nothing remaining, people would think the city doesn't take it seriously," Otto-Zimmerman says. "He felt that in order to be credible, he wanted people to see it was the start of a real improvement."
After the festival ended, the city also gathered residents for a huge meeting to ask for ideas for more permanent changes. The biggest result: The speed limit was cut nearly in half, to about 18 miles per hour. That meant that commuters no longer wanted to use the neighborhood as a shortcut, and traffic started to disappear. Neighbors also decided to eliminate side parking on some major streets—and parking on sidewalks—which helped encourage people to start walking and biking to run errands. Every month, the community also hosts a car-free day.
This fall, Otto-Zimmerman will repeat the experiment in Johannesburg, South Africa, and another city will follow. "It takes an open-minded mayor who likes innovation and provocation, and has a greener vision of a city," he says. "And someone who has enough influence and supporters to go through the exercise, because it's in principle controversial."
It's also expensive: The project in Suwon cost over $10 million dollars to produce, though much of that budget went to renovating streets that were already in need of repair. Still, it's not necessarily a simple experiment to produce.
The South Korean experiment was documented in a new book called Neighborhood in Motion: One Month, One Neighborhood, No Cars.

Friday, May 15, 2015

10 of the world’s most remarkable trees

I'm just going to do my favorites.  You'll need to go to the site to see all 10.  Happy Friday!  --Gene
From oldest to tallest to most sacred and more, in celebration of Arbor Day we present a brief who's-who of arboreal heros.
There are oh so many reasons why we should thank our lucky stars for the trees that we share this planet with. They are the gentle giants who seem to have gotten the short end of the stick, so to speak. Stuck in their place without voice or arms, they are helplessly subjected to human folly – the poor things. They are generally afforded with few rights and a general lack of deep respect by many, yet meanwhile, we are so incredibly reliant on their existence: they pump out the oxygen we need to live and they absorb carbon dioxide; they remove pollution; the cool and provide shade; they create food, control erosion, the list goes on and on and on. So with that in mind, we thought we'd give a shout-out to a handful of remarkable trees we have in our midst.
Considered the world's oldest tree, the ancient bristlecone pine named Methuselah lives at 10,000 feet above sea level in the Inyo National Forest, California. Hidden amongst its family in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains, Methuselah is somewhere around 5,000 years old. For its protection, the location is kept a secret by the forest service – which means that nobody is exactly sure what Methuselah looks like, but the ancient bristlecone pine pictured above could be it. Then again, maybe not. It's a mysterious Methuselah.
The tallest living tree is a towering 379.1-foot coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) discovered by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor in California's Redwood National Park in 2006. Hyperion is a trooper; it survives on a hillside, rather than the more-typical alluvial flat, with 96 percent of the surrounding area having been logged of its original coast redwood growth. The tree-discovering duo had earlier found two other coast redwoods in the same park – Helios (376.3 feet) and Icarus (371.2 feet) – which both also beat the previous record held by Stratosphere Giant.  (there's a video on the site showing a person climbing this tree to measure it)
Endicott pear
In 1630, an English Puritan named John Endicott – serving as the premier governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – planted one of the first cultivated fruit trees in America. Upon planting the pear sapling imported from across the pond, Endicott proclaimed, "I hope the tree will love the soil of the old world and no doubt when we have gone the tree will still be alive." Indeed, 385 years later, the tree lays claim to the title of oldest living cultivated fruit tree in North America ... and still offers its pears to passers-by.
General Sherman
How do you say majestic? How about "the General Sherman Tree." This hulking grand dame in California's Sequoia National Park is the largest, by volume, known living single stem tree in the world. This giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is neither the tallest known living tree, nor is it the widest or oldest – but with its height of 275 feet, diameter of 25 feet and estimated bole volume of 52,513 cubic feet, it's the most voluminous. And with a respectable age of 2,300–2,700 years, it is one of the longest-lived of all trees on the planet to boot.
To see the other 6 trees, go to:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Environmental education grows future leaders in sustainability

May 7th, 2015 by Loose Leaf Team
Erin Sandlin, Policy Intern
Schools across the nation are “going green” by implementing carbon footprint reducing techniques such as incorporating solar power and instituting recycling and composting efforts. But do these actions really contribute to the greening of a school? What constitutes sustainable development?
Dr. Jean Kelso Sandlin, a professor at California Lutheran University and my mother, communicates in her paper, “Why ‘Greening’ the Campus has not Included the Classroom: The Challenges of Pedagogical Initiatives for Sustainability in Higher Education,” that educational institutions have an obligation to bring this sustainable development into the classroom, where it can play a role in producing the next generation of environmental stewards.
A campus sustainability tour at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
As a politics student at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., I am told we are the next generation of leaders and policymakers; however, like most universities, we do not have a requirement to learn about the environment that we use — and abuse — every day. Only until I declared a minor in sustainability was I exposed to sustainability education. The two classes that were the most influential were both architecture courses. I learned passive building strategies for energy conservation, such as planting trees to protect building facades from harsh winds or providing shade to reduce air conditioning costs.
CUA is one of 10 universities in the world to offer LEEDlab, a course where architecture students — and one adventurous politics student! — are taught to meet current market needs in their profession while employing multiple synergistic effects of sustainability within the university. This year, our class worked to LEED certify our university campus. As the university with the largest campus grounds in Washington, D.C., we are fortunate to have an incredible tree canopy. Throughout the duration of the course, we learned the benefits of our trees on campus, facilitated educational initiatives to promote greater awareness of the advantages of trees, and planned future tree plantings with organizations such as local urban forestry nonprofit, Casey Trees.
American Forests continues to provide and support educational programs to students about the importance of our nation’s city trees. With our help, schools and communities are involved in beneficial tree-planting programs and educational opportunities. Our Community ReLeaf program aims to bring attention to the value of urban forests in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, and right here in Washington, D.C. We know that environmental and sustainable education will create a generation that considers the environment when making future decisions.
It is in our best interest to provide students with the resources to improve environmental literacy through hands-on education. It is not enough to “green” a school by implementing top-down policies that do not involve student participation. Incorporating environmental education in the classroom is a critical part of sustainable development, and with student integration comes the success of the student and the institution. Sustainability should not be reserved for specialized programs and majors; it should be integrated within an educational institution’s foundation, which begins in the classroom.
To help make outdoor education a priority, urge your Congressional representatives to support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, which aims to enhance the physical, emotional and mental health of children across the United States.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

San Fran's new EV chargers are solar-powered, and free!

(Hopefully this will catch on across the country!)
Charge Across Town is cutting carbon emissions with mobile charging. Just respect the two-hour limit.
Apr 29, 2015
Charging a Chevy Volt on free electricity from one of Charge Across Town's free — and portable — solar chargers. (Photo: Charge Across Town)

The best place in the world to own an electric car is probably California, with a tie between San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. Well, the city by the bay just got a big boost from something new: free solar-powered EV charging.
A nonprofit called Charge Across Town (CAT), looking to reduce carbon emissions in the Bay Area, has launched its “Driving on Sunshine” campaign. The plan is to increase awareness of both electric cars and solar with free electrons from three portable Envision EV ARC stations that will be strategically placed through 2015 at nine heavily trafficked locations around the city. Right now you can find them in the Mission District, at the Embarcadero, and the Stonestown Galleria Mall.
Carlie Guilfoile beams at the opening of the Charge Across Town free solar stations. (Photo: Charge Across Town)
Freeloaders will have a two-hour charging limit, says Maureen Blanc, director of Charge Across Town. She told me that CAT is “going on trust” that people will disconnect after their allotted time. Two hours on a 240-volt Level II charger should provide enough juice for 10 to 15 “e-miles,” she said. It’s hoped that four to six cars per day can charge at the stations.
Envision’s ARC stations cost $45,000 each, but CAT is leasing them through a grant from the 11th Hour Project. After the experiment is over in 2016, they’ll find a permanent home at the locations that got the most traffic.
Charge's Maureen Blanc: "You'd be surprised" how many people still don't get it in EV-heavy San Francisco. (Photo: Charge Across Town)
One could ask, why San Francisco? The city is not exactly starved for EV charging, or for solar installations. Awareness of both technologies would seem to be high among residents. Visit the Plugshare app here, enter the city’s name, and you’ll see dozens, if not hundreds of public stations, many of them offering free electricity, in San Francisco. Is there a need?
“You’d be surprised,” Blanc told me. “A lot of people are still pretty unaware. There’s still a lot of questions here about moving from fossil fuels to electric cars.”
Also worth noting is that PG&E, which serves central and northern California, is poised to install roughly 25,000 EV chargers in the coverage area over the next five years. The hosts won’t pay a dime for them.
And, of course, you can argue that San Francisco is, well, where the cars are. There are more than 60,000 plug-in cars in PG&E’s service territory, 20 percent of all those in the country, so it’s unlikely that these three new solar-powered units will sit idle.
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