“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
– Jane Goodall, Primatologist, Ethologist, Anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace
Space. We shape it just as much as it shapes us. Think about your room. Photos capture moments in time, books offer insight into hobbies and passions, and even the color scheme in your room adds a layer of texture and flavor. But what does your space say about your relationship to the planet? Consider your furnishings, your bedding, your personal care products – what story are these pieces in your space telling?
Then, zoom out and consider your campus, another space you operate in. Think about how it is structured and set-up, the classes that are offered, the extracurriculars you participate in, and even the campus layout. Your campus is like a micro city. It has its own food system, energy sources, and waste disposal that have to be managed to serve the students that live and study there. After these weeks of PGC, you probably have a good idea of what your campus is or isn’t doing to be sustainable. So, what small attributes of your campus make a big impact in your own life and on the planet?
Now, zoom out a bit further and think about the town that surrounds you shapes your weekend entertainment, hang out spots, and the people you meet and interact with. Your town works to provide you with electricity, water, heat, and transportation. And now, there are many cities and towns investing in technologies and integrating sustainable processes to help make the space more earth-friendly for their citizenry. Take a look at these ten cities are leading the way. And check out the USGBC website – an organization working to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
In order to make all of our spaces sustainable, we need to call on our creativity and innovation to rethink the status quo. Because taking responsibility for each of these spaces (personal, campus, and community) will prompt all of us to reconsider how we interact with the environments we operate in.
Here’s one aspect of your space to seriously consider. So much of our time is spent in our beds, whether sleeping, studying, reading, or hanging out. In fact, we spend about 25 years of our lives sleeping. There are harmful toxins hiding in conventional mattresses that emit gases over time, releasing dangerous chemicals into your body and the air. Not to mention, if you’re sleeping on sheets/blankets/pillows made with conventionally grown cotton or synthetics like polyester, you’re increasing use of and exposure to toxins. Though conventional cotton only accounts for 2.4% of the world’s cropland, it is responsible for 24% of global pesticide use. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides or herbicides and is not genetically modified.
Start to think about your bedtime routine and how you reimagine your bed.
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Campus. Buying sustainable sheets and desk materials is an important step in shaping a sustainable living space, but if your campus is burning coal in order to make your room warm enough for you, there is a much bigger footprint to reduce. It’s time to get informed about your campus and uncover your voice to become a strong advocate for sustainability.
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Innovators are being called to redesign cities all over the world. The USGBC has a big part in this innovation. “Our vision at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. Our mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.”
From green spaces to new technology, cities and the people that live in them recognize that it’s not enough to transform your home, you have to transform the big picture. Robert Hammond, creator of Manhattan’s High Line, is a great example of someone who took what was infront of him and transformed it into something that benefitted the planet. Or check out how people all over the world are turning rooftops into spaces to grow bountiful crops. We need to be innovating and using existing space creatively.
It’s time get creative!
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