Hear from an A2 student activist who was part of the campaign to remove palm oil from Girl Scout cookies!

Madison Vorva, left, and Rhiannon Tomtishen also took their campaign against the use of palm oil to the White House. Via http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/palm-oil-and-scout-cookies-the-battle-drags-on/

Did you know that in 2012, two high school juniors from Ann Arbor won the first-ever United Nations Forest Heroes Award for their campaign to remove Palm Oil from Girls Scout cookies?

These two activists – Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen — have succeeded in winning pledges from GSUSA to pledge to limit the use of palm oil to cases where there was “no alternative.” The long-time Girl Scouts partnered with Rain Forest Action and worked for over 5 years to make the cookies “rainforest-safe”.

One of the students, Rhiannon Tomtishen, will share her experiences and give an update on the campaign at Rainforest Action Network’s Forest Heroes Campaign Kick-off Meeting on September 18th at the Michigan Union.

Here are the event details:

Wednesday September 18, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Michigan Union
: 530 South State Street Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Room D, 3rd Floor

Refreshments provided: RSVP here

The most recent campaign to protect forests from bulldozing to harvest palm oil focuses on the Michigan-based cereal company Kellogg’s – because the company is doing business Wilmar International. Wilmar International has been ranked the least sustainable corporation in the world – worse than Exxon Mobil and Monsanto — in part because they bulldoze rainforests to harvest palm oil.

The resulting deforestation caused by the palm oil, which is then used in Kelloggs’ cereals and snacks, destroys the homes of endangered species like Sumatran tigers, orangutans and other wildlife, and is a top driver of climate change.

We envision a world where rainforests are protected, not destroyed for profit. Changing the practices of companies like Wilmar will go a long way toward achieving that goal. The good news is that Kellogg’s can demand sustainable palm oil, but they’ll only act if they see that their neighbors here in Michigan want them to do the right thing.

Come to the Forest Heroes Campaign Kick-off Meeting to learn how you can get involved and move Kellogg’s to protect the rainforest!

You can RSVP here, and are encouraged to bring a friend!

To learn more about how you can get involved before the meeting, please contact Eva Resnick-Day at eva@greencorps.org

UM SOUP: Opportunity to be both full and fulfilled

Recipe: Tomatoes, beans, cilantro, and some CREATIVE community innovation

Funding awesome local projects has never been so tasty.
Only one day remains to submit your ideas for creative, community-based projects to UM Soup.  

What is UM Soup you ask?  SOUP is a monthly, community dinner that makes micro grants for local projects… projects that often would never have any other means to get off the ground.  SOUP is a national movement, with groups popping up all over the country, dedicated to implementing innovative and beneficial projects in their towns.  For this month’s March 23rd SOUP meet-up, project proposals are due March 13th!

With a seed grant from Shareable Magazine, UM Program in the Environment junior Isabella Morrison is organizing UM Soup to involve students more in their community.  Isabella was inspired after she attended another nearby SOUP in Detroit.  Isabella remarks, “[...] I was inspired by the people, ideas, conversations, and community activism that brewed over soup.”  What could be a greater metaphor than eating nourishing, warm, comforting, complete-meal-in-a-bowl soup while also sharing ideas about how to nourish and nurture the communities that we live in?

For $5, A2 residents and UM students can have a fun evening learning about local projects, eating a local meal, jamming to live music, and voting on their favorite community project! Continue reading UM SOUP: Opportunity to be both full and fulfilled

Cleaning Up UMich’s Endowment: Divest & Invest Campaign

Divest Music Video!

  • What: The first public informational meeting of the Divest & Invest Campaign at the University of Michigan – to divest all university money from fossil fuel stocks, funds, and direct and indirect investments.
  • Who: The Divest & Invest Campaign is a student/faculty/community coalition of: Ann Arbor 350, Students for Clean Energy, Student Sustainability Initiative & most importantly YOU
  • When: Monday, February 4th at 6:30 PM
  • Where: Room 1040 DANA Bldg, School of Natural Resources & Environment, Univ of Michigan Central Campus

Continue reading Cleaning Up UMich’s Endowment: Divest & Invest Campaign

Solution = Divest Now!

We Did the Math. Solution = Divestment

Do the Math Tour wraps up, but work is just beginning

350.org has toured around the country spreading the message about terrifying math associated with fossil fuel reserves ready and waiting to be extracted and billowed into our fragile atmosphere. Climate change has an enemy, and that enemy is the fossil fuel industry. This enemy goes by several names, including but not limited to: Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP, Lukoil Holdings, Gazprom OAO, Chevron Corp, Peabody Coal, Severstal JSC, Anglo American PLC, BHP Billiton, Shanxi Coking Co, and Exxaro Resources.

Continue reading Solution = Divest Now!

Trust for Cups Part 2: Let’s get rrready to RECYCLE!

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on Kevin Kononenko’s Trust for Cups recycling campaign

At the beginning of Kevin Kononenko’s sophomore year, he was driven to direct his efforts toward an initiative on campus.  He reflects that he wanted to get involved with an opportunity that would allow him to play a large role in the project, something that he could devote a lot of energy and time to.  Kevin recognized that Greek life had a fantastic opportunity to divert waste, specifically of the recognizable red party cup kind.

Recycling cant be easier with Ann Arbors single stream system

Recycling can't be easier with Ann Arbor's single stream system

Although some see leaders as stand-alone agents, Kevin continues to execute his leadership through the effective collaboration with and leveraging of knowledgeable and resourceful entities in Ann Arbor.  Kevin contacted Kendra Pyle, recycling superstar, of Recycle Ann Arbor - for assistance in developing his project.  Meeting initially in October 2011 to discuss ideas, Kendra shared her experiences with RAA’s recycling programs in Greek houses.  The project is truly a combination of RAA’s established programming and educational principles for Greek Houses, while the incentivizing and on-the-ground organizing is Kevin’s leadership and hard work.

Continue reading Trust for Cups Part 2: Let’s get rrready to RECYCLE!

Trust for Cups: Part I

When you think of an undergraduate student, what comes to mind first?  Video-game playing, beer-chugging youth?  A generation drunk with iPhone indulgence?   For one University of Michigan undergraduate student – that I had the recent pleasure of meeting –ingenuity, passion, and determination are the first words that I come up with.

Trust for Cups logo

This past Friday, I met with Kevin Kononenko, a junior studying in the Program in the Environment at U of M who is currently heading up the campaign “Trust for Cups”.  The project seeks to facilitate diverting 35% of waste into the recycling bins in Greek life.   However, it’s more than just an attempt to encourage recycling for a specific subpopulation of campus life.  It’s far more purposeful than that.  First it aims to take advantage of the often large waste created, and turn that around into huge diversion and prevention efforts.  And it seizes the conspicuousness of Greek life on campus and in Ann Arbor as huge PR for recycling behavior change across campus.   The red Solo Cup is ubiquitous.  The Greek life frat party is ubiquitous.  The campaign begs the question, “How can recycling within Greek Life become just as ubiquitous?”
Continue reading Trust for Cups: Part I

Getting dirty at the UM campus garden

My Fellow SNREds and I posing for a photo in between tasks (Note: the tomato carnage)

My Fellow SNREds and I posing for a photo in between tasks (Note: the tomato carnage)

So many of the principles and themes I have explored thus far in my coursework in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and “work-work” at the Ecology Center has been about place.  When you know the landscape and people around you….if you know the processes, inputs and outputs more intimately because you are physically next door or you’re undertaking them yourself, sustainability is that much more accessible, easy, and – most importantly – satisfying and fun.  There ain’t no label for the “fair trade” that exists between the “buyer” and “seller” at the A2 farmer’s market.  And that exchange of goods and often words too – as I alluded to earlier – can be so satisfying and fun.

So I decided to walk the walk and devote some of my precious weekend hours to getting down and dirty at the University of Michigan campus farm, located at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.  And as some of you are now familiar…. recent locale of the Harvest Festival! Continue reading Getting dirty at the UM campus garden

The NFL is putting solar panels all over the place!

According to David Krichavsky, the NFL’s director of media affairs, “It makes great sense from the public awareness standpoint, but it’s also good business sense. It’s one of those things that’s a double or triple win. . . . We believe that we are responsible in our community to act responsibly on multiple fronts, but also in environmental leadership.”

Artists rendering of solar panels, expected to decrease game-day energy use at FedEx Field by 15 percent and provide 850 covered parking spaces.

Artist's rendering of solar panels, expected to decrease game-day energy use at FedEx Field by 15 percent and provide 850 covered parking spaces.

That was written in an article in last week’s Washington Post about installations at FedEx Field (Washington Redskins), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), and Qwest Field (Seattle Seahawks).

The reason this is happening is that sporting arenas provide great publicity for solar and other renewables. They also reach a broader audience than renewable energy installations normally would. Plus, they cut utility bills, and there are all kinds of state and federal incentives available to install them.

Despite all this innovative thinking, the University of Michigan continues to argue that solar panels on the Big House aren’t cost effective. Certainly the Leaders & the Best can come up with something better than just tucking an installation on North Campus’s former Pfizer site?

If you haven’t signed it already, here’s our petition for solar panels on the Big House. If you have, then we hope you’ll help us get to our goal by sharing the petition with others.

Solar panels on the Big House?

Cross-posted with permission from EcoCenter.org:

Renewable power might be what the Wolverines need, advocates say

Generating power with solar panels on Michigan Stadium would have major symbolic value as well as give support to the state’s growing solar energy industry, according to a group gathering signatures on a petition this fall.

“Installing solar panels will make an incredible statement on behalf of the University of Michigan, the city of Ann Arbor and college football that we’re serious about getting off fossil fuels,” according to Monica Patel, policy specialist at the Ecology Center and coordinator of Ann Arbor 350, an effort to address global climate change through action at the local level.

Big House“The Big House has the potential to be the biggest athletic venue in North America with solar panels, which is fitting with the University’s claim to be ‘the leaders and the best’,” Patel said. “Even though the electricity generated won’t solve the climate crisis, it will go a long way in terms of solar energy education and awareness.”

In 2009, U-M students completed a feasibility assessment of a stadium solar project, estimating that an installation could divert 776 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Another very real benefit is the boost this installation will provide to the Michigan solar energy industry, which includes 121 solar power supply chain businesses,” Patel said. Michigan’s solar power industry employs more than 6,300 people, ranking the state fourth in the nation.

The petition, which is addressed to U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, athletic director David Brandon and Terry Alexander, director of campus sustainability initiatives, is being circulated online. Supporters also plan to seek signatures at Michigan football games this fall.

Ann Arbor 350, a project of the Ecology Center, is connected with an international campaign to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis; scientists say 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For more information, contact: Monica Patel monica@ecocenter.org 734-369-9277