Thursday, July 12, 2012

Green Ink: Blogging for a Better Tomorrow

Green Inkers Arrive at the Summit and Get Ready to Get to Work
By Cyndi Allison Wittum (focus group leader)

The first night at the "Redesigning the Future: Environmental Summit for High School Students 2012" campers began arriving at Catawba College. Here are the "Green Ink: Blogging for a Better Tomorrow" group. They had opted to spend the week covering the news all across the summit.

I have called my group the Green Inkers. They look a tad nervous on this first night, but it did not take them long to get in the swing on things. In fact, I am absolutely amazed at the terrific content they have produced (working together) in just a couple of days. Only one student had blogged previously.

By the second full day of the summit, the Green Inkers looked like a professional news room crew. They were coming up with their own ideas, gathering information during the short breaks between sessions, and they had articles up and ready for review before the sun set. If anyone works with young writers, you will know this is quite amazing.

I put a few notes on the board off and on during focus group sessions and fielded questions, but the bulk of the time was "hands on." With only a week, there would be no blog if this fabulous group had not worked so very hard.

It's also important to note that we all collaborated. That was the real key to the success (and collaboration was the focus of the summit). If someone had a question, needed help, or had a portion of an article that needed filled (like a photo), they just called out. I covered some of the questions, but students carried more of that load. There was no way to be all over the room, and students brought in skills that exceeded mine in several areas.

Bloggers (in a group especially) usually don't get much glory. They don't write about what they are doing. They cover what everyone else is doing. This meant my group had focus groups in the computer lab but also spent their free time gathering what they would need to tell everyone about the summit. They were talking, taking notes, getting photos, and shooting video.

My Green Inkers aren't going to brag about what they've done, but I'm going to do that. This was/is a pilot project, and I could not have asked for a better group. Every one of of my bloggers went well beyond what you might expect.

Thanks to all my bloggers and also to Jessica (our camp counselor for Green Ink). You proved that something the sounded impossible is possible with everyone pulling together.     


Something for Everyone at the Environmental Summit 2012

Having a Blast at the Environmental Center Summit Hosted at Catawba College

It's been a busy week for sure at "Redesigning Our Future" (a camp for high school students) with an environmentalism theme. We hit breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and the lights aren't out until long after sunset. But, we've had a great time and learned a lot.

Catching Our Breath for Just a Minute

These young ladies take a quick break before heading off to a focus group which range from dance and blogging to economics and sacred spaces.

We asked a random group of students waiting out on the brick yard what they considered one highlight to date at the summit.

My Favorite Part About the Summit So Far . . .

Robert (Virginia) - "Kayaking on the reserve was a lot of fun."

Chas (Virginia) - "I loved dominating the Ecolympics with my team :-)"

Savannah (North Carolina) - "Learned lots of awesome things and made a lot of awesome friends."

Celina (North Carolina) - "I loved the Ecolympics. It was so much fun. Being at camp feels great."

Emma (North Carolina) - "Making new friendships."

Gabby (North Carolina) - Learning more about economics and making a lot of new loved, awesome friends."

Samuel (North Carolina) - " Kayaking on the lake."

Tnequa/Monique (North Carolina) - "The preserve and the focus group sessions."

Friends Who Care About the Planet are Extra Special Friends

We are enjoying all the great information and ideas and all the neat activities, but friendships play a huge part in a camp experience. We are the future, and we will be working together. It's great to find like minded teens who care about our environment.

Our Government Has a Responsibility to Act Responsibly

Natasha Abalagan
Governments Must Look at Environmental Issues and Make Better Decisions 

By Natasha Anbalagan

Its the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of all people. And as such, it's their duty to protect the environment for future generations. In “ The Price of Everything “ focus group at the Redesigning Our Future Summit, we learned how government can protect the environment.

One of the tools that government has to do this with is regulation. There are two types of regulation that government can take advantage of: direct and market based. Direct regulation would involve restricting certain things like products or techniques. Market based regulation would involve measuring the costs of the unmeasurable.

Market based regulation tends to be less forceful than direct. I also think its more interesting to look at.

A particularly interesting type of market based regulation is subsidy reduction. Our government subsidizes oil by spending $10 billion to $52 billion annually. I can’t imagine spending that much taxpayer money to encourage oil drilling when there are alternatives that could use the funding instead.

Removing oil subsidies has its costs and benefits.

On one hand the removal of subsidies will increase fuel prices which in turn will make most goods and services very expensive. Goods that are shipped all over the country will become expensive, putting a damper on interstate trade. Food and health care will become more expensive.

However, there are also many benefits. The increase in fuel prices will drive overall consumption down. People will drive less and rely on public transportation (such as the Amtrack, bus system), biking, and walking which is good for the environment.

People will also avoid the expensive goods shipped from other states. Instead they will be forced to purchase local products. This is great for the local economy.

An America where people are walking and biking more often as well as eating local healthy food is a healthy America which means fewer people will be needing expensive health care. This change in lifestyle will have positive effects on local economies and the environment.

Even the greatest of lifestyle changes won’t affect our need for energy. After the subsidies are removed, fossil fuels will become more expensive and not as profitable to produce; oil companies will have an incentive to find a different energy source.

They also would have the money need to fund research and development in renewable energy. This research doesn’t have to be funded by the government so that is one less burden on the taxpayer.

Throwing oil companies into the mix of researchers searching for the next sustainable fuel source also creates competition. Competition leads to cheaper and better quality products. The extra competition from oil companies will streamline the search for renewables and make sustainable energy more widely available.

In addition, the transition from fossil fuel to renewable is made even easier by the change in our lifestyle (as a result of removing oil subsidies).

Ultimately, the costs associated with removing oil subsidies such as the increase in the prices of goods and services will be covered by the many benefits such as the change in lifestyles and the widespread use of renewable energy.

Government can remove oil subsidies to be more environmentally friendly, but it's more than that.

Government must also ensure that the prosperity of future generations remain intact. Sustainability, in addition to being a major part of environmental stewardship, is our government’s civic duty. After all, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” (Native American Proverb).

Note: Natasha Anbalagan, a high school student enrolled in Dr. Eric Hake's "The Price of Everything" summit focus group, has written for ACE.


We Love Our Nifty Reusable Summit Cups

How to Drink the Environmentally Friendly Way
By Emily Pieper

On the first day we arrived here at Redesigning 2012, each of us received a plastic cup (seen in the center of the photo above) to use throughout the week.

What's neat about these cups is that they are reusable, and they can hold any kind of drink. This was a great idea, because every hour in America approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away!

Not only do these nifty cups help us stay hydrated throughout the day, but they allow us to be environmentally friendly in the process.

The insulated, reusable drinking cups were donated for the "Redesigning the Future" summit for high school students by Rowan Regional Medical Center.

Camper Spotlight - Natasha - Living Green and Baking Cupcakes

Camper Spotlight: Natasha of High Point, NC
By Emma Sophia

Natasha, who is now living in High Point, North Carolina, has passion for many things. Specifically: cupcakes and the environment.

Right now, the environmental issue that she is most focused on is hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is a process in which people drill far down into rock layers to extract natural gas. Many people are against it because it uses questionable chemicals and techniques throughout the fracking process.

Natasha attended a local hearing about fracking that was held at East Chapel Hill High and has raised awareness for it in many ways. The things she has done to raise awareness include: working with a teacher to give extra credit to other students who attended the public hearing on hydraulic fracturing and writing blog-posts about why she believes that fracking is wrong.

The Orange Bedazzle cupcake that won 3rd place
 at the Horace Williams Cupcake Festival. 
It was made in an orange peel instead of a cupcake liner,
 which is good for the environment and adds extra flavor!
When Natasha isn't busy rallying people for environmental issues, shes running a business.

That's right, she's only going to be a junior in high school next year, but Natasha and her friend Anna are already co-running a business, Terrific Treats, and selling cupcakes to the Chapel Hill and High Point areas in North Carolina.

Natasha tries to combine her love for the environment into her cupcake baking by using as many natural flavorings, colorings, and ingredients as possible.

Once, she even made avocado frosting for "green" cupcakes.

Also, Natasha and Anna only use edible decor (No plastic ones; it lowers the amount of waste!), cook as many batches at a time as possible (saves energy!) and ask costumers if they want their cupcakes to come liner free.

Not only are the cupcakes pretty environmentally friendly, but they are also delicious. Terrific treats won 3rd place at Chapel Hills 2011 Horace Williams Cupcake Festival.

Focus Groups Offer Diversity with a Common Goal

We Use Our Differences for a Common Goal at the Environmental Summit
By Jocelyn 

Each student at the Summit has a unique personality and ways we contribute that were considered when choosing what kind of group we wanted to be participating in before coming here. (Students were able to pick their groups.)

The group I chose was "Green Ink: Blogging for a Better Tomorrow," because I enjoy using technology to get information out to the people, and I'm really good at working with computers.

Not everyone  is the same, because if that were the case, then everything would be boring. Always. Being together to accomplish something will be better than going solo (when we all bring our own special talents to the table).

Here are some of the various groups from the Redesigning the Earth Summit 2012.
This group is outside gathering materials for an experiment.
Another focus group is doing lab work.
My blogging group is gathering ideas together to create this blog that you are reading now and to share work being done by everyone across the summit.

Eco-Tip: Consider Buying Carbon Offsets

Silhouette Of A Plane
Eco-Tip: Consider Buying Carbon Offsets
By Shaina Robinson

As the end of this summit is rapidly approaching, traveling and transportation are some thoughts that are on on our minds. For many of us, airplanes were involved in our journey to this The National Environmental Summit. It's also the type of transportation that many of us will take to get to other destinations throughout the summer. 

Traveling to new places is great, but over the years the amount of carbon dioxide emissions coming from airplanes has steadily been growing, and as of right now there is no technological fix that could lower them enough to make much of a difference. This is where carbon offsets come in.

The concept behind carbon offsets is that you're more or less making a trade.  As an airline passenger you might be given the option to pay anywhere from $5 to $40 to offset your flight. The price is determined by how far of a distance you're traveling. 

As a result of buying an offset, your money goes towards projects that work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these projects might range from repopulating forests to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation worldwide. Unlike many pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions interact quickly with air and as a result are able to spread around the entire planet. Because of this, greenhouse gas reductions can take place pretty much anywhere as long as fewer emissions are entering the atmosphere.

So, if you're traveling by air any time soon, consider purchasing a carbon offset to help make your trip more environmentally friendly. 

Resolution or Re-Solution? Use Technology for Change!

Communicating Your Initiative: Workshop by Amanda Lanier
 By Emily Pieper

Yesterday while I listened to Amanda Lanier teach us about effective environmental communication, another light bulb lit up in my brain when she showed the slide pictured below. Instead of just interpreting the word "resolution" as the ending or solving of a problem, I found myself looking at it in a whole new way. To me the word suddenly looked like "re-solution".

Photo By: Emily Pieper
Now, maybe this doesn't seem like that big of a change, so let me explain my crazy thought. What I started to think was that "resolution" could also mean to come up with different ways to "re-solve" a problem.

So, why does this matter and why should you still read this?

What Amanda explained to us was that today in the 21st century, thanks to new technologies that develop every day, we have thousands of ways to communicate our ideas. Right now as you read this, I'm communicating my ideas to you via this blog. Then you will post this onto your Facebook page, and your friends will read it on their phones and tweet it so that all of their followers will see. The cycle repeats continuously until people all around the world have heard about this blog.


Photo By: Emily Pieper
It is truly, amazing. By using technologies, people are able to share their unique ideas with the world so that previously unsolved problems can be fixed. Just think of how much we could do to help the environment if everyone realized this!

Seriously, think about it.

Maybe you want to start a recycling program at your school or install energy efficient light bulbs in your home. Maybe you're thinking bigger and want to help end world hunger or stop deforestation in the rain forests.You must have at least one issue that you've always dreamed of solving, right?

I thought so. Well, what are you waiting for? Make a resolution to act on your idea; write it down or update your status or tweet about it!

If we are going to actually help fix the environment, we have to start somewhere. So take that first step and you'll be surprised by the power of technology in solving or "re-solving" problems.

Anna is Building a Greenhouse for Third Graders

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison - Making a Difference

During a break between focus group and workshop time, Anna took a few minutes to describe an ongoing project she has already been working on back home. 

Collecting 800 clear 2-liter bottles, some old tires, used corrogated plastic, donated rain barrel and worm bin, Anna is creating a greenhouse on school property for use by the after school program and third grade plant science class.  She is likely to far exceed the 80-hour requirement for her Girl Scout Gold Award. 

Inspired by a chair and stand created from GS cookie boxes at her local GS headquarters, she researched other conservation projects online and discovered the work of Blue Rock Station, an organization with booklet instructions for creating greenhouses from used materials. 

Be sure to check out Anna's blog for photographs and more information about her unique environmental project.

Presenting . . . The Ecolympics 2012!!!

By: Keela Sweeney

The "Ecolympics"were a huge success for everyone! Students completed in activities ranging from newspaper towers to marshmallow tosses and even a counselor event! 

Students building towers out of recycled newspaper

Our winning tower! Congratulations everyone!

These ladies are sporting newspaper headbands. Is this Vogue's next cover photo? I think yes!

On your mark, get set, catch a marshmallow in your mouth!

Christian and Robert showing some superior team spirit!

Photos By: Jessica Everett & Keela Sweeney