Life as an EcoFellow: Morgan and Natasha

The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is way ahead of its time. 

In the last three short years — from 2016 to 2019 — of its 40 year establishment, the Center for EcoTechnology has made a massive impact on consumer practices. CET is projected to help approximately 95,000 people and businesses in three ways. Firstly, CET is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 391,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road for one year! Secondly, CET has helped to keep 80,000 tons of waste out of landfills. Thirdly, CET has saved the equivalent energy of powering 35,000 homes for a year. But, best yet, they have saved $70 million (that’s right million!) in lifetime savings for both individuals and businesses by “going green”.

Change-Agents Combating Climate Change.

This non-profit organization helps both individuals and businesses to “go green” by reducing energy and waste consumption. Their website has a fantastic step-by-step guidance system that discusses renewable energy incentives that are available at the local, state, and federal levels. Often these local, state, and federal initiatives work with Solar Access and are funded by both the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources.

These three organizations offer credibility to the Center for EcoTechnology’s mission. Between qualification, certification, and other forms of quality controls, CET clients are assured that “going green” can be profitable for both firms and individuals. Included in profitability metrics is also the inherent good generated by thoughtful, conscientious consumerism. In terms of the financial breakdown, the Federal government provides a 30% solar tax credit and Massachusetts also provides a 10% solar tax credit. These type of sensible policies are just one of many reasons why the solar industry is growing so rapidly!

Green Practices Galore!

Not only does CET focus heavily on waste reduction, but they also provide assistance on reduction guidance and how to optimize food donations, trash collections, which construction and demolition materials to use, and other topics on waste. Just like a for-profit organization that provides business to business (B2B) services, the non-profit matches people and businesses with recycling and redemption facilities. The Center for EcoTechnology truly maximizes ways to make recycling, reusing, and waste reducing easy. In Massachusetts, they rely on a partnership with RecyclingWorks to get the job done.

We at Counter Current love to write about the environment. Even more fun than writing about the environment is the ability to feature good people who are passionate about an environmentally-focused cause. Therefore, it was an absolute no-brainer getting the chance to interview a couple of recent college graduates, Morgan Laner and Natasha Nurjadin, who have delved deep in CET’s mission through their 11 month EcoFellowship Program

Morgan Laner

Morgan loves trash! While studying at Rollins College in Environmental Studies, she made the leap to study abroad her sophomore year in Australia. This decision is what sparked her passion about waste. While she was in Australia, Morgan attended a lecture. When she walked in and sat down, she initially thought it was just going to be like anything else — just a lecture. However, this one was different. The lecturer was enthusiastic about the material and discussed why the concepts of “zero waste” and “voluntary simplicity” matter in our society. Morgan recalled that it was at this moment when it all clicked. When Morgan returned to Rollins College, she increased her focus and became heavily involved in sustainability programs on campus. In particular, she focused her energies on reducing waste, increasing recycling practices, and she created the “plastic bag ban” at school.

Not only is Morgan an EcoFellow who focuses on Program Operations, but she also enjoys the challenge. Working at a nonprofit, the challenge she encountered was how to sell a free service. When she would cold call individuals, firms, and partake in other forms of outreach, she noticed most people aren’t used to hearing about free products. Her second love is crafting. In the EcoBuilding Bargains store, Morgan has demonstrated how waste can be diverted from landfills in creative and eco-friendly ways.

Another experience Morgan particularly enjoyed during her EcoFellowship was the opportunity to grow professionally. Such opportunities included shadowing other members of the CET team, talking with experts in fields she was interested in learning more about, and participating in a Career Day organized specifically for her and the other EcoFellows. For Morgan, she knows she wants to stay in the environmental sector and share her passion for waste reduction with others, so this opportunity was key toward reaching her future goals.

Natasha Nurjadin

Over the last 6 months, Natasha’s concern for the environment has really flourished! She credits the Center for EcoTechnology’s EcoFellowship Program as a key influence in developing her concern. Before her EcoFellowship, Natasha studied Earth & Environmental Science and History at Wesleyan University and was involved in the University Sustainability Office, accidentally. Her intent was to work in the Administration Office, but Natasha quickly shifted gears towards sustainability when a spot opened up.

Upon becoming an EcoFellow, Natasha found herself on the “Lifestyle Talk Shows” on Mass Appeal TV every Thursday morning. On the local station, Natasha had a platform to share her ideas with 1,000s of viewers. This platform exposed Natasha to become more comfortable with advocacy and public speaking. However, Natasha is still committed to finding a quantitative way through data management to provide an eco-friendly perspective to individual consumers and firms!

Natasha’s involvement on Building Science and Solar Access has led her to combining several atypical skills. In particular, she has learned how to incorporate urban planning with energy efficiency — not a practice most recent college graduates are familiar with! In the future, Natasha plans to continue her education in graduate school through an environmental program ranging from sustainability to urban planning. Her interests are expansive, but mesh together nicely!

In just half a year, these amazing women have done so much for the environment!

If you liked reading about Morgan and Natasha and want to meet more people like them, check out CET’s website! Further, if you want to be like Morgan or Natasha, then mark your calendars! The EcoFellowship Program Application is open and available until February 17. Follow them also on Twitter, @CETOnline!

Implications of Animal Consumption

The consumption of animal products is globally pervasive.

Whether a cultural cornerstone, a religious requirement, or simply because people like the taste of them, animal products are consumed in disturbingly high amounts worldwide. While the consumption of animal products is a widespread practice, it is important to internalize the stresses being placed on the environment by the animal agriculture industry.

Simply put, animal product consumption is taxing on the environment. Negative implications include large water footprints, significant greenhouse gas emissions, and various other agricultural requirements. To elaborate, in a study of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, researchers found the greenhouse gas emissions of individuals adhering to a plant-based diet to be approximately three times less than those of individuals with a ‘high-meat diet’. In this study, the researchers defined a ‘high-meat diet’ as consumption of a minimum of 100 grams of meat per day. In other words, a ‘high-meat diet’ individual that eats a three ounce portion of meat is 85 grams of the way there. Or, another way of thinking about it, a three ounce portion of meat is roughly the same size as a deck of cards. So, as a threshold, this is fairly easy to surpass. Additionally, animal products account for roughly ⅓ of the water footprint of all agriculture worldwide. This is further magnified by the finding that the water footprint per calorie of beef is about 20 times larger than that for cereal and other starchy root vegetables. This analysis using ratios should be more than just thought-provoking for our readers — it’s an excessive and, generally, wasteful practice.

In the European Union, researchers modeled the environmental implications of a transition towards a more plant-based diet. They found that doing so would reduce nitrogen gas emissions by about 40% and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 25 and 40%. While this study simply used theoretical models, their is unequivocal certainty that the reduction in our society’s consumption of animal products would have profoundly positive effects on the environment.

Every action, every choice we make, is attached to an environmental consequence — including eating! Therefore, we should all strive to be aware of the foods we are putting into our body and know that they will not only have an effect on our health, but an effect on the health of our planet. By choosing which foods to consume, we are also choosing to either endorse foods that support the sustainability of the environment or foods that harm the environment. When we purchase more foods that harm the environment, we are sending the signal that we want those foods to be produced in higher quantities and that we support the industries that support those foods. To paraphrase a common saying, we are putting our money where our mouths are when we eat.

Which industries do you want to support? Those that strive for environmental sustainability or those that drain our limited resources and harm our planet?

Green Bridges

After I-75 was built in northern Michigan, deer roadkill increased by 500%!

An important part to an ecosystem’s bio-diversity is its size and how it connects to the land around it. Highways can be one of the largest inhibitors an ecosystem’s bio-diversity. Often, a highway may run through an ecosystem, essentially splitting it into two pieces. This can cause severe injury to both people and animals, when the species stranded on one side needs to migrate to the other. Civil engineers realize how damaging this can be to an ecosystem, as well as, the safety of humans traveling along these highways. NASA even recognizes the importance of protecting wildlife even in the trajectory of their launches, demonstrated by their John F. Kennedy Roadkill Prevention Program.

Recently, civil engineers have made distinct efforts to lessen the strain these highways cause on the environment. For example, bridges can be covered in grasses, bushes, trees and other natural foliage to match the surrounding highways, which offers protection to many smaller animals.

These efforts have led us to some amazing innovations like the “Green Bridge”! Not only are these types of bridges, also, made from eco-friendly materials, but they enhance the migration of all living organisms. For example, birds, insects, and larger animals are able to cross highways safely. Projects like the “Green Bridge”, with adequate warning signs, do not enhance the risk of causing accidents. There are currently over 50 of these bridges today, and each one of them has successfully protected wildlife and reduced accidents. Currently, the majority of these bridges are in Europe and North America because of their woodsy landscapes.

The Green Deal

The Green New Deal.

For the past week, every media pundit has focused on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% tax rate. To most, when she floated a 70% marginal tax rate, many were thankful that she only represents one vote in Congress. However, she is bringing attention to the single most important issue — climate change. Without a stable ecosystem, we cannot have a functioning government and nation-states will fight for vital resources. There will be no winners.

“…transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.”

Google Document Draft by Ocasio-Cortez’s Team

Ocasio-Cortez and her team have an ambitious plan. That’s a good thing. Society ought to have lawmakers who want to make a difference. That’s why we elect them into office to serve as our voice.

Unfortunately, even if Ocasio-Cortez has the requisite political will for a “Green New Deal”, there are lots of logistical uncertainties that can make a bill dead on arrival. Like everything, there is always an economic trade off. In this particular case, by shifting from a society that uses fossil fuel in tons of products to none, a lot of people will not be able to afford the cost of living adjustments.

Logically, one may ask, who is responsible for taking care of those who will be left behind? Is it the role of the government to subsidize the transition by providing favorable incentives to businesses? Is it the role of individuals in society to help those who have less make the transition?

Traditional Republicans — who favor small government — may not get behind such a monumental shift that requires such a large-scale shift. Remember, the tax reform bill lowered corporate taxation from a top level of 35% to 21% across the board. A Green New Deal would likely mean more government spending.

Traditional Democrats — who favor larger government — ought to get behind legislation that is more expansive than Senator Markey’s 2009 ‘Cap and Trade’ Bill. However, the background noise that unemployment is fairly high is not true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in December 2018 was a shockingly low 3.9%.

We, at Counter Current, want radical change. We want an environment that is protected. We hope Ocasio-Cortez is able to get actual change accomplished — the same standard we want out of all our law makers — but a lot of the necessary logistical questions remained unanswered.

We need Republicans as much as we need Democrats. There is an existential threat to society that can only be solved through compromise and real solutions. Let’s stop demonizing each other.