Archive for April, 2009

Tips to improve gas mileage and save a bunch of green!

prius2010The Issue
Poor gas mileage!

The Larger Issue

•    Oil is a non-renewable resource, and while there is debate as to how long it will last, we will eventually have to find new ways to fuel vehicles.
•    Poor fuel economy increases our dependence on foreign oil.
•    Burning gasoline and diesel contributes to air pollution.
•    You will pay an extra $200 to $1500 each year by driving inefficient vehicles. This can cost many thousands of dollars over a vehicle’s lifetime.
•    Oil spills from oil refining, transporting and use damage ecosystems and pollute water.

Be Part of the Solution

Follow these simple steps to save a bunch of green (pun intended):
•    Don’t drive aggressively! Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking wastes gas by lowering highway mileage up to 33% and 5% around town.  It’s also much safer.
•    Don’t Speed!  Gas mileage rapidly decreases above 60 mph.  Assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is equal to paying an additional $0.24 per gallon.  It too is much safer.
•    Replace your air filter!  Doing so can improve your car’s gas mileage by 10%.
•    Give your car a tune up!  Fixing a car that is out of tune or can improve gas mileage by about 4%.
•    Keep your tires properly inflated!  This can improve mileage by more than 3%.
•    If possible, carpool!  You can cut your weekly fuel costs in half if you take turns driving (or even better, use PSTA or ride a bike).
•    Don’t idle!  It wastes fuel and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine when waiting.
•    When shopping for a new car, buy the most efficient option possible!  Go to for a complete listing of fuel economies for all 2009 automobiles or visit for information on hybrid technology.
•    If you must buy an SUV, consider a hybrid!  The highest efficiency hybrid SUV’s include the Mazda Tribute, Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.


April 30, 2009 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

Informed students shown to be most realistic about future

students According to an international assessment of 15-year-old students, those who are well informed about environmental science are the most realistic about future environmental challenges. The students who are least informed are the most optimistic about the future.

Those are the findings of Green at 15?, a study by sociologist David Baker and others at Pennsylvania State University. The assessment measured the knowledge and skills of more than 400,000 students in 57 countries around the world.

The report looked at achievement, or “scientific literacy,” as well as students’ attitudes about the environment. It used a combination of questions to give students an opportunity to analyze and interpret data.

Seventeen percent of American students demonstrated the highest level of proficiency, indicating they could consistently identify, explain and apply scientific knowledge to a variety of environmental topics. They also could link different information sources and explanations to make decisions about environmental issues. However, 42 percent of American students performed at the bottom of the scale, showing difficulty answering questions containing scientific information about basic environmental issues.

Green at 15? showed that most students were familiar with such issues as air pollution, energy shortages and extinction of plants and animals.


April 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

The environmental impacts of bottle water

bottlesIn 1967, that smug businessman from the film “The Graduate” took Dustin Hoffman’s character aside and declared “I just want to say one word to you, just one word: ‘plastics.’”  Ever since that iconic moment, plastic has signified society’s wasteful tendencies and has come to represent our “throwaway culture”.

The prepackaged bottle of water is the epitome of waste.

Plastic bottles are manufactured from non-renewable petroleum and natural gas.  Annually, Americans dispose of 29-billion water bottles, requiring 1.5-million barrels of crude oil (enough oil to keep 100,000 cars running for one year), resulting in the release of 2.5-million tons of carbon dioxide.  In addition, scientists have found that, over time, plastic bottles can leach chemicals linked to birth defects, miscarriage and prostate cancer into the water.

Transporting the heavy bottled water from the bottling plant, to the warehouse, to the retail outlet, to its place of consumption requires additional fossil fuels.

Ultimately, each bottle of water requires enough oil to fill it a third of the way up!  Cumulatively, that’s enough to power 190,000 homes.  Adding to the problem, 80% of these water bottles end up in the landfill and take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Some people drink bottled water because they think it’s healthier than tap water. Although tragically this may be true in some parts of the world, it is not so in America.  In fact, according to Pinellas County Utilities, their No. 1 priority is to assure the public health and safety of our water supply. The county’s water quality standards are measured against standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Florida Department of Environment and the Pinellas County Health Department.  The standards require that our drinking water meet or exceed acceptable levels for lead, fertilizer, fuels, pesticides and solvents.

Everyone loves the convenience of bottled water, but when we consider its many negative issues, it becomes a far less appealing alternative. So, as much as possible, let’s stop buying so much expensive bottled water and start drinking low cost, high quality tap water out of safe, stainless steel reusable water bottles.
It may not save the world, but it’s a start.


April 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

Pinellas Living Green Expo

pinillas-living-green-expo2Looking for something to do next weekend? Why not visit the Pinellas Living Green Expo?

The Expo runs Saturday (May 2) from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday (May 3) from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater. Admission and parking are free.

SPC is a presenting sponsor.

The Pinellas Living Green Expo is a family-friendly educational event focusing on resource conservation. It provides real solutions for people to live better, healthier lives with less impact on the environment.  Participants will learn how to save money, save natural resources and protect our environment for future generations through information sessions and a variety of exhibits.

The Expo connects people who are interested in making a positive difference in both their lives and in their communities, and provides information, ideas, resources, products and the motivation to live more sustainably.

SPC Professors Chris Nichol and Deborah Eldridge will be presenting the following:

Deborah Eldridge presents on “Green Tax Rebates and Incentives” on Saturday at noon. Learn about the meaning of tax credits and incentives for businesses and homeowners. She will focus on what is available on the federal and state level, and will also explain the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act and benefits for sustainable practices.

Chris Nichol presents on Nutrient Pollution and its Effects on Tampa Bay Saturday at 1 p.m.

He will discuss the effects of excessive nutrients in Tampa Bay, how the runoff of fertilizers and other nutrients pollute and affect the productivity and biodiversity of Tampa Bay, and how we are trying to restore this beautiful ecosystem.

Also, the SPC Office for Sustainability will host a booth providing information about many of the college’s exciting environmental initiatives. Topics include the newly developed AS degree in Environmental Science Technology, the BAS degree in Sustainability Management, environmental clubs, information on our two new environmentally friendly buildings, and the soon-to-open Dollars for Scholars Thrift Shop.

Visit or

See you there!


April 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Poll indicates corporate support for sustainability

According to a recent survey, more than half of corporate marketers think their employers will become more involved in sustainability issues in the coming years, even though budgets will be tight because of the economic squeeze.

In fact, about the same number of those surveyed think that difficult economic times will encourage sustainable practices rather than discourage them. They indicated that sustainability is becoming so essential because of the demands of company reputation, culture and technical improvements.

The survey also indicated that there is a need for companies to align their business and sustainability goals so they work in concert with one another.

The survey of corporate marketing and communications executives was conducted jointly by the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hilliard, Inc, a public relations firm.


April 22, 2009 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Anthony Cortese says global warming threatens mankind


Anthony Cortese

Sustainability expert Anthony Cortese says mankind can thank a stable climate for its ability to move from hunter-gatherers to technological masters over about 10,000 years of history. But he says all those gains can go away because of global warming.
“That is the reality of where we are now as a species,” Cortese told an audience at Indiana University yesterday.  “If we don’t figure out a way to operate differently, our chances of creating a just and sustainable society in the future are slim to none.”
Cortese defined sustainability as the use of resources so human development needs are met without producing unusable waste or negative impacts on the environment.
Cortese is co-director of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment; president of Second Nature; and co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. He spoke as part of SustainIU, a week-and-a-half-long series of events sponsored in part by Indiana University’s Office of Sustainability.

If you’d like to learn more about Cortese, visit the Second Nature Website:


April 17, 2009 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

SPC’s Earth Day events

Environmental clubs at each St. Petersburg College campus have announced Earth Day activities that will take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

earth_from_space1Tuesday activities include:

Seminole Campus

Environmental Science Club will run environmental documentaries in the Digitorium, 10 a.m..
Lecture series with speakers from the U.S. Green Building Council, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Seminole Public Works, University Partnership Center lobby12:45 p.m.
Representatives from Tampa Bay Watch, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Pinellas County Utilities, Pinellas County Extension, the SPC Office for Sustainability and the Seminole campus Environmental Club will operate information booths in the UPC lobby.
Tree planting, 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday activities include:

Clearwater campus

Clearwater’s Club Green will run environmental documentaries, including the SPC-produced and WEDU-aired “Go Green, Tampa Bay” and pass out informational flyers and envelopes filled with plant seeds donated by Hallmark Development of Florida, Inc. in the quad, noon.
A live oak tree donated by Florida’s Finest Landscape Services, Inc. will be dedicated by Clearwater Campus Provost Dr Stan Vittetoe and planted on campus, 1:00 p.m.

Thursday activities include:

St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus

Friends of Florida Environmental Club will serve free smoothies and sponsor a build-your-own salad bar.
Representatives from Pinellas County Utilities Recycling, Pinellas County Extension/Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Sierra Club will be on hand to educate students on the environmental benefits of recycling, locally appropriate landscaping and pest control, litter removal and prevention, mass transit and environmentalism.

The campus quad will play host to a drum circle.
Student activists recently created environmental clubs on each SPC campus to sponsor and encourage events such as those listed above.

“These student activists make up the next generation of leaders,” said Jason Green, SPC’s Sustainability Coordinator. “They realize the importance of creating a community of college students who care about their environment and appreciate the need to leave their world in a better, more sustainable place than as it was found.”

To learn more about SPC’s environmental club activities, visit


April 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

Removing dining hall trays to save food waste

Sometimes the most obvious sustainability issues are right under our noses, almost invisible because they are so visible.

I found an example of this on Greening the Campus, a sustainability blog maintained by Richard Johnson, Director of Sustainability at Rice University in Houston. Johnson teaches a course every fallin which his students use a Rice dining hall as a sort of sustainability laboratory.

A Rice University dining hall

A Rice University dining hall

In this case, the students looked at all-you-can-eat meals, and whether that all-you-can-eat feature resulted in student diners taking more food on to their trays, and then not eating all the food they took.

The not-too-surprising bottom line: Students in the all-you-can-eat group wasted a lot more food than students in a non-all-you-can-eat control group who were bombarded with don’t waste-food messages..

No big surprise there. But what was surprising was this: Big strides were made in preventing food waste by simply removing trays from the dining hall.

To test the findings, the students instituted “Wasteless Wednesdays,” in which trays were removed from several dining halls one day a week for four weeks. Early reactions among students were mixed, but food waste dropped around 30 percent on Wasteless Wednesdays. The use of kitchen water, energy, and cleaning chemicals also dropped significantly.

And the longer the experiment continued, the more student opposition faded away. The experiment was so successful that trays have now been removed from all Rice dining halls.

“We have come to discover that removing the tray is akin to removing a keystone, unleashing a variety of benefits,” Johnson said on his blog. “In addition to those already discussed, there are additional energy and labor savings related to reducing the quantity of food to be cooked. Arguably, trayless dining also improves the health of students by discouraging over-eating. I continue to hear from students that they pay more attention to the food that they consume now that the trays are gone.”

To learn more, visit the Rice blog at


April 15, 2009 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

Jason Green bumps into his old friend, Captain Recycle

(Note: This story appeared in a recent issue of the Blue & White, St. Petersburg College’s newsletter for faculty and staff.)

He wasn’t wearing his mask and cape, but college Sustainability Coordinator Jason Green recognized Captain Recycle the minute he walked into the room.

Alan Shapiro and Jason Green

Alan Shapiro and Jason Green

To most people, Alan Shapiro is just a mild-mannered Instructional Technologist at the Seminole Campus. But it wasn’t too many years ago that Shapiro was Captain Recycle, Boca Ciega High School’s masked marvel of all things green and recyclable.

Jason Green remembered, because he was one of Captain Recycle’s students. And Green says that 18 years after his Boca Ciega days, he owes his ecologically friendly career to his old high school teacher.

“He had such an impact, he was such a passionate teacher,” Green recalled. “He couldn’t help but have an impact on how I looked at the world. From that class, I became a lifelong environmentalist. I made sure my family recycled at home. When possible, I rode my bike rather than drove and tried to raise the consciousness of my friends and family about not wasting energy and water.”

Now, both men are employed by St. Petersburg College, and both ended up in the same meeting at the Seminole Campus recently to discuss some college-related ecological subjects. Green recognized his old teacher right away; it took a few additional minutes for Shapiro to recognize Green.

But Shapiro’s memory is pretty sharp when it comes to Captain Recycle.

“I was a science teacher at the time, and the state of Florida had just passed a law requiring communities to recycle a certain percentage of their waste,” Shapiro said.  “I wanted to get a recycling center started at the school, so I started a club we called Eco-Action.”

Boca Ciega High School is in Gulfport, but Shapiro sought help from Tom Lehmann, the recycling coordinator for the city of St. Petersburg. He and his students drew up flyers, urging people to bring their recyclables to school.

To generate excitement among his students, Shapiro dreamed up the Captain Recycle character.

“I got a t-shirt airbrushed with the letters CR on the front, and I got a cape and a mask and I walked around the school as Captain Recycle,” Shapiro said.  “The whole thing became pretty popular.”

The club gathered and recycled aluminum cans, paper, cardboard and Styrofoam. The effort was so successful that the recycling center at Boca Ciega became one of the most productive centers in the St. Petersburg system.

All of that made a big impression on many Boca Ciega students, but it made a huge impression on Green, who went on to a career as an architect and sustainability expert. He now leads all of the environmental efforts at SPC.

“(Shapiro) didn’t care about appearances, he was so passionate and he ran around school in that cape and mask making sure students and teachers did the right thing by recycling.” Green said.

It took Shapiro a little while to recall Jason Green, but once he did it created a rush of memories from his early-1990s Captain Recycle days.

“It blew me away, it was wonderful,” he said. “Jason said, ‘You kind of inspired me.’ It made me feel good as a teacher, and as someone who still tries to do things for the environment.

“Teaching can be good.”

All of SPC’s recent green efforts, led by Jason Green, have Shapiro thinking about bringing Captain Recycle out of retirement.

“My old cape is gone,” he said. “But I bet I could get another one.”


April 14, 2009 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Uncontrollable junk mail and telephone directories!

phone-book-pictureDo you receive way too much junk mail? Here are some tips to lighten your junk mail load:

The issue

  • Every year, each of us receives almost 560 pieces of junk mail, accounting for 43% of all delivered mail!
  • Every year, the US EPA estimates 44% of junk mail isn’t even opened, creating four tons of waste!
  • Every year, junk mail uses as much energy as almost three million cars!
  • Every year, junk mail consumes100 million trees or approximately 550,000 tons of paper!
  • Every year in the US, households receive 540 million unsolicited phonebooks creating an additional 650,000 tons of trash.
  • Every week, we typically receive 1.5 personal letters and 11 pieces of junk mail!
  • Every day, 250,000 homes could be heated from a single day’s accumulated junk mail!

Be part of the solution

Save trees, water and energy by removing your name (or former employee’s names) from unwanted mailing lists, catalogs and credit card offers!

  • Whenever you receive an unwanted catalog, simply call the company and ask to be removed from their mailing list.
  • allows you to remove your home or office from receiving telephone directories.
  • provides a free and quick way to get your name off commercial mailing lists.
  • allows you to opt out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers online or 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
  • is a nonprofit organization that removes your name from specific catalog lists.
  • Green Dimes is a private company that charges to remove names from mailing lists.
  • EcoLogical Mail Coalition helps businesses stop mail addressed to former employees.
  • New American Dream provides information on reducing junk mail and ways to ask Congress for a national “Do Not Junk registry”.
  • Make sure you recycle all other unwanted mail/telephone directories.


April 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

who we are:

Early in 2008, St. Petersburg College recognized its responsibility to model to our students, employees and community ways to minimize global warming emissions and provide the knowledge to our graduates to help achieve a more environmentally friendly future. Because of this, the College made sustainability (defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs) a top priority. As a result, the Office for Sustainability was established.

what we do:

Working alongside internal and external partners, the Office for Sustainability focuses on the following areas of environmental stewardship: educational programs and corporate training, energy and natural resource conservation, green buildings and facilities, carbon emissions, recycling and student activities.

learn more:

To learn more about The Office for Sustainability at St. Petersburg College, contact Jason Green, Sustainability Coordinator at

sustainable | SPC


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