Green Career Fairs in the Midwest?

Are you a college student or a recent graduate?  Have you followed the educational path to a shiny new sustainability or environmental degree?  (If so, bless you and your commitment!)  But are you ready to look for work in this field?? Are you looking to network?  As a part of your search, I bet you’re planning to hit up some career fairs.  Should be helpful, right?  Unfortunately, for aspiring sustainability and environmental professionals, this may not be so easy.

Career fairs exist to give potential employees face time with employers.  They give us a opportunity to socialize, make important contacts, and perhaps even make acquaintances in similar fields. 

Career fairs are hosted all the time.  Unfortunately, many career fairs that I have attended (or planned to attend before viewing the exhibitor list) were filled with exhibitors that may not have been there to recruit sustainability and environmental professionals:  financial institutions, insurance companies, major corporations, retailers, grocers, etc.  (It’s certainly true that these companies NEED Environmental Specialists and Sustainability Coordinators, whether they know it yet or not.)

But for us ‘green’ folks out there, opportunities to connect in-person are few and far between: monthly meetings (Sierra Club, Green Drinks, USGBC, etc.), occasional seminars/conferences/fairs, and, of course, annual Earth Day events. (See ‘Getting Sustainably Involved in St. Louis.’)  Now I’m no social butterfly, but I could certainly use more frequent opportunities to mingle with my local tree-huggers.

Currently, however, it seems like many Earth Day and green events are geared toward education and outreach (excellent goals!), not recruiting and hiring.  They may not be expecting you to ask about a job.

But maybe they should.  I believe there is a need for Green Career Fairs in this part of the country (especially in St. Louis and Kansas City metros).  Until that torch is taken up, Green Career Fairs could easily be integrated into Earth Day celebrations!  Many relevant organizations are already in attendance.  Exhibitors could expect job-seekers as well as the general public, with just a little notice.  Event planners could attract job-seekers and job-providers to network table-by-table throughout the event.  Or perhaps a separate mini-networking social could be arranged, eh?  Green Events could give relevant organizations face time with the general public AND with potential employees.

We green folks need the face time to educate one another, lift each other up, connect with each other, and bring about that change we wish to see in the world.

Obsolescence of Edison

Let there be Light.   And there is light, just not inefficient light anymore.  In the United States, incandescent bulbs ranging from 100 Watts edbulbto 40 W are being phased out in the name of energy efficiency.  100 W incandescent bulbs were phased out late last year and the manufacture of 75-Watt lamps halted yesterday.  This has been a move heralded by environmentalists, energy officials, and CFL/LED light manufacturers and a move despised by incandescent producers, consumers wary of alternative lighting (quality, application, safety, Mercury), and ruttists (see a previous entry).  Sure, Compact Fluorescent Lamps and Light Emitting Diode bulbs produce comparable light, require less energy, and run longer than incandescent lights.  But why give them up?

Why should we stop incandescently illuminating our homes and businesses?

While we’re at it, we might as well ask why Ford Model T’s aren’t produced anymore or why doctors  no longer ‘bleed‘ patients to cure illness.

In an age where information and technology evolve at a blinding pace, the new and the better replace the old and the obsolete.  Advances in automotive fuel efficiency are generally commended instead of shunned as too fancy.  No one is complaining about owning a laptop that doesn’t take up an entire room.  And who looks at their smart phone and thinks, “This should be the size of a brick!?”  Lighting technology has surely improved enough that we shouldn’t want or need a century-old relic anymore.  Incandescent lighting produces 90% heat and 10% light….extremely inefficient unless you try to market light bulbs as winter heat lamps.

Don’t get me wrong.  Without incandescent lighting, we might’ve had a difficult time in the lab advancing fluorescent and LED technology.  Incandescent lighting has a long and diverse history; incandescent light has had vast impacts on life and society.  But it’s time to bow out and let CFL and LED technology illuminate society.   As for me, I’m investing in LED lighting.  Life spans of 25,000-60,000 hours, 5-10 Watts comparable to 30-75 Watt incandescent, NO mercury like CFLs…a worthwhile investment for me!

Think about it this way.

Comparison by ProductDose.com

Comparison by ProductDose.com

I think this is a slightly older study, as LED and CFL technologies have improved while cost has declined.  But you get the picture.  There certainly is a bright future in LED lighting. LEDs even work for specific situations now, like Candelabra fixtures or enclosed fixtures. (Just be aware of myths about LED lightingDSC_1195a.)

I suppose some folks aren’t so much opposed to alternative lighting as they are outraged that the government has shattered their lighting trends.  To that I don’t have a correct answer.  But I will say we are simply joining the growing list of nations that are phasing out inefficient lighting in efforts to reduce energy use, stifle pollution production, and minimize waste (think bulb lifespan).  Thank you light bulb and thank you Mr. Edison for brightening up our days.  But it is time.  Switch off!

2012 in Review

Not bad for 2012!  Thanks for reading and commenting everyone!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Some of My Favorite Posts:

Forget Climate, are We Prepared for the Weather?    You can debate climate change as much as you’d like; harsh weather still occurs and we aren’t ready for it.  There is Sustainability in Preparation.

Saving Rain for a Dry Day.    There are several ways to capture and use water effectively, efficiently, and aesthetically.

Getting ‘Sustainably’ Involved in St. Louis.  Sometimes it’s tough being green.  Here is a list of organizations and events that sustainability advocates might consider in the St. Louis area.

The Yard: Golf Course or Natural Resource?    A backyard doesn’t have to be a pesticide-ridden green floor.  A front yard doesn’t have to be a front yard!  Native landscaping, urban farming, xeriscaping…lots of options.

Boschert Greenway Living Wall.  Why would you retain a slope in a city and add even more hardscape?  This is a living retaining wall system that incorporates plants to help reduce stormwater runoff, combat the heat island effect, and improve aesthetics.

Voyage to an Earthship and Enjoyable Earthship.  Both of these posts focus on my visit to some incredible ‘biotecture’ near Taos, New Mexico.

Threshold of Consequence.    Surely we don’t have a significant impact on the environment and the climate.  But we still do things.  How far do the consequences of our impacts extend?

Lost in Transmission: Energy.  Powerlines and pipelines dance across the landscape almost everywhere.  But what are the consequences of transporting our precious energy from far-away sources??

Stewards of Earth.  The Purpose of my Blog.  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  ~John Muir

I also have several photo entries throughout the blog.  Feel free to peruse that category available through the menu to the right.

What is Living Architecture?

Someone on Twitter recently asked me about living architecture.

So, what is Living Architecture?

Well, what is architecture?  Google tells me that it is the ‘art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.’  By extension, then, living architecture could be defined as the practice of integrating vegetation into the design and construction of the built environment.  Living architecture generally refers to green roofs and green walls.  That is the primary focus of the Living Architecture Monitor magazine.  I suppose the term ‘green infrastructure‘ could also apply to these technologies, which seek to mimic natural systems in an effort to maximize environmental benefits (stormwater control, UHIE reduction, air quality, biodiversity, etc.).

DSC_1172a

I have touched on Living Architecture numerous times in the blog.

Saving Rain for a Dry Day

The Nature of an Urban Jungle

Your Wall Should be Alive

A Green Retaining Wall

Boschert Greenway Living (Retaining) Wall

Living Wall Prezi (Presentation)

Living Architecture is beautiful, useful, and beneficial to human and environmental health.

Recommended Reads on Nature and Sustainability

These are just a handful of the books that have helped shape my understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability, my deep appreciation for nature, and my hope for an ever-improving future.  Add some of these to your book wish list!

John Muir was the founder of our national park system, an ardent and expert hiker, a preservationist and naturalist, a botanist, and a stunningly illustrative writer.  Along El Capitanhis many walks through the South, the High Sierra of California, the frontier of Alaska, Mr. Muir descriptively portrayed his discoveries of tiny wildflowers, stout trees, towering mountains, and brilliant sky art.  Don’t take my word for it, just read his works.  If you like plants, like appreciation for Creation, or like exploring, you will enjoy John Muir.

“The Mountains of California”  1894

“My First Summer in the Sierra”  1911

“The Yosemite”  1912

“Travels in Alaska”    1915.  Don’t miss his descriptions of The Northern Lights aka aurora borealis

“Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf.”  1916.  Based on his first major outing as a young botanist.  He traveled from Indiana to Florida!

Gifford Pinchot disagreed with John Muir’s preservationist stance, but instead focused on utilitarianism.  He believed that natural resources could be used if they were responsibly managed by mankind.

“The Fight for Conservation”  1910

Aldo Leopold was a pioneer of conservation and wildlife conservation.  I highly recommend his major work.

“A Sand County Almanac”  1949

Rachel Carson was a scientist whose writings helped spur the modern environmental movement.

“The Sea Around Us”  1951

“Silent Spring”  1962

Paul Hawken has more recently written on sustainability and the ability of business to benefit profits as well as the planet and people.

“The Ecology of Commerce”  1993

“Natural Capitalism”  1999  (co-authored by Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins)

The late Ray Anderson was an amazing entrepreneur who, after reading Paul Hawken’s work, worked to transform his carpet company Interface, Inc. into a sustainable cradle-to-cradle business.  I had the chance to hear him speak at a Caring for Creation conference a few years ago and was prompted to learn more…

“Mid-Course Correction”  1999

Richard Louv recently outlined the troubles with modern living.  The public and kids in particular are deficient of the experience of nature. But a lot can be done!

“Last Child in the Woods”  2005

The following book was edited by Lyndsay Mosely and the staff of Sierra Club books.  See where faith enters into the equation…

“Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation”  2008

Greg Craven is a science teacher from Oregon who tries to help folks approach the climate change debate with some sort of rationality.  I thoroughly enjoyed his videos and his book.

“What’s the Worst That Could Happen?  A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate”  2009

What books do you recommend?

Rethinking Retail

…And they’re off!  With Halloween days behind us, the retail world has shifted its profit-seeking gaze towards Christmas.  Well, not Christmas itself.  Not the time of year when we’re to be thankful for what we have and generous to those who have not.  Rather, Christmas to the retail world is that special time of year when we open our wallets wider to amass more material goods and give them to those who may or may not need them.  Far too often, the feeling of obligation overwhelms the reservations about gift-list guessing and we end up purchasing stuff that NO ONE likely EVER needs.

OK, so I have a problem with the materialistic side of the holidays. But retail has a lot of opportunity to redeem itself if it strives for the triple bottom line. Retail could become more sustainable by offering American-made products, products made from recycled materials, products made with minimal packaging, products made to last, and parts for durable products (instead of forcing you to purchase a completely new product). For example, I ran into a parts issue with Cuisinart this year.  I acquired an older model of blender; the motor worked just fine, but the blade was broken.  I looked all over the net to find that 1) they don’t make parts for that model, 2) parts from other models are not interchangeable, and 3) I had an unusable blender.   Irritated, I sent the company a scolding email about purporting wastefulness.  I also noted that they could probably make more profit by selling and shipping pieces rather than whole units.  This is an example of durable goods gone wrong.  Anywho…

Retail could also improve upon the awful, inefficient, and unsustainable big box store design.  High ceilings mean more space to heat and cool.  Install suspended ceilings!    Incorporate skylighting to reduce the need for artificial lighting and the cost of electricity, bulbs, and ballasts.  Use energy efficient ballasts and fluorescent or LED Lighting.  Use motion sensors to minimize lighting costs.

Flat roofs span acres, acres that could be vegetated or generating electricity.  Fill the flat roofs with solar arrays or install a green roof.  Solar panels can produce electricity to offset demand.  Green roofs can insulate a building, reduce stormwater runoff, and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect.  You can have the best of both worlds by combining green roofs AND photovoltaic arrays.  The cooling effect of vegetation can provide more optimal operating temperatures for the solar panels.  That means that solar panels can operate more efficiently when it counts.  Imagine, it’s a hot, sunny summer day and the risks for brown outs are severely high. Your roof can save the day by both reducing the need for air conditioning (see the insulating properties of green roofs) and reducing the load on centrally-produced power (coal power plants) that may have trouble keeping up.

Next, parking.  Parking lots are vast expanses of impermeable area that contribute to urban flooding and the heat island effect.  They’re not usually even filled to capacity

Using a Strip Mall Parking Lot for a Community Block Party

(except for days like Black Friday).  But there are several options here.  First, share the parking lot with other area institutions and businesses.  For example, both 9-5 auto repair shops and restaurants need parking space.  But peak parking for the restaurant will be long after the mechanics have left.  Just overlap the parking lots to utilize the space more effectively.  Another option is to use permeable cool pavements to reduce stormwater runoff and reduce temperatures.  Yet another option is to capture and store surface water in large cisterns.  The cisterns can be used to water the landscaping, both reducing stormwater runoff and improving temperature moderation by the plants.  (See this project using living retaining walls in Washington DC.)

Of course many of these tips can apply to other parts of urban society.  Retail is just one part of the Urban Jungle, which desperately needs a return of nature.  Just gotta get out of that rut!

This is by no means and exhaustive list of possible improvements for retail.  Do you have any recommendations?  I’d be happy to hear them!