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You’re a young, eco-friendly, socially savvy college kid.

You care about the planet. You don’t want the polar bears to drown or the penguins to sweat, so you turn off the lights when you leave a room and you recycle.

You care about society.  You’re tired of all the bigotry in the world, so use your respectable social media presence to promote love and equality.

You care about your health and animals, so you drink almond milk and describe yourself as a “flexitarian”.

You care about authenticity. You wear joggers or leggings to class ’cause you know it’s not what’s on the outside, but the heart that counts, and the Man’s not gonna convince you otherwise.

Bottom line: you’re pretty cool. But did you know you could be even cooler?

Pictured: Person who is almost as cool as you.

The experts in sustainability recognize it is impossible to have a healthy society in a disconnected community. Community connectivity is necessary for a thing called “resilience”, which is basically a measurement of a community’s ability to cope with change and trouble. Strong communities, where the members know each other and work to meet each others needs, are much more likely to survive and thrive when they encounter things like climate change driven disasters and social upsets.  A great way to personally foster this kind of community is by volunteering. 

Volunteering not only allows you to give back to your community, but also connects you to members of the community you likely wouldn’t meet otherwise, creating an interconnectivity that is a major part of community health. How cool is that?

Volunteering isn’t rocket science, but the benefits are out of this world.

For this reason, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) was established in 2011 to “serves as a catalyst between the campus and the community, creating ‘a door’ for local nonprofits to engage students as volunteers in their programs.” The CCE’s mission is to “empower students through service to change the world” by “cultivating students’ strengths”, teaching them to identify societal needs and “empowering them to create solutions to those needs through service.”

This guy volunteers. He also has fantastic style.

Over the past 7 years, the CCE has helped thousands of students connect with the NWA community through volunteering.  They help students, as well as groups such as Greek chapters and RSOs, track the hours they volunteer through their GivePulse page.

Students especially passionate about volunteer work and nonprofits can take their game a step up and join the Volunteer Action Center (VAC). The VAC board consists of 43 students and functions similarly to a nonprofit organization’s board of directors. These students focus on engaging other students in volunteering and manage the UofA’s 4 signature volunteer programs.

This viking was photographed celebrating after he learned of the 4 signature programs. The 4 signature programs are divided into two categories: Mentoring and Food. The Mentoring programs focus on empowering young people in an educational setting.

Dream B.I.G.(Believing in Girls) is a student-led program where U of A students serve as mentors to 6-7th grade girls from a partnership school in Arkansas. The college volunteers lead monthly education sessions with girls and host an overnight empowerment camp in the spring. Dream B.I.G. “strives to promote self-esteem, goal-setting, team work, pursuit of higher education, and motivation to succeed and overcome challenges.” Apply to be a Dream B.I.G. mentor here. 

Before the Dream B.I.G. program, her dreams were barely 1/4″ tall. Now she can only dream outside or she’ll break the ceiling.

VAC Literacy Program partners UofA volunteers with a student at a local elementary school. The UofA student meets with the elementary student for an establishes a 1.5 hour weekly meeting time where they do curriculum-based activities with a goal of “create[ing] personal and intellectual growth for both college-aged and elementary students through meaningful relationships, stimulating curriculum, and an alternative learning experience.” Apply to be a mentor here. 

The Food programs focus on assisting the food insecure of our community while eliminating food waste.

The Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry (FCP) was founded in 2011 by UofA students who became aware of their peers’ struggles with hunger and wanted to help. Serving only 12 people in its first month, FPC now serves average of 200 students, staff, faculty and their households each week.  FPC strives to not only provide meals, “but provide balanced nutrition in a dignified, friendly environment to any UARK community member.” Volunteers commit to two hours weekly and can apply at this link. 

Pictured: Food Waste

Razorback Food Recovery, a particular favorite of the OFS, was created in 2014 by students who wanted to eliminate both food waste and hunger in our community. 15.3% of Washington Country residents are food insecure. According to the VAC, “the numbers increase dramatically on campus with 38% of undergraduate students and 48% of graduate students not knowing where their next meal is coming from.” To date RFR has recovered over 123,000 pounds of food from being thrown away and redistributed it back into our campus and community. Find out more about volunteering with RFR here.

These 4 signature programs are an excellent way to get involved, but they are far from the only volunteer opportunities available.  

The CCE is connected to over 200 non-profits in NWA so students have hundreds of volunteer opportunities on and off campus to choose from. Everyone can find an opportunity that works for them. Even this guy found a volunteering opportunity right for him.

As an added bonus, the VAC has an incentive program, Get Your 10. Once you logs 10 hours of service through the UofA GivePulse, you become a VAC member and receive a perks card which provides discounts at participating NWA businesses. As you gain more volunteer hours (10, 25, 50, 75, 100, and 200+) you are eligible for additional perks.  Yes, this means local businesses will reward you for playing with cats.

Cats are an important part of our community.
It is hard to find anything cooler than volunteering. Volunteering connects you to your community and grows you as a person, all while helping to make the world a better place. Live your best life by volunteering today. 
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And We’re Back.

The first week of classes is here, leaving us students with the task of reestablishing routine. As you start integrating yourself into your new schedule (and begin the search for that elusive timetable that will allow you to study, eat, sleep, and have fun) don’t forget to follow these 10 steps to help reduce your personal carbon footprint and better our world.

10 Steps to Student Sustainability 1. Buy Used Textbooks

This one is a no-brainer. Not only are new textbooks really, really expensive, buying them is also a waste of paper and energy.  Buying a used textbook (or renting one) is recycling. Reusing textbooks—whether by buying them used, renting them, or borrowing one from a friend—helps the planet by keeping the resources to make a new book (trees, water, energy) untouched. It also saves you a lot of money, as used books are invariably cheaper than their new counterparts. Most bookstores have a used selection, and many of them will even buy back your book at the end of the semester so it can be used again!

2. Take Notes Electronically

One of the biggest categories of waste for college students is paper. An easy way to cut down on paper waste is to stop using paper altogether. We live in the technology age where taking notes electronically is not only possible, but easy. Most professors post their notes online, and converting those notes to an editable format takes only a few seconds. On top of that, there are tons of apps—such as Evernote, Simplenote, and Google Keep—that make taking and keeping track of notes electronically a breeze.

If you are one of those people who prefers the feel of pen and paper over a keyboard, you can cut down on paper waste by recycling the paper you use, and bonus points for using recycled paper in the first place.

Want to cut down on your paper waste even further? Check out this post on Tips for Reducing Paper Usage in College.

3. Reuse Mugs and Water Bottles

There are few sources of waste as absurd as plastic water bottles. Buying a single use water bottled is much more expensive than drinking water from the tap, yet there is no significant difference in the quality of the product. The idea that bottled water is safer or higher quality than tap water is almost always a myth. Both bottled water and tap water have to meet the same FDA regulations. 

To boycott the deceptive bottled water industry and save yourself some serious cash in the meantime, start bringing a reusable water bottle to class. Campus is covered in water fountains and bottle re-fill stations where you can top off on agua for absolutely free.

Secondly, did you know that “every year Americans drink more than 100 billion cups of coffee. Of these, 14.4 billion are served in disposable paper cups, enough to wrap the Earth 55 times if placed end to end”? You can help decrease this statistic by bringing your own reusable thermos to campus. Not only will you be keeping hundreds of cups out of the landfill each year, but many places (including Starbucks) will give you a discount when you provide your own container.

4.Recycle

Recycling is an enormously important way to reduce waste, and on campus it is easy to do. Every building is equipped with recycling receptacles for paper, cans, and plastics. We at the University of Arkansas take recycling seriously and are always looking for ways to expand our on-campus recycling program. This year we were proud to begin accepting all plastics #1-7 for recycling in our “cans and bottles” bins. So whether its your backpack full of old notes, six empty cans of Red Bull or plastic packaging, make sure to dump it in the corresponding bin and keep it out of the landfill.

5. Shorten Your Showers

While sometimes there’s nothing more you want after a long day than to stand in the shower for twenty minutes, reducing your time under the spray is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Every minute spent with the shower on uses half a gallon of water, plus energy to heat and transport the water.  Cutting down your showers by just one minute every day can save over 180 gallons of water annually.

For the more dedicated of you, try saving water by turning off the flow while you shave. You can also cut down on the energy each shower uses by turning down the temperature – or even taking them cold.  The really hardcore among you can save even more water by attempting the “Navy Shower“, where you turn on the water only long enough to get wet and then rinse off.

6. Wash On Cold

A whopping 75% or the energy used by your washing machine goes into heating the water. When you consider the fact the almost all laundry detergents work just as well in cold water as hot, it be comes pretty obvious that washing your laundry on any setting besides cold is just an enormous waste of energy.

Additionally, washing on cold also helps your clothes last longer.  Hot water can break down fabrics, cause shrinkage, and even fade dyes.  Cold washes will keep your favorite sweater looking good and keep you from having to consume more clothing—additionally decreasing your carbon footprint.

Bonus sustainability points if you hang your clothes up to dry 7. Watch What You Eat

Food waste is one of the most prolific and pointless areas of waste in the developed world. The statistics surrounding food waste are truly startling. It is estimated that 30-40% of all food produced in the US is never consumed.  This is not only an enormous waste of resources (think of all that goes in to growing, harvesting, packaging, and shipping the food just for it to be thrown away), but it is also an enormous source of GHGs. Recent studies show that edible food is the second largest component of our landfills. Yes, that means that we as a country throw away more food than almost anything else—and this rotting food is also thought to be the largest source of GHG production in landfills.

The best and most effective way that you can make a difference in the fight against food waste is to reduce your own personal waste. This looks like joining our University’s Project Clean Plate—a pledge to “clean your plate” by eating everything you put on your plate when you visit the dining hall. You can also reducing food waste by learning the secret powers of your refrigerator.

Secondly, what you eat has a huge effect on the water you use due to food’s virtual water footprint, aka the water used to grow the food.  As a rule, meat uses way more water to produce than veggies, so becoming a “flexitarian” is a great way to live responsibly.

8. Rethink Transportation

Another large contributor to student carbon footprints comes from the vehicles they drive. Cutting down on your personal emissions—and avoiding the misery of on-campus parking—is as simple as finding a new way to school. The simplest alternative to driving is walking, but the U of A is also equipped with a free, reliable bus system that makes getting to campus easy. Click here to see the schedule and routes of the buses.

Another way to commute is by bike. Biking not only reduces your personal carbon footprint, saves you gas money, and ups your “cool-factor”—it also keeps you in shape. How’s that for a win-win-win-win situation? The city of Fayetteville and University of Arkansas both pride themselves on being bike friendly, boasting an extensive trail system as well as free bike repair stations throughout the campus and city. Click these links to see a map of all bike parking on campus and here to read more about bikes on campus.

9. Volunteer

One of the most best ways to live responsibly is to volunteer your time in support of local sustainable initiatives.

TriCycle Farms welcomes volunteers

We are fortunate to live in Fayetteville, Arkansas—a community full of businesses and organizations striving towards sustainability. There are also many sustainable initiatives on campus—such as our Full Circle Food Pantry and the GameDay Challenge. Getting involved is easy and worthwhile. Click on this link to see a list of current volunteer opportunities in the community.

10. Vote

While making responsible changes in your own life is great, the sustainability of the world—and our community—depends on everyone else making sustainable choices as well. A major way to encourage sustainable behavior in our community (and country) is to vote for sustainable policies. We in the United States have been given a voice through our ability to vote. We must speak out in favor of policies that steward our resources in a way that benefits our planet and people, as well as our economy. 

Click here to read about the definition of “sustainability” Click here to read more about why voting matters to sustainability. 
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For those of us who care about the environment, the current political climate can be extremely discouraging.

However, the members of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) believe there is still a way to bring about sustainable policy on a national scale:

Governments will respond to the will of the people provided we tell them what we want. And what we want is a livable world.

This is what Citizens’ Climate Lobby works for. To empower citizens to connect with and influence their members of Congress. To spread the idea that each one of us can address climate change.

Working together we can make this happen.

CCL is a “non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization”, who believes in the power of what they dub Political Will. Simply put, Political Will is what happens when a group gathers together in a support of a single idea.

But what is the idea that CCL is working to organize the voices of our nation around?

Nothing less than what may be the silver bullet of Climate Change Policy: Fee and Dividend 

Watch this 2 minute video to see exactly what makes a Fee and Dividend policy so revolutionary.

CCL - Fee and Dividend explained in 2 minutes - Vimeo

CCL – Fee and Dividend explained in 2 minutes from Mark NeuCollins on Vimeo.

Fee and Dividend works by placing a tax, or “fee”, on fossil fuels at the point of extraction.  This inflates the price of fossil fuels at the very beginning of the supply chain in a way that carries down throughout the market.  This makes the use of fossil fuels more expensive (and more realistic) at every step, allowing alternative fuels to become more competitive. This fee would start out small and increase steadily over the next years with the intention of weaning our nation off our poisonous addiction.  So far, this sounds like just another Carbon Tax.

What makes a Fee and Dividend policy unique, however, is what is done with the money generated by the tax.

Instead of the tax revenue staying in the hands of the government, the net revenue would be distributed equally to all American household as a monthly dividend. According to CCL, about 2/3rds of Americans would receive more in their divided than they would spend in higher fuel prices.  That’s right: a Fee and Dividend policy would actually make you money.

CCL had REMI conduct a study on what impact a Fee and Dividend policy could have on our country.  The results were extremely encouraging, predicting a reduction in CO2 emissions to 52% below 1990 levels in 20 years and an economic stimulus that adds 2.8 million jobs to the economy. Not to mention that the reduction in air pollution caused by switching away from fossil fuels would prevent over 230,000 premature deaths. Sounds like a bright future, doesn’t it?

These numbers truly do make a Fee and Dividend policy seem like a one step solution to Climate Change.  But, you may ask, what if the study is wrong?  What if the policy does not work as predicted and more measures are needed to combat our country’s dependence on fossil fuels?

While changes in policy seldom work as smoothly as predicted, this is no reason to not attempt them at all.  If we want a livable world, a change in our energy policy has to be made; inaction simply is not an option. 

The Fee and Dividend policy may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction, and a step we desperately need to make.

Make your voice heard and help build the Political Will necessary to make Climate Change policy a reality. Together we can make the bright future we hope for into reality.

Click here to join CCL. Click here to learn more about CCL’s plan. Click here to learn how a Fee and Dividend policy would effect border policy. 
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Climate Change is a big problem.

It is so big, in fact, that individual action—while necessary—is not enough to stop the dire predictions of a warmer world from becoming reality.

According to a recent NYT article,

“The United States… has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet…. the United States, with just over 4 percent of the world’s population, is responsible for almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. “

Fixing this is going to take more than just re-thinking the amount of meat we consume or the types of transportation we choose. The alarming fact of the matter is that no matter how hard an individual American tries – even to the point of adopting a lifestyle of homelessness – we still generate at minimum Carbon Footprint of 8.5 tons per person. The reason is simple.

As explained by the Obama administration “the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the Nation” and our Federal Government  – including the military, transportation infrastructure, etc – is still very entrenched in its use of fossil fuels.

In order for our nation to address climate change and combat its own massive carbon footprint, we must implement policies that will enforce sustainable behavior. Yet this type of legislation has been continually opposed.

The argument against implementing Climate Change Policy, or more specifically some form of a price on carbon, has remained two-fold.  Firstly, it argues that pricing carbon would negativity disrupt our economy. Secondly, it argues that once fossil fuels become less economical – because of limited supply – our market system will naturally down-regulate its use.

But these arguments hinge on a major factual error: the assumption that fossil fuel use is currently profitable.

The fossil fuel industry is what economists call a “Market Failure”

Simply put, the price of fossil fuels does not accurately represent the cost of their production.

While the price does reflect the cost of drilling and refining the fuels, it does not account for the cost of negative externalities. A negative externality is defined as “a cost that is suffered by a third party as a result of an economic transaction.”  For fossil fuels this includes everything from the negative impacts of habitat destruction in the acquiring of raw materials to the costs of cleaning up from natural disasters worsened by climate change.  Since GHG emissions from fossil fuels are the major contributor to climate change, it could be argued that all damage due to climate change is a negative externality of the fossil fuel industry.

A map of global air pollution – one of the many negative externalites of the fossil fuel industry As one climate scientist put it, “The fossil fuel industry is the only industry that isn’t required to clean up its own waste.”

If the fight against climate change is to gain any true ground, it is imperative for the cost of GHG emisions to be accurately represented in our economic and market sectors. As long as these fuels are marketed at artificially cheap prices, they will continue to appear to be the most economical option – further entrenching our society in its dangerous dependence on the fuels that have us currently releasing 14.7 trillion pounds of CO2e annually.


Although there is much public support for switching to alternative fuels, industry and government have remained reluctant to adopt the change A big part of the solution to this “market failure” is widely agreed to be found in Carbon Pricing

Carbon Pricing is exactly what is sounds like—a way to put a price on CO2e emissions. There are two major approaches to Carbon Pricing: Carbon Tax, like CCL’s Fee and Dividend idea and Carbon Trading.

Whichever of these policies you favor, it is imperative to encourage our government, local and federal, to employ carbon pricing policies and reduce emissions of GHGs.

As we are taught in our Sustainability Courses here at the UofA, “We are all in this together”. To truly fight for a sustainable future we must use the rights given to us within this country and make our voices heard.  We must advocate and vote for sustainable policy and environmentally-minded legislators. Individual action itself is not enough, but individuals coming together behind one cause can spark massive change. 

To learn more about a Carbon Tax, click here.

To learn more about Carbon Trading, click here.

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Sustainability is not just about the environment.

The three pillars, or domains, of sustainability are social, economic, and environmental. Economic sustainability begins with economic equity and viability of families. For a family unit of a parent, spouse, and two kids, a living wage is the amount of income estimated to be necessary to meet their basic needs. It does not include buffers for medical or legal expenses, tuition for higher education, or other prosperity-based expenditures.

In Washington County, a living wage for a parent and spouse with two kids is $23.38 per hour, according to the work of Dr. Amy Glasmeier, Professor of Community Development at MIT. The living wage for a single person in Washington County is $10.13 per hour. Take a look at the National Living Wage Map, based off of her finding of how the local cost of living affects living wages.

Annual Living Wage by State

A living wage is associated with the cost of living in a place. The most expensive locations to live in the US, such as Manhattan, have a living wage rate of as high as $29.48 per hour. Many community programs can dramatically affect these costs, such as support for public transit, childcare, health care, and education.

I am proud that my community in the Cherokee Nation has focused on these issues, and am also proud that the City of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas are working together to identify and enhance critical basic services to our community. While we are still struggling to increase entry pay rates statewide, the benefits our employees receive, including health care and tuition discounts, create additional value for our community. For the University of Arkansas, paying a living wage is a sustainability priority.

While we are working statewide to expand our wage rates, we need to provide expanded resource support for our working families. One way we can do that right now is to contribute to community programs such as the United Way.

Please join me in supporting the United Way campaign this year. Go to unitedway.uark.edu to learn how you can help.

Click here to learn more about how social justice relates to sustainability.

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Did you know?

The University of Arkansas has a free charging station available for electric vehicles!

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Garland Parking Garage rendering

In August 2010, the 1,500 parking space Garland Parking Garage was completed to accommodate the U of A’s continuously expanding population of students, faculty and staff commuters.  In the process of designing and building this new garage, the University of Arkansas Transit and Parking department was approached by the company ChargePoint, an electric vehicle charging company that installs charging stations nationwide.  ChargePoint offered to pay for and install one of their charging stations within the Garland Parking Garage.  As the Universityof Arkansas is always looking for ways to offer sustainable choices to its students, faculty and staff, the transit department readily accepted ChargePoint’s generous offer.

How can people us the EV Charging Stations?

The charging station is located in parking spot 1276 on level B2 of the Garland Parking Garage at 650 N. Garland Avenue, Fayetteville, AR 72701.  Directions for using the ChargePoint station are listed on the U of A parking website.

While the ChargePoint Station’s electricity is free to use by all, one must obtain a parking permit or pay the hourly price to park in the parking garage.  There are currently no incentives being offered to those who own electric cars and use the charging stations, but once the station usage increases, the transit department will look into installing more charging stations.

Do you have an Electric Vehicle at the University of Arkansas?

Share your experience and photos of you using the ChargePoint EV Charging Station with the Office for Sustainability at sustain@uark.edu or leave a comment below.

The City of Fayetteville is also dedicated to encouraging electric car use by its residents. Fayetteville’s commitment was most recently expressed in PARK(ing) day, on September 17th.

Electric car charging station installed in downtown Fayetteville

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Back in 2013, a USDA survey announced the 21.3% of Arkansan households were food insecure. At the same time, it is estimated that colleges throw away 22 millions pounds of good food every year, adding to the global epidemic of food waste. A few students at the U of A learned these statistics and decided to do something.  In 2014, Razorback Food Recovery was born.

“The idea is basically simple. We want to keep food from being thrown into the landfill and instead get it to the people who need it. Waste not, want not. But making this happen takes a great deal of work, planning and cooperation,” explained Claire Allison, food programs coordinator for the U of A Center for Community Engagement in a 2015 Newswire article.

What’s gonna work? Teamwork.

The food recovery process takes a large group of coordinated and dedicated volunteers to make it happen.  First, unused food from campus retail and dining locations are collected and stored by Chartwells associates. Next, student volunteers repackage, weigh and log all recovered items. Finally the food items are distributed to the U of A’s Full Circle Food Pantry and local agencies.

This results in free, healthy meals going to people who need them and a lot less good food ending up in a landfill. Talk about Win-Win. Pictured: The appropriate response to learning about RFR In May RFR announced that they had officially recovered 100,000 lb of food – enough to feed around 27,750 people with three full meals.

That’s a lot of food that would have otherwise just been thrown away.

The effects of their efforts are expanding far beyond NWA. Razorback Food Recovery was the first campus-based food recovery program in Arkansas and one of the first in the Southeastern Conference.

Now the RFR team has developed a food recovery model and training program to help other colleges and universities establish their own pantries and food recovery projects. Mentors from the UofA are teaching the RFR model to campuses across AR

So far, this mentoring program has been implemented at Arkansas State University, Northwest Arkansas Community College, the University of Arkansas Little Rock, and Arkansas Tech University.

Yet RFR doesn’t see their work as done. Writing about this on Facebook, RFR said, “Arkansas and Mississippi are tied as the most food insecure states in our nation. Although we are no longer the highest in child hunger, we still have a long way to go.” Arkansas ranks second in the nation in hunger with 18.4% of Arkansas households considered food insecure. Washington County falls only just under that average with 17.2% food insecure households, or about 1 in every 6.  But with RFR on the job, and your help, hunger will continue to decline right alongside campus food waste.

Pictured: Feeding two birds with one stone, aka fighting hunger and food waste simultaneously

Food recovery initiatives like this are so important because they address both sides of the problems caused by waste. While most people understand that waste should be avoided because it eliminates the usefulness of a resource and wastes the energy put into the product’s production, few realize that unnecessary waste also often leads to impoverished populations.  Simply put, wasteful living means less of a resource to go around which leads to some people having to do without.

Striving for a Zero Waste lifestyle is not only good for the environment, but the only truly socially responsible way to live. Want to care for your community? Start by reducing your personal waste.

The story of RFR teaches us another notable lesson:  

RFR was started by a group of U of A students and staff who were just that – normal members of our campus community.  The only thing that set them apart was that when they saw a problem in their community they took the initiative to solve it.  While RFR started small, it is now impacting the whole state of Arkansas and may go on to change the food culture of campuses across our nation.

Razorback Food Recovery serves as a challenge and encouragement to take initiative when confronted with problems in our community.

It is time we step away from wishing things were different and instead take the steps necessary to make a change.  Who knows what creative, game-changing solutions our campus might come up with if we only believe we can?

Have an idea but don’t know how to move forward? Email us at the OFS at sustain@uark.edu or stop by our office on Harmon Ave. and we will be happy to help!

Click here to volunteer with RFR.

Click here to learn about hunger in Arkansas.

Click here to read more about the connection between sustainability and social justice. 

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At the University of Arkansas we don’t just allow biking on campus; we encourage it.

Riding a bike is great for so many reasons. Biking is a zero emission way of traveling, helping our University reach our Carbon Neutrality goals.  Bikes reduce the number of cars on campus, minimizing traffic and allowing the bike-rider to avoid the pains of campus parking. Riding a bike also keeps you in shape and makes you look really cool. Seriously, what’s not to love?

The U of A has dedicated itself to promoting bike riding on campus, culminating in the League of American Bicyclists recognizing us as a Silver Bicycle Friendly University in Spring 2016. Since the award, the U of A has continued to promote bicycling on and around campus.

But before we descend in biking anarchy, let me remind you of the importance of behaving respectfully and safely towards everyone sharing the campus walkways.

To be a responsible cyclist – the kind that spreads peace and love instead of running people over – follow these 9 Bike Safety Guidelines

1. Pedestrians have the right of way This cool guy yields for pedestrians and so should you!

We’ve all been there: you’re rolling along a path toward where it is crossed by another pathway and some walker is almost at the intersection.  As tempting as it may be to give your bike a couple extra pumps and whiz through the intersection a few nanoseconds before the walker, to do so is a recipe for disaster. Even if you avoid a collision, that sort of narrow flyby is liable to give the poor pedestrian a heart attack. Instead, act like a cool kid and slow down, giving the pedestrian the right of way.

2. Walk your bike in high traffic areas

Although the Walk-Only zone has been abolished, this is not permission to pretend crowded areas are obstacle courses for you to practice your biking agility. If you ever find yourself in a spot where you cannot ride with a comfortable 3 feet between you and all pedestrians, dismount.  Walk your bike until the traffic clears and then you can continue on your ride

3. Alert by voice when passing

Whenever you are about to pass someone, let them know. While bike bells are highly effective in some places, at the U of A we recommend alerting people of your passing with your voice. Simply give a polite “On your [left or right]” and look for some sort of indication that you were heard.  You can even sing your warning if you wish.

4. Use hand signals to indicate turns or intentions to stop

It’s nice to let people know what you’re planning to do, especially when you are moving 4x faster than them. Utilizing hand signals allows people both in front and behind you to know when you are planning to turn, preventing accidents.  Plus, it makes you look legit.

Signals for left, old school right, stop, and right 5. Keep a reasonable speed

What is a reasonable speed, you may ask?  To answer that question, consider this scenario. Irresponsible Biker Joe is sailing down the sidewalk between Hillside and Chem, going as fast as he can because no one else is around. Suddenly, Very Popular Jane, checking her very popular twitter (and therefore not paying attention to her surroundings) steps in front of Joe. If Joe had been going a “reasonable” speed, he would have had plenty of time to stop. Unfortunately, he was not.

A reasonable speed is one that gives you time to react to changes in your environment without crashing or causing an accident.  Remember that campus is full of unexpected hazards (including texting students) and adjust your speed accordingly.

6. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Being slowed down by a pedestrian is much better than accidentally hitting one.

Nothing gives bikers a bad name like nailing a pedestrian. To avoid this, err on the side of caution.  If you yell out that you are passing, and the person doesn’t acknowledge, slow down and navigate the pass cautiously.  There is always a chance the walker is wearing headphones and can’t hear you.  Likewise, if a crossing at an intersection seems close, wait instead of shooting the gap.  A few moments of slowing down (or even stopping) is better than an accident – which, all other things aside, will slow you down even longer.

This bike is ready to spread peace and love on campus. Are you? 7. When using streets, watch for vehicles and follow traffic rules.

Sometimes when campus is crowded with pedestrians, it is more convenient to take to the streets. If you choose to do this, you must follow traffic laws.  Basically just pretend you are little car, and act like you are driving. This means you follow the flow of traffic, stop at stop signs, and don’t weave around cars.

8. Always wear a helmet 

Fun fact: your brain is important.  In fact, most scientists agree that it is rather difficult to live without one. As such, it is important to protect your head (which contains your brain) from any serious injury.  This is why helmets were invented.  As an added bonus, everyone looks more attractive when they wear helmets.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this viking sculpture and tell me I’m wrong.

When you wear a helmet you look like this. Awesome, right? 9. Keep your bike in good repair.

To enjoy riding your bike, it is generally a good idea to make sure your bike works.  Watch this video of a quick check to do of your bike before you ride, and you shouldn’t run into any problems. If you’re bike does need repair, there are several bike shops around Fayetteville that are qualified to help, including the UREC Outdoors Bike Shop at the U of A HYPER.

ABC Quick Check - HD Version - Vimeo

ABC Quick Check – HD Version from Active Trans on Vimeo.

Increasing bike ridership on campus minimizes traffic, frees up parking, and reduces our campus carbon-footprint.  We encourage all students, staff, and faculty to try out this fun healthy way to get around.

Learn more about bikes on campus and biking resources at http://bike.uark.edu

Have more questions? Feel free to stop by the OFS on Harmon Drive anytime during the week, and we will be happy to fill you in.

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And We’re Back.

The first week of classes is here, leaving us students with the task of reestablishing routine. As you start integrating yourself into your new schedule (and begin the search for that elusive timetable that will allow you to study, eat, sleep, and have fun) don’t forget to follow these 10 steps to help reduce your personal carbon footprint and better our world.

10 Steps to Student Sustainability 1. Buy Used Textbooks

This one is a no-brainer. Not only are new textbooks really, really expensive, buying them is also a waste of paper and energy.  Buying a used textbook (or renting one) is recycling. Reusing textbooks—whether by buying them used, renting them, or borrowing one from a friend—helps the planet by keeping the resources to make a new book (trees, water, energy) untouched. It also saves you a lot of money, as used books are invariably cheaper than their new counterparts. Most bookstores have a used selection, and many of them will even buy back your book at the end of the semester so it can be used again!

2. Take Notes Electronically

One of the biggest categories of waste for college students is paper. An easy way to cut down on paper waste is to stop using paper altogether. We live in the technology age where taking notes electronically is not only possible, but easy. Most professors post their notes online, and converting those notes to an editable format takes only a few seconds. On top of that, there are tons of apps—such as Evernote, Simplenote, and Google Keep—that make taking and keeping track of notes electronically a breeze.

If you are one of those people who prefers the feel of pen and paper over a keyboard, you can cut down on paper waste by recycling the paper you use, and bonus points for using recycled paper in the first place.

Want to cut down on your paper waste even further? Check out this post on Tips for Reducing Paper Usage in College.

3. Reuse Mugs and Water Bottles

There are few sources of waste as absurd as plastic water bottles. Buying a single use water bottled is much more expensive than drinking water from the tap, yet there is no significant difference in the quality of the product. The idea that bottled water is safer or higher quality than tap water is almost always a myth. Both bottled water and tap water have to meet the same FDA regulations. 

To boycott the deceptive bottled water industry and save yourself some serious cash in the meantime, start bringing a reusable water bottle to class. Campus is covered in water fountains and bottle re-fill stations where you can top off on agua for absolutely free.

Secondly, did you know that “every year Americans drink more than 100 billion cups of coffee. Of these, 14.4 billion are served in disposable paper cups, enough to wrap the Earth 55 times if placed end to end”? You can help decrease this statistic by bringing your own reusable thermos to campus. Not only will you be keeping hundreds of cups out of the landfill each year, but many places (including Starbucks) will give you a discount when you provide your own container.

4.Recycle

Recycling is an enormously important way to reduce waste, and on campus it is easy to do. Every building is equipped with recycling receptacles for paper, cans, and plastics. We at the University of Arkansas take recycling seriously and are always looking for ways to expand our on-campus recycling program. This year we were proud to begin accepting all plastics #1-7 for recycling in our “cans and bottles” bins. So whether its your backpack full of old notes, six empty cans of Red Bull or plastic packaging, make sure to dump it in the corresponding bin and keep it out of the landfill.

5. Shorten Your Showers

While sometimes there’s nothing more you want after a long day than to stand in the shower for twenty minutes, reducing your time under the spray is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Every minute spent with the shower on uses half a gallon of water, plus energy to heat and transport the water.  Cutting down your showers by just one minute every day can save over 180 gallons of water annually.

For the more dedicated of you, try saving water by turning off the flow while you shave. You can also cut down on the energy each shower uses by turning down the temperature – or even taking them cold.  The really hardcore among you can save even more water by attempting the “Navy Shower“, where you turn on the water only long enough to get wet and then rinse off.

6. Wash On Cold

A whopping 75% or the energy used by your washing machine goes into heating the water. When you consider the fact the almost all laundry detergents work just as well in cold water as hot, it be comes pretty obvious that washing your laundry on any setting besides cold is just an enormous waste of energy.

Additionally, washing on cold also helps your clothes last longer.  Hot water can break down fabrics, cause shrinkage, and even fade dyes.  Cold washes will keep your favorite sweater looking good and keep you from having to consume more clothing—additionally decreasing your carbon footprint.

Bonus sustainability points if you hang your clothes up to dry 7. Watch What You Eat

Food waste is one of the most prolific and pointless areas of waste in the developed world. The statistics surrounding food waste are truly startling. It is estimated that 30-40% of all food produced in the US is never consumed.  This is not only an enormous waste of resources (think of all that goes in to growing, harvesting, packaging, and shipping the food just for it to be thrown away), but it is also an enormous source of GHGs. Recent studies show that edible food is the second largest component of our landfills. Yes, that means that we as a country throw away more food than almost anything else—and this rotting food is also thought to be the largest source of GHG production in landfills.

The best and most effective way that you can make a difference in the fight against food waste is to reduce your own personal waste. This looks like joining our University’s Project Clean Plate—a pledge to “clean your plate” by eating everything you put on your plate when you visit the dining hall. You can also reducing food waste by learning the secret powers of your refrigerator.

Secondly, what you eat has a huge effect on the water you use due to food’s virtual water footprint, aka the water used to grow the food.  As a rule, meat uses way more water to produce than veggies, so becoming a “flexitarian” is a great way to live responsibly.

8. Rethink Transportation

Another large contributor to student carbon footprints comes from the vehicles they drive. Cutting down on your personal emissions—and avoiding the misery of on-campus parking—is as simple as finding a new way to school. The simplest alternative to driving is walking, but the U of A is also equipped with a free, reliable bus system that makes getting to campus easy. Click here to see the schedule and routes of the buses.

Another way to commute is by bike. Biking not only reduces your personal carbon footprint, saves you gas money, and ups your “cool-factor”—it also keeps you in shape. How’s that for a win-win-win-win situation? The city of Fayetteville and University of Arkansas both pride themselves on being bike friendly, boasting an extensive trail system as well as free bike repair stations throughout the campus and city. Click these links to see a map of all bike parking on campus and here to read more about bikes on campus.

9. Volunteer

One of the most best ways to live responsibly is to volunteer your time in support of local sustainable initiatives.

TriCycle Farms welcomes volunteers

We are fortunate to live in Fayetteville, Arkansas—a community full of businesses and organizations striving towards sustainability. There are also many sustainable initiatives on campus—such as our Full Circle Food Pantry and the GameDay Challenge. Getting involved is easy and worthwhile. Click on this link to see a list of current volunteer opportunities in the community.

10. Vote

While making responsible changes in your own life is great, the sustainability of the world—and our community—depends on everyone else making sustainable choices as well. A major way to encourage sustainable behavior in our community (and country) is to vote for sustainable policies. We in the United States have been given a voice through our ability to vote. We must speak out in favor of policies that steward our resources in a way that benefits our planet and people, as well as our economy. 

Click here to read about the definition of “sustainability” Click here to read more about why voting matters to sustainability. 
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THERE’S A GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW

This is the promise sung throughout Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, a ride dedicated to showing technological progression and its effect on daily life.  In today’s world of climate change, instant news on every catastrophe and global conflict, it is easy to lose our optimism that the future really will be a bright place worth living. However, despite the problems we face, real solutions are being found to not only alleviate the stressors and sufferings of our modern world, but bring a tomorrow that truly is big, bright, and beautiful for everyone.

Here are just 3 of the incredible innovations in development today.

VERTICAL OCEAN FARMS

WHAT IT IS: 

Winner of the 2015 Fuller Challenge, the GreenWave‘s 3D ocean farming technique is a revolutionary new approach to aquaculture. Invented by Bren Smith, a career fisherman, the farm combines columns of seaweed crops with scallop and mussel nets and clam and oyster cages (See diagram here).

WHY IT MATTERS:

GreenWave challenges everything we consider normal about farming. For one thing, it is, in Smith’s words, “zero-input”. Everything it needs to grow is provided by the the sun and surrounding sea. Additionally, far from damaging or detracting from the ecosystem in which it is grown, these 3D farms provide habitat for indigenous marine wildlife and absorb excess nitrogen and phosphorous from land-based agriculture runoff. They also absorb CO2, which is the main driver of ocean acidification. These offshore farms also serve as storm-surge breakers for their coastal communities. Finally, seaweed is not only nutritious, but can grow over an inch a day, making it an excellent and reliable source of food.

Smith has managed to create a farming model that benefits the environment, is profitable, and meets the needs of humans; which just happens to be the definition of sustainable. The GreenWave model has set a new benchmark for what is possible with sustainable agriculture.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Watch Bren Smith’s TEDx talk, visit the GreenWave Website, or apply to become a GreenWave farmer yourself!

ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS

WHAT IT IS:

Most simply put, Artificial Photosynthesis (AP) is a human controlled, chemical process that mimics photosynthesis.  It uses light, CO2, and water and converts these inputs into a desired output. This video featuring Daniel Nocera, a lead researcher in the field of AP explains the applications of AP research.

Bionic Leaf Turns Sunlight Into Liquid Fuel - YouTube

WHY IT MATTERS:

Not only can AP be used to solve the decades old conundrum of storing energy, it can also be used to produce everything from plastics to fuels – in a carbon neutral process.

As this article from Scientific American puts it:

“Like a real leaf, this system would use only CO2, water and sunlight to produce fuels. The achievement could be revolutionary, enabling creation of a closed system in which carbon dioxide emitted by combustion was transformed back into fuel instead of adding to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

While the technology needs further development before commercialization, its possibility has moved from a hope to a reality.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Read about Nocera’s research, this MIT Technology Review of the process, or watch this TEDX talk on Artificial Photosynthesis.

DRONE APPLICATIONS

WHAT IT IS:

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), have been under constant debate over past years, as this ideas.TED video shows clearly. As Drone Technology continues to encounter human ingenuity, hundreds of applications, both virtuous and violent, have been conceived.

Drones: Will they save us or destroy us? - Vimeo

Drones: Will they save us or destroy us? from TED Ideas on Vimeo.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Drones are changing the world we live in, and not just through the military. Conservation researchers are using drones to fly over vast wilderness spaces for non-invasive evaluations of ecological health on a scale once thought impossible.  Farmers are using drones and the imagery they can gather from the air to switch to techniques of precision farming, far reducing the time, energy, and inputs associated with large farming operations.  Drones are now being used to deliver medicine and food to otherwise difficult to reach communities. There is even a hashtag, #Drones4Good, dedicated to promoting the multitude of ways drones could be and are being used to make our world a better place.

This TED article says it well:

 For all the rhetoric, you might think that this is a zero sum game: Drones will either destroy the world, or they’ll save it. The truth, of course, is that, well, they’re set to do both. Sophisticated developments see extraordinary advances on the part of the military, while the same technology is being harnessed and applied for life and planet-saving reasons, too. The key is for us to be careful and thoughtful about all, and not blindly stumble into dystopia despite ourselves.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Check out TED’s archive of Drone talks and topics, read up on UAV applications from Ascending Technologies, or follow Drones4Good on twitter and facebook.

Click here to read about some more game-changing technological advancements Click here to see more brilliant Fuller Challenge innovations Click here to watch the mind-blowing talks of TED Prize Winners
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