Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview with Sustainability Minor

When I found out ASU was offering a Sustainability minor I really wanted to talk to someone in the program. Jarett and I go way back, we took many classes together in high school- algebra, economics, and social studies. Was it AP Calculus we had with Wacky O'nacki? We also were active members in the Science Club- nerd alert! 

A: What year are you in school?
J: I am enrolled as a senior but it is my fifth year because I transferred colleges.

A: What is your major?
J: I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Energy and Environment. I am also minoring in Math and Sustainability. 

A: Wow, that's quite the undergraduate degree. From what I understand you see your regular advisor regarding the minor? Has your advisor been helpful?
J: My Mechanical Engineer advisor has been helpful and has answered most of my questions. 

A: Have you had to go to the School of Sustainability at all?
J: No, luckily my advisor just called over to their office if she didn't know the answer. 

A: That's good, sometimes it hard to deal with different advising offices at ASU. I'm glad it is running smoothly. What classes are you taking this semester for the minor?
J: I am currently talking SOS 100, which is Introduction to Sustainability. 

A: Looking over your syllabus and based on what you've learned so far, what are you learning related to your minor?
J: After looking over the syllabus it seems like the class is set up to open your mind towards more of a sustainability thinking while giving me a good foundation on the different problems facing our earth and the ways to fix it by going green.

A: What do you hope to gain from the minor?
J: From this minor I hope to gain a better understanding and foundation of sustainability while enhancing my knowledge towards my major. My major is geared on a concentration in Energy and Environment, so in other words, it is going to educate me on how to become an engineer while thinking and implementing more green techniques. So in the long run I hope that this minor will be able to help me have a better understanding on how to do that.

A: What are your career plans and goals?
J: My career plans/goals is to first graduate! After that my dream job would be to become an Engineer working on anything regarding going green; more specifically I would love to work in the field regarding anything with alternative energy or alternative fuels.

A: Yes, graduating is always the first step. But it seems like you are planning very well and will be eligible for a great job. Anything else you would like to say?
J: I think with the world in more need of going green that this minor is a great opportunity students should definitely look into. I feel that with this minor and my major concentration that I already have an advantage in finding a job over other students. I am excited about the upcoming classes I will be taking and am very excited to broaden my knowledge on sustainability!

A: I completely agree, you will have a leg up on the competition. Well best of luck and I look forward to hearing about the rest of your classes. 

Interview with Jarett Costello. September 22, 2010. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Freshman Advisor Award

I am honored to have eCollegeFinder to recognize me as a top Freshman Advisor. Results for the award were announced September 22, 2010 and I was selected for the Lifestyle category. Other areas were Academics, Dorm & Diet, Fashion, General, Personal Experience, and Preparation. Now a little bit about the organization:

"eCollegeFinder is education resource that provides students with the information needed to succeed with their academic aspirations. The Freshmen Advisor Award was created to recognize the top online resources that offer additional advice and guidance for freshman as they embark upon their college experience."

I was nominated for the award because of my articles about greening your dorm room, sustainability educational programs, and green collar jobsPlease visit eCollegeFinder to read more about their services for incoming and current college students. Posted below is the Press Release; to read more about the award and other winners please visit Freshman Advisors. Also, check out my new badge on the right side bar for my award.

Thank you again eCollegeFinder!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wind Turbines Scramble Military Radar

In 2009, wind projects which would have produced 9,000 mega watts of energy were stalled by the Department of Defense. These wind farms have rows and rows of turbines, sometimes up to 400 feet tall. With all the spinning, it can cause overheard airplanes to fall off the radar which can be dangerous to nearby military bases. Also, some of the turbines are so big they can be confused with 747 engines. Although no serious incidents have been recorded, wind turbines can interfere with air training and testing. 

A private firm, JASON, which performs tests for the US government claimed wind projects near bases are an "encroachment" and should be avoided; but many areas where air bases are located are also areas which can capture wind power such as Washington/Oregon Border, Great Lakes Area, and Mojave Dessert. There are steps both military bases and wind project managers can take to avoid radar issues. 

  • Stealth turbines with anti-radar coating
  • Upgrade military software which is not affected by wind power
  • Reach an agreement between the two parties

Stealth turbines make sure no reflecting surfaces face directly to the radar software. Tapered and egg shaped towers are also being designed but any redesign for existing ones would be expensive. New materials for blades and anti-radar coatings are also being developed.

Many military radar systems are out of date, some even from the 1950's; these radar systems are less efficient then modern day smart phones. While technology fixes can ease wind turbine confusion, they do not solve all the problems. Ideally, military systems should upgrade radar programs but it can be costly. 

Travis Air Force base and a wind project developer negotiated plans to build which did not produce radar scramble. The project developer hired an individual consultant who found the size of the wind turbines would not interfere with the air force base. The base accepted the findings so the wind project was able to move forward.

Overall, the conflict of national security and need for alternative energy are extremely important to our country. While use of alternative is a way of the future we must not compromise military base radar software running smoothly. We can only hope the stealth turbines will stick to their retail plan to be sold in 2011 and more wind project developers can reach agreements with military bases. 

What's more important flawless radar systems or capturing wind energy? Please share your opinion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BP: Going in for the Kill

After killing lots of sea animals and business in the Gulf, BP is finally going to put an end to the oil disaster. This Sunday the Macondo oil well is going to be "sealed and declared dead" according to MSNBC. Thad Allen of British Petroleum says the well will be filled with mud and cement thus sealing it off for good.

Jane Lubchenco, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the level of oil in the Gulf will continue to be monitored. She agrees with the government estimate that 50% of the oil spill has been removed from the water. On the other hand, scientists have been questioning the government's reports because of oil on the ocean floor. 

Many questions raised are:

Is it safe to swim?
IS it safe to eat seafood from the Gulf?
When will fishers be operating at full business?
How long will oil be appearing on beaches?

While Lubchenco reassures people the seas food is safe to eat, she makes this statement- "In short, folks want to know if it is safe to eat, swim and fish, and that is the kind of information we are committed to identifying answers to those questions." Hopefully, environmental scientists can answer these questions in the near future. 

Just as Tony Hayward is going to be replaced by Bob Dudley, Thad Allen will also be "stepping down" from BP as Incident Commander though he was only instated May 1. Paul Zukunft will be replacing Allen and efforts will be focused on nine marsh areas, community outreach, and seafood safety. As of now the man power will be greatly reduced and the timeline of the job is unknown.

Let's hope BP can follow through and put an end to this oil spill. It has been nearly five months, its about time they seal the well off. 

Stay tuned to see how Tony Hayward testifies to British Lawmakers regarding the spill. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

ASU Now Offers a Minor in Sustainability

Arizona State University's School of Sustainability was a ground breaking program when it started in 2007. The school offered a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Art in Sustainability and a Master's Program; a concentration for W.P. Carey students was also available. Now the School of Sustainability offers a green minor to any ASU student with the tagline- "Green Minor for Major Change". The minor is 18 credits and four different themes are offered:

  • Earth Systems
  • Human Transformation of the Earth
  • Coupled Human-Environment Systems
  • Economic Treatment of Natural Resources and the Environment
Students must take courses which touch on two of the themes in addition to courses which introduce sustainability principles and how it relates to a wide range of professions. What I feel is a unique aspect of the minor is although it was developed by the School of Sustainability, it is owned by the university meaning any adviser can offer the minor to students. Lisa Murphy, program development specialist, states "advisers across the university will be equipped to answer questions and add the sustainability minor to their student’s plan of study.” 

I feel this is a great opportunity for the students and I hope many take advantage of the minor- I wish ASU had offered this when I was still a student!

Curriculum for the Minor in Sustainability

Required Courses- 6 credit hours
SOS 100: Introduction to Sustainability (3)*
SOS 300: Advanced Concepts and Integrated Approaches in Sustainability (3)
* If taken already, SOS 110 or SOS 111/PUP 190 may substitute for SOS 100. If SOS 110 and SOS 111/PUP 190 have both been taken, one course may substitute for SOS 100 and the other course may be used as a "theme" course.

Theme Courses- 6 credit hours
Two courses, one from each of the two themes selected (6)

Electives- 6 credit hours
Two upper division courses within their major that relates to sustainability (6)*
*Must coordinate classes with advisor of their declared major, advisors approve the final decision of classes which will count

For more information on the new minor, please visit The School of Sustainability or meet with your advisor. 

External Links: and

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plastic Bag Ban Does Not Pass California Senate

As an update to the the previous post "Paper or Plastic" Bill 1998 did not get passed for the state of California. The final Senate vote was 21 to 14 on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. 

This decision is supported by the American Chemistry Council, the feel it was "a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California's litter problem and would have further jeopardized California's already strained economy." The council spent millions of dollars on last minute lobbying against the bill stressing job loss and cost to consumers. 

The council publicly criticizes Julia Brownley, a Democratic Assemblywoman representing Santa Monica, who proposed the bill. Brownley's response was "This is a sad day for California. Communities across the state were waiting for the state to adopt a uniform, statewide ban on single-use bags before they adopt their own ordinances. The state failed them."

Heal the Bay sponsored Bill 1998 and produced this "mockumentary" explaining what happens to a plastic bag. Heal the Bay will continue to push the movement by supporting individual California counties to produce the ban. 

Overall, just because the ban was not a state wide decision does not mean there is no hope. Please contact your local jurisdiction to see what you can do to help push this ban. Also, continue to use your reusable grocery bags to make a positive impact. 

External Links:, and

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Method to the Madness

If you remember my previous post on "Five Ways to Green Your Laundry" we talked about concentrated detergent. Of all the cardboard boxes of powder and jugs of liquid soap, I found Method Laundry Detergent makes washing clothes that much easier. 

Method claims their laundry detergent is smarter, easier, and greener. 

Smarter- Made with a patent pending formula called SmartClean Technology it is made from 95% plant based materials. It's highly concentrated so you get two times the cleaning power of normal detergent. 

Easier- The pump bottle delivers a consistent amount of detergent in each squirt. Two pumps for a small load, four for a medium, and six for a large load of laundry; it can also be used a pretreatment for tough stains. The bottle is also easy to carry and not heavy like jug detergents.

Greener- The bottle is biodegradable and compared to other brands of detergent Method uses 36% less packaging. It is made from 50% recycled plastic and designed so you can get every last drop. The soap is hypoallergenic, skin-friendly, and compatible with high efficiency washing machines. 

On a side note, the scents are refreshing but not overpowering. The featured scents are Fresh Air, Peony Blossom, Sweet Pea Baby Laundry, Lavender Cedar, and to keep it simple Free + Clear. My mother got me hooked on this  detergent and I hope next time you are at the store you try it as well. Doing laundry will always be a chore but make things a little easier- use Method pump soap!

Please visit the Method Laundry website for more information and where to purchase. 

External Links:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where Does LA's Tap Water Come From?

In 2009, 200 billion gallons of water used in Los Angeles met or surpassed all health based drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Public Health Drinking Water Program. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power took over 25,000 water samples and completed 240,000 water quality tests- which is more than required. According to their 2009 Annual Water Quality Report, which was recently released, there are thirteen steps which your water goes through before it comes out your tap. 

The Journey of a Drop of Water

1. Beginning of L.A. Aqueducts

  • Water is collected from creeks in the Owens Valley
  • Carried by gravity downstream

2. Making Hydro-power

  • Creates electricity as it passes through the San Francisquito Power Plant

3. End of L.A. Aqueducts

  • Water flows over steps to release energy
  • Water added from State Water Project and Colorado River Aqueduct

4. Screening

  • Passes through an inlet for filtration
  • Large debris and algae are removed by screens

5. Ozonation

  • Ozone gas is added to water, which acts as an disinfectant

6. Filtration

  • Water passes through 60 inches of filters
  • Anthracite Coal Filters remove particles as small as microns

7. Filtrated Water to Pump Stations

  • Water sits, waiting to be pumped

8. Chlorination Station

  • Regulated chlorine amounts are added to water to protect from bacteria and pathogens as it travels through distribution systems

9. North Hollywood Sump and Pump Station

  • More water is added from the San Fernando Valley Wells

10. River Supply Conduit

  • Travels through the city to the Ivanhoe Reservoir, near Silver Lake
  • Transported in 78 inch pipes

11. Water Storage

  • Protected by shade balls to ensure water quality

12. Local Pump Station

  • More chlorine is added if water is going east of the reservoir

13. L.A. Neighborhood

  • Travels through locals pipes and then the interior plumbing to your faucet, shower head, washer, toilet, or other water using device

According the L.A. Department of Water and Power the water is safe for drinking by E.P.A. standard but just to be safe use a Brita Filter or Pur Tap. Both are inexpensive and cost effective compared to bottled water. Cheers!

Please check back for a complete list by area and city for where your water originates. 

All information taken from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power "2009 Annual Water Quality Report" please visit,, or for more information.