April 22, 2013

DIY upcycling: royal brooches!

Hi lovely readers,

Today, I’m thrilled to reveal a fantastic cross-posted piece from the wonderful Terilyn Chen… you can see the original post on her blog hereTerilyn is one of our fabulous bloggers from Harvard’s own Environmental Action Committee, and today she’s sharing a great way to turn old playing cards into fancy new jewelry. Thanks, Terilyn!

royal brooches

Ever since I received my first pink kid-sized Tweety Bird deck of playing cards, I have been losing cards. Peculiarly, I always average about one card lost per deck, which is extremely irritating since I never feel like that is enough to abandon the entire deck. But really, I hate playing with an incomplete deck and I hate throwing out an entire deck when only one card is missing.

I cannot be the only one with this problem. So to all of you kindred souls out there, I offer a solution: playing card brooches.

This tutorial is specific to the face cards, but the same techniques/methods can be applied to the other cards as well. (Really, you can use the same methods for any image you’d like to make into a brooch.)

You will need an X-acto knife, scissors, Mod-Podge, a paint brush, a pencil, a hot glue gun and a pin back.

Step 1: Decide what part of the card you want to be made into your brooch and cut it out.

Step 2:  Trace this cut-out shape (this will now be referred to as your card cut-out) onto a piece of thick paper board and onto a piece of patterned paper.

Step 3: After cutting out both your board cut-out and your patterned paper cut-out, glue all three of your cut-outs together. Make sure to keep the image side of the card cut-out facing up and the board cut-out sandwiched in between the card cut-out and the patterned paper cut-out. Press and let dry.

Step 5: Apply a layer of Mod-Podge all over the top/image side and let dry. Do the same for the under side/patterned paper side. Let dry and repeat 2 times for both sides.

Step 7: Using a hot-glue gun, attach a pin back to the patterned paper side of the brooch.

Step 8: Let dry & enjoy.

Congratulations, you just made an upcycled brooch!

Terilyn Chen is a flower crown-wearing, upcycled eye-glass brooch-making freshman from Northern California who is freaking out about freshman year ending soon. She is Outreach Chair for the Environmental Action Committee, and Odds & Ends editor for Manifesta Magazine.

March 20, 2013

When it comes to rising sea levels, we’re in deep water

These two articles about rising sea levels are especially interesting when seen together. The first, describing Boston’s flood zone evaluation after Hurricane Sandy, hits close to home, and the second is set just about as far away from Cambridge as you can get, in The Netherlands. The takeaway from these articles is that cities all over the world are facing the harsh reality of climate change, but there are very different ways to respond. The Dutch government is making tough, sometimes unpopular choices to prepare its country for worst-case-scenario flooding. Boston, which faces a similarly grim situation as sea levels rise, is opting for renovation on individual buildings to prepare them for the impending crises. While this approach is easier to stomach for Boston residents, it does little more than delay the unpleasantness of admitting that our coastal communities are in danger. Rather than acting to prevent new building projects in at-risk areas, our government actually provides incentives in the form of flooding insurance and construction subsidies. If we are going to avoid tremendous costs associated with widespread flooding from sea to shining sea, we will have to bite the bullet, as the Dutch have, and stop relying on the convenience of building near the water’s edge.

March 10, 2013

Harnessing the Power of Waves!

A new project in Washington state is using hydraulic buoys to generate power! The company says that 10 buoys should be able to power 100,000 homes. Check out the NYTimes article here:

There is also a radio piece from NPR:


February 11, 2013

Green Apps

Want to figure out how to make your life a little greener while on the go?

Several smart phone apps have you covered.

If you want to calculate your carbon footprint day-to-day, CO2GO uses GPS data and the type of transport you’re using to calculate your carbon emissions.

Want to eat green? The Monterey Bay Aquarium has created Seafood Watch, an app to help you pick which fish on a menu are endangered and which ones are sustainable to eat.

GoodGuide allows you to find safe, green products, with everything from pet food to cosmetics and cars.

For anyone with a smart phone, these apps promise to bring out the green techie in all of us!

February 4, 2013

Harvard Eyes Divestment from Fossil Fuels…

Hi friends,

What are your feelings about the fossil fuel divestment controversy that has been circulating on college campuses and throughout the blogosphere?
[Source: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2012/12/03/divestment-jamie-henn]

For those of you who might be less familiar with the topic, various college campuses have groups now asking that their universities divest from fossil fuel companies. At Harvard, the divestment campaign has been organized through Divest Harvard, the campus chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future. As stated on their website, Divest Harvard is calling for Harvard University to “divest its $30.7 billion endowment from the top 200 publicly-traded companies that own the majority of global fossil fuel reserves and to reinvest in socially responsible funds.”

The reasoning behind the divestment movement was broadly laid out in environmental activist Bill McKibben’s influential piece “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” which I heartily recommend.

In the FAQ section of 350 organization’s “Do the Math” website, it’s summed up as such:

“Fossil fuel corporations have 5 times more oil and coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn. We have to keep 80% of their fossil fuels underground to keep the earth in livable shape. Here are the three numbers you shouldn’t forget:

2 degrees— Almost every government in the world has agreed that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be unsafe. We have already raised the temperature .8°C, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the climate dice are loaded for both devastating floods and drought.

565 gigatons — Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. Computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2levels now, the temperature would still rise another 0.8 degrees above the 0.8 we’ve already warmed, which means that we’re already 3/4s of the way to the 2 degree target.

2,795 gigatons — The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists, estimates that proven coal, oil, and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies, equals about 2,795 gigatons of CO2, or five times the amount we can release to maintain 2 degrees of warming.”

Bill McKibben recently teamed up with Chloe Maxmin, one of the leaders of the Divest Harvard movement (check out her blog here) to write a piece about the “fossil free” campaign for the Scholars Strategy Network. Highlights from the article:

“The year 2012 was the hottest in American history. An epic drought destroyed the Midwestern grain harvest and caused world food prices to increase by ten percent, Arctic summer melting broke every record and led climatologist James Hansen to describe a “planetary emergency.” Then an unusual autumn mega-storm, Hurricane Sandy, flooded the New York subway system and revealed the fragility of power and transportation in one of the globe’s great urban centers. Add to this massive floods in Pakistan, Australia, Thailand, Central America, and the Philippines, droughts in Africa and parts of Asia, and widespread destruction of fragile coral reefs in the oceans. These recent deleterious effects from climate change have occurred after just 0.8 degrees Celsius warming – but we are headed for much worse. A recent World Bank report concluded that, without immediate remedial steps, the planet is on track for 4 degrees Celsius of warming. As the window closes for action before an irreversible climate crisis grips modern civilization, the U.S. government is deadlocked.

The top 200 publicly traded oil and coal companies that own the majority of fossil fuel reserves are planning to burn five times more carbon than the planet can safely endure. Their prospective profits are astronomical, and these industries have mobilized to protect their stake. Compared to renewable energy companies, fossil fuel industry groups spend twenty times more on lobbying and enjoy six times more in federal subsidies. The fossil fuel interests went all out to block carbon controls in Congress, and they have joined with ideological groups to push a massive disinformation campaign questioning the validity of climate science findings about the growing threat of global warming.

…Fossil Free efforts highlight and criticize the reckless business models that make profits and promise outsized future earnings by shifting unsustainable costs on to society as a whole.”

What do you think? Share your comments with us below: divestment or no divestment? Why or why not?

fossil fuel diagram

[Source: “Unburnable Carbon –Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?” Report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative.]

February 1, 2013

More Green Collars

Green is in. Even during the recession, the U.S. alternative energy sector continued to add jobs.  ClimateProgress’s graph does a good job breaking down the highest sectors of growth within the green economy.  What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you’re not an environmental or electrical engineer primed to help develop the next solar panel. The highest sectors of job growth are actually in public mass transit and conservation.

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December 3, 2012

Happy Holidays from REP!

Hi lovely readers,

We know the blog has been a bit quiet lately, but the semester is almost finished for Harvard students and in light of the flurry of exams and papers, the REP blog is going on a holiday hiatus!

However, we wanted to leave you with a few links to ponder:

From the NYTimes Green Blog: “A new study shows that the ice sheets covering the land in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at three times the rate they were in the 1990s. A Fox Business News host, Stuart Varney, who previously called the science of climate change a “scientific conspiracy,” called the new evidence “hard and authoritative.” [NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory] [Media Matters]”

The poor flamingos

In Oklahoma, droughts (incredibly) haven’t affected the media disinformation propagated about climate change.

The C.I.A. has closed its climate change center.

On a more positive side, check out advances in biofuel technology.

And for a lighthearted diversion, the international hit Gangnam Style has been revamped to feature an anti-littering message to a popular beat (you can find out more information about the video creators, the Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association, and their public service campaign, here).


Wishing you and your family a very happy holidays!

November 18, 2012

Carbon Dioxide Mountains and A “Convenient Excuse”

A few links for your celebratory Harvard Yale weekend!

Making the invisible visible: A remarkable video from Carbon Visuals and the Environmental Defense Fund showcasing how much carbon dioxide we actually emit into the atmosphere (using New York City as a model).

As described in the blurb, NYC added 54 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2010… almost 2 tons every second. But emissions are transparent, so we never saw that happen. These video producers decided to make the staggering statistics feel slightly more real – again, you can check it out here.

No more coffee?

Climate change might mean saying goodbye to your morning cup of joe.

A Convenient Excuse: One of the best pieces I have read thus far this year on climate change and the media is Wen Stephenson’s “A Convenient Excuse” recently published in the Phoenix. Please do yourself a favor and check this out- it is extremely well-written and really exposes what is so urgently amiss with the status quo of mainstream media environmental coverage.

Stephenson also shares the basic math worth knowing about climate change:

• Two degrees Celsius: the amount, according to international consensus, that we can raise the global average temperature above preindustrial levels and still maintain a so-called “safe” climate, beyond which all bets are off. “Safe,” of course, depends on where you live. We’ve already raised it almost one degree, with disastrous results; if you live in Africa, or Kiribati, one degree is too much.

• 565 gigatons: the amount of CO2 scientists agree we can still pump into the atmosphere and hope to remain below the two-degree threshold.

• 2795 gigatons: the amount of CO2 contained in the world’s proven fossil-fuel reserves, which the fossil-fuel industry shows every intention of extracting and burning.”

Again, you can find the article here.

from http://www.shtig.net/muses/weather_mealtalk.jpg

November 11, 2012

It’s All About the Story

Effective communication is a topic that we bat around quite frequently in REP meetings… if you can flip someone’s perspective or tell an effective story, you can create that illusive, “message stickiness” that every communicator, educator, or campaigner yearns for.

I quite liked this ad from the Rainforest Alliance, and it would be neat to break down exactly what makes this an entertaining and engaging advertisement. I think it’s pretty memorable, but what are your thoughts?


November 10, 2012

Hi readers,

A few interesting links for your long weekend!

Did Obama mess up when he talked about climate change? It is important to be aware of the rhetoric we use to describe global warming and how cautious we need to be so that it doesn’t backfire. When Obama mentioned that “climate change is not a hoax” at the September Democratic convention, he may have unintentionally generated the “illusion of truth effect.” Essentially, the theory is that the more often we hear an idea, the greater credibility we give it… even when it’s presented as a “false claim.” Go with the affirmation, psychologists tell us, over any repetition of the myth.

From the piece: “Although we regularly process negations accurately, the risk of miscommunication is higher than it is for affirmative statements like “climate change is a real problem” because negations require more work. They have been shown to slow response times and lower reading comprehension.

“When discourse of any kind becomes more complicated, including when it contains negation or embedded clauses or passive voice, more working memory resources are necessary to process the information,” said Sara Margolin, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Brockport.”
Psychologist Ruth Mayo has also done research that “shows that negations can backfire when they lack what she calls “an alternative affirmative schema.” The negation “John is not smart,” for example, has a direct affirmative translation in “John is stupid.” By contrast, “John is not romantic,” does not have a clear affirmative counterpart, so the recipient of the message is stuck with associations related to romance and must remember to negate them. “For me, ‘hoax’ doesn’t have an opposite that could serve as an alternative affirmative schema,” Mayo said. “If the alternative doesn’t pop into our mind easily, then I think it’s problematic.”

More climate mind games

What is the future of geothermal designs?

Can the Maya’s collapse be attributed to climate change?

The tragic tale of rising bird deaths and glass buildings in cities is a reminder of how important it is to think beyond the intended consequences of the planned environment.

Time Magazine interviews Barbara Kingsolver about her new novel Flight Behavior and the topic of climate change. 

How to build affordable and sustainable homes.