Monthly Archives: March 2015

Terra Blight: Do You Know Where Your Old Electronics Go?

By: Melissa Colleary, Senior Sustainability Coordinator, LIU Post

We all use electronics. We text, use laptops, social media, play games, and work on our electronic devices. Even kids have them now, and they oftentimes know how to use them better than adults. In a country where we are so dependent on these devices, a lot of attention has been paid to developing new technology to replace what quickly becomes obsolete. A new iPhone will come out and people will flock to stores to get their hands on one the day it comes out, sometimes even resorting to violence while waiting in line.

With so much attention being paid to “keeping up with the Joneses,” it’s easy to forget that our old devices have to go somewhere when we’re done with them. The documentary Terra Blight addresses just that: where our devices go when we are no longer using them. The film transitions between the United States, a country known for its consumer culture, and Ghana, a third world country in Africa. The scenes in the United States show how Americans feel about electronics, particularly highlighting the gaming industry by showing people who participate in LAN parties and who spend thousands of dollars updating their technology. When asked about where the old devices go, none of the people interviewed seemed to know or even care for that matter.

Terra Blight

The film then transitioned to Ghana, where a lot of the e-waste from the United States goes to die. The country is extremely impoverished and underdeveloped, and land that used to be grasslands and marshes have been turned into dumping grounds for electronics. These dumping grounds are a source of both profit and pain for the people of Ghana. Young children are shown picking through broken computers in search of metals to sell for money to go to school, and shop keepers sell obsolete computer hardware to people who aren’t even sure what a computer does. The health impacts are made extremely apparent throughout these scenes. There are several references to the horrendous smell, and children are shown with cuts on their hands and feet.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the film was the fact that some of the e-waste that is dumped in Ghana is from the United States government and even from the United States EPA. In a country that claims to be the best in the world, it seems hypocritical to claim a type of responsibility that clearly is not there. It seems as though the US government has taken a policy of “out of sight, out of mind” with no mind for the consequences. The US has labor laws protecting its children, meanwhile, they are shipping their e-waste off to a country where children are so poor that they are forced to pick through harmful materials in hopes of earning enough money to get an education.

Terra Blight Scene

A scene from the movie Terra Blight

A conference hosted by the EPA was also depicted in the film; however, the journalist was not allowed to enter the meeting as he was with a “private” film crew. The woman at the door to the event was not only dismissive, but she was confrontational in telling him how much she would enjoy getting security to make him leave. At this scene in the film, it made me wonder what exactly they were hiding. Later, on a trip to the dump site, people from the conference were taking pictures of the rubbish and of the children. To me, it was disgusting to watch people taking pictures with children holding garbage, almost as though it was a tourist attraction rather than an environmental crisis.

Terra Blight is such an important film because it provides so much information about a very real problem in the world. While people are concerned about the speed of their internet or the size of their iPhone, children are picking through the remains of what we no longer use in Africa. The good news, however, is that there is a lot that we can do to stop this from continuing. Probably the easiest way is to just recycle your electronics when you’re done with them, and make sure you recycle them through a reputable organization that does not dump them in third world countries. The Department of Facilities Services at LIU Post, for example, offers such a program to the campus community by utilizing Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery, a certified vendor that adheres to responsible disposal methods.

Truck

If you’re not a part of the campus community, you may check with your town government to see what kinds of programs they offer. Many, for example, offer a program called Stop Throwing Out Pollutants, whereby residents can drop off certain types of items including old electronics. Another really awesome option is to donate your old e-waste to a nonprofit organization. Rainforest Connection, for example, uses recycled cell phones to detect the sound of illegal loggers in the rainforest. With so many options, please keep the end in mind; responsibly recycle your old electronic devices.

Check out the trailer to Terra Blight:

Scott Carlin on Clean Energy, Education, and Climate Change

By: William Achnitz III, Campus Life Coordinator

Professor Scott Carlin came to LIU Post in 2006 from Southampton College. There, he served as the co-director of LIU’s Institute for Sustainable Development from 1997 to 2005. At LIU Post, he wasted no time starting the sustainability conversation, essentially kicking off our own version of the sustainability movement. I would go so far as to dub him the Father of Sustainability at LIU Post. Now, 10 years later, he is still pushing his mission of sustainability forward not just by educating students in the classroom but by educating others outside of the classroom as well.

Professor Carlin is an Associate Professor in the Earth & Environmental Science Department at LIU Post. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate students. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of being in 4 of his classes, all during my time in the Environmental Sustainability Master’s program. In addition, Professor Carlin has served as the committee chair for Sustainable Post, a committee of students, faculty, and staff that meet monthly to discuss campus sustainability initiatives. Professor Carlin has been one of the biggest advocates, if not the biggest advocate, for campus sustainability at LIU Post and I have been blessed to have him as my mentor.

LIU-Post-Scott-Carlin

In a way, I’ve stood by his side as somewhat of a Number 2, a right-hand man if you will. The man that once said he would paint his body red and go shouting in the streets on my behalf has been my #1 supporter here at LIU Post and he’s definitely pushed me to be the best that I could possibly be. Without that, I don’t know who I am today.

In his spare time, Professor Carlin likes to moonlight as an NGO Representative to the United Nations for the International Society of Doctors for the Environment.

Please check out this recent video he did with Bill Miller of South-Side News.

Double Dose of Sustainability

Sustainable Post Spring 2015 Meetings-page-0 511NY Program

Do You Know Your Carbon Footprint?

By: Bessie Weisman, Sustainability Coordinator, LIU Post
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a nifty tool on its website to calculate your household’s carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is simply a quantification of CO2 emissions from a person, product, or, in the case of this calculator, a home.

I was reluctant at first, because I didn’t want to face how high my household emissions may be, albeit very curious to use this tool. So, I went through the steps of the EPA’s calculator and discovered some useful information about my family’s stats and what we could do to cut our annual CO2 output.

Carbon Calculator 
To really get the most out of this exercise, you need some information that might not come off the top of your head. For example, I researched the average gas mileage of my car in addition to the amount of money spent on electricity and gas in my house per month. For all of these stats, the EPA also gives you figures for the average American household; this was nice because I felt like less of a heathen when comparing my house’s output to the average.

My favorite part about this exercise was looking at the ways that the EPA suggested lowering your emissions. Some of the actions they recommended were simpler and more doable than I expected. Regularly maintaining your car, using cold water to wash your clothes, and utilizing your computer’s power-saving features are easy ways to reduce emissions. Of course, recycling is also one of the most effective and achievable actions your household could (and definitely should) take as well.

Seeing these calculations with EPA’s tool made my household’s CO2 emissions a more tangible concept. I always understood the idea of a carbon footprint, but seeing the numbers and figures on my screen made them digestible. This exercise is something that will use in introductory classes in the future, and no doubt students will be able to benefit from its interactive and constructive nature.

Interested in calculating your household’s carbon footprint, click HERE.

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