Archive for the ‘Second Nature Sustainability’ Category

By Ulli Klein, Second Nature’s Director of Operations & Communication
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

“Where does this one go?”

That was probably one of the most common question I heard my father ask. It was the mid 80s. Germany had just started a nation-wide recycling program and, like with many things German, the program was strictly enforced including “Trash cops” checking residents compliance by going through their trash.

Here was my 63 year old father, standing in the kitchen with the aluminum lid of a yogurt container in one hand and the container itself in the other hand staring at the three different colored trash cans.

“Where do I put this,” he would ask again and if no one was there to answer, he would quietly place container and lid on the counter and scurry out of the kitchen in hopes my mother would take care of it.

I was convinced there was no way to retrain his old mind.

There are still days where I feel that the United States, my adopted home country,  is a lot like my father was 20+ years ago: Willing and able but confused about living a sustainable life – and I say that with a lot of affection for both, the United States and my father.

People not recycling in Boston

We only have one planet. And we act as if there are about 10 more replacement planets.  We live in the “now” and we seem to forget that our children and their children, the future, need a planet as well. We live in an instant gratification, instant access, instant pleasure society, where everything can be found cheaper, faster, better somewhere else. We throw away rather than fix and mend things, we buy new instead of reusing things. I look at my now 86 year old father and my almost 70 year old mother and think how they grew up to be “naturals” at living a more sustainable life.

Just like many “elders” in our society, they grew up during a time of war, where everything was reused, fixed and nothing was thrown away. My mom has a drawer full of plastic bags that she reuses over and over. We always had our own vegetable garden, she still mends socks if they have a hole! That’s just second nature to her and that’s how I grew up. In Germany,  people pay for plastic bags in grocery stores, farmers markets aren’t “hip” but the place to go to get your fruit, veggies and meat, many people take great pride in how little gas their car uses and people, begrudgingly, accept new building standards that increase the cost of every new house built because it has to be alternative energy ready (but then show off those houses rather proudly).

What a transition it must have been for my parents to see our society move to levels of consumerism where things are built knowing full well they won’t last more than a few years. And that’s the society I grew up in. The lifestyle I know.

Granted, there comes a lot of good with change. I certainly wouldn’t want and 80s style cell phone that I need to carry around in a suitcase. I certainly enjoy being able to buy a ticket to Europe or other places I might want to go and see and I certainly also part of the consuming crowd.  I take it as a great compliment when people call me a “Treehugger” because I recycle, reuse, try to produce less trash, try to live with less and try to make better choices about how I life, what I eat and where I decide to spend my consumer dollars.

First of all, I don’t find the term offensive, but secondly, this really is second nature to me and thousands of other people.  Re-use, try to eat local food, buy quality products even if they are pricier. It’s not really about a few people making extreme and drastic changes a la “No Impact Man”, it’s about many of us making small changes in many areas where we can actually pack a punch. It’s about us, the people, as a collective, coming together and act wiser, smarter, more sustainable in how we make decisions and how we live our lives. And it is happening all over the western world.

In California

I am inspired when I see the power behind the ACUPCC, a program Second Nature supports. A collective of colleges and universities that have committed to becoming carbon-neutral, to living more sustainably, to setting new standards and probably most importantly, to sending graduates into the world who will approach life armed with the knowledge that living sustainably can be second nature to them as well.

It’s when I think about the work we do here at Second Nature that I am reminded about the tremendous changes I have been witnessing in the USA in the past 10-15 years.  Awareness has increased and I see friends, communities, cities, campuses making changes. I see people making decisions on what they drive, where they shop, who they support, what they buy and what they eat based on different standards, “greener” standards, more sustainable standards. And I really love seeing change happening in front of me every day.

And my father? He’s 86 years old and recycles his yogurt containers every day. So there is hope for everyone!

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By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature and Andrea Putman, Director of Corporate Partnerships, Second Nature
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


The ACUPCC represents a courageous and unprecedented form of leadership by higher education to lead society to a climate neutral and environmentally sustainable state in order to meet the individual, social and economic needs of all humans in the present and in the future.  Signatory schools have committed to be a model for climate neutrality and sustainability and ensure that their graduates will have the knowledge and skills to help all of society do the same.

One of the most exciting developments of this focus by higher education institutions has been the cultural shift that is taking place on many campuses.  Presidents and other campus leaders have recognized that achieving these goals requires the focus, involvement and collaboration of all parts of the institution – administrators, faculty, staff, students and trustees – in deep and synergistic ways.  They have told Second Nature and others that the Commitment has accelerated efforts to integrate academic, research, operational and community outreach actions into a holistic approach to sustainability and that it has done more to build a vibrant community and a sense of shared purpose across the institutions than any other initiative in recent memory.  Collectively, the ACUPCC network has become an important learning community and is helping to encourage all of higher education to make this commitment.


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I recently had the privilege of participating in The New Prosperity Initiative (NPi) Community Dialogue Series. NPi, was founded by Jeanne Dasaro and Alexis Schroeder with the goal to publicize the efforts of individuals and organizations working to build social and economic prosperity. NPi brought together four Boston based non-profits with missions focused on food systems and environmental sustainability.

We heard inspiring stories from:

Matthew Kochka, Farm Manager, “Victory Programs” ReVision Urban Farm, working to increase access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food for shelter residents and community members through community-supported farming.

Gene Benson, Services Program Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment, building the power of communities of color and lower income communities in New England to eradicate environmental racism and classism and achieve environmental justice.

Kimberly Guerra, Lead Teacher with “e” Inc. providing science education with community action in order to improve environmental health in urban communities.

The event was hosted by the NEXUS Green Building Resource Center, an organization working to mainstream green building design and practice.

I am always impressed with the work being done on the ground to build capacity in order to improve the quality of life of people and communities. I am also continually fascinated with the conversation of why this work is needed and where the challenges lie that impede progress. In this case we heard stories about inadequate and unmet basic human needs pertaining to food, education, and justice. I believe these are common stories that could be heard in many communities across the United States (and certainly across the globe). If this is the case (and with the hope of keeping the dialogue open) I offer this question – In what ways do we, as individuals, organizations and society as a whole, contribute to the conditions that systematically undermine our capacity to meet basic human needs?

I would like to thank NPi and my fellow panel participants for opening this dialogue. I highly recommend keeping up with NPi as they work to get the word out on future Prosperity for all!

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by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

I’ve come to realize that this No Impact stuff is a lot harder than I anticipated.  Consumption proved to be pretty easy once I curbed my shopping habits.  Taking the T everyday and walking to when possible were things that I already do.  I buy organic, local food and I eat vegetarian, so that takes care of food.  Outside of work, I spend countless “volunteer” hours working with my student group (Husky Energy Action Team – HEAT) to move towards our ultimate goal of climate neutrality for Northeastern University.  However, when it came to yesterday’s electricity challenge and today’s water challenge, I am finding it a bit harder to lessen my impact.  To start, writing this blog entry is requiring electricity.  In order for our organization to function, we need to use electricity.  To do work for my student group I NEED electricity.  For Colin Beavan to publicize, promote, and further the significance of No Impact Week, he needed to use electricity.  To me, it is important to conserve electricity whenever possible, but renewable energies are the things that we need the most.

This is an image from the movie of an ocean in Europe (of course the name escapes me now...) that is almost completely dried up.

This is an image from the movie Blue Gold: Water Wars of an ocean in Europe that is almost completely dried up.


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by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

At Second Nature we are very proud to employ Northeastern Co-op students. Now, I always like to say that I am extremely grateful for their presence, as they do the things that I don’t want to do.

Come to find out. They are also way bold!

Yesterday, after some fairly intense preparation, our fantastic interns participated in a Flashmob as part of Massachusetts Powershift.

Now, it takes some guts to run out of a T-station with 60 other people and start dancing. Yours truly here would not be so brave.

Here we have one of our inters, Mr. Abrams, in action. He was wearing a Crimson shirt, which is a little bit of a misinterpretation, but frankly, in Boston we can pick and choose who we affiliate with.


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by Amy Hattan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Second Nature

My participation in No Impact Week is a bit of a flip flop…I’m using the week to examine if my regular lifestyle fits within the concept of having “no impact”, rather than changing my habits for just one week.

amy's fridgeFor example, on the topic of food, I attended a screening of the documentary Food, Inc. this week, which was followed by a good discussion between the crowd and Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Yogurt. Afterwards, I checked to see what I have in my fridge. I was glad to see that most of the foods I eat are natural or organic, low in corn syrup (corn is incidentally in almost every food you get in the supermarket), and low in antibiotics and hopefully E-Coli and all that other awful stuff that is in most factory-farmed meat. It also appears that I am keeping Stoneyfield Yogurt in business (again, see photo). The most memorable moments for me when watching Food, Inc. were seeing dead chickens lying among the live chickens in the chicken coops and cows covered from head to foot in their own feces. And we eat this! I learned that because we feed cows cheap corn and not grass, which is what they are supposed to eat, they get these diseases that get passed to us.  I could do better and not eat out so much, because who knows where the food originates from that is served in a restaurant.


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by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

Today, Colin, Rima, and I went out to the Farmers’ Market in Government Center to get local, fresh, and absolutely delicious food.  In addition to standard fruits and vegetables, some of the vendors at the Farmers’ Market sell jellies, jams, honey, meat, flowers, and baked goods.  Throughout the harvesting season, I’ve been to the Farmers’ Market almost every week to stock up on fresh food.  I don’t know if I’m biased towards local food, but I swear, it tastes better than store bought food.  It is always fresh and so colorful!  Another bonus–because it hasn’t been sitting in a refrigerated truck for 24+ hours to get shipped–food from the farmers’ market almost always lasts longer than store-bought food.  Unfortunately, the market will be closing in late November and won’t re-open again until late spring.  I wonder how my roommates would feel about starting a compost bin in our kitchen and a hydroponics operation in the bathtub…
Colin exchanges his SN paycheck for some delicious cranberry walnut bread!

Colin exchanges his SN paycheck for some delicious cranberry walnut bread!

Fresh, local food = Happiness


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