Monday, 8 October 2012

PGC 2012 Day 6: Yoga

Yoga. It's not really my thing. All that stretching in really bizarre and compromising positions, lots of warm fuzzies with a group of complete strangers...

So it's not really that bad. You can do it by yourself. And many of the positions are actually the sorts of odd stretches you do in the morning when you wake up and don't want to get out of bed.

And so, without further ado:

The Overview

Throughout the challenge, we ask you to think, to act, to question and incite change. Important as these actions are, it is equally important to make time for relaxation, introspection and balance.
How do you relax and decompress from the stress of school, papers, friends, parents and relationships? Our challenge today poses that question to each of you and suggests a solution, YOGA! Deep breathing, balance, calm, peace. Studies show that yoga soothes the nervous system and improves your mood while providing a respite from everything going on around you. 
So with this challenge today, take some time to learn and practice yoga techniques. Even a short yoga session can rid you of the stress and anxiety that can typify our daily routines.

Green Challenge

To get you started, here is a great resource from Whole Living Magazine for simple yoga poses that you can hang up in your dorm room or paste in your planner.
- Pick one pose and try it outside in a really beautiful place (if possible).
- Which pose did you choose? 
- How did it make you feel?


I chose the seal pose. The Whole Living guide describes this as:

“Lie on your stomach with your legs and feet relaxed. Then, reaching your arms forward along the floor, straighten them just enough to lift your torso into a gentle backbend. Do not strain or force; this should be a very passive and subtle stretch. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then release. Repeat for 1 to 5 minutes.”

This is actually a pose I like to lie in quite often. In fact, I was surprised to find that several of the poses in the guide were poses I take up quite often. So these are yoga poses?

As for the location, I was on the bed at the time, which I believe is a very beautiful place. It’s warm and comfortable and I’m also surrounded by things I like. I know the challenge asked us to head outside, but I couldn’t resist…

I like this pose because it stretched not only my back but also the backs of my legs and my neck. After repeating the stretch a few times, my back feels less tense and I get a rush of blood in my legs, which makes me feel more alert.

Greener Challenge
While you are in a thoughtful frame of mind... reflect on these questions. 
- If you could change just two things, practices, or habits in your daily life right now that would contribute to healing you or the planet, what would they be?
- Will you commit to these practices for the next 30 days? yes or no?
- If yes, what are two keys to success for each change?


1. Stop consuming dairy products
This would contribute to my wellbeing, as I suspect I might be slightly lactose intolerant. Also, there are environmental and social issues tied up in the production of milk. For example, large grocery chains have been trying to force farmers to produce milk as cheaply as possible so they can compete with each other in ‘price wars’.

2. Ride my bike or use my rollerblades more
In addition to making me fitter, I wouldn’t have to keep asking my dad to drop me off at the train station all the time, which would save fuel and produce less greenhouse gases. Win!

Of course, I would definitely stick to these practices! In fact, I’ve already begun trying to cut down on milk products already. I have also dug my rollerblades out of my cupboard and given them a few test rolls around the place.

The way to be successful in changing habits is firstly, to start the new practice, and then, if there is an urge to go back to the old habit, do as The Spill Canvas sing in ‘Self Conclusion’: “You see the trick is that you're never supposed to act on it”.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

PGC 2012 Day 4: School Profile

The Overview
When each of you signed up for PGC 2012, you shared about great eco initiatives being spearheaded on your campus. Some of these included bans on single use water bottles and integrating hydration stations, Eco Rep programs, energy challenges, recycling and composting programs, gardens, and more. You have also shared many innovative ideas about initiatives that you would like to see brought to life on your campus. The goal of this challenge is to help you think through, develop and initiate change at your schools

Today, we are partnering with National Student Day, a program taking place at thousands of college bookstores around the country. The goal of NSD is to award students for outstanding volunteer work in their communities! When you finish your challenge, click here or head to your school bookstore to see if they are hosting a NSD celebration on campus.

Green Challenge

Use your school campus as a palette for exploration. What is being done that supports human and environmental health and what changes could be made to improve your school's commitment to sustainability? Sometimes, all it takes is looking around, developing an idea, engaging peers and faculty, and following through on a desire to affect change. So let’s get started!

Do you have a Department of Sustainability or entity that oversees green initiatives on campus?

If so, who is the lead person and what is their title and email address?

Field Trip:
Take a walk around campus and stop at five or more locations to do some research. Locations could include campus bookstore, dining hall, dorms, classrooms, gym, cleaning closet, laundry room or common spaces.

Make a list of five items (ie: paper towels), practices (ie: recycling), or initiatives (ie: PGC) that you observe in these locations which contribute to a more sustainable campus.


Macquarie University has a Sustainability Department, led by the director Leanne Denby. Her email is:

1. Hospital

The Hospital was built using bricks designed by Think Brick, a company which strives to produce its brick sustainably, by undertaking research with university into brick design and production. The Hospital is also essentially paperless, using electronic records.

2. Library

The Macquarie University library is aiming for a Green Star Rating. Firstly, an ecological assessment of the site was carried out to determine no endangered species would be threatened. Secondly, the building design itself is very sustainable, by maximising natural light usage and natural ventilation, and using alternative and low impact power sources.

3. Central Courtyard

The Central Courtyard has long been one of the 'green spaces' on campus. There are large swathes of grass and huge gumtrees planted across it, and ibises are regularly seem in this area. Whilst there is a large television screen at one end of the courtyard, its emissions are being offset.

4. Atrium

The Atrium is a gathering place in the university, where performances and fairs are often held. It is glass-roofed for capture of natural light. There are also a number of water fountains around the place. The nearby food outlets encourage reusable cups by giving discounts to those who bring their own cups. Further, all coffee, tea and hot chocolate on campus is Fair Trade or ethically sourced.

5. Lotus Theatre

Accordingto the sign outside the Lotus Theatre, the building was constructed by a company called Fabritecture, which involves a steel frame with a high tensile 'skin' rather than standard bricks-and-mortar. This is considered sustainable in two ways: firstly, less material and energy was required to produce the material for Lotus Theatre. Also, the building is 'recyclable', that is, it is able to be dismantled with relative ease, relocated and re-erected.

Greener Challenge
Now that you have carried out an assessment of positive practices on campus, you have an opportunity to consider some ways that your campus could improve. 
Based on your observations, make a list of five items, practices, or initiatives that you would like to see changed or implemented to create a more sustainable and conscious campus. 
Take a photo or find an online image that correlates to each item on your list. 
Caption each photo with an explanation of why you would like to see this change implemented, and if it were, how that action would contribute to a more sustainable campus.

1. Paperless offices
Paperless offices are offices which cease to use paper for record-keeping and communication, and switch to electronic means, such as email and computer databases. Whilst some of the offices, such as the Vice-Chancellor's, have begun the move towards paperless offices, I would like to see this move implemented across the university. The amount of paper a university uses even in a single day is immense; therefore, going paperless would cut down on the massive amount of paper used by the university.

2. More water fountains
More water fountains or 'bubblers' around campus would encourage students to bring their own reusable bottles. This would also be healthier for students, as it would encourage them to drink more water.

3. Bottle free campus
Following from point 2, students would be further encouraged to use reusable bottles and drink more water if the campus went bottle free. That is, if campus shops stopped selling drinks in bottles. The amount of plastic and energy involved in creating drink bottles is comparable to the scale of production of paper, thus prohibition of bottle selling on campus would be very effective. There is currently a small group looking into the idea of banning bottled water on campus, but banning of all types of bottled drinks would be ideal.

4. Renewable energy
Whilst Macquarie University currently has a geothermal tower, little of its energy comes from renewable sources. Installation of solar panels, or graztel cell glass, would boost renewable energy production. If the university can produce more energy than is needed, then it could sell that energy back to the grid and make a profit.

5. More advertising
More advertising of sustainable initiatives around campus Macquarie University has undertaken a vast array of sustainable initiatives, but many of the students and staff are unaware of them. The university has supported, for example, Ride to Work Day, Walk to Work Day, RSPCA Cupcake Day, swap parties, shared lunches, EmPower workshops, Shoes for Planet Earth and a Student Sustainability Network. The university is Fair Trade accredited and has won Green Lifestyle awards. But these achievements and actions have not be widely advertised. Those who are aware of these things are usually the 'already initiated', those who are already environmentally conscious. Greater advertising would make the green status of the university more apparent to those who are unaware.

Friday, 5 October 2012

PGC 2012 Day 3

Okay, I'll admit now that I didn't complete this challenge, although I started it. It is quite difficult to do every single challenge: they are quite involved. I have about 70 points at the moment, which I'm pleased with (ignoring the fact that several people are up around 250 points).

So I thought I'd use this post to discuss the term I created for Day 2's challenge: eco-bushido. A few people have indicated interest in the term (and a few have expressed misgivings), so I would like to explore the idea further.

The term is a portmanteau of the word 'ecological' and the Japanese term 'bushido'. 'Ecological' and its abbreviation 'eco' is a fairly straight-forward concept: this refers to things which account for ecosystems and is a popular environmental buzzword.

'Bushido' (武士道), on the other hand, is a little more complex. Literally meaning 'way of the warrior', it was basically a code of honour followed by Japanese samurai.

That's the basics. From here on it gets a little murky, with many modern interpretations of the original idea, and a period of bastardisation of bushido during World War II. This will need more research.

Does anyone have any suggestions for reading?

So essentially, eco-bushido is a code of ethics and honour to follow when living one's life in an environmentally respectful and harmonious way. I would like to see this idea grow a little. Maybe I'll write a paper on it.

In order to do that, I'll need input from others. Please discuss!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

PGC 2012 Day 2: Bedroom/Dorm

And so, Day 2.

I find I have less and less time for things other than uni work. As a result, for Day 2's challenge, I only completed the Green challenge. But one of my answers got mentioned in the digest email today! Read on a little further to see the environmental term I created.

The Overview
As you know, YOU are on a 30-day journey from conventional to conscious in all aspects of your life. Yesterday, the Whole Body challenge focused upon what goes ON you and its impact. Today’s challenge will inspire you think about what’s AROUND you, in your personal space, your dorm, your bedroom, etc. 
The choices you make in your space are key to living a healthy life. Furniture, storage solutions, bed, bath and body products, school supplies and e-gadgets impact how you experience your day and how you feel! Today’s challenge will help you see how more conscious living can help you create a healthier space in which to live. Retailers like The Container Store have ample eco options in their aisles that can easily become part of your “green dorm” room!

Green Challenge
If your task is to green your space, let’s define “green”.
Come up with some terms as a starting point and see what they really mean!   

- Make a list of five terms that you know or have heard which relate to sustainable products.
- Research and write a great definition for each that would resonate with your peer group. 

- For your sixth term, make up a word and definition for a term you can’t find!
Be creative — combine words using hypens, etc!

Make a list of five terms that you know or have heard that relate to sustainable
  1. Environmentally-friendly
  2. Green
  3. Up-cycled
  4. Ecological footprint
  5. Renewable
Research and write a great definition for each that would resonate with your
peer group
  • Environmentally-friendly: It is often assumed that something labelled environmentally-friendly is useful to the environment, but really it just means that the 'environmentally-friendly' things just want to hug trees.
  • Green: Easy – anything, however remotely related, to the environment. Or it may simply just be the colour green.
  • Up-cycled: something old made into something better, whether it is more useful or simply prettier.
  • Ecological footprint: the number of things we crush underfoot when we fail to think about the environmental impacts of our lifestyle.
  •  Renewable: something with the wonderful ability to continuously renew itself.

For your sixth term, make up a word and definition for a term you can’t find

Eco-bushido or Kankyou-bushido

This is a term referring to a code of ethics which strives constantly to live in harmony with nature
and to live as environmental a life as possible. It is a matter of great honour and integrity to hold and maintain these views.

This term was picked to be featured in today's digest email!

I'm glad that this was the case. I think it would be amazing if there was such a school of thought: a coherent philosophy advocating an integrity towards environmental protection bound tightly to a person's honour and dignity.

Please keep following this 'challengelogue'. All of the challenges seem very interesting!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Project Green Challenge 2012 Day 1: Personal care products

PGC 2012 started yesterday! This is a challenge for school and university students, which educates and encourages them to live more sustainably, while winning stuff.

Each day, a new challenge is offered, with the opportunity to complete these challenges on Green, Greener and Greenest scales. To undertake a higher level, the lower level must first be completed.

I will be posting my activities here a day after I have completed them. Warning: these will be very long posts,

Yesterday's challenge was: personal care and cosmetics.

The Overview

Your shampoo is extra foamy, your toothpaste promises pearly whites, and your deodorant leaves you smelling fresh...but how? More often than not the answer is toxic chemicals.
The majority of our cosmetics and personal care products contain synthetic ingredients that have never been tested for safety. Think about all the products you use daily: toothpaste, mouthwash, face wash, soap, body lotion, moisturizer, styling gel, deodorant, makeup, hairspray, and more! Flip just one of those bottles around and take a good look at the ingredient list. Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other governing body has approved most of the nearly 80,000 chemical ingredients used in the United States, making it impossible to know their impact on our bodies! That’s not safe! Researchers have found that repeated use of products containing harmful ingredients can accumulate in our bodies and lead to health problems like cancer, reproductive complications, and neurotoxicity. Not a pretty picture!
But we have good news! It is easier than ever to green your daily body routine. Awesome eco alternatives work without the dirty thirty, (a list of toxic ingredients like parabens, phthalates, triclosan, aluminum, talc, lead, mercury and synthetic fragrance which is a hiding place for some of the worst chemicals in products ) commonly found in conventional personal care products. Thoughtfully made, organic, and truly natural products are widely available in stores like Whole Foods Market, independent green grocers, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and CVS. Be on the lookout!

Green Challenge
To get started, watch Annie Leonard's Story of Cosmetics. In just seven minutes, Annie investigates chemicals in conventional products, the impact on public and environmental health, and outlines ways to move toward safer alternatives. Whole Body 101!

- Share two things that Story of Cosmetics inspired you to do or think about differently.
- Share two important facts that you didn't know before you watched the video.

This video was very interesting. I have seen Annie's work before (The Story of Stuff), and it is always very inspiring. So, my very brief answers:


Share two things that Story of Cosmetics inspired you to do or think about differently.After watching the Story of Cosmetics, I was inspired to firstly look for safer products, not merely cheaper products. Secondly, I now want to educate myself as to what the ingredients on cosmetics products are, and what their effects are on both humans and the environment.

Share two important facts that you didn't know before you watched the video.
Before I watched the Story of Cosmetics, I was unaware that there is no legal definition of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘herbal’. Also, I was unaware of how ineffective cosmetic safety laws and regulations are.

As you can see, I am very concerned with the legal aspect of this situation.

Greener Challenge
Check out the ingredients in your body products. Consider this, in a single product’s ingredient list, the word "fragrance" could actually represent up to 350 synthetic chemicals not listed on the label, including many that have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and central nervous system disorders. There is no law that requires these toxic ingredients to be listed on the label. Start reading and understanding your labels with the help of resources like EWG's Skin Deep Report.

- Gather five of your body products and take a photo
- List the name and brand of each product
- Pick one product that you can't live without and share the ingredient list (you might have to look on line)
- Log on to EWG's Skin Deep Report and enter the product and brand to check its hazard rating
- What is its score?
- Which two ingredients are most hazardous to your health? (scroll down the webpage to view all ingredients and ratings)
- How are they are harmful?


-          Bausch+Lomb re-nu Multi-purpose Solution
-          Woolworths Select Acetone-free Nail Polish Remover
-          Coles Cool Fresh for Women Anti-perspirant
-          Easypiercing Anti-bacterial Solution
-          Kleancolor Tease Me Colour Mascara

Pick one product that you can't live without and share the ingredient list (I originally chose my anti-perspirant, but it wasn't listed on the site)
Bausch+Lomb re-nu Multi-purpose Solution
Hydroxyalkylphosphonate, boric acid, edetate disodium, poloxamine, sodium borate, sodium chloride, polyaminopropyl biguanide

Log on to EWG's Skin Deep Report and enter the product and brand to check its hazard rating
What is its score?
Overall hazard is 4, but data is limited.

Which two ingredients are most hazardous to your health? (scroll down the webpage to view all ingredients and ratings)
-          Boric acid: 8
-          Sodium borate: 5-6 (depending on usage)

How are they are harmful?
-          Boric acid: use restrictions, endocrine disruption, multiple additive exposure sources, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, data gaps
-          Sodium borate: use restrictions, multiple additive exposure sources, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ-system toxicity

Greenest Challenge
Using what you just learned, find an eco-alternative for your favorite "can't live without" conventional body product. You do not have to sacrifice your health for beauty or cleanliness, as there are tons of great products with safe ingredients!

- Search the web, shelves of your local Whole Foods Market or Independent Natural Food Market to find your new eco product.
- Share the product name, brand, ingredients, and attributes on the package and where you found it.
- What is the price of your new product?
- What is the difference in cost from your conventional brand?
- Share two reasons why this would be the better, safer, and healthier choice.
- Will you consider making the switch? Yes or No? Tell us why!
- Take a photo of you and your new green product! Or find an image of the product, if it is from the web.


Share the product name, brand, ingredients, and attributes on the package and where you found it
Clear Conscience Multi Purpose Solution For Soft Contact Lenses
Ingredients: poloxamer, sodium phosphate buffer, sodium chloride and disodium edetate; preserved with polyhexanide 0.0001%

What is the price of your new product?
$26.85 for 710 mL

What is the difference in cost from your conventional brand?
$3.90 cheaper than conventional brand

Share two reasons why this would be the better, safer, and healthier choice
The new brand is cheaper, and doesn’t contain borate based chemicals, unlike the conventional brand.

Will you consider making the switch? Yes or No? Tell us why!  
Yes! I was surprised to learn this was cheaper than my original brand. Since it is obviously a safer alternative, I will definitely be switching to this brand.
Take a photo of you and your new green product! Or find an image of the product, if it is from the web.

Such a long post.... Be prepared for another one tomorrow, although I'm not sure if I can keep up doing every single on of the challenges every day.

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