Global Goals

Goal #13, Climate Action, states that people need to make changes to their daily lives to protect our environment. This goal supports Global Awareness because it sets out to promote a healthy planet and ecosystem. More specifically, it aims to create new policies surrounding climate change, improve education on all things sustainability, and develop climate change-related planning in developing countries. In terms of daily sustainable living, people can contribute to this goal by using a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one. It is recommended that people drink 8 eight ounce bottles of water each day, but if there are 7 billion people in the world and a typical plastic water bottle holds 16 ounces of water, then that wastes 28 billion 16 ounce plastic water bottles each day.

Goal #8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, falls under the global perspective category because it aims to promote employment opportunities for everyone and economic success. According to the Global Goals, if we can create more jobs, promote sustainable tourism, put a stop to human trafficking, and achieve equal pay for men and women, we would be able to satisfy society’s goals without compromising the capacity of future generations to do the same.  



Presidential Green Grant Proposal: Reusable Straws

In order to reduce our school’s carbon footprint, Union should stop providing students with plastic straws and opt for more sustainable ones instead. Recently, several states and cities have made strict laws surrounding the use of plastic straws because of their harmful impact on the environment and Starbucks has promised that they will stop using straws all together by 2020. Between Dutch, Starbucks, and the dining halls on campus, students are constantly using plastic straws. Instead of plastic straws, Union should switch to paper ones in all dining locations. Additionally, they should provide each incoming student with either a metal or glass reusable straw. Metal straws cost around $1/straw when bought in bulk, so for an incoming class of 550 students, the school could spend ~$550 and become an even more sustainable campus. 

Solar Photovoltaic Energy

When people think of solar power, they often think of solar panels on the roof of a house, also known as photovoltaic devices. When sunlight hits these panels, the electrons move freely through their cell, which generates electricity. Solar photovoltaic energy is pollution and noise free, making it a strong alternative to other, less sustainable energy sources. While some people choose not to install solar panels on their homes because it is expensive, solar panel prices are currently on the decline. According to this article, the average price of a solar panel system has decreased by 59% in the last 10 years. The installation price has also decreased because there are more experienced installers available. On a global scale, the U.S. is the fourth largest market for solar panels, behind other countries that have stricter policies to switch to more sustainable practices.

Google now has a feature that enables you to enter in your zip code and it will tell you how much money you could save on your electric bill by installing rooftop solar panels. In Schenectady, it is estimated that you could save $8,000 over a 20 year period. This calculator also takes into account the amount of sunlight each address gets. When I looked up my house in New Jersey, it said my family would lose $37/month if we were to install solar panels because the house is completely in the shade.

The downside of solar photovoltaic energy is that it is weather dependent. If it is very cloudy outside, there may not be enough sunlight to power the system. Also, if the panels are used to power a lot of buildings, opposed to a single home, it may require a lot of empty land to house the whole system.


Population Growth and Decay Across the U.S.

According to USA Today, the fastest growing city in the United States is The Villages in Florida. In 2010 it had a population of 94,279 people and increased to 125,165 people in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017 the population increased by 30,886 people, or 32.8%, with a growth rate of 1.33. The fastest shrinking city in the country is Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In 2010 it had a population of 100,093 and decreased to 90,963 in 2017, which means the population decreased by 9,130 individuals. This also includes a percent decrease of 9.12% and a decay factor of .91.


In the fastest shrinking cities, such as Pine Bluff, the unemployment rate is greater than the national average. Also, it is possible that the reason some cities are growing faster than others is because of climate change. More specifically, over half of the fastest shrinking cities are in areas that experience harsh winters, while most of the fastest growing cities experience milder weather. This could make some areas more or less desirable to live in and could impact the population of various areas. 


Poverty Among Families in the U.S.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, of the 308,745,538 people living in the United States in 2010, 12.3% were living below the poverty line. The graph below shows the percent of people living under the poverty line among single family homes and married couple families with kids under the ages of 5 and 18. Overall, there is a greater percentage of families with a single mother living in poverty than families with married couples.


Among families with a female householder, 45% with kids under 5 years old and 39.7% with kids under 18 years old are below the poverty line. Among married couple families, 6.3% with kids under 5 years old and 7.9% with kids under 18 years old are living below the poverty line. The percent difference between each household type is very large, but I am not surprised that more single parent households are below the poverty line because they only have one income to support the family. Additionally, I imagine that there are more single mothers with kids under the age of 5 living below the poverty line because they need to financially support their family while also providing childcare for their young kids. There are fewer married couple families living below the poverty threshold because it is possible that there are 2 incomes that support the family.


Start Carpooling to Work

According to Pew Research Center, Americans are making few eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle choices, even though three-quarters of the population see climate change as a very serious issue. The Environmental Protection Agency strongly recommends that people purchase an electric car, instead of one that runs on gas. However, 95% of Americans have not made this switch. The EPA also suggests that people carpool or use public transportation to commute to work, but three quarters of Americans still drive alone.

The graph below shows 7 different modes of transportation that people use to commute to and from work and how the popularity of each has changed since 1980. Since 1980, “driving alone” has increased from 64.4% to 76.5%. The number of people who carpool to work has decreased by more than half from 19.7% in 1980 to 9.2% in 2014. In general, people are also using less public transportation and taxis, but there is an increase in the number of people who work from home.

Even though the EPA has made recommendations as to how people can live more sustainably and 45% of the population has said that climate change is a huge threat, few people are actually making any changes to their routine. What do you think are other ways that would get people to actually make more sustainable choices?   

Water Waste

According to Livescience, 70% of the world’s freshwater supply is used for agricultural purposes, such as farms and lawns. This poses a problem for the environment because when fields are watered, the excess water flows into nearby streams or rivers. This can pollute bodies of water because the runoff is filled with fertilizers and other toxins that may be harmful to marine life. Also, some crops require more water than others. For example, cotton needs a lot more water to survive than potatoes do.

As we discussed in class, another source that requires a lot of water is the toilet. Everytime you flush, you are using between 1.6 gallons and 4 gallons of water. After this water is used, it may be treated and sanitized so it can be used in other ways, such as for watering plants.

Another common way that people waste water is through leaking and malfunctioning equipment. According to the Washington Post, Americans waste 1 trillion gallons of water each year, or 40 million swimming pools, due to leaky faucets and broken sprinkler systems. Not only is this wasteful and harmful to the environment, but it is extremely expensive for homeowners.

One way to reduce the amount of water waste in the world is to replace older toilets with more efficient ones. Also, landowners and farmers should replace their irrigation systems with sprinklers, which produce less runoff. Additionally, people should be wary of potential leaks in their faucets in order to avoid wasting any water.


Measuring Carbon Dioxide

The amount of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere is significantly increasing due to human activity and a lack of environmental friendly practices used by the public. According to NASA, one third of the carbon dioxide released into the air is dissolved into the ocean, which can threaten the livelihood of the marine ecosystem. Half of the carbon dioxide remains in the air. It is unknown where the remaining carbon dioxide goes, so to track the amount of carbon dioxide and its location, NASA has developed an earth orbiting satellite called OCO-2.

This new satellite will track and measure the carbon cycle and provide information as to where the remaining carbon dioxide will end up. During the ice ages, carbon dioxide levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), or .2 g/L, and increased to 400 ppm, or .4 g/L, in 2013. It is important to know this information and be able to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so we can better prepare for changes in the environment. For example, an increased amount of carbon dioxide may cause extreme natural disasters and negatively impact food sources and animals. NASA’s new satellite will help to not only measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it will also keep scientists informed about what to expect in the future regarding where the carbon dioxide will be absorbed and how this may impact the planet over time.

Blog Post #1

Union has exposed me to sustainability in a way I had never been previously. Union’s commitment to sustainability has stimulated my interest in environmentalism and has encouraged me to reduce my own carbon footprint. Since coming to Union I am more cognizant of my own environmental practices and habits and I continue to recycle, compost, use a reusable water bottle, and support Octopus’s Garden and Ozone Café. While my relationship with sustainable living is a relatively new one, I am excited to learn more about how math relates to global issues such as agriculture and climate change. As a Psychology and Spanish double major, I have had little exposure to environmental studies in an academic setting, but I look forward to exploring sustainability through a quantitative lens and learning about how I can help to better the future of our planet.