Friday, May 30, 2008

Green Wikia!

I recently discovered Green Wikia, which is an online resource that covers topics on climate change and environmental sustainability. Just like the original Wikipedia, Green Wikia offers a central repository for anyone who has internet access. Granted, this wikia is fairly new (i.e., there's 182 articles published to date), so that means this is a great opportunity to help make a difference by editing and writing articles. What I'd like to do is edit their recycling page by discussing the need for a sustainable design that increases the recycling rate while decreasing the amount of contaminants that enter the recycling stream. (Yep, you guessed it - I want to share the findings from the recycle-bin project!) I'm struggling with uploading pictures onto their website, though. So hopefully I can figure this out and start working on that article for Green Wikia.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Join Team IUSB for Bike to Work Week!

If you haven't heard the news, next week is Bike to Work Week. This year's organizers are encouraging employee groups to "compete" as part of team. My colleague, Bruce Spitzer, has created an IUSB team, which I joined yesterday. There are other teams, too. The basic idea is to simply log the miles you ride during the week. So if you have a bike, and would like to join a team, go to Michiana Bike to Work to register.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back from APS!

It's been a whirlwind of activity and fun these last few weeks. Sean and I took our students with us to Chicago last week to present our research at the 20th Annual Convention for the Association of Psychological Science (whew, that's a mouthful! For sake of brevity, I'll refer to this conference as APS). I have to say, we had a great time at APS! We met other researchers who are doing similar research on environmental concerns and attitudes, and we were able to share ideas and make connections with those folks, which is fantastic. There were hundreds of poster presentations and invited addresses, too. I've learned the hard way that you have to be selective in choosing which talk or poster to go to because otherwise, you'll wear yourself out!

Here's a picture of us standing in front of our poster on people's implicit connections with nature. You may notice that my hair is wet in this photograph - that's because our poster presentation was scheduled for 8am on Thursday. Yikes!! :0) Standing next to me is Matt Robinson, an undergraduate at Rutgers University. This summer, I have the pleasure of being his faculty mentor for a grant he received from APS. And standing next to Sean is Becky Lomas, another undergraduate at Rutgers University. Becky and Matt are two incredibly motivated students. It was so awesome sharing this experience with them and seeing them shine as they presented their posters at the conference.

Here's a photo of us after we presented our poster (you'll notice my hair is no longer soggy wet!). Sitting on my right is Nick Vecchione, yet another one of Sean's students. (At the moment, I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture with my student, Nate Ring, who also attended APS. Sorry, Nate!!)

We were able to mix-in some fun with work. Here we are queuing to enter the Green Mill, which is a famous jazz club in Chicago.

I like this picture of Becky. Matt's standing behind her holding two chocolate-covered truffles from the APS banquet.

And here's one last group photo of us. It's hard to believe how fast this year has been. It was at last year's APS conference when I met Sean, and now fast-forward to the present time, here we are with our students presenting our research. It's amazing how much can change within the course of the year. I wonder what we'll be presenting at next year's conference. Hopefully, when we go to APS in San Francisco, Nate and some more of my students will want to present their research, too!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hot Off the Press!

Experimentaholic and I have been getting our posters ready for next week's APS conference in Chicago. And we've finally gotten our posters hot off the press! I've added them onto the sidebar for you preview. I also added our paper that was accepted into the Environment and Behavior journal onto the sidebar. Feel free to check-out these environment projects!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Downtown SB's EcoFest

Well, the "green" theme may be contagious: Downtown South Bend is hosting an EcoFest next month! I'm excited and curious about this community event, which will be held on June 21st from 10am - 3pm. I've been invited to host a booth at EcoFest, which I'm happy to do. In the meantime, however, please mark your calendars. I hope to see you there! :0)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Royte Reviews Children's Books on Environmentalism

Our friend, Elizabeth Royte, wrote an article in the NY Times about children's books that address environmental issues. (I know Fake Plastic Fish has been recently talking about this.) In short, Royte mildly critiques one book for conveying "anthropogenic doom" and praises another book for leaving the reader feeling "not only hopeful, but enthused." Royte's article reinforces Marc's thesis that instilling a positive mood helps motivate people to embrace pro-environmental (and political!) attitudes.

As many of you know, Elizabeth Royte was our featured speaker at last year's BagFest. It was so incredibly awesome to have her come to IU South Bend for that event. Here's a picture of us taken after a dinner I hosted to honor her and my students for embarking on that plastic-bag journey with me:

This photo sure brings back good memories! :0)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Recycling-Lid Project Accepted for Publication

I have some good news to share with you today: The recycling-lid project that Experimentaholic and I have been working on was accepted into Environment and Behavior. Hooray! I'm putting the finishing touches on the paper, but as soon as it's finalized, I'll post a copy of the paper on the blog.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What is Nature?

I've spent the last three months collecting data on how people conceive of nature. (I'll be writing a paper on this topic soon, so details on this project are forthcoming.) One finding I've discovered is that when people think about nature, they tend to conjure up nice, pretty, cute creatures (e.g., birds) and lovely plants (e.g., roses). They don't tend to think about the scary, violent, and dangerous side of nature, like this video portrays. Wow, this is suspenseful!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Happy Mood to Preserve the Environment

Yesterday, my student Marc and I analyzed data from an experiment he recently conducted. Marc's interested in whether a happy or sad mood can influence people's political leanings regarding social, economic, and environmental issues.

To be sure, the data are speculative at this point. (He needs to collect more data next fall semester.) But, we were both surprised by his preliminary findings. Based on Marc's experiment, we found that a happy mood affects people's political leanings that support pro-environmental concerns. The influence of a happy or sad mood, however, does not appear to affect people's political leanings toward social or economic issues.

We're both surprised by this tentative finding. It was actually quite uncanny: We were both reminded of BagFest and how it rallied folks to action in our community. So if this result turns out to be reliable, it suggests to me (and perhaps to other environmentalists) that messages used to induce a glum mood about current environment conditions should be squelched to foster positive messages, actions, and events that motivate people to preserve the environment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Dangers and Irony of Biking

I almost got hit by a SUV today. I was biking on Colfax, just crossing over the bridge, when a big, black SUV out of nowhere crossed my path to enter a parking lot. The collision was so close that the driver had to step on the gas to avoid hitting me. Otherwise, I reckon she would have t-boned me into oblivion.

I couldn't believe what happened. And before I could change my mind, I biked into the parking lot to speak to her. I don't think she realized I was waiting for her.

When she exited the vehicle, I told her, "you almost hit me." She looked surprised. "Well, excuse me, but I didn't see you," she said with a haughty tone. "You put my life in jeopardy," I replied. Instead of apologizing, she turned the tables on me and said that I would have hit her. "Actually, I was doing just fine; I was obeying the laws when I was riding." I think she was now getting angry at me. "Look, I'm ok, you're ok. If you want to call the police (but it sounded like po-lice) for a near accident, then go ahead." I told her that wasn't my intention at all. "I have work to do," was her final retort. And with that, she proceeded to walk away. I had the last word, though. "At least drive more carefully!," I exclaimed.

Truth be told, I hate biking on the street, but I do it to conserve fuel, pollute less, and exercise more while commuting to work. I guess the irony here is that I nearly got struck by a gas-guzzling, big-time polluting SUV. And she's not going to apologize for that.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Chicago Green Festival: May 17-18

I'm excited to hear about the Chicago Green Festival, which will be held later this month. I will definitely attend this event and will most likely share my experience with you on the blog. :0)

I heard about this festival at GreenScene USA - it's a great online resource that provides current 'green' information in several major cities including Chicago. If you have a free moment, I hope you'll check-out this site!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

State of the Air Report: We're Barely Passing

Spring semester is nearly over, I keep reminding myself as I've been frantically grading final exams and papers. So the issue of doling and receiving grades has been on many people's minds, which is why I was displeased to hear this report on NPR two days ago.

The American Lung Association released their State of the Air report. In terms of particle pollution, we are passing with a D. In terms of high ozone days, we are passing with a C. People with cardiovascular difficulties, asthma, and diabetes are particularly vulnerable to air pollution in St. Joseph county.

These grades suggest there's plenty of room for improvement. (Of course, this comes from someone who as a life-long student, was obsessed with getting straight-A's, so I'm particularly disappointed with this outcome.)

When I first moved to South Bend, I was puzzled by a weird "bar" smell I occassionally whiffed. My neighbor told me it was from an ethanol plant. To this day, I still don't know where this plant is exactly located, but if the wind blows in just the right direction, I can smell it. Besides biking, what are some ways we can reduce air pollution to improve this dismal report card?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trash Trooping is Contagious!

This morning, the pups and I ran into one of our neighbors and her two dogs. (It's the same neighbor who saw me picking-up trash last week and asked me if I was doing my civic duty.) Turns out, trash trooping is contagious. She said that after watching me pick-up trash, she and her partner did the same thing, only at other parts of the neighborhood that I had missed. Very cool!

We talked about doing this again. I had been thinking about doing another trash-trooping exercise, although I don't want to make this a daily habit. My neighbor suggested doing this once a week. I've been inclined to doing this once every two weeks, but we'll see now that she's planted that thought into my head! :0)