Cafeteria Food for Thought

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Center for Collective Intelligence created Climate CoLab as a place “where people work with experts and each other to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change.” Recent Climate CoLab contests asked participants to submit proposals on how to address climate change in several key areas.


The first two winners were reviewed in previous posts, “Creating the Right Climate for Green Learning at MIT” and “Bicycle Parking for a Healthier Planet“. Today, we announce the winner of “Fostering Climate Collaboration in Boulder, CO,” which answers the question, “How can we build community engagement and connectivity around climate change?”



A Greener Cafeteria Lunch


A Greener Cafeteria LunchThe winning proposal from Kira Davis and Zoë Sigle won in both the Judges’ Choice and Popular Choice categories. The idea behind the proposal is to “drastically reduce GHGs” by promoting monthly Green Commons Luncheons, hosted by one climate conscious institution for other like-minded institutions. The luncheons would promote a plant-based diet while “fostering collaboration on climate research, mitigation, and advocacy,” claim Davis and Sigle.



Sustainability in Practice


Sustainability in PracticeThe proposal suggests that the food industry could be the next frontier for reducing our carbon footprint. By promoting local plant-based foods, and even creating partnerships with local farmers, these collaborative green lunches would reduce demand for less efficient food sources, such as methane-producing cattle. In essence, this is an opportunity for institutions promoting global sustainability to put into practice what they have preached all along.



Winning the Bigger Contest


Winning the Bigger ContestThis latest Climate CoLab contest winner adds one more piece to the collective puzzle in what MIT hopes will someday be a broader, all-encompassing climate solution. With 130,000 community members who can ultimately submit proposals addressing each climate challenge, Climate CoLab plans to bring the various contest winners together in one, cohesive, global climate solution.



For more about Climate CoLab, including how to join the community, visit the Climate CoLab website.


Bicycle Parking for a Healthier Planet

In a previous post, we discussed the first of three recent winners of Climate CoLab contests. Climate CoLab, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Center for Collective Intelligence, is the crowd-sourcing platform designed “to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.”


Today, we look at the second Climate CoLab contest winner, this one in the category, “Designing High-Density Urban Bike Parking.” Participants were asked, “Is there a design solution that provides high-density, accessible, cost-effective bicycle parking in the urban context?”



The Flycycle Bike Rack


The Flycycle Bike RackThe winning design, submitted by Julia Hanson, a former urban planning student, and Jeff Olinger, an architect, built on previous rack designs to address the specific conditions of Cambridge’s Kendall Square. The team’s flycycle bike rack design took into consideration factors such as cost of materials, usable locations in the area, as well as the city’s bike rack regulations. Additional factors, such as compatibility with the square’s architecture, were also considered.



Fit for the Environment


Fit for the EnvironmentThe flycycle rack holds two bicycles on each frame in less space than the typical lollipop rack or inverted U rack, making it well suited to high density areas. Although Kendall Square offers many available locations for bike parking, these areas often disappear after a heavy snowfall. The flycycle bike rack cleverly elevates one side to lift an attached bike above a six-inch snowfall. The design also fits well with that of existing buildings, acting much like “attractive street furniture.”


flycyle 1



The Real Contest Winners


The Real Contest WinnersThe ultimate winners in the Climate CoLab series will be the inhabitants of our planet. Climate CoLab breaks down complex problems of climate change into smaller, more manageable ones, before asking its 130,000 community members to submit proposals. MIT plans to piece together the winning solutions to address the much broader issues impacting climate change. Anyone can join or participate in the process.



If you’d like to learn more about Climate CoLab contests, or how to become a member of the community, visit the Climate CoLab website.


Creating the Right Climate for Green Learning at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Center for Collective Intelligence created Climate CoLab “to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.” The climate change crowdsourcing platform invites anyone to join and participate in contests or comment on proposals.


Recently, Climate CoLab announced the winners of three contests. The contests asked the Climate CoLab community of 130,000 people to submit proposals for addressing climate change in various categories. This year’s winner in the category, “Harnessing the Power of MIT Alumni“, focused on promoting green careers.



The Winning Proposal


The Winning ProposalTop honor was awarded to Team MITACAL for their project, ClimateX. Team MITACAL took the concept of the typical Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), designed to reach learners on a massive scale, and personalized it for those interested in climate-related careers. Although the ClimateX solution addresses a number of typical MOOC problems, its insightful use of the MIT alumni was an essential component of the solution.



How ClimateX Works


How ClimateX WorksWorking within MIT’s already successful edX learning platform, ClimateX adds a layer of personalization similar to that of computer industry sites like Pluralsight and Udacity, only in this case, specific to green careers. Recognizing that mentoring and career advice are essential to a student’s success, ClimateX taps into MIT’s vast alumni network to feature Climate Corps, mentors and trainers who provide expertise specific to a student’s area of interest.



How Climate CoLab Contests Address Climate Change


How Climate CoLab Contests Address Climate ChangeThe idea is to break down the highly complex problems of climate change into more manageable sub-problems, using a formula titled, “What-Where-Who-How“. Once a smaller problem finds a suitable solution, that solution can be incorporated into a larger scale solution that addresses the broader problems associated with climate change.



If you’d like to learn more about Climate CoLab contests, or how to become a member of the community, visit the Climate CoLab website.


Stars in the Fight Against Climate Change

As global warming and climate change continues to be an important issue and an increasingly prevalent part of the American conversation, here’s a look at some of its main activists.



In Hollywood


In HollywoodWhile there are too many Hollywood stars to name that are devoted to this issue, one stands above the rest because of his recent Oscar win as best actor. Leonardo Di Caprio has been acting for decades and finally won the grand prize this year. But he devoted almost all of his acceptance speech (broadcasted to the masses) to a message about climate change: “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” Watch the whole speech in the clip below.



In Washington, DC


In Washington DCSen. Bernie Sanders shares Leonardo’s view. Of the 2016 presidential candidates, he is by far the most dedicated to this issue, calling climate change “the single greatest threat facing our planet.” His solution? To invest in clean energy and create millions of jobs. In contrast, Donald Trump tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Here’s a recent NBC News story that gives an overview about how all of the presidential candidates feel about global warming and climate change.



Around the World


Around the WorldOne of the leading organizations that’s fighting climate change is, with an emphasis on uniting activists from around the world and implementing grass roots initiatives. One of its biggest fights in the U.S. was against the Keystone XL pipeline. According to Moyers & Company, was named for “what climate scientists say is the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — 350 parts per million (ppm). (We’ve now passed 400 ppm.)”


If you want to join the fight, here are some simple things you can do from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


Crowdsourcing Climate Change

Imagine if you could come up with an innovative idea to help stop climate change – and get paid $10,000 for it? That’s what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is proposing through contests asking people to build action plans focused on climate change topics, from changing public behavior to decarbonizing the energy supply.



Harnessing Collective Intelligence


Harnessing Collective IntelligenceThe project is spearheaded by MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence and its Climate CoLab. Its founder, Sloan Professor Thomas Malone, explains the mission: “To test how crowds and experts can work together to solve large, complex problems, like climate change.” The Climate CoLab community totals 50,000 people, including leading climate change experts. The Climate CoLab has collaborated with the United Nations, Nike and other large organizations leading the charge against climate change.



The Ultimate Prize: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The Ultimate PrizeWinners will receive various prizes, including the opportunity to present their idea at MIT and be part of plans that could impact the U.S. and other countries worldwide. This year’s submissions are due Monday, May 23, and winners will be chosen for each of the 10 climate change challenges. There will also be a phase two of the contest where the winning proposals can be put together in various ways to form strategies for both individual nations and the world. All of the solutions will be evaluated by estimating how much greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. (Learn more about how window film helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions here.)



Cast Your Votes


Cast Your VotesPart of this crowdsourcing approach includes welcoming comments from everyone around the world. Finalists were recently announced in three contests, on which you can now vote. Check out the ideas and cast your vote here. And learn more about all of the contests here. You’ll be joining 400,000 others who have logged onto the Climate CoLab website. The project has gained momentum since its inception and has gained recognition from such media outlets as PBS, NPR, Popular Science, The Weather Channel, and Discovery.


3 Great Energy Conservation Websites for Kids

If you’re passionate about conserving energy and protecting our planet, one way you can help is by teaching the younger generation about energy conservation. These fun, interactive websites were created especially for kids and are filled with information about energy conservation. Pass on these links to the kids in your life. “The Quickest Ever Slideshow on Global Warming” to fun facts, this colorful site is filled with engaging activities and information. To show kids how they can save energy every day, it features a typical kid’s bedroom with interactive stars on items (click on “You Can Make Big Changes”). When you click on different stars, a window opens up to show how you can save energy with that particular item. Another neat feature is a section for parents and teachers (click on any internal page to see the gray “Parents & Teachers” tab on the bottom of the right side of the page) where you can download games and activities. website from the U.S. Energy Information Administration also acts as a resource for teachers, providing a whole range of energy lessons across all subjects and grade levels. In addition to giving all the basic information on energy, it offers a wealth of games and activities, including riddles, puzzles, and quizzes. Kids can learn about the latest adventures of “Energy Ant,” who travels all over the country on different energy field trips. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change” on this informative website. Kids are invited to go on climate change expeditions around the world where they watch videos to learn about different issues and complete challenges. They’re also invited to calculate their own emissions with an interactive calculator. These are just two of the exciting experiences that help kids learn about climate change, its effects, and ways they can save energy to help stop it.


A Growing Energy Source: Renewable Natural Gas

Referred to as “the largest livestock manure-to-energy project of its kind,” Roeslein Alternative Energy will begin producing Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) this summer from nine Smithfield Foods’ hog farms in Missouri. When the project is completed, each year it will turn 850,000 tons of methane (which would otherwise go into the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming) into 2.2 billion cubic feet of RNG. That’s equal to 17 million gallons of diesel fuel!



A Whole New Level of Sustainability


A Whole New Level of SustainabilityBoth economically and environmentally, the technology makes sense and can be replicated worldwide. Blake Boxley, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Smithfield Hog Production, explains, “This project will show how farmers can do more than produce food. We can make energy, we can reduce waste, and we can be good stewards for our most important resources – land and water.”



“Manure Lagoons”


Manure LagoonsYes, there is such a thing. Eighty-eight of them, in fact, at Smithfield Foods’ hog farms. Phase one of the $120 million project began back in 2014 by creating covers for these manure lagoons. The covers keep methane gas from escaping into the atmosphere, keep the rain out, and as you can imagine, greatly improve the way the air smells! Phase two is underway which involves technology that purifies the methane gas and then connects it to the natural gas pipeline. The project is on schedule to be completed this summer.



Transforming America’s Heartland


Transforming America’s HeartlandTurning manure into energy isn’t the only transformation Roeslein Alternate Energy has in store for the Midwest. Future plans involve restoring prairie grasslands to produce prairie grass biomass that will also be converted into energy along with the manure. The prairie grass addition will double the project’s energy production and fund the transformation of marginal land into stretches of beautiful prairies filled with native wildlife.


UN Climate Change Conference Report

The latest United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in November resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which was touted by President Obama as “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” The agreement was made by no less than 195 nations – quite a feat when you think that if just one nation objected, no agreement would be made under UN rules. According to BBC News, the goal is to “cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) compared to pre-industrial levels – a level of warming deemed to be the point when dangerous climate change could threaten life on Earth.”



The Rising Tide of Change


The Rising Tide of ChangeExperts say that to achieve this, fossil fuels will need to be eliminated in the later half of the 21st century. Otherwise massive droughts and flooding are just a few of the disastrous weather conditions future generations will have in store. To illustrate the point, put together some alarming visuals of what some of the most iconic cities in the world will look like due to rising sea levels.


Another frightening look at rising sea levels is taken in this New Yorker article, “The Siege of Miami,” where the high-water mark has been steadily rising year by year – almost an inch each year. The article includes projections on rising sea levels by 2100: three feet (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), five feet (United States Army Corps of Engineers), and six and a half feet (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), respectively.



A Historic Turning Point, But…


A Historic Turning PointWhile the Paris Agreement is generally recognized as a defining moment in the climate crisis, it lacks certain key elements, such as how it will be enforced. At any rate, the next step is to get it ratified. This entails a few caveats. Each country must approve it within their own country. No less than 55 countries must approve it. And those 55 countries must be responsible for 55 percent of global CO2 emissions. That means it will most certainly need approval by China and the U.S. They are the largest polluters according to Statista, with China being the largest CO2 emitter at 28.03 percent of global emissions and the U.S. at 15.9 percent. Other top emitters are India at 5.81 percent; Russia at 4.79 percent; and Japan at 3.84 percent.



To learn more about the Paris Agreement, visit the UN’s Information Hub for the conference.