Friday, December 4, 2009

Parade for Clean Energy

SF/SC members parade to the Constellation Energy Commodities Building in the Inner Harbor to protest CE's use of dirty fossil fuels & mountaintop removal coal

On Monday, November 30th, SF/SC members joined concerned Baltimore citizens for "From Constellation to Copenhagen," a parade from MICA's Cohen Plaza to the Constellation Energy building in the Inner Harbor. Parade members carried a giant mountain puppet, signs, and an 8 foot by 11 foot letter signed by MICA students (pictured below, folded into a giant envelope). They received car-honks and cheers of support from drivers and pedestrians as they paraded down North Charles and Pratt Streets, chanting "No coal is clean coal!" and "Constellation Energy, BGE, we want cleaner energy!"

At the CE Building, protesters chanted and read their letter aloud over a megaphone. The letter presented three demands: that CE immediately cease all purchase of coal from mountaintop removal strip mines, that CE transition from coal to clean, renewable energy sources that do not leave long-lasting toxic wastes (nuclear power and "clean coal" are not acceptable alternatives), and that CE instruct their lobbyists to put the health and safety of the people and the land before corporate self interest. Parade-members cheered at the letter's closing statement: "The harm you are causing to our city, to our state, to our country and to our planet is unacceptable. You must cease irresponsible business practices, and you must do so NOW."

SF/SC chose to protest CE's use of dirty fossil fuels and mountaintop removal coal with a parade, and with large props, because they wanted to harness the creative energy of the MICA community in their non-violent direct action, one of many that occurred around the world on November 30th. This date marks one week before UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and the 10th anniversary of the WTO protest in Seattle. Read more about other November 30th actions here.

Constellation Energy owns three of the six largest coal fired power plants in Maryland. Two of these plants, Brandon Shores and Herbert A Wagner in Anne Arundel county, are fired with coal mined from seven mountaintop removal strip mines in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky. C. P. Crane in Baltimore County, also owned by Constellation, does not burn mountaintop removal coal, but it supports the practice by purchasing coal from companies that engage in the practice. You can learn more about Baltimore's connection to mountaintop removal, and more about the process of mountaintop removal, by visiting

On December 1st, SF/SC president Zoe Keller spoke at the Rally for Maryland's Clean Energy Future, put on by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Maryland, the MD League of Conservation Voters and other concerned groups. The rally was called to protest MAPP (Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway) and PATH (Potomac -Appalachian Transmission Highline) power lines that would bring more dirty coal and nuclear energy to Maryland. Protesters view these lines as a huge step back for Maryland, following the landmark passage of the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act.

Zoe discussed the role of Maryland's youth in the climate movement. You can watch video of the rally (including some of Zoe's speech) at 2b4 the World ("Rally for Responsible Energy").

Thanks for the photos Mike & Miranda!
words - Zoe

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Talking Mountaintops

SF/SC Holds Peer-to-Peer Teach-Ins About Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
Students for a Sustainable Campus members held three informational sessions in the Brown Center on MICA's campus Thursday to inform MICA students about mountaintop removal coal mining and its connection to electricity in Baltimore. The teach-ins are leading up to two big Baltimore events the week after Thanksgiving: a nonviolent direct action against Constellation Energy led by MICA students, and the Rally for Maryland's Clean Energy Future on December 1st.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is an especially devastating form of mining that levels entire mountains and fills the surrounding valleys, rivers and streams with rubble. Communities in Central Appalachia, where mountaintop removal coal mining is concentrated, feel the brunt of this mining's damaging effects. Drinking water is contaminated with carcinogens, flooding increases, and communities are put at constant risk of a disaster like the disaster that occurred in Tennessee in 2008.

The electricity that we use in Baltimore is generated in part by this fuel source: two power plants in Maryland, Brandon Shores and Herbert A. Wagner in Anne Arundel county, burn mountaintop removal coal. Although C. P. Crane in Baltimore County does not burn mountaintop removal coal, it supports the practice by purchasing coal from companies that engage in the practice. If you live in Baltimore, you become responsible for mountaintop removal every time you turn on a light.

On November 30th, SF/SC members will lead a nonviolent direct action against Constellation Energy, the owner of these three power plants. Using costumes, props, and song, students will parade to Constellation to demand that the company cease the purchase of mountaintop removal coal and transition to cleaner energy sources. The following day, on Decemeber 1st, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Maryland, and several other organizations will rally against a power line that would bring more "dirty coal energy" to Maryland. You can register for the event here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hey Obama, Save our Mama!

At Left: Protesters form a circle of hope in front of the White House.

On Saturday, October 24th, people in 181 countries gathered to participate in the 350 Day of Action, an international call for strong climate legislation and leadership.

SF/SC members joined hundreds in DC for one of the biggest of the 5,200 climate actions. With ponchos on and umbrellas open, protesters marched nineteen blocks through the driving rain to Lafayette Park in front of the White House. There, participants formed a circle of hope to send a clear message to the Obama administration: the United States must pass strict climate legislation and enter the international climate talks in Copenhagen as leaders.

At Right: Protesters gather in front of the White House after a long, wet march from Meridian Hill Park.
The 350 Campaign was founded by American author Bill McKibben and mobilized by a team of college students. The number 350 stands for 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, the level of CO2 that leading scientists, including NASA's James Hansen, have identified as the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Currently, we are at 390 ppm. And most governments have set 450 ppm as their target. McKibben explains that at this level, the sea is expected to rise 75 to 120 feet. That would put a whole lot of land - including a little spot of land called Baltimore - deep underwater.

The call for action comes at a vital time. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (COP15) is just a little over a month away. The UN Climate Conference happens every year, but this one is especially important. This time, representatives from 192 countries will come together to draft a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and operative since 2005, is a UN protocol that places limits on greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. (The United States signed, but never ratified, the protocol.) The Kyoto Protocol goes out of effect in 2012. In order to provide a seamless transition from one protocol to another, the leaders at COP15 have to come up with a plan in December. If strong climate action does not come out of this conference, we're all in trouble.

Above: SF/SC member Nellie Sorenson helps form the circle of hope.
Below: Mimi Cheng and Cindy Ames of SF/SC make posters to carry during the march.

When times are this dire, every body and every voice counts. Ted Glick, Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition, told DC action organizers that college students (that's us!) kept spirits up on Saturday. Dancing, waving banners and shouting chants of "350" and "Climate justice now!" the youth of the movement made this action a successful one despite the downpour. As Copenhagen approaches, SF/SC will continue to join college students from across the country in the fight for the climate.

photo & words - zoe

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


At 2:30am this past Tuesday, SF/SC members were still huddled around a flour-covered dining room table wrapping up baked goods for the Vegans Can Bake Sale. Our members made a wide-array of vegan goods: chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin muffins, apple-raisin-oatmeal cookies, banana-cinnamon cupcakes and more. Several recipes, like our apple-pear muffins and sweet-potato muffins used seasonal ingredients purchased locally at the Waverly Farmers Market! And all baked goods were wrapped in recyclable paper packages.

Pulling off an entirely vegan bake sale is a success in itself. But I'm happy to report that all of our late-night vegan antics paid off financially too! We sold out and made $156.54! Although we have to come to a final vote before we decide how to spend the money, we'll probably be using these funds to buy a complete tool set to maintain our bikes.

Can't wait until our next bake sale for more vegan sweets? Here are a few of the recipes we used:
Some of these recipes call for dairy products. We used margarine instead of butter, soymilk instead of milk, and 2 Tablespoons cornstarch/egg or 1/4 cup of silken tofu/egg. Here's some more information about egg replacers.

words - Zoe
photo - Chef Flower

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


SF/SC will be posting meeting minutes, updates and events on our Facebook group so we can easily let the rest of the MICA community know about what we're up to! Continue to look here for articles, inspiration and big announcements.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Folk Singing & Green Thinking at YSEC Conference

Yale students/folk-singers-extraordinaire sing at
Dwight Chapel to close out the YSEC conference.

When you are facing a task as daunting as greening an entire college campus, the best thing to do is seek to the advice of those who have fought similar battles. That's what I was hoping to do this past Friday, when I hopped on a Greyhound bus for an eight-hour ride up to chilly New Haven to attend the Yale Student Environmental Coalition (YSEC) Conference. On Saturday, October 26th college students from across the Northeast gathered at Yale's Dwight Hall to learn how college campuses can halt climate change. Representatives from Greenpeace, Slow Food USA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Energy Action Coalition and many other environmental organizations led a series of rapid-fire, information-rich panels on subjects ranging from ecovillages to bioregionalism to basic campaign-organizing skills. The expereince was very much like that of Powershift '09, except the smaller number of attendees (each panel had enough room for about 15 students, as opposed to the hundred or so that attended each Powershift panel) meant that discussions were more intimate, could revolve around real-life examples from students in the room, and allowed plenty of time for each student to voice their opinion or ask questions.

I am still sorting through all of the information from that busy Saturday, but one idea jumped out at me as applying directly to MICA's SF/SC. A student representative from Wesleyan University introduced me to the idea of a green fee. Similar to the Activities Fee that MICA students already have to pay, a green fee is a small, optional fee - usually $10/semester - that can be used to fund green initiatives on campus. Some schools, like Oberlin in Ohio, divide the green fee into two seperate uses: grants for green projects that are valuable but have no significant economic return (hosting an event like the YSEC conference, for example), and a revolving loan fund. Revolving loan funds, as I understand them, are invested into projects that generate a significant financial saving. Installing wind turbines, for example, would generate huge energy savings over time. The savings from these initial projects are used to fund subsequent green initiatives, and so on.

The potential to make change with green fees is enormous; many sustainable projects, like solar panels, require big capitol investments that MICA simply can not shoulder at this time. Our biggest challenges will be convincing students that a green fee is worth paying, and ensuring that every student sees the benefits of green-fee spending.

On the more tactical end of the spectrum, I attended a very informative panel about Powermapping. Powermapping is a method used to formulate a winning campaign strategy by identifying who you have to influence to make change. We are fortunate to attend a school that is small enough that the administration is readily available. Some students I spoke with were baffled by the idea of talking to - or even seeing - their university president. In my experience, MICA's administration has always been a phone call away and been more than happy to help. But it's still useful to know how to go about organizing a major campaign.

The model for the discussion was Greenpeace's successful campaign against Kimberly Clark, a company that, up until recently, was using 100% virgin trees from boreal forests in Canada to make their Kleenex tissues. (I know, wtf.) Here are the steps for making a Powermap, as applied to a university setting:
  1. Who? Identify who you need to influence to win your campaign - the president of the university? the head of purchasing?
  2. What are their characteristics? Research the people you must influence. You should have enough information that you can plot them on a scale from 1 - 8, 1 being the least environmentally-friendly and 8 being the most.
  3. Choose a subject. Of the people you feel you need to influence, who is the most important? (You may need to choose two and make two separate Powermaps.)
  4. Identify their influences. What are the public, fincancers, VIP and personal influences on your subject(s)? Here are examples: public - local newspapers, the Princeton review, the student body; financers - donors, alumni, prospective students; VIPs - board members, deans, faculty; personal - friends, religous leaders
  5. Highlight those influences that are most important.
  6. Star those influences that you can actually contact.
  7. Note those influences that your opposition can contact. Make the decision whether or not those who fall into category 6 and 7 are worth fighting for, or if you should concentrate your time and resources elsewhere. Focus on those who fall into category 5 and 6.
  8. Define your goal. Make sure your goal is SMART: Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Timebound.
  9. Determine a plan for winning over those in categories 5 and 6.
  10. Win!
YSEC attendees gather in Dwight Hall to meet other students from their
state. Four students from McDaniel College were also representing MD.

To close the conference, participants gathered in Dwight Chapel to hear remarks from Billy Parish, the coordinator of the Energy Action Coalition (EAC). Parish urged attendees to recognize that all of the basic structures of our society - food, housing, transportation - are unsustainable. They are also in various stages of failure. In order to reshape our world and put an end to climate change, we have to tackle all of these areas. Flush with ideas from a non-stop day of learning, students were eager to share their plans. One woman had decided to work on an eco-village that summer. Another student hoped to take part in the complete restructuring of our economy and government, moving away from centralization towards smaller, regional systems. Overflowing with ideas, we spilled out onto the lawn in front of Dwight Hall and joined together to spell out the number 350, the parts-per-million carbon dioxide that our atmosphere can hold and still sustain human life. (The photograph of the student created number, taken from the fourth floor of an adjacent building, will be submitted to's campaign.)

The YSEC conference has filled me with optimism; every group in attendance - student and national groups alike - had humble beginnings. The EAC was dreamed up by five students. Five. It was pulled together and preserved through various power struggles because of the hard work and tireless determination of 20-22 year olds, and now it is a major force in the national student environmental movement. If a handful of twenty-somethings can form the EAC, then I have no doubt that SF/SC can bring change to MICA.

Photos & Words - Zoe

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Our next meeting is MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28th, 10:15pm at JAVA CORNER. (The Java Corner is on the 2nd floor of Bunting.) We will be discussing the bike share, our upcoming Vegans Can Bake Sale, participating in a huge climate rally & march to the White House on October 24th, and how SF/SC will function to support the many sustainability-related ideas of our members. To be added to our mailing list to receive an e-mail reminder for this meeting, and e-mails about other upcoming events, send your name & year (freshman, sophomore, etc.) to

MICA's Already Going Green

SF/SC has a lot of big plans for MICA. But we're in luck; there are already many green initiatives underway on campus. So what's happening?
  • Recycling at MICA is single stream! Recyclables no longer have to be sorted by type. Instead they can all go into containers lined with clear trash bags and marked with green single-stream-recycling stickers. For detailed instructions about recycling, visit the recycling page of the MICA website.
  • Food waste and cardboard are being composted from Meyerhoff. Waste Neutral then returns some of the compost MICA to be used on landscaping.
  • The Meyerhoff has gone trayless, dramatically cutting down on the amount of food waste produced at the Meyerhoff each year.
  • Reusable take-out-trays are available at Meyerhoff as an alternative to styrofoam take-out-trays.
  • Greenware products are used at Cafe Doris and at the Java Corner. These highly biodegradable cold cups, lids and plates are made from a renewable corn-based resin.
  • The MICA store has instituted a bring-your-own-bag system, with reused plastic bags available for anyone who forgets to bring their own.
  • Zero-emissions electric vehicles are used by MICA's operations staff for day-to-day operations.
  • The bicycle racks now available across campus were installed recently to promote bicycle use.
  • The faculty, staff and students of the Sustainability Committee meet the first Friday of every month to discuss the state of sustainability on campus and plan further improvements for the campus.
  • The MICA Sustainable Food Project maintains an on-campus, edible garden. Last year, they used some Waste Neutral compost to begin the garden beds.
To read about even more green initiatives on campus, visit the sustainability page of MICA's website!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


In preparation for SF/SC's FIRST MEETING TUESDAY, at 10:15 pm in the Commons Gatehouse, I've been researching where MICA's electricity comes from., a website run by 7 anti-coal grassroots organizations, allows you to see your connection to mountaintop removal using Google Earth. You just type in your zipcode, and pinpoints the powerplants in your region of the grid that are using coal obtained via mountaintop removal. These plants are then connected to the actual mountains being mined. In MICA's zipcode region (BGE's grid), two coal-fired power plants are using mountaintop removal coal: Brandon Shores and Herbert A Wagner, both owned by Constellation Energy and located in Anne Arundale County. Above are shots of 6 of the 7 mountains in West Virginia that our coal comes from, as viewed using Google Earth. Crazy, huh?

How about some good news? The EPA just announced that all 79 mountaintop removal permits submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers would violate the Clean Water Act. (Under the Bush administration, the EPA failed to block any such permits.) We're not out of the woods yet - the permits can be revised and resubmitted any time in the next 60 days, but it is encouraging to see that Lisa Jackson's EPA is willing to take a strong stand against coal. To find out more, check out Bruce Nille's article on Grist

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Come to the first meeting of Students for a Sustainable Campus (SF/SC), Tuesday, September 15th 10:15 pm, in the Commons Gatehouse! We'll be discussing how SF/SC should be structured and what projects SF/SC will take on in the coming academic year. All in attendance are encouraged to share their sustainability-related ideas, plans and schemes!

Friday, August 28, 2009

$10,000 Grants for Campus Sustainability Projects

If you had $10,000 at your disposal, how would you make MICA a more sustainable campus? You have two months to come up with a stellar answer. FilterForGood, Brita's campaign to convert Americans from bottled to tap water, is giving away five $10,000 grants in its FilterForGood Eco-Challenge, a competition that allows college students to get their campus sustainability projects off the ground. This is only the second year of the FilterForGood Eco-Challenge. Last years winners ranged from uber-technical plans - MIT's Solar Air Conditioning System - to down-and-dirty grass-roots activism - Harvard's plan, submitted on behalf of Massachusetts Power Shift, to send teams of bike-riding students across Massachusetts to canvas and host educational events about climate change. Rules for this year's Eco-Challenge can be found here. Submissions are due October 30th. Get dreaming.  


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Cleaner Energy Matters

A view of the Appalachians taken from Carvers Gap in Tennessee

Running 1,500 miles long, the Appalachian mountain system extends from Quebec, Canada to northern Alabama. (1) The Appalachians hold some of the most diversity-rich forests in the United States. They are also the epicenter of devastating activity by US coal companies. In order to obtain the valuable fossil fuel buried deep within the mountains, companies like Peabody Energy level forests and blast away entire mountaintops with high-power explosives, dumping the resulting waste into valleys below. This method of extraction, aptly named "mountaintop removal," erases entire ecosystems, pollutes rivers and streams and can poison mountain and valley residents. (Carcinogenic chemicals can leach into groundwater poisoning wells, for example.) (2) 
The burning of coal to produce electricity has similarly ghastly effects on the environment. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Over the past 200 years, coal has raised carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by 28%. (3) 
According to the EPA's Clean Energy Power Profiler 49.6% of the electricity used in the United States is generated by burning coal. In our distribution region, 45.1% of electricity used is generated by burning coal (38.3% is generated by nuclear, 9.6% by gas, 4.0% by oil, 1.2% by non-hydro renewables, and .9% by hydropower). By supporting clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar power, we help turn the tide against the coal companies and help protect what should be held as sacred American land.  

Photo & Words - Zoe

(1) "Appalachian Mountains."
(2) Reece, Erik. Lost Mountain.
(3) "Coal."