Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Summer is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your next vacation. If you’re working on going green and lowering your family carbon footprint, traveling might be one of your biggest concerns — the tourism industry isn’t exactly as green as it could be. If you’re planning a vacation sometime soon, what can do you do to make your stay — no matter where you’re staying — a little bit greener?

Keep Transportation in Mind

Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, your mode of transportation is probably one of your biggest carbon culprits. Flying is currently the worst when it comes to emissions and pollution — one round-trip ticket from New York to San Francisco and back is roughly the equivalent of two metric tons of CO2. When you compare that to the fact that the average person only produces around 19 metric tons of CO2 per year, one flight is a lot more damaging than most people realize.

If you’re traveling out of the country, flying may be your only option, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money to be a little bit greener. Opt for nonstop flights whenever possible — takeoffs and landings create more CO2 emissions than flying does. Flying economy, while it may be less comfortable, means there are more people on the plane, which in turn translates to fewer emissions per person.

Finally, look into airlines that offer carbon offset programs to help reduce their emissions and reduce their environmental impact.

If you’re traveling by car or renting a car when you reach your destination, don’t go for the big SUV — no matter how much storage it has for your luggage. Instead, choose a fuel-efficient car — many rental agencies have hybrid or electric vehicles in their fleets. Look for a company that offers greener cars, and take advantage of those opportunities.

Skip the Tourist Traps

Tourist traps intend to bring in as many people as possible, but they aren’t eco-friendly. They only have one motive in mind: profit.

Instead, look for green-friendly options. Rent a bicycle and explore the city. Many big cities are making strides to become more bicycle-friendly, so not only is it easy to get your hands on a bicycle, it’s safer to travel by bike than it used to be.

If bicycle rental isn’t an option, walking is another great way to explore, especially if you’re visiting a big city. For areas with more sprawl, go back to the eco-friendly cars.

Many popular tourist destinations are offering eco-friendly tourism options — hotels that use renewable energy and supplies, take steps to reduce the waste they produce, etc. If you have the opportunity, try to stay in one of these hotels, instead of those that still use traditional hospitality techniques.

Pack Light

If you’re flying, you’re already shelling out a ton of money for tickets, rental cars and overpriced airport food because you can’t bring snacks from home anymore. Many airlines now also charge an extra fee for checked baggage, especially if your bag is heavier than a certain weight. You can save money and lower the overall weight of your plane — and thus the plane’s emissions — by packing light or even forgoing the checked luggage in favor of a carryon bag or two.

Boat Safety

Buying or renting a boat for your vacation can be a fun and scenic way to explore local waterways, but keep in mind a poorly maintained boat can be dangerous for local aquatic ecosystems. Old or unmaintained engines can leak gasoline and oil into the water. Old paint can chip off and end up in the food chain.

Purchasing an older boat can be a cost-effective way of enjoying the water without spending an arm and a leg, but if you pick up a used boat whose previous owner neglected to take care of it, it can take quite a bit of coin to get it back in working order.

If you’re handy, you can probably do a lot of the work yourself — but don’t do it while your boat is over the water. The last thing you want to do is drop old paint chips or old fuel into the waterways you’re trying to enjoy.

Continue reading Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

5 Reasons to Become an Environmental Engineer

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Environmental engineers use science and engineering to help the environment through better design. Multiple fields hire this type of worker, so you won’t have a shortage of job offers anytime soon. If you care about the environment and want to help the planet through a new career or a change from your current one, consider environmental engineering.

1. Protect the Environment

The main reason many enter environmental engineering is the ability to help the planet. In many manufacturing sectors, this position focuses on lessening industry’s impact on the planet. Though solid waste and water management are among the areas in which environmental engineers work, these are not the only ones. In the oil and gas industry, these engineers ensure compliance with regulations concerning pollution reduction and keeping nearby natural resources pristine.

2. Make a Good Salary

Depending on your degree, you can make an excellent salary in environmental engineering right after graduation. Though this varies widely, the average starting salary for environmental engineers is nearly $59,000. As of May 2017, the annual mean wage for environmental engineers is $91,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which means you might expect to earn more with a few years of experience under your belt. If you decide to start a consulting company, as many environmental engineers do, you could earn even more.

3. Job Security and Growth

If you get a degree in environmental engineering, you’re looking at a stable job market and future growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected environmental engineering jobs will grow by 12.4 percent between 2015 and 2024. This growth places it second only to the percentage growth for biomedical engineering among engineering jobs. By 2024, there could be 62,000 environmental engineering jobs.

4. Enjoy Multiple Career Fields

Environmental engineering is specialized, but there are so many applications for it, you could find yourself in a range of diverse fields. Environmental engineers first have chemical or other types of engineering degrees. That allows flexibility when searching for a job. Since so many fields have an impact on the environment, you could find yourself in the oil and gas industry, working at a waste management plant or finding ways to discover the source of pollution.

Waste management and water treatment facilities are other places where environmental engineers have a major impact on people’s lives. Without these fields, disease would run rampant. One of the earliest successes in environmental engineering was the creation of London’s sewer system by Joseph Bazalgette to stop the surging cholera outbreak in the 19th century. Thanks to sanitary waste disposal, such epidemics are uncommon in modern societies.

5. Make a Change for the Good in the Oil and Gas Industry

If you love the environment and lament the impact some industries have on it, become an environmental engineer. These positions help oil and gas companies cut back on the air and water pollution created in the drilling and extraction processes. Environmental engineers can work to prevent contamination of the surrounding environment and promote longevity of drilling equipment.

You may also help the industry reduce their wastewater and air pollution. Thanks to environmentalists’ efforts — including engineers — acid rain, which is the result of air pollution, has dropped up to 70 percent in some areas of the planet. Creating plans for wastewater disposal to prevent damage to the local ecosystem is another way environmental engineers work with the oil and gas industry. Until people discover a workable way to use completely renewable energy, fossil fuels will still prevail. As an environmental engineer, you can help this sector become greener.

Education for Environmental Engineers

Though you can get a job as an environmental engineer with just a bachelor’s degree, you may need further training. Graduate programs that get you a master’s and bachelor’s degree in just five years could be the right choice if you have the time to devote to be a full-time student. You may need an environmental engineering degree, a chemical engineering degree or a degree in general engineering. You will still need classes in chemistry, biology, math and various sciences to earn whatever degree you choose. Not all schools offer these programs. Talk to a counselor about your career and education goals.

Help the Planet and Boost Your Career

With a career in environmental engineering, you can make a true difference in the planet. You’ll be able to help industries that may not have been environmentally conscious in the past change their ways to become better stewards of natural resources. Additionally, you can help with the age-old problems of safe and sanitary waste disposal and water processing. Getting clean water and removing waste will always be vital parts of sustaining a healthy and prosperous society. Environmental engineers help change the planet and people’s lives through their work. And this field will only expand as humans search for more ways to help the Earth.



In A Modern World Can We Learn From Cave Paintings?


The ‘dumb Neanderthal myth’ is continually debunked. With the discovery of prehistoric art galleries on rocks worldwide we see how our extinct human cousins appreciated beauty and life. Advancement in understanding Palaeolithic Europeans and their accomplishments and communications – especially as seen through cave paintings – has opened our eyes to a people that were creative and adventurous. Is there anything that we can learn in our modern lives based on an understanding of cave painting? In particular, what can cave paintings teach us about communication and community?

Painting a picture of community

What message about community do some of the oldest cave paintings have for us today? We can learn from the oldest cave paintings in Spain and recent discoveries in America, that date back 6,000 yearsDiscovering ancient cave images that depict acts of service, celebration or community involvement allude to an understanding of humanity. Today, such things are paramount to our health and well-being. Upper Paleolithic humans understood the importance of community involvement. Today, nine out of ten people report getting a profound ‘emotional high’ from participating in activities that build community cohesion.

The importance of the Magura Cave

The Magura Cave in Bulgaria shows a great example of community. The depiction dating back over 8,000 years, shows women and men engaged in what is thought to be a festival. In the cave art, the community is capturing what is important to them – hunting to provide for the community and a fertility dance. To this day, coming together for important life events is essential human behaviour. The Magura Cave in particular is still a place for the community to gather for music concerts and other events.

Using art to communicate

Cave paintings illustrate the human need to communicate. This communication takes its form in leaving a mark for the future- to help guide, or communicate something so important that it needs a permanent representation. That is why the Altamira Cave in Spain is of major importance. Believed to be over 35,000 years old it mainly depicts bison. It goes beyond what you may have seen in ancient cave art. Instead, with these artworks the creators took into account the rock formations so that they could communicate the viscosity of the animal. The artist used the protruding rocks to exaggerate the features of animals and make them appear as though they were three dimensional. This experimentation shows an understanding of how to communicate effectively using visual prompts.

Pride and persuasion in cave paintings

Effective communication is particularly important when symbolism is used. The human beings ability to communicate symbolically has long been linked with our ‘humanness’.  Modern studies on how the brain responds to stimulus shows that humans have a powerful response when an image is distorted. In the Altamira Cave bisons are distorted according to the meat that they offer. Almost like an image in a butcher shop window that advertises the best organic meat available. This shows us that pride and persuasion were big parts of communication when cave painting.

We should not underestimate the importance of visual communication and how it shapes what we see as important. We can question the images we are presented with and endeavour to understand what they represent to us as a community member. Representing our lives via a set of symbols is nothing new. The hashtag movement, children under 12 ‘dabbing’ and a blue thumbs up for liking a youtube clip are all ways that we communicate today. Imagine what people will make of that in 35,000 years!