Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions About the Ecolympics

Q. What are the Ecolympics?
A. The Ecolympics are a fun, participatory series of events geared towards the themes of sustainability, reduction of the human footprint on the environment and education about biodiversity and the current crisis in biodiversity loss.

Q. What is biodiversity?
A. The term “biodiversity” refers to the diversity of plant and animal life in an ecosystem or in the world as a whole. At present, Earth’s biodiversity is a suffering losses at accelerating and historic rates due primarily to human activities.

Q. Who can participate in the Ecolympics?
A. Everyone! Students, staff, and faculty at Boston University, friends from near and far, long-lost relatives and anyone in between.

Q. When are the Ecolympics?
A. The main events run from April 1 - 15, 2011. Check our website calendar and Facebook page for activities before and after those dates.

Q. What are the motivations behind the Ecolympics?
A. The United Nations declared 2010 The International Year of Biodiversity. The Olympic Games celebrate a spirit of sportsmanship and at the Ecolympics we want to celebrate a spirit of ecological sustainability and awareness. We are an integral part of nature and our fate is tightly linked with the entire diversity of life. We need to work together now to safeguard this irreplaceable natural wealth and reduce biodiversity loss. This year, 2011, is the International Year of Forests and our work continues...

Q. Is the loss of a few species really such a big deal?
A. Yes! Unfortunately we don’t even know how big of a deal it is. For example, most of our prescription drugs come from animals and plants, many of which are now endangered. The present loss of species is like losing an entire library before we’ve even catalogued or read the books. Further, it’s not just “a few species”; estimates of the present extinction rate are one hundred or more times greater than the normal extinction rate seen in the fossil record but on a time scale that is much shorter. So the present extinction event is beginning to compare to the mass extinction 65 million years ago, which wiped out 75% of species, including the dinosaurs. We need to take action now.

Q. How are the Ecolympics events connected to the biodiversity crisis?
A. It is human consumption of energy and natural resources that is polluting the environment and causing habitat loss, two factors that are driving the biodiversity crisis. By bringing our own cup around for coffee and water, we reduce the consumption of paper/Styrofoam cups and plastic water bottles, and start replacing our throw-away mentality with the idea of sustainability. By eating local we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions required to ship food from across the country or from around the world. By eating organic we reduce the need for herbicides and pesticides, which pollute ecosystems and watersheds.

Q. Why are there so many events?
A. In part to show that there are many ways an individual can make a difference and in part to show that we must change many of our habits and behaviors. Small incremental changes can add up to a big difference. The US has 4% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s energy consumption – we just can’t go on like this.

Q. Can all these small “events” or actions really make a difference?
A. We think so. If these actions are done on their own, the difference will be small. But if they are done over and over, and if friends, colleagues and family are encouraged to do them together with us, then the difference can be significant. Plus, thinking about small changes on a daily basis will hopefully create a mindset that large-scale change is possible. It’s our Earth and we need to start practicing good stewardship that will protect our environment for generations to come.

Q. I’m a busy student with three papers due this week and two exams, you don’t expect me to participate do you?
A. We’re busy students (and faculty) too! The Ecolympics are about tuning into our behavior and our daily choices. Some of our events are so easy you can do them in the bathroom (take a shorter shower, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, cut your paper towel use in half), others you can do while you’re studying (turn off all the lights you’re not using, unplug unused power grabbers, put your computer into sleep mode when you’re taking a break) and still others you can do between classes or on your way home (take the stairs, bring a re-usable bag to the grocery store). Changing our consumptive behavior is easier than you think. Some of our events take a little planning and research (eating local, tell a friend about an endangered species), which is why we're allowing sign-ups beginning on March 22 so that you can plan ahead.

Q. I do many of these activities anyway, why should I join the Ecolympics?
A. By participating with us, you’ll help bring awareness to the need for us all to work together to reduce our impact on the environment. We need you to stand up and be counted! By talking about your actions with others, you could inspire them to get involved and we can build some much-needed momentum to make large, positive changes. Plus, you’ll have a chance to win some cool prizes!

Q. Prizes? What prizes?
A. Our emphasis is on participation, but we do have cool prizes like passes to the Museum of Science, eco-friendly yoga mats from, gift certificates from Greenward (an eco-friendly boutique in Cambridge), Taza Chocolate (an organic chocolate shop in Somerville) and Peace o' Pie (a cool vegan pizza joint in Allston), gift certificates to restaurants that serve local food and DVDs of the awesome Planet Earth series. (For our beyond-BU participants, unfortunately, prizes are limited to Boston University students, faculty and staff. But don't let that stop you for participating and even challenging your friends to participate.)

Q. How does the point system work?
A. Our Ecolympics are based on the honor system. When you register, you’ll be allotted a certain number of possible points according to the number of events you register for. Registering for more events will put you in the running for better prizes. At the end of the two weeks, you can log back in and claim your points according to what you accomplished. Prizes will be awarded via a lottery system. We value your participation and wish you good luck -- we hope you win!

(You can also gain points by attending our special events like our film on March 31, our Nature Work on April 3, our Fair Trade seminar on April 13 and/or our cooking class on April 15 -- see our Calendar for details.)

Q. What is Carbonrally?
A. Thanks to the efforts of the good people at Sustainability@BU, Boston University has joined Carbonrally, an organization that incorporates a social bent to reducing carbon emissions. Here’s what Sustainability@BU has to say about Carbonrally: “The folks at Carbonrally took their knowledge of consumers, software, and environmental studies and created new approaches to the global crisis by building a portal where people can discover, commit, and track small actions over time.” It’s free and fun!

Q. Why should I sign up for Carbonrally too? Isn’t joining the Ecolympics enough?
A. We recommend that when you sign up for the Ecolympics you also sign up for Carbonrally. Carbonrally has many of the same events as the Ecolympics and through them and their challenges you’ll be able to find out much more information about your actions than we at the Ecolympics could provide. By being part of Carbonrally you can accrue points for your school and try to win the monthly prize. Go for it!

Q. I’ve got an idea for an event. Want to hear it?
A. Yes! Post it on our Facebook page wall, or email us directly and we’ll keep it in mind when we plan next year's events.

Q. I want to do more. What can I do?
A. Keep going with Carbonrally. Talk to your friends and family about your concerns. Rent a documentary that focuses on biodiversity or the human impact on the environment. Join one of the green groups on campus. Start reading a green blog. Create your own green blog. Post news about biodiversity on your Facebook or social networking page. Watch where every dollar you spend goes. Find out how your bank is investing your money and if you’re not satisfied, find a greener bank. Reduce, re-use, re-cycle. Think before print. Eat in rather than forcing the restaurant to generate waste via take-out. Trade and re- use clothes with friends. Request that your office use less air- conditioning. Take the train or bus instead of the plane for short trips. Find out what is going on at the civic, state and national level to safeguard biodiversity and fight for it. Lobby for green energy. Boycott corporations that pollute the environment. Start an Ecolympics at your neighborhood K-12 school. Stay positive. Support green companies...

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