Second Nature Sustainability

The Roots of Love

July 24, 2013

by Gabriela Boscio, Program Associate, Second Nature

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
― Carl Sagan

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

How does love grow? When do you know it has taken root? How can you pinpoint its beginning?

My passion for sustainability is something that’s been growing within me for most of my life, and I am not sure exactly when or why it started. As a child, I loved plants and animals. I loved reading about them and learning about them, and I loved observing nature. I remember thinking in grade school that I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, because I wanted to keep learning about nature, through exploration and investigation. My family supported and encouraged this love by providing me with copious amounts of nature books, magazines and collectible wildlife fact cards, as well as by spending time with me outdoors, and putting up with my incessant animal-factoid sharing (“Did you know baby cheetahs chirps like birds?”).

Example of a book from my childhood. Joyce Rogers Wolkomir and Richard Wolkomir. 1992.

On yogurt lids and change

April 29, 2011

By Ulli Klein, Second Nature’s Director of Operations & Communication

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

“Where does this one go?”

That was probably one of the most common question I heard my father ask. It was the mid 80s. Germany had just started a nation-wide recycling program and, like with many things German, the program was strictly enforced including “Trash cops” checking residents compliance by going through their trash.

Here was my 63 year old father, standing in the kitchen with the aluminum lid of a yogurt container in one hand and the container itself in the other hand staring at the three different colored trash cans.

“Where do I put this,” he would ask again and if no one was there to answer, he would quietly place container and lid on the counter and scurry out of the kitchen in hopes my mother would take care of it.

I was convinced there was no way to retrain his old mind.

There are still days where I feel that the United States, my adopted home country,  is a lot like my father was 20+ years ago: Willing and able but confused about living a sustainable life – and I say that with a lot of affection for both, the United States and my father.

Leveraging the Private Sector to Advance the ACUPCC

August 4, 2010

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature and Andrea Putman, Director of Corporate Partnerships, Second Nature
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


The ACUPCC represents a courageous and unprecedented form of leadership by higher education to lead society to a climate neutral and environmentally sustainable state in order to meet the individual, social and economic needs of all humans in the present and in the future.  Signatory schools have committed to be a model for climate neutrality and sustainability and ensure that their graduates will have the knowledge and skills to help all of society do the same.

One of the most exciting developments of this focus by higher education institutions has been the cultural shift that is taking place on many campuses.  Presidents and other campus leaders have recognized that achieving these goals requires the focus, involvement and collaboration of all parts of the institution - administrators, faculty, staff, students and trustees – in deep and synergistic ways.  They have told Second Nature and others that the Commitment has accelerated efforts to integrate academic, research, operational and community outreach actions into a holistic approach to sustainability and that it has done more to build a vibrant community and a sense of shared purpose across the institutions than any other initiative in recent memory.  Collectively, the ACUPCC network has become an important learning community and is helping to encourage all of higher education to make this commitment.

The New Prosperity Initiative | Community Dialogue Series

June 15, 2010

I recently had the privilege of participating in The New Prosperity Initiative(NPi) Community Dialogue Series. NPi, was founded by Jeanne Dasaro andAlexis Schroeder with the goal to publicize the efforts of individuals and organizations working to build social and economic prosperity. NPi brought together four Boston based non-profits with missions focused on food systems and environmental sustainability.

We heard inspiring stories from:

Matthew Kochka, Farm Manager, “Victory Programs” ReVision Urban Farm, working to increase access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food for shelter residents and community members through community-supported farming.

Gene Benson, Services Program Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment, building the power of communities of color and lower income communities in New England to eradicate environmental racism and classism and achieve environmental justice.

Kimberly Guerra, Lead Teacher with “e” Inc. providing science education with community action in order to improve environmental health in urban communities.

Water Wars

October 23, 2009

by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

I've come to realize that this No Impact stuff is a lot harder than I anticipated.  Consumption proved to be pretty easy once I curbed my shopping habits.  Taking the T everyday and walking to when possible were things that I already do.  I buy organic, local food and I eat vegetarian, so that takes care of food.  Outside of work, I spend countless "volunteer" hours working with my student group (Husky Energy Action Team - HEAT) to move towards our ultimate goal of climate neutrality for Northeastern University.  However, when it came to yesterday's electricity challenge and today's water challenge, I am finding it a bit harder to lessen my impact.  To start, writing this blog entry is requiring electricity.  In order for our organization to function, we need to use electricity.  To do work for my student group I NEED electricity.  For Colin Beavan to publicize, promote, and further the significance of No Impact Week, he needed to use electricity.  To me, it is important to conserve electricity whenever possible, but renewable energies are the things that we need the most.

This is an image from the movie Blue Gold:  Water Wars of an ocean in Europe that is almost completely dried up.

No Impact Week: A few impressions

October 23, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

At Second Nature we are very proud to employ Northeastern Co-op students. Now, I always like to say that I am extremely grateful for their presence, as they do the things that I don't want to do.

Come to find out. They are also way bold!

Yesterday, after some fairly intense preparation, our fantastic interns participated in a Flashmob as part of Massachusetts Powershift.

Now, it takes some guts to run out of a T-station with 60 other people and start dancing. Yours truly here would not be so brave.

Here we have one of our inters, Mr. Abrams, in action. He was wearing a Crimson shirt, which is a little bit of a misinterpretation, but frankly, in Boston we can pick and choose who we affiliate with.

And here we have someone else we know getting ready to get her dance on:

Of course, the entire team was all over watching this:

Alyssa getting her moves on. Personally, I know at least one song that they should have used and didn't, but let's not go there:

This one here - not dancing:

AAAAND they are done!

Amy's No Impact Week

October 22, 2009

by Amy Hattan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Second Nature

My participation in No Impact Week is a bit of a flip flop…I’m using the week to examine if my regular lifestyle fits within the concept of having “no impact”, rather than changing my habits for just one week.

For example, on the topic of food, I attended a screening of the documentary Food, Inc. this week, which was followed by a good discussion between the crowd and Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Yogurt. Afterwards, I checked to see what I have in my fridge. I was glad to see that most of the foods I eat are natural or organic, low in corn syrup (corn is incidentally in almost every food you get in the supermarket), and low in antibiotics and hopefully E-Coli and all that other awful stuff that is in most factory-farmed meat. It also appears that I am keeping Stoneyfield Yogurt in business (again, see photo). The most memorable moments for me when watching Food, Inc. were seeing dead chickens lying among the live chickens in the chicken coops and cows covered from head to foot in their own feces. And we eat this! I learned that because we feed cows cheap corn and not grass, which is what they are supposed to eat, they get these diseases that get passed to us.  I could do better and not eat out so much, because who knows where the food originates from that is served in a restaurant.

Farmers' Market Adventures

October 21, 2009
by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern
Today, Colin, Rima, and I went out to the Farmers' Market in Government Center to get local, fresh, and absolutely delicious food.  In addition to standard fruits and vegetables, some of the vendors at the Farmers' Market sell jellies, jams, honey, meat, flowers, and baked goods.  Throughout the harvesting season, I've been to the Farmers' Market almost every week to stock up on fresh food.  I don't know if I'm biased towards local food, but I swear, it tastes better than store bought food.  It is always fresh and so colorful!  Another bonus--because it hasn't been sitting in a refrigerated truck for 24+ hours to get shipped--food from the farmers' market almost always lasts longer than store-bought food.  Unfortunately, the market will be closing in late November and won't re-open again until late spring.  I wonder how my roommates would feel about starting a compost bin in our kitchen and a hydroponics operation in the bathtub...

Colin exchanges his SN paycheck for some delicious cranberry walnut bread!

Fresh, local food = Happiness

Brazilian eggplant? Look out Tony, it looks like Team Germany is recruiting some allies in the battle against Italians...

Barbara's No Impact Week

October 21, 2009

by Barbara Koneval, Program Associate for Education & Training, Second Nature

No impact week started on an unfortunate day, the day  I flew back from California from Bioneers and a mini-vacation.  After being inspired by the Bioneers conference, my sister and I drove to Yosemite for some inspiration from nature.

A big part of personal sustainability for me is making sure to reconnect to these areas, disconnect from my computer and get outside.  The park was amazing and in addition to the physical rewards of hiking in Yosemite, the visual rewards were immense. Here are a couple of snapshots:

So I’m back in Portland and more in control of my choices for the rest of the week.  And Wednesday is food day, yay!  Lunch today was  “The Democratic Republic of Peanut Chicken” soup made by my friend Jed who runs a soup delivery business, by bike.  Soup Cycle was started in Portland as part of the growing bike delivery business, sourcing organic ingredients delivered only by human power.  I get a weekly drop off of soup and luckily, Jed was delivering Monday night just as I got home from the airport. Score. As much as I like to grocery shop, after flight delays and plane travel I was not in a cooking mood.

Michelle’s No-Impact Blogging – Sun to Wed

October 21, 2009

by Michelle Dyer, Chief Operating Officer, Second Nature

Sunday was Consumption day.  Our challenge: to live a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff.  This one was fairly easy for me because I generally don't buy that much stuff anyway (between me and my eco-frugalisto husband we keep our total purchasing in check fairly well.)  Anything I do purchase I always try for the item least impact, even if it means spending more.  I admit that I did buy a ticket to the Ringlng Bros. Over the Top show that day, so I didn't go completely cold turkey.  As an experience it didn't involve any physical stuff purchased on my part, though the sets, souvenirs, food for sale, etc. made it a mecca of consumption.  As an amateur trapeze artist, I like to support the circus arts, and found it to be sufficient inspiration to keep me swinging through the long Massachusetts winter, so the $15 was worth the investment.

Another day, another bag of licorice

October 21, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature


Another day, another bag of delicious German licorice scolding by certain VP of our nonprofit after she tasted one of these heavenly creations... reminding me that something that was imported from Germany to a store in California, then sent to me by German friend in CA, is not appropriate to eat on a day like today.

FAIL on that front. Licorice has been safely secured out of mind sight.

Transportation yesterday wasn't as big of a challenge until I went out at night and totally blew it, because I helped someone move some furniture around, which required transportation. I am usually so GOOD, since I don't own a car and use almost exclusively public transportation.

Today...well...local food. I stocked up at the farmer's market, I continue collecting trash, trying to reduce the water I use, reusing things at home ect.

Just about that licorice....

Food Frenzy

October 20, 2009

by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

Today's challenge is transportation, but it hasn't been too difficult for me.  I've been walking to work as much as possible and taking the T at all other opportunities **Note:  low carbon transportation works great when you don't have a car :)

I am a little nervous for the food activities tomorrow.  I recently gave up veganism because I found that I was relying way too much on foods that had little nutritional value (bread, candy, pre-packaged meals).  I love vegan food and the vegan lifestyle, but I no longer have the time or financial resources to keep up.  So, rather than eating crappy pre-packaged things, I'm cutting myself some slack and eating cheese and eggs...Mainly indulging in the delicious cheese I've been forgoing for the past several months.

One of the problems I have with all of the food related lifestyles out there is the extreme variety of feedback.  I always buy organic and locally when it is possible and within my budget, but then there's the added worry of buying vegetarian and vegan food.  Then you have the group of Raw foodists telling you to eat only raw food.  On top of that are freegans who go around and get wasted food from businesses at the closing of each day.  Don't forget the 1600 calories/day diet.  Eat only foods that aren't packaged to minimize waste.  Low carb.  Low fat.  No fat.  No sugar.  Low sugar.  Cool Cuisine--The global warming diet.  Eat foods or meals with only 6 or less ingredients.  Seriously?

Trashy Business

October 19, 2009

by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

Even though transportation day isn't until tomorrow, I started my walk to and from work commuting strategy today.  I was overjoyed when I woke up and saw that it was 37 degrees outside. YAY.


I encountered my first road block this morning when cut my toe on my umbrella, which I conveniently left next to my bed last night.  So, how do you use a band-aide without producing waste?  Not sure.  I guess it's something I can look into for future umbrella battles.

Things have been going well in the office as far as waste saving.  The only things I've seen so far in the trash are paper towels and food waste.  Having seen all of the paper towels that have been produced here since 9 am, I think investing in more cloth towels for the bathroom and kitchen is something the Boston office should definitely consider.  Also, in regards to food waste, perhaps we could go in on getting a composting system with some of the other organizations in the building?  I've looked into it and the Sustainability Committee has talked about it as well, but now would be a great time to act on it!

Check out our trash:

Way too many paper towels

Oatmeal packet and towel paper in the kitchen.

Trash Day

October 19, 2009

by Dan Abrams, Second Nature Intern

"Garbage day is a very dangerous day."- Rocko, from Rocko's Modern Life

Rocko's Modern Life was a cartoon about a wallaby and his dog on Nickelodeon circa 1998.  It is a brilliant television show.  That quote has little to do with No Impact Week, but every time I garbage or trash day comes up in conversation, I can't help but to think of that quote.

If I could divide the environmental problem into subgroups and pick favorites, I would choose garbage/waste and food. The food post will come later, but in terms of trash I am a trash warrior.  Nearly all on campus housing options for upperclassmen at Northeastern are apartment-style with full kitchens.  So I have been cooking in an apartment for the last three years.  And you better believe that I bring a GIANT plastic tub to each and every apartment I move into for recycables.  I remember when I moved into my apartment last summer my roommate showed me a text he recieved from my other roommate that said, "Oh, no.  Now that we're living with Dan we have to start recycling."

I recycle EVERYTHING.  I think I recycle things that aren't even supposed to be recycled.  But whatever.  If it has a recycle sign and a number in it, it has the potential to be recycled.  We should be able to recycle all 1-7 plastics no matter the type so it's not my issue if the recycling facility which my recycling goes to decides it doesn't feel like recycling one of the numbers.  I also think that Northeastern's recycling program has much room for improvement, so by over-recycling I feel like I'm sending a message. :)

Shopping Isn't Easy

October 19, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

I went to Shaw's yesterday and walked out with a Pyrex bowl. That was pretty much it. There really isn't much local food to buy there, especially at my Shaw's, because it's not really catering to people who try to shop local. At all.

In other news:


That would be one of my countless re-usable bags with a bio-degradable trash bag (hey, I am not going to toss my teabags into it) for my trash collection this week.

I am somewhat amazed at how far behind the US is with some of this stuff. My parents in Germany have 4 containers in front of their house. A huge blue "trash can" that gets picked up every 4-6 weeks for paper only, a yellow one for aluminum and plastic, a brown one (if you don't compost, that's the one for bio stuff) and then a black one for residual trash.

All are free except for the black one. The black trash can is taxed by # of people in the household. The trashcan actually has a second bottom, so my parents actually have very little room each week for their residual trash. This forces people to recycle, because, like good Germans, we actually have people walking around giving tickets if you don't. And if you overfill you residual trash can regularly, you will be given more space, but that will get taxed higher.

Works great. Oh, and every village and town has a glass collection site. Containers for brown, green and white glass. I remember being 6 years old and thinking how cool it was to throw bottles in there and hear them shatter. That was always one of my favorite trips.

Would be nice to see that here.

From Tony...

October 18, 2009

by Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature

I just got back from CA and am getting organized. I appreciate the comments of everyone so far. It is a good thing we were not doing this last week since Michelle, Barbara and I traveled to the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA across the Golden Gate bridge from SF.

I have a transportation challenge this week on Wednesday – I have a professional meeting in a section of West Roxbury which is nearly impossible to get to by public transportation. I will investigate if I can do it. Otherwise I will use a hybrid ZipCar.

I have been walking one way to work (3 miles) 2 days per week and taking the Red Line home the rest of the time. This week I will try to walk 3 days both ways, take the T one day and will probably take ZipCar the other.

Donna and I have been trying to eat vegan – moderate success at home – much harder when we travel.

Making my shopping/non-shopping list now. Tony


October 18, 2009

by Ulli Klein, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant, Second Nature

After successfully stuffing all of my home trash into one popcorn bag last week, I decided that that is a worthy repeat goal. Maybe even less trash.

This morning I was asked to join friends for brunch. Instead I decided to make my own breakfast. That's what I do anyway, as I find brunch a waste on me. I always eat the typical breakfast food anyway, but it actually felt good to tell them why I will not join them.

Later today, when and if the rain ever stops, I will walk to my local store to get a few things.  I was nifty yesterday and went to a local East Boston bakery called Spinelli's. I had to dodge a few "family members" (no joke) on my way, but I bought a fairly large bag of home-made whole wheat pasta. That should last the entire week for possible lunch/dinner options.

My goal this week is to keep my entire grocery budget under $50. This will include going to the Farmer's Market at Government Center which is at least a $20 trip because I am stocking up on bread for winter time.

As I am typing this, I realize that I am pretty confident I can go to the store today and not spend more than $25 for groceries this week......

...this may require me to do something I rarely do and don't particularly enjoy: turning on the stove and planning my meals. No quick Kashi or Lean Cuisine frozen dinners this week. Zip. Zero. I will, um, finally do some cooking.


October 16, 2009

by Alyssa Pandolfi, Second Nature Intern

Ever since I started trying to really incorporate sustainability into my lifestyle, I've been getting plenty of feedback from family and friends--not all of it reassuring.  Just ask my grandmother what she thinks about me boycotting her cooking (vegetarian + crazy italian grandma = occasional violence).  This is definitely an example I use a lot, but it is an important one.  When people hear about "going green" and all of the hype about sustainable lifestyles (freeganism, veganism, all those isms), it's often scary to them.  A lot of people fear these changes and think that it means that they need to sacrifice some aspect of their life or culture.  For me, it's easy to see that that idea is not true, but for others, it's harder to notice.

Because No Impact Week is a "trial" lifestyle of sorts, I am really excited to see the press and feedback that it gets.  This is a great opportunity for people who might be a little nervous to make changes to their lifestyle to try it and (hopefully) realize that a lot of these changes aren't that big of a deal.  Maybe, it will motivate them to try something even bigger, like sell their car and buy a bike to use instead.

As for me, I hope to break my shopping addiction.  It's a shame that our office is so close to H&M and Macy's...

First Thoughts

October 16, 2009

by Dan Abrams, Second Nature Intern

No Impact Week begins Sunday and I have mixed thoughts.

On one hand, I really love the absolutes idea.  Reducing is good, yes...but to a point.  Reducing the worlds carbon emissions will be a benefit - but we would still be emitting carbon so the problem still exists.  The only true solution is to stop these actions all together - produce absolutely none of the bad problems.

I also like that this is supposed to be hard.  An environmentally positive life will not be easy.  There really is no such thing as a "lazy environmentalist" or "101 ways to save the earth." Drastic and serious measures are required to legitimately stop global climate disruption.

But what I don't like is the message this gives.  People don't want to hear that to save the world from climate change, they need to get rid of everything and anything they love and enjoy.  People often equate the terms "saving the world from climate change" and "must live in cave." I don't even think I would live in a cave (so dark! And I don't think I like bats?) and that's not the answer anyway. But I think this challenge eludes to this bad message.  No Impact Week offers an interesting water reduction strategy: sponge baths.  Hm...not very practical.  The real solution is a way to take that hot shower that everyone knows and loves without directly harming our earth.


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