Net Impact’s Alternative Break Trip 2013 to Seattle

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By: Daniel Edelson, Sustainability & the Greek Community Intern

On March 8th, IU Bloomington students were let out for their spring break vacations.  Of these spring breakers, eight students traveled in a group to Seattle, Washington for an Alternative Spring Break (ASB).  Organized by Net Impact’s co-president, Michael Queenan, the group traveled around Seattle meeting with local gardens, and various environmentally conscious businesses to learn about sustainability in an “alternative” setting.

The trip was organized on behalf of Net Impact- an International organization that focuses on education and advocacy for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible businesses practices. In coordination with the Kelley School of Business, Net Impact members and other Kelley students toured from Sunday to Sunday in to one of the country’s greenest major cities.

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The group was hosted for free at one of Seattle’s Methodist churches.  President Michael Queenan said. “Right off the bat, I was pleased to see the church offered composting and recycling.  In fact, they even organized the bins so a trash bag was hard to find!””

ASB participants engaged in various educational activities and were able to convene with a community of like-minded people interested in social and environmental issues.  The group volunteered at a nonprofit ‘organic garden’ ran by Seattle’s tilth. tilth teaches people how to grow their own food organically and provides small plots of land for people to grow produce.  They group laid mulch, cleared out weeds and invasive species, and learned about sustainable gardening using techniques like rain barrels.

The group also volunteered at another nonprofit called Bike Works.  Bike Works has two facilities that restore and resell broken bikes.  The NPO offers programs for kids to build, ride, and race restored bikes and all profits go towards fighting.  The NPO is particularly sustainable because as you learn to build the bike, you are actually restoring a bike for resale.

In addition to these NPO’s, the group visited two unique privately run businesses- MicroGreen and Starbucks.  MicroGreen makes office supplies and cups out of recycled plastics and use a special process to stretch the plastics and inject air to use less raw material. MicroGreen’s message strategy is to, “first satisfy the consumer demand, continually tweak it to be more sustainable, and continue production without effecting customer satisfaction”.

At Starbucks Corporate Headquarters the group met the VP of Finance and Director of Sustainability.  The DOS said that biggest contributors to company’s carbon footprints are usualy things that people don’t know about.  For instance, most people think the biggest problem with Starbucks is their disposable cups. In actuality, Starbucks’ whipped cream cans are a much more hazardous to the environment emitting a much denser composition than other gasses.  In short, the consumer perception is not always the correct perception.  The message was similar to MicroGreen’s; it is important to please consumers by making noticeable changes, but more important to focus improving on the real issues.

The ASB group was also able to explore the city visiting attractions. President Michael referenced the Seattle’s fish market, hiking on Tiger Mountain, and even a stop by the nation’s first Starbucks.  In all, ASB participants were able to make a positive social and environmental impact while learning how they can be applied in private and nonprofit organizations.  For more information on Net Impact and it’s programs, visit the website.

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