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What would the Pokemon Go of sustainability look like?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Pokemon Go app has taken the world by storm. Could the same technology be used to help save the world?

You can find them just about anywhere — stampeding in New York’s Central Park, taking overtowns near North Korea and braving minefields in Bosnia: Pokemon Go users trying to catch 'em all.

For those still wondering, the smartphone game uses augmented reality technology to allow users to "catch" Pokemon, fantastical digital monsters with peculiar names, in the real world — at the park, in a bar, in a corporate office, wherever Google Maps works. Users can collect these monsters and use them to "battle" other users at specially designated "Pokemon gyms," encouraging real people to interact in person through the app.

And while most are young people, more than 40 percent of the adults who downloaded the mobile app are older than 25, and about one in three adult users are women, according to data from StartApp. They are your coworkers, bosses, doctors, Lyft drivers, lawyers — maybe even your mother.

As they search frantically for fictional monsters, Pokemon Go users have faced real-world consequences — discovering dead bodies, being robbed at gunpoint by tech-savvy criminals and even breaking into power plants and causing traffic accidents.

Granted, the app also has generated some positive outcomes for its users and others — such as getting otherwise sedentary people out into the real world, bringing strangers together and raising revenues for businesses lucky enough to be near Pokemon hot spots. The app also has made some would-be Pokemon masters into real-world animal rescuers.

"I’d say that playing Pokemon Go has helped me to talk more with my coworkers and even new people who I normally wouldn’t talk to. I’ve enjoyed just talking with people at work about what Pokemon they’ve caught," said Martha Arbogast, a digital designer in Cleveland.

"I took a walk around Lake Merritt just to do Pokemon Go," said my friend Clara Ng-Quinn, of Oakland, Calif. "Before, I'd only go out to the lake to go on a run. I don't do Pokemon Go during runs, though … too many distractions."

Valerie Sarni, a friend in Atlanta, told me: "Pokemon Go definitely gives me additional motivation to go farther/longer/explore somewhere new. And yes, I will admit that I've even stopped backseat driving my husband to go faster because his ‘slow and steady’ pace is perfect for hitting up passing Pokestops."

Love it or hate it, Pokemon Go shows how digital technology can be an agent of behavior change — getting people to do things they otherwise might not do. As the endless stories of Pokemon Go mayhem filled up my social media feeds, I got to thinking: What would the "Pokemon Go of sustainability" look like?

Sure, gamification is nothing new in the world of sustainability. Timberland's "Serv-a-palooza Challenge," a six-week experiment conducted in collaboration with the CrowdRise fundraising community, raised more than $75,000 and inspired more than 1,600 volunteer hours toward sustainability and community causes. Likewise, WeSpire offers an engagement platform used by companies including CA Technologies, EnerNOC, MGM Resorts International, McDonald's and Unilever.

But could we develop a single app that achieves the same kind of global reach as Pokemon Go that actually helps individuals improve sustainability outcomes?

Community creates a tipping point

Day in and day out, corporate sustainability professionals toil at getting individuals, organizations and systems to do things that they otherwise might not do — such as favoring long-term value over short-term gain, promoting quality over quantity, averting the tragedy of the commons and moving beyond competition to collaboration. And changing the status quo is a lot harder than snatching a Snorlax in a sewer.

Author Malcolm Gladwell calls these special moments — when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire — "tipping points."

"If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and behavior … you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured," wrote Gladwell in his book, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference."

Certainly, the developers of Pokemon Go have succeeded in creating a community of shared interest. Cities are large, lonely places where many feel alone and isolated — despite being more connected than ever by technology. You might not know your neighbors or the name of the girl who makes your latte each morning, but thanks to Pokemon Go you can feel instantly connected to those random people loitering near the church — which often are used as Pokemon training gyms.

Creating a sense of community already ranks highly on to-do lists of corporate sustainability professionals and municipal leaders alike. Many of our current social and environmental challenges are rooted in the selfish pursuit of individual gain at the community’s expense. Addressing climate change, rising inequality and environmental decay will require creating an unprecedented sense of community on a global scale.

The Pokemon Go of sustainability would need to be highly social and create a strong sense of community that brings diverse stakeholders together. In order to transform people’s mindsets from "me" to "we," the app would need to create shared value as the measure of success.

Embrace emotion alongside logic

While their methods may diverge, corporate sustainability professionals can agree that logic is on their side. The status quo is killing our planet and putting future prosperity at risk — and if we don’t change, we are all screwed, so to speak.

But, as stoic Spock learns in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," logic isn’t something humans are good at. After Spock comments that it was not logical for humans to hunt humpback whales to extinction (which leads to a world-killing murder probe attacking Earth centuries later), Dr. Gillian Taylor responds: "Whoever said the human race was logical?"

Modern neuroscientific research tells us that humans aren’t rational decision makers but emotional ones. We make irrational decisions all the time, whether it’s regarding whom to marry, which candidate to vote for or even who to hire. More often than not, we go with our "gut," with what "feels right."

But that doesn’t mean that rational thought is somehow superior to emotion; going full-fledged Vulcan isn’t the best route to make truly ethical choices. And research shows that people don’t make better decisions when they are emotionally disengaged — in fact, they can’t make decisions at all without emotion. Spock would be shocked, but emotions are fundamental to effective action, and positive emotions are much more potent than negative ones.

This is where corporate sustainability communicators, including yours truly, often have gone awry. Because we feel that logic is on our side, we bludgeon people with it. Bluntness leads to fear and fear leads to hate, which in turn leads to the Dark Side, as an old Muppet once said. Humanity’s greatest moments — from landing a man on the moon to the Civil Rights movement — were fostered by hope rather than fear.

People don’t abandon couches and cubicles to capture Pidgeottos because it’s logical, but because it makes them feel good. As people increasingly feel powerless to control their social, environmental and economic destinies, the prospect of "catching them all" may present an ideal that they can strive toward — and somehow reclaim their place as active and equal participants in the affairs of the world.

The Pokemon Go of sustainability must inspire action by melding the best attributes of logic and emotion — helping people to understand all that is at stake while also empowering them to do something about it. All of humanity’s latent potential rests in a reservoir of hope — and figuring out how to tap into this ultimately will save the world.

Create a sense of urgency

One of humanity’s biggest hurdles to taking meaningful action on climate change and other long-term social and environmental problems is rooted in our DNA — we evolved to respond to immediate problems such as outrunning that cheetah, finding shelter before a storm and locating a watering hole. For most of our time on this planet, "long-term" planning was measured in weeks and months, not decades and centuries.

That’s why we respond to immediate, less likely threats, such as terrorism, but drag our feet preempting more probable but distant dangers such as climate change, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert. Think of the old frog in the pot scenario — throw a frog into boiling water and it will immediately jump out, but place it in a pot of cold water and slowly increase the temperature to a boil and, well… we all know how it usually turns out for the frog.

In a way, Pokemon Go creates a sense of urgency for its users by programming Pokemon to pop up in special locations for brief periods of time. Users know that, if they fail to hop that fence, violate basic traffic laws or break into that nuclear family’s yard, their opportunity to capture a Caterpie could be gone forever.

"Pokemon Go got me to happily walk headlong into the hellhole that is Pier 39 on a summery Sunday afternoon," said my cousin, Alaina Hower, who is 24 and should have known better. Apparently, it was more urgent than calling her big cousin to let him know she was in town.

"The reason I was in San Francisco yesterday was to farm enough Magikarp for a Gyarados. Haters gonna hate," she explained.

The Pokemon Go of sustainability would need to generate a sense of urgency for taking more socially and environmentally friendly actions. Somehow, it would need to distill long-term environmental threats into smaller, more immediate challenges that seem actionable and appeal to users’ evolutionary preferences.

If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em?

Maybe we're kidding ourselves, and the Pokemon Go of sustainability is as unlikely as stumbling across a leveled-up Vaporeon in Venice. Creating a single app capable of making a meaningful dent on individuals’ environmental behaviors might be beyond our current digital and mental programming capabilities.

But what if we settled with making Pokemon Go itself more sustainable? Rather than trying to compete with popular game apps, what if developers seamlessly could integrate functions that made users more eco-friendly without them even realizing it?

Pokemon Go could give credits for in-app purchases to users who bike or take public transit to school or work; reward users with rare Pokemon after participating in a park cleanup or volunteering at a soup kitchen; or maybe even give opportunities for upgrades when eco-friendly purchases are made. At the very least, it could use the love of fictional animals to spread awareness that half of the world’s actual animals have gone extinct in the past 40 years. (Sorry, there I go being bluntly logical again — old habits die hard.)

Heck, we could at least try to sell solar-powered battery chargers for Pokemon Go enthusiasts frustrated by their big Poke-ambitions and small smartphone batteries.

Whatever route we take, the sophistication of augmented reality and digital apps likely will escalate quicker than we can address our mounting social and environmental challenges. It’s time for a new generation of innovators to harness digital technology’s potential for instigating meaningful social and environmental behavioral change. Several socially and environmentally-focused apps already are sprouting up, including iRecycle, Zero Carbon and JouleBug.

We still have a long way to go — maybe we’ll get there once we’ve caught them all.

*Original by: Mike Hower - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Study Shows PET Bottle RecyclingPprograms Widely Available

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, study reports 92 percent of U.S. population has access to beverage container recycling programs.

Most Americans have access to recycling programs that accept beverage containers, according to a study commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Charlottesville, Virginia, with participation from SPI: The Plastics Trade Association, Washington.

The study, “2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for Beverage Containers,” identifies the prevalence of recycling programs that accept beverage containers, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, jugs and jars, used aluminum beverage cans (UBCs), glass beverage bottles and cartons. The findings on PET show that 92 percent of the U.S. population can recycle PET bottles, jugs and jars.

“It’s important to make recycling available to consumers. The more convenient we can make recycling for consumers, the more people will recycle,” says George Southworth, director of industry affairs— Rigid Plastic Packaging Group (RPPG) and Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Applications Committee (PMDAC) at SPI. “This study shows many Americans have the resources they need to recycle, so it’s up to us to keep educating and advocating for more effective recycling.”

The study further breaks down the availability of recycling by the type of recycling available and finds that 54 percent of U.S. residents have automatic/universal curbside recycling of PET bottles, jugs and jars. The other curbside programs were opt-in, which is available to 6 percent of the population, and subscription, which is available to 8 percent of the population. In total, 68 percent of U.S. residents have some sort of curbside recycling available, according to the study. Drop-off programs are available to 24 percent of the U.S. population and, when combined with the curbside recycling availability, totals 92 percent of all programs—curbside and its subsidiaries and drop-off programs—available to the U.S. population.

The study was commissioned by the SPC and conducted by Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling Associates. Other project sponsors included the Can Manufacturers Institute, Carton Council, Glass Packaging Institute, National Association for PET Container Resources and The Aluminum Association.

**Original July 29, 2016 – by Recycling Today Staff

Study: Consumers are aware of food waste, but don't care enough to stop it

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A new study published by the scientific journal Plos One—co-authored by PhD student Danyi Qi and Professor Brian Roe of Ohio State University—found that food waste has yet to become a pressing issue for most consumers.

In July 2015, 500 people representative of the U.S. population were surveyed. Of the respondents, 58% said they knew that food waste was bad for the environment and 77% of respondents felt guilty about it. Yet, 53% of respondents said they're not willing to change their behavior and the same percentage thought it would be hard for their household to do so.

Despite ongoing coverage of scientific literature showing that date labels aren't linked to food safety, 70% of respondents said they thought throwing away food after its expiration date helped reduce the potential of food-borne illness. The concept that some food needs to be wasted in order to ensure meal freshness and quality was supported by 59% of respondents.

The fact that an estimated 40% of food is wasted in the U.S. every year and the country has a goal of reducing food waste 50% by 2030 are well-publicized at this point. The issue has brought celebrity chefs to Capitol Hill and a bill proposed by Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine that would standardize date labels has also received lots of coverage. Yet outside of the waste and food industries this issue still doesn't seem to be resonating with consumers.

The study found that 24% of respondents think they're too busy to worry about it. One would think that financial factors might get people's attention, but only 42% of respondents recognized that wasted food equals wasted money. In an even more telling statistic, only 14% of respondents thought that they wasted more food than households of a similar size.

In conclusion, the study's authors say that education around food date labeling would be a useful step forward. Organizations such as Harvard's Food Law and Policy Clinic have been very active on label reform and initiatives such as the Natural Resources Defense Council's "Save the Food" campaign are trying to give the issue national attention.

By Cole Rosengren | July 25, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Confused?

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You might have listened several times:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – the three ways to reduce solid waste. You might have been impressed to observe their rhythmic phonic. But you hardly have understood its real spirit because such words have become quite a buzzword in our social sector.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: What the heck are they?


It is the first element of entire phrase of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It seems very simple but it is actually the litmus test of our environmental friendliness. If we follow this tip we have to entirely change our whole life style. Did you ever see a customer insisting the shopkeeper stuff as many articles in a small bag as possible? This is called reduce. It aims to use the things as little as possible because we throw them away after their use. Cans, bags, bottles or any such articles we use to carry or store things we must use in minimum number. Its easy example is use of paper. Write down on both the sides of a paper and don’t stop here even write in its margin over the header and footer; means fully use it then throw it away. This is the basic spirit of the reuse.


How easy it is to say reuse. But we sometimes make it a status symbol to throw away a thing after its use and avoid using it again. Did you ever see a person received a greeting card and reused its envelope by sending back the card to sender in the same envelope by just pasting a name tag over it? Is it very funny? It seems very funny but actually it has a purpose. So make reuse your habit. Whenever and wherever possible reuse the things if they are not harmful to do so.


It sounds so technical and we look to factories which recycle the things. In most of the cases we can do it by ourselves. Keep the leftover rice of overnight and mix it into freshly boiled vegetables and yummy sauces the next day and enjoy a Chinese cuisine. Put some glaze paper around the tin of a cold drink and use it as a pen keeper. Here also you have to apply your creativity to keep recycling going. In this way we can save our environment from garbage pollution as much as we can through these three killer tips. Do your share to care for our environment.

*Written by Mimuba -

Students Create Garbage Disposal Attachment for Pre-Processing Compost

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, July 14, 2016
  • A team of six students from Rice University have created a prototype called the BioBlend for in-home food waste processing. The motor-operated unit is attached to a garbage disposal under the sink to further grind up food and strain out the water. The resulting material can be used for composting or biogas generation.

  • The students are also working on a website that would track user input volumes, provide advice on which items are best for composting, and provide alerts if the capture drawer was full or left open.

The students began working on this project after the school's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen tasked them with finding a way to change user behavior. Prototypes will be installed at the Chalmers University of Technology's HSB Living Lab in Sweden for further testing by students in residence. Local organics collection is available in that area of Sweden and students could potentially set the material they process through their BioBlends out for pick-up.

The use of in-sink garbage disposals has seen a resurgence lately. They've been recommended as a cheaper option for collecting organics in New York and Philadelphia has begun mandating them in new homes as of this year.

While the device will be useful in raising awareness among residents of the food they're disposing, it's unclear what role it would play in existing collection systems. Curbside programs accept most types of organic waste regardless of its consistency and many cities with in-sink disposal units are recovering gas from the material at anaerobic digestion facilities. The units could be useful for areas that don't have biogas recovery systems or for residents that want to do at-home composting.

By Cole Rosengren | July 1, 2016

Transforming recycling promotion into a fine art

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A county in Washington state has over the past decade developed a recycling promotion event that draws tens of thousands of attendees, all while supporting markets for recovered materials.

Located in downtown Vancouver, Wash. and held annually on the last weekend in June, Clark County's Recycled Arts Festival was started 11 years ago to help educate and engage the public in the county of over 420,000 residents.

The two-day festival this year featured over 150 vendors selling artwork or goods made from reused, recovered or recycled materials collected in the region. Items on display included ukuleles made from recovered cigar boxes, new fashions made from scrap clothing and delicate butterflies made from used cans of soda.

But the event does more than highlight local artisans – it also acts as a powerful outreach tool.

As residents are perusing the recycled artwork for sale, they are also getting an education on diversion and sustainable activities. Sprinkled throughout the festival are numerous exhibits from Clark County's various environmental departments and efforts, such as its Master Composter & Recycler program, Washington State University's Master Gardener program and the Clark County Habitat for Humanity Store.

"Our goal with this festival is really to raise awareness about waste reduction," Sally Fisher, festival project manager from the Clark County Department of Environmental Services, said in a video posted on Facebook following the event. "And hopefully inspire [others] to be as interested and passionate about waste reduction and creative reuse as we are."

Fisher also noted more than 75 percent of the funding for the event comes from exhibition fees and the event's sponsors, a varied group including the Clark County's primary hauler, Waste Connections, as well as local financial institutions and auto dealerships.

One booth at the festival, Tossed & Found, educates residents on how some of the materials and products that they bring into their homes can be recycled, reused or composted. A craft table at the exhibit allowed kids to turn recovered materials into art of their own, with leftover reusable materials heading to the area Humane Society’s ReTails Thrift Store after the festival.

By Dylan de Thomas, Resource Recycling- July 5, 2016

Steora Smart Bench arrives in the United States

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Fibrex Group is pleased to introduce the first Steora Smart Bench available in the United States, and a business partnership with Include.  Steora was invented by Wiz-Kid Innovator Ivan Mrvos of Include j.d.o.o in the Republic of Croatia.  Include has developed the most technologically advanced and attractive solar smart bench on the market today.

Steora Smart Bench’s unique design provides self-sustaining green solar energy to power a large suite of applications such as cell phone charging, WiFi Hot-Spot Internet Connection, area LED lighting, sensor data gathering capabilities and temperature control.  Yes, it even has a built-in cooling fan system to keep the seating area below 80F on hot days!

Steora Smart Bench is a sustainable gathering space to socialize and stay connected. Steora also brings a note of ultra-modern design that can enhance or blend in with existing urban landscapes but will always draw attention. Being on the front edge of innovation, the Steora Smart Bench will make a visible and functional green statement for years to come.

Transform your properties to be smarter and greener with the Steora Smart Bench. Public spaces want to support and attract the mobile generation by providing more charging device options than ever before. Welcome Steora to become an essential part of your modern, daily life.

Steora is by far the most advanced solar smart bench on the market and is optimized for continuous public use. It was developed to satisfy the future needs of sustainable and smart connected urban spaces.   By creatively harnessing green solar energy, the Steora Smart Bench provides USB and wireless cell phone charging, mobile WIFI hot-spot Internet, area lighting, seat cooling, local advertising information, sensor and data gathering features.

The Fibrex Group, Inc. is known for its original product line of innovative green design site furnishings, solar bollards and playground equipment.  We are very excited about our latest entry in the smart urban furniture market and look forward to working with the early IoT and Smart City adaptors.  Steora benches are in stock and ready to be shipped from our warehouse in Virginia.

How to Teach Children Eco-Friendly Habits

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Contributing to the overall sustainability of the environment in even a small amount can make a considerable difference in the long run. By regularly practicing eco-friendly living you do exactly that. However, in order to truly create the change that we want to create, it’s important we get others involved in conserving and recycling as much as we can. So why not start with our own kids? After all, it’s easy to build good values/principles when someone is young.

Encouraging green or eco-friendly habits in children starts with you. Here’s how you can help them developing these habits:

#1: Set a Good Example

Being a parent, you are your child’s first role model. So if you want them to live in an eco-friendly manner then you need to live that way. You need to demonstrate how it’s supposed to be done. For example, if you want your kids to conserve water by turning off the water when brushing their teeth, then do it yourself first. You can do many such things such as: not leaving the lights on when leaving a room, unplugging any equipment/appliance that is not use, etc. When your children see you do something positive, they follow your pursuit.

#2: Reuse, Recycle and Reduce

When you go out shopping make sure you use a reusable bag so that your kids know the importance of that practice. Also, get your kids involved in decluttering your home by throwing away or selling the unnecessary items, while safely storing what is useful. If you live in a hot place like Phoenix, AZ rent climate controlled self-storage to store your stuff and instead of discarding reusable items between children, so that you can reuse them in the future without letting them clutter your home. When it comes to recycling, work with the kids to create fun and decorative boxes that can be used for sorting and separating glass, paper and plastic.

#3: Plant a Garden

Saving money on groceries and eating organic food is a great way to show your children the importance of going green. Preparing and planting a garden with your children will help you do just that. Besides that, when you let them get in the dirt and experience how mother earth works, you’ll have them love nature and the whole idea of going green. However, see to it that you don’t compromise when it comes to being organic in your approach. Avoid using pesticides and use natural seeds at all costs.

#4: Begin an Energy Saving Project

One of the best “eco-friendly” teaching that you can impart to your children is to be independent of “public utilities”. Show them how installing your own solar power generating system can help create energy the eco-friendly way. This can be a fun project that your kids can get involved in. If you do some online research you’ll easily be able to find good training videos/material to get a good, viable start. By teaching your children about solar power, they not only learn how to save energy, but also money.

*Originally posted by


Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

With the Summer season finally here, we offer the following tips to make this summer better than ever!

  • Rather than buying small, travel-sized toiletries, fill reusable containers with shampoo, soap, and other necessities.
  • Reuse plastic or paper shopping bags to pack items for your trip and recycle them afterwards. Plastic shopping bags are perfect for keeping dirty shoes and wet bathing suits separate from other items in your suitcase, while paper bags are great for packing snacks for the car.
  • Choose electronic tickets when booking airline flights to reduce paper waste.
  • Take only napkins, condiment packets, free brochures, maps, or coupons that you will actually use.
  • Take along plastic bags to collect your used beverage containers for recycling at rest stops.
  • If you change your own motor oil, recycle it at a “quick lube” shop, gas station, or auto store that accepts used motor oil for recycling.
  • To pass the time on long drives or rainy vacation days, bring scrap paper for drawing and games.
  • Start an art project with “found” objects – collages and sculptures made from discarded items are a growing trend!
  • Shop at stores that specialize in used sports equipment – you’ll save money and promote reuse.
  • When you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, clean out your closet and collect the old clothes and toys for donation to a charity or your next garage sale.
  • Spend your free time volunteering at a local park or helping out with environmental clean-ups.
  • Build a backyard fort or tree house from recycled materials, such as wood scraps, cardboard, and other found items.
  • Summer is a popular time for barbeques and other outdoor festivities. At your next party, set the picnic table with reusable dinnerware, and remember to recycle all bottles and cans after the party!!
  • Hot summer days require gallons of thirst quenchers. Be sure to recycle the used beverage containers.
  • Consider putting a filter on your water tap and refilling bottles with the filtered water. Instead of buying many small drink bottles, buy drinks or drink mixes in bulk and fill reusable bottles.
  • At the beach, use old buckets and other items in your house to build sand castles instead of buying new products at the store.
  • When visiting beaches and parks, be sure to take out everything you bring in, so that you leave places unlittered and undisturbed.

Recycling Scholarships Available to NOLA Area College Students

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Since 1994, the National Recycling Coalition has awarded scholarships to students interested in the recycling field. This year, the NRC is awarding scholarships to qualified New Orleans area students in the amount of $1,500 each. Recipients will also receive complementary admission to the Resource Recycling Conference, August 30th through September 1st, and a one-year membership to the Coalition.

Students will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Attend a New Orleans area college or university
  • Academic and personal interest in the recycling field
  • Meritorious academic achievement
  • Available to attend Resource Recycling conference

Scholarship applications can be submitted at  Applications must be received no later than July 22nd.  Winners will be announced by August 5, 2016.

Questions can be directed to the NRC’s Campus Council at:  More information is available at: