New York Hotels join the Green Movement

New York Hotels join the Green Movement

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Seventeen notable New York City hotels have committed to getting greener

Marquee properties like the Waldorf Astoria New York, Grand Hyatt New York, Loews Regency New York and the Peninsula New York recently joined the NYC Carbon Challenge, a program Michael R. Bloomberg started as mayor in 2007 with the city’s universities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals, commercial office buildings and multifamily residences were eventually added, and in late December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the initiative would expand to include hotels.

The initial group of properties , accounting from about 11,000 existing guest rooms, have pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings by 30 percent or more in the next 10 years, a move that could reduce emissions by more than 32,000 metric tons and save $25 million of energy operating costs.

Buildings account for around 75 percent of greenhouse emissions in New York City, and getting the hospitality industry on board will significantly help to cut down on the city’s overall emissions, said Nilda Mesa, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

“Hotels are definitely a cause of emissions, and their involvement can have a big impact in achieving the goals of the NYC Carbon Challenge and the mayor’s overall sustainability goals,” she said. That broader vision, set forth by Mr. de Blasio in September 2014, is to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Encouraging pioneers

The Office of Sustainability worked with the Hotel Association of New York City, a trade group that represents 275 hotels in the city, to get the first group of properties to make a commitment.

Though 17 is a small number relative to the hotel association’s members, its chairman, Vijay Dandapani, says his group will continue to encourage more hotels to join the program.

“For the hotels who need it, we can connect them with environmental consultants and give them our best practices handout on going green,” he said. “We hope that our help and the visibility of the hotels that have agreed so far gives others the push they need to sign up for the Challenge.”

In the interim, many of the properties that have committed to the project are already on their way to meeting their goals, and the changes they are making, for the most part, involve minor construction and are unlikely to affect their guests.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel NY

A 1,306-room hotel next to Grand Central Terminal, The Grand Hyatt Hotel New York, is spending $160,000 to install exhaust controls in its four kitchens by the end of January that expend minimal energy when stoves and ovens aren’t in use; the current exhausts, in contrast, operate constantly. Also, the hotel is spending $150,000 on 16,000 LED bulbs for its guest rooms and public areas, a project that is expected to be completed by the end of March.

But the biggest undertaking is the $2.3 million expenditure on a new building management system that controls air-conditioning and heat. “It will operate on demand-based ventilation that doesn’t burn excess energy,” said Ron McGill, the hotel’s director of engineering. All told, he said, the three changes will reduce Grand Hyatt’s carbon emissions by 2,400 metric tons annually.

The Peninsula New York

The Hong-Kong based luxurious hotel chain is spending around $250,000 to install LED lighting in the entire hotel, including the 235 guest rooms, by the end of 2017 and another $1.1 million in 2018 on eight new elevators that run with less energy. The money for both projects is worth it, said its general manager, Jonathan Crook. “It’s a hefty sum up front, but it will save us money in the long run,” he said.

Waldorf Astoria New York

The 1,415-room Waldorf Astoria New York, however, won’t substantially reduce its carbon emissions so soon after joining the program until it has undergone a restoration, scheduled to begin in 18 to 24 months. “We’ll replace our windows to make them more energy-efficient and try to make any aspect of the property more sustainable where it’s possible,” said Michael Hoffmann, the managing director. But while a major overhaul is still down the line, he said that the hotel has cut down its emissions by 20 percent since 2005 through a series of changes, such as switching to biodegradable packaging materials.

Like the Waldorf, tackling the issue of greenhouse gas emissions was already a priority for several of the properties before becoming a part of the NYC Carbon Challenge, but now they’re intensifying their efforts.

The Westin New York at Times Square

One of the most sought after locations in New York, The Westin New York at Times Square completed a three-year renovation late last year that prioritized energy conservation — the 873 guest rooms were retrofitted with low-flow showerheads, and energy-efficient boilers and coolers replaced older units. Since joining the Challenge, however, the entire building will be retrofitted with close to 9,000 LED bulbs, and all guest room bathrooms will have sensors that switch off lights after 30 minutes of inactivity. “We were already reducing our carbon footprint, but the Challenge is a reason to do more,” said Sean Verney, the general manager.

1Hotel Central Park

A part of 1 Hotels, the sustainability-driven brand created by the Starwood Capital Group chairman and chief executive Barry Sternlicht, is using the goals of the Carbon Challenge as leverage to accomplish its own. Although LED lights, an energy-conserving air-conditioning system, recycled materials and a fleet of electric house cars from Tesla are hallmarks at the hotel, the company’s director of impact, Michael Laas, said that powering the boiler with natural gas instead of diesel fuel will reduce the hotel’s emissions a significant 27 percent. “We have been working with the city to get that change to happen and hope that being a part of the Carbon Challenge gets us there faster,” he said.

But while these moves from 1 Hotel Central Park and other NYC Carbon Challenge properties will most certainly be a factor in helping to meet the project’s goals, they are not necessarily visible to hotel guests, who usually have the option of participating in their property’s eco-conscious efforts with actions such as reusing their bath towels.

No matter, said Adam Weissenberg, the head of the travel, hospitality and leisure sector at Deloitte & Touche, because travelers, especially millennials, want the hotels they stay at to be helping the environment even if that help isn’t tangible. “These changes may not be in their faces, but the guests who care will educate themselves about how their hotels are trying to be greener,” he said.

This article was originally written by Shivani Vora and was published on the New York Times.

How to listen to pain

How to listen to pain

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Humanity is intertwined. We walk side by side on a pursuit of happiness that sometimes take us along paths and experiences that challenge our beliefs, knock us down and makes us want to quit and leave it all. Feelings like pain and fear of rejection usually come along when we don’t succeed. In a fast-running competitive world, where failure and mistakes are hardly judged, few spaces are left for keeping in touch with our emotions, expectations, self-compassion and resilience, a healthy practice that provides us with the fuel to cope with the vicissitudes of daily life.

Berkeley’s Greater Good had the chance to talk with the author of Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution, Brené Brown, whose research for the book involved interviewing thousands of people about difficult, sensitive experiences in their lives, in order to uncover common themes around shameful experiences.

The following is the complete interview done by Jill Suttie:

Jill Suttie: Why do you think it’s important to study shame and vulnerability?

Brené Brown: Because they are such a big part of our emotional landscape and daily experience. For shame, it’s about shining a light in some dark corners and normalizing some universal experiences that by definition make us feel very alone.

As for vulnerability, a lot of people believe that vulnerability is the center of dark and difficult emotions that we don’t want to feel; so they guard against it. The truth is that vulnerability is the center of all emotions. We’re emotional beings, and to understand our emotions is going to require a bit of uncertainty and risk. This goes back to the reason for my work: wrapping language around universal experiences so we can have conversations about what it means to be human.

JS: What do you mean by vulnerability being at the center of all emotion?

BB: Based on the research, I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. When we feel dark emotions—when we feel grief or shame or fear, scarcity, disappointment—we feel risk and uncertainty, and we feel emotionally exposed and raw. But vulnerability is also the birthplace of love, joy, belonging, trust, intimacy, creativity, and all of the good things. If we’re practicing a guarded heart life, we’re pushing away the things we’re most desperate for.

JS: Do you think that from an evolutionary standpoint, shame had some positive function—maybe to keep us from acting out?

BB: From an evolutionary, biological perspective, shame probably served a function. But, I don’t think it serves that function well anymore, because it’s much too brutal an instrument to be an effective change agent for anything. I don’t see any persuasive data in my research saying that it’s a helpful tool for micro (individual) or macro change now. It’s more like a scarlet letter, used to literally cast out or shun someone who’s a threat to a community because they’re not adhering to the community’s model of behavior.

Neuro-biologically, we’re wired above all else for survival, and shame is a threat to connection, a threat to survival. It’s very hard to experience shame and not have a very limited response to it. Often shame is a cause of destructive behaviors—self-destructive and violent behaviors towards others. If the fear of shame worked as a deterrent to bad behavior, everyone would be healthy and loving. Instead, shame is highly correlated with things like addiction, depression, violence, and aggression.

JS: Can you talk about the difference between shame and guilt?

BB: The easiest way to separate shame from guilt is to say shame is “I’m bad” and guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is a focus on self; guilt is a focus on behavior. An easy parenting example would be saying, “You’re stupid” versus “You’re a great kid that made a bad decision.” It’s very hard to get out from underneath shame because, if that’s who you are, what is the potential for change?

JS: Have you looked at any neurological studies at how shame looks in the brain?

BB: Studying shame is a struggle, because if you were really going to study shame, you would set up an environment where you understood what someone’s shame triggers were, shame them, and watch their behavior, which obviously we would never do. Having said that, there are some interesting studies around shame as social pain. Our brain registers the pain of shame exactly how it registers physical pain, which I think is fascinating.

JS: How do we usually behave when we feel shame?

BB: You’d really have to go back to the research of Linda Hartling and Jean Baker Miller, research coming out of the Stone Center at Wellesley College, that found three primary responses to shame: moving away, moving toward, and moving against it. Moving away in response to shame is where we disappear in our own lives, secret-keep, and don’t talk about it. Moving toward shame is the people-pleasing way out. Moving against it means using shame and aggression to fight back—you shame me, I come back at you with something hurtful, painful, or shaming.

In my work, we refer to these as “shame shields.” At the Stone Center they call these “strategies of disconnection,” which I think is so brilliant, because they are strategies for disconnecting from the pain of shame. All three strategies—and I’ve done all three—move you away from your authenticity and your real self.

JS: Why should we engage with shame in the way you describe in your book when it’s so painful? What’s the benefit to that?

BB: Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Those are not authentic responses. So, dealing with shame while maintaining authenticity and cultivating more courage, connection, and compassion in your relationships is what’s needed. It’s a tall order. But one of the byproducts of being able to move through shame constructively is that people who come out the other side by default feel braver, more connected and compassionate.

JS: In Rising Strong, you write about the importance of people “rumbling” with their stories—meaning, engaging more with the messages they tell themselves and being more honest about their fears and foibles. Can you explain how rumbling, which I think sounds like a positive concept, is distinct from rumination, which can be a sign of depression or other problems?

BB: That’s a great question. Rumbling is really about reality-checking—having some critical awareness around the stories we make up, fact-finding, and getting curious around what we are feeling. Unlike ruminating, rumbling requires a degree of mindfulness. I think of ruminating as not being mindful, because you are over-identifying with something or ignoring stuff. But there is some goal-orientation in rumbling to find the truth of the story: what do I need to understand about myself, what’s really going on, what are my real limits, and what is the fiction part of my narrative and where is that coming from?

JS: Is your approach somehow different than mindfulness?

BB: I love Kristen Neff’s definition of mindfulness, which is to let ourselves lean into emotion but to not over-identify with it, to be present to what’s going on, but not be defined by it. You need to be mindful as part of the process; but I think the bigger piece, which I don’t think is incorporated by mindfulness, is emotional curiosity. Most of us were not raised in families where we were encouraged to get curious about our emotions, ask a lot of questions, dig in, name things. So emotional curiosity is a really big piece of what’s needed.

JS: Do you have advice for people who grew up in families where emotions were ignored or downplayed?

BB: I’m a big believer in therapy. I could not have done this work without a really great therapist. I don’t think we can do this work alone, because we were never meant to. It’s not how we’re wired. We’re wired for connection, from mirror neurons on down, and in the absence of connection, there’s suffering. So, I think just starting small conversations with people we trust and care about and being honest about wanting to learn more and do more about our shame is a good step. It’s all about being in connection while we’re in this learning process.

JS: One thing that struck me in your book is how many people talked about shaming experiences in schools. What can be done to counteract that?

BB: Shame is still used as a primary classroom management tool. About 85 percent of the men and women we interviewed could remember something so shaming that happened to them in school that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. And that’s staggering! But close to 90 percent of the people we interviewed could also name a specific teacher, administrator, or coach who instilled in them a sense of worthiness when they were struggling with that. I think this speaks to the power of coaches and teachers.

A lot of shaming in schools is not intentional and not meant to hurt students. But it’s important to talk about the alternatives to using it. When you can turn behavior around on a dime using shame—and you’ve got a crowded classroom and a lot of stress and pressures around test prepping—I think you have to have good alternatives. My husband is a pediatrician, and he often says that before you start talking to parents about discipline, you’ve got to make sure that you’re giving them tools that are effective to replace whatever you’re taking away.

JS: What do you hope people will most take away from your work?

BB: I hope more than anything that it starts a conversation. I hope my work helps people feel less alone and gives them the permission and the language to talk about the most important parts of being human—both the hard parts and the most beautiful parts.

This article was originally written by Jill Suttie and was posted on Berkley’s Greater Good.

Yoga may have health benefits for people with asthma

Yoga may have health benefits for people with asthma

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A new Cochrane Review, published in the Cochrane Library today, suggests that yoga may have a beneficial effect on symptoms and quality of life in people with asthma, but effects on lung function and medication use are uncertain.

Asthma is a common chronic disease affecting about 300 million people worldwide. The many typical symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Yoga has gained global popularity as a form of exercise with general life-style benefits, and recent studies have investigated the potential of yoga to relieve asthma-related problems.

A new Cochrane Review summarizes the results of randomized trials and evidenced that practicing yoga might be able to improve asthma quality of life and symptoms to some extent. However, researchers also warned that higher-quality studies with more participants would be needed to draw any firm conclusions about the effects of yoga.

The team of Cochrane researchers wanted to find out the effects of yoga in people with asthma.

They found 15 randomized controlled trials which involved 1,048 men and women. Most of the trials were conducted in India, followed by Europe and the United States. The majority of participants had mild to moderate asthma for six months to more than 23 years. Six studies looked into the effects of breathing alone during yoga exercise, whilst the other studies assessed the effects of yoga that included breathing, posture and meditation.

Most people continued to take their usual asthma medication while participating in the studies. The studies were conducted over a time period of two weeks to over four years.

The researchers found some moderate quality evidence from five studies that yoga exercise reduces the impact of asthma on people’s quality of life. However, evidence about yoga’s impact on the participants’ lung function is more uncertain because the results varied. The effects of yoga on medication use and any side-effects of yoga are also uncertain, because only a few small studies reported these outcomes.

Lead author, Dr Zuyao Yang from the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong commented, “Our findings suggest that yoga exercise may lead to small improvements in asthma quality of life and symptoms. However, it is unclear whether yoga has a consistent impact on lung function and we don’t yet know if yoga can reduce people’s medication usage, or if there are any side-effects of yoga for people with asthma.”

Deputy Co-ordinating Editor of the Cochrane Airways Group, Rebecca Normansell, added, “At present, we just don’t have enough high quality evidence to determine the effects of yoga as a type of exercise for helping people manage their asthma. Because there is uncertainty about the effects of yoga on lung function and use of asthma medication, it’s important that people with asthma continue to take their medication, as prescribed. The findings of this Cochrane Review will help people make more informed choices about their future treatment options.”

This article was originally provided by Wiley with information from Cochrane and was published on EurekaAlert!

 

5 easy ways to boost well-being in the class

5 easy ways to boost well-being in the class

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From the director of the International Positive Psychology Network (IPEN), Emily Larson, here are five evidence based ways to promote well-being in children for educators and parents.

  1. What Makes You Happy Drawings/Photos

Activity Directions

Have students get into small groups and reflect for a few minutes on what makes them happy – an easier way for younger students to understand can be to ask them “what made you smile this week?” The things that make us happy can be really big, like our family, but they can also be really small, like a sunny day.

Once they have thought of something that makes them happy, ask them to draw a picture and share it with the class. For older students ask them to take a photo of something that makes them happy. Hang the pictures in the classroom or have them bring it home to share with their family.

  1. The 3 Good Things

Activity Directions

Gratitude exercises can manifest in many different ways, they can be solitary or group activities – however, since today is all about connecting with others, we suggest you make this a group gratitude exercise.

First, pair students into small groups of 3-4. Next, ask them to share three good things that happened to them today with their group mates. Remind them that good things can be anywhere and any size from something big like getting a new baby sister, to something smaller like your friend bringing you candy to school. Take this as an opportunity to practice active listening and storytelling skills.

Once everyone has shared, allow the class to reflect on how this activity made them feel (i.e. did you smile while doing this? Did you feel closer to the people sharing? Do you have more energy?).

  1. Random acts of kindness

Activity Directions

First, pair students in groups of 2-3 for this activity. In order to explain to the class what a random act of kindness is, it may be useful to show some fun videos or let them visit this website for some ideas. As a group, once they have decided on an act of kindness have them make a plan of how they will accomplish this act of kindness by the end of the day.

 

Once their act has been accomplished, allow each group to share what their random act of kindness was, how they did it, and what the outcome was.

  1. Mindful Savoring

Activity Directions

This activity is a solitary and silent activity. At the beginning of class, ask the students to think of a time they were truly happy. Next, ask them to close their eyes and try to remember that day, who they were with, what they were wearing, where they were. Ask them to recall the way they felt that day and why they were so happy – really relive the moment. Allow the students to sit with this memory for 5 minutes before beginning class.

This article was originally posted on The International Positive Education Network.

The Joy of learning: A Manifesto on nourishing the mind

The Joy of learning: A Manifesto on nourishing the mind

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

– Margaret Mead

Tony Pfeiffer has an undergraduate degree in business and a master on community leadership. His work experience ranges from accounting, management, ministry, non-profit programming, training, coaching, and teaching. He acknowledges himself as a “part scientist, part inventor and part teacher”. As a Middle School teacher, working with 6th and 7th graders, coordinating with other teachers and attending not-so-friendly PTA meetings, he had a first row seat to the Public School System in Cleveland, Ohio. Two questions kept prowling on his mind as the years went by: How did the Public Education System got so weird? Since we know how the brain develops and grows, why aren’t schools teaching universal learning principles and common sense practices to moms & dads in their own homes?

On a quest to finding answers to these, he wrote a manifesto on learning and his thoughts on a system that wants children to obey rather than have their own criteria about life. This is his manifesto:

“My proposed abstract for a workshop (now a poster presentation) for the IPEN conference started with a question and later invited folks to co-create the learning eco-system.

What if we change the conversation and yardstick of learning?

The problems of public education are addressed by many experts who come in all sizes and shapes as TED Talks, books, workshops, consulting. The solutions range from more money, better trained teachers, increase standardization testing, less tests, more Common Core, no Common Core, more technology,etc. The answer for those voices clamoring for attention is that public education is not broken and does not need fixing. The system works well in its original design: To keep children, in their place, dumb, obedient to all authority and slaves working for others.

See and share the vision of the ecosystem of learning that is joyful, beautiful, and life-long. An organic support system that nurtures each and everyone to be their best for the greatest good. Learning that is sustainable and full of wow and wonder. Learning design that is brain friendly and pays it forward to the next door neighbor and next generation. Together in this workshop we will co-create learning for all. Let’s keep and protect the joy of learning.

Our family and homes have the potential to be the green house environment to nurture life-long learning. Each one teaches while learning – a mutual we-learning system of person to person, and peer to peer. Mom and Dad learn and teach each other. They then teach and learn side by side with their children. The children in return teach and learn. It grows beyond the home and into the community – an ecosystem of learners throughout the planet.

I propose a manifesto as a challenge and a call to arms to claim our right and responsibility to learn and teach. We take ownership of the direction and content of our learning. We establish a learning tradition of life-long learning and a legacy of learning.

The We-Learning Manifesto by Tony Pfeiffer

I know how my brain is wired to learn.

I know my beliefs, values, strengths, interests and learning style.

I learn what I want at my pace and I am supported every step of the way.

I teach what I learn. I learn what others teach me.

I help each family member discover their beliefs, values, interests and learning styles.

We, as a community of learners integrate the best learning processes and programs to support us to learn personally and together in fun and easy ways.

You are invited to co-create our learning eco-system. Become a Learning Ambassador, a burning torch bearer leading and lighting the way for life-long learning for all. Let’s keep and protect the joy of learning and pay it forward to the next generation and next door neighbor.

Together, we change the conversation and yardstick of learning, one family at a time.”

This article was originally written by Tony Pfeiffer and was published on The International Positive Education Network

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