Gardening With The Kids and DIY Almond Milk

            This week has been rough and I know the upcoming weeks are going to bring a lot of work too. I can say that the garden event with 13th and Union 1st graders was a success last week and the week before that. For those that may not have heard about this event already, our house invited over 1st graders of 13th and Union to learn about basic concepts of sustainability, permaculture, and planting seeds. They were very excited and had a lot of questions as well as a lot to share. Erin Sullivan, the VISTA, helped make this event possible by coordinating permission slips, bringing the kids over with the teachers, and supervising the children. She followed up with me after all the events were over and expressed how much the kids loved the event and had a lot of fun. The second graders even got a little jealous and want to visit the garden. I wish we could’ve done more events with more grades but the PSSAs were going on this time of the year and we are very busy with final projects and exams ourselves. Before leaving the house this semester, I hope we can discuss ideas, topics, event ideas amongst the housemates to create a guide for the next housemates. This event or something similar should continue in the future to start getting younger kids to think about the interconnectedness of their lives and the world.

            Apart from the garden event that I hosted this semester, Sam, our one housemate, has been getting into making her own almond milk. Between herself and I, we use a lot of almond milk/cashew milk containers, which are not recyclable or compostable. She wanted to avoid this by trying a more natural approach to almond milk by doing it herself at home on our dining room table! She soaks the almonds in water overnight and then mushes it and makes a liquidy paste out of it. The first time, the almond milk was pretty chunky but now she bought a special bag for it online, which will hopefully keep the chunks out for smooth almond milk. Down below there is a link for how to make your own almond milk at home.

 

Have a good summer and try to keep the AC off!

 

Renee

 

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-almond-milk-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-189996

 

Milking the Almonds (Also, bye)

Hello friends! This is my last blog post for the year, which is bittersweet because that means I’m damn close to becoming a Big Girl. Help. I’ll talk about some new stuff we have been doing in the house and then a little about my plans for after grad.

This month, one of our goals was to reduce our waste output in the house by limiting excessive packaging. Since a consistent waste item Renee and I end up trashing is almond milk cartons, we figured that we could try our hand in making almond milk ourselves. The two of us bought almonds and some cheese cloth to filter it with. It was easier than I could’ve hoped! For each cup of almond milk, we soaked it in 3 cups of water overnight. In the morning, I got up and drained them. Then, I put them in the blender with 4 cups of water, vanilla, and cinnamon. After that, it’s ready to be drained and drank!

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Our first batch of almond milk 

The first time tasted great to me, but had a lot of pulp because the cheese cloth had pretty big holes. I purchased a special ‘nut milk bag’ (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) for my next batch and got no pulp at all. Progress has been made Some recipes suggest dates for sweetening and thickening, which maybe I’ll try next.

Also instead of buying chick pea cans, which I would buy a lot of, I bought a bag of raw chick peas to soak and cook myself. I haven’t perfected that quite as much as the almond milk which is upsetting, but I’ll keep working on it.

In other news, I start working probably the week after graduation, which is May 21st at Albright. I’ll be an Assistant Director at the Fund for the Public Interest office in Ridgewood, where I canvassed for two summers on issues revolving around clean water and public health issues. We collect petitions and sign up members for the organization to fund our political action. So, weirdly enough, I’m going to be my past-self’s boss. And I’ll have a salary and stuff. WOAH.

After the summer, I’ll be packing up and moving to New Brunswick to work in NJ’s main Fund for the Public Interest office, where I’m committed through August 2018. Committed for over a year for a job where I will be working probably about 65 hours a week. As spooky and tiring as that sounds, it is exactly where I hoped to be out of college. Influencing political change is one of the most important things to be doing always, and especially in this potentially damaging administration. I’ve been able to do so much just as a canvasser and field manager, so I can’t wait to see what I can help others do.

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One of our morning meetings in the Ridgewood Office ’15

Of course I’m going to miss a lot about college, but I honestly can’t wait to finish this chapter of my life and start the next. Reflecting, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve gotten to have in the sustainability house. I went into the house wondering what more I could possibly do to be more sustainable, and I’ve definitely learned more skills and habits that I will carry with me. Things like making almond milk, composting, reducing packaged goods, and gardening are just some of the skills that I will surely continue with. Additionally I’ve grown to admire and adore the people in this house, so saying bye may prove to be a bit difficult. But, we shall see. Next year’s group of ladies are fantastic beings, so expect some quality content from them.

Thanks for keeping up this semester and watch out for our last few posts,

Sam

Sustainable Straws and Events

With weekends, spring break, volunteering, and other errands, my car accumulates the trash of not only myself, but of others as well. I have one grocery bag that is a little larger than your average plastic grocery bag which collects all types of waste: trash, recyclables, and compost (even reusable items which I’ll get to in a sec.!). I’ve started to take more effort to wait until I get home to sort through my waste, which ensures that my items are being recycled, composted, reused, etc. rather than put it in any bin that claims to recycle. For example, while dunking my donuts (which means going to Dunkin’ Donuts) I use the straws that they have there, as I don’t remember to bring a straw with me the majority of the time. From these straws, I had the idea of running string/yarn through the straws running down like those beaded curtains that you put between door ways. This could be a cute idea for the sustainability house for another example, other than the bottle wall, of ways to reuse objects that would otherwise be thrown out.

Permablitz was successful and the garden is ready for the summer interns as well as for my 13th and Union events running this week. Each day this week the second graders from 13th and Union will be coming down to the garden to plant some seeds, in the hopes that the flowers will bloom in time for Mother’s Day for the kids to give their mom or guardian something nice. I’m hoping this event will run smoothly and will only improve in quality each day we do it. Along with planting the seeds, there will be a mini-garden tour if it seems right to do and their attention is captured, and there will definitely be an educational component on seed growth, compost, and other content that seems fitting.

I hope for the best and for good weather!

Renee

Connecting to Our Community: What We’ve Been Up To

sustainable city.jpgWe’ve been having a busy and thoughtful time here at the sustainability house as the end of the semester begins to rear its beautiful, ugly head. When we embarked on this year-long course of problem solving sustainable living, it became clear to us that reaching out to our campus community was of utmost importance. Having support and interest greatly affects our course because it justifies allocating us more resources and it strengthens our programs, but beyond this, we have a greater intention. We believe this is a seminal time in the lives of students, as they are beginning to live more independent lives, are being exposed to vast amounts of new information, and are beginning the journey of truly creating who they are. It is a perfect time to have them confront their unquestioned assumptions and begin developing a more informed and contemplative paradigm. The perspectives and habits developed by students at this point in their lives will be influential for years to come, and will affect how they interact with the world, engage in their careers, and even teach their kids. This is why we believe it is so important to garner an understanding of our interdependence and influence in the natural world and impart an ethic of care to our peers. We want to contribute to building a thoughtful generation that confronts the challenges of our time. Such a large part of doing that is affecting people individually and making this education fun and rewarding.

We kicked this semester off with Blake’s Sustainable Living Roundtable, a weekly discussion group about the environment and living sustainably. While we’re still developing a following, a few students are participating in this process, which for us, is always a success. Hopefully, this meaningful way of engaging with community and the environment will continue to be a tradition for the groups of house members yet to come.

Last week, Sam hosted a Baking event with delicious vegan alternatives to everyone’s favorite desserts. While mixing and baking these fun recipes, attendees were educated on the value of going vegan and resources to do so. Check out her blog post, “Vegan Baking Event & Answering ‘Why Vegan?’” to learn more about this awesome event and going vegan!

On Tuesday, we had a very interesting experience meeting with various leaders of Albright at the CSS Meeting, which is centered around missions of sustainability and stewardship. Here we presented the apex of our efforts as a house: The Sustainable Dorm Living Initiative. This is a three-part plan we have developed to help accomplish our goals of creating a more sustainably oriented student culture here at Albright. The first aspect is an addendum to the Community Living Guide, a small booklet given to every student living in a dorm. This section has a forward delineating the importance of living sustainably and Albright’s mission for students, and following this will be a number of ways students can live sustainably. Our second part is a number of infographics that will be placed in high-traffic areas of the dorms. There will be one placed in bathroom stalls with ways to conserve water in the bathroom, one going over all the rules of waste disposal and recycling placed over communal waste containers, one for conserving in the laundry room, one with a general list of lifestyle habits in the common rooms, and lastly, a small infographic for the students to place in their actual dorm rooms. We feel these are great ways to show students that Albright cares about sustainability and it gives them actual tools to start changing their lifestyles. The final aspect of our project is an event in each of the dorm buildings. With this we will be doing a craft, discussion session, and be giving away reusable water bottles and grocery bags. For us this is a great way to affect individuals and plant the seeds of transitioning to sustainability.

We’re all looking forward to Regina’s event this Sunday, the annual Spring Permablitz at the Albright Sustainable Garden. This is an opportunity for students to literally get their hands dirty, connect with the earth, and engage in sustainability with their peers. We will all be preparing the garden for a healthy and successful growing season, but what’s even better is that Renee’s 13th and Union event will also bring local elementary students in to be part of this process. During the week following the Permablitz, Renee will be leading tours of the garden for a number of classes and teaching students about agriculture and soil science, all culminating in wildflower planting in our new terraced plots. Reading is an impoverished urban city so it is always so rewarding to get these students outside and connected to the natural world, while still inside the city limits. It is our hope to not only affect our peers but also the younger generations!

To finish off the year, we’re working on a brand-new initiative to reduce the impact of end-of-the-semester move out. We’ve seen repeatedly that students will put perfectly utilizable items in the trash. Instead of letting them go to waste, we’ll be working with Goodwill to set up donation boxes at the dorms. In addition to this, we will be holding a clothing swap for all students. If they bring items they don’t want anymore, they can trade them for items other students have brought. Anything leftover will be donated to Goodwill instead of taking up landfill space!

These are some of the ways we felt would help build a more sustainable community on our campus. Let us know what you think! What do you think are some fun and effective ways to build community and encourage sustainable behavior?

 

 

By Ellen Underwood

 

Vegan Baking Event & Answering “Why Vegan?”

Hello friends,

vegan-symbol.png

Let’s talk about veganism. I only recently went vegan, deciding to transition in August of 2016 after being vegetarian since 2006. Throughout my experience in these lifestyles, I’ve found that often the word ‘vegan’ tends to have a negative connotation. People assume that vegans are pushy and judgmental (which is, of course, the case with some people as within any group), assume that vegans are limited to living off of lettuce and carrots (a slight exaggeration to actual views hopefully), and look down upon the lifestyle because (I think) it doesn’t match up with they were taught was “normal” growing up. However, after all of the knowledge I’ve gained from my environmental studies classes as well as the information I myself have attained, I’m immensely passionate about helping others learn and fight the stigmas they have been fed on a vegan lifestyle. One easy way to do that is to show the average omnivore the yummy stuff that can be made without any animal products, which is exactly what I based my event around for the semester.

I had my house event earlier today, and I thought was successful and enjoyable for those who attended. The event was Vegan Baking at the house, which I gathered would provide a good setting to open a discussion about vegetarian and vegan diets. I figured that, while environmental studies and science majors may learn about the drawbacks of animal agriculture, other students may not be aware of the extent of the issue. Even those aware may just need a push or awareness about the feasibility of cutting out animal products. This motivated me to create an event where I could get students of all majors and interests to come together and openly talk or at least think and learn about these issues.

I printed out three articles to have people skim through while we waited for people to arrive and for our yummies to bake. First and foremost, I wanted to find an article that discussed meat specifically (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/meat-and-environment/). This article discusses the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions it takes to produce meat products, the dramatic amounts of deforestation needed to provide land for livestock, the water pollution factory farms produce, and more. According to the article, meat consumption “tripled to about 600 billion pounds while population grew by 81%”, and mentioned that meat consumption was predicted to grow even more tremendously in the future. This, as many articles would agree, would put an even bigger stress on the environment and human health.

Second, I wanted to print out something easy and to the point for people to browse through, which brought me to this article (http://www.chooseveg.com/environment). This one was colorful and visual, something I figured people would appreciate. In images, it compared the amounts of energy and water used to produce soy vs. meat, it revealed that 30% of our land mass is used for animal agriculture, that 80% of deforested land is now being used for cattle pasture, etc. I found this to be the article people were looking through more than others, which I assume has something to do with the fact that it was more visual.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up the impacts of dairy specifically. I hear people question veganism by saying that products like dairy and eggs should be fine, because “they don’t harm the animal” which is arguable in itself. (Dairy cows have to be repeatedly artificially impregnated in order to produce milk and are most likely used for meat once they can’t produce milk any longer). However, even putting animal ethics aside, there are still environmental tolls that come with these animal industries. I found a New York Times article discussing the issue (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/business/energy-environment/how-growth-in-dairy-is-affecting-the-environment.html), highlighting the large amounts of pollution and how it impacts areas surrounding pastures. Greenhouse gases from feed production, manure, milk processing, and cow released methane are of a concern both locally and for the big issue of climate change. In some areas, like Riverdale which was mentioned in the article, parents are sometimes afraid to have their children play outside or invite visitors over because of the air pollution produced by nearby dairies.

That being said, these articles hopefully brought up some good and convincing points to those in attendance. For the most part, I think people were more focused on the yummy baked goods we were making! We made three of my favorite recipes for vegan brownies, chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie treats. There are specific marshmallows and chocolate chips you’ll want to look for if you want your recipe to be vegan, but often dark chocolate chips are fine. (Just read the ingredients. Or feel free to ask me for help! Internet is a helpful resource as well). I opened the floor for others to suggest baked goods to veganize, and one student suggested banana bread which turned out AMAZING! Seven students, not counting house students, came out to the event. This was honestly a perfect number for me, as I didn’t have too many people to talk over and assist. By the end of it,  some students were discussing their desires to go meatless and everyone seemed to love the recipes. Hopefully, my event lit a few sparks, helped spread the word about the ease of baking without animal products, and helped de-stigmatize the word “vegan”.

Now, have some pictures! Blake took a bunch as well, which hopefully I’ll get to share with you.

brownz

Rice Krispie Treats & Brownies (The brownie crew made a cute marshmallow heart)

bred

The delicious banana bread

If you ever want any recipes or vegan tips, feel free to just ask!

Until next time,

Sam

Who wants to talk about the Green Movement? I do!

A person reading this article, or any of the numerous other articles on here, probably have at least a passing interest in trying to live in a way that is Sustainable, or as it is commonly called, living “Green.” We at the Sustainability House on Albright Campus use the term “Sustainability” because it is more descriptive of the overall goal of the lifestyle we try to lead at our house – the goal of consuming as few resources as we can and cause as little environmental harm as possible, while also keeping up the pretense of a normal 21st century American life. Sustainability is a more useful term for House members to use amongst ourselves, but it’s a term that most of the students (and faculty) on campus are unfamiliar with. Sometimes people will take a blind guess and come quite close to the definition, but often when I explain what we do at the house, I find it more helpful to say “we are living Green,” which always elicits understanding in the friend I am talking to at the time. It was the word green, more than sustainability or conservation or ecological or any other word relating to a lifestyle geared towards preserving the environment, that became inextricably linked as the definition of the movement that it was describing.

When one thinks about it, it almost seems nonsensical – why would a color, more than any word which actually described the intention of the movement, become the most popular way to refer to that movement? And why Green, over every other color of the rainbow? Why not the blue movement? Or the red movement? Or the chartreuse for that matter? A few moments of reflection plus a quick search on Wikipedia to confirm reveals that the reason that Green is so associated with environmental movements is because it relates to the color that dominates nature (at least in this corner of the world) most – the color of chlorophyll and so plants and so the very basis of the food chain and so ecosystems. But more than that, I think that the reason Green, more than any other definition of environmental movements, has become a household phrase, is because it was chosen to be symbolic. It is better than any specific term because in handily refers a great deal of related issues without excluding any one, and it ties them all to the idea of a healthy planet – it is a shorthand for everything environmentalists strive for. That said, a few years back, when environmentalism was getting widespread media attention and became something at center stage in popular culture, initiatives to win over people to the cause coined the phrase “Go Green!” Alliteration and symbolism -a match made in heaven if there ever was one.

The point of this ramble is that “Green” became the shorthand for environmentalism because it was a moniker that could resonate with people on a deeper level and appeal to them in a way that more academic terminology couldn’t, and because of that for a time, just as nature is good in the popular mindset, the Green movement was too. Unless you were specifically against it, you were with it, it was taken as writ that it was something to get behind, and really I don’t think anyone could possibly say that nature is bad in this day and age, unless they are really paranoid about getting eaten by a tiger. I remember that things then felt like a real movement, like finally society was going to tackle the problems we had inflicted on the world. Turns out that was fad. In a few years, the Green movement ran its course and people went back to indifference. After that, people like us at the House and just about anyone reading this article, became something less than activists in the public eye – we became fans. Just like every other fad that came and went, from disco to video arcades to those weird rubber bands that look like animals, there were a few left behind who really liked what was said at the time and didn’t move on. We don’t deserve to be looked at like that, but more than that, humanity doesn’t deserve to look at sustainability like that. Conservation isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle, an ambition we hold for society, and the path that everyone on Earth is going to have to walk because, more than anything, it is the solution to human failure to plan ahead and realize the importance of restraint.

Playing Devil's Advocate to Win

The Green movement got people excited, but failed to follow through, and even worse, it marginalized Sustainability. We at the House have been fighting all semester against this disinterest, because we aren’t just fans, we the experts, the people who not only want to live sustainably, but that realize that the whole world will benefit from living sustainably, and the ones in a position to actually foster that belief in others. For anyone who wants to live sustainably, it is going to have to be a part of that lifestyle to also be a missionary – to convince people not only of the validity of this lifestyle, but the need for it. Ultimately, today, living Green is looked at as something like any other interest – he likes videogames, she likes sports, he likes living green. It’s not disdained, but it’s not in the mainstream. To anyone reading this, I say congratulations -congratulations on maintaining the will to live this lifestyle even as culture dismisses its relevancy exactly when it becomes a necessity in reality. Living sustainably, or ecologically, or “green” is not a hobby, it’s practice that society needs to adopt to survive the amount of damage that has already been done to the world, and if we really, really want, as members of this movement, to help the world (and that’s what we’re all here for, right?) then more than anything, we have to be convinced that we know what we are doing is right, and to convince everyone else too. So have a conversation today (or tomorrow if you are reading this as late as I am typing this) about Green with someone you respect and who respects you, because the best way to make a movement larger, is to trust people enough, as intelligent people, to see the same reasons we have for living how we do, if we get intelligent people to think about it. After all, if we could see enough reason to read Sustainability blogs on the internet, then something must be compelling enough about Going Green for anyone to get involved.

And thanks to anyone for getting this far. I really could have been more eloquent, but I really just hope you take home the conviction to start reaching out to folks, and start seeing things from their point of view.

Electricity Now

Hello valued readers,

My focus this month is about electricity reduction. We all know we should turn out the lights when we leave a room… Electricity isn’t only consumed when you turn something on or off, it’s also surging through the appliances and chargers we leave idle. So if you’d like to save more money, take that extra step to unplug the microwave or your phone charger after use.

Another point I’d like to address is our dependence upon electricity and the detriment it causes on our mental and physical health. We are becoming more aware of the impact our phones or televisions can have towards our sleep patterns. Doctors advise the latter to be turned off for about 30 minutes prior to rest. So if you are having problems going to bed at night or staying asleep, adjust your nightly habits accordingly.

Lastly, I must stress the use of natural lighting vs electricity… Use as much daylight as you can! Not only would you be saving money, you would undoubtedly be saving yourself a headache/migraine at the end of the day. As a student, I know how crippling florescent lights can be at exhausting periods of time. This is why I enjoy natural light (and remember Thoreau and Walden?).

Image result for thoreau quotes nature

Until next time,

R. Whitfield