Energy Usage When Being Sustainable

Watching the sustainability house grow can be a very enlightening thing to see and take part in. My chore for this the month of November was to observe the energy usage of the sustainability house. I did this by looking at the data an efergy meter presented to me that was hooked up to our energy.

This meter was actually very helpful, and it even goes as far as showing the price in energy that the house costed each week.

What is a efergy meter?

An efergy meter is a small white box that can be hooked up to the house to show the data for the energy usage of the house. It is very helpful because not only does it show the amount of energy the house is using, but it shows how much it cost us weekly to use that energy. It is a very enlightening tool to have in your home and you can compete with yourself to try and have lower energy intake each month. If interested, you can find the products of efergy here: https://efergy.com/home/

So, why does it matter?

Well, living in the sustainability house means being sustainable, right? We try and compete with ourselves as I had mentioned previously and improve our numbers each month. Although one might think, what can do to conserve energy other than unplugging chargers and appliances and turning off the lights, there is much more!

What you can do! 

As I said before, yes, you can unplug your appliances and focus on the lights, but you can develop more habits to help conserve energy. Some of these being to hang dry your clothing. This can conserve much energy in the long run and can help elastics in your clothing last longer as a bonus. Another thing you can do is focus on not leaving the fridge open when you are grabbing something from it, just get what you need and run. Not only can you improve by adopting certain habits, but you can buy appliances that will help as well. You can buy ecofriendly light bulbs, and set timers on heaters to turn off when you are sleeping.

One of the main house goals we set is to try and impact the people around us more than previous years. Please let us know if you will be trying any new ways to conserve energy, or if you have any new ideas on what the sustainability house can do! Opinions are always welcome!

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This Millennial is going Minimalist!

Others: “Minimalism is just a fad”

Me: FIRST OF ALL, its actually helping our planet; if you do it right.

Minimalism is a practice of only purchasing or owning what one needs; in other words, the art of owning the bare minimum. It reduces purchasing single-use plastics, and feeding into the trap of consumerism. I am currently attempting to live a complete minimalist lifestyle since it seems easy on paper, but oh its way harder than you think!

Before I began my slow-moving journey, I watched a couple of videos on YouTube and Buzzfeed to see how other millennials who are rocking social media do it. They all basically got rid of their unneeded clothes, products, and junk and brought themselves to square one of the process: making low-waste decisions. One thing I noticed was that a lot of them ended up practically throwing away everything, which created a huge hole in their goal: producing more waste into landfills.

I, the owner of a ton of high school T-shirts, beauty products, candles, teas, and old clothes, didn’t want to just throw it all away and still be useless. Instead, I looked at what I absolutely needed, wanted, couldn’t really donate, could donate without a second thought, and didn’t want to go to a complete stranger. I began with my huge collection of unused artisan soaps and Bath and Body Works products. Realizing it would take years to use everything up and not wanting to hold onto all of it, I posted on Facebook that I was willing to either sell or just give them away. An old high school acquaintance who has a growing child happily took them off my hands. Then, I shoved everything I wasn’t attached to in a big box to be taken to a consignment shop and GoodWill. The things I loved but didn’t need I gave to friends who I know would appreciate them.

The trick was finding out what to do with my T-shirts from high school, since I couldn’t really donate them or give them away due to them having the clubs I was in or my name on them. I decided to make a quilt out of them instead, because you can never have too many blankets! They are currently in a box waiting for me to take them on during my winter break.

The other hard part of this whole process is using up my beauty products, since no one wants used makeup or hair products. I want to purchase new items all of the time because they either smell amazing or they have new colors, formulas, finishes, and everything a girl can want. So, I took up Project Pan: a trend that started on YouTube that encourages using up every little bit of one’s products before purchasing new items. This concept seems easy, but you try not having to buy that new state-of-the-art fishing rod until your old one breaks, or the like. Its difficult! But, not buying anything until you completely used what you have teaches you to appreciate your belongings a little more. What to do when I finally use up everything? Hit up Pinterest and get crafty, of course!

I know this is rather long, but what I want people to get out of this is that helping to save the planet is a process that can take up a lot of time. It took me a whole summer to finally get rid of things I don’t need in an environmentally friendly way, and I’m no where near to being done yet. Also, you really need to get creative with how you reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can make something entirely new like a clock with bottle caps and an old broken umbrella (a project I have in mind) or make someone’s day by giving them an article of clothing that meant a lot to you or things that everyone literally needs like soap! Reduce your carbon footprint, but make that impact YOURS.

Keepin’ it green,

Veronica Rutecky

Saving Electricity.. it’s so simple

Hello All,

     I’m Jada Parris and I am studying Environmental Studies and Spanish. Currently I am living in the Sustainability House which has been very rewarding to me. I live with four other people whom are also very interested in living in a sustainable manner and being more aware of the amount of resources and energy a person uses everyday.

I have been looking into electricity and how much of it is used in homes and buildings, and the numbers are indeed scary sometimes. In many households, plugs are left in the socket all the time. I believe that it is an unconscious habit that people have and don’t really think much about. One easy way to save on electric is by unplugging appliances whenever you aren’t using them. Another great tip is to put timers on things such as televisions at night time so the tv isn’t watching you while you sleep.

Pennsylvania is number 32 in electricity use in the United States. Most of the electricity is used on heating in homes. Depending on where you are, electricity can be dispersed differently. A small challenge for your household is to see how many sockets will you begin to unplug when they are not in use? (excluding appliances such as the refrigerator)

Our Water Morality

Hello again! My name is Regina Whitfield; I was a house member of the Sustainability House last year and have returned a final year!

Like last September, I have once more focused upon water and its’ use within our home. And, rather than blog about ways one can change or reduce water use, I will instead discuss water on a local and more relative level.

Over the summer, I had the unique opportunity to work at Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC). For those who don’t know, this is a leading, freshwater research facility located in Avondale, PA (along the PA-DE border). It was established in 1967,  when W.B. Dixon and Joann Stroud were urged by Ruth Patrick to dedicate an entire facility for the study of our water- this was around the time that Clean Water Act came into play.  Today, SWRC is shared by many scientists who work (live) to preserve our local waters. Departments include: Geochemistry, Education, Entomology, Restoration, etc.

Myself and peer students, from other colleges, spent our summer in the Entomology department! Here, we sorted through stream samples that had been collected from several sites, in the Delaware Basin watershed, during the spring. We viewed these samples under a dissecting microscope and picked out a minimum of 220 benthic macro-invertebrates (aka bugs that live under water). Certain species present within a sample were bio-indicators of a healthy water body (Mayfly, Ephemeroptera;  Stonefly, Plecoptera; Caddisfly, Trichoptera). After about 8 weeks, we crunched the numbers and presented our findings to the Stroud community.

Our findings were reflective of the restoration efforts Stroud had consistently worked for over the years. Some sites are consistently healthy, like the White Clay Creek, while other sites decreased significantly towards poor health. Because believe it or not, just because the Clean Water Act is in place, doesn’t mean that people know (or care).

For instance, SWRC is located around plenty of horse farms. These farms often have a small stream running through that cattle often muck up. The River Continuum Concept says that whatever happens upstream, affects everything down stream (or trophic relay). And sometimes it’s too much money to fix what is broken, but most times it’s the lack of education that could have prevented these situations entirely.

This is where departments like Restoration educate and collaborate with local farmers. Meanwhile, Education teaches children in grade school about the importance and aspects of water (which is fantastic, we should be teaching our youth)!

I’m very happy to have learned and worked at SWRC. It was incredible to see a group of people be involved with their community and be passionate in their mission for the protection of our waters.

I hope this discussion will help with our ideals concerning water. Because if it’s out of sight, it’s also definitely out of mind (consider how water comes out of the faucet and right down the drain). Perhaps we can take a moment to learn about local watershed(s) and hardcore restoration efforts (i.e. Schuylkill River), then when we pass by a stream or a river, we simply can’t ignore our impact.

Burn Bans and Trash Cans

If you come from a relatively urban area like me, you would be more than familiar with the term “burn ban” and the annoyance of not being able to burn your trash for the week. For those who aren’t aware, a burn ban is a wildfire prevention method administered by townships that enforces the public to go a few days refraining from fire-related activities; and includes everything from campfires to burning household garbage. Burn bans are also relative to public health.

People who burn their trash usually do so because it is more efficient for them get rid of their waste. It is commonly thought by those who burn that it is okay because now their trash isn’t going to a landfill. It turns out that burning household waste does more harm than good.

When trash is burned, paper or cardboard products, food waste, plastic materials, and other organic waste turn into emissions that pollute the air. More importantly, these emissions are freely going into the air without any form of filtration or treatment. These pollutants can cause health problems such as nausea, rashes, heart, and lung problems. The environment is also at risk because the toxins that are released into the air can get in waterways and crops, thus harming our health even further.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that burning garbage releases dioxins that are harmful to the air and waterways and that these toxins are only produced once burned. They claim that burn barrels produce higher dioxin levels due to their tendency to hold smaller amounts of oxygen. Industrial incinerators have to follow regulations administered by the EPA in order to reduce and prevent emissions.

It is important to learn how to appropriately get rid of wastes in a safe and sustainable manner. The best way to reduce the amount of trash in landfills is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To all of you who also dread the local burn bans, I advise to praise them instead because your overall community will greatly appreciate it in the long run!

Keepin’ it green,

Veronica Rutecky

Albright Class of 2020

Environmental Science Major

Get Acquainted With Me!

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

This quote from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax will always be one of my all-time favorite quotes because no words could be truer. Originating from the little town of Minersville in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, I’m well aware of the environmental impacts a community can impose. Firstly, we have orange creeks from acid mine drainage. Second, we have significant amounts of farmland. Thirdly, Smokey Bear is literally our best friend. I realized that I wanted to do something to fix our environmental problems and help preserve our natural resources, so I decided to major in environmental sciences at Albright College.

I’m currently a sophomore, so I’ll graduate in 2020. For the 2017-2018 school year, I am living in Albright’s Sustainability House, which is a campus house that is dedicated to living as sustainably as possible as a college student. I decided to take up the challenge because  I can utilize what I learn for my future as well as to teach others how to be a neighbor of Mother Nature.

Gas Use: What Can We Do?

Hello all! My name is Anna Sheridan, I am a sophomore at Albright College studying environmental science. Since arriving on campus my freshman year, the sustainability house always intrigued me. I knew I wanted to be a part of something a little bit bigger than dorm life and be around people who share the same interests and concerns as me. Those two reasons (among others) are the reasons I am living in the house today! For this month, I was assigned monitoring of gas and water use for the house. So without further ado, let’s talk about gas!

It is next to impossible this day and age to go without the use of natural gas. It is used in virtually everything, from powering our vehicles, to warming our homes in the winter, and even cooking food! Natural gases are known as un-renewable resources, meaning that we consume them faster than they can be produced. This creates a problem for our environment, since environments are destroyed in order to obtain these gases. So, what can we do to limit our use of natural gases and what are other alternatives?

Let’s start with something simple, carpooling! Carpooling with friends or co-workers is a great way to limit the amount of gas we use, and you get to enjoy a car ride with company! Another way we can limit our usage is during the winter, try not to blast your house with heat. I know that can be uncomfortable at times, but try to set your thermostat 5 degrees lower during the winter months and bundle up with blankets. Not only will you be saving the planet, but you will be saving money as well!

I’ll be honest and say that gas usage is not something that is always on my mind, but I do try to think about how much I am consuming. Sometimes all it takes is a conscious mind, and remember, every action helps when you’re trying to save the planet!

Until next time,

Anna Sheridan