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

 

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