Author Archives: samanthacolombo001

About samanthacolombo001

Environmentalist, feminist, passionate vegan & student

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!

almo

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.

worko

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

Advertisements

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

New Year, New Semester

Hi reader friends,

The bunch of us are back to take on the new semester after very eventful breaks. Personally, I explored a lot of vegan restaurants, cooked & hiked a lot and did my share of political action against our new white house administration, which you may know is not the most environmentally geared administration.(Women’s March on NYC  & Paterson Great Falls National Park

16358932_1581277881887332_1247093264_n.jpg

Paterson Great Falls National Park (1/10/17)

pictured below) 

manchild2.jpg

Women’s March on NYC (1/21/17)

Three housemates were able to study abroad as well, which I’m sure they would love to elaborate on individually.

When most of us arrived back on Sunday the 22nd, our heat was broken which left us shivering for two nights straight, but I mean at least we saved gas, right???? No, it was bad. But eventually it WAS fixed and we are back to freezing a bit less. Even with the heat functioning, there’s still some work to be done in the house, which is incredibly drafty. Up in mine and Ellen’s room, the windows let in a lot of cold air. I attempted to close up the AC by taping a folded blanket around it, and after checking in on it about a second ago I’ve noticed that the blanket has already fallen off. So, I’m gonna have to try again at that or think of something else. Ideally, I’d like to take the AC out for the winter, that way there’s much less room for drafts. Even with that, we need to work on insulation.

We’ve had our first meeting as a house already, where we have set big goals and I have already noticed our renewed determination. In our efforts to reduce waste and increase compost, we have been paying more attention to the packaging we buy when out grocery shopping. While out yesterday with Renee, she helped keep me on track and we made sure to minimize the non-recyclable or compostable waste we were bringing into the house. Another idea for a similar purpose was to have communal paper waste box downstairs that Gina could take to get shredded at her job, to then be used at compost. This became an idea because of all of the leftover papers we have from last semester and our desire not to add them to our amounts of waste.

Other than that, there’s not much to discuss yet since it is so early on. I’m taking two scheduled classes, three including the course credit from living in the House, so I’ve got plenty of more time this semester than I did last. It will be interesting to see how much more time I will be able to devote to the house all things considered. I’m excited for the events we will be hosting this semester as well, as I’ll be ideally hosting a vegan baking session with facts on environmental benefits of eating less animal based and how to accomplish that as a college student with limited food options. Now that we have formed bonds and mutual respect in the house, I think we will have an even more successful semester this time around.

I’ll keep you posted,

Sam

 

 

Sustainable Politics

Since we last met…

Hi again! It’s Sam.  Not much has changed since I last wrote in terms of the state of the house. Still struggling a bit with the showers, but haven’t had any nightmares about housemates despising me again.

In terms of planning as a house, we have gotten a lot accomplished. Two of our events have already been completed (including mine which I will share about). Blake’s is going to be later this week, the 10th so that will make 3. Additionally, last week a few of us went out to the college’s faculty sustainability committee meeting to learn a bit about options for solar energy on our campus, which I think would totally be an incredible idea.

my-event

Get Out The Vote

As I mentioned, my event for the semester is done! At the beginning of the semester, the housemates and I were brainstorming a rally that would get the campus talking about climate change and politics, which are two things people often hesitate to talk about. Political action is one of my favorite things, which is why we decided I would run the rally event. I spent two summers canvassing with groups like Environment New Jersey and NJPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) for environmental and public health issues, I volunteered with the Bernie campaign during primary season while running the ‘Albright Feels the Bern” group on campus, and now I’m Albright’s fellow for NextGen Climate, a political action group that is working to get people, especially millennials, out to vote for candidates who believe in climate change. Considering these connections, I knew that I could pull together a great collaborative event.

The event was held at the pond on November 2nd, which was a freakishly nice day might I add. (Could we thank climate change for that? Maybe. But considering the nature of the event, let’s not.) Next Gen and my housemates were the main helpers with this event, supplying me the hands for setting up the event and the food to appease the hungry students. The event was set up to be a night of performances and talk about the importance of voting for climate champions this election, which is exactly what it ended up being.

In between performances from Albright’s a cappella groups and Hot Dad Calendar (a band of friends on campus), people from all stretches of political involvement had a chance to talk. Members from the Sustainability House explained what we do and how to vote with the environment in mind, as did a staff member from NextGen Climate. Maria McDonnell from the English department was actually able to make it and gave a short speech about how important voting is as a civic duty. Besides that, I had presidents of both Albright’s National Organization for Women and Albright’s PSEA chapter come speak about their groups individual vested interests in this election. At the end, once all the performances were done, I opened up the floor for students to come up and share as well.

I was running a fever that day so I was kind of just rushing to get it over with so I could run to bed, take NyQuil and sleep my fever out, but just about everyone who commented on the event told me that it was a success. Members of the house were impressed, as were my bosses at NextGen, so I’m glad that I was able to bring the community together for what I deem to be such an important event.

Voting for “Sustainability”

All of that being said, I’d like to invite anyone who may be reading this to go out to the polls on Tuesday and vote for the environment. Make sure the candidates you are voting for 1. believe in climate change (Yes, some still don’t), and 2. have some sort of plan to combat climate change. (surprisingly, many still don’t.) Living sustainably as individuals is important, but it is even more important that we vote to change the country into a more environmentally country that takes climate change seriously.

Promise, I won’t be so political next time,

Sam

my-event2

A Few Weeks In…

14466462_1430557270292728_214094566_oHello all,

A few weeks in, and I’ve only had one nightmare about all of my new housemates despising me.

But on more of a relevant note, my name is Samantha Colombo… Or, most refer to me simply as Sam. As of recent, I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Women and Gender Studies. I’m both shocked and relieved that I have managed to make it to senior year in one piece, but here I am. Now, I want to take some space in this post to give a little background on myself, as well as reflect on 1. my initial fears coming into this project and 2. how I feel it has been going so far.

Most of my life growing up, I was clueless about both the environment and the many issues revolving around it. I spent some time in nature, but would much rather curl up by my PlayStation playing Spyro than read or help my parents with their gardening and yard work. I think my first step into the world of sustainability was when I made the decision to become a vegetarian in 6th or 7th grade from exposure to Peta2 volunteers at the concerts and music festivals I would go to, and I’ve been vegetarian ever since.

Even so, I’ve come an incredibly long way since middle school. Fast-forward to now, you have a plant-obsessed vegan sustainability house member, former two year e-board member of the Environmental Campus Outreach club at Albright, former and present activist. From this description it may seem like I have nothing to worry about moving into the house, but much like most college students raised in capitalist America, I’ve got plenty of work to do.

My biggest fears coming into the house had to do with showers and air conditioning. Although I had shortened my showers from 40-60 minute showers freshman year to a much less drastic average 15 minute shower, I knew I was going to have to sacrifice my precious shower time even more.  Additionally, I just love being freezing when I sleep. I love blasting the air and becoming an immobile blanket creature. As you can imagine, that probably is not one of my most sustainable behaviors. I realized that too, which made me nervous when the time to move in got closer. Other than that, I was mostly excited to learn ways to further my desire to learn a sustainable lifestyle.

Now it’s almost October and I’ve been here for a month learning the ropes. Much to my surprise, I still get to use air conditioning like your average person. I have been more mindful than I may have been otherwise, but lately it has been cool enough to just have the window open for my ideal amount of sleep chilliness. As for showering… it has been a challenge. From my first shower in the house, I learned that there was a lovely little timer that turns the water to the lowest water pressure setting after five minutes. Basically my shower options are learn how to shower within five minutes, leave the shower at five minutes with conditioner still in my hair, or stand in the shower for 10 minutes longer trying to wash out the rest of my conditioner with what seems like the lowest water pressure in the world. Currently I’ve been striving for the first option, but I’m not quite there yet. I shower around three times a week, but since I skip most days I have a big job to do the days I actually decide to shower, so I’ve resorted to applying my shampoo to my hair pre-shower. This way, the second I get in I can immediately wet and lather my ridiculously knotty and long hair which saves a bit of time. I have faith that one day I’ll master this task, but it gets more difficult the cooler it gets outside. I’ll keep you updated on that!

So far, I’ve found learning about composting the most fascinating. I would help my dad compost at home over the summer, but composting at the sustainability house is so much more legit. I’m sure I will have a lot to show my dad next time I make my way home to New Jersey. Otherwise, I’ve been having a great time getting to know the lovely people in the house, discussing our personal goals and desires with one another, and planning ahead for what should pan out to be an eventful year.

Also I am happy to report that, as far as I can tell, my housemates do not despise me outside of my one nightmare

Until next time,

Sam