Category Archives: community service

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

 

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

Spreading the Compost Around!

Throughout this semester we have attempted to reach out to the campus community in a variety of ways. With the Permablitz, we engaged students in a service learning, community building volunteer project. This November, the Get Out the Vote Rally attracted a diverse range of students in a socially active and environmentally spirited event. The 13th and Union Tree tours engaged the younger generation with the environment. The Sustainability House Round Table engaged interested students in an intimate conversation about sustainability. With my event for the semester, I chose to make an impact with other students living in and around campus in houses.

And what might you ask is a fun and easy way to engage students in sustainable living? What else but composting! With 33 million tons of food wasted in the US every year, which results in concentrated release of harmful methane and takes up increasingly valuable space, composting is an easy way to reduce this unnecessary pressure. Even better, it produces a super rich, healthy soil additive to grow your own produce! Growing your own produce shifts dependence away from the harmful industrial agriculture system, promotes healthier lives, and connects people with the earth. Its a beautiful thing to share with people, so I set out to get my friends and colleagues involved!

Image result for compostI got 5 gallon paint buckets and put the dos and don’ts of composting right on the lid for ease of use and from there went knocking on doors! Of the 12 houses contacted, only 5 were willing to participate but I still feel getting even one person to start composting that wasn’t before is a step in the right direction. I met with one individual from each of these households, we reviewed the rules, and I gave them a sheet to hang in their kitchen with more specific rules. The excitement from those who participated was heartwarming and it showed me the value of reaching out to individuals to create the environmental change we need in the world.

We have decided to keep this event “open” by advertising the ability for houses to start composting by contacting me for a meeting. Hopefully this way, the word can keep spreading, we can get more and more people to compost, and those who participate will carry this habit into the rest of their life, share it with their children, and create a cascade of positive change.

The rules are easy! Find yourself a bucket that closes and keep it in your house or on your porch. Then throw in browns and greens. If you get a 50-50 mixture of browns and greens, your compost will never get smelly and the compost it creates with be wonderfully nutrient rich! Create a pile in your backyard or put it in a compost turner, turn the pile with a pitchfork once a week, and it a number of months, you’ll have gold! Here’s the easy layout of the do’s and don’ts of composting:

Can Be Composted

Greens (Nitrogen Sources)

  • Fruits and vegetables (whole or scraps)
  • Plants/Plant prunings
  • Eggshells (crushed)Image result for vegetables
  • Coffee/tea grounds
  • Essentially, any plant material

Browns (Carbon Sources)

  • Paper (shredded/ripped)
  • Cardboard/cardstock (shredded/ripped)
  • Leaf waste, straw, wood/sticks

Can’t be composted

  • Meat/bones
  • Dairy (milk, eggs, cheese)
  • Oil
  • bread/pasta
  • Cooked foods

With all of these events, I feel we have reached out on campus in an effective manner to start building a culture of sustainable thinking on campus. Have any ideas of other ways we can affect positive change? Let us know in the comment section below!

Weird Weather and Funky Feats

Hello All,

Thanksgiving is coming up and the weather is getting colder and colder, with the occasional 70˚F weather with snow, rain, and lightning later on in the same day. We’ve managed to keep the thermostat at 65˚F on auto so the house can manage itself with this fluctuating weather. Hopefully cheaply, we’re planning on implementing more carpets into the house to add some warmth to it, at least on the floor. A challenge for the house will be how to keep the cold out of the house from the windows.

Image result for tofurky

(A tofurky in honor of Samantha Colombo)

The house has worked together to follow through with the new flushing method (If it’s yellow, let it mellow) and we have seen less flushes and less water being used in the house. We have made it a goal to include and encourage guests in using our method as well as long as they’re okay with it. Hopefully we can see even more of a decrease from last month’s water usage.

On a fun note, we have started some house projects which involve painting and organizing! We hope to finish a 3D leaf project for a painted tree already in the house which will look amazing. To accomplish this, the housemates have been collecting leaves from the ground with their fall colors and froze them in the freezer to preserve their color and shape. Blake had some leaves in the freezer which prompted a conversation, as they were for one of his personal projects, which in turn gave me the idea to use real leaves to finish the tree painting in our house.

Image result for fall leaves of different colors

For next semester, I’d like to see the house make and use DIY laundry detergent, fabric softener, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and whatever else to reduce waste and save money.

Image result for diy laundry toothpasteImage result for diy laundry detergent

Happy Holidays,

Renee Gares

 

 

Picture Credit:
http://www.ilovevegan.com/how-to-cook-a-tofurky-roast/
https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=125511
https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-toothpaste/
http://www.lifealittlebrighter.com/2013/07/diy-laundry-detergent/

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 Fine Start Toward Living Sustainable

Hi There Friends,

My name is Renee Gares and I am a junior at Albright College living in the sustainability house this year. My majors are biology and Spanish, yet I am not quite sure what my future holds for me career-wise. Gina and I were already living here over the summer as garden interns, so we’re pretty familiar with the house already. With the exception of air conditioning because it was summer time, Gina and I managed to live sustainably as we composted, showered with the timer on to limit ourselves to six minutes or less, and washed larger loads of laundry. I, along with my housemates, continue to do these habits as we’re living in the house now along with plenty of other sustainable methods.

At first it was challenging to wait until a large load of laundry was dirty in order to clean it. It’s best to wash clothes in larger quantities to save on water and you should always wash on cold unless you need warmer water for a stain, whites, or whatever it may be. I’ve gotten better with this and only wash in large loads and sometimes even do laundry with Gina my roommate.

During the end of summer and the beginnings of fall, we opened many windows and doors to allow a current to flow through the house, cooling it down. Air conditioning uses a lot of energy and is expensive to run, so this was a quick solution to a hot or warm day.

For our ant problem during the summer and the beginning of the semester, Gina and I found some additional methods to get rid of them compared to harsh chemicals. We found out that ants don’t like lemons or cinnamon, and sprinkled and spritzed that around the kitchen. Eventually, the ants were gone and we still use lemons and cinnamon in our house to ward off ants.

In the kitchen, our house has also cooked some “family dinners” which limits the amount of gas used to cook, water used to wash dishes, and grocery items that could potentially be wasted. We compost any food scraps that we can to put in our compost bins out back to make soil for the next growing season. It’s fascinating watching things that used to be cardboard or a corn husk turn into nutrient-rich soil.

It’s simple to live sustainably, it just takes a conscious effort to follow through with it. The environment keeps me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing and I will definitely carry out these practices from the sustainability house into my future home.

I hope to report back with fun reflections of our events and other things we do in the house!

Renee

 

A Year in Review

Hi there!

Happy Spring everyone, and soon enough it will be Summer because it is right around the corner!! As you already know, this semester is coming to a close before we know it! Therefore, I would like to reflect on how much I have changed and grown into a more sustainable person living here at the Sustainability House. Upon move – in, I can honestly say I was probably one of the most unsustainable person coming into this house. By this, I mean that I used to take very very long showers, always left lights on even when I wasn’t in the room and didn’t know too much about the 3 R’s (reducing, reusing and recycling). The only thing I ever did recycle was plastic bottles. I always had reusable shopping bags but I would always forget them at home. When it came to reusing things, I just didn’t. However, I was ready to change my ways of living and to learn about the issues that we are causing to our own environment. I was ready to find out new things and to pass it on to friends, family and future generations as an education major.

My journey had begun very quickly when I learned how short of a shower I needed to take. However, I went from taking at least twenty minute showers at home, to taking between a four to seven-minute shower and sometimes even less than that! I never would have thought that I would be able to shower that quickly!  Next on my journey, I learned how much energy is being used when you do not turn a light off or unplug things when you are done with them by seeing our Efergy meter numbers which calculate the amount of energy being used all day long. I also became the person in the house who would run around the house turning lights off if they were left on.

Following this, my new housemates had given me a lesson about recycling. This consisted of what I can and cannot recycle. We even put recycling rules up on the refrigerator as a reminder. This became very helpful in the first couple of weeks of living here.  By the end of the fall semester, I was able to recycle more things then I ever would have thought of myself. I was even given the opportunity of passing on my newly found knowledge about recycling to the Kindergarten Class at the Albright Early Learning Center and 13th and Union Elementary School. I can honestly say that this was such an amazing opportunity to show these children that what we do in our everyday lives really influences the environment so we need to begin to reduce, reuse and recycle to help the environment rather than hurting it.

Looking back on how I was in the beginning prior to move in, and looking at how I am today, almost at the end of the year, I am a completely different person. The Sustainability House has changed me into a person who is more aware of the damage I was causing to the environment. I cannot wait to pass on all of the things I have learned over the past year.

 ~Jess~