Category Archives: local

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

 

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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

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

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

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

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