Category Archives: seeds

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!

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

 

Spreading Sustainable Living: Insights from Life at the Albright Sustainability House

What kinds of approaches and challenges are there when attempting to establish sustainable homes, centers, and communities? To me, living sustainably is not just a matter of acting sustainably, it’s about building strong relationships that utilize everyone’s unique talents and cultivating community that creates and enriches the long-term goals of sustainability: creating a world that is viable now and in the future. This in itself requires a deeper look at the ways in which we can and should build community structures based around sustainability and the challenges of doing so. If we wanted to spread “sustainability houses” across our community or even in general, how does our experience here in the house help? Looking at the approaches, successes, and challenges experienced in the sustainability house provides important perspectives to consider when spreading visions of sustainable living. We have developed a number of ways of creating and maintaining a successful, harmonious, and effective communal sustainability structure, albeit not without its imperfections and questions of application in “the real world.”
We do a number of things that work very well. First, we have a house manager that serves as a central source of organizing activities, behaviors, requirements, and events. While there is this form of central leadership, each member of the house serves as a “council member,” where everyone has an equal and democratic say in what we decide to do. We have weekly meetings to discuss steps forward, challenges, and changes that need addressing, as well as to collectively work on group projects. We (as we’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts) have also created a chalkboard wall in the kitchen to serve as reminders of upcoming events and assignments and designed info-graphics for sustainability tips in each common room of the house. We also have 5 people here each with different skill sets and interests. Our majors range from environmental studies, environmental science, education, marine aquatics, philosophy, and political science. Instead of focusing on purely environmental sustainability approaches, we encourage the participation of everyone’s unique paradigms to inform and enrich our approach to sustainability. And really, environmentalism in itself is a topic that must be approached from all of these angles and more. These aspects of our home make for an effective way of ensuring that we meet our goals of sustainability, hold each other accountable and keep each other driven, continually progress and evolve in our activities, and overall create a successful program and better world.
All of these approaches provide valuable examples of ways in which effective sustainable homes through open, communal structures can be created. This is not to say this is the only way, but from this experience, I believe that approaches that only address required sustainable behavior for individuals that leaves everyone to their own devices not only leaves more room for people to not fulfill their requirements, but also falls short of what living sustainably should really mean. Living sustainably in a singular pocket is not sustainability because it does not actively work towards a more sustainable world. Yes, singular changes in behavior is important, but the challenge of sustainability is getting many to live this way – we must actively change the world or else the big changes needed will never happen. We at the house are not only modifying our own behaviors, we are also actively engaging in projects and community outreach that actively works towards creating a better world. We give tours of our house and our community garden to the local elementary school and local summer programs. We go to the local elementary school to do environmental education programs. We hold events on campus to get more students active in environmentalism and sustainable behavior. We write this blog and have created a social media presence to show what we are doing and spread the joys and challenges of this experience. I believe that any group working towards building communal sustainability must think beyond their immediate surroundings and become an active member of the sustainability movement.
While we do a number of things that I find to be integral to creating a successful and true sustainable home, the success our situation is not entirely applicable to widespread creation of other sustainable homes. In living here, we have incentive to do things for many reasons. We are living as part of a program on our college campus – our work in this house counts as course credit so we are graded and given a number of assignments we must complete. All of us applied to live in the house out of mutual and predisposed interest in sustainability. We receive (some) funding from the college to do our projects. While this is a great program that is beneficial for many parties, it exposes the challenge of how to have programs and homes like this in “the real world.” Where is the incentive for the average citizen to live in a sustainable house (whether than means converting their own home or joining a group)? It requires sacrifices, money, and active work. One must always be checking their habits as they go about their daily routine. Installing compostable toilets and solar panels is vastly expensive. Constantly engaging in activism and community outreach requires extensive work and time. Without say, a college program, government funding/incentives, or truly dedicated environmentalists, creating sustainable homes and communities is quite the challenge. But – that’s why what we do here is so important – those of us truly dedicated to the environment and/or those of us with the privilege to be a part of a college program, must always attempt to lead the way. Our lifestyles, projects, and communal outreach must serve as positive examples, shining beacons, inspiring alternatives to the status-quo.

Join the conversation – comment below and add your two cents! What are successful ways of creating communal structures based around sustainability? What do you think people must do and be in order to be truly sustainable? How do we spread sustainable living? How do we make sustainable living appealing to the average citizen? How do we fund these projects?

Reduce,Reuse,Recycle

Hi Everyone!!

As the semester is slowly dwindling down, all of the housemates are starting to become busier as the days go by. However, we have officially taught our K-Cup planter lesson to the kindergarten class at the Albright Early Learning Center last Tuesday.

Our lesson was a big success and the students absolutely loved making the K-cup planters. During our lesson, we introduced recycling by playing a song about what to do in order to reduce, reuse and recycle which can also be referred to as the “Three R’s.” After the video, we talked to the students about things they can do at home to reduce, reuse and recycle. The students came up with taking shorter showers, recycling bottles once you are done and turning the lights off once you leave the room. It was great to see that a lot of the students had a prior knowledge about the “Three R’s.” From there we went into creating the K-Cup planters. We asked the students what they thought a K-Cup was and a lot of them knew that it was used to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate. We then showed them a new one that had not been used and then showed them our K-Cup that we had taken apart and recycled.

After making the K-Cup planters we went over how to properly care for our squash that we had just planted. Always make sure you keep them in the sun and water it everyday! The students were very excited to bring the planters home to show their parents. Once we were done with the planters, we moved on and created a “Three R’s” booklet with them. On this booklet, we introduced what a compost is, how to use it , what the recycling sign looks like and what color the recycling bins usually are. A lot of the students knew what a compost was and said that they use them at home. It’s amazing to see such young students so fascinated with how to reduce, reuse and recycle. Overall, the students learned a lot about what and how to recycle and how we can reduce the amount of energy being used and how to reuse things like a K-Cup.

It is so important to teach younger children about the “Three R’s” because they are our future. The children we teach today are the ones who can save, help or hurt the environment by the way they live. By teaching children how to do these tasks, we are giving them a responsibility. The responsibility to help the environment. However, we also need to show the children what happens when people do not recycle. By showing the children the consequences, they will begin to realize the importance of recycling. Overall, the children hold the key to the future of our environment and if they are not taught correctly, we will be the ones to blame.

 

Attached below are pictures from our lesson at the AELC!

 

~Jess

 

 

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Cultivating Community, Service, and Environmental Stewardship: Permablitz 2015

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By Ellen Underwood

In the small tract of land between 14th and Linden streets that we call home, there is something beautiful happening. Between the house and our sustainable garden, we have turned a small amount of space into a center for environmental living and learning. Nestled behind the sustainability house, right next to the experiential learning center, the Albright Sustainable Garden is without a doubt my favorite place on campus. This year was my second year running the garden and my second year watching it come to life and die away, of watching it live and breath and slowly fade, only to be reborn again the next year like a phoenix from the ashes. For me, it is a shining beacon of sustainability, a symbol of our individual ability to transition away from consumption to production, from environmental degradation to positive improvement.

Throughout the summer we provide locally grown, organically produced veggies, herbs, and fruits for the Albright community. Leftovers feed us and/or get donated to the local homeless shelter. We learn how to sustainably produce food and have better impacts on the environment IMG_0387with rain barrels, a rain garden, soil creation, resource re-purposing, and more. My favorite days though, are when we give children from the local elementary school and summer camps tours of the garden. To share the joys of food production and sustainability with younger generations, and to be met with excited, shining, and passionate faces when we do, is an unrivaled feeling for me.

But now, it is fall (and quickly turning into winter!) and the season is over. It saddens me deeply, but we were able to have one last gasp of garden fun at this year’s fall permablitz. What is a permablitz you ask? It is a super fun day of hard work that builds community, engages people in community service, and cultivates environmental stewardship. The word itself is a mixture of permaculture, which is a sustainable farming method, and blitz, indicating lots of hard work in a small time frame! Each year in the fall and the spring we call upon our fellow students to help us prepare the garden for the coming season. With winter creeping in, there was much to be done and we were met with many caring and helping hands to get it accomplished.

First, we had to pull out all the previously productive plants whose lives were now coming to an end (insert sad fIMG_0386ace here). The next step was to cover the now bare and vulnerable soil from wind and water erosion as well as fertilize it a little for the next season. We did this by placing a layer of leaves collected from the Albright grounds, a carbon source, then a layer of coffee grounds collected from our campus coffee shop, a nitrogen source, and finally a layer of hay from a local feed store in Oley, another carbon source, to top it all off. One of our main goals in the garden is to utilize resources that may have otherwise gone to waste and to source these things as locally as possible. The best part — it’s easy! Another activity was cutting back our native plant rain garden which helps it grow back better each year. The last step of permablitz winterizing was outlining the plots. First, before the permablitz, I went out and expanded the size of the plots since they had inevitably lost surface area throughout the season to the large layer of mulch we had laid down at the spring permablitz.This is especially important because part of permaculture design is to maximize space to make the area of land as productive as possible. Recently a symbolic (and very old) building on Albright’s campus, the White Chapel, was knocked down. It was sad to see it go but we found a way to help it live on. Instead of letting all the old bIMG_0394ricks from the chapel waste away at the Albright dump, we took an adventure to get a bunch of them, then used them to delineate the garden plots. This had a few benefits. First, it makes the garden look way more presentable which is important for our tours. As the bricks settle in they will also prevent some erosion in the plots that are on an angle. Now, after the fruits of these labors, the garden is clean, beautiful, and protected for the coming winter season.

The garden interns, Aly and Emily, and our garden advisor, Dr. Jennings, teamed with members of various fraternities and sororities, the biology honors club, E.C.O. club, scholarship volunteers, friends, students, faculty, and families, all coming together on this wonderful day to blitz our cherished garden. The result? A strengthening of our Albright community ties, commitment to service that benefits our community’s garden, and active participation in and learning of methods of sustainable living. It is inspiring to see so many people of many backgrounds and interests, all working together in the name of the garden. Some people don’t even know where their food comes from beyond the stIMG_0398ep of them purchasing it in the grocery store, so connecting people with a sustainable food source happening right in their community, and getting them to participate with it, is exactly the kind of thing our unsustainable world needs. In my own experience, working in the garden is thoroughly therapeutic. It makes me feel healthier and I feel a great pride in cooking food I picked from my backyard only a moment ago. I believe that the more we can connect people with this type of feeling, the more we can begin to change the damaging paradigms that allow us to fall into the trap of industrial agriculture and processed food, the closer we can get to transitioning to more ecologically friendly lives.

See below for more great pictures!

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