Category Archives: soil

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

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

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

pictured below) 

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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

 

 

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

 

Early Childhood Education May be the Key to a Sustainable Society

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Hi Everyone,

As Jess had mentioned last week, Albright’s Sustainability House visited 13th and Union to teach about sustainability and do another K-cup planter activity with the 1st grade classes. The week was a huge success! All of the students were very involved and interested in learning about this topic that they are beginning to become familiar with. It is always exciting to hear that more and more schools are incorporating lessons on sustainability and conservation in their science classes. It is even more rewarding to know that I am helping to teach these younger generations about the importance of caring for the environment.

For most people reading these posts, you most likely were never taught fundamental lessons of sustainability in grade school. For millennials, their teachers couldn’t image trying to teach Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons to 3rd graders or even 6th graders. Our lack of early education in sustainability and how to live more sustainable are what make us responsible in creating the environmental issues that exist today.

As it turns out, teaching Tragedy of the Commons to grade-schoolers is not impossible. In recent years lessons of sustainability and conservation are being implemented in elementary schools across the country. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) states the importance of early education best by saying “education is humanity’s best hope and most effective means in the quest to achieve sustainable development.” Most of our actions as adults are a result of how we were raised and what we were taught in school. If we were not taught, at a young age, about the importance of taking care of the environment than it makes it hard to suddenly change our actions later in life as we become more informed.

If we want future generations to care for the environment or better yet try and solve the issues our generations have created, we need to root this desire in their brains at a young age. By teaching the youngest members of today’s society to critically think about how to solve environmental issues that exist today, the world we live in may be a better place for future generations.

For more information about how educators are incorporating sustainability lesson plans across the country, you can use the link below.

http://themodernape.com/2014/07/25/sustainable-practices-must-taught-early-age/

Once on the website you can look at specific lesson plans by click “Stories from the Field” or “Early childhood education for a sustainable society

Until Next Time,

Hannah

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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K-cup Planters & Kindergarten

Hey everyone!!,

We are finally at that time in the semester where everything is really coming together. Last time, I talked about the showerhead we really wanted to demo. Unfortunately, we never heard anything back from that company. I am currently working on finding another showerhead that does something similar or ever better! If anyone can think of any other showerheads that do something similar to this please post them in the comments!

My job this month was to get a jump-start on our partnership with the Albright Early Learning Center. We will be working with their Kindergarten Class this semester to teach them what it is like to live sustainable. For our first meeting we will be talking with them about what recycling is, how to recycle, why is recycling important, its impact on the environment and what can and cannot be recycled. Not only will this be an informational meeting with them but we also will be making K-cup planters with them! Okay so now you are asking yourself what is a k cup planter and what does that have to do with recycling?

A K-cup planter is made from recycled K-cups from a Keruig coffee machine. After brewing your coffee, tea or hot chocolate the K-cups can be taken apart by, removing and recycling the aluminum foil on the top and composting the grounds and filters. Then you rinse them out and set them aside to dry. Once they are dry, you fill the cup half way with soil and put your seeds in. Now that seeds are in place, you fill the remainder of the cup with soil and pay it down until it is firm. Then you add 1 tablespoon of water to the cup. Lastly, move the K- cup planter to a safe spot where it will get plenty of sun.

We all are very excited to get into the Kindergarten and work with the students to show how much recycling means to us, and how important it is overall. By passing on the information we know we are saving the environment one person at a time. The children will be able to go home from school that day and tell their parents about what they learned in school about how to recycle, what to recycle and why its important to recycle. The children can work with their parents and create a successful way that will work in their house to recycle and now that is even more people that are recycling just by visiting one classroom and talking to only a few children. However, can you imagine how successful this project will be when we present it to the five 1st grade classes in the spring semester? We cannot wait to see the outcome of these projects and help the environment any and every way we can! Can’t wait to let you know how our project goes!! Talk to you soon!

~Jess

Here are pictures of what the K-cup planters look like !

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