Category Archives: volunteering

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

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~

Springing for Earth Week

Hiya readers,

I hope you are all embracing your seasonal allergies because that means spring has finally sprung! This past week I have spent much of my days sneezing with watery eyes, but I could not be happier because for me that means that my favorite time of year is finally here. (A fun fact I learned to help with allergies is to eat LOCAL honey because it exposes you to the pollen in your area!) Earth week is approaching in a few short weeks and everyone in the sustainability house is preparing for the exciting things they have helped plan with ECO Club and other organizations.

While we may not like the stuffy noses and sneezes, spring means that earth week is quickly approaching. This year there is a ton of fun and exciting things planned. The ECO Club has a full week of activities that will be taking place around campus. The week will begin with a clean-up at Nolde forest where many students and housemates will be helping clean up leaf litter and cleaning up the grounds. The week then be an array of activities, that will include tree planting, weighing your waste in the dining hall, a documentary and then the annual Earth Night which a big night of art, laughter, recycling and a group of people working together to educate how we should be living day by day. The Sustainability house members will be helping with most of these activities as they are all avid members of the ECO Club and many other participating clubs. The week will continue with a campus wide clean that will include the campus and the areas directly surrounding it to make sure the community we live in is cleaned as well. After a busy week, the club will be relaxing at Reading Public museum arboretum, enjoying the beauty of nature.

The house was recently toured by the ESS 101 course led by David Osgood and Barty Thompson, the students in the class are environmental science or studies students as well as other majors who are seeing what the class can teach them about the environment. The class was able to come into our house and see the projects we have done and get some insight on how they can be changing their everyday lives on a college campus. The tour included a coverage of what the members of the sustainability house do and how they are making the conscious efforts every day to be more sustainable.

More exciting things going on in the house for the rest of the semester are our Experience Event coming up in May. This will be a presentation on the work that was done since move-in day until the time we are preparing to move out. We will be providing information about the ups and the downs we individually and as a group and passing off our knowledge to the guest present at the event. The presentation will also talk about our group projects that we did in both semesters and well as what we are taking from the house as we all move into the upcoming year. We will be saying goodbye to the year and welcoming a new group of students into the program.

As the semester is approaching the end, make sure you stay informed on what the members are doing in the final weeks! Also let us know what your plans for Earth week are in the comments, we would love to know how our readers celebrate!

XO,  Aly

 

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?

Early Childhood Education May be the Key to a Sustainable Society

kidsInGarden

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

Kindergarten, First Grade & Third Grade, OH MY!

Hey everyone!

Can you believe it’s almost March already? This semester is flying by and before we know it, it’ll be over! However, with this crazy weather we have been having, between the cold and warmer days, it partially feels like spring and summer are on it’s way.

As you already know the other housemates and I presented a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle lesson to the Kindergarten Class at the Albright Early Learning Center last semester. This lesson included what the three R’s are, ways to change your lifestyle and how one can become more sustainable. We even made K-Cup planters to show the children a fun way to reuse K-Cups.

This semester, specifically this coming week, we will be presenting this lesson once again to the whole first grade at 13th and Union Elementary School! This is, us the members of the Sustainability House will be sharing ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to even more children. This is very exciting for us because we are getting the opportunity to give these children a better understanding of what it is like to be sustainable.

When we visit 13th and Union this week, we will also be getting more helpers and volunteers to help out with our lesson to assure that everything goes smoothly and as planned. These volunteers are my fellow classmates who are enrolled in a fundamental science class from preschool to fourth grade. One of the main goals of the Sustainability House is to not only learn new and fun ways to live sustainable, but to share what you know to younger generations and really make a difference. We are “planting the seed” of what its like to be sustainable to these first graders. It is our time to make a difference.

A few weeks following this lesson, as the other housemates have previously mentioned, the third grade students will be coming to us for tours of the house. During these tours, the children will see what really goes on when you live sustainable. They will be able to see how we recycle, compost, and reuse things as much as possible. Another fun thing the children will be able to observe during their visit is our Infographics we have made that are in the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, living room and basement. On these infographics, they show statistics of how much energy, and water are being consumed out of silly every day habits. During the tours we will be able to explain these infographics on a more child-like scale for them to really understand. Our goal of these tours is for the children to see something we do, and share it with their parents when they go home and that is how everything begins.

 

Can’t Wait to fill everyone in after our lesson!

 

~ Jess 🙂