Our Water Morality

Hello again! My name is Regina Whitfield; I was a house member of the Sustainability House last year and have returned a final year!

Like last September, I have once more focused upon water and its’ use within our home. And, rather than blog about ways one can change or reduce water use, I will instead discuss water on a local and more relative level.

Over the summer, I had the unique opportunity to work at Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC). For those who don’t know, this is a leading, freshwater research facility located in Avondale, PA (along the PA-DE border). It was established in 1967,  when W.B. Dixon and Joann Stroud were urged by Ruth Patrick to dedicate an entire facility for the study of our water- this was around the time that Clean Water Act came into play.  Today, SWRC is shared by many scientists who work (live) to preserve our local waters. Departments include: Geochemistry, Education, Entomology, Restoration, etc.

Myself and peer students, from other colleges, spent our summer in the Entomology department! Here, we sorted through stream samples that had been collected from several sites, in the Delaware Basin watershed, during the spring. We viewed these samples under a dissecting microscope and picked out a minimum of 220 benthic macro-invertebrates (aka bugs that live under water). Certain species present within a sample were bio-indicators of a healthy water body (Mayfly, Ephemeroptera;  Stonefly, Plecoptera; Caddisfly, Trichoptera). After about 8 weeks, we crunched the numbers and presented our findings to the Stroud community.

Our findings were reflective of the restoration efforts Stroud had consistently worked for over the years. Some sites are consistently healthy, like the White Clay Creek, while other sites decreased significantly towards poor health. Because believe it or not, just because the Clean Water Act is in place, doesn’t mean that people know (or care).

For instance, SWRC is located around plenty of horse farms. These farms often have a small stream running through that cattle often muck up. The River Continuum Concept says that whatever happens upstream, affects everything down stream (or trophic relay). And sometimes it’s too much money to fix what is broken, but most times it’s the lack of education that could have prevented these situations entirely.

This is where departments like Restoration educate and collaborate with local farmers. Meanwhile, Education teaches children in grade school about the importance and aspects of water (which is fantastic, we should be teaching our youth)!

I’m very happy to have learned and worked at SWRC. It was incredible to see a group of people be involved with their community and be passionate in their mission for the protection of our waters.

I hope this discussion will help with our ideals concerning water. Because if it’s out of sight, it’s also definitely out of mind (consider how water comes out of the faucet and right down the drain). Perhaps we can take a moment to learn about local watershed(s) and hardcore restoration efforts (i.e. Schuylkill River), then when we pass by a stream or a river, we simply can’t ignore our impact.


Burn Bans and Trash Cans

If you come from a relatively urban area like me, you would be more than familiar with the term “burn ban” and the annoyance of not being able to burn your trash for the week. For those who aren’t aware, a burn ban is a wildfire prevention method administered by townships that enforces the public to go a few days refraining from fire-related activities; and includes everything from campfires to burning household garbage. Burn bans are also relative to public health.

People who burn their trash usually do so because it is more efficient for them get rid of their waste. It is commonly thought by those who burn that it is okay because now their trash isn’t going to a landfill. It turns out that burning household waste does more harm than good.

When trash is burned, paper or cardboard products, food waste, plastic materials, and other organic waste turn into emissions that pollute the air. More importantly, these emissions are freely going into the air without any form of filtration or treatment. These pollutants can cause health problems such as nausea, rashes, heart, and lung problems. The environment is also at risk because the toxins that are released into the air can get in waterways and crops, thus harming our health even further.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that burning garbage releases dioxins that are harmful to the air and waterways and that these toxins are only produced once burned. They claim that burn barrels produce higher dioxin levels due to their tendency to hold smaller amounts of oxygen. Industrial incinerators have to follow regulations administered by the EPA in order to reduce and prevent emissions.

It is important to learn how to appropriately get rid of wastes in a safe and sustainable manner. The best way to reduce the amount of trash in landfills is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To all of you who also dread the local burn bans, I advise to praise them instead because your overall community will greatly appreciate it in the long run!

Keepin’ it green,

Veronica Rutecky

Albright Class of 2020

Environmental Science Major

Get Acquainted With Me!

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

This quote from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax will always be one of my all-time favorite quotes because no words could be truer. Originating from the little town of Minersville in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, I’m well aware of the environmental impacts a community can impose. Firstly, we have orange creeks from acid mine drainage. Second, we have significant amounts of farmland. Thirdly, Smokey Bear is literally our best friend. I realized that I wanted to do something to fix our environmental problems and help preserve our natural resources, so I decided to major in environmental sciences at Albright College.

I’m currently a sophomore, so I’ll graduate in 2020. For the 2017-2018 school year, I am living in Albright’s Sustainability House, which is a campus house that is dedicated to living as sustainably as possible as a college student. I decided to take up the challenge because  I can utilize what I learn for my future as well as to teach others how to be a neighbor of Mother Nature.


Gas Use: What Can We Do?

Hello all! My name is Anna Sheridan, I am a sophomore at Albright College studying environmental science. Since arriving on campus my freshman year, the sustainability house always intrigued me. I knew I wanted to be a part of something a little bit bigger than dorm life and be around people who share the same interests and concerns as me. Those two reasons (among others) are the reasons I am living in the house today! For this month, I was assigned monitoring of gas and water use for the house. So without further ado, let’s talk about gas!

It is next to impossible this day and age to go without the use of natural gas. It is used in virtually everything, from powering our vehicles, to warming our homes in the winter, and even cooking food! Natural gases are known as un-renewable resources, meaning that we consume them faster than they can be produced. This creates a problem for our environment, since environments are destroyed in order to obtain these gases. So, what can we do to limit our use of natural gases and what are other alternatives?

Let’s start with something simple, carpooling! Carpooling with friends or co-workers is a great way to limit the amount of gas we use, and you get to enjoy a car ride with company! Another way we can limit our usage is during the winter, try not to blast your house with heat. I know that can be uncomfortable at times, but try to set your thermostat 5 degrees lower during the winter months and bundle up with blankets. Not only will you be saving the planet, but you will be saving money as well!

I’ll be honest and say that gas usage is not something that is always on my mind, but I do try to think about how much I am consuming. Sometimes all it takes is a conscious mind, and remember, every action helps when you’re trying to save the planet!

Until next time,

Anna Sheridan


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!







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!


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.


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,



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!