Tag Archives: recycling

Extreme Composting

Hello All,

 

       Well, it’s a new semester and a new year. I had a fun time in Ecuador over interim studying my Spanish as well as taking note of/studying the environment and Ecuadorians relationship to the environment. Although I wish I could be there right now in the nice warm temperatures, I’m in the now snowy and cold weather of Pennsylvania. This might be the reason why I’ve been taking the full allotted six minute showers compared to four or five minute showers, as I’m cold while taking a shower so I lose track of time and just stand there and enjoy the warmth selfishly. I felt like while I was in Ecuador I took relatively short showers whether it was a hostel, hotel, or host family. Anywhere I go I try to be as sustainable as possible and recycle where I can. I felt bad while in Ecuador because I had to use on-the-go foods and items which used a decent amount of wrapping, as we were traveling and all. Also, I felt bad when it came to throwing away recyclables as there aren’t many recycling locations available unless you save them all up and keep them with you until you reach a certain gas station or other place that recycles. Something that we realized was that composting only occurred in some of the students’ host family’s houses whereas in others, such as my family’s house, they didn’t compost nor have an idea of how to compost. Which segues in to how we’re doing with composting here at the Sustainability House.

        I’m in charge of waste this month and it’s been going well so far. I’ve made the goal for the house members to increase compost by 15% in February. As of right now, we have about seven more pounds of compost than recyclables and we have yet to have any trash recorded. That’s a lot of cardboard and paper to rip into pieces, as you can see in the pictures below (our browns bin always gets so full and over time the rain and nature pushes the browns down for more composting fun). I have high hopes and it appears as though we are on the right track for this month in terms of our waste, good job guys!

 

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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?

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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