Tag Archives: spring

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

 

 

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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?

We make everyday Earth Day here

Happy Earth Week Readers!

Did you know that this year was the 45th year of celebrating Earth day? Most people spend Earth day planting trees, collecting garbage, cleaning up the coral reefs, signing petitions, and planning for a better environment and better planet which is exactly what we tried to do here at Albright During Earth Week

I hope you all were kind to the Earth this week during its celebratory week and I hope you continue to treat the Earth with love every day! This week the Albright Environmental Campus Outreach (ECO for short) spent the week educating the members of campus to be environmentally friend. We promoted the campus to take a pledge to be environmentally friendly by altering one aspect of their daily lives that would benefit the earth. We had a great turn out and we continued to work on campus educating others about ways to be friendly in small actions. The weeks events included ECO trivia quizzing many students about the impact of water, plastic and other wastes that we produce, Tree planting with Dr. Samuelson who explained to us about the importance of native trees and the need to keep the trees on campus native, Wednesday the ECO club had a campus wide clean up to remove the trash that was around campus and teach the importance of not littering because it can enter into the water ways, Thursday the club worked with the Horticulturist on campus to prune the plants around the pond and clean up the leaf litter that was around campus. On Friday we had an eARTh night where we worked hand in hand with many other clubs such as the Volunteer Center, Astep, The Breakfast club, AC2, enactus, Less Than or Equal to Improv and the American Chemical Society to show the visitors of the event how to use recycled materials to make art and other activities to be friendlier to the earth. This weekend we also kicked off the gardening season with Permablitz in the Albright Community garden where we had some therapy working the garden to be ready to plant and start the season!

The sustainability House members are excited that spring has finally sprung and stuck around for more than a couple of days. With final projects under way we are slowly growing more and more excited with the final outcome of them. We are also preparing to show the campus what we have been doing all year with our Experience event on Thursday at 7 pm  where we will be explaining the monitoring of our chores and the impact we have seen in the many experiments we have done throughout the year! We are very excited for the end of the year and to have so many opportunities to be able to see our hard work in action!

So long for now and enjoy the weather of the season!

~Aly

Maybe Spring has sprung ?

This week was spring break so the sustainability house was empty and quiet. While home for break I realized how much work we put into the house. I remember looking for the tally sheet for when I showered or flushed the toilet. Also I was looking for the energy meter to constantly see how much energy  was being used. Without being in the house I found myself always double checking to make sure everything I was doing was the same at school- I won’t lie my showers were a little longer at home but everything else I was pretty much the same. While being home I realized that laziness is a large problem when it comes to being more conscious of what we do in the house – I could not tell you how many times I had to follow behind my younger sister and turn off the lights in the room – she was constantly leaving lights on and I realized that being home I’m in an environment where not everyone is as conscious as I am and it made it easy to see the outsider’s perspective of just living life.  The house has already had a huge impact on how I can change my day-to-day life and maybe I can teach my sister how easy it could be to turn the light switch down as she leaves a room.

 

~ Aly

“Brrr, its freezing in here-whats the thermostat at?”

The new semester has got the Sustainability house searching for warmer days and fresh air blowing in the house. The first three weeks back to campus have been very cold and we have struggled with agreeing on the temperature for the thermostat the down stairs is heating up a lot faster than the upstairs and we have the constant struggle of having the battle of finding a temperature to keep our usage of gas down. It has been a struggle to make this frozen winter sustainable but we are trying to examine or options. A new idea we’ve had is to turn the thermostat down when we are in classes because there is not as much traffic through the doors and at nigh when it get to be bitterly cold turn the thermostat up a few degrees.

The cold does not have us down too much we are trying our best to lessen our usage while still being in an environment in which we can comfortably live. Also the cold has allowed us to have great laughs of the morning conversations the cold brings (don’t worry when its bright we have gloves!)   The house is trying very hard to keep the doors closed and try to contain the heat within, last semester before we went home for the holidays the windows in the dinning and living room along with the boys room were wrapped and sealed to eliminate any cold air from entering while the winter grew colder and colder.

The house is well underway in the second semester and we are ready to face the challenges of becoming more sustainable within the house and new and exciting ways to teach others to do the same. The spring will bring the vegetable garden back and the plans of local plant gardens. We also have some very exciting plans on showcasing simple tips to the campus on how to be more sustainable and make an impact within their dorms and within their homes.

We are looking to warmer weather and the exciting new ideas and plans we have for the semester! Keep up with the blog and see the plans that are coming up this semester and the excitement of building the sustainability house to continue to grow and be an educational process for the people living in the house and members who are learning through our development as a sustainable living house!

Until next time

~Aly