Tag Archives: water

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

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!

Weird Weather and Funky Feats

Hello All,

Thanksgiving is coming up and the weather is getting colder and colder, with the occasional 70˚F weather with snow, rain, and lightning later on in the same day. We’ve managed to keep the thermostat at 65˚F on auto so the house can manage itself with this fluctuating weather. Hopefully cheaply, we’re planning on implementing more carpets into the house to add some warmth to it, at least on the floor. A challenge for the house will be how to keep the cold out of the house from the windows.

Image result for tofurky

(A tofurky in honor of Samantha Colombo)

The house has worked together to follow through with the new flushing method (If it’s yellow, let it mellow) and we have seen less flushes and less water being used in the house. We have made it a goal to include and encourage guests in using our method as well as long as they’re okay with it. Hopefully we can see even more of a decrease from last month’s water usage.

On a fun note, we have started some house projects which involve painting and organizing! We hope to finish a 3D leaf project for a painted tree already in the house which will look amazing. To accomplish this, the housemates have been collecting leaves from the ground with their fall colors and froze them in the freezer to preserve their color and shape. Blake had some leaves in the freezer which prompted a conversation, as they were for one of his personal projects, which in turn gave me the idea to use real leaves to finish the tree painting in our house.

Image result for fall leaves of different colors

For next semester, I’d like to see the house make and use DIY laundry detergent, fabric softener, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and whatever else to reduce waste and save money.

Image result for diy laundry toothpasteImage result for diy laundry detergent

Happy Holidays,

Renee Gares

 

 

Picture Credit:
http://www.ilovevegan.com/how-to-cook-a-tofurky-roast/
https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=125511
https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-toothpaste/
http://www.lifealittlebrighter.com/2013/07/diy-laundry-detergent/

Warm weather wishes and water issues

Hiya Readers,

Hope everyone is staying nice and warm during these freezing days! Here at the Sustainability house we are trying to our best to keep our gas and energy usage to a minimum but the weather has us turning up the heat to keep the chill out of the house. We have noticed that Tom’s installation of quarter round in the dining room and living room  from last year has helped warm the once frigid upstairs to be a warmer temperature. Also we have tried to keep the thermostat at one temperature to prevent having to keep turning the dial up and down to adjust it when it is too hot or cold  which turns the fan on to regulate the temperature. By finding the Goldilocks temperature, not too hot, not too cold but just right, allows us to only have the heat click on only when it needs to and it prevents the fan continuously on to warm the house up to a comfortable temperature throughout the day.  Do any of you have tips on how to cut down your energy and gas during this time of year?

This semester the house mates have broken into groups to develop projects that can better improve the house.(You will have to wait and hear Ellen and Tom’s plan in future posts!) Jess, Hannah and I have decided that we will be focusing our project on the bathroom. The bathroom has a leaky shower and sink and we would like to try an improve both to decrease the wasted water. We have purchased a shower head attachment that changes colors the longer you have the water on. With this technology we are hoping to see our shower times decrease because we will be able to tell how long we have been in the water. The shower head attachment starts with a blue light until the water is on for three minutes, after three minutes until five minutes the light is green and once the shower is on longer than five minutes it will be red until the water is shut off.  Since the house mates already record their shower times we are hoping the color change in the shower will be another reminder to see if shower times are decreased. From my experience, my showers are sometimes a little longer than I suspected because I cannot see my timer ticking, now we will see the color change and have a reminder of how long we have been in the shower.

Another aspect of the bathroom that we are hoping to have changed is the sink, our current sink is tough, and sometimes it leaks because the handles are tough to completely turn off. Jess thought to put a motion censored faucet in to eliminate the need to tighten the handles. With a new and improved sink, we are hoping to no longer see a leaky sink when we pass by the bathroom door.

In the upcoming weeks the house is going to be into some really fun and exciting things. If you would like to keep up with all our excitement you can follow our Facebook page and  check out our weekly blog posts!!

XO,  Aly

 

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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