Tag Archives: winter

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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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.

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(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.

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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.

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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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“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