What is Sustain Champlain?

Sustain Champlain is a campus-wide initiative strives to infuse sustainability concepts and practices across Champlain College by coordinating and promoting best practices within four areas: our institution, academics, operations, and culture.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Trash Bash 2010 Results

I was reminded the other day that the results of our most recent waste sort were never posted. And so, drum roll.... here they are.

I know the charts are a bit blurry... so the summary is that in the Student Center, we are doing better on keeping recyclables out of the trash, but folks are still learning what can go in the new compost bins there (or, just aren't paying attention). The sample from the res hall showed that nearly a quarter (25% by weight) of what was in the trash should have been recycled. We're talking plastic bottles and newspapers here.
It has since been brought to my attention that rooms in the res halls do not come with recycling and trash bins (which I assumed happened). This is a new goal for next year, to ensure that each room has their own set of bins. And then we'll keep on teaching folks what goes in what bin.

For now, here's the main list of what gets recycled http://www.cswd.net/recycling/recycling-list/

Monday, January 24, 2011

Going Mindful- City Market Co-Op

I’m kind of turning into a food snob. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the occasional McDonalds hash brown and I have a wonderful (though incredibly unhealthy) relationship with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I try to give myself the best food possible. There is this stigma that shopping for healthy food means you’ll be paying a lot more money, and I understand that families are on a budget and college students like beer and Wings Over Burlington. Thankfully we are blessed to have a local co-op that provides a range of healthy food and good prices.

Formerly known on Onion River Co-Op, City Market Co-Op is a quick five minute walk from campus. Unlike some health food stores which are geared towards people with money, City Market has a diverse shopper’s base of college students, immigrants, and families. I went there to talk to Caroline Homan who specializes in helping people shop on a budget. If you go to Price Chopper or Shaw’s you’ll be paying a lot more for organic produce and healthier processed food. Homan tells me the reason is because state co-op’s band together so they can buy a lot of boxed or canned food that is healthier in bulk. They then can turn around and sell it to us at a lower price. Produce is going to be cheaper at a co-op because quality isn’t a commodity and instead strives to be the norm. They still offer options like conventional, organic, and local, so you don’t feel forced to buy just one type. She suggests buying produce that doesn’t have a thick peel, like apples and leafy greens, in the organic form when possible because they protection against pesticides isn’t as good, whereas items with thick skins, like avocados and oranges, can be bought conventionally. When trying to figure out confusing per pound prices, look for items that cost less than $3 per pound. These foods tend to not spoil as quickly and you’re getting the best value. Eating what’s in season will also keep down the cost. As tasty as they are, I’m not sure how I feel about the $6 per pound bell peppers!

Another amazing part of City Market is the bulk section, which is located by the teas. You can get: rice, pasta, flour, candies, spices, types of peanut butters, nuts, cookie, oils, and even lavender soap! This section is great for the times you want to try out a new recipe, need a little bit of cocoa powder, and don’t want to get an entire container. You can get a snack size amount of chocolate covered pretzels for 58 cents and you can see if you like almond butter worry free. City Market also have a sandwich making stand and a hot food and salad bar that I would recommend vegans and vegetarians check out, though, you meat eaters will love the chicken wings. If you want to recreate the dish in our own kitchen just ask the front desk and they’ll e-mail you the recipe.

Another can shop at the co-op, but if you go there often enough you’ll probably wan tto see some savings and benefits. City Market has three options for added discounts and college students can easily join. One is becoming a capitalized members. You pay $15 dollars a year and hold a share of the company. At the end of the year you get a percentage of how much you spend back. The average this past year was $80! Once you’ve been there long enough too have paid $200, assuming you stay in Burlington after graduation, you’ll become a life member and won’t have to pay anymore dues. You can also get discounts at businesses in Burlington like 10% off at Battery Street Jeans and many other places. Another option is to become a working member. You can volunteer at City Market or an affiliated business for 2 hours a month and get a 7% discount for the following month. You can also volunteer for 4 hours and get a 12% discount. Now everyone has a few hours lying, so why not become more involved in your community and take advantage of this great opportunity to eat amazing food.

Don’t forget:

If you bike there, bring in your bike helmet and get 5% off your total

Bring a reusable shopping bag and save 5 cents

Keep on being mindful!

Another transportation option: The UVM off-campus shuttle

Students! I just confirmed with the Director of Transportation at UVM that Champlain students can ride the UVM off-campus shuttle, which does a loop through downtown and passes by Champlain during the evenings. You may be asked for ID, so be sure to have your Champlain ID with you. If you run into any problems, please let Christina Erickson know.
Evening Off-Campus Sunday-Thursday 6:30pm – Midnight Every 30min
Evening Off Campus Friday & Saturday 6:30pm – 10:00pm Every 15min
Evening off Campus Friday & Saturday Late Night 10:00pm – 3:00am
More information on schedules and maps at http://www.uvm.edu/tps/transportation/

2011 Kill-A-Watt Challenge

The 2011 Kill-A-Watt Challenge is here!
From January 31- March 6, Champlain College residential halls will compete to reduce electricity usage. The winner of the competition will be determined by the hall that has the largest percentage reduction of electricity over baseline consumption as well as the highest rate of participation in various events on campus and within the residence halls. The aim of this competition is to raise student awareness regarding electricity conservation and related behaviors in Champlain College residence halls - a skill that students will carry with them wherever they live in the future. The Challenge is a collaborative project between Sustain Champlain and Residential Life. Learn more on the Kill-A-Watt Challenge website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Going Mindful- We're Talking Food This Month, Nom.

A Teeny Foreword- These past few months I’ve had this increased interest in the food I’m eating, where it comes from, how it is produced, its nutritional values, and the ethical repercussions. Most Americans live by the S.A.D, Standard American Diet, a very unfortunate, though kind of true, acronym. Many are at risk for inadequate diets even if they aren’t eating at fast food places. Another sad truth is many people just don’t care what they’re eating. But for the many that don’t there is a large percentage of the population demanding more food information. We’ve stopped farming for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we need to give up the right for healthy and safe food or the knowledge of where it comes from. So for the month of January I’ll be blogging about food and how we college students, with minimal income, can still make a change and difference.

It’s relatively easy to reduce your consumption of bottled water, cut back on shower time, and turn off the lights. The benefits are fairly straight forward and don’t involve much pondering or soul searching. Issues that arise when trying to decide how to eat nutritious, tasty, and sustainable meals require more thought and can sometimes, actually many times, leave you going “huh?” Take one thing out of your diet, supplement it with another, and you can end up causing damage in a different area. It’s a touchy scale.

We produce food through massive farms and factories. During production, the amount of water, space that is needed, and potent gases released, typically methane and nitrous oxide which are 23 and 296 time more detrimental than CO2, are second to the impact driving has on the environment! And I guarantee you that it would be much easier to convince someone to drive a car with better fuel economy than drastically change their diet. But we can’t pretend this isn’t an issue and let it spiral until we no longer have a say. Although it can be harder to make sacrifices, eating a sustainable and ethical diet doesn’t mean you have to eat bland food.

Here are three things you can do to help make your meals more sustainable. One of the biggest things you can do to cut down on your meals carbon emissions is too cut back on the amount of meat you’re consuming. You don’t have to becoming a vegetarian, but eating one meatless meal a week, over the course of a year, will cut down your foot print. Many colleges participate in Meatless Mondays. Exeter is one and according to them, a year of participating in Meatless Mondays would reduce their emissions by 15% or 85 tons of CO2e (CO2 equivalents)! It takes a lot of energy to raise livestock and they in turn, through fertilizer, release a large amount of methane into the atmosphere. Large scale factory farms, until now, were not investigated regularly and contributed to water contamination and pollution. According to an article on a website called Sustainable Business, “Now dominating animal production nationwide, confined livestock operations generate more than three times the waste that people do, according to EPA estimates, yet factory farms lack waste treatment facilities comparable to those that treat human sewage.”

Another thing you can do is look into the local movement. Being a Champlain student, there is a good chance you have heard of Vermonters zest for eating food from local farmers. This is the locavore movement and many around in the country are interested. This taps into the issue more people have with the distance their food is traveling from farm to packaging to grocery store and finally table. Now, there are people who disagree with the local movement because transportation of food only accounts for 10-13% of emissions. As one journalist wrote,

“To choose a locally grown apple over an apple trucked in from across the country might seem easy. But this decision ignores economies of scale. To take an extreme example, a shipper sending a truck with 2,000 apples over 2,000 miles would consume the same amount of fuel per apple as a local farmer who takes a pickup 50 miles to sell 50 apples at his stall at the green market.”

People might also say that eating local takes money away from small farmers in other countries. Still, it’s a safe bet the amount of carbon through production and transportation of a local farmer is far less than a mega-farm of factory. It’s kind of like the issue of whether or not to eat (actual) free range chickens because of the amount of land needed. You’ve got to think do I want to ethical or statistically-correct. Again, it’s not always an easy and straightforward answer.

But the idea of eating well and sustainably doesn’t have to be an all or nothing action. I’m generally not a fan of cherry-picking bits of beliefs, but when it’s something as complex as food I think you have to imagine you’re in a Tim Brookes class and he’s asking you, “What are you trying to achieve.” Even if local eating doesn’t match up statistically, there is a lot you can take away from it. For example, you can go to the Farmers Markets and have a face to face conversation with the man growing your strawberries. And you can shake hands with the lady that milked the cows and made your cheese. I strongly believe that local farmers hold themselves to a higher standard because they know that their neighbors are counting of them and they can’t hide behind a homey-sounding business name. It’s possible to live a healthy life on a local diet but it’s not 100% ideal. We’re so very lucky to have variety and the ability to try foods from different countries and cultures, but it’s a good idea to buy from local farmers when possible. It builds a sense of community and allows you to see that you don’t have to look to exotic lands for delicious foods.

The third (though, definitely not final) thing you can do to cut down on your carbon food print is too grow your own food! According to Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling book The Omnivores Dilemma, a small sixty dollar investment in gardening supplies and seeds can save you one hundred and up on your produce bill. Plus, with all the hubbub and uncertainty about genetically modified foods and pesticides, you can be certain of what you’re growing. I am fortunate because my apartment will have a backyard and I understand that many don’t. You can still create small window gardens with containers and pots, and during the final week of January I will give you information on how to start one. If you’re at home and have ample backyard space then give it a try. You can start small and grow the produce you always find yourself buying. Eating should be enjoyable, and it can seem like a headache with all these confusing labels and uncertainties and contradictions, but having an understanding gives you power and knowledge to make the right decision.

Here are some interesting links:

A basic carbon foot print calculator you can use to get a rough idea of where you are.

Here’s the article that questions the locavore myth. It’s definitely good to understand all points being made before forming an opinion!

A trailer of the documentary The Future of Food, which will be showing later this month!

The Low Carbon Diet written by Mike Tidwell. I read it last year in a writing class and it is a good example of the challenges we face when eating.

Here is a breakdown of month long mini-series on food.

Jan 18th: shopping on a budget and tackling food terminology and labels

Jan 26th: starting your own garden and composting

TBA: a showing of the movie The Future of Food

Keep on Being Mindful!