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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Final Words Before Summer

As we neared the end of our final exam in Secular and Sacred, our teacher reminded us to keep our intellectual hats on even after we left the class room. He urged us to keep looking for connections and to remain opened minded. I suppose I should say the same to you as well. Keep your Mindful Hats on well after your car pulls away from campus. Even if you don’t notice it, we are so lucky to live in a state where sustainability is important and there are all these grass root movements and organizations that are willing to fight the good fight for a better planet, better life, and better wallet. Not every state is like Vermont. I encourage everyone to take that extra moment to think before you throw or consume. And I challenge everyone to look beyond recycling and simple reduction as environmentalism. People don’t like to accept the negative or wasteful things they do, but we cannot pretend we live in a world anymore where we can leave a mess and hope someone cleans up after us. Sorry, but we are the cleaners right now!

Now I don’t mean you have to go out and join Green Peace or denounce everything non-organic or local (although it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate more local and more organic in your life), but I think we need to be more active. Practically every area in your life can be taken in a more sustainable direction. If you love food look at the environmental impacts it creates in your state and work toward making changes. If you love exercising see if you can run to work once a week to cut down on gas. Surround yourself with people who are interested in the same things you are so you can further your pursuits; I know it can feel awfully lonely to be around be people don’t care the way you do. Play with ideas while you’re home and then come back here to implement them. We are a small school, so there is a better chance you can make changes and that those changes will be felt by nearly everyone. They call us the lazy generation, but let’s prove them wrong! Let’s give a damn.

This summer I will continue to post periodically, so check out the blog every now and then for updates. You’ll probably find a lot of them are related to the community garden that will hopefully be all a bustle this summer. Have a great, great, vacation, make lots of money, make only a few bad decisions, and KEEP BEING MINDFUL!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You + leaving your car at home = Champlain wins the Way to Go! Challenge

Champlain Employees: Here is the first official reminder to sign up for the annual Way to Go! Commuter Challenge.

Whether you try leaving your car home for a day or for the week, your participation matters! Already take the bus, walk, or carpool? Still sign up for the Challenge. We want to recognize your efforts.

We are hoping that Champlain can reign again as champions in our class of large size employers and bring home the Carbon Cup! Signing up for the Challenge is quick and easy, and you’ll be registered for a number of raffle prizes through WTG. In addition, David Provost is sponsoring an internal Champlain raffle with three great prizes:

1) a one year individual CarShare Vermont membership,
2) a $50 gift certificate to The Ski Rack, and
3) a Sustain Champlain sweatshirt & water bottle.

In order to get into the Champlain raffle, simply let me know (via email) when you’ve signed up and I’ll enter you. There will also be an opportunity to register and get into the raffle during our May 11th employee retreat. I’ll hold the drawing on May 16th.

So please, consider giving the bus a try, put your name into the CATMA carpooling database, or get that bike tuned up for a sweet (and potentially sweaty) ride to campus (showers are available in IDX and Lakeside!). The WTG website has lots of resources on finding different ways to get to work. And while you’re at it, be sure to register with CATMA (Campus Area Transportation Management Association – of which Champlain is a member) to be included in their monthly drawings and find out more about programs like their emergency ride home from work and bike/walk benefits program.

Questions? Send ‘em my way!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Meltdown Green Team Shout Out

It's official. Having someone stand by the trash/recycle/compost bins makes a HUGE difference. It is even ok that I overheard someone calling me the 'compost nazi'. If that means less stuff going to the landfill, so be it. The only items that went to the trash: plastic forks, plastic straws from the smoothie guy, and plastic wrappers from the sunglasses. Not bad. But can we do even better??? We saw a lot of food waste going straight from the food line into the compost bin after just one bite...

A special shout out to the Spring Meltdown Green Team members: Rachel deSimone, Anne Orr, Jacob Frankovich, Annie Granthan, Sarah Irish, and Becky Peterson. You all rock. Check out more photos on our facebook page.

Community Garden Work Pary #1

In between rain drops, several hardy souls turned out to start laying out plots in the new community garden. The soil was wet, heavy, and getting wetter and heavier by the shovel full. But we made good progress!

Before: tilled only

After: plots surfacing...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Things to do in Montreal - Earth Day Edition!

From our Champlain friends up north... Check out their blog for more information.

Friday is Earth Day, and there is a lot going on in Montreal!

[ROOFTOP GARDENING] Lufa Farms, the world's largest rooftop gardening project, will be producing fresh produce to customers this spring in Montreal. Another option is to join Equiterre's CSA (community supported agriculture). By paying a a weekly amount, a local farmer can guarantee to provide you with fresh produce all summer long.

[COMPOSTING] Students in the environmental science class have created a worm composting bin at the Montreal campus. Last semester, three Champlain students built an indoor vermi-compost bin as part of their activism project. This semester, game designer Eric Campbell acquired red wriggler worms, shredded many newspapers, and added fruit and vegetables scraps from home to start the compost. To continue the compost bin over the summer, the bin will be donated to Dans la Rue, a grassroots community group that helps street kids and at-risk youth.

[BIOSPHERE] In celebration of Earth Day, the Biosphère will be hosting a talk with Mikael Rioux and Sylvie Van Brabant along with a screening of NFB documentary EARTH KEEPERS. Admission to the museum will be FREE, which is a perfect opportunity to visit (or re-visit) ONE Outfits from a New Era, an exhibition featuring 16 outfits fashioned from garbage!

[Art + Music = Artic!] Fill your Friday evening with ´Buddha and the body´, an art exhibit by Lauren Trimble, musical musings by members of Lubo & Kaba Horo, and featuring herbal teas, oils and treats from Sustainable Healing available for purchase and tasting. $7 admission to the event at ahisma yoga.

[WINDOW GARDENING] Want to try your own garden, but don't have the garden space? Setting up a hydroponic indoor garden can let you grow your own vegetables. One option is to order an indoor gardening kit from Windowfarms Project.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Knocking Down Doors

I admit that I was one of the many college students who saw the green voting signs that read Kesha Ram and immediately thought of the blonde, hot mess, Jack Daniel swigging, sounds terrible without auto-tune singer Ke$sha that we all know and love. Folks, I'm sure you can guess that Kesha Ram, who went on to become the youngest state legislator, is a bit more talented than our much beloved party anthem singer.

A California native of Jewish and Indian decent, Kesha was taught by her parents at a young age to embrace diversity, give back to the community, and be a determined individual. While she was a student at UVM, Kesha was voted in as a State Rep. in 2008. She also was the president of the UVM student population, majored in Natural Resource Planning and Poli Sci, and graduated magna cum laude; and she is still such a humble person!

A few weeks ago she came to speak in Perry Hall to my class, encouraging us to ask questions and "knock down doors." Kesha is known for going to the houses of people she represents (anyone on the other side of Main Street Burlington), sitting in their living rooms, and talking to them about their needs, frustrations, and desires. She is a person college students can feel comfortable talking too, and she noted that although make up a large percentage of the country, we are so hugely under represented. Despite being of color, and a democrat, she was able to forge connections with older, republican members of the community who might have come from a time and place when diversity was not exactly an encourage concept. But don't get me wrong, she is way more than "the" female of color serving office.

So why is this important? Well, the other night I was at the CCM Excellence Award Ceremony and had the chance to be surrounded by lots of motivated men and women. Kesha too started off as a highly motivated college student who looked around her community and saw that things could be altered. She wasn't that different from many of us. So I challenge all of us, whether you were at the dinner or not, to start making a difference. Start making changes on a community and town level where you will be able to better connect with the people and interact with them. Work to better the environment, improve school quality, encourage sexual awareness, anything. We are still considered "kids" is so many people's eyes. Show them otherwise. Show people we are young, motivated, and won't be complacent with the way things are going. Show them we aren't generation "lazy" and aren't afraid to get our hands dirty.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Education for Sustainability

Recently, the President of Bennington College, Elizabeth Coleman gave an address at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference on February 25, 2011. According to a colleague of mine, Wynn Calder, "It is a scathing critique of higher education's failure, in general, to address the challenges we face. It is also a powerful endorsement of education for sustainability, though she never uses that word. More admirably, much of what she recommends she is earnestly trying to put into practice at Bennington." The speech is available online at http://www.nais.org/files/ac/2011/11AC_ElizabethColemanSpeech.pdf. So how are we doing at Champlain? Our official college values include: Distinctive Excellence * Sustainability * Innovation * Human Touch * Global Engagement * Diversity and Inclusion Are we seeing this is our curriculum? Outside of the classroom? In our policies and practices? What do YOU think?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

War and The Environment

“In a state of war the environment is one of the first things that suffers,” Iraqi ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida'ie says to a room full of attendees. It’s not something I often think about when hearing of times of war. Instead my mind goes to broken towns, refugees, crying faces, and desert sands. I didn’t really know what the Middle East looked like before 9/11 and the invasion, but according to Shakir, agriculture was a huge part Iraq’s history. The country had a sophisticated system of irrigation which allowed them to sustainably farm and maintain their water sources.

After the coups, which lead to Saddam becoming the dictator, the country saw a steady decline in leisure time, women’s rights, and open information. The biggest ecological disaster occurred when people targeted by Saddam started escaping into the Mesopotamian Marshes (which some biblical scholars believe to be The Garden of Eden) of southern Iraq. For upwards of three thousand years, the marshes had sustained Iraq and been an important environmental asset. Much like the swamps of the south, the marshes were dense and people who managed to make it to them were difficult to find. So, Saddam had the marshes drained and poisoned, which set off a chain of ecological disasters. Many species were put on the endangered list and some went extinct. Birds that normally migrated there were forced to change their ways which had been the same for thousands of years. In 2001, only 10% of the marshes remained, but hope is on the horizon as the Iraqi people have been restoring it.

When a war is going on, nature truly does take a backseat. There are people going hungry who need to be feed, and there are people dying who need medical attention, but as soon as the war started to slow down the Iraqis’ were already working on saving their environment. We can really take a lesson from there. Although war has yet to come to our home front, our ecological well fare is not in the best state. There are some areas in the country where the water wouldn’t be considered drinkable, and the air quality causes asthma in small children. We have several luxuries that Iraq doesn’t have, yet the appreciation for nature and the ecological services it provides us isn’t fully there. Shakir and Iraq still wants our help in rebuilding their country. Hopefully we can work together and maybe their appreciation for restoring their environment will rub off on us, and we still start to do the same on our soil.