What is Sustain Champlain?
Sunday, February 20, 2011
So I took this picture to prove to you guys that I really do what I suggest you do. Here is a lovely photo of my trash from the big overhaul I did on my room. It was all lumped together in a bin, and I could have thrown it all out, but I took the time to sort everything out. It took me a whopping 5 minutes. It's not hard and makes the people's job at the recycling plant much easier! :)
One of my least favorite chores is washing my clothes, and that dislike is magnified even more when I have to sift through my pant pockets, wallets, and drawers for elusive quarters. Like, why don’t these machines take dimes and nickels? Argh! The apartment I’m moving into doesn’t have a washer and dryer, but it does have hook ups. My boyfriend and I have been trying to figure out if we should get washer and dryer or go to the laundry matt. A dryer will jack up the electricity costs, but laundry matt means driving and waiting. There was always the option to hang dry our clothes, but that takes a lot of time and the clothes end up smelling like mildew if they’re wet for too long. Plus, we'd have to hang dry inside because all the neighbors don't need to see our unmentionables and what-nots. The laundry matt and high energy bills were neck and neck, until I stumbled across this nifty product. Now I’m not always a huge fan of technology bringing us closer to the perfect image of sustainability, because I don’t think they help change people’s consumptive habits. But sometimes humans and technology can meet half way, which is better than nothing!
So, back to the apartment, I’m looking up washers and dryers and somehow stumble upon this device called a spin dryer. If you’ve ever been to an indoor pool, you might have used one. You put your swim wear in, close the lid, hit the button, and in a minute you have a dry bathing suit to bring home. The spin dryer works like a centrifuge to spin the water out of clothes. It works best if you fold the clothes before putting them in, but you can pack it full; if you’ve ever tried to stuff a dryer you’ve probably had less than satisfying results. It takes 2-3 minutes for the spin dryer to do a full cycle, and although it doesn’t dry your clothes fully, it gets them very close. Owners of spin dryers say that afterward they can hang dry a cotton shirt in 15-20 minutes and up to an hour for thicker items like wool sweaters. And if you didn’t want to hang up the clothes, you could easily throw them in the dryer for a few minutes.
Spin dryers range from $60-$200 (the price is dependent on how many pounds of clothes can be put into it), so you probably won’t see immediate savings, but over time they will be apparent, and if you take care of it properly you can have it for years. They energy efficient, and your clothes will last longer because they’re more gentle on the fabric and the color than standard dryers. So whether you decide to hang dry your clothes afterward, or throw them in the dryer for a bit, you will be saving energy and money. It is a bit more cumbersome, but I’d rather use one of these than spend an average of $154 dollars a year on coin machines that never seem to get your clothes clean or dry!
Here is a video of a spin dryer. Expectantly, it’s not the most exciting video ever, but it’ll give you a good idea of how the machine works and how much water will come out.
Now keep on being mindful!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Greetings from across the pond. Indeed, the snow is piling up so high, it is getting hard to see over the snowbanks (and this is from a woman who is six feet tall). Your questions are great prompts, and it is times like these that I really appreciate the moment to sit back, think a bit, and reflect on why I do what I do. So, forgive me if I ramble a bit, but I will get to your questions.
My husband and I have had several discussions lately about work vs. job. For me, my life work is about creating and living a sustainable lifestyle for me, my family, my community. That takes up all of my day. My job (currently at Champlain) is a piece of that life work -- trying to encourage others to take steps in that direction, if not live it fully. I recently read a fantastic book called Radical Homemakers -- which reminds me; the author will be speaking in Burlington at the upcoming NOFA conference. Anyway, one of Shannon's main points is that what is important in life boils down to four things: family, community, ecological integrity, and social justice. I am trying to make that the motto for my life. And so, I'll delve into your questions.
*First of all, how do you personally incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle? When oftentimes its less complicated/expensive to be wasteful, how do you keep up your sustainable habits?*
Man, can that one be tough. This morning my babysitter overslept, I missed the bus and I walked (trudged is more like it) the 30 minutes to my office from my house in the Old North End. As I saw cars cruising by with warm passengers rocking to the car stereo I thought to myself, "why is it again that I won't drive to work?" Oh yea, a million reasons. But now as someone with a young baby and a full time job, I start to understand why those extra 25 minutes x2 might be why more people drive even short distances. But for me, it has always been critical that I model the behavior I wish others to participate in. And so, I walk. Or, the other day, I skied.
Another example. It is winter in Vermont and we do our best to eat locally. That means a lot of root vegetables, cabbage, meat, cheese, etc. We were graced with a small bag of spinach from our farmshare the other day and it was the best tasting salad I've had in a long time. Sure, I could be eating green salads all winter long, but none of them would taste that good.
In our house we cook, we wash dishes by hand, we hang cloth diapers to dry by the woodstove, we walk/bike/bus. This all takes time and sometime even I have to be reminded that it is worth it. I believe it is. And as my husband is always trying to remind me, I have to learn to have fun with it. (I'm still learning).
*Secondly, what are the most successful ways that you see students (or anyone) get motivated to go green?*
You know how some people have quotes attached to their email signatures? One caught my eye the other day, enough so that I copied & pasted, and then printed it out and taped it to my computer. It says, “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” From Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French Pilot, Writer and Author of 'The Little Prince', 1900-1944.
This quote reminded me that one way to get people to care about the environment is to get them out to experience and enjoy it so much so that they want to protect it and help it heal and help those who are affected by a degenerating planet. That is certainly a critical part of my ecological identity. And so, to that effect I am planning on getting students to join me on the lovely groomed ski trails down in the Intervale this winter and is also the premise behind a new course I hope to teach next fall -- The Foundations of Ecology. In that course I plan on doing as much field time as possible, in various Vermont ecosystems.
*What type of information regarding lifestyle/sustainability/activism do you think most college students are lacking?*
This is a toughy. I feel like there is no shortage of information out there. In fact, I feel it is much the opposite. We are so overloaded with information, with really heart-shattering stories from across the globe, that sometimes it is hard not to feel paralyzed by this (something that happens to me at times). I think some folks would rather live with the 'ignorance-is-bliss' motto and just shut out the tough stuff and go on living like what they do doesn't matter to others or the planet.
Although, I also have to remember that when I was a first-year college student, I didn't know about ANY of this stuff. I do think that students today are more saavy about this, and have had more exposure to environmental issues in their high schools and through current events, but perhaps that is not the case. Perhaps no one has brought this up before. And so, that's part of my work. How to make information and opportunities to positively participate apparent, to make them meaningful, to simplify (but not over-simplify), and to connect to what matters to an individual. No short order.
Well, that's probably enough rambling for now. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect. I hope your time in Ireland is full of adventures. I can't wait to hear more.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
See also: More About Meatless Monday Campaign
No word yet if Champlain College's Sodexo team will follow suit. Please let them know if you think we should. Find them on Facebook at
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Are you ready for part 2 Beavers? Ah, the joys of composting! I first learned about it when I went to the White Mountain School. We had a much more “hands on” experience than ya’ll do here. Here we just throw our waste into an unseen trash bin and walk away. During high school we had to separate out everything in green buckets (we couldn’t compost meat, dairy, etc, like we can here), lug those buckets to a compost “heap” by the school garden (even in the winter!), and members of farm and forest would have to turn the heap with shovels and pitchforks. It was kind of gross. But composting is a really helpful and natural process, and it definitely won’t be as intense if you’re just composting for yourself and a few roommates. The process not only cuts down on waste going into trash bins, but it also is helpful for gardens. Compost is used to improve soil quality and is a more natural alternative to buying Miracle Grow.
Composting in an apartment or dorm room doesn’t have to be as unsavory as an open pile on a farm. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to use your compost for. Do you want to use it for your container garden, or do you want to compost to help cut down on waste in the trash area? I’ll first start with how to compost. What you’ll want to do is buy an indoor compost container, which will keep the smell down. You can purchase outdoor compost containers that are sealed, but sometimes cities have rules against this. Some are more high tech than others and it really depends on how much you want to spend. You might want to consider buying two so once one is full you can start on another one while the first one is still “processing.” Now you just have to fill the thing! To make your compost even more efficient you should be adding dead leaves and vegetation, which are nitrogen rich and will help the waste compost faster. For every two or three inches of foods/scraps add a half inch of dead leaves.
You can put a lot of things into a compost heap. Orange peels, left over broccoli, soil napkins, pasta, eggshells, liquids (the second container down has a drain), non glossy paper (just make sure to shred it), and coffee grinds, to name a few. Now, I promised to tell you how you can have sex and save the environment. Instead of leaving that condom floating in the toilet bowl, put it in your compost! Latex condoms will break down, but it might be a good idea to bury it….Here is a list of 75 other interesting things that can be composted. At the school you can put meat and dairy in a compost bin, but it’s not advised for small setups. Piles work because they get hot and the temperature, bacteria, and small animals (in outdoor bins) help break down the waste. An indoor compost bin will not get hot enough to break down these items. Avoid putting butter and others fats in. A healthy compost pile should have minimal odor, and if it’s stanky add more leaves. You’ll start this and end with this. With diligence this should take between one or two months. Larger compost bins can take up to six months.
If you’re not using your lovely compost in your garden then you can take it to the Intervale Compost Product Center in Burlington, Vermont and then they’ll gladly take it for you. You can also purchase organic compost from them! But if you’ve spent all this time taking a steaming pile gunk to a lovely pile of nutrient rich dirt, don’t you want to use it? You can dig a few inches into the soil that’s already there and add the compost. Composting is an extremely natural action. You’re growing food, eating food, saving the scraps, and returning them to the earth. No, it’s not the prettiest thing ever, and it may smell a little, but since I’ve been in college I’ve seen things more horrifying and smelled things extremely rank.
Keep On Being Mindful!
How have you been my fellow Beavers? P. Phil has spoken, or looked, I guess, and spring is coming soon! I’m not sure how much I believe him, due to the fact that the snow gods have been dumping loads of fluffy piles on us, but nonetheless I’m excited. Spring means warm weather, shorts, and the end of school. As we near, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about gardening! As you know, I’m all about eating high quality produce, and gardening for yourself will ensure said quality. You’ll have a closer connection to what you’re eating, and you’ll probably have a bit of fun. Plus, if you enjoy eating cucumbers you can grow them and not buy any at the store, thus saving more funds for other foods, beer, yada, yada.
I’m lucky enough that my apartment has a back yard, but still, I’m too scared to ask my landlord if it’s okay to dig up the lawn to grow vegetables. Have no fear. You don’t need rolling hills of green to grow vegetables. And let’s face it, we are college students and probably won’t be growing every variety of lettuce, potato, and pepper known to mankind. This actually makes our lives much easier, because we can start container gardens. Container gardens are as the name implies; they are gardens you start in containers. I’m planning on going to a hardware store and buying plastic buckets, tubs, ceramic pots, etc, in order to cultivate some tasty treats. Just make sure all your containers have some drainage at the bottom so your plants don’t drown when you water them, because plants in containers need to be watered more than plants in the ground. Avoid using darker containers too, since dark colors attract more heat, unless you have a shady growing area. Naturally, larger vegetables will need larger containers to grow in.
After figuring out what you want to plant, and what you’re going to plant it in, research your vegetable. Some seeds work best if you start them from little seedlings inside and transfer them into your soil. Don’t just go to the store and buy the cheapest seeds you can find. Treat this excursion as if you were shopping for a new car, laptop, etc. One gardener suggests buying them from a reputable seed magazine. This will also work to your advantage because some companies have hybrid veggies that grow smaller than regular varieties. The end of April is generally the time for people to start gardening. That is, however, if your apartment (or dorm room), has adequate light (about 4-5 hours per day). If your seeds aren’t strong they might falter once you move them outside. If you are lucky enough to have a window sill that allows for natural light place them there. Also, open the window for a bit. Plant stems need conditioning, and If you put them outside without being used to wind they’ll have a hard time. This is called “hardening.”
So don’t fret, I know I just threw a lot of concepts out at you. If you are interested I encourage you buy some books on the matter (the Goodwill on Shelburne Rd. has a lot of $2 gardening books) or ask someone in the community that seems garden savvy. If all else fails, check out Seven Days Newspaper to see what beginner seedling and gardening classes are going on in the area. Many are free or only ten dollars!
Now, say you want to try growing a variety of foods and don’t want to go buy a lot of containers. Well, just like certain people live better together than others, some plants will thrive in the same container and others will not. Plants that go well together are called companion plants. If you love tomatoes try growing them with cucumbers, peppers, and carrots. But don’t try to grow them with corn, potatoes, or…kohlrabi . I know, you were just dying to grow some of that kohlrabi weren’t yeah? You can easily find lists of plant companion’s and enemies through Google. I said it in my first blog post to take baby steps, and the same applies here. Just start out growing two or three items this year. You’ll feel just as much satisfaction and won’t be overwhelmed. Finally, keep an eye and ear out for information pertaining to the Champlain College Community Garden that will hopefully be up and running this summer!
Don’t be afraid of tackling this project. So what you couldn’t keep the petunias alive that your aunt sent you. Besides being pleasing to the eyes and nose, petunias offer little value. Food plants, on the other hand, provide you with sustenance, so I’m going to bet you’ll take better care of them. And if they die, or it’s a bad season, all is not lost. Now, take a five minute breather since I just threw out a lot of information and websites, and come back in a few minutes to read the second part of this blog post which will tell you about the joys of composting. Here’s a final hook. Come back and you can find out how to have lots of (safe) sex and save the environment…dun dun dun!