Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Staying sustainable at college

  For me the jump from home life to college life wasn't huge, but the one thing that did worry me was my level of sustainability. At home my mom and I have been working hard for the past few years to reduce our waste and the size of our carbon footprint. This meant unplugging unused appliances, recycling everything possible, composting, using re-usable bags etc. She even purchased a hybrid car ( I wish I had that kind of money!)
  Anyway, thinking about this gave me the idea for a simple list of ideas to help reduce your footprint at school (which can be a tough place to do it!):

1) Drive less! Buy a bicycle or walk to the store. This is a doubly good practice because it can help both your health and the environment. I go to school in a small town and see people drive 3 blocks to go to the store. Earlier this year one of the sororities here hired a bus to take them to a bar 4 blocks away...this kind of behaviour is just ridiculous.

2) Recycle. If your school doesn't have a program, see if you can start one. Often times there are members of the faculty who would love to help you out.

3) Go trayless. Did you know that it can take up to a half gallon to wash one single tray from the dining hall? That's 1.5 gallons per day, per adds up quickly. Ditch the tray and save some water.

4) Use natural lighting whenever possible. You wouldn't believe how many people I've seen walk into their room, shut the blinds, and turn on the light to do homework. If natural light is unavailable, use lamps equipped with CFL bulbs. The overhead lighting in most dorms was probably not chosen for efficiency, but price. And of course, remember to turn off the lights when you're not using them.

5) Unplug appliances when you're not using them. Even when turned off, appliances such as microwaves, televisions and stereos pull energy from the grid. Phone chargers and laptop chargers are included!

6) Turn it down. If you have the ability to control the temperature in your room, try and keep it set between 66-68 F during the Winter and 76-78 F during the Summer. Another option would be to turn off your unit completely, it seems that many buildings that are heated with boilers run quite hot anyway.

7) Bottles me gone! Don't buy bottled water, the bottles end up in our landfills by the millions, and research has shown that most plastics leach toxic chemicals into the contained water. If you would rather  drink filtered water (the well water where I go to school tastes awful!) invest in a Brita brand pitcher/filter. Also, buy a reusable bottle to carry drinks from class to class. I have two Sigg brand bottles that I really like, some other brands have been known to leach Nickel and other chemicals, so be sure to buy a quality bottle.

8) Keep showers short and/or buy a low-flow shower-head for your bathroom. This may be an issue in large communal bathrooms, but could be brought up to the head of school maintenance, projects like this are a win/win for both the school and the environment.

9) Use biodegradable, non-toxic soaps and shampoo. Many traditional soaps, shampoos and conditioners end up leaving chemical residues in our water supply, often killing wildlife or causing disease. My favorite soap is Dr. Bronner's 18-in-one soap. Available online and at many health food stores (also apparently at Walgreen's where I live), this soap is 100% vegetarian, non-toxic and biodegradable. It is made from natural oils rather than animal lipids. I highly recommend giving this soap a try.

10) Wash your clothes with cold water, this saves the energy required to heat the water, which in turn saves the school (and hopefully YOU) money :).

     I hope these ideas can help you make your life more sustainable, I know there are many others...these are just a few off the top of my head. Thanks for reading.

Oil Pulling and Natty Toothpaste?

    So after dealing with painful gums for the past couple of years I'm trying a natural approach to improving my oral health. Oil Pulling is a form of ayurvedic medicine from India, in which one swishes around oil (generally sesame oil) for 15-20 minutes at a time. This is said to "pull toxins out through your saliva". I actually believe it just helps give your body some good omegas and other nutrients while rinsing out your mouth...but whatever. Claims have been made that it helps cure everything from receding gums to joint pain, and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about. I'll report my findings in a couple of  weeks.
   Another natural product I'm going to try and create is natural toothpaste. Flouride has already been banned from water in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Austria, France and The I don't really think I want to consume/absorb any more than I have to. 
I plan on using coconut oil, baking soda, some sort of tea-tree extract or another essential oil and a sweetener such as stevia.  

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Long-time no-post!

   It has been quite a while since my last post. I just got back from a weekend at home helping Allison's dad with their cabin. After some issues with my trek 800 I took it home and retrofitted my trek 3900 front suspension with a rack and fenders and brought it to school. First sticking snow tonight so we'll see how it does tomorrow. I'm just glad to have a working bike again. I miss riding around home.
  I'll be taking a Tri training class next semester which should help get me ready for summer. I'd really like to get a bike club started and get some group rides going at Westminster this Spring.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day and Rush Week

   Whew, had a good three day weekend at home. It went by way too fast but that's okay. Saturday I rode my 2.1 to the gym and back, and Sunday Allison and I rode around Rock Bridge State Park. They have great single-track out there with some seriously gnarly terrain. Also Dad and I went out and bought clothes for rush; a new sport-jacket, shirt and tie etc.
  I'm excited about rush this week, it should be a good time. I'm still not sure if I'm going to pledge or not but if I had to guess I'd probably say either Sigma Chi or Delta Tau Delta. Those are the two fraternities that stick out to me. Part of that could be because David was a Sig, but I like the academic side of the Delts as well.
   I have to say that it's good to be back at the dorm, as scary as that sounds this really is beginning to feel like home. The fact that I have some awesome suite-mates probably has something to do with it as well! Although I wish to experience life in a different part of the United States (cough...Evergreen State...cough) I've found myself really falling in love with Westminster's small campus and extremely diverse student body. I've met people from all over the world: India, Fiji, Iraq, Bolivia, Bosnia, Costa Rica and China (my roommate) to name a few. I'll keep things updated as Rush week begins.

Oh, and a few pictures of the dorm:

Our stereo/tv set up and my desk.
We've got partial surround sound and a subwoofer
with HDMI-UP DVD connection.
Tis' pretty sweet for home-theatre on a budget.
   <----This is my bed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fast living

Whew, I'm sitting here in JCI among all the hustle and bustle, trying to collect my thoughts over the past few days. From late-night salsa lessons on Sunday night to the club fair yesterday, I have been quite busy. I've moved a few things around in the dorm to make it seem a little more open, and hooked up my stereo to the television for better movie sound. I also purchased a new DVD played with HDMI-UP hooked to the TV for better video quality. I hope to turn our room into a social hot spot once the weather turns cold. Yesterday at the club fair I signed up to take part in the formation of the Westminster radio station. I'm excited about getting to DJ again, I really enjoyed it in high school. I also signed up for Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, EcoS (Environmentally concerned Students) and the Service Corps to name a few. I'm very interesting in working with Habitat for Humanity, I think that it will enable me to learn construction skills while simultaneously helping others.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Sunday

  Wow, first Sunday on campus is coming to a close and I am exhausted. I have been reading and doing homework for the last two hours. The amount of reading necessary so far hasn't been overwhelming, but coupling it with algebra homework has made it difficult for me. I have been to my algebra class twice now and I'm already not sure how to do half of the homework. Math this first semester is going to be very tough for me, I can tell. 
  On a lighter note, I did some work over at the eco-house today, helping to break ground on a fall garden. I have a feeling this discussion class will be quite interesting. I'm also excited to do weatherization work on the house. I find efficiency very interesting. 
  We also had a short greek meeting about rush today, we got to go around and tour the houses....which was interesting as well. I for sure know which house I want to stay out of... and I think that I have narrowed my options down to two that I like. I guess we'll see what happens when rush rolls around. 
 My mother also came by today, to bring me some things that I left at home (which was very nice). She also brought me some delicious cookies...I swear she's trying to fatten me up! While I was home on Saturday I tried to go for a ride out on Rhett's run but after five or six minutes pinch flatted on some sharp rocks. I guess that's what I get for putting too small of a tube on my rear wheel. I'll probably be headed home again this weekend for labor day, so hopefully I'll be able to make it out on both the road and trail.

Friday, August 28, 2009

   Classes have been good so far, nothing to complain too much about other than Algebra. I crashed at the Alpha Phi house last night over at William Woods. Most of the girls there seem pretty nice, I don't always like the way they treat the pledges...but I guess that's part of it. We went to the one night club here last night, it's called Tif's. Quite small, but it could be fun with the right crowd of people.
   The Trek 800 Commuter has worked out perfectly so far, I've ridden it to all of my classes without too many problems. (It needs a new rear derailleur, so shifting isn't the best but that can and will be fixed. ) I'm really glad that I stuck the fenders on it, they make a world of difference when it's wet out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Classes start tomorrow

Self explanatory title. I'll be starting my college career off with Elementary Spanish at 10:00 AM tomorrow, which should be pretty interesting. At least, I hope it is...I'll have it four days a week. Things are quiet tonight, there's no loud music on Fraternity Row...maybe they do take school seriously? I'm looking forward to my Seminar class, it's about the role of the family in different cultures around the world. I think I might take some classes on culture in the future. I also hope to get involved with the Eco-House project. Although it's really small, I think it can be used as a model for the rest of the school.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day Two

     A fairly successful second day of college ends. I was able to get in a very short amount of time on my commuter bike today, just a loop around campus and over near the sports fields...but not nearly enough to quench my body's thirst for exercise. I feel weaker and more flabby every day I'm not in the gym. I must say, the hecklers have begun already...on day two; "Hey, nice bike" can be heard in overly sarcastic tones as soon as I start to wheel towards the street. Oh well, people just don't get that I take it seriously. Or don't care enough to find out. S'all good.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The beginning

Well, here I am. Sitting in my new dorm room at Westminster College in Fulton MO. It's 11:42 and I have no idea where my roommate is, but that's alright. I've met a few new people, most all of them have been really friendly. I have three international students living in my suite, which is pretty cool. I decided to bring my old Trek 800 to school with me to get around town. It was purchased for me maybe 7 years ago. I recently converted it to a commuter/light touring style bike. I replaced the knobby off-road tires with thinner ( from 26x2.0 to 26x1.5 ) smoother tires and added fenders and a sturdy rear rack. I hope to get some baskets or panniers so that I can use it on grocery runs. It's definitely going to be strange only having one bike here at school, and I'm already having withdrawals from being able to ride my road bike (shown above) whenever I feel like it. I'll post before/after pics of my Trek 800 soon.