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.