sustainablelivingfall2014

Some helpful tips for going green in college


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Stick To It!

This is our final post for the semester and even though I would love to continue my blog once the course is completed, I wanted to leave everyone with a take-away I discovered after creating and developing this theme. I think the most important component of living sustainably is being consistent and sticking to it. It is easy to get caught up in fads and trends that influence you to make a change, but sometimes that change is only temporary. Everyone has the potential to get excited about saving the environment, but over time they might grow weary of taking a few extra minutes each day to make responsible decisions regarding the well-being of the Earth.

I have mentioned in previous posts how it is sometimes harder for others to make the first step in living sustainably because they may think, “Well, it’s just one piece of plastic I am recycling,” or, “It’s just one light I’m turning off, how could that really make a difference?” You’d be surprised! Those little things are actually the most important because they all add up to make one, true difference in the world. I have been conducting my own sustainable living experiment this semester as I have written about it, and I can tell you that there’s a lot of satisfaction that comes with being good to the Earth. At first it’s definitely an adjustment period but, as long as you stick to it, living sustainably will become a part of your everyday routine and the choices you make to do so will become so blissfully normal. ☮ ૐ ☽ ☯

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Roasting in Winter.

I must be on a winter-kick, or maybe I am feeling the holiday spirit–either way, topics about this cold and chilly season are fun to discuss as it is upon us!

Heat in the winter may seem impossible to live without when it is -7 degrees outside, but I think it is important to recognize those who do not have any shelter, food, or heat during the winter months. The holiday season is a time of year to volunteer at your local food bank or shelter and lend a hand to those in need especially as the temperatures begin to drop. In many urban areas, there are coat-drops in several locations. You can drop off anything from heavy winter jackets and fleeces to scarves, hats and gloves. The clothes are distributed to homeless and less-fortunate people. It’s a great opportunity to give back!

It is important to save as much heat as you can because that is an easy way to burn through a lot of energy. I would say it’s safe to assume that a lot of college students don’t have a fire place…maybe some who live off campus do, but it seems unlikely due to fire hazards. However, I know many families including mine who have a fire place and/or a woodstove as a way of heating their homes. My family has a fire place and a woodstove–we cut wood in the winter and burn through stacks and stacks of it. We do have a heating system, but rarely have to use it because the woodstove and fire place emit a lot of heat throughout the house.

If you don’t have a fire place or woodstove, no worries! There are other ways to stay warm and toasty in the winter without having to raise your electric bill and burn through too much energy. There are simple things you can do to save a little bit, like making sure your air conditioning units are stored away for the season. Cold air creeps through and it then takes more heat to warm the space. This would also include ensuring that all windows and doors are sealed. My roommates and I live in an older house, so a lot of crisp air tends to sneak through the cracks and crevices. My trick is to roll up a bath towel and lay it along the bottom of the door where the wind gets through. Rumor has it Walmart sells a contraption for this very purpose…I’ll look into it and get back to everyone!

Ultimately, it’s important to make sure that you are aware of the amount of heat and energy you are using during the winter to warm your household/living area. Not to say you have to shiver your way through the winter months, but it’s always smart to live in moderation. I remember a family member telling me once, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”


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Let it snow, let it snow, let it…melt?

I think I have finally come to accept the fact that fall is gone and winter is here. All of the leaves have fallen and most of the trees are completely bare. When I was driving home to Virginia for Thanksgiving break, I was thinking the whole time how beautiful it was outside and how much the trees and their colors lit up in the sunshine…so cliché, but true!

Well, I’m not sure what happened, but when I was driving back to Huntingdon there was snow all over the ground and the trees looked like skeletons. Of course, I knew it had snowed, but I was just mind blown that only a few days earlier I had been marveling at hues and hues of fall colors.

Now…snow isn’t that bad! A good snow storm can make anyone’s winter and holiday season a great one. Sled riding anyone?

But, depending on where you live, snow can cause a lot hazardous driving conditions and power outages if the storm is bad enough.

At this point you may be thinking, where is she going with this?

Snow is actually a really useful resource if you happen to suffer a bad power outage this winter that would mean an energy/water shortage of any kind. I grew up in Virginia and now attend college in Pennsylvania, so I am no stranger to snow! One year when I was about 10 years old, we got hit with a blizzard in VA that covered the ground with about 3-4 feet of snow. Our power was out for days and my Dad ran a generator that was able to light a few lamps and keep some parishable food items cold, but we had to be very cautious about how much energy/water we were using when the power was out and the generator was running.

My stepmom used to collect snow in pots and buckets and would then melt it. That was our drinking water and way of bathing in those situations. It does sound kind of funny, but that really was a smart use of natural resources. I think that’s a helpful (sustainable) tip for everyone to remember this winter…When the times get tough (a.k.a. you lose power and water when that vengeful snow hits), melting snow is quick and easy way to save a little water and live a little sustainably. 😉


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E-Waste: Changing the Landscape of Our Generation

When I was thinking of a blog post for this week, a couple of ideas crossed my mind, but then I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. This semester I am taking a class called the Metaverse where we are learning about the many different ways technology has shaped us into the individuals we are today. For our final project, my classmates and I are researching a variety of topics that pertain to how technology affects society (more specifically institutions like community and identity). I chose to conduct my research on the accumulation and regulation of e-waste, otherwise known as electronic or electrical waste that includes anything from cell phones and computers to refrigerators and washing machines. I think this is a really important topic to bring awareness to because we are living in a world where the global accumulation of e-waste is reaching all-time heights and the mass-production of electronic products is increasing as well.

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To give you a brief overview, e-waste is the largest type of waste that is accumulating in the U.S. Much of it ends up in landfills across the country and the toxic chemicals (such as lead and cadmium) that comprise e-waste could eventually leak and, subsequently, contaminate groundwater and poison landscapes. All of the e-waste that doesn’t go to a landfill somewhere is shipped overseas to countries such as Africa, India, and China. Piles and piles of e-waste has accumulated in these areas over the past two decades, but more recently it has become out of hand as the consumer demand for electronic products rises. Workers in these foreign regions are using unsafe methods to extract precious raw materials, such as gold, from e-waste in order to make a profit. Metals are extracted by burning e-waste, which creates toxic smoke and pollutes the atmosphere. It is all just a cycle, but we can put an end to that cycle if we are more aware about where our e-waste is really going and how it is being handled.

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I think we as college students have a really important role to play in proper e-waste management. Our generation is the most technology-driven generation there has ever been, which is obvious considering the major technological innovations that have emerged over time…especially in our lifetime. Because of this the amount of e-waste that accumulates increases, but there are ways to regulate e-waste that have environmental benefits. First, some companies provide drop-off stations for used electronics. Other companies offer a “take-back” system in which they will literally take back a product that is no longer working or in-use, then they will repair or recycle it without any harm done to the environment. When you take your e-waste to a landfill, you need to make sure you are questioning the person in charge. Where is your e-waste really going? Is it being formally recycled like you are told? Or, is it really just being sent overseas to accumulate in mass amounts all over public areas? Are the landfill bins protected from leaks with eco-friendly plastic liners? These are some of the questions you should consider when looking to recycle any e-waste you may have. I think this is really applicable to college students because we do get so much screen time and a lot of people so often get the “latest and greatest” gadget that is out there. It is inevitable that the world will accumulate more e-waste, but it is a matter of how we recycle and manage it that will make the biggest difference for the environment.


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Get Involved, Raise Awareness, Live Long and Prosper…

As I was brainstorming some ideas for this post, I was thinking that so far I have provided many different tips and tricks for going green in college, but I haven’t written much about raising awareness and getting involved in spreading the word about increasing environmental sustainability. Any college campus is a really appropriate and convenient venue to influence social change. I think that the voice of a student is very powerful, but the voices of many students combined could be the most powerful weapon there is in the fight for environmental justice.

There are a lot of ways to get involved on campus if you are someone like me who’s really passionate about making a change when it really matters. If we come together as one and speak loud enough for everyone to hear us, then great outcomes could happen. First, you should get involved with your college’s environmental club, or any other kind of club that is centered around environmental topics and concerns. You’d be surprised how many of your peers are interested in the same matters that you are, but it just takes that first, brave step to put yourself out there.

What’s that you say? Your school doesn’t have an environmental club? Start one! There’s no harm in starting your own little community of friends and peers who share with you a passion for saving the environment. The possibilities are nearly endless when you get involved with something like this because you can plan different events that will hopefully get students all jazzed up about living sustainably and spreading the word about a greener lifestyle.

We have something at Juniata called the Eco-House. It is an “environment” (no pun intended…) where students coexist by making decisions that preserve our natural resources and influence the Juniata and Huntingdon communities to be more environmentally friendly. You have the opportunity to meet new people and bond over a common interest in helping the environment. Here is a picture of the Eco-House below.

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If you really look into it, you would be surprised by the many opportunities you have as a college student to get involved and make a difference when it comes to something really important like environmental sustainability.


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Thrift Shop Junkies

Over Halloween weekend, my mom asked me if I had certain items yet that I needed for my costume. I told her that my housemates and I were planning on raiding Goodwill for stuff later than evening. This is generally a weekly occurrence in my household because I live with a bunch of thrift shop junkies, including myself! My friends and I absolutely love going to Goodwill together, and any other thrift store we may stumble upon.

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There are so many benefits to thrift shopping that could make anyone just as addicted as we are. Thrift shops offer a variety of different clothes and an assortment of other items at incredibly low prices. There’s a place I know in Windber, PA called the Quarter Store where everything is literally a quarter. Some thrift shops are more expensive than others, but overall you’re going to be saving a lot more money thrift shopping rather than shopping at a mall or name brand store. In my experience going to the Goodwill in Huntingdon, there have been times when I have filled up a bag of clothing and other household items that only cost me 20 bucks in total. 20 bucks! Tell me you can fill up a whole bag of stuff at a store like American Eagle for only $20… And bonus, I have found that clothes at thrift shops are just way cooler stuff you get in a mall. Indeed, you can get nice, brand name items at thrift shops too if that is your style. If you like a more worn look, then you’re in luck as well!

Thrift shopping does not only keep your wallet happy, but the environment happy as well. Some big companies like Wal-Mart and Forever 21, for example, mass produce clothes and other items at a rapid rate so they can rack up more and more dollars. But, thrifting puts a whole new spin on things. When you buy second-hand clothes, or even donate your own clothes, you are helping out so much more than you may think. You are reusing something that someone else didn’t want, which totally validates the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” There are people out there who can’t afford to go to a mall or big stores to shop for themselves and their families. So, when you make donations, you could be really helping out a family or individual who may not have the means to shop elsewhere.

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Thrift shopping in general is just a really fun outing to do with some friends or maybe by yourself if you need a break from classes and work. It’s an easy way to save money and help the environment by reusing material items rather than just tossing them in a landfill. And remember, be creative! Once you start realizing all the different ways to put second-hand outfits and decorations together, then you could very well become an addict too!


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Detour to San Pedro, Belize!

I absolutely love to travel. It is one of my most favorite things to do. I never studied abroad, but living and/or traveling abroad for an extended period of time sounds super exciting! Even though I’ve never spent a long period of time anywhere, I’ve gotten to take these little trips over the years that have been really meaningful in a lot of ways. For instance, last March during spring break, I traveled to San Pedro, Belize. Belize is a very special place to my family, so I had been there before but I never really saw it like I did when I was there in March. San Pedro, Belize is a beautiful little part of the world that is nestled along the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Here–check it out!

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This is a picture I took from the “puddle-jumper” airplane as we arrived in San Pedro. And, let me just tell you, you should probably try to avoid at all costs ever riding one of these things…yikes! Anyway, this picture really shows just how vast of a place the Caribbean is…and just how surreal. During my time in Belize, I would take a lot of walks along the beach. I think I have mentioned before that I am a die-hard ocean lover! I think that is the Pisces coming out in me, but I just can’t help it! There are certain sections of the beach that are so perfectly landscaped: raked, planted, watered…cared for. It was nice to see, but then I would stumble upon other parts of the beach that were covered in garbage. I was outraged to say the least…it mostly made me incredibly sad to think that there was that much trash just spread along the surf. I asked my dad where all the garbage came from and he told me that cruise ships will just dump trash off the side of the ship…both passengers and crew members. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this, but, it frustrated me nonetheless knowing that someone thought it was appropriate to just throw trash into the ocean like that. He or she sadly didn’t care and it happens more often than none. However, we must care about where our garbage goes because this is how marine life is killed. Seals and other aquatic animals will often get caught in plastic bags and other waste that ends up suffocating them. The picture below was not one that I took, but it is exactly what the polluted beach looked like in Belize and, unfortunately, other beaches around the world.

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Please rethink before you litter. It is the most simple thing to avoid. Everyone should really understand that even though you may think you’re just getting rid of something, it doesn’t just disappear into thin air. I want to shed more light on this subject hoping that we can put an end to littering!