Monday, December 19, 2011

Here's another good one from our Centerville Intern, Erica Coulter. Hope you are all looking forward to a happy, healthy, and sustainable 2012!

Each year I make a list of New Year’s resolutions, just like many other people, except I usually forget about them after a month or two.  It always goes a little something like this:  exercise more, spend more time with the family, get organized, create world peace, etc. (Alright, the last one was a bit far-fetched, I know, but the New Year is supposed to be the best one yet, right?).  In January I manage to do 30 minutes of yoga each day, I eat dinner with my parents every night, I clean out my closet, but my list always magically disappears in the clothes pile that I should have picked up before February.  So, I began to wonder why this always seems to happen to me.  Could it be that I am unmotivated?  No, I tend to throw myself into my work.  Could it be that I have set my goals too high?  No, I at least managed to complete the list for a month, plus this is the time for dreaming big.  So this leaves me with one more option:  my goals are boring.

That’s it!  Every year I simply copy last year’s list, hoping that it will get itself done, and so, I have got to change it up.  Once I had this epiphany, then I had to come up with some ideas.  Not surprisingly, due to being a volunteer at CEC, I decided that this list should include new, exciting ways to “green” my life.  We all know that we should recycle and car pool, but I mean I need fresh ways to be a environmental warrior.  One warrior cannot do it all by herself, so I am enlisting you.  Here are some ideas:

1.        Begin the switch to reusable tote bags each time that you go to the store.  Cute designs are available now, right in the check-out line, so it should be easy to purchase one each time that you make the trip to the grocery.  In a flash your cart will be filled with a fashionable and environmentally-friendly way to transport your goodies.
2.        Grow a houseplant!  I do not have the greenest thumb, but putting a live plant in your home can reduce harmful chemicals and improve the air quality in your home, so I figure I will at least try.  Some ideal plants to choose are daisies, aloe, and herbs (these can be used in cooking, which is a plus if you ask me!).
3.        Stop using coffee stirrers.   This may sound ridiculous to ban such a tiny item, but every year Americans throw away 138 billion of them and they go straight to the landfill for the next few hundreds of years.  Instead, pour your coffee in after the cream and sugar.  If you must stir your Cup o’ Joe, make your own with long pieces of pasta. 
4.        Use your cruise control whenever possible. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 15% just by doing this.  What an easy way to save at the pump and prevent the unnecessary use of this resource!
5.        Pick one fewer napkin when eating out.  The average American uses an average of 6 napkins per day and if every person decreased this number to 5, we could save more than one billion pounds of napkins each year.  That is a lot more space in the landfill and many more trees standing.
If each one of us could make these five ideas a habit, just think of the impact we could have on the environment!  So this year, in between the house-cleaning and healthy-eating goals, don’t forget about Mother Nature.  Stick with these tips and you will be a lean, “green”, cleaning machine in 2012.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is the first blog post from our Centerville High School Intern, Erica Coulter. We are lucky to have Erica, in addition to two other interns, join us throughout the week at CEC. The interns are a fantastic help and donate an average of 11.5 hours per week of their time!

A Tree-rific Holiday
By: Erica Coulter

The smell of fresh pine and the look of a twinkling masterpiece entices many of us to purchase a tree for our homes during the holidays. However, there are many options when it comes to choosing your perfect plant and the burden of this decision can weigh on those who have the environment in mind. So, which version of this holiday classic is best: the fresh-from-the-farm option or a pre-lit one from the store?

At first thought, you may agree that a fresh tree is the way to go. This version provides oxygen to us humans, homes for wildlife, and can be recycled when the holiday season ends. Also, most fresh trees are grown on tree farms and therefore are sustainable. They are planted every year, take about 4-5 years to reach maturity, and once they are chopped down, they are replaced with future Christmas trees.

Others consider artificial trees to be the better route to take. These trees can be reused every year and they do not require the water that fresh trees do. This, along with the fact that they are slightly easier to assemble, sells them to many people. However, many believe that the material of which they are made outweighs their set-up ease. Petroleum, a non-renewable resource, is the main ingredient when producing these trees and production often occurs in countries where environmental laws are not as strict; therefore the air and water suffer heavy pollution. Again, though there are negatives with this choice, the re-usability of this tree is a major plus.

So which do we choose? Well, the only sure-fire way we can promote sustainability is in how we dispose of them. Real trees are recyclable and the Cope Environmental Center can help with Christmas tree collection. Your tree can be given a second life and give back to Mother Nature as mulch on our trails. For more information, go to our website, or call (765) 855-3188. If, however, you have chosen an artificial tree, the most important thing is that you do not dispose of it too frequently. Often these types of trees are used for an average of 5 years and then they find their way to the landfill. Try to beat this average and simply decorate yours in a fresh way each year.

Whichever type of tree you choose, there is always an easy way to promote sustainability. Now, with these DOable tips in mind, you can make the decision that fits you best. Happy choosing!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Get Healthy!

Guest Blogger Shannon Herbert - staying healthy - just in time for our 5 K run on Saturday, October 22 - still time to register! Adventures in Healthy Living: Never Stopping If you’re anything like me, you have made the commitment to get healthy at least 1,000 times, and have had enough “first days of the rest of your life” to supply every after school special ever made. Also, if you’re like me, you are completely sick of this. So, in an effort to cease the seemingly endless procrastination, I have come up with a list of five tips for staying active after the initial enthusiasm has worn off. 1. Enlist your friends or family to guilt encourage you. Let me assure you, it is a lot easier to force yourself out of bed when you have an impatient friend or relative to shame you into action. 2. Avoid boredom. It kills your drive. During several of my mini-attempts to at a healthy lifestyle, I have tried to start exercise routines that were nothing short of mind-numbingly boring. I soon learned that if you dread something, there is a slim chance that you’re going to continue to do it. So instead of forcing yourself to do something you hate, find something active you can do that actually holds your attention. This can include sports, dance fitness, playing with kids, or anything else fun that you can find. 3. Don’t overexert yourself. Aches and pains do nothing for motivation. This is more common than you might think. Often people make the commitment to get healthy and end up spending more time and energy in the gym than they need to. This leads to fatigue and muscle pains that can serve to discourage people from continuing their efforts. If you need to stop, then stop. Build up your endurance gradually rather than wearing yourself out in the first week. 4. Elevators and cars are nice (really nice), but don’t use them for everything. As someone who knows the pain of living on the third floor, I sympathize with all the elevator loyalists out there. However, avoiding cars and elevators for short trips is something that can both improve your health and the environment. Remember, every little bit helps. 5. Schedule time for exercise. Instead of merely saying, “I’m going to start going to the gym,” actually schedule a time to go. Without a schedule, it’s very easy to tell yourself that you’ll do something later. When things are planned out, however, you’re less likely to put something off. Well, these are my tips for keeping your commitment to being active. The most important thing to remember is not get discouraged. If I can run into my fitness teacher at a Taco Bell, shameless ordering a family-sized nacho platter, then you too can have your moments of excess. Don’t think that being healthy has to be an all or nothing lifestyle. You have your cake and aerobics too.* *(That was cheesy, I know. I regret nothing.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sick no More

Hi Everyone, CEC Blogger Shannon Herbert is back with another blog! Being in tune with the natural world and finding time to treat yourself to healthy food and time outdoors really can make a positive difference in your health! Set a goal to walk or run our Fall Foliage 5K October 22! Visit for details!
Adventures in Healthy Living: Sick No More! Hello, loyal readers of the Cope Environmental Center blog. It’s so nice to grace your computer screens again. You’re probably not aware of this, but for the past week I have been oh-my-goodness-I-will-never-leave-bed-again sick. (Not that I’m too keen on leaving the bed anyway, but still.) For some people, this kind of thing is a once in a while occurrence, but for me – a girl with an immune system comparable to John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble – this happens all the time. To me, every sniffling friend is a sign of a full blown cold coming my way. I used to think that this was just my misfortune. Immune systems, I assumed, were luck of the draw. Some people have good ones, and others don’t. Imagine my surprise when the good people of Earlham College Health Services told me how wrong I was. As it turns out, your immune system is something you can control to a certain degree with your habits. Knowing what I do about my own habits, my poor immune system is starting to make sense. So, in order to cast off this useless immune system in favor of an effective one, I researched the dos and don’ts of staying healthy. The following is a list of tips for boosting your immune system and living a healthier life: 1. Eat a proper diet. Avoid foods high in sugar and saturated fat. a. Yes, big surprise, the tips for improving your health include altering your diet. I know it’s hard (for me, at least), but consuming even 75 grams of sugar (approximately two cans of pop) can limit your white blood cells’ ability to destroy bacteria. The same is true for diets high in saturated fats, which are found in meat and dairy products. As someone whose diet consists of “whatever’s there” with a side order “oh, that looks delicious,” this is not my favorite of these tips. However, I know that eating more natural food will ultimately be better for me, so it’s something that I’m going to try. 2. Exercise, but do it properly. a. Research shows that exercising as little as 35-45 minutes 4-5 times a week can improve your ability to fight infections. Regular exercise also leads to better sleep quality, which is important because the immune system is most active when you are asleep. However, exercising too much can be just as harmful as not exercising as all. You run the risk of increasing stress hormones and decreasing the effectiveness of the body processes that fight infections. So, be sure to get out and be active, but take the time to relax as well. 3. Rest, relax, and sleep like the dead. a. Let me just say that, as a college student, I hardly ever sleep. A study done by the University of Chicago showed that people who sleep 4 hours a night (my average, sadly) have a high level of stress hormones that weaken the immune system. When given the flu vaccine, these test subjects produced only half the amount of antibodies as normal, well-rested people. In addition to getting an adequate night’s sleep, be sure to spend time relaxing with friends or family. Oddly enough, research has found that people who feel connected to others are more resistant to infections than those who are lonely. Take this as a cue to treat yourself to some time with those close to you. It’s not a luxury; it’s for your health. The moral of the story? All that advice you’ve ever heard about taking care of yourself is for the better. Not only do healthy habits give you a lot of energy, they keep you from relying upon the Nyquil Fairy as often as I do. As for me, although I do love seeing the nice women at Earlham College Health Services, I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid visiting them for a long time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hello Everyone,
I know we are not great at blogging on a regular basis at CEC - we are working on it. If you would ever like to be a guest blogger - let Stephanie know -

Here is our latest post from guest blogger Shannon Herbert - you too can get ready for our Fall Foliage 5K on October 22 - register now at

Adventures in Healthy Living: Being Active
As a college student, I can often be heard cursing inanimate objects with all the intensity of a Shakespearean villain:
“Oh, homework, why must you torment me so?”
“Curse you, empty wallet!”
“Laundry, methinks thou art a general offence, and every man should beat thee.”*
(*This may be a bit of an exaggeration. Just a bit, though.)

While it may seem to the unknowing that I am attacking said object, what I’m really lamenting is the need to put in effort. Homework, laundry, and a lack of money are all things that metaphorically shove me out of bed and into action, and there is nothing that a college student dislikes more than having to get out of bed.

However, I have recently come to the realization that effort is needed for a happy, active life, and as a result I have made the decision to be more physically active this year, rather than continuing my past Dorito-and-nap-filled existence.

My first stop in my quest to be active is, as you might have guessed, Cope Environmental Center, where there are many opportunities to move about and do things. The event that immediately caught my attention was the Fall Foliage 5K Run/Walk on October 22.

Let me just say, I have never considered myself a 5K kind of person. In fact, I remember being eight-years-old and laughing at the “get out, get healthy” commercials while drinking my over-sweetened Kool-Aid. However, if there’s anything that motivates me to put in effort, it’s a goal and a deadline. So ever since I heard about this upcoming event about a month ago, I have been taking steps to get myself ready to partially run (but probably mostly walk) this 5K.

If you too would like to become more active – or if you’re already active and would just like to laugh at me – come to Fall Foliage 5K, where you can either run or walk through the beautiful trails of Cope. From now until October 18, registration is only $15, and it is $20 after that. So, in the interest of saving money and not cursing your empty wallet like I am, be sure to register now.

In future posts I will include tips on being healthy and active, so look forward to that. I expect to see you all at the event. I’ll be the one with the Doritos.

What else would you like to hear from us?????

Friday, May 20, 2011

Proper Disposal of Medications

You take your own bags to the grocery, you use your reusable water bottle and coffee cup, you garden and compost, you ride your bike or walk, and you recycle. You do your part in a variety of ways to conserve our resources. You wouldn’t dare toss or dump anything into the street drain or local river, stream, or lake. But have you ever thought about what the best way to dispose of your over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Throw them away or flush them? That is the proper disposal, right? In recent years, it has been brought to the forefront that excess drugs being disposed on in these manners may be creating issues in our waterways. While our wastewater is all treated and sent down stream and then treated again to become potable water again, our treatment methods do not focus in on these types of chemicals that come from our medicine cabinet. The landfill is also not the best destination for medications because the medications can end up in the leachate of landfills which is dealt with in a variety of ways, one of which is to send it through the local wastewater treatment plant, which does not typically remove chemicals found in medications.
Various concentrations of different drugs are being found in our water ways. Some of this is due to the natural processing and disposal method which our bodies utilize these medicines and some of it may be due to the direct disposal of unused medication through flushing down toilets or sinks and into our municipal water ways. Evidence of adverse affects of these chemicals is being observed in fish, mollusks, and other aquatic life in our freshwaters within our borders and in the oceans surrounding the countries. This has led to in depth studies of the affects of medicines on wildlife. While the amounts of medicines being found in waterways is considered to be a small amount, it has been enough to already warrant concern in the observed affects in aquatic life. If there is exposure to the frogs, fish, and other animals living in the water, it will eventually make its way into our drinking water and food chain. This leads to humans ending up with medicines in our systems that were not prescribed.
The other issue to consider is the “cocktail” of medicines along with other chemicals that are finding their way to our soil and water ways. There are thousands of possible combinations of chemicals and drugs being disposed of daily. Scientists do not know the affect of these “chemical cocktails” on wildlife or humans.
Proper disposal of unused medications also keeps them out of the hands of curious teenagers. Pharmaceutical drug use is growing among teens in the United States. In a survey by the Partnership for a Drug Free America conducted in 2005, 19% of teens had taken a prescription medication to get high. Unused drugs in medicine cabinets are easy to get and some even fetch a pretty penny on the street.
The great news is that there are ways for you to easily and properly dispose of you unwanted medicines and prevent them from being part of the problem!
Check in your community for a Drug Take Back Program. Make sure that the programs is one that sends the drugs away for proper disposal. Most programs send drugs to be incinerated. Pharmacies that have Drug Take Back programs do not take back narcotic or controlled substances such as many pain medications etc. These can be taken back to your local police or law enforcement office.
Phillips Drugs in Richmond takes back unused medication at all of their locations and properly sends them away to be properly disposed. They also are not able to take controlled substances at this time. Again, Richmond Police Department is equipped to take back controlled substances, such as narcotic pain medications, etc. In April of this year, Phillips Drugs and the Richmond Police Department partnered to host a Drug Take Back Event. The Event brought in 993 pounds of medications including controlled substances. That is a large amount of medications that are no longer available to teenagers or that will have the potential to wind up in our delicate waterways.
Phillips Drugs accepts unused medications at all three locations in Richmond
1626 East Main, Richmond
631 East Main Street, Richmond
1390 National Rd West, Richmond
You may also contact them at 765-966-5544 or via email

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The joys (and spills) of Maple Syrup

Another great post from our guest blogger - Earlham Bonner Student Shannon Hilbert!

Adventure in Sustainability: The “What is going on here?”
As the resident blogger here at Cope Environmental Center, I hold the responsibility of attending the occasional event at the Center and detailing my experience. My supervisor suggested that I go to the syrup-making event, in which families bring their kids to learn about the history and science behind the making of maple syrup. I agreed to shadow this program, not because of any innate desire to learn the ins-and-outs of syrup making (although it is very interesting), but in order close a chapter in my life regarding my (not at all) tragic experience with maple syrup.

I should start out by saying that my entire family holds the belief that I hate maple syrup. They’re wrong, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the one who led them to this conclusion. I was first introduced to maple syrup at a young age when my father bought a Snoopy-shaped waffle maker in an attempt to inspire an enthusiasm for breakfast food. This worked marvelously, and soon my mornings were filled with drowning my favorite cartoon character in syrupy goodness. However, there was one problem that forever changed the role of maple syrup in my life:

As a child, I spilled everything I got my hands on.

That’s right. As long as it was a liquid, it was going to find a way out of its container and onto my clothes. Because of this unfortunate tendency, and my new-found affinity for breakfast food, I spent many mornings ruining my clothes with an overflow of generic Mrs. Butterworth. Eventually, this routine became tiresome, and I decided to do something about it. My little kid logic immediately cast aside the idea of trying to eat without making a mess. Instead, I decided to inexplicably declare my hatred for syrup and shun Snoopy and all he had to offer.

This brings us back into the present, where I was following a group of young kids and their parents through the Center to learn about syrup. The program, being family-centered, began by educating the multitude of kids on the basics of trees. Seeing as I already know the basics of trees, I spent much of my time trying not you yell out, “It’s chlorophyll! Chlorophyll! No, it’s the inner bark!”

After the information session, our group took a walk through the Center in order to look at the maple trees that produced the sap used to make syrup. Along the way we were met by two Cope workers dressed up like a Native American and an early settler. They both described their experiences with syrup to the group, and I had to admit that their stories were probably more interesting than my own syrup adventure. During the walk, the kids were asked a lot of questions, and I could see their enthusiasm for showing off what they learned during the information session at the beginning of the program. The program concluded with a demonstration of how Cope creates syrup today, and then the entire group was invited for a big pancake breakfast.

It was clear to me that the kids really enjoyed the program, and at Cope there are many programs such as this that offer parents the opportunity to have their kids be active in a productive way. The maple syrup program was a great combination of informative and interactive with the added bonus of a nice walk throughout the Center, and I would recommend it to anyone interested.

Lastly, if anyone cares to know, this program did inspire me to bring maple syrup back into my life. After finishing this program I got a stack of pancakes and loaded them up with syrup. I felt proud of reclaiming my place as a syrup-eater until I looked down to see…

…a syrup trail making its way down my shirt. Oh well, old habits.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Another one from guest Blogger Shannon Herbert. With gardening and all the joys of spring right around the corner, now is a great time to start or revive your compost pile! Read Shannon's blog - any questions? call 855-3188, Facebook your question at!/copeenvironmentalcenter

We can answer questions to help guide you in starting a compost pile that will fit your needs!
Adventures in Sustainability: The “What is that?”
Now that I have made a commitment to attempt a green lifestyle, I feel like my eyes have been opened to an entirely new world. It’s similar to when I saw Inception for this first time and started looking everywhere for signs that I was dreaming. (“Do I really remember how I got here? I don’t think that’s what that building looks like. I could have sworn it was a darker grey.”)

Because I’ve started looking for “green” things, I no longer walk right past them as I once did. I now see the sticker that says my notebook is made from 100% recycled material, the bottles of all-organic (and surprisingly delicious) apple juice, and the numerous recycling bins on campus. With this new perspective—my “green vision,” if you will—I have begun to look deeper into the environmental efforts on campus, starting with the one I am faced with every day: composting.

In Earlham’s cafeteria, there are three trash cans in the area where students drop off their plates. One of these is used for regular trash (aka the barbeque pizza that looked good but really wasn’t), and the other two are designated for composting. Before coming to Earlham, my knowledge regarding composting could be summed up with, “…It’s something to do with rotten food, right?” However, after receiving withering looks from people upon dropping a piece of cake into the composting bin, I have been forced to learn a bit more.

For those who are unfamiliar, composting is the controlled decomposition of organic matter, which is then applied to a garden to improve the soil. Or, in more comprehensible terms, things such as vegetables, fruits, lawn clippings, et cetera are put in a container and left to rot until they become an effective fertilizer. Seeing as I’m a lifelong city dweller, my knowledge of gardening is fairly limited, so I decided to contact my grandma, the only person I know with a garden, for more information on composting. Here is the basic run-through on one method of composting used by my grandma. (I assure you that her garden looks very nice.)

1. Take an old 50 gallon oil drum and drill holes in it—sides and bottom.
2. Inside the drum, put/layer anything organic (i.e. grass clippings, weeds, potato peels, carrot tops, clippings from everything, et cetera).
3. Between the layers, pour a special “composting tea" that consists of hot water, old tea from used tea bags and old coffee grounds.
4. Let it sit and then take a pitchfork and turn it. It will smell a little as it rots.
5. When it has decayed enough, empty it into the garden, spread it and work it into the soil.

There are many books and websites devoted to composting and several different approaches to it. I know it’s an added effort, but the environmental effects are significant. Composting reduces the amount of trash sent to landfills and puts it to better use. Also, it creates a thriving garden that can be used to grow all kinds of food that one would otherwise have to buy. All and all, I believe it is a very worthwhile endeavor and something I will surely try (once I’m out of this dorm).

If you’re thinking about trying your hand at composting, check out these helpful websites that will get you started and provide information on what not to do:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hello Everyone,
Another Cope Environmental Center blog from guest blogger Shannon Herbert! She is getting started in being more environmentally responsible. What tips do you have to share with her and others? Starting with low-hanging fruit and working up to more challenging choices, actions, and decisions is a great way to dive in!

Adventures in Sustainability: The What
Now that I have made the commitment to go green, I have to face one really important fact: I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve made enough New Year’s resolutions to know that it’s very easy to decide to do something and quite difficult to actually do it. I remember one year I decided to take a vow of silence, but that was swiftly abandoned at 12:13 AM with the phrase, “Get me a coke.” Noting my poor track record with sticking to things, I have decided to take a more tactical approach to sustainability.

My first step is taking stock of all I know about environmentalism:
1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle (aka the bare minimum after an elementary school education)
2. Global warming (courtesy of Al Gore)
3. Umm…That’s about it…

After coming to terms with my complete and utter ignorance in regards to environmentalism, I have decided that the first step is educating myself. And, of course, I went to the first place every teenager goes in order to find information: Google.

While perusing Google with various environment-related search terms, I happened upon many sites giving advice on the “First Steps to Going Green.” Here are five of the most common suggestions and what I immediately thought of them.
1. Turn the lights off when not in the room, and unplug unused appliances.
As your average poor person, I have spent my entire childhood hearing about saving money on the electric bill. If saving money coincides with being eco-friendly, I’m all for it.
2. Use reusable shopping bags.
I know for a fact that everyone in my family—including me—has dozens of those plastic shopping bags around the house. Sure, they’re occasionally used as miniature trash bags or to transport leftovers to hungry relatives, but mostly they just take up space. If using my free “You’re a library champion” tote bag saves me clutter and helps the environment, I have no complaints.
3. For shorter trips, walk or bike instead of driving.
Again, as your average poor person, I have no money for a car, so I have no problem doing this one. Also, seeing as I’m fairly pitiful as all sports other than checkers (it’s a sport, I swear), walking is about the only exercise I get all day. So if I can go green while simultaneously maintaining the same pant size, I’m up for it.
4. Drink from the tap and not single-use water bottles.
Personally, I’ve always thought that bottled water tastes like old carrots, so I’ve been filling up a reusable water bottle since the 9th grade. Also, despite my dismal knowledge of the environment, I’m aware that the overwhelming majority of those bottles don’t get recycled. So this is another thing I can check on my eco-friendly/convenient list.
5. Shop at the local farmer’s market to save on fuel used to transport and store food.
I don’t shop very much, but when I do I usually go with my grandma who lives in a small rural town not too far from Richmond. She always goes to local farms and gets delicious things such as fresh berries, honey, and better looking vegetables than you could ever hope to see in a chain store. Seeing as I’m a lover of good food and my grandma’s cooking, I can support this tip 100%.

So, as it turns out, I have unintentionally been doing some green things for a long time now. I used to think that going green was synonymous with abandoning convenience, but I’m surprised to find that a lot the green alternatives are suited to my way of living. Of course, these are just some of the preliminary steps for sustainability, but I know that I’m making progress.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hi Everyone,
We are excited to welcome Earlham student Zack Byam to our volunteer corps. He will be working on some short YouTube videos to post on line to keep the public informed about what is going on at CEC!
Here is one of his videos!

Meet our newest staff member - Emily!

A chat with Jeremy - Facilities and Grounds Director

Stephanie Hays-Mussoni - Executive Director

Alison Zajdel - Development Director

Coming soon - Aubrey Blue!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cope Environmental Center is thrilled to welcome guest blogger Shannon Herbert. Shannon is an Earlham Bonner Scholar who will blog about a variety of environmental issues and ways to help others incorporate environmentally responsible habits in their daily lives.

Adventures in Sustainability: The Why
Every child has some irrational fear. For my brother, it was the toy clown that sat in the living room (the one the mysteriously appeared in the trashcan one evening), and for my dad it was spiders. For me—and for no one else as far as I know—my all-encompassing childhood fear was global warming. I don’t know if I saw one too many commercials featuring sad polar bears walking across melted snow, but I remember staying up well into the night staring wide-eyed at my ceiling, fearing for the future.

At some point, my fear grew to a level where I started taking Sharpies and writing random encouraging slogans on the walls and furniture. (“Save the Earth! The bears need us!” or “I like snow! Stop global warming!”) Deciding that this had gone too far, my dad took me aside one evening and tried to set me straight.

“Missy,” he said, “I know you’re a really caring girl, but you can’t keep doing this.”

“Why not?” I pleaded with him.

“Because global warming isn’t something that you’ve got to worry about. That’s something that people in the future have to take care of. It’s not your problem.”

With that piece of advice, my dad achieved his goal of calming me down. However, his speech had the added effect of minimizing environmental concerns in my mind. With him serving as my example, I accepted that living green was a needless waste of time and energy, and I never gave it a second thought. Until now, that is.

During my time at Earlham, I have been forced to reevaluate a lot of the ideas that I once held sacred, my dismissal of the environment being one of them. More times than I care to admit, I have scolded by my peers for putting paper (a lot of paper) into the trashcan right next to the recycling bin, and that’s only one action on a long list of environmental offenses. Before coming to Earlham, I would have easily dismissed any criticism of my behavior, but now I find myself asking, “Well, why don’t I make the extra effort at living responsibly?”

I couldn’t figure out the answer to my question until I attended a presentation by Mary Jones, an environmental studies major at Earlham. Over the summer, Mary ran a program at the Townsend Center in which children of low-income families would help create a garden. Mary noticed that the children initially were not excited about the project, but over the course of the summer—through Mary’s positive influence—they began to sincerely take an interest in it.

After hearing about Mary’s experience, I understood for the first time why I was able to abandon the environmental fervor of my childhood and make the transition to apathy; I was following the example of the people around me. Without anyone around me to care about the environment (quite the opposite, in fact) I adapted to that kind of mindset.

Left on my own now, I’m beginning to rethink things and draw different conclusions. That’s not to say I have become an environmentalist overnight, far from it. But now I feel that I can do research on my own and start to explore the world of sustainability. From here on, I am beginning my Adventures in Sustainability, fumbling through the green lifestyle one day at a time.