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.