Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Can the Fellows Help Me Green My Living Space?

This is Jarrett. Jarrett is a really smart and conscientious first-year who, with his roommate Wendell, decided to take on the Sustainability Fellows' Green Audit. Jarrett and Wendell were very successful in this endeavor-- they earned an overall score of 90% green for their room, which earned them giftcards to locales such as The Going Green Store and Village Coffee, along with some other goodies.

Completing the Green Audit required that Jarrett and Wendell read the Green Audit Guide that was released this semester by DSF. This guidebook contains a handful of checklists related to sustainable living. Water usage, energy usage, appliances, accessories, and lifestyle habits that are sustainable are all detailed and assigned a certain number of points, which are then factored into an overall score. Sustainability Fellows visit the rooms of first-years who have given this challenge a shot, and recognition and prizes are bestowed upon those who manage to create rooms that are 60% or more green.

Jarrett and Wendell reflecting on how they can help better their environment.

The lifestyle changes suggested by the guide are pretty easy to implement. Some of the criteria include setting your fridge's temperature to between 36 and 39 degrees, consistently using a reusable water bottle, and unplugging your coffee maker when you're not using it. You even get points for liking DSF on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DenisonSustainabilityFellows) and following us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/DSFgoearth)! 

Other than the fame and glory that come with surmounting this challenge (and giftcards), there are several reasons it is worth reexamining your habits and the small, easy ways, you can modify them in order to be more ecologically conscious.

For example, using cleaning products and personal products that are biodegradable and toxin-free is not only good for the natural environment, as doing so helps reduce toxin and waste buildup, but it's good also for your immediate environment! By reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals, you reduce your chances of contracting a slough of nasty diseases. Although as college students we don't yet have the responsibility of paying bills, reducing electricity and water usage can  cut those costs by a lot. By committing yourself to use less plastic (by bringing your own fork to meal-ex, or drinking water from your own re-useable bottle), you're essentially saying no to the gross overuse of oil in our economy. 

While the Fellows are finished conducting audits for the fall semester, look out for us again in the spring! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What's the Deal with the "Social" Part of Sustainability?

In our last post, we talked about the triple bottom line of sustainability--  how social, economic, and environmental issues cannot be solved in isolation of one another. On the macro scale, this might be easy to conceptualize. People need adequate resources to take care of themselves and their environment. The environment needs knowledgeable and self-actualized stewards; the economy cannot be a force that undermines the other two. These are just a few abstract illustrations.

On the micro scale it may be difficult to envision the kinds of specific situations into which these factors figure. What kind of situations are some people in who lack adequate resources to take care of themselves or the earth? How do we make people take care of the environment? What kind of lifestyle is conducive to living in harmony with the earth? What economic practices compromise neither individuals nor ecosystems?

In a recent article on NPR's website, "How Could A Drought Spark A Civil War?" (find here, http://www.npr.org/2013/09/08/220438728/how-could-a-drought-spark-a-civil-war), the authors highlight the work of Nyan Chandra, who makes the case that civil strife and environmental disasters can come hand in hand. Chandra posits that a massive drought before the Arab Spring left many lacking a necessary resource and fueled animosities in the region as well as economic grievances. Perhaps this heightened the imminence of war. Notably, Chandra traces the drought back to climate change.

While this example is certainly thought provoking, we need to bring things back to the Denison bubble, and figure out what social sustainability here could mean.

During Fall Break, the Fellows met with Jonathan Kalin, founder of Party With Consent. A senior at Colby College, Jonathan began Party With Consent as a movement to encourage"enthusiastic consent," aiming to prevent instances of sexual assault (check out Jonathan's blog here-- http://partywithconsent.wordpress.com/).

Jonathan workshopped with us on thinking critically about partying and consent, as well as on a larger underlying dynamic: gender and consent. One activity we did was called "the man box." On a whiteboard, Jonathan drew a giant square. Inside the square, he wrote down our ideas about what constitutes "manliness." Outside the box, he wrote down our ideas about what is considered "unmanly" and the words used to describe someone who occupies this space outside the box.

Our finished product!

Again: how in the world does this all relate to the work we do as Sustainability Fellows?! 

Something a junior Sustainability Fellow, Daniel Fiorentini, says quite often is that our work is to "develop community through sustainability." In building a community that cares about its environment, we are tasked at building communities in which members respect the wellbeings of others. In this context, committing ourselves to healthy party practices certainly fits.

In the coming months, the Sustainability Fellows will be promoting healthy party practices by working to implement Party With Consent, as well as making recycling more accessible to party hosts.

In the meantime, think about your own lifestyle choices that might not seem to be obviously related to sustainability. How might those choices have social, economic, and/or environmental implications, and what can you do in light of such to make responsible decisions? 

Fellows mulling over the multifaceted nature of sustainability at our Fall Break retreat

Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Are the Fellows?

Those who know even just a few of us as acquaintances have described our group in various ways: an elusive co-ed Greek organization, an underground cult, a society of radical environmentalists that single-handedly recycled all the cardboard during move-in, and a Denison "special interest" club of tree-hugging upperclass students determined to recruit and initiate first-years into their tree-hugging ways.

While none of these perceptions of DSF is accurate (we are very much supported institutionally by Denison), it is true that some of us hug trees, and it is also true that a lot of our work is geared toward first-years. Not all of us are ENVS (Environmental Studies) majors; not all of us grew up in the woods; not all of us are vegans who eat tempeh for breakfast. What we do have in common is the passion to create healthy communities that thrive alongside the natural world.

Our aim is to role model sustainable lifestyle choices in first-year residence halls. The definition of sustainability we ascribe to is the "triple bottom line": people, planet, prosperity. Social, environmental, economic. We believe that we can't have one type of sustainability without the other two. In addition, we want to make sustainable lifestyles attainable. We want to make sure that students have the know-how to recycle, the resources to conserve energy, the knowledge to appreciate how environmental nuances of our everyday lives shape us.

Some of the ways we do this is through our Soup 'n Sustainability series, the Green Audit, Campus Sustainability Day (October 23rd), and our I <3 Granville campaign (membership for Denisonians is free of charge! Email Maria Mancini, mancin_m1@denison.edu to join! Also: http://www.iheartgranville.com/).

Next time we're tabling about green cleaning products, Nature Walks, or whatever, stop on by and chat with us! We're SO excited to get to know you :)


Okay, so we did do some recycling during move-in.