How the Greench Stole Christmas

Jumping on with the trend Maura started, I too decided to write a holiday poem. Finals shminals.

How the Greench Stole Christmas

All the people back home liked Christmas a lot.
But the Greench at Ecohouse had a troubling thought:

She didn't buy Christmas! The whole buying season.
It seemed wrong to her, yet no one quite got the reason.
It could be that the spirit of Christmas is such
that people just love it, no matter how much
Mother Earth may suffer. It's worth Her sacrifice
for this day on which people decide to be nice.

But whatever their reasons, be it family or friends,
The Greench couldn't feel good without making amends.
She grew to dread Christmas, which now starts in October.
She felt so alone. Was no one else sober?
She knew they were shopping at malls everywhere,
not sharing her values, not seeming to care.

"And they're clogging the highways!" she sighed with a moan.
"Their heaters are blasting! They're driving alone!"
Then she sniffled. The engines outside just kept humming.
"But what can I do? Stop Christmas from coming?"

She remembered the joy she once felt on that day,
tearing wrappings on presents she'd just throw away.
And then! Oh, the waste! Oh, the waste, waste, waste, waste!
That's one thing she hated: the waste! Waste! Waste! Waste!
Then all, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they'd feast! And they'd feast! And they'd feast, feast, feast, feast!
They'd feast on factory meats and non-organic treats
and not care where their food had come from in the least.

But it wasn't all bad. There'd be warmth for a day
in December, a prospect that's more than okay.
The Greench has a father and mother as well,
and cousins to play with, and stories to tell,
and she does like her presents, and the songs are okay
except at the mall where they're all overplayed.

What to do, what to do? And it struck: an idea!
The Greench had a wonderful, brilliant idea!

"I know just what to do!" the Greench shouted with glee.
The first thing she did? Why, she chose a real tree
from a farm, not the wild, and then for her mother
who's allergic to pine, she looked for another -
a fake one this time, for reuse each year.
She reused wreaths too: less damage, same cheer.

She was just getting started! The next thing she did
was pick out a gift for her stepsister's kid.
She found treasure upstairs at a small local shop:
A penguin friend made with sustainable crops!
And in that same store she found fair trade tea,
homemade soaps, local art, and organic coffee.

She looked for the labels and paid the nice lady,
then carpooled down the street going 30 (not 80).
Down the street was a large and abundant thrift store,
which isn't a place that's reserved for the poor.
She found clothes, toys and games, CDs, dishes and books,
electronics and more - used, but you can't tell by looks.

And she still wasn't finished! Back in her Greench lair
she had tons of stuff that was just sitting there.
Would someone else want it? Could she make something new?
"With my old craft supplies, why, that's just what I'll do!"
Then it came time for wrapping. And out from the depths,
she dug up last year's paper and bags that she'd kept.

"Made of recycled paper!" she laughed. For herself,
instead of stuff that would just gather dust on her shelf,
she asked people to give to the Earth that sustains her.
Those buying for her know that injustice pains her.
Planting trees for a shirt, though, why that's the cat's meow!
There are so many options for buying fair now.

But some people still like to do things the old way.
The Greench shrugged and she said, "I think that's okay.
There are things that I've wanted since eight months ago,
but instead of buying them then, I told myself no.
For a lot of that stuff, my wants ceased to exist.
But the stuff I still want, well, that goes on my list!"

The Greench turned off her lights and welcomed the glow
of moonlight reflecting off fresh-fallen snow.
And on the next day she awoke to the smell
of breakfast, organic and healthy as well.
She greeted her family and felt the warmth spread
From her generous heart to her idea-filled head.

The warmth was refreshing and melted the thought
that Christmas consisted of wasting a lot.
"It came without car fumes. It came without stress.
It came without making a big global mess.
"Maybe Christmas," she quoted, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas is something we all can afford."

All people, that is, and all creatures too,
and all cultures can thrive, no matter who
you may worship or pray to or give all your thanks.
It's meaningful "spending", not breaking the bank.
What tradition exists outside of the land?
We all create culture within Nature's hands.

Photo of snow in moonlight taken from http://picasaweb.google.com/Thuleexplorer/BestShotsSept282007#5116606848653722306.


End of the Semester Sonnet

If it isn't the Eco-House blog readers!
The end of the semester is close by,
Due dates are approaching from all teachers,
Yet here is SNOW and vacation seems nigh!

Last Monday of last week of classes,
The prospect of work inspires no joy,
Waiting for the bus we freeze our ... hmmm
Another assignment, "Thanks, oh boy!"

Yet think of all that we have learned thus far,
On sustainability and the earth,
The toil, sweat, and tears seem worth much more,
Together we have seen its and our worth!

So though we're stressed, at the end of our rope,
We are an Eco-Family and share hope!


Best. Leadership Activity. Ever.

Well, at least the best Leadership Activity for Ecohouse I've ever done. (Joke: I've only done this one.)

I spent about 8-10 hours working on setting up this event, Sustainability & the War on Drugs. I would have spent more hours if I hadn't gotten help from my friends in NORML and SSDP. (Disclaimer: Ecohouse does not endorse the politics of NORML and SSDP. I do, though! Officially!)

It was very stressful, even with the help. I had no idea how to go through the rental processes and taking care of the contract for the guest speaker and paying for everything with SSDP's budget (once again, thanks SSDP), so I did a lot of running around and making phone calls and being confused and even crying a little (aww). At some points I thought of some less than savory things to say about the Ecohouse program for putting me through all this, but like a child who finds it is worth it to do the lame thing her parents wanted her to do, I'm now very glad Ecohouse required me to do something like this. (Anyway, you don't have to do 10 hours for your leadership activity. You can earn full credit for anything that lasts up to 5 hours, extra for more.)

I also did a short presentation, about 10 minutes, in the beginning. I just introduced myself as an Ecohouse student working through SSDP and NORML to do my leadership project, introduced Sanho Tree as basically a guy who does great work (he does!), defined sustainability and war on drugs and drug policy reform, and gave some domestic examples of how the war on drugs hurts the environment. Our drug laws prohibit the growth of industrial hemp even though it would be great for the environment and economy, and even though industrial hemp has no psychoactive effects, because apparently some people want to stop the scourge of reefer madness. I think it's madness that marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug. Anyway, not only have current approaches failed to reduce supply, they also hurt the environment. For instance, people will grow drug plants on public property to avoid the danger of having their own property seized. When was the last time people felt the need to hide a cotton farm in the national forest? The last time people ran home drug manufacturing operations was during alcohol prohibition when they made moonshine. Now people are doing it with methamphetamine and other drugs. Such operations have no safety, health, or environmental regulations. Another thing I mentioned is suburban sprawl, and how cities would be more desirable to live in if there were not open air drug markets and gang violence (thanks for the idea, Eric Sterling).

I left the remaining little-over-an-hour to Sanho.

He rocked our socks off.

I am so happy. I heard him speak at the International SSDP Conference in 2006, and he covered some of the same topics here tonight. Here's a video clip from that conference:

And here's a clip of one of the other things he talked about tonight:

He blew people away. NORML members, my friends, and a reporter for the school paper were the first to show up. But then Ecohouse students, students in Maryland for Clean Energy, and some unfamiliar faces filed in. The turnout came out to about 30-35 people. I'm so happy people from green groups came to this event. They enjoyed Sanho's discussion so much that they want to invite him back next semester to talk about the same thing to a wider audience. A couple of them took his card. There was a good amount of questions and like 60% of the people stayed afterwards to chat excitedly. I don't care that I'm getting course credit for this. This is huge because people tend to pass over drug policy reform as a special interest instead of something that really impacts all aspects of society and social justice. All the stress that went into planning and publicizing and fretting over my introduction/presentation when I have so much other stuff on my mind (My Issues: another blog entirely) was totally worth it. I feel all warm and fuzzy. And smarter, even though I've listened to him before, because he talked for much longer than he did at the 2006 conference and added some great facts, ideas, and insights. And oh, did he talk about sustainability and the war on drugs. I love hearing new things about issues I've been learning about for a while.

I mean, even if all the drug policy stuff I did doesn't fly with you, the sustainability aspect is where it's at in Ecohouse and the leadership project is one of the opportunities we get to have meaningful experiences. (Did I mention the experience was meaningful to me?)



Hey there EcoHouse!
Today in the crisp November air nine of us had a foot"ball"! Aaron, Dillon, Cameron, Emilie, Susie, Joe, Mike, Josh, and myself went out and had a really good time. We had a representative from all but two of the Ecohouse apartments so, way to go guys! We gathered and started playing good-old-fashioned two-hand-touch football around 3:30 and kept at it until the sun was setting at about 5. We divided into 4 on 4 teams of Mike, Emilie, Josh, and myself vs. Aaron, Cameron, Susie, and Joe. Dillon played permanent QB for much of the game and was amazing, executing excellent plays and accurate passes to everybody. Josh and Joe dominated the scoring with their skillful speed and ability to catch and retain possession of long passes. Aaron had some awesome down completions including one very impressive two footed slide on the grass after which he managed to stay upright. Mike took over QB, and was a clutch blocker, and scored a touchdown. Cameron was also a down completing master, relief QB, and touchdown maker. Emilie was by far the most skilled female and the organizer of this fun social activity so PROPS! She had the unenviable position of covering Joe and was the only female to make a touchdown. Susie was a great sport at learning the rules as she went along. Her tight coverage of me also meant that when I managed to catch the ball (about 75% of the time) I barely got any separation. We had a really fun time, got some good exercise, and had a chance to hang out in the fresh air! After all what is November if there are not at least a few pick up games of touch football? We definitely want to do this again and hope that even more people come. I feel really bad because I cannot remember what the final score was, but we were pretty even throughout and were 5-5 or 5-6 (counting each touchdown as one point) near the end of the game. It just goes to show that it really doesn't matter if you win or loose, just that you have fun!


Plenty's Ask blog

Hey! Have you ever had a question about living sustainably that has stumped everybody you've asked? I know I have. Frequently asked questions pages and Top Ten Ways lists are great for beginners, but what about those of us who are hardcore?

Plenty Magazine has a blog just for folks like us. The questions are smart and the answers are thorough. Go forth, environerd, and become wiser.


Environmental Tip of the Day

Go vote.

even if you have to drive really far


Trick or treat!

Hey! Are you really an eco-friendly consumer, or is that just a costume?

I bring you the second of Josh's three articles: 7 Bad Habits of Eco-Design Driven Consumers

Mind you, these are only seven of 'em. There are others. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

And since I couldn't help but notice what day it is, here is a list of Eco-friendly ideas for celebrating Halloween from the Nature Moms blog. It may be kind of late to prepare for this year's trick-or-treating, but let's face it, we eat candy all year round.


Over my dead body?

Over the next few days, I'll be posting Josh's eco-tips, sent out in the form of articles this time around. They're quite interesting!

This first one is very relevant to the holiday season. No, I don't mean Christmas, New Year, or even Thanksgiving. I mean All Hallows' Eve, Día de los Muertes, Samhain, and so on. Whatever you celebrate, this is the time of year to think about death.

Well, if that's the sort of thing that floats your boat. For some people, it's more of a time to hand out candy to throngs of adorable children. Others dress as their favorite pun or pop culture figure and go out to impress partygoers with their cleverness. Yet others dress down and face the frigid October evening as some permutation of a seductive (insert profession here). "Sexy Environmental Consultant," for instance.

Still, let's pretend that we're all thinking about death.

"I'll wait."

Thinking about it? Good. Now, here's an interesting thing you could do with your mortal coil once you've shuffled it off:

Coil to coral

I can do what now?

That is pretty awesome: a full ecosystem approach to the old idea of planting a tree or letting a barrow grow over your buried body. Of course, if I got one of these, I might advise my loved ones to save boat fuel and not visit my grave site. I could circumvent this issue by ensuring that all of my loved ones are fish, but then who would pay for my grave? Hopefully, I'll have several decades to figure it out.

Nothing lasts. Things will grow over our grave sites, many things in succession, and I'm pretty cool with that. This article simply gives you the option of having marine things grow over you instead of terrestrial things, at least until the boundaries of the oceans and continents change. By then your body will be broken down all over the place, and think of all the ways it will contribute to earth systems! You won't have an ecological footprint; you'll be the ecosystem that people tread upon.

"'Scuse me? I'll be the what?"

Conservationists always talk about future generations. Well, if you think about it, we're walking on, breathing, eating, drinking, and even polluting the past ones. Nature's so great at recycling that we don't usually think of it like that.

Anyway, the zombies haven't gotten to me yet, so I still have my brains intact, philosophical ramblings notwithstanding. I'm going to move on from thinking about that stuff and think instead about what I'm going to do tomorrow.



In the Ecohouse program, one of the ways to earn course credit is to have a "Personal Learning Experience."

I had mine today: NEVER bite into a raw green chili pepper. Seriously. Not even a tiny, baby ant-sized bite. I barely took half a nibble off the tip of it, in a strange burst of frat boy-like experimental curiosity. At first it tasted like a green bell pepper. Then my salivary glands started working overtime and I ran to the sink just in time for a tidal wave of spit to come out. I then poured myself a glass of water from the fridge, and had trouble taking a first sip because I was hiccupping uncontrollably. But desperation lent me the will to gulp some water, then pour another glass, then put a few breath mints in my mouth because it was still burning, then pour another glass of water, which I am slowly sipping now while chewing more breath mints.

I really am a bright person. I won't suffer any sinus congestion for the next year, at least. It kind of reminds me of the sort of hijinks my 10-year-old cousin would get into, except he would do it to be funny and me, I just end up being funny.

I got the offending pepper at the local farmer's market, where Natalie, Elena, Phil, and I found good deals on vegetables, fruits, and baked goods. Elena found her beloved Lima beans and I replenished my sweet potato supply, among other things. Yes Mom, I am eating my vegetables here at school. I also relieved some of the lavender bushes outside the apartments of a few sprigs. The flowers are hanging in the living room now, drying so that I can use them for tea. Meanwhile the clover and rye we planted are starting to grow, helped along by the rain:

In Elena & Co.'s apartment, they've carved jack o' lanterns, which I've pictured next to the bicycles to give it some Ecohouse flavor:

Before going to the farmer's market, we watched a guy dig up this tree stump. A perk of living at Ecohouse is you can stop and touch the types of soil, analyzing the content, and you're not considered weird. Or at least you're not alone.


First day in the garden

Or, as they say where I'm from, gaahdin. Am I right, Elena?

We pulled several months' worth of weeds, tilled the soil, and spread seeds for winter rye and crimson clover. They're cover crops that will:

1. Prevent soil erosion
2. Prevent weed growth
3. Fix nitrogen in the soil - more nutrients for spring seeds!
4. Maybe even attract some biodiversity.

Then we watered them. To build our arm strength, we filled a watering can in our apartment and then carried it out to the garden plot four times. (We don't have a hose or rain catchment system or nothin' hooked up yet - they're working on it.)

Grow, seeds, grow!

More on that later, when more stuff happens.


Your EcoFriendly Cleaning Supplies

Tonight you probably received a delivery: two squirt bottles filled with a minty fluid and two jugs or bottles of a substance suspiciously resembling lemonade. But these were not your generic bottles of lemony-fresh liquid. No, instead they were the result of Aaron, Natalie, Elena and my work this evening in the EcoHouse Cleaning Supplies Workshop!

You may be questioning what to do with all of this, so I bring you a little explanation. What we've provided for you is Lemon-Mint Window Wash and Bleach / Brightener Substitute. The window wash should essentially be a substitute for Windex. It's made from lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and peppermint essential oil -- all eco-friendly and ready to keep your windows shiny. Use it like you would use any window cleaner, except instead of your standard cleaning rag, the recipe we used suggests you clean your windows using newspaper to avoid streakiness. We tested it out in the Leonardtown Community Center windows, and it was successful! (Our secret mission to make the entire community center smell like peppermint was also a success.) We suggest the usage of your least favorite part of the Diamondback for all your window-cleaning needs.

The bleach / brightener substitute is for your laundry needs. It's a pretty simple solution: hydrogen peroxide and grapefruit juice mixed with a lot of water. Who knew that grapefruit juice could clean your clothes? The recipe says to use 2 c. per load of laundry, presumably to brighten the colors. This has yet to be thoroughly tested, though plans to use the concoction are in the works.

Since we didn't get the chance to before we distributed them to the apartments: please label your cleaning solutions! Though most of the ingredients are relatively harmless, we'd rather you didn't mistake bleach substitute for lemonade. Lemonade doesn't contain hydrogen peroxide, this does. Be kind to your future self and give yourself a label to read.

If you haven't seen these mysterious solutions show up in your cleaning supplies yet, ask your roommates about them! Every EcoHouse apartment got some, and they're quite useful as near as we can tell.

Interested in making your own eco-friendly cleaning supplies? The recipes we used are:

Lemon-Mint Window Wash

Juice from one fresh lemon
2 cups water or club soda
½ teaspoon peppermint essential oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Mix all ingredients and pour into plastic spray bottle. Shake well before using.

Bleach/Brightener Substitute

1 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 ¼ cup lemon or grapefruit juice
12 cups water

Store in a labeled one-gallon plastic jug. Add 2 cups per load.

There's more! If you're interested in any other eco-cleaning supplies, email me at olivia dot buzek at gmail dot com.

A week in the life

And it's only Wednesday.

I just thought I'd post about the Ecohouse stuff I've done this week in the context of my schedule. Non-Ecohouse stuff (which is to say, not necessarily supported by or universal to Ecohouse) is italicized. This way y'all can get a feel for what it's like to be a student here, except replace the italicized activities with your own classes/organizations/hobbies.

_Had cold. Played Legend of Zelda - Twilight Princess.
_Met with Josh, Tory, Hanna, and Michelle about Ecohouse garden. We decided that we're planting cover crops of clover and rye. We're going to weed and plant the seeds on Saturday after our Claggett Farm field trip. We also worked on our long-term plan...
_...Played more Zelda. Colds bad, video games good - one needs balance, you know.

_Cold worsened. Got up early to study for exam. Body was all, "Dear brain, I regret to inform you that I will not be able to perform normal functions today. Sincerely, body." Slept the whole day instead.
_Except when I was awake, I received an email from Sanho Tree, who works for the Institute for Policy Studies and will hopefully join us in November to talk about the War on Drugs and sustainability issues abroad.

_Took our apartment's compost bucket out to the bin we (as in other Ecohouse members) set up.
_Went to class - Tolkien on War with Dr. Fleiger and Medieval Women Writers with Dr. Keyser.
_TAed for a Scholars Environmental Studies course.

_Met with Natalie, Shari, Emily, Elena, and Xenia about our peer teaching presentation. Broke down our topic of consumerism into six sub-topics: (1) pre-1950s history, (2) birth of consumerism and defining it along with associated terms, (3) modern examples, (4) environmental impact, (5) the benefits and limitations of recycling, (6) and alternative methods like reducing, reusing, and means of production.
_Went to Students for Sensible Drug Policy meeting. Announced the Sanho Tree plans and enlisted the help of SSDP - and its budget. <3
_Did homework for genetics discussion

_Went to genetics discussion after a long, environmentally unfriendly shower. :-/ At least I feel better now. Got a ridiculously good grade on genetics exam.
_Went to Organismal Biology lecture with Dr. Jeffery, then to genetics with Dr. Shields, then to the Environmental Studies class I TA.

_Emailed Mom.
_Sent an announcement to Ecohouse members about a fundraising event at California Tortilla tomorrow. If you go there between 5-9pm and say "books", they'll donate some of their profits to a fund to send books to Northern Uganda! I have to plug it as much as possible because I've been working hard on fundraising this semester.
_Got food at My Organic Market.
_Made yummy omlettes and pumpkin bread.

_Gave my roommate Olivia blog authorship so she can write about the workshop she ran tonight.
_Procrastinated on English class readings by writing in the blog.

As you can see, Ecohouse is quite an active community, but it leaves room for other activities and studies. I'm looking forward to tree planting and gardening on Saturday, plus going for a run with Shari on Sunday if I'm feeling ship-shape by the weekend.

Also, I forgot to do my laundry. Dang.

p.s. Please don't stalk me now that you know my schedule. I don't take kindly to that sort of thing.


On a democratic note...

(Mind you, I wrote democratic, not Democratic. Let's Not Get Into That Sort of Thing!)

Two things:
1. Check out this site. On it you can submit your own ideas for what you want the next president to do on day one in the White House. Here's an interesting one: would make the White House look kind of like Ecohouse with our garden patch outside. They're got nine categories of issues for your ideas, including climate and energy. You can also rate other users' ideas without having to sign up with the site.

2. The vice presidential debates are tonight! It is difficult to be unbiased about the running mates' stances on the environment given the information that's out there. Still, I feel comfortable linking to Biden's environmental record versus Palin's unadulterated standpoints because clearly, the environment is not the only issue that matters in the election.* Also, these are the running mates, not the candidates themselves. Finally, shouldn't we be talking about this? Environmental issues usually gain support from more Democrats and liberals than Republicans and conservatives, but when one considers the diversity of individual voters rather than parties and ideologies, plus the fact that government is supposed to be for the people, and that people along with their parties and ideologies change... one may conclude that this is not a partisan issue except to those who enjoy partisanship. And I don't, which is good, because if I did my house would be a war zone.

Speaking of nonpartisan issues, my apartment mate, Hanna, who is part of the on-campus group Maryland Students for Clean Energy, is working on a campaign called Power Vote. This campaign gets young voters to sign a pledge saying they will vote for the most environmentally savvy candidate, whoever they judge that candidate to be. Thanks to their hard work, as of yesterday the University of Maryland at College Park is in third place for the total number of pledges submitted!

*I say "unadulterated" because it's hard to come across articles about Palin's environmental standpoints that don't contain editorial words such as "abysmal" and even "terrorist" - really, "terrorist", on the first Google result. Easy now, blogosphere!


This picture needs to be posted.

I saw a mouse!


I was working on an essay at a table outside the Leonardtown Community Center. It kept running back and forth, foraging, and stopping under my feet. So cute! It seemed to be missing an eye, though, which made me kind of sad, 'cause it's bad enough being a special on the bird of prey menu when you've got two eyes. However, the ex-eye was healed over and everything else was intact, so best of luck to you, little guy (gal?).

I was also pleased to observe that we have a compost bin now!


Anacostia picture diary

Let's all welcome Maura to the blogosphere - she posted her first entry below, about the very trip that I'm documenting here in photos. Hers will reveal the social ties among Ecohouse members, the breakfast cuisine, and (spoiler alert) dimples - but I mustn't give away too much. Whereas mine is - well, here:

Look! Proof of social ties among Ecohouse members! Also, proof of Saturday morning.

Trash can't ruin a thing like this.

Or can it? Mind you, these are only the things that float.

This is the archaic sewage system responsible for the poopy water condition. I'm sorry - the "coliform bacteria" water condition. When it rains a certain amount in a certain time frame, the system can't hold everything and just lets it flow. Too much information? Well, I'd rather know than go out in a canoe and capsize in it.

Cap'n Lee stands fast at the helm, singin' tales o' the sea to me n' me hearties. Arr! He sails with the crew o' the Anacostia Watershed Society.

Lee explained that the yellow things go all the way to the bottom and catch sediment. The grassy knoll used to be an unregulated landfill that has since been lined.

These orange ties deter geese from eating the essential wetland grasses...

... and these fences prevent them from landing among the grasses, because they need a long runway for taking off and won't land in cramped spaces. Honk!

Another problem in the Anacostia river...

...is monocultures of invasive species.

This wall from the Stone Age - that is to say, the Dark Ages before environmental science grew into an authoritative field - that is to say, the 1950s - was built to straighten the river's naturally curving path in order to flush out pollution. However, the river knows what's good for itself because the process of constantly changing its path and flooding and receding from the wetlands with their purifying flora naturally "flushes out" pollution. It's the bee's knees! Now we feel awful silly because golly, the wall prevents the river from doing just that. Oh, Billy!

Also, did I mention that a train load of coal fell into the river at this bridge about a year ago? No? Well it did. We're not sure why the crane is there - maybe to pull the remaining parts of the train out? - but those orange things in the water are for catching floating trash.

In spite of all these issues...

... many types of wildlife are returning to the river to make it their home.

And see, they're not sickly. They flew away as our pontoon approached. The turtles opted for diving under when we got close, so the water is good enough for them and (hopefully) getting better.

The so-called Meast and his attentive crew. (I tried to catch his dimples in action, but he moved as fast as the turtles.)

New Blog Contributor on the Anacostia Field Trip

Hey there EcoHouse members and enthusiasts! This is my first blog entry ever. How far I have come in three short years from looking up what the word "blog" meant junior year of high school. I'm testing the blogging waters right now so... how 'bout that Field Trip?

This weekend the entire EcoHouse went to the Anacostia River to pick up some trash. We all did not think that this Canoeing trip would actually take place as it had been steadily raining for two days and we had learned in class that after too much rain the sewage treatment plant overflowed. At 1 in the morning I did decide to get a little sleep... just in case... but it was sobering to check my email and see that indeed the fieldtrip would go on. Luckily one of my amazing EcoHouse apartment mates Elena made us pancakes as we got ready.

An army of bikers made their way to the river by trail but I was in the car because I do not know how to ride a bike. I wish I could say something about the bike-trail because I am sure it was scenic and fun. EcoHouse re-assembled in the parking-lot and were treated to bagels, cream-cheese, and hummus!!!

We were also greeted by Anacostia River protector Lee Cain, who we in our apartment have nicknamed "The Meast" because he is a man and a beast... a Man-Beast... a "Meast!" All we have to say is that you brought this on yourself when you decided to grow your own food while sporting dimples. In all seriousness Lee is a very good guide who gave us an interactive lecture on Tuesday and then an awesome Pontoon Boat tour of the river on Sunday. He also looked out for us and told us that it would be unsafe to pick up trash because of the aforementioned fecal matter in the river. The Pontoon Boat Tour replacing the Canoeing/ Trash Clean-up was very informative and full of wildlife... and trash sightings. The vast majority of the trash consisted of plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers, but there were also sports balls. Seeing the trash caught on branches, collected on the bank and floating in the river was the wake up call this sleepy group of college students needed to get them alert before noon on a Saturday. It makes you think about the things that you use and where they ultimately end up. The animals were cool to see and included blue and white herons, kingfishers, ducks, geese, a hawk, and cutest of all... TURTLES.

After a scenic lunch in the arboretum we were on our way back, some on the boat enjoying the sights for the first time as they had fallen asleep on the first pass down. Then the heavens opened thanks to Cameron's quote "I wish it were raining right now!" A few minutes later and it began to POUR. Thus our river field trip came to a soggy end, exponentially so for the army of bikers who braved the torrential onslaught on their way back to campus.

All in all it was a fun trip! We bonded, got drenched, and were motivated by the trashy banks of the Anacostia... and the Meast.

Note: The author had a nice conversation with the Meast during lunch and in no way condones the objectification of Anacostia Watershed Society Environmental Educator Lee Cain the dimpled, food growing, river-saving, former teacher.

Sustainability tips of the week

It's Monday, and there's no better way to make the most of the week starting before you're ready than to start a new tradition. (Disclaimer: There may be a better way.)

Each week, an Ecohouse member delegated to the task sends us all an email containing environmental tips of the week. These tips will now appear in the blog. This week's list is brought to you by Josh. Thanks, Josh!

What’s Happening Ecohouse! Here are the sustainability tips for the week…

In the dorm

* Enable your computer to go into "sleep mode" when not in use.
* Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
* Use natural light rather than electric whenever possible; make sure to watch out for peeping toms.
* Buy inexpensive mugs and plates that you can wash rather than disposable ones.
* Avoid over-packaged takeout food.
* Buy a water filter and refill a reusable container instead of buying cases of bottled water.

In the bathroom

* Take shorter showers; unless you start smelling like cottage cheese.
* Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.
* Report leaky faucets and showerheads.
* Don't use the toilet as a garbage bin. Toss tissues and waste in trash cans.

In the laundry room

* Only wash full loads of laundry.
* Wash your clothes in cold water.
* Air dry whenever possible.
* Use products containing the least amount of bleaches, dyes, and fragrances.

In the classroom

* Use refillable binders instead of notebooks or use a laptop.
* Take notes on both sides of paper.
* If it’s OK with your professor, hand in assignments by printing on both sides of the page.

Soon, I will post about the field trip we took on the Anacostia River over the weekend.


Got wood?

"Timber Industry: Cutting Down Trees Helps Environment"

Listen to the NPR story here. Then raise your collective eyebrows with me.

For more stories, check out NPR/National Geographic's Climate Connection. They have some really interesting, thought-provoking, not your average "10 ways to reduce carbon footprint" stories (although... they have that one too).


I'd like to report a theft...

Remember the fans I lugged from the Catholic Student Center?

I left them on the balcony outside my apartment against the wall with this sign:

(I was going for the '50s Diner-esque aesthetic.)

When I left for class in the morning, they were gone. But the sign was still up, and a trash bag that needed to be taken to the dump was also still outside.

I am more confused than anything. Who steals fans? For that matter, who pulls completely nonfunctional fans out of streams and lugs them across campus with every intention of using them?


Anyway, my plan was to get an area in Byrd Stadium where I could display the fans. A caption would explain that they were pulled out of Paint Branch Stream by the College Park Environmental Group on 9/20/08, the very same day that the Terps ran over Eastern Michigan with an offensive onslaught (thanks, Diamondback headline writer). Why fans? Because, you see - and a banner would proudly proclaim this - Terps are big fans of the environment. Oh yes.

Beneath the banner would be a list of things that Terps fans can do to show their team spirit, by way of respect for the campus upon which we kick so much athletic arse. For instance:
  • Recycle aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes
  • Use the compost bins provided by Dining Services to dispose of concessions
  • Don't litter
and essentially leave the campus at least as lovely as you found it.

I could get some trashed fans from the dump. Or I could take this theft as a sign that some vigilante got wind of my nefarious plans and decided to put a stop to my rampant punnery.

Perhaps Testudo himself would be a more convincing environmental liaison to Terps fans. Fan fan fan. I have hereby lost my privilege to say the word "fan" for at least another five posts.



Today, Emily, Natalie, and myself joined some CPEG volunteers to do a stream cleanup. College Park Environmental Group is an on-campus student organization that has adopted a small stretch of Paint Branch stream near the Catholic Student Center. They usually hold cleanup events a few times each semester, among other service and outdoorsy activities.

Picking up trash can lead to interesting sociological hypotheses. For instance, when I picked up trash in my small suburban hometown, most of it consisted of cigarette boxes, beer cans, and hard liquor bottles. This, I figure, is because young people are afraid of disposing of these things in their parents' houses, where they may have to answer for them, so they toss them out of the car instead. Now who wants the job of sitting on the side of the road, watching cars go by, and observing the people who litter to determine whether my hypothesis is correct?

Nobody? Okay.

We found some fans.

I have plans for these fans. I shan't reveal them yet, but suffice to say I lugged them from the Catholic Student Center all the way to Ecohouse (at Leonardtown behind Frat Row) amidst puzzled Terps supporters tailgating for the football game. I love being that person who makes people's days interesting.

Other observations:
-The only carbonated soft beverages represented were Coke (Coca Cola) and Mountain Dew (PepsiCo).
-There were many beer cans, a few liquor bottles, and no wine bottles or boxes. I would like to point out that although Natty Light and its derivatives have "natural" in the brand name, the aluminum cans do not actually belong in or around the stream. I will stop being a wise guy when people stop littering.
-There was a chair. Also, a cell phone LED panel.
-There was a sign - one of the yellow signs from Knox Rd. that says "Residential Permit Parking Only." Only permit-holding residents may park on the banks of the stream; all others will be towed.
-There were no bodies.
-There seemed to be a lot less litter than there's been in the past! So either our fellow students haven't gotten started properly trashing campus yet this semester, or more of them are taking advantage of the limitless opportunities for trash disposal and recycling offered by this great institution. Go Terps!