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!