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earthday20091Earth Day 2009 is April 22, which means we all still have time to rise to the occasion. If your inner-environmentalist is feeling the pressure, don’t worry; no one expects you to launch a global campaign on behalf of green colleges or anything…. that part has already been done for you!

The Earth Day Network’s Earth Day on Campus program is introducing a new Green Generation Campaign, beginning on the 22nd. The Campaign will tackle tough energy issues, pushing for renewable energy sources to replace coal. They encourage students to join the cause by registering their college and joining thousands of other activists in demanding changes to current energy legislation.

As if you needed another reason to get involved, this is a great opportunity to stake your claim amidst the most environmentally-conscious generation to date.  Act now! Dare I say, time is running out….

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A Great Green Read!

making-a-difference1Every eco-conscious student should check out Miriam Weinstein’s 10th Edition of Making a Difference Colleges: Distinctive Colleges to Make a Better World.

In it, she ranks colleges and universities on their “greenness,” using over 10 criteria to determine which institutions are the most environmental responsible. In her assessment, she considers details like school missions, make-a-difference majors, vegetarian meals, eco-dorms, and organic gardens. 

Currently, some of the top ranked schools are the Audubon Expedition Institute, Hampshire College, Juniata College, Oberlin College and Sarah Lawrence College.

Find out if you make the list…or how you can!

Looking Eco-Chic…

fashion_college3I know, school is not a fashion show.

Of course, we are here to learn.

And yet, as far as I’m concerned, beauty essentials are as crucial as text books in college.

When purchasing make-up and related products these days, it’s hard not to think ‘natural.’ The cosmetic market is trying to capitalize on the Green Trend by featuring ‘organic’ products. They boast natural ingredients like minerals and plant extracts to appeal to the nature goddess in every woman.

This is a great thing, in some ways, because it means that there is a consumer demand for eco-friendly options.  It becomes a bad thing when brands get so eager to jump on the bandwagon that they ignore important details, like actually being green. Weird…

organicwearMost of the appeal is in the packaging, and this is also the downfall of many brands. Physician’s Formula has a line of Mineral Wear cosmetics that is natural and gentle on the skin…BUT it comes in synthetic plastic packaging. They make up for this a little with their Organic Wear line that features 100% certified organic ingredients in eco-conscious packaging that uses 93% less plastic than traditional compacts.

If you really want to go au-natural (which is the best option for your body) make sure that your cosmetics are free from chemicals, synthetic preservatives and fragrances, and genetically modified organisms. Also read up on the content of the packaging to make sure the product is staying true to its environmental claims.   

burts-beesMy top pick for natural beauty product is most certainly Burt’s Bees, a veteran of eco-cosmetics. Their wide line of personal care products are all natural and come in recycled and biodegradable packaging. They also have goals within the company to be operating on 100% renewable energy by 2020.

Way to go Burt, you certainly have my business!

Student GardenSpring has sprung, and the world is mudlucious… a perfect condition in which to begin seasonal planting. Sustainable vegetation is a key component of organic living and college should be no exception. Not only do most institutions have the land to accommodate an on-campus garden, but they have the hands to make it work.

When the students themselves are responsible for maintaining their own garden, they will experience several benefits. Not only will they literally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but they will feel accomplished in their agricultural successes and their ability to create and sustain positive ecological behaviors.

As Thoreau said of gardening near his notorious wooded cabin, “When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop. It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans…” His point, if I may interpret it, is that the process, as with many things, has greater rewards than the reward itself.

At the start of the planting process, it’s important to consider four factors: Product, Placement, Need, and Treatment.

·         Product– Choose vegetables and herbs that are native to the area. Not only will they grow better, but it is healthier for the soil.

·         Placement– Be cautious of where you are planting your crops. Try not to clear out excess vegetation or destroy land in the process; that would negate what organic gardening is trying to accomplish. Gardeners should also keep an eye out for wetlands. These are largely protected and not particularly conducive to growing produce.

·         Need– Waste not. The size of your harvest should be relatively consistent with the number of students you are trying to feed. In some cases, a crop might supply food for the entire college community, but this is something that should be determined before the planting process, taking into consideration the rate of growth and loss.

·        Treatment– For gardening to be truly organic, it has to abide by a few basic rules. The produce must be grown using only animal or vegetable fertilizers, such as manure, bone meal, or compost. The garden must be maintained with little to know chemicals; a certain amount of pesticide is necessary to deal with species that threaten the life of your plants, but killing off ALL insects is not the answer. Insects contribute to the biodiversity of the garden’s ecosystem and to remove them would upset its balance… however, there are a few insects and other species that are accidentally introduced to areas by unnatural forces. These problems can be treated, but with products that cause the least environmental damage. GardensAlive.com  has a line of “environmentally responsible” products, and its not the only company on the market that specializes in green gardening.  Web surf for some safe alternatives.

A Greener Clean…

College dorms are notoriously dirty. After a particularly active weekend, even the strongest stomachs will cringe at the pungent beer odor crawling out of hallway carpets. Eau de Budweiser.

A lot of institutions support the myth that it takes the harshest cleaners to get out the harshest smells. The Housekeeping staff will use industrial strength cleaners that contain toxic Methylene Chloride and Sodium Hypochlorite, among other caustic ingredients. 

Not only are these chemicals potentially harmful to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system but they also take an unnecessary toll on the environment.

natural-cleanerThe market now offers a line of organic and natural cleaning products that are just as effective as conventional cleaners without the scary side-effects. These alternatives often use plant-based ingredients like soy and citrus extract, and forgo the typical ammonia component. Many of these products can be bought in bulk or in industrial sizes to accommodate large institutions.

Nature’s Source and Biokleen are two great options, each with a wide line of products to suit various cleaning needs. 

Students should encourage their administration to make the green clean switch, and should commit to natural cleaning products themselves. If a tight college budget doesn’t allow for these extra purchases, students can use solutions like baking soda and lemon juice to tidy up their immediate living area.

 

 

The Paper Plight

My college is a small private institution in rural New England. We love our trees here. We love conserving land, we love nature, we love emitting the earthy-hippie vibe. 

And yet, ironically, we love love love our paper. In some ways, it’s the nature of the beast: college students must have a medium for reading and writing, and paper is the age-old option. paper-earth

But it’s getting a little ridiculous. As small as my college is (under 1000 students), we commission the killing of 288 trees a year just to serve our paper purposes.  That’s 1,152 trees in my college career. That’s an entire forest. And that equates to 12 TONS of paper waste once we’re through using it.

This is after integrating digital forums into our curriculum that would allow students and faculty to communicate through online copy. And after making an effort to encourage double-sided printing.  

If changing our consumption habits isn’t resolving the problem, we must at least change the nature of our use. By switching to 100% Recycled Paper, we could significantly reduce our environmental impact. Switching to soy-based and/or non-toxic ink products would have a positive effect as well.

[Information compiled by GreenRoutes, a community-based environmental research project based out of my institution]

Health Food Wars!

When shopping for produce, not all fruits and veggies are created equal. Steer clear of the Dark Side by sticking to Organic Certified goods. This will weed out products that have been treated with hormones and pesticides and other toxic evils. There’s battle going on in your grocery aisle…which side are you on?