Waste Audit Fall 2012

waste audit 2012

The Environmental Center’s Zero Waste team conducting this year’s Waste Audit (see more pictures below)

After months of careful planning, the members of the Environmental Center’s zero waste team put on a wonderful event: Fort Lewis College’s annual waste audit. Sprawled in front of the student union, a

large tarp was buzzing with EC members and volunteers sorting through 438.6 pounds of trash collected from one day on campus. Of this trash, a total of 72.7 pounds could have been recycled, comprising of aluminum cans, paper, plastic bottles, cardboard and glass bottles. Also, a total of 44 pounds of food was removed and composted in addition to 11 pounds of compostable food containers. FLC students throw away about 9 pounds of disposable coffee cups every day, so remembering to bring a reusable mug can really make a difference in the amount of waste accumulated each day on campus. After removing all recyclable and compostable items, the amount of waste produced totaled 321.9 pounds. The waste audit conveys an important message of waste production awareness and the affect of wastefulness on the environment: issues to which the zero waste team passionately searches for solutions!

Emma Kurfis



When the first transition of Fall started a few weeks ago not uncommon to see students on campus sneezing and sniffling. I was not alone in when my throat stated hurting and I joined the ranks of the sickly. This was not the first time I had strep, or Streptococcus pyogenes and I recognized my symptoms  immediately. What was more upsetting was knowing what the treatment was for this ailment- antibiotics.

Antibiotics are regarded as the height of accomplishments in modern medicine. If we break down the etymology of the name we get biotic meaning “pertaining to life” and anti, meaning “against”.  Antibiotics kill any infections bacteria that make you sick, but it kills blindly. This violent act of medicine causes a cascade of health problems and environmental degradation.

Where do antibiotics come from? The active components in antibiotics originated from the natural world, many times from plants. Scientists identified the bacteria-resistant chemicals in herbal plants, isolated those chemicals, artificially reproduced them in a lab, and increased their strength 100s of times. Why is this bad? Let’s compare this method with analogist practice- monoculture farming. When farmers plant only one type of crop, they lose the many benefits of diversity. One of these benefits is how the crops genetic diversity protected them from bugs and disease.  Today we practice monomedicine. When we borrow a single chemical from nature, we lose hundreds of other diverse helpful chemical components already included by Mother Nature. Using just one compound opens the door for bacteria to become immune to the antibiotic, creating something stronger and untreatable.

Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, originated from a mold. It was adopted commercially for treatment of infection in 1939. Ten years earlier, Alexander Fleming, the father of penicillin’s discovery, had already expressed his concerns. He reported that numerous bacteria strands were already becoming resistant to the drug. As use of penicillin became more widespread, this trend continued until penicillin was hardly effective. Because bacteria create a new generation every 20 minutes, it can rapidly evolve to become completely immune to any antibiotic drug.

The use of antibiotics is bigger than human health. The largest percent by mass of antibiotics used goes into the business of agriculture, fisheries and factory farms. The conditions that our food is produced under, which demand this high amount of antibacterial support, is a much longer topic for a different day. Instead, I want to focus on where the antibiotics go as waste. The antibiotic ridden waste of farms combines with our pharmaceutical waste, washes into waterways, and causing detrimental effects on ecosystems far and wide. Drug resistant super-bacteria are found in most riparian areas and oceans today. In addition to the spread of new disease, the anti-life drugs kill beneficial microbes and bacteria in soils, disturbing a delicate balance that supports all life.

Consuming antibiotics, as a byproduct in your hamburger or in prescribed pill compromises your health. Like the soil, our bodies are filled with beneficial bacteria that help us stay healthy. As I read about my step throat infection, I was interested to learn that the Streptococcus bacteria live in our throats usually.  This strand of strep wards off the colonization of the harmful Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria which makes us sick.

In an effort to reduce my environmental impact, and to keep myself healthy, I looked for alternatives cures for strep throat. I found in Stephan Buhner’s Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug Resistant Bacteria a mired of natural treatments to try. I choose a tincture of Echinacea  angustifolia, which I took every hour for 2 days until I was happily cured!

Melanie Weber-Sauer

Coordinator’s Update – October 2012

Green Tomatoes by Hari Baumbach

Green Tomatoes by Hari Baumbach [http://www.hkdivine.com/photography/green-tomatoes]

Last Wednesday night, Michelle Obama spoke on campus and challenged us all to act. At one point in her fiery locution, she stated that if we are ready to work hard, we will create the reality that we have set out to attain. Here at the Environmental Center, each day stands as proof to this sentiment. At any given point, the Environmental Center offices are filled with different EC student team members, volunteers, and interested parties who are working to build campaigns, generate awareness, and incite action in the name of creating a more ecological and socially responsible world. Prior to Michelle’s speech, the value of what the EC does came bursting out in the form of a our Local Food Team’s “Growing Food in Small Spaces” workshop. Drew Stuntz, our 2012 Local Food Fellow and an engineering student who had never put a seed in the ground prior to this summer, was standing within his on-campus garden, with chard in hand, explaining to a large group of his peers how they in turn could grow enough food in one square foot to sustain themselves and enrich their lives. Each participant left the workshop with dirty under their nails, a whole lot of knowledge, and their very own container garden. Over the course of one hour, one new food advocate and twelve new growers were born. And so it goes every day here at the EC—tomorrow’s environmental leaders are born through the process of direct action and outreach today. We are creating the reality that we have set out to attain.

~ Rachel Landis

Indirect Domestication of Wildlife

Bears going through garbage

Bears going through garbage. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laura-kali/4675381179/.

We’ve all seen them munching in our gardens or digging through our dumpsters.  More and more we are seeing our towns and cities becoming a safe-haven for what we call wild animals.  While some areas may see this less, in Durango we see this on a regular basis.  We also see a variety of animals entering city limits like bears, deer, and numerous amounts of birds.  From a quick glance this may not seem too large of a problem, but when looking into the effects that this collision has on the animals exposed, this problem is anything but minute.

There lies a clear, common distinction between what is domesticated and what is wild.  This distinction can be easily recognized at a young age and is part of our ability to identify between what is predictable and safe (domesticated) and what is not predictable and potentially unsafe (wild).  This distinction is becoming less and less apparent for certain species living within city limits.  With a constant exposure to potential threats (humans/dogs) deer are becoming more comfortable and may even appear tame.  So what’s the big deal, we all like to see a buck every now and again, right?

There are many factors that are concerning regarding this indirect domestication of wild animals.  These concerns can be divided into several groups, this effect on humans, this effect on the species involved, and this effect on the species new environment.  To start with the more obvious effect that this might have on humans.  One common observation of domesticated animals is a lack of movement in light of a threat.  This can cause many various problems with a wild species unleashed in a human environment.  For example the amount of wild animals hit with vehicles within city limits will most likely increase with 1) population of wild animals that inhabit that city and 2) the time of exposure to potential threats.  With regards to population size, for obvious reasons, the larger the population the more potential for interactions.  With regards to time of population exposure, the more time a population is exposed to sustained potential threats, the more that population will ignore them.  This also can create dangerous situations with potentially predatory animals such as bear or mountain lions due to an increased comfort of not only the animal, but humans as well.

Next we can look at the potential effects on the species involved.  An obvious first example is relocation when found or death when found multiple times.  This can be seen in bear populations that are entering city limits and numerous relocations and killings of bears.  Bears and other wild animals are also affected by eating things that they shouldn’t be eating, such as trash or non-native garden vegetation.  Other effects on animals have to do with specific physiological changes over time.  This involves the constant exposure to potential threats that lowers the fight or flight response within the individual.

~ Drew Walters

Staff Retreat, Fall 2012

Staff Retreat, Fall 2012

The Environmental Center (EC) at Fort Lewis Community College (FLC) was excited to start of this academic year by joining hands to create a exciting day at The Old Fort in Hesperus, Colorado.  Together the team was greeted by Katrina to pick fresh organic produce out-of-the-garden.  More specifically the EC staff and volunteers picked a good sized harvest of beets, potatoes, carrots and squash. However, this amazingly fun filled day did not stop there. We shared a terrific lunch followed by team building exercises which enhanced the knowledge of each team member’s strengths and interests. A staff meeting was held in the old school house shortly after. Led by director of the EC Rachel Landis, the talks furthered the identified individual primary interests and defined the core values of the team, moving towards the advancement of creating focused EC goals. We are pleased to announce that several teams within the EC have been formed as a result of the team orientation meeting. These teams include the Zero-Waste, Campus Sustainability, Media and Communications and Local Food teams respectively. The close of the day brought forth a charged discussion about the EC’s chances at winning back the Homecoming Float competition in this year’s FLC theme of Skyhawkalyspe. Unfortunately I can go no further into talking about the brilliant ideas that were brought to the table but let’s say we are confident it’s going to be a great float.

Moving forth, the EC would like everyone to know that we are looking forward to a brilliant year filled with sustainably and environmentally inspired tasks. With that said, we would love for any FLC students to stop by our office located in the Student Union building on campus (RM 145) to see what we are up to and if you would like to become involved in any one of our exciting goals throughout the year. Briefly, a few upcoming volunteering opportunities of this sort:

  • Harvest apples at Yellow Jackets Orchard for the Apple Days Festival happening here in Durango at Buckley Park on October, 14th. Please contact Katy at katypeinsky [at] gmail.com for more info.
  • Volunteer as hazardous waste disposal crew member and learn what is “proper disposal” at the Durango fairgrounds on October, 6th. Please contact Miles at milesMB [at] ci.durango.co.us for more info.
  • More picking of apples in the Durango community for Apple Days on October 13th. And festival volunteers needed for the actual festival on October 14th. Please contact Alex at asbrooks [at] fortlewsi.edu for more info.

If for no other reason, you should probably stop by our office to check out a super cool collection of books which you can check out from the EC! We are truly excited for all the possibilities the new school year it holds for the campus and hope you are to. Have a Happy Day!

~ Charles Clayton