Welcome to Fort Lewis: One Student’s Testimonial

By Mahdi Adittya, Zero Waste Team

My freshman year at Fort Lewis was incredibly unnerving, but the Environmental Center helped me get used to campus life right away. Going to a Local Garden workshop hosted by the EC the first week of school was one of the best decisions I ever made. Working with the campus garden project gave me a sense of belonging. I enjoyed being outdoors, and getting to work with my hands felt amazing. This experience solidified FLC’s uniqueness in my mind.

I immediately jumped at the chance to work with the EC as soon as possible, and I got the awesome opportunity to work with the Zero Waste Team. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge at the EC that will help me in all aspects of life. From office work to getting your hands dirty with ink or compost, you will learn to do everything here. In my opinion, there is a great balance between doing office work and working in the field. Each team contributes to the greater picture of environmental justice, and we all work well together.

I’ve improved on an immensely personal level while working here, and I’ve learned to confidently express my ideas more than ever before. I feel comfortable bringing up my ideas for new initiatives, and I believe I can help improve the campus as a whole with the help of my teammates. That’s one of the best things about the EC. Anyone can present a great idea, and the EC will try to make it happen.

From the start it’s been a very welcoming and fun place to work! Everyone involved is extremely friendly, and we are a very close knit community. I love spending my time at the EC, and it almost feels like a second home. Anyone can feel welcome here and make positive changes around campus. I hope to continue contributing to the EC in the upcoming years, and I want to continue making an impact for my school and my community.

Reaching Out: The Joy of Serving Your Community

By Paula Pletnikoff, Local Food Fellow

“When your dreams include service to others – accomplishing something that contributes to others – it also accelerates the accomplishment of that goal.” – Jack Canfield

The words above, so intentionally structured by Jack Canfield, speak to me all that much more after my experience at the Environmental Center. I knew that I wanted to spend my time in college undertaking as much as I could, challenging myself to learn and grow, creating positive change, and connecting with others. However, I never would have thought that when I read about the EC on the Fort Lewis College website, it would have made such an impact on me and raise me up to accomplish more than I ever imagined was possible. Not only have the EC’s initiatives challenged me to rise up to the occasion, but the support of the EC community has nurtured and encouraged me to take on great tasks to advance the lives of not only myself and my co-workers, but the public at large. I am confident that after I graduate I’ll have the skills and experience I need to go on and make positive changes wherever I go.

Recently, the rest of the incredible Local Food Security Team and I have launched a program on campus that provides participants with the skills, tools, and resources they need to take weekly action to increase their own local food security. The Local Food Hunger Force, as the program is so called, has been so positively received by community members that it has again opened my eyes to what an enriching community we live in, and how important the opportunities to support each other are. There’s truth behind the idea that working for the greater good and wanting to help the people around you is a wonderful part of being human. I believe that as social creatures it’s what we’ve evolved to do and that it’s crucial to our survival and happiness. When I started as a freshman it was a little intimidating putting myself out there. I felt vulnerable to objection and dismissal, but seeing our community’s support for our local food system and their excitement to advance the lives of themselves and their neighbors has motivated me to keep going and find more opportunities to assist those around me.

My advice to anyone that desires to better themselves, help others and make a positive change in the world: Go for it! Take those opportunities, and don’t let fear or anxiety hold you back. People are more responsive than you might think, and you never have to do any of it alone. Reach out, get involved in what you care about and stand strong in the face of challenge. Amazing things happen when we work for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Real Food, Real Life, Real Change

Katrina Rachwitz, Real Food Challenge Team

I considered myself to be a passionate environmentalist when I started at Fort Lewis College. As my time here has progressed I believe my passion has grown significantly. I am an environmental studies major, and of course, my education has solidified environmental consciousness for me, but I have grown mostly because of the time I spend at the Environmental Center with the amazing EC’ers.

I am a part of the Real Food Challenge team, working to get ecologically sound, humane, fair and/or local foods in the dining hall. This has brought all different aspects of environmentalism into one neatly packaged project. Food is this amazing knot that connects people to the earth, and it connects all beings to each other no matter if they are a different ethnicity, religion or species. We all need to eat, right?

Through my work at the EC I get to learn about the impact of our food system on the world around us and not just the impact of food on ourselves. I’ve learned about how food transportation causes an increased dependence on fossil fuels, about the torturous lives that livestock live, and how our current food system perpetuates great human rights violations. The Real Food Challenge is changing the food system to benefit, instead of harm, the earth, workers, biodiversity, livestock, and our own health.

The EC has this amazing energy whenever I walk through the doors. It’s always full of passionate people excited to make their impact in the world. All the employees and volunteers at the EC are learning how to live sustainably and how to bring the values and tactics we learn into the world beyond Fort Lewis.

We do some amazing work for sustainability on and off campus, but that is not what makes the EC so amazing, it is the people there. I have made some of my best friends and done some of the most inspiring things because of the EC. The world is in a tough spot environmentally and socially, and whenever I start to feel down about our current political predicament, I just go to the EC. I see wonderful people working to make the world a better place, and they give me hope for the future!

The Unsung Heroes of Campus Sustainability

By Jake Hutcherson, Zero Waste Team

There is little doubt that the Fort Lewis College community appreciates and supports the efforts being made to increase sustainability on campus, but have you ever considered the behind the scenes efforts making this possible? What may sound like a fairly straightforward system is quickly complicated by logistics, manpower, funding, and resources. It takes a unique type of person to tackle these problems and keep a smile on their face while doing it.

Take the recycling system for example. FLC has a robust collection system allowing students and staff to access recycling wherever they are on campus. Most people simply don’t think twice after throwing that piece of recycling into the bin, but for that piece of recycling to make it from the bin to the Durango transfer station relies solely on a man named Damian.

Damian single-handedly collects all of the recycling throughout campus, sorts out any contaminated recyclables, transfers it all to the final staging bins, and makes sure there are no issues with the system. While this workload could easily overwhelm anyone, Damian is continually trying to improve the system and encourage more people to recycle. He doesn’t do any of it for the praise, but because he wants to make a difference.

For another example, look at our dining hall composting program. On many campuses, food waste produced in a dining hall ends up in a landfill, but thanks to our dedicated, hard-working staff, a majority of FLC’s food waste is composted and used in our campus garden. This process doesn’t happen on it’s own. It takes the effort of many people behind the scenes. Our wonderful Sodexo dining staff makes sure that the leftover food waste on your plate ends up being macerated and available to be fed into the composter. The collected food waste is fed into our composter several times a day, and once it makes it through the machine, the finished product is then hauled to the garden and sifted to be usable. Again, none of these staff members do it for the praise, but without them the system would fall apart overnight.

These are just two of the countless examples of hard working, dedicated people striving for a more sustainable campus without any recognition. So next time you see Damian collecting the recycling, or the compost crew moving bags of compost, or the Sodexo staff cleaning food waste off dishes, be sure to go thank them for all they do. FLC wouldn’t be the amazing place it is if it weren’t for them!

Be Conscious: Support Communities by Eating Local

By Samantha Walters, Local Food Security Team

I remember growing up with a love for food; specifically, homegrown food. I recall at a young age helping my mother in the garden, digging my hands deep in the soil while pulling up carrots and beets. I had no idea that this would pave my passion for locally grown produce.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I continuously had access to local produce with the top rated farmer’s market in my backyard. There are many sources of joy in my life, but one of the richest is making a meal that was grown in my garden or by farmers in my community.

I lost sight of my love for local food when I moved away from my Washington roots. As we all know, being a college student can be rather prohibiting when it comes to food security. It was easy to neglect my overall health while having to balance funds, school and work. I started to feel like I was losing a fundamental part of myself and my identity.

Settling down in Durango has been one of the most transformational decisions of my life. With the abundance of fresh, local food and likeminded people, I found my way back to my roots. Being a member of the FLC Environmental Center’s Local Food Security Team has given me the tools and resources I need to help bring my love of food to fruition and to the community on campus.

By taking part in our local food system we can create resiliency and strengthen our personal health and the overall health of the community. Let’s empower ourselves to take action in our food security! All it takes is a shift in consciousness; we can make a difference. Choosing local is empowering and creates a deep connection to the Earth and brings us back to the innate link we have with the biological community.

The Local Food Team is working on several new projects that aim to aid in our food security here on campus. We are launching our spring campaign that can help you create change in your local food security by offering tips, tricks and access avenues to help support you in your paradigm shift towards a healthier, more empowered you.

Keep a lookout for our Local Food Hunger Force campaign that is coming to a campus near you!