Being in my third year here at Fort Lewis, I am becoming more aware and involved with things that are happening in our local community. This last week, I attended the Green Business Roundtable meeting for the first time. The main topic of discussion was an update on the status of the Animas River, six months after this Gold King spill in August of 2015. Living and working here in Durango when the spill happened, I observed how huge of an impact it had on our community and the attention it drew to the river. It seemed at the time that this would be the way things would remain; but as the speaker, Dan Olsen, pointed out, “attention on our town faded at the same rate of the river turning back to blue.”
Being an Environmental Studies student at the Fort, this is a concept that I have seen a lot in my studies. Being a resident in this community, I have also known that our river has always been plagued with various levels of metals, but it was only after a larger outbreak, that the issue became an addressable problem. The meeting showed ways that our community would be able to begin cleanup of the mines up river and also presented the possibility of all the open mines throughout the west being cleaned up too.
The limitation that would be faced would be the financial component needed to fund the operations. Though the number proposed is large and potentially not feasible for our area to take on alone, it is exciting to know that efforts are at least being made to have a positive outcome from all that has happened. It was inspiring attending the meeting and finding out how many green businesses are invested in our community for more than just making a profit, and they are a great example to keep in mind once I am done with my degree. Always remember the importance and power the community has; and if we all come together to address a problem, it has the chance to be solved.
Campus Sustainability Team
“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.”
– Richard Feynman
One of the most important things I’ve learned working on the Campus Sustainability Team at the Environmental Center over the past three years is that consistency in small, thoughtful actions makes enormous changes. Often times, this goes deeper than what others see.
Over the past six months, I have been giving the EC library an extreme make-over. Through a series of tiny steps and long hours, I have reached a new level of organization, coordination, and persistence. At the beginning of the Fall semester 2015, the EC partnered with the on-campus Reed Library to make our resources more accessible to students. Now, when you search for a book located at the EC on the Reed database, you will be directed to us! This is important, because it brings community members and students from all corners of campus to our warm haven. Did you know that we have the largest environmental library in the four corners? Our library is made up of over 1,800 books and subscriptions to 6 periodicals (and growing). As a die-hard bibliophile in a digital world, I know the irreplaceable feeling of opening a book and slipping into another world for a while. This is why I find fulfillment in making the EC library an organized, clean, and easily accessible resource for others.
Over past three years, my drive to educate myself as a devoted environmentalist has profoundly impacted the way I think and act. Today, I choose to act in a way that inspires others. Spending more time in the library has strengthened my passion, which I will take with me through life. I hope that a beautiful library will inspire others in the same way it has for me.
Campus Sustainability Team
Recently, as an environmental studies major at Fort Lewis College, I have realized the amount of individuals that have dedicated their lives to better the environment. It is easy to forget sometimes when modern culture seems to be consumed with many things but the environment, but last Wednesday I had the opportunity to see the amplitude of the environmentally dedicated people within a small community. I am a volunteer at the environmental center and to thank me the coordinator, Rachel Landis, brought me to Durango’s “Green Business Roundtable”. This monthly gathering of businesses and individuals in Durango that are dedicated to environmentally conscious actions, and have speakers to promote progressive green actions for their businesses. This month Linley Dixon came to speak about local compared to organic produce, which was quite an interesting topic to me, because I often have this dilemma in my personal life. She spoke about the industrialization of organic farming and how it has strayed from its original ideals by being regulated by the government. Linley farms ecologically sound food on a few acres near Durango and sells her produce to local farmers markets in the area. Supporting the local food system gives communities more security for produce, cuts back on fossil fuel emissions from transportation, and fosters support for sustainable small-scale farms. Lindley’s lasting remarks for the crowd was that if we, as a community, support small-scale farmers, they in turn will support us.
The Real Food Challenge Team is a part of a national campaign that leverages the power of youth to create a healthy, fair, and green food system. We are working to shift 20% of the money spent on food to products that qualify as Humane, Fair, Local and/or ecologically sound by 2020. With this in mind our Fort Lewis Team is working on education and outreach focusing on what the Real Food Challenge is and why we should choose real, this includes presentations and working on a website that will give students and community members access to information about our efforts. We are also working in partnership with Sodexo to shift what products they buy and training them as to what products count as real under the real food challenge’s qualifications.
I have always been a health nut and I have been a vegetarian for about seven years, so the impact of the food system on the environment has always been something I am passionate about. Working at the EC for the Real Food Challenge has given me a way to reach out to other people and make an impact. Much of the work that I have been doing is communicating with vendors that can increase our real food percentage and working on possibilities for student and community outreach. Through this work I have learned that educating the public about these kinds of problems is very important, it gives them a reason to change their behaviors. When given the opportunity and the information I have noticed that people in our community are willing to change. The Fort Lewis community, though small, has the power to give the world an example of how a community can be conscientious of their impact on the world around them.
Real Food Challenge Team
Within the past year of working with the Environmental Center, I feel that I have grown more as a person than in my whole college experience. For my first two years of school here, I was fairly disengaged from everything this school has to offer. I would go to my classes… and then go home. There wasn’t much more to it than that and I felt a void in my experience, in my soul.
Fulfillment arrived when I became involved with the E.C. A good friend of mine invited to me to one the Local Food Team’s “Crop Mobs.” We went to Adobe House Farm, and spent an hour harvesting tomatoes from fertile soil amidst a field full of radiant plant life. I knew I’d stumbled onto the edge of something special, of something important, and I was hooked.
I began working with Local Food Team as an aspiring (and slightly naïve) volunteer. The Local Food Team works to fill the gaps of local food security in our area, and to educate the public about how they can help fill the gaps as well. We’ve hosted multiple workshops on artisan skillsets such as canning and composting. We’ve taught community members how to prune fruit trees, how to prepare garden beds, how to brew their own beer, and much more! We believe that connecting to soil and the food it can provide us, and connecting to the ones who grow what eat, creates a profound sense of community and positivity for all.
For me, my passion manifested from my experience in the campus orchard and garden. I awakened a love for plants in myself, and without the E.C, I may have never discovered this passion. Today, I am the caretaker for the campus garden and orchard. The official position name is called the “Local Food Fellow.” As a Local Food Fellow, I have learned so much about sustainable farming practices, leadership, and education. Currently, I am working on building a small, mobile hoop house for the garden, so that next years local food fellow can extend their growing season!
Some pictures that show some of my favorite times from the Local Food Team:
Have you ever thrown away a perfectly good t-shirt, pair of jeans, old electronic, CD, or book? Chances are you aren’t the only one, most of us have. In the Story of Stuff (a wonderful short documentary I encourage everyone to watch), the cycle of the American consumerist lifestyle is examined and discussed. The end solution they realize is, “what we really need to chuck is this old-school throw-away mindset. There’s a new school of thinking on this stuff and it’s based on sustainability and equity: Green Chemistry and Zero Waste.” Here at the Environmental Center, we are working towards a zero waste mindset; by means of both a more sustainable campus, and an environmentally-conscious student body.
The purpose of the Zero Waste team is to work towards a zero waste campus by reducing consumption through education and by turning waste products into resources. The Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College is working on some ambitious projects this year; one of which is the campus Free Store through the Zero Waste Team. To help contribute to a zero waste lifestyle, the Free Store has been a critical project for our team for the last few years. The Free Store is a place to find great recycled items, drop off things no longer needed/wanted, and learn about the environmental impact of many products. As the “manager” of the Free Store this year, I have been amazed at how many products have been given a second life and at the support and excitement of the entire student body. Many changes have been implemented at the Free Store this year to focus on education of “virtual water and energy” waste. We are also keeping an inventory to see how many items have been through our store throughout the year.
Working at the Environmental Center has been very exciting so far and has taught me a lot about individual leadership, responsibility, and teamwork. I know there are many more great projects coming your way from the Environmental Center, so stay tuned!
Other projects the Zero Waste Team is working on include recycling, composting, and recycling audits. Our recycling coordinator, Josey, has been busy working on recycling education and on ways to make it easier to recycle on campus. We are planning to hold a recycling audit and campus-wide survey in November to see what we need to do to increase recycling efforts and success for students living on campus. Another important aspect of our team is maintaining and improving the composting of the food waste coming out of the San Juan Dining hall. Evan and Zac have been working with Sodexo and the Student Union to run the composter, which produces a rich soil amendment that is used to help grow food in the Environmental Center’s campus garden.
EC Volunteer, Free Store Coordinator – Zero Waste Team
A group of community members — teachers, social workers, geologists, youth and family advocates – have come together to address the above question. Last month we formed The Animas Listening and Empowerment Project to discuss how to provide a forum for people to communicate about the Animas River spill in a respectful and empowering way. For our first event, we collaborated with Animas High School students who were conducting Story Corps interviews with people affected in different ways by the spill. The public event – “Voices from the Animas” – attracted around 200 people, offering their unique responses to various questions and prompts around the room in both English and Spanish. As folks wandered around the room listening to Story Corps interviews on laptops, many side conversations developed that brought people together in comfortable and spontaneous ways. This event was an important lesson in realizing how important it is to “set the table”, and let the dialogue flow. We are hoping to bring this forum to other communities impacted by the spill. Please share your perspective, students are still collecting interviews!
Contact Jessica McCallum to get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org
StoryCorps’ mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.