This I Believe

By Chris Davis, Zero Waste Team member

A focus point of my life is spirituality. I know this is a heavy word and means different things to different people. To me, spirituality is the belief that there is a sacred entity intertwined in every aspect of life. Everything is interconnected and has importance to a functioning planet. On our planet everything is essentially perfect. No matter what the outcome there is need for life, death and rebirth. Because of this pattern there is essentially nothing that is wrong or right; it just is and everything is.

My beliefs are abstract to many people but if they were put into a category it would belong to indigenous beliefs. I spent a lot of time with my friend and spiritual mother, a Shaman to the region of Guatemala. Her name is Leeann and she has helped me through a lot of things, leading me to many of the beliefs I have today. Nature was always an important aspect of my life but as I grew older I became separated from it. I was suffering and Leeann help me reconnect with nature while teaching me her ways. I eventually grasped a new concept of life.

Spirituality is how I relate to the environment. I see the earth as our mother, the mother of all conceivable things on this planet. To me the land is my affirmation of everyday life, the trees are my brothers, wind is my song, and everything is sacred. The environment has been changing because of one of earth’s offspring, humans. In the grand scheme of things what people are doing is not wrong; they are implementing action that is new to the face of the earth. These actions may not sustain life for this generation of earth’s offspring. It is sad that humans are so destructive and so eager to rule whatever they can.

I believe that things were not always this way. Indigenous cultures used to be more sustainable and had intimate relations with the planet. What used to be the life of indigenous cultures is the life I am forever pursuing when I speak of spirituality. If more people follow a path similar to mine acknowledging the environment, biosphere, and life in general as sacred, there would be a great chance for humans to stop their suicide.

 

Intern at Environmental Center examines the benefits interdisciplinary cooperation

The greenhouse as it currently resides.

The greenhouse as it currently resides.

By Steven Cooper, EC intern

As a non-traditional student here at Fort Lewis College, I can see where an interdisciplinary Environmental Center (EC) would greatly benefit not only the college but also the students.

As an example, I am tasked this semester with building a four-season greenhouse so we can start producing our own greens and herbs on campus. The main challenge I have found is the lack of diversity regarding academic disciplines here at the Environmental Center. Engaging a multitude of students at the EC would not only be beneficial for the long-term success of the EC but to the students, as well.

We just had a career fair, did we not? And how many of those mock-interviews did you participate in? How many of those jobs did you feel fully qualified for, knowing that you may have to build your resume a little more before you are considered “hiring material”?

From my experience, I have noticed that interdisciplinary cooperation is a lifelong skill that we need to be promoting here at Fort Lewis. Garnering a broad skill-set makes you more hire-able – to be able to tell your interviewer or boss or business partner or employees that you have these skills is a necessity in today’s modern business world.

In order to finish that project for the city, you’ll need to be able to talk to the mayor, the city council and the city planning committee. All of these people have diverse backgrounds – all of these people have created skills to get them where they are today. As an FLC student, you need to be able to say that you can approach all of these different people and make sure that your project is a success.  This is only actualized through the ability to work at a higher interdisciplinary level. At the EC, we can help create those skills. We have the venue, but we just need the people.

We’re all here to better ourselves.

We’re all here to better our minds and our life long goals.

We’re all here to make the best of this experience that we can.  So, let’s start by coming together to make the EC not only a training ground for our own personal goals but to create an atmosphere of cooperation and knowledge for future generations.

To the professors – can’t you see the benefit of having your students think a little more broadly? Can’t you see the benefit of having your students feel a little more confident in their educational pursuit? Can’t you see that engaging them in a community-minded center that you’d be helping to set them up for long-term success?

Students – let’s become a part of a bigger community. Let’s prepare ourselves a little bit more for that world “out there”. Let’s come together, expand our horizons and start focusing on something a little bit more than just our degrees.

     I feel that if we all start getting involved in an interdisciplinary approach, the Environmental Center and Fort Lewis would lay the groundwork for a more successful and supportive college environment.

Zero Waste Is a Challenge Faced

I am a member of the Zero Waste Team here at the Environmental Center and I am very excited about the project I’m working on this year! Emma Kurfis, another Zero Waste Team member, and I are working on a Zero Waste Event Service Guide specific to Fort Lewis College. This guide will be available to everyone on campus and hopefully used by all of the event coordinators. We can also directly get involved with event coordinators to tailor the service to their specific event. To gain experience in the event planning process, we are working on several pilot events in which we partner with event coordinators to reduce the amount of waste produced at event. Skyfest is our next big pilot event, taking place on April 7th.

Skyfest music festival at Fort Lewis College

Skyfest is the highlight of the spring semester for many students, with bands from all over the country visiting FLC campus. Skyfest was outdoors in previous years. Photo courtesy of www.fortlewis.edu.

Skyfest is a big music festival put on by Student Union Productions at Fort Lewis each year, with headliner bands Gramatik and Radical Something making appearances at this year’s festival. Local bands will also play at the event. As part of the EC’s zero waste event service, Emma and I are working with the coordinators of Skyfest to reduce waste in as many aspects of the event as possible. This event is our first large pilot event to test out the service and in the organizing we have learned how challenging it can be to make an event less wasteful. There are so many areas to consider when planning a zero waste event, some of which are not in our control, as we are not the coordinators of the event. However, the coordinators are very open to our suggestions, which is awesome! Members of SUP have been supportive of our ideas and came up with a few ideas themselves. One of the main goals of our event servicing is to provide zero waste ideas and ingrain zero waste concepts in the minds of the coordinators, so that eventually event planners may attempt to make events less wasteful on their own.

There are several major aspects of Skyfest where we are working on to reduce the amount of waste produced. The first is trash. Ideally, we would like to have no trash produced at the event but this is highly unrealistic being that we can’t regulate what food or disposable items people bring into the event. However, we will be providing several recycling stations in the event to divert as as many recyclable items from landfills as possible. We are recruiting volunteers to help watch over the stations to ensure everything is recycled properly, as contamination is a huge problem with recycling here at Fort Lewis. This will also be a chance for us to spread some education on recycling to the campus community.

The second aspect of the event we are working with is water. When we first talked to the coordinators, they were going to provide bottled water for guests and the bands. We decided to set up water refilling stations instead. With the help of the Athletic Department, we secured several large water jugs for the event that we will refill throughout the event. Students are not allowed to bring full water bottles into the event but if they bring empty drink containers, they can fill them at the stations. There will also be a jug backstage for the bands. The coordinators of Skyfest are purchasing reusable plastic cups that they will hand out to anyone who does not have a water bottle. The cups can be taken home by guests and used or given back to the Skyfest coordinators to be washed and reused at different events.

At Skyfest, we will have an Environmental Center interactive table to teach people about zero waste, specifically recycling. There will be a game called the “Wheel of Recycling” that guests can take part in. After the event, we plan to measure our results by weighing how much trash and recycling were generated at the event. We can potentially take these statistics every year and compare results, aiming to reduce the amounts annually.

As you can imagine, the process of planning zero waste events can take a lot of time and can be very difficult. This process also involves lots of collaboration with other campus and sometimes community partners, and can also build great connections.

If you would like to volunteer to help with the waste reduction practices at Skyfest, please email one of us (below) or drop by the Environmental Center and sign up. The event is on Sunday, April 7th from noon to 9:30 p.m. in the Whalen Gymnasium. The event is free for students and $15 for community members, with tickets available in the SUP office in the Student Union. Come support Fort Lewis College and the environment!

For more information about the zero waste aspects of the event or the Zero Waste Event Servicing, you can email me (jmsmyke@fortlewis.edu) or Emma Kurfis (emkurfis@fortlewis.edu) or stop by the Environmental Center! For more information about Skyfest, you can visit the SUP office in the Student Union.

By Jessica Smyke

My Experience at the Home Grown Local Food Retreat

Homegrown Food Retreat, Keynote speaker Andy Nowak.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Durango’s Homegrown Local Food Retreat, which was put together by the Environmental Center’s local foods team, as well as numerous other students and community members. The food retreat was not only educational and informative, but also featured a lot of tasty foods. It was great learning about the importance of eating locally grown foods, and even better getting to eat them.

The food retreat kicked off on Friday night, with a lecture by Andy Nowak from Colorado Farm to School. Andy did a great job of highlighting the work that he and his organization have done to bring locally grown foods into public schools, particularly in the Denver area. It was very impressive to see the progress that he and Colorado Farm to School have made in both spreading consciousness of local food and sustainability, and making local healthy foods available to all students. One of the major points Andy made was that anyone could get involved with the food sustainability movement in schools. Many people are very enthusiastic about helping their community schools flourish, and are willing to put time into efforts such as taking care of community gardens for schools. This lecture was very informative and inspiring, and hopefully it got people interested in pushing local sustainable food systems in schools.

Saturday was full of informative lectures, workshops, and panels devoted to linking community members in their passion for growing and eating local foods. One of the major highlights of the morning was Janine Fitzgerald’s lecture titled “Why We Can’t Afford Not to Eat Locally”. Janine Fitzgerald, Professor of Sociology at FLC, delivered a highly thought-provoking and inspiring lecture on how eating locally is absolutely imperative, and how we can take a proactive role in our future by focusing on our local food system. Janine brought up the often overlooked issue of Peak Oil, and just how dependent our current agricultural, political, and economic systems are on cheap oil. As the amount of cheap oil available begins to decline, we could see collapse or crises, and in order to feed ourselves, eating local food will become not only more sustainable but a practical necessity. She stressed that no matter what we do, eventually eating locally will ultimately be our only choice, and in order to create a better future we must begin to take a proactive role in sustaining our relationships with the earth, our food and local farmers. The quicker we begin to localize our economies and food systems, the better off we will be in the end. Professor Fitzgerald ended her speech with a poem that she wrote.

My personal favorite out of the workshops I attended was the one given by Katrina Blair of Turtle Lake Refuge. Katrina provided an abundant amount of information on local wild plants that not only can be eaten but also provide a tremendous amount of sustenance and nutrition. She emphasized that harvesting these wild plants could easily save a person from having to buy expensive supplements, as many of these plants were chock-full of nutrition and essential vitamins and minerals. Among these were Dock, Dandelion, Mustard Greens, Grass, and Clover. It was very interesting that many of the plants she mentioned were considered by many to be weeds, even though they provide so much nutrition. Clearly we need to become more knowledgeable about the wild plants around us, and learn to nurture them rather than seeing them as invasive or something to be eliminated.

Next was lunch. Several different soups were available, each of which were excellent and nourishing. I was able to sample each. Also available was a very tasty frittata, and a huge selection of greens. Almost everything was grown locally and tasted great. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this meal, as it was the best meal I’ve had in some time.

In the afternoon I attended a workshop given by Katy Pepinski, Andy Nowak and Erin Jolley, which dealt with eating locally on a budget. They gave many helpful examples of meals and recipes that can be made using local foods, and how these foods can be obtained at reasonably low prices. This workshop was particularly useful for anyone on a budget, and provided a lot of practical knowledge.

After a quick break, there was an interactive panel working with Colorado Farm to School. Andy Nowak, Krista Garand, Jim Dyer, and Kim Cotta all shared their experience and expertise with working with Farm to School and answered questions from the audience. Each person had a unique perspective to bring to the table from their work and helped to give people ideas on how they could get involved with similar projects and issues.

The last major educational event of the day dealt with sustainable snacking, and was given by Jess Kelley.  Her presentation brought a lot of things to mind which I hadn’t really thought about. She opened up the slide show with a picture of Tostitos corn chips and salsa, as an example of a non-sustainable snack. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, as I had never really thought of chips and salsa as being either unhealthy or unsustainable, yet Jess elucidated us on how everything from the genetically modified corn seeds used, unhealthy oils, and even gasoline were found in the product. Instead of snacks that use GMO’s or contain a lot of sugar, she gave us recipes for meatballs and instructions on growing sprouts. Both of these choices can provide a lot of protein and can be quite healthy and sustainable, as well as easy to make or grow.

All in all, the Food Retreat was something I’m glad I was able to go to. Everything from the delicious local foods to the guest speakers, workshops and panels provided a valuable experience. I learned a lot about food, plants, and the environment, and got to eat in the process. The workshops brought up a lot of new ideas that I hadn’t really considered, and they were all quite thought-provoking. Now that I’ve gotten to experience the food retreat, I think I’ll definitely try to be there again next year!

Randy Newkirk

Check out more pictures of this event here.

Earth Day: The Spring Run Off

Spring 2011 Fundraiser
The Environmental Center is holding its first annual Earth Day Race on April 23rd.  Come out and run 4.2 miles around campus in honor of the 42nd Annual Earth.
Registration starts at 9 a.m. at the Clock Tower on campus.  Award ceremony and prizes to follow, along with WAITING ON TRIAL playing.
Download the flyer here.
Thanks to our Premiere Sponsor, Morehart Murphy Auto Center!

9th Annual REEL Environmental Film Festival/ Fundraiser

9th Annual Reel Environmental Film Festival/ Fundraiser

This week we hosted our 9th Annual REEL ENVIRONMENTAL Film Festival as our annual fundraiser.

This year our feature films were Generations and Swift.Silent.Deep, two ski films that, together, explore the consequences of climate change on our winters and the history of the pioneers of big mountain skiing.

In addition to these films, attendance included:

  • Appetizers from Raider Ridge & Zia Taqueria
  • Cash bar with beer and wine from Carver Brewing Company
  • Winners of the innagural sustainability film competition
  • Silent auction with great holiday gifts

See pictures of this year’s film festival and fundraiser:

Local Food Team Update

The food team just finished sheet mulching the garden and are preparing to make it into a garden co-op for students at Fort Lewis College in this next spring. Email Coordinator Ashley Moody at ammoody@fortlewis.edu if you are interested.

The Sociology Club, Center for Civic Engagement, Manna Soup Kitchen, and the food team, are working to bring a food bank pantry into the Sociology lounge (bottom of Berndt Hall).

This will be open for students with their skycards to come pick up food on a weekly basis. Students are also assisting the Garden Project of Southwest Colorado on the back yard garden giveaway.

Volunteers are welcome!

Media & Communications Team Update

In addition to working on our usual projects (the weekly Making Waves radio program and writing for the Independent column), we have started to actively work on the website redesign and  brainstorming about how our team can best serve the EC.

We also just released some new articles in the blog, so please be sure to check them out and submit your comments.

There are also some new photos on our Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/flcenvironmentalcenter/) and would like to keep our media library updated, so if you have any pictures and/ or videos taken at EC related events, it would be appreciated if you could get them to us!

Education & Outreach Team Update

The Education and Outreach team is working on another Residence Hall program to be held this Wednesday night at 6:30pm in West Hall to inform students where and how they can support themselves and their community in a healthy way.

They are also working on the Film Festival/Fundraiser that is happening on Nov. 18th.

After that we will be making plans for some exciting upcoming events in the next semester like the Hunger Banquet in January and an Adventure Race in the spring.