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.

Dave Foreman of Earth First! Visits FLC

Without knowing what to expect when attending the Dave Foreman talk hosted by Fort Lewis College on April 5th, I would have to say I look at the state of the world from an entirely new perspective. Dave Foreman considers himself a conservationist and is co-founder of “Earth First!, an environmental advocacy group based in the Southwest. Earth First! was established by Foreman, Mike Roselle and Howie Wolke in response to an increased awareness of corporate influence on many large environmental advocacy groups. On, you can find a more complete outline of their movement’s overall goals and their continuing mission to make people aware of the challenges we face as beings on this earth.

For the most part, a lot of the knowledge Dave Foreman shared was nothing new to the audience such as, earth being in its sixth mass extinction, the extinction of passenger pigeons and the human overpopulation conflict. However, if there was one thing I took away from Foreman’s talk, it would have to be his emphasis on human being’s desire to control everything in the natural world. “We are all earthlings,” Foreman said. The best analogy he used was to “think of earth as a 550 page story.” Complex life has only been around for as long as 550 million years and if you put humans in this story of our earth’s history we would be the last sentence of the last page. Yet, within that last sentence we have caused change that should have taken at least a couple chapters. Through our desire to control the nature that we have feared for so long, we consequently have blinded ourselves from what the earth itself needs to survive.

In order for us to have a world in the future that is similar to the one we know at the moment, “we must all become part of the neighborhood,” Foreman said. The heart and soul of the conservation movement, Foreman believes, is “to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated.” All earthlings are part of this world—our neighbors. It is time for us to treat other living things as such.

By Hunter Mallinger

A Lesson on Snow at the EC Winter Retreat 2013

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

-Robert Frost

Snow muffles the sounds in the La Plata Canyon. Last weekend for the winter retreat, a group of us from the Environmental Center hiked to “The Naked Lady Hut” for activities and some delicious food. Though the food was delectable and the leadership workshops enlightening, it is not the stay in the cabin that struck me most about this Saturday. A simple comment Rachel made offhand in one of her “snow spiels” grabbed my attention and got me thinking.

Imagine the spring, when three days of nonstop snowing will mean snowmelt high in the mountains and a full river of runoff. Imagine the month of May when the river will feed into the fields of crops and the farmers will be happy. Imagine late summer when the lack of early snow will create less water for the rivers, making farmers not so happy. I cannot speak for all farmers but I know for certain that some people are not aware of the sources of their water beyond their faucets. If we do not have the knowledge that our own water comes from runoff from the mountains, we may not care about fighting for the conservation of the mountains.

This lack of knowledge of the connectedness of aspects of the environment leads to something else of which I have become acutely aware. I always assumed that everyone knew how plants grow from seed to sprout to fruit to table but my eyes were opened this year through the Campus Sustainability Team’s project: The Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge strives to collaborate with college cafeterias to use 20% “real” food by 2020. Through a survey, our team saw that most students wanted more local, healthy food involved on campus and decided to embrace this challenge. In the case of the Real Food Challenge, real food is classified as local, environmentally sound, humane and fairly traded; or any combination of the four. Along with attempting to bring this to the FLC campus, we will also work to educate the campus about what “real” food is and where our current food comes from versus real food. Education will be a large piece of this project in addition to promoting local food. This project is long term, and will not be easy but by tackling this issue, hopefully we can reconnect the circle of understanding food and its source.

Just as farmers need the mountains and snowfall for their crops and we need the runoff for our watersheds, the understanding of the connections between our resources and us is necessary. If we can teach others about where food comes from or at least encourage them to conscious of it, it may lead to the awareness of other resources. Starting with the food our school consumes is one step towards reconnecting our species with its life source.

-Hallie Wright

cooking vegetables for burritos

EC zero waste team member Jessica Smyke cooks vegetables for burritos. All EC students that attended the retreat enjoyed cooking and eating the delicious food. Photo courtesy of Rachel of Fort Lewis College Environmental Center students       EC staff members learn about leadership while looking out at the beautiful snowy mountains in the Naked Lady Hut in the La Plata Canyon. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Landis.









My “Cooking Matters” Class Experience

A healthy homemade quesadilla.

Quesadillas are easy to make and, when filled with vegetables, a healthy dinner.

Recently, I enrolled in a six week cooking class, Cooking Matters, a national organization that strives to help families “to plan, purchase and prepare healthy, tasty and affordable foods at home.” Their idea follows the Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Cooking Matters is sponsored by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger and coordinated by the lovely Erin Jolly whose motto is MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY! As the first class of its kind being offered at Fort Lewis, Erin’s primary focus was not to change our diets but to improve our knowledge of nutrition and equip us with basic cooking skills.

The evening started off with introductions, revealing an amazing variety of seasoned cooks and beginners in addition those bored with their own cooking (me).  We then moved on into the “Shared Cultural Kitchen”(Native American Center/El Centro) where cooking equipment awaited us. Each station was set up with a knife and cutting board surrounded by bowls of vegetables. Our chef, Ryan announced that we would be making quesadillas, salsa and guacamole—a fairly simple meal.

We were guided through every step in creating the ultimate and heartiest quesadillas, including rinsing fresh vegetables; chopping fresh zucchini, onions, garlic, cilantro and peppers; and fine-tuning the special technique of seasoning. Spices can be intimidating but here’s bit of chef Ryan’s wisdom: “A good chef is a chef who constantly tastes.” Next, we made salsa and guacamole dips. For this step, we all worked together to come to a consensus of creating both salsa and guacamole dips with the perfect amount of spice and flavor—and we did!  If you haven’t guessed, here is where a hint lies, jalapenos are super-hot and yours truly had the extreme pleasure of dicing these little green monsters!

Once we finished our dips and placed our quesadillas in the oven to bake, we all moved into the dining room of El Centro where we began our lesson on the basics of nutrition. Erin moved us along in a discussion about the healthy food plate, a food-serving diagram that replaced the dated food pyramid most of us saw at some point or other. We learned that the largest portions of our meals should be solely dedicated to vegetables because colorful varieties indicate vital nutrients. If we intend to nourish ourselves, we need to incorporate Erin’s motto of MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY into our daily diets. However, that being said, Erin quickly clarified that it takes time to understand what our bodies need and we must all be diligent in exploring our options. So, no worries! Treat yourself to the occasional dessert or pizza but in moderation of course!

With the first class over, I look forward to learning more about nutrition, reading labels and, of course, cooking. In addition, I did learn a valuable lesson: wash your hands thoroughly after handling jalapeno chilies because it’s quite challenging for anyone other than yourself to remove contacts once they start a burning! Ouch!


By Trish Yazzie

Sustainable Dorm (or Apartment) Room Living


Peace Lily

Peace Lily

Are you living in the dorms? Do you want to live more sustainably? Most people that are interested in sustainability and living in the dorms have a hard time being sustainable in their rooms. Living sustainably in your dorm is possible, and very feasible. The following are the top ten ways to live sustainably (or more sustainably) in your dorm room.

1. Reduce your energy consumption. Turn all electronics off and unplug items from the outlet! Anything still plugged in uses a small amount of electricity.

2. Keep your windows closed. As nice as a little breeze is, opening your windows just requires the schools heaters to work harder than they need to work.

Spider Plant

3. Reduce your paper consumption. Double side any printing that you do.

4. Recycle. Provide recycling bins to your suite mates or offer to take recycling from everyone’s rooms and put it in bins outside.

5. Use a water bottle. The Student Union Building no longer sells bottled water. A water bottle refilling station is available in the College Union Building.

6. Shave a minute off your shower time. You will reduce your water consumption by over 700 gallons a year (If you shower every day).

7. Buy a plant for you room. This will clean the air through your room and make the air quality better for all. Good plants to improve air quality include: Peace Lily, Bamboo Palm, English Ivy, Mums, and Spider Plant.

8. Don’t pay to use those dryers. It is dry in Durango hang those garments up and they will be dry in no time.

9. Use CFL’s. Change out those incandescent light bulbs for more efficient longer lasting CFL’s. Don’t forget those bulbs when you leave either they can last up to nine years.

10. Shop at second hand stores. Do you really need those new $100 pair of jeans. Save money and the environment and shop second hand.

There you have it the 10 best ways to be more sustainable in your dorm room. Have other great ideas to be more sustainable if your dorm room? Share them on the Environmental Center Facebook Page.

~ Andrew Stuntz

Choose to Reuse: New Reusable To-Go Program in FLC



The Environmental Center, Sodexo, and Student Union facilities are piloting a re-usable to-go program in the campus dining hall.  You simply buy a to-go card and then exchange the card every time you go into the dining hall.  When you are done with your container, you can return it for a card at any campus dining locations and then get a CLEAN to-go container the next time you go to lunch.  If the container breaks, you can return it for a new one.  Containers are $5 each and go to support the Environmental Center operations.

Buy them at the Environmental Center or outside of Animas Perks Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11- 1 p.m.

For more information, please contact Hanna Burleigh at

FLC Sustainability Action Plan Audit

Did you know that Fort Lewis College has a Sustainability Action Plan?

It is a 5-year plan designed to make this campus more sustainable. A quick overview of the plan: it is divided into six sections: Stewardship, Consumption, Climate, Education and Engagement, Service to Region, and Coordination and Support. Under each section are goals and objectives, and within each objective are recommended actions that can be taken to help work towards the goals and objectives. Each of the actions has a responsible party or parties – departments on campus – listed beside them.

Auditing the Plan

I am on the Sustainability Team here at the Environmental Center.  Last semester my teammate, Drew Stuntz, and I completed an audit of the plan. For the audit, we went to the different departments listed as responsible parties in the plan and talked to them about the SAP, and how much progress they had made regarding it. We found that many of the departments had heard of the SAP, but did not know that they were listed as a responsible party for it. However, most of the departments were very supportive of the plan, and some had even taken the initiative to start sustainable practices in their offices, even ones who did not know much about the plan. It was encouraging to see the amount of support for the plan!

What did we find out?

We took the information gathered from our meetings with the responsible parties and assessed the progress of the plan, looking at which goals and objectives were being met and which needed to be worked on.

There are 225 actions identified in the plan, and only 32 percent have been completed. It is a five-year plan, and we are in the third year, so this percentage is not good news. The weakest sections in the plan are Climate and Stewardship, with only 4 percent of the actions having been completed in the latter!

Although seeing these disappointments, our team is still extremely optimistic about support shown for the plan once people actually knew that they were identified as a responsible party in it. This semester, our team is planning to work towards the goals in the plan within the EC. We want to help improve the sections of the plan that need improvement, as well as uphold the stronger sections.

Wait… What is sustainability?

A major flaw we found in the plan is that it does not even define sustainability! To help fix this problem, the Sustainability Team in the EC is collaborating with the EC Board of Directors to plan a Sustainability Summit where students, staff, and faculty can have input into defining what sustainability is for this school. We believe this will help raise awareness about the Sustainability Action Plan, as well as bring together with the same goals and interests together to create a working definition of sustainability for Fort Lewis College.

~ Jessica Smyke