On the Way to Green

Joy Sawyer Mulligan
Pie in the sky? If the apples in it come from the organic/eat localbasket, it’s ok to dream big when the theme is sustainability. That wasthe message students in last trimester’s Ultimate Civics class impartedwhen they recently presented their assessment of Thacher’s carbonfootprint to the school community.
Pie in the sky? If the apples in it come from the organic/eat local basket, it’s ok to dream big when the theme is sustainability. That was the message students in last trimester’s Ultimate Civics class imparted when they recently presented their assessment of Thacher’s carbon footprint to the school community. (Their teacher, Anacapa Fellow Dr. Riki Ott, was present in spirit, even if her physical self was off continuing her nearly two-decade long fight to secure punitive damages for those whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Last we heard, she was back at work on her upcoming book on oil toxicity, after meeting with Congressional delegates and staff and, having waited in line with fifty fishermen and law students, settling into a front-row seat at the arguments rendered before the U.S. Supreme Court. No decision has yet been handed down.)

Even “wildly ambitious goals” (as junior Ultimate Civilian Emily Kirkland called those her sub-group on “Food at Thacher” came up with initially) are better than none at all when it comes to making a positive change in consumption choices and habits. Covering areas of school-wide electricity use, food choices and consumption, composting, transportation, and the Horse Program, the pairs and small groups (Lindsay Oliver, Maya Reddy, Will Oberndorf, Griffin Triplett, Chris Thomas, Emily Kirkland, Ethan Nonomura, Alessandra Waste, Chris Ammons, Allie Barbey, Sanjana Rajasekaran, and Robin Walter) gave both assessment of current habits and a range of recommendations for change—everything from cutting the number of town runs the ToadsBus makes on Wednesdays and Saturdays to switching the whole campus to energy-efficient light bulbs to making sure the horses’ feed cubes stay dry during the wet season.

Meanwhile, senior Danny Waldman’s biodiesel project, nearly a year after he first argued his case successfully for funding and dedicated time and space, yielded its first gallon of the rich, amber stuff.  In a ceremonial hand-off, he presented the Batch #1 jar to Head of School Michael Mulligan at Assembly this week, along with a “Team Biodiesel” T-shirt—history both made and in the making.

As for who’s doing what differently here on campus since Sustainability Weekend raised awareness in February, a random sample of students and faculty shows that many are moving in the right direction. When individual acts like these are linked with institutional commitment and follow-through, well, start crimping that pie-in-the-sky crust.

Albert Perez: [My workshops] made me want to conserve energy in the dorm and at home. Whether it’s turning off lights when nobody’s in the room, unplugging appliances, or recycling, I want to do it all!

Audra Horton: Since that weekend, I have become increasingly aware of my electricity consumption. I now refuse to leave my room without turning off the lights. Over break I went to visit my uncle in Rocky Mountains, and due to his environmentally aware habits and green way of living, I am reminded to turn my shower water off between rinsings, and keep the water on low streaming power, so that more water is saved.

Francoise Kasimirowski: I’m way more aware of not using paper cups, for instance—and I’m not buying little water bottles anymore.

Lauren Bosche: When it gets cold at night, I put a thick blanket over my window to trap in the heat—I have found that I am making small changes that make a difference.

Blossom & Brian Pidduck: New/refined habits for us have been to do less airplane travel this year (although in many ways this has been easy due to our pregnancy!) and to buy only locally produced food. Our biggest refined habit, though, is in how we are preparing our home for the twins.  Our intention has been to use hand-me-down items (recycled) and to buy products that use less packaging.  Of course, the topic of diapers and clothing has been an important one!  Organic items that are reusable and produce less waste for the landfill are the highest on the list.

Toby Elmore: We have replaced all but one light bulb in the house to compact fluorescent, recently purchased energy/water efficient washer/dryer and purchased a small home composting kit.

Liza Childs: I bring bags to town now for getting food at Starr Market.

Georgi de Rahm: I’m very frugal with the heater and the lights: also, I keep unused things unplugged (especially chargers!)

Jake Jacobsen: I keep buying the little green bags at the grocery store (so it's hard to forget to bring them to the store next time). Doing more line-drying for clothes. Turning off lights for my family. Coasting in neutral when driving (oops: is this dangerous?). Using less heat when it's cold in the house.

Alina Everett, Sarra Wynn, Ethan Nonomura, Sarina Patel, all report unplug electronics and chargers when they aren’t in use. [Did you know that these draw power even when they’re not on?]

Sarah DelVecchio: I feel especially guilty if I use a paper cup. At the grocery store, I bring my own bags, and if I forget them, I carry the stuff out with my hands. I feel happy that my vegan diet is a truly low-impact diet, considering that animal agriculture is the most responsible for greenhouse gasses, according to the UN report called Livestocks’ Long Shadow, 2006. Go Vegan!!

Robin Walter: I turn the water off when I shampoo and condition!! I also always turn lights off.

Cecilia Ortiz: In my classes I demand that the students use the extra blank spaces of a page to do their next homework. The Language Department uses recycled paper for the Xerox copier in Olympus to print class exercises, and we turn off the light every time we leave the classroom. We cut used paper in quarters to use it for messages. Quizzes in my class are done in the back side of used Xerox copy paper. Some of these I had been doing before—but now I am more careful not to forget.

Gallia Vickery: This is simple - but it works: after hearing Dylan Coleman and his wife talk [about catching the rain for irrigation], during rainy days I now simply put plastic buckets at the corners of our house where the gutters drip off the roof. When we had those days of rain, I collected enough water to water my garden the next week when it was dry.

Anna North: I went on the organic garden trip to The Farmer and the Cook, and now I've started my own organic garden beds at my house. It's yummy and fun!

Amy Elmore: I obsessively turn out the lights, use more power strips to make sure ALL the power is out, compost more—[generally] think more about the impact of my actions, my personal carbon footprint.

Lili Pike: Overall I've become more conscientious about lights. I always turned my lights off before but now I also turn the bathroom light off when i leave or pass by--and also the light outside the hallway and in the common room. [Ditto Will Strachan and Tom Kim.]

Dan Hu: I completely realized the need to conserve water and preserve the environment for our generation and for generations beyond. I went home, tried to convince my mother why she needed to stop buying bottled water. After “Lights Out Thacher,” I went home and tried really hard to make sure whenever I left a room, I turned the lights off.

Peter Sawyer: I turn off the lights in the English/History Office and the foyer between them whenever I leave the building.  I have always turned off the lights in the Science Office, the bathroom, and my classroom.  I am going to find out if the lights in the atrium can be turned off when no one is there.

Sabine Hoskinson: I have always been conscious of not wasting water and using a Nalgene [bottle], but now every time I that a sip of water, I think about how good it feels to have clean, fresh water. Water tastes better now.

Tyler Cook submitted the longest checked-off “to do” list:
•short showers (under 6 min.)
•mug and water bottle!!!! i don’t use paper cups or napkins, and limit my use of dining •hall dishes
•only use lights at night (and only two of them)
•unplug unnecessary appliances
•do 1 load every week w/ kjo [her roommate]
•brush teeth and wash face while being aware of water usage
•close doors!
•don’t use heat or fans as much (instead windows and insulating windows and doors with a blanket)
•cut back on soft serve ice cream [the biggest energy-intensive food choice in the dining room]
•use my own satchel (vs. plastic or paper bags) at stores
•recycle recycle recycle (I do more of it and also always check garbage for recyclables before taking it out)


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