Go Green

 

the question: how did we become careless in our waste? What is being done to fix it?

I went on my own "go green" week-long experiment to see what habits I could change to conserve my footprint. 

Afterwards, I found food industry and waste experts to inform my knowledge of waste. 

the discovery: we are changing

We are changing with the world. Our waste happened over time and came with changing technology. People do care (especially in Oregon) and there is a push in the direction of conservation.

Understanding the amount of waste I produced in a week opened my eyes. I can make an impact good or bad. Making a few seemingly small changes will drastically alter my impact on the environment.

Interviewing experts in the field always brings a boost to my spirit as my inner introvert rejoices listening more than speaking.

 

 
green succulent

One Week - Go Green

 

GOING GREEN? NOT THIS AGAIN...

(An experiment done in my last year of undergrad at the University of Oregon.)

I know some of you might be tired of the overused "go green" movement. I can't promise my experiment will be any different. I, like some of you, are annoyed with getting green messaging crammed down my throat. But, I also think it's important to understand the issue fully and first-hand. That's my inner journalist coming out. 

I want to break down these walls of confusion and frustration. I plan on broadening my awareness of the impact I have on the environment during a one week experiment. How will it work? I'll use the "No Impact Experiment" as my guide. 

Every day I will face a new challenge as outlined below, and document my experience.

Sunday: Consumption

Monday: Trash

Tuesday: Transportation, Take Action

Wednesday: Food

Thursday: Energy

Friday: Water

Saturday: Giving Back

Sunday: Eco-Sabbath

Interested in joining me or have more questions? Check out their website: noimpactproject.org/experiment. Still confused? Leave a comment or send me an email. I would love to create an open conversation about what I discover along the way. 

 

SUNDAY: CONSUMPTION

Challenge: Live a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff.

The goal is to not buy anything this week or decrease what I buy. Writing a list of all of the things I need to buy for the week:

-laundry detergent

-NyQuil

-protein powder

-dairy free pills

I could simply make my own laundry detergent. Instead of buying NyQuil, I could continue to strengthen my immune system by improving my sleeping habits, taking Vitamin D and Oil of Oregano. Protein powder isn't a necessity. Dairy free pills are only needed if I plan to eat dairy, which usually happens only when I go and buy ice cream. If I avoid eating dairy this week, then I won't have to buy anything.

I didn't do very well at collecting all of my trash today. The only thing I forgot to collect was a plastic cup. I disposed of it on-campus at the EMU. 

Overall, today was an easier day!

Thankful for:

1. Water

2. My home

3. My family

4. My friends

5. Technology

Monday: Trash

Challenge: Discover how wasting less improves your life. 

So, collecting trash wasn't as easy as I expected. Especially since I live in a house of sixty people, and we use paper towels all of the time. It will be a little tricky to continue using my own towel and washing it every few days. This is challenging in our kitchen when it's much easier to grab a paper towel and toss it after using. However, that leaves me using at least 10-15 a day.

I do have containers I can use instead of baggies to pack food. Thankfully most of the time I don't have to pack my meals, and I have a handy travel mug to carry hot beverages in. 

Overall, I think the most difficulty part is collecting and saving all of my trash. It does add up. I guess that's the point is to see how much I leave in a landfill rotting (or not) every single day. 

Thankful for:

1. Teachers

2. Gloves

3. Journaling

4. Smiles

5. Camera

Tuesday: Transportation

Challenge: Burn calories not fossil fuels. 

The idea is to walk, ride, carpool, or take mass transit as much as possible to reduce fuel emissions...and to keep an active lifestyle. 

Where did I go today and how:

-school (walking)

-5th Street Market (biking)

-college group (walking) 

So, I know we are supposed to not buy anything, but my workout class required sweatpants, so I had to buy some. I came up with my best alternative to buying new. I bought them from St. Vincent de Paul's clothing store. This store sells donated clothing. 

I do feel guilty about buying more clothes. There are people across the globe who only own one pair of shorts or pants. Here I am buying more stuff! It reminds me of one of the points Colin faced in "No Impact Man." "But this cultural ethic of reuse changed when, by way of example, button factories discovered it was cheaper and more efficient to get their bone from the conveyor-belt slaughterhouses, and paper producers discovered a way to make paper from trees instead of from cloth...from producer to consumer to landfill and incinerator." 

I didn't notice a big difference in my day besides more biking. I usually walk, bike, or bus everywhere I go.

Thankful for:

1. Jesus.

2. My family. They encourage me to dream big.

3. My friends. As silly as they are they are wise beyond their years.

4. The sunrises I get to see every day.

5. The rain. A beautiful display of light glistening through the sky.

WEDNESDAY: FOOD

Challenge: Healthy eating can also lessen your footprint. 

I decided to trade my breakfast for fresh fruit mixed into a smoothie. It was delicious and I felt refreshed by eating a lighter breakfast! I replaced whole wheat bread that wasn't processed locally for Dave's Killer Bread (manufactured in Milwaukie, Oregon). I didn't switch out anything else. Mainly because I don't buy my food - our chef does. I know he tries to buy locally if he can. It is difficult buying fresh ingredients in bulk daily. 

I really can't spend money on going to the local farmer's market to buy food. I already pay rent and money towards food. So, the only thing I can do is suggest alternative places for our chef to buy food. The only foods that are locally grown are fruits. The rest are packaged. It's a hard challenge that I don't think I can fulfill accurately until I start buying my own food.

So, I will keep trying to eat the fresh food that isn't packaged. 

Thankful for:

1. School

2. Early mornings

3. Bread

4. Sleep

5. Coffee

Thursday: Energy

Challenge: Replace kilowatts with ingenuity - explore no-energy alternatives to accomplish your daily tasks. 

So, I live in a house with sixty people as mentioned before. The only impact I could have today was to turn off the heat. We use a lot of energy in my house. A lot of it has to do with the system failing. For instance, with heat it is hard to gauge when to turn on and off the heat. The whole house takes a few days to adjust its temperature to the outside temperature. We have tried turning the heat completely off for a few days. That's when it was below freezing and we could see our breath inside. Not the best solution.

We do use energy efficient lights - one bonus! It is frustrating to not see much progress made to make our house more power efficient. I have had discussions with management and with our chef. That's what I can do...is raise awareness.

Basically I have control over my room and devices. I did go a week without any devices earlier this year...because they all decided to die simultaneously. I will try to turn off my phone whenever I'm not using it. Not use my lights at night and just go to bed instead of reading. 

The good part is that my laptop and phone are my only power suckers. 

Thankful for:

1. Fruit

2. Sunshine

3. Rain (puddle jumping)

4. Encouraging words

5. Biking 

FRIDAY: WATER

Challenge: Soak up the personal benefits of using less water!

This was by far the best one of the challenges. I felt like it's one that I think about more naturally. I tend to not drink as much water as I should (in my water bottle), but I make up for the lack of water here by how much we use to wash our dishes.

As previously stated, I live in a house of sixty people. This means we have a dish sanitizer. It takes about a minute and a half per load. We probably wash at least twenty loads a day. That's a lot of water!

Thankfully, to make up for the sanitizer I took a five minute shower. Only a rinse off. Good thing it's good for my hair to not wash it every day - taking less time in the shower!

Thankful for:

1. Writing

2. Shampoo

3. Warm water

4. My bed

5. Christmas lights

SATURDAY: GIVING BACK

Challenge: Pay it forward. Feel the benefits of service. 

Ways I currently contribute: I work for a nonprofit called Eugene Beings, lead a college ministry, and tithe to my church. 

Where I would love to help out: Young Life - I feel like I can't because of my energy constraints. I already contribute most of my time to school, work and college ministry. I think I could contribute in helping with their monthly clubs rather than weekly committing time. 

I also would like to get more involved in the homeless community. My college ministry is doing a burrito making day to give to homeless people. Eugene Beings is also working towards giving back to the Eugene Mission. 

I feel excited and energized when I help others or give back to others. Anything I can do to serve leaves me feeling more confident in my work and in school. I become more compassionate to strangers. 

Thankful for:

1. Interviewing 

2. Elders who bestow wisdom

3. Knowledge

4. Dirt (playing in it and planting food)

5. Childrens' laughter

SUNDAY: ECO-SABBATH

Challenge: Take a break from everything.

I enjoyed a morning of writing in my journal, and a long walk with a friend. Unfortunately, I needed to use a device to write this post today. Other than that, I plan on turning off all other distractions through technology. 

I believe by paying attention to my trash and consumption of non-reusable products I'm able to see my impact more clearly. It's hard to actually understand how big of an impact just one person makes until we do something like this challenge. 

I hope to use less of my devices throughout the day. Pick up my watch again (like I did on Friday) and use that instead of a phone to keep track of time. My goal is to continue finding work within walking or biking distance of my home. I truly believe the time I have on a bike or bus allows me to decompress and settle down after work.

This week has been an adventure of realizing my current living situation isn't the most energy efficient (Thursday). It's a little disappointing to realize I can't change much of my current situation besides my consumerism mindset. 

Besides this challenge, I think by not owning a lot of stuff in general I'm able to see the benefits in my current lifestyle especially in the realm of transportation (Tuesday). I hope to continue living with less and not buying things (like coffee) that I can make myself. 

Looking back at my 5 things I'm thankful for every day, I see that most of my lists consisted of things that are conceptual or not physically tangible. I'm happy about that. It means I could be happy in almost any circumstance - without needing stuff or things.

 
fruit

Food Waste

 

Zero Waste Program

Phil Chesbro, Zero Waste Coordinator, has always been attracted to service. He aspired to become a teacher, but the economy forced him to seek a different occupation. “It wasn’t too big of a leap for me to go from public service to something that was environmental and public service,” Chesbro said. Chesbro pursued working closely with students. He reflects, “Life experience led me to stumble into something that is perfect for me.” Chesbro, with over three years of studying and managing at the Zero Waste Program, thrives in impacting one person at a time.

“I want to get it all. I’m going to go pick up that lettuce from the sidewalk and I’m going to go find that compost bin. But it wasn’t like it was an ah-ha moment, like I’m going to be a composter when I grow up...I just kinda worked my way into wanting to do this job. It’s more like it’s just life experience that led me to stumble into something that is perfect for me,” Chesbro said. Chesbro has thrived in impacting one person at a time through the Zero Waste Program.

Who: Phil Chesbro, University of Oregon’s Zero Waste Coordinator

What the program does: The Zero Waste Program pursues recycling and composting services on University of Oregon’s campus. The Zero Waste Program informs students and faculty about sustainability practices.

Impact: The Zero Waste Program has over 1,500 compost, garbage and recycling collection sites on campus. The program supports proper waste disposal at the ASUO (Association Students of the University of Oregon) Street Faire, Willamette Valley Music Fest, and HOPES (Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability) conference. Students learn about proper waste disposal and reduction at these events through interactive games and workshops.

 

 
 
 

Pig & Turnip

Natalie Sheild is the owner of Pig & Turnip, a Eugene local food truck. Her passion to share food with family and friends started at a young age and blossomed into her own business. Pig & Turnip conserves whenever and wherever possible. Sheild focuses on water conservation especially inside the truck.

 
meat and dip

the magical chef

(interview focusing on a larger project of Eugene locals reducing food waste)

Sean Savage glides through the cloud of melting garlic and bubbling soup. He swirves past a maze of student chefs to place an order of three hundred chicken thighs before the minute is up. He feels at home amongst the chaos.

Savage didn’t always know the pleasure of cooking. As a third grade boy, he remembers a vacant home and an empty plate. His single mother worked three jobs. “I learned how to cook in third grade out of necessity, out of survival,” says Savage, “I just did it because I had to eat that night.” Cooking later become more than just a routine. During college, he started out as a music major. He quickly realized he couldn’t support a family on a traveling musician's salary. Savage’s college adviser suggested enrolling in a culinary program. Shifting in the wooden chair, Savage was unsure if he could translate his passion for performing into cooking. He squirmed as thoughts beat his head. He was afraid of the future, but he had to find a different career to support his family. To calm his hammering ideas he blurted out, “why the heck not?” An instant feeling of relief and excitement came over him. Springing up, he confidently strode out of the advising office. Every day he hears the tapping of a spoon on the side of a pan as his music. Savage’s journey as a chef started at the American Culinary Confederation in 2003. He chose to work in environments with less food waste and more financial benefits for his family. He has worked as a chef in the Central Kitchen on the University of Oregon’s campus for the past three years. Savage is thrilled to donate thousands of pounds of food from the Central Kitchen to Food for Lane County. He hopes to continue to reduce the kitchens amount of waste by monitoring portioning to the dining halls. Through his journey, Savage learned the element to his success is to stay “passionate about what you’re doing.”

 

how we became waste filled

 

“Let’s feed people, not landfills,” EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Administrator Gina McCarthy stated at the 2014 food waste press release.[1] Over 133 billion pounds of food goes uneaten every year in the United States.[2] Food waste increases because of poor transportation, storage, and consumption methods. Large companies are at the forefront of this food excess.

Before mass production,[3] food traveled directly from farms to families. The Industrial Revolution[4] gave rise to new technology. Advanced transportation methods allowed packaged goods to be shipped around the world. After World War II,[5] food changed from a system of redistribution to quick disposal.[6] As production grew to accommodate the growing demand, landfills like Puente Hills piled to over 500 feet tall.[7]

The environmental, economic, and social effects of waste are gaining national attention.[8] On September 16, 2015, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and EPA released the “first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030.”[9] In pursuit of this objective, consumers are buying locally grown produce and food pantries have multiplied. The food industry will need to double their output by 2030 to adapt to population growth if nothing else changes.[10] However, there is hope of reducing food waste and reviving the direct connection between farmers and consumers.

References:

[1] “USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals | USDA Newsroom.” USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals | USDA Newsroom. United States Department of Agriculture, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

[2] Buzby, Jean C., Hodan Farah-Wells, and Jeffrey Hyman. “The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States.” SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal(2014): n. pag. United States Department of Agriculture. Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.

[3] BSR. “Analysis of U.S. Food Waste Among Food Manufacturers, Retailers, and Restaurants.” Analysis of U.S. Food Waste Among Food Manufacturers, Retailers, and Restaurants (2014): n. pag. Food Waste Alliance. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

[4] “Industrial Revolution.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution>.

[5] Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. London: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2004. 188. Print.

[6] Marsh, Peter. The New Industrial Revolution. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2012. 130. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

[7] Anwar, Liyna. “Closing America’s Largest Landfill, Without Taking Out The Trash.” NPR. NPR, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

[8] “Background.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. <http://www.fao.org/save-food/background/en/>.

[9] “USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals | USDA Newsroom.” USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals | USDA Newsroom. United States Department of Agriculture, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

[10] Taiz, Lincoln. “Agriculture, Plant Physiology, and Human Population Growth: Past, Present, and Future.” Agriculture, Plant Physiology, and Human Population Growth: Past, Present, and Future. SciELO, Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.