Tweet @SustainISU to Celebrate Earth Day

While some people may be more excited to celebrate national “Dance like a Chicken Day” (May 14) or “Talk like a Pirate Day” (September 19), on April 22, Illinois State University’s Office of Sustainability will be celebrating our favorite holiday, Earth Day. This special day dedicated to our beautiful planet is not only a good reminder that you live on Earth, but it also provides transparency for our Office. We spend a ton of time in our office working on projects that affect students, but Earth Day provides an opportunity to interact with them.

We have been working all Spring semester on a variety of events that will happen throughout the month of April, but it took a bit more time to develop our Office’s big Earth Day campaign. This year we decided to engage students through a medium that is most familiar to them: social media. Gathering students together to work on a project in the middle of a school day, right before finals, may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean students at Illinois State don’t privately celebrate this day. For this reason we are asking that ISU students get on Twitter and tweet @SustainISU; telling us how they are celebrating Earth Day.

As an undergraduate at ISU, my friends and I used to make a point to get together and enjoy a meal outside on Earth Day. Another friend of mine used the day to plug recycling to anyone that would listen (although I think she may do this on a regular basis). While I have the opportunity to share some of my experiences here, I want you to share your experiences with us on Twitter. Using 140 characters or less or a photo, you can tweet @SustainISU at any point on April 22, 2013. The best part about this—you’re doing something for our campus and planet, AND you have the opportunity to win eco-friendly prizes. Our Office will be randomly selecting students that tweet in to win prizes such as our grand prize: a Schwin S1 cruiser-provided by Bloomington Cycle and Fitness, and several others (solar jars, gift cards, etc.).  

This is our first foray into social media campaigning, and we’re looking forward to meeting many new students by enhancing our online presence. Social media is not only appealing to us because so many students are on websites like Facebook and Twitter, but because it provides an opportunity for our Office to be even more sustainable. Other than creating some signage to market this event, we’re keeping our carbon footprint down by keeping everything online. And our gifts are designed to keep your carbon footprint down: the bike provides transportation to campus and around the community, the solar jars provide a renewable source of energy, and the gift cards support local businesses that use locally made products.

Obviously we hope that our Office receives recognition and attention for putting together a Twitter contest, but we also hope to develop relationships with students. I’m excited to read the tweets we will receive on April 22, but what I’m really looking forward to are the tweets we receive on a daily basis.

For information and rules about our Twitter contest visit the Office of Sustainability’s webpage.

–Jordan Goebig

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You Are What You Eat-Food Justice at ISU

I love food; all kinds: meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, ALL OF IT! And yet, while food has been a lifelong love affair, it is only in the past few years that I began considering the political, social and environmental consequences of what I fiendishly devour. Eating is one of the most intimate ways we interact with our Earth. And we do it typically three times daily, meaning we are constantly making decisions that influence how, where, and under what conditions our food is grown, and how the animals we eat are treated.

Think about buying a banana from a local grocery store in winter. Obviously, that banana didn’t grow here. Probably, it came from South America. Think about how much you paid for that banana. Then consider that banana was shipped thousands of miles, either by sea or by air. Consider that someone was paid to pick that banana. How much do you think they were paid? What kind of life do you think they live? I am sometimes discomforted by how little I know of the people behind the food I buy. Globalization has made it much harder to know who exactly is picking your berries (yes, bananas are scientifically classified as berries…Weird, right?!?). It has also led to an unsustainable food system fueled mostly by petroleum, a finite resource polluting our atmosphere and leaking into our oceans, lakes, and rivers.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the grocery co-op in Champaign. What a wonderful shopping experience!! I love how much of the food is sourced regionally and locally. They even had Ropp cheese, which is produced on a farm right outside Normal. The experience at the Champaign grocery co-op inspired me to purchase ownership shares in Green Top Grocery, the local co-op starting up in Normal. The co-op model not only sources more food locally, but it creates a sense of community. Since it is owned by members of the community, decisions made regarding the co-op are much more democratic. There is also a primary focus on education, worker’s rights, and local food security because co-ops are built upon the values of openness and social responsibility. In short, it is the kind of grocery store I would feel good about buying my food from.

Critics of the present food system have written entire books on the concept of “food justice.” Robert Gottlieb, Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, and Anupama Joshi, Co-Director of the National Farm to School Network, recently published a book literally titled “Food Justice,” that attempts to catalogue the hazards, abuses, and inequities inherent in the current industrial and increasingly globalized food system. They define the food justice movement as an attempt to equitably distribute “the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten.” The book charts the rise of the movement, whose inception they trace to the release of Edward R. Morrow’s documentary, “Harvest of Shame,” in 1960.

Food is at the intersection of our personal health and wellbeing, and the health of our planet. We tend to eat more fatty, sweet, and salty foods when we experience negative emotions and more nutritious foods when we experience positive ones. In addition, the volume of food we eat is affected by our emotions as well. The Mayo Clinic discusses this “mood food” phenomenon on their website:

“Although some people actually eat less in the face of strong emotions, if you’re in emotional distress you may turn to impulsive or binge eating — you may rapidly eat whatever’s convenient, without even enjoying it.

In fact, your emotions may become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you’re angry or stressed without stopping to think about what you’re doing.[1]

 

I’ve been there on more nights than I care to mention. In undergrad, I would sometimes drive my car to Steak n’ Shake to inhale a double-cheeseburger and fries on nights before a mid-term or final, washed down with the supplementary chocolate shake, of course. So how does my emotional eating affect the planet? It takes far more energy to raise a pound of meat than a pound of vegetables, meaning that carnivores like me put more stress on the planet’s natural resources.

While this kind of eating is disturbing and widespread, and certainly contributes to the country’s obesity epidemic, perhaps more disturbing is the number of low-income communities of color that lack access to healthy, affordable food. The effect of this disparity is clear. As reported in a recent study by PolicyLink, a national research institute, and The Food Trust, a nonprofit organization advancing access to nutritious food, “adult obesity rates are 51 percent higher for African-Americans than whites, and 21 percent higher for Latinos.” The report continues stating, “improving access to healthy food is a critical component of an agenda to build an equitable and sustainable food system. It is time for a nationwide focus to ensure that healthy food choices are available to all.[2]” Co-ops, by bringing communities together around food security, could play a crucial role in solving this social problem.

University Housing and Dining Services brought chef, author and activist in the food justice movement, Bryant Terry, to campus Monday to speak in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center. Mr. Terry is the author of “The Inspired Vegan,” which explores interconnections between food, storytelling, music and art, while also sharing recipes, cooking techniques, and strategies for making nutritionally balanced meals. Terry says that one’s values should drive his or her diet.

“I ask myself, ‘what kind of world do I want to see? How do I want animals, and the environment to be treated?’ My answers determine what I pass up,[3]” he said.

Creating Your Own Campus Garden

Living on, or near, a college campus can be frustrating-even with the perks of a central rec center and all-you-can-eat dining center-we all long for a little privacy and lots of green space. Although I’ve moved off-campus and into an apartment, the opportunity to actually enjoy a yard is still something that I dearly miss. When I visit my parents I find myself taking the dogs out more, dragging my little brother on walks, and actually offering to help my dad around the yard. I know that I probably won’t be able to enjoy these things in my own place for a few more years, but over the past few months I realized that I can’t always wait for the green space to come to me. Sometimes you have to make it happen.

I had always wanted to grow a few of my own vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Over the course of a few months, I began to collect materials to build my own indoor garden. It was shockingly simple and cheap, and along with my significant other (and family), we were able to collect wood scraps and plant containers (recycled jars). We already had the necessary tools and nails, so the only purchases were soil, seeds, and smaller containers to start the seeds in which cost less than $15.

The box took about an hour to construct (thanks to my Dad and boyfriend, Adam) and another hour or two to arrange everything and actually begin the planting process. This is something I have thought about for at least a solid year, but it only took a few hours to do once we took action. Adam and I kept our garden box indoors over the last week, because as every knows, Illinois weather can be pretty temperamental in April. However, the beauty of this box—is that it is easily transferred outside once it warms up enough. Although I may not have a large yard, I now have a bit of green space I created myself. In just a few weeks, we’ve already begun to see the benefits of our work. While $15 and a couple hours might be a stretch for the average college student, imagine how much money and time you’ll save on shopping for fresh produce – instead of a costly trip to the store, a quick trip to your patio or balcony can yield armfuls of fresh fruits and veggies, meal after meal. So what are you waiting for?

How To Create Your Own Garden Box

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  1. Find an old window to use. Recycle from an old home, ask around, or your best option might be to check out an antique store.
  2. Purchase or collect wood. I would recommend trying to find out if someone you know has some wood scraps (recycle!) before purchasing some from a store. Worst case scenario you can purchase scrap lumber from nearly any local home improvement store.
  3. Measure the dimensions of the window—then get handy. You are going to need a few tools to do this project, but it’s simple enough that anyone can build! You don’t need any professional skills to nail pieces of wood together. If you are getting your wood from a store, measure the window beforehand because they may be able to cut the wood to size for you—saving you some time! Also, when considering the height of the box, think about what you will be planting and how high it may grow. Our garden box is the perfect size for herbs, but we will have to move our vegetables into larger containers as they grow. We were originally going to go with just herbs, but I love tomatoes!
  4. Consider what you’ll be planting in. Recycled jars and coffee cups are the perfect size to start your plants in!
  5. If you are using a planter that may leak—you will want to layer the bottom so that the water doesn’t soak through and rot the wood. We reused some of the plastic that our seed containers came in to collect water for us.
  6. Get planting! You can purchase the soil you want from many local stores. We just went with a basic kind, but remember that certain types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and plants may require different soil types. Also, make sure you actually read up on each plant!
  7. Pray to the sun and water gods. Take care of your plants and garden box—and reap the benefits in a few weeks or months!

–Jordan Goebig (with a cameo by the always adorable, Elway Marshall)

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