Even though students today are more concerned than ever about the environment, during the transition to college, those ideals often go by the wayside. On many campuses, the opening of school can be a very wasteful time. Cardboard boxes, Styrofoam packing materials, and heaps of unanticipated duplicates end up in huge piles of trash outside residence halls and apartments - not a very sustainable way to start the year. Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, director of sustainability at Wake Forest University, offers these simple suggestions to achieve a "greener" move-in by doing more with less.
People spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors. Studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show levels of several common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside. Many of these pollutants come from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from household cleaning products. Indoor pollutants can be reduced by limiting the number of chemicals used indoors. By following three basic guidelines you can improve your indoor environment, save money and help conserve natural resources.
Going Green . . .A Blessing Out of a Crisis
Eighteen years ago, we were organizing under our kitchen sink. We had been so careful, using all the special kid safety locks to keep our toddler away from hazardous cleaning products. In our distraction of reorganizing, our little Danielle picked up a toxic bathroom spray and sprayed it right in her eyes.
With my husband on the phone with poison control, and me holding our screaming, kicking daughter under running water, we counted the five agonizing minutes that seemed like eternity. Thank God she didn’t go blind. That was a tipping point for us, and the end of our use of hazardous cleaning products.
Nowadays, specialty markets in even modestly-sized towns and all national grocery chains carry organic dairy products, produce, meat, and a myriad of boxed and frozen organic items. Nearly 30 years ago, my friends and I either had to drive 50 miles round trip to get what we wanted, or - for a while, had a neighborhood food buying co-op and ordered large quantities of organic food directly from a national vendor. Each month, a tractor-trailer would deliver hundreds of pounds of bulk food to be distributed. Both choices were a lot of work and trouble and our gardens were the only local source for seasonal, fresh food.
The Answer is Simpler than it Seems
In the last few years, our nation’s relationship with food has become more and more complicated. Ecologically and ethically minded people have put their culinary choices under a microscope. No longer is it sufficient to say that a food item is organically grown; now we also want to know whether it is locally grown, sustainably produced, fairly traded, supportive of small businesspeople, and raised from heirloom stock. We have begun to understand that with every shopping trip, we cast a vote for the sort of world we’d like to live in.
At the same time, many consumers seem to have given up completely. Some feel confused and defeated by a constant barrage of oftencontradictory information. Others have thrown up their hands because, for financial or other reasons, it is impossible for them to make the choices that they believe are best for their families. Then, too, there are the farmers themselves. Some small farmers who meet or exceed the standards have opted out of the process.Their customers, they figure, know them well enough to trust their methods. Meanwhile, because of high public demand, the very largest growers have devoted parts of their empires to organic production, all the while cutting corners and lobbying for the standard to be lowered.
Living the slow life with food as the focus is as rewarding as it is easy, and it can be done daily by each one of us. Ultimately, it is about pleasure and taste, knowledge and choice. Once we begin to take an interest in the enjoyment of food, and in finding out where our food comes from, we can begin to see the effects of these choices. When we shorten the distance—both literal and figurative—that our food travels to get to us, we are participating in the Slow Food movement. Slow Food is about coming together as a food community—connecting producers and co-producers, coming together on the farm, in the market, and at the table-to create and enjoy food that is good, clean and fair.