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Let’s Talk Trash

By Brooke Horn

Brooke Horn

Lauren Singer’s green philosophy is pretty simple: produce as little waste as possible by making smart, sustainable lifestyle choices. As a whole, our society subscribes to the disposable model. We have disposable plastic ware, drink cups, water bottles, napkins, food wrappers, product packaging… the list is seemingly endless. Generating no trash might seem like an impossibility but, as Lauren shows us, we can get pretty darn close.

I discovered Lauren through this EcoWatch article last week and became really intrigued by the concept of zero-waste living. Amazingly, almost all of the trash she’s collected over two years fits in a single mason jar. Her blog, Trash is for Tossers, provides tons of useful information on how she pulls her zero-waste lifestyle off. After doing a lot of research and taking a good, hard look at my own habits, I’ve decided to follow Lauren’s lead and implement some changes in my own lifestyle.

While I don’t think that I’m ready to transition to zero-waste, I DO want to transition to zero-plastic (or as close as I can get). Plastics have been shown to leach toxins into food, and while they can be reused, they don’t decompose like other materials. Does this mean immediately disposing of all plastics in my household? No, and it shouldn’t. Throwing away these items would only ADD to the problem.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf... I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf… I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

Instead, I plan on gradually replacing my plastic items with glass, wood, or stainless steel equivalents (which you can find here, or even at your local thrift shop). The plastic items can either be donated or recycled as I exchange them. And while I’m generally pretty good about bringing a reusable water bottle and canvas shopping bags with me wherever I go, I’d like to go one step further. By using linen bags like these when I purchase produce and bulk items, I eliminate most plastics from my shopping routine. BAM. No more plastic bags, no more plastic Tupperware. One step closer to zero-plastic and zero-waste.

For tips on how you can live a more sustainable lifestyle on campus, check out PSU’s own Green Campus Living. The blogs Project Green Dorm, Zero Waste Home, and, of course, Trash is for Tossers are also really great resources. Wish me luck on my journey to zero-plastic! Feel free to share your own tips, recipes, resources, and ideas in the comments below.

“A Living Room On Campus”

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By: Zaira Carranza

Some of my favorite places at Portland State University are the cultural centers: La Casa Latina, Multicultural Center (MCC), and the Native American Student Center. There are many events held at all these centers, but the most exciting ones for me are those that teach me about the different cultural celebrations. But let’s be honest, it is also the ones with free food. I enjoy being there because I get a welcoming feeling. I can go to the MCC and lay on one of the couches and take a nap right after my biology exams. I also use the microwave whenever I bring my fancy Ramen from home. There is a social area with many tables where I meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. It is like a living room on campus. It is where I spend time with my friends as well as create new friendships. I enjoy it so much that I decided to apply for a job there. I currently work in the front desk at the Casa Latina and MCC, so if you ever want to come, you are more than welcome. Did you know that the more people who visit the cultural centers, the more funding it gets? That funding means that there could be even more events throughout the year.

Chirp, Chirp, Squawk: Rediscovering Nature in the City

By Olivia Clarke

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“Look!” my classmate said excitedly, pointing up into a tree in the Montgomery courtyard. “A crow!”

We were on a bird-watching field trip for our urban ecology class, led by a member of the Audubon Society. Our guide had arrived in our classroom thirty minutes earlier to give us an overview of Portland’s bird species. Then he led us outside to observe the ornithology of the campus. Our inner birders awakened, we announced each sighting with greater enthusiasm. We gleefully identified “Rock Pigeons” and “Glaucous-winged Gulls” as if they were rare and exotic specimens.

After a steep hike into the hills south of campus, we reached a clearing where we could look out over the entire city to glimpse Hood, Adams, and St. Helens in the distance. Our guide called us over to a tree to train our binoculars on a little black bird with bright red eyes and wings to match. “Ooh,” we all crooned.

We tend to think of ourselves as separate from nature, especially here in the city – “urban” and “wildlife” seem like contradictory terms. But if that disconnect were real, I don’t think my classmates and I would have found ourselves huddled together to admire a Spotted Towhee against a mingled backdrop of buildings and mountains.

Nature is persistent. We forget that it sings songs around us constantly, even in the middle of Portland. I hear these songs chirped and squawked around campus all the time, now that I’ve adjusted my ears.

“Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate; Only Love Can Do That.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by Shezad Khan

As an atheist, one of my main goals is to make sure that my outlook on life revolves around peace and love. For this reason, I feel that it’s a shame that several atheist “scholars” have turned to using animosity to preach against those who they disagree with. It seems counterintuitive for these big names in atheism to be using the same tool that religious fanatics use to preach against their enemies – that tool being hate.

This is also an odd situation for me because my family comes from a Muslim background, from Bangladesh, a South Asian country. That means that every time a fanatical Islamic group – ISIL, Boko Haram, etc. – decides to spread their hatred via killing and destruction (the recent tragedy of Charlie Hebdo, for instance), it shines an incredibly bad light on Muslims in general. It has become more and more visible to me that a lot of people in this country generalize Muslims. Yes, it is racist to say that everyone in or from the Middle East is a terrorist, and yes, it is very prejudiced to say that that every Muslim is a terrorist. I may be an atheist, but I don’t ever want to see my family suffer through that. After the attacks made on September 11th, my mom wouldn’t let me go to the park after school – try explaining why to a nine-year-old kid.

So how am I supposed to feel now, that three young Muslim-American adults were killed in North Carolina and no one really seems to care? Three young Muslim-Americans killed “execution style” and the media has chalked it up to a “parking dispute.” It’s just something that doesn’t sit well with me.

Even though it seems like Muslim people are in a bad spot right now, I’m not without hope that there are people out there who understand the difference between religious people and religious fanatics as I do. Luckily, I find myself surrounded by intellectual and intelligent people – especially the friends I’ve made at Portland State. And to those who do want to use hate as their primary tool, I guess I’ll just have to chalk them up as being incredibly ignorant.

Slow ride, Take it easy

By: Sharon Nellist

I admire and sympathize at the same time with those who take more than the recommended full-time classes and are involved in every other school organization and club in hopes to save a bit of money and graduate sooner than expected. Because I once was that student – and it is certainly not for everyone.

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Perhaps it is that I am a returning full-time student, in my late twenties, married, making a car payment, working several outside jobs in order to pay rent, and I’m not opposed to starting a family while trying to have the most quintessential young college experience.

What I have realized is that it is possible for everyone to have this experience, even me, but you need to know how to balance these things and maintain your sanity.

  • For me I know I need 12 credit hours, no more or less, for optimal learning
  • That suggests that I have 24 hours total of study time
  • I save money by bringing food instead of eating at delicious food carts – allows for some creativity, or lack thereof
  • My job as a nanny gives me the flexibility around my school schedule, as it is my priority
  • I budget using a spreadsheet, they are not just for old people – I can cut back on my student loans this year!
  • I am part of PSU Crew (campus rowing team), yes at 5:30 a.m. every morning, and I work for the student blog – minimal commitment allows me to focus on my involvement
  • And then, there is a whole day allotted for spending time with my husband or friends – we frequent the Saturday Market on campus

My degree may take an extra term or two to complete, but I most likely will not have a mental breakdown, my personal life will be unharmed, and I will succeed well enough to go on to Grad school and still have my perfect college experience.

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Forty days of restraint

lentblogIt is that time of year again when the Christians and the semi-Christians come out of the woodwork to discuss what it is they are giving up for Lent. I find myself debating between the two things I care about most – coffee and shopping. However, fortunately for my wallet, I physically cannot afford to give up coffee, and financially cannot afford to not give up shopping.

When I was in high school, shopping was not a problem, basically because I didn’t have any money to spend. But when I moved out of state to California for college, shopping became a very easy distraction. Uprooting to California by myself, accompanied by the stress of student loans, new people, and needing to find a job, was the most trying experience of my life. Throw in a dysfunctional relationship and you have my freshman year nightmare. In order to get away from it all, as far as I could with reasonable transit time, I would go to the mall. It wasn’t until Lent came up that I realized I had an actual problem.

Whether you’re religious or not, it’s never a bad idea to reflect on your behaviors and habits – and particularly why you engage in them. The idea of Lent is to tackle a particularly bad habit that interferes with your relationship to God. However, I think the idea behind Lent would do everyone a little good because it allows people to look at what actions interfere with their relationships to themselves or to their loved ones.

Is it easier to run a credit card than talk about the actual reason you’re upset? Absolutely. But does it solve any problems? Not really, and it creates a newer problem of credit card debt.

I believe anyone can benefit from 40 days of restraint, especially when control seems like the only thing you don’t have on your plate. Plus, you get to celebrate at the end so why not?

On Ditching Cinnamon Toast Crunch for Organic Spinach

By Chelsea Ware

whole foodsMy first quarter at PSU taught me just how much of an impact healthy eating has on overall well-being. Like many students away from home for the first time, I considered frozen pizzas the base of the food pyramid. When I wasn’t at Victor’s in Ondine eating cake and burgers for lunch, I was at Starbucks setting a record for the most iced coffees consumed in 24 hours. While I didn’t gain the notorious “freshman 15,” I did notice other changes. I was constantly catching a cold, my skin looked dull and I was tired during my classes. I decided to make a change and embarked on a journey to find healthy, nutritious food items that are college budget friendly.

My favorite place to shop is Whole Foods Market. With the nickname “whole paycheck” many don’t see them as being economical. However, I disagree. While they do have some pretty expensive items, they also have a wide array of name brand products that are comparable or less expensive than the same items at other grocery stores. For instance, their 365 roasted red pepper pasta sauce for $2 is amazing. In addition, the knowledgeable and friendly staff is great when it comes to finding low priced items. Whenever I go in, the employees at the butcher counter tell me what is on sale and give me recipes on how to use it. As a result, I’ve never had a problem eating right and staying within my financial plan at Whole Foods.

The Safeway near campus has made many recent improvements to offer healthy eating options. They have expanded their organic produce section and added a larger assortment of nutritious staple items such as brown rice, organic granola, and whole grain bread. With a club card, Safeway makes it convenient and affordable for students to make healthier choices.

The Farmers Market is also a great resource for wholesome eating. For those like me who live on campus, the one in the park blocks on Saturday mornings is a fantastic place to purchasing fresh produce. Strolling by the various booths trying samples and socializing is a fun way to spend the morning, and I love knowing that my purchases benefit the local community.

Learning to cook in bulk with quality ingredients has had a huge positive impact on my health. I have a stronger immune system and I feel much more energetic during the day, and I’m sure that if you try it, you will see a difference too. For quick nutritious recipes, I recommend checking out http://greatist.com/health/cheap-healthy-recipe-collection. Feel free to post your tips for overcoming bad eating habits below!

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