31 October 2008


I've seen some pretty pathetic graffiti around campus lately. Glad that everything I've seen was done with sidewalk chalk.

I don't endorse the destruction of public property, but really, folks, if you want to make a statement, why don't you do it with style? Treehugger recently published a news report about eco-graffiti, a new trend that has hit cities like London, Amsterdam, and New York. It is, in a sense, beautifying vandalism. And it's super cool.

While spray paint contains tons of harmful chemicals, tools used for eco-graffiti are one hundred percent safe and natural. Artists culture and grow moss, cut it into letters and images, and then use a sugar-yogurt mixture to paste it onto walls. Eventually, the moss colonizes and takes over the area where it's planted. But no worries: It's still removable.

Examples of eco-graffiti can be found here.


27 October 2008

Living in Ctown

I’m more or less a Baltimore native. We lived in a suburb, however, so my friends and I spent plenty of time whining and complaining about how there was nothing to do- a common activity among teenagers. Even when I lived in Savannah, Georgia, a city similar to Chestertown but about twelve times its size with at least that many more restaurants, bars, clubs, and things to do, we used to sit out on the street on many a Friday night complaining of the lack of options.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I moved to Chestertown that I found I was never without something to do.

I know, from having been a student here myself and from the students (and staff) that I still hang out with, that many (most, all) of the people at WC have at one point or another complained about there being nothing to do. And yes, it does sometimes seem as if on a Friday night the option is, sit at home watching movies, or go out and get trashed for the 27th time this month. However, I’d like to take a minute and be an advocate of making your own fun. Not only is this more green than driving to Annapolis, Dover, Philly or DC, but at the root of sustainability (in the opinions of myself and many others) is a love for the place you ARE. When you are invested in one place, and put down roots, and I don’t even mean a specific city so much as a general area, you find that you will do anything in your power to protect it. Think about it this way: Native Americans, even when they were nomadic, were absolutely dedicated to their land, and as a consequence, were much less likely to abuse it.

Plus, its much more fun. You’d be amazed and astounded to learn how many things there are to do in Chestertown, once you get over complaining about it and running away to a “city” every weekend. When I have visitors from out of town, I find I can never fit everything I want to show them into the amount of time my visitor is staying. I still haven’t even explored all of the nooks and crannies myself. It took me years to find a place I loved, but now I’m happier than I ever have been before. This place speaks to me. And I will defend it against all comers.

So, here’s a (brief) list of the things I usually do when I have visitors:
-Walk through town at night.
I absolutely love walking through town at night. It is so, so quiet, and so mysterious and beautiful. Especially the water, with all the ducks all asleep under the dock and the bridge all lit up. The fountain is also amazing (and kind of creepy) at night.

-Walk through town during the day.
A completely different experience. If you haven’t done it, wander through College Heights, and make sure you walk down Queen Street where it becomes Byford Court. Some of my favorite houses in Chestertown are there. The bottom of Queen Street (incidentally where I live) is one of my favorite spots: the houses all have steps down to the street, and this somehow reminds me of a fairy tale. Maybe I just have an overactive imagination. Or walk down Cross Street to Wilmer Park, and make sure to check out Stepne Manor across the street (horses!).

-Sit on the porch (preferably during a thunderstorm)
This is what my friends and I do during most of our spare time. It may sound boring, but this is what I mean by making your own fun. We always have the best, rambling conversations on the porch. Or we sit and watch the stars. Have you seen the number of stars visible over Chestertown?

-Check out the farmer’s market
Open every Saturday morning from March to November, the Farmer’s Market features everything from produce to fresh bread to preserves, homemade soaps, flowers, and crafts. I make a habit of walking to the Chestertown Natural Food store on Cannon first, getting an all natural ginger ale, and drinking it while doing my shopping (and usually munching on a muffin from Sam’s or a croissant from the bread guy).

-Go to First Friday
On the first Friday of every month, the shops downtown open their doors and provide free wine, food, and usually music, all available while you browse the work of local artists. If you aren’t 21, this is slightly less exciting, if you are, I don’t think any more needs to be said than “free wine.” Make sure to hit Antiques on Cannon and the Art’s League next door. My favorite part of this experience is running into so many people I know.

-Visit any of the multitude of events that happen every week
The college campus is packed with events. There are free movies, every weekend. There are free lectures, almost every night. The Students Events Board has been going crazy bringing comedians and musicians to campus. There are musicians at Andy’s and O’Connor’s almost every weekend. The Prince has a constant run of plays, music, and other entertainment. Plus, the town goes all out every few months for a packed weekend of events- this coming weekend is Downrigging, where you will find free films, a chance to board the tall ships (including the Amistad, the one they made the movie about), and fireworks, in addition to all the Halloween related events. chestertown.com for details.

I could go on. And on. And I probably will, in a later entry, but for now, take this as a starting point. Make your own fun!


One day only e-recycling in Easton




SATURDAY, NOV. 1 - 8 am to 2 pm - EASTON, MD - Free !

A one day collection of old fuels, solvents, lawn & garden pesticides, oil-based painting products and many more items, including Mercury Thermometers.

A Recycling event for electronics such as computers, computer peripherals, TV's and many other electronic items.

Directions to 7341 Barkers Landing Road, Easton, MD (Yellow Signs will be posted):

From Route 50,
East on Rt.331 (Dover Road),
Right onto Dover Neck Road,
Left onto Barkers Landing Road,
Left into Landfill
Follow directional signs and instructions to the drop-off area.


23 October 2008

May the Thrift Gods Smile Upon You

On occasion, the thrift store gods smile down upon us, reminding us of their presence more than ever.

I should back up a little. My family has long been devoted to finding things in the most “thrifty” way possible- my mom and my uncle used to take me and my cousins out behind the strip malls dumpster diving for thrown away crafts supplies, picture frames, even cameras and film- anything we could find, really. We always make whatever we can ourselves, shunning the prospect of spending money on something unnecessarily. From my grandmother I also inherited the tendency to save everything compulsively, in case I might be able to use it later, resulting in the absurd number of boxes of bits and pieces, as I call them, filling my apartment workroom.

So when I found the perfect pair of shoes seven years ago I did not want to get rid of them. I am not one of those girls that really obsesses over shoes. I want a pair that I can beat to death, because I walk everywhere, and that matches the majority of my clothing so I don’t have to alternate shoes every day just so I match. I will admit an addiction to vintage heels, but when it comes to the shoes I wear on a daily basis I want one, maybe two options. This particular pair turned out to be so comfortable, and matched so much of my clothing, that I wore them every day until literally the bottom started falling out this past winter. The strap also came apart, and I fixed it back on with safety pins. I tried fixing the bottom of the shoe, with duct tape, with those plastic shoe things, with anything I could think of, but to no avail. I had to stop wearing the shoes on rainy days for fear of getting my toes wet.

This may all seem absurd to most people, who would say I should just go out and buy a new pair of shoes. And I did look for new ones, across two countries. I hate shopping in regular stores, but I suffered for the sake of finding shoes at least vaguely similar to mine. I even checked eBay. Alas. After months of searching, I finally gave up, resigned to only wear the shoes on sunny days. I considered having them fixed professionally, but considering the shoes originally cost me $10 at Payless I figured the shoe repair people would probably laugh at me for bringing them in.

And then- this past weekend- while scouring Goodwills for clothing for the upcoming MPC Photography Marathon (this Friday)- I happened to glance at the top of a rack, where Goodwill keeps the shoes, and what do I see, but my exact pair of shoes, except magically returned to their original condition, shining and in one piece. In my size.

I really couldn’t believe my luck. I hadn’t ever expected to find the shoes, ever again. The thrift store gods always provide, however. Just not always when you expect it.

My cousins and I have discovered this superstition, and liken it to the gods of prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes. If you really need something, really need it, not just want it for some superficial reason, the gods will provide. You may have to patiently search, you may have to go a little out of your way, but with an open mind and the right attitude eventually everything you need will come your way- be it a new pair of shoes, the shelf you needed for those extra boxes of books, or even food. There is so much abundance in the world, that you will find when you aren’t trying to force it- when you aren’t demanding everything, right now, the way our society seems to encourage- the right things will eventually find you.

Advice we can apply to the rest of our lives as well. When it comes to the environment, things tend to work on their own, without intervention- the planet has had millennia to experiment and get things just right. If we’re willing to work within that system, and maybe accept that having oranges in a climate like Maryland’s in winter maybe just doesn’t make sense (and value them in summer all the more), the land will provide. The only rules: don’t take more than you need, and give back more than you take. I always make sure to donate two or three things to a thrift store for every item I find.

If you want to try your own luck with the thrift store gods, you can get started right here in Chestertown with our three lovely thrift stores:

Hidden Treasures
711 Washington Avenue
Phone: (410) 778-1219
Web: www.kentcenter.org
Hours: Mon. - Thurs. & Sat. 9:00am - 4:00pm Fri. 9:00am-5:00pm

The Nearly New Shop
320 High Street
Phone: (410) 778-1781
Web: www.chesterriverhealth.org
Hours: Mon. - Sat. 10:00am - 4:00pm

The WIN Thrift Store
106 Philosopher's Terrace
Phone: (410) 778-5999
Web: www.win-foundation.org
Hours: Thurs. & Fri. 10:00am - 6:00pm Sat. 10:00am - 4:00pm


15 October 2008

Bins Magically Appear

Bins, suddenly appear... every time... you come neaaaaar.....

Last week, many of you may have noticed beautiful new recycling bins around campus in Goldstein, Miller, and the CAC. I meant to post about them at the time, but I had a big blister on my thumb from assembling the things and was trying to cut back on typing. Actually I kind of forgot.

But no more! The bins are here! And next semester you will see them in the rest of the academic buildings as well. What does all this mean? How is it that after years of haphazard voluntary recycling collection we are suddenly getting our act together? Well, I’ll tell you. The college has instituted a spanking new recycling program, orchestrated by the Center for Environment & Society and Buildings & Grounds and the President’s Climate Action Committee.

And what does that mean? Well, slowly but surely we will be putting new bins in all the academic buildings on campus. These will be collected by students and taken to a central location on campus for sorting and pickup. As we add bins, we expect to see recycling INCREASE. A lot. If there are bins all over campus, there’s no reason for bottles and cans to end up in the trash. So let’s all help George Go Green and use the brand new, painstakingly assembled recycle bins… after all, it’s about time!


13 October 2008

It's Easy Going Green. No, really, it is.

Standing outside the dining hall today at lunch, I heard a number of interesting responses to the new, reusable take out containers. I feel that about half the responses were “FINALLY! What a great idea!” and the other half were a little more concerned with the change. I’d like to address some of those concerns at length here on the blog, before the reactions really take off:

1. “We already pay for so much! Why do we have to buy something else?”
This is true. You all DO pay for a lot of things, and as a former student I can understand being rather concerned with how expensive it is to be in college. However, it’s only $4. This literally only covers the cost of the container, the dining hall is not making any profit on this deal. In addition, your meal plans barely cover the cost of running the dining hall, and it really doesn’t make sense for them to keep buying case after case of throw-away containers when they can purchase one container for every student one time. Think of it this way: if they save money, they will probably spend it on improving the food.
2. “Why don’t they just give them away?”
If the dining hall gave away reusable containers, would you still bring them back? Or would you throw them away? I had one student suggest putting a cap on the number given out to each student, but there’s really no way for the dining hall to keep track of this. Remember, limited staff, limited budget. There’s only so much they can do to feed hundreds of hungry students three times a day.
3. “Can we throw them away?”
That would rather defeat the point, now wouldn’t it? But yes, if, in direct defiance of being environmentally conscious you would like to throw the containers away, by all means. It’s your money. Or possibly your parents’.
4. “Do I have to take it to class?”
Not if you drop it off in your dorm first. Otherwise, yes, you have to take it to class. Get a backpack. They aren’t heavy, I promise. They also won’t spill or break or leak like those disposable ones, and there are three advantages right there.
5. “It’s not fair!”
This one I’m almost not sure how to respond to. Is it fair to the dining hall to pay thousands of dollars every year so you can conveniently throw away a take out container? Is it fair to the environment to use enormous amounts of resources to make all those containers? Is it fair to the environment to keep filling up landfills? Is it fair to all the other people in the world who have to deal with pollution from landfills, and from plastics ending up all over the place, including disposable take out containers? I don’t think it’s “fair,” or respectful, to expect the people of this campus to hand everything to you on a silver platter (or styrofoam container), or to clean up after the many, many containers that end up littering the campus, nor to make the environment and the health and lives of all the people on this planet suffer so that you don’t have to carry a lightweight container with you to class. Many colleges don’t even have take out. Many colleges would just tell you to bring your own container, without taking the extra step of providing brand new containers that are exactly like the old ones but better.

This is a good change for our campus. Long have I heard complaints that we talk about going green without actually taking action. Well, here we are, finally going green, and we are all going to have to suck it up and get used to it. The planet is dying, whether you want to admit it or not, and there are many things you can do to help prevent this catastrophe. Most of them do not require a huge sacrifice on your part. I don’t think I need to explain to anyone that if the planet dies, we (people) die. We cannot live without a planet. It’s our responsibility as living beings to do our part.

The new containers are pretty awesome, anyway. They can go in the dishwasher, or the microwave, and you don’t even have to wash them if you don’t want to, you can take it back to the dining hall and they will do it for you. Though I wouldn’t recommend letting food sit around your room, it attracts bugs. They are also sturdy, durable, lightweight, and should last you forever. And seriously, it’s only $4. What an investment!

Thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who are embracing this change and who gave me big smiles as they walked by with their new containers.


Dining Hall Goes Green!

Starting this Monday, October 13, the Dining Hall will NO LONGER be distributing one-use disposable carry-out containers, but will instead allow students to purchase reusable plastic containers. They are shaped just like the old containers but are made out of plastic and never need to be thrown away. Each container costs $4.00 and may be brought back to the Dining Hall for washing. No need to worry about washing!

One-use containers will no longer be available. While the dining hall briefly made use of biodegradable containers, these still end up filling landfills and require enormous amounts of energy to produce and ship. The supply is also difficult to maintain, as so many colleges are now purchasing biodegradable containers. With the switch to reusable, WC can cut waste in enormous quantities, and save energy by reusing containers rather than producing new ones.

Students will be outside the dining hall on Monday informing everyone about the new containers. Find out more.

In other news, you may have noticed the new recycling bins in the CAC, Goldstein, and the Library. The college has begun a new, very official recycling program and these are our pilot buildings for this semester. Be sure to recycle! For more information visit the CES site.

Go green!