Learn More from What You Do

This is the seventh week that I have been working in the Sustainability Office as The Marketing and Events Specialist. Today when I came to the office to work, I was asked if I wanted to write something for our blog. I felt like it was definitely a good idea to look back and sum up what I have learned so far. To be honest, I always feel satisfied when I learn something new from my work.

The beginning of this semester, I was assigned to laminate signs for the bulletin board to publicize sustainability activities. I started by cutting nametags with the trimming machine; then I put them on different colored thick paper to represent different activities. I used glue to stick them together and trimmed again, putting a colored paper with each nametag paper into a piece of transparent plastic cover, then sending them as a whole to pass through the laminating machine. When they came out from the other side of machine, they looked so clean and neat. When they were hung up on the board, I thought they look better because they were made by me. I had so much fun that day not only because I made them look good, but also I learned a new skill: how to use the laminating machine!

I also created a hand-made poster for the Indoor Rock Climbing Competition. I learned of a surprising new place at Earlham due to making the poster: the publicity room. I drew that poster five different times. I could not arrange the words properly when writing on the real poster, so I tried to write the words on other paper before making a new one. I thought it would be super easy to do but it actually took me two hours. My hand was dyed to blue; it was funny because I went to donate blood after that. The nurse joked that I was Avatar and pretended to refuse me to donate. I learned from the poster-making that being patient is very important especially when I think something will be easy to do.

I like working in the Sustainability Office, and I do enjoy immersing myself in what I want to do. I hope I can learn more from the rest of this semester.


From Sustainability to Life Instruction

When the great ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles proposed his idea on the four fundamental, indivisible components of the world, air element, earth element, fire element and water element, the world, from observations of human beings, was defined. Though the modern science tends to use string theory or atom theory instead, the four elements idea revealed an impressive landscape portrayed by the worship and awe of nature.

People in 20st century did not obey ancestors’ “coward” mind, they interpreted the role of nature as a slave of honorable human beings. They asked for resources, energy, privileges and priorities of all animals. Then they left us, who are living in 21st century, a wounded earth. There is still an ozone hole, as large as North America Continent, in the Antarctic sky. Noteworthy average temperature increase on the surface of earth is still causing the melting of glaciers in Arctic and Antarctic.

How should we recognize the relationship between nature and human development? How should we behave to fix our ancestors’ errors? How could the idea of sustainability influence our lives?

Life itself is a circle. A circle inscribed within the animal (live creature) circle. We were born nakedly and we pass away nakedly. But during this process (our life time), we consume energy or to say we are sustained by the energy, the natural energy. We breathed with air element, survived in water element, got warm through fire element and put our foot on the solid earth element as well as got our food. Since our physical, solid bodies are formed and supported by all for elements, could we consider ourselves as a synthesized complicated creature made by four elements?

Let me put this more clearly, we are made of nature and we are part of nature. When you are throwing the food into trashcan, you actually put part of yourself in there simultaneously. When we leave the water tap open for an hour, it is the same as the same amount of blood were extracted from us. There is nothing scary and unrealistic here. We need to breathe together with our earth. Literally, together.


by Zeyang Gao

Learners, Teachers and Leaders

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell.

When something in society needs fixing, one of the first answers any American citizen will give you to a solution is education. People are educated on a daily basis to influence all of their decisions ranging from the media telling them that they need more vitamin and mineral supplements to be healthier, to politicians posting their opinions and campaigns under every billboard under the sun to get people to vote for them. Education is everywhere and it is a vital component of human cultural transmission, whether it is in or out of a classroom.

The quote by Maxwell above perfectly sums up what a leader should be: not a title, but a role model. Teachers are the ultimate leaders- they are figures students will look up to, respect, and even attempt to emulate, therefore it is crucial that society has good teachers. The volunteer program I am managing this semester are The Earlham College Eco-Reps. These are a group of students interested in being learners, teachers and leaders of sustainable, “green,” and healthy living in their dorms and communities. My goals this semester for the volunteers are to get them to understand that living sustainably is ever-changing, and that there is therefore always more to know and more to improve, to want to spread everything they learn to their communities and inspire others to make more sustainable daily choices and thus lead the movement. So far, it is great to see how enthusiastic the volunteers are, and that they want to spread their knowledge and lead the movement in environmentalism and sustainability. I am confident that they will definitely inspire positive change for their peers this semester!

-Yeli G.

It’s all over….


It has been 8 weeks of working at the Free Store, researching the ingredients of the food we are served in the cafeteria, writing blog posts, organizing a volunteer match fair and a partridge in a pear tree. This Friday will mark the end of my internship with the Sustainability Office and I can honestly say that I have grown in such a short time.  This internship eased me into what a sustainable lifestyle at Earlham constitutes. I learnt the ins and outs of our composting system, our recycling system and various projects on campus that encourage sustainable living.

I enjoyed working on the Real Food Calculator, mostly because it was an eye-opener to the efforts people are taking to ensure that the food we eat is “real food”.  The Free Store was an interesting feat. It highlighted the effects of consumerism in our society and the habit of wasting that students have developed. However, it did help be part of the campaign to reduce the waste and divert useful goods from the landfill.

Finally, my off-site placement at the Grassroots Action Resource Center was amazing. It served as my gateway to Richmond. I learnt so much about Richmond and got the opportunity to appreciate it, not as an outsider, but as a member of the community. I organized the first Volunteer Match Fair meet at the center and in turn had the opportunity to interact with the numerous non-profit organizations the city of Richmond possesses.

This internship has been entertaining as well as educating and I hope to use this opportunity to further my relationship with the people I have met during the course of the 8 weeks of work.





Cardinal Greenways Update

This past week I have been doing lots of work for the Cardinal Greenways! The Cardinal Greenways is Indiana’s longestest set of recreational trails, spanning 62 miles from Marion through Muncie to Richmond.

The Cardinal Greenways has tons of awesome events going on this summer! Reid Hospital is using the trails for their Reid Ride on July 19th. Then on the 26th is the 14th Annual Great Greenway Tour. Finally, on September 27th the Wayne County branch of the Cardinal Greenway will host its 2nd annual BikeTOURberfest.

With all of these events comes a lot of preparation. I have been helping Denise, the Wayne County Cardinal Greenways Director, prepare in a number of ways. Firstly, I drafted an application for the Whitewater Valley REMC grant to obtain funding for BikeTOURberfest. I have also been helping synthesize maintenance plans from other region trails to establish a sort of maintenance “best practice” for the Wayne County Cardinal Greenways to use to keep its trails beautiful and safe for events and daily use. Thirdly, I will be doing a bit of surveying trail users this weekend to collect data about trail use for future funding applications and event management. I have also been sitting in on various steering committee and board meetings to get a sense of what running an organization like the Cardinal Greenways entails. Whew!

Earlier this week I also attended a ribbon cutting for the new water fountain at the Union Pike trail head. The fountain has 3 spouts: one for adults, one for smaller children, and one for dogs! The funding and installation for the fountain was provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Indiana American Water. The mayor and the city chamber of commerce attended the ribbon cutting to celebrate the Cardinal Greenways’ continued success. The water fountains came just in time for all of the events coming up later this summer and in the fall.



So much to do, so little time. Well how are we doing so far?

The summer is in full swing and the days are zapping by. We have collectively progressed in our different projects on and off-campus. The free store is looking good and we have sorted and laundered through 80% of all the stuff we acquired from last semester. Before you say JACK ROBINSON, the free store will be opened for the general public. Awesome!

The Real Food Calculator date entering level is finally over!! We only have the research to do and we will be one step closer to calculating how much money our college spends on real food. As the years go by, we hope to increase the percentage of our feeding funds allocated to real food purchases.

The sustainability guides for the new students orientation is being birthed as I write. In not time, the ultimate guide to living sustainably at Earlham and Richmond at large will be updated and printed for all to use.

These three projects amongst other miscellaneous items are in the works for our internship thus far.

Meanwhile, this week is a week of goodbyes for the Sustainability Office at Earlham. We say goodbye to our Boss, Sarah Waddle who is off to greener pastures. It was awesome working with you Sarah and I hope we meet in the future. If you are reading this and you know Sarah, do not hesitate to send some goodwill messages her way.

Also, David, one of my intern colleagues is off to start his official summer holiday. Au revoir David, it was fun working with you!!

Peniel Ibe


Climate Action- Many Rationales Lead to Yes

Should Earlham have a climate action plan? Should Earlham move away from fossil fuels? A lot of people who live, work, and learn at Earlham will say yes, but many of them will have different answers as to why.

Through my experiences at Earlham, both in and out of the classroom, I have learned that arguments have more nuance than just yes or no. More often than not, an arguments is “yes, because…” or “no, because…”. While people may agree on an outcome, their rationales will widely differ. Thus, while coming up with solutions to climate and sustainability issues, we need to think about the issues from multiple perspectives.

I’ve been working a lot on developing ideas for a climate action plan for Earlham, and throughout the process I have been thinking a lot about using different rationales as I work. Here are a few I have thought of so far:

1) Earlham should make the switch to renewables to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases the college emits.
2) Fossil fuel extraction is harmful to communities and public health, and it is socially irresponsible for Earlham to rely on fossil fuels.
3) Renewable energy is a better investment in an age where fossil fuel costs are rising, and clean energy costs are falling.
4) Implementing large-scale renewables will make Earlham a regional leader in campus sustainability.
5) Fossil fuel extraction is often unjust and incites conflict, directly violating Earlham’s values of peace and justice.
6) Large scale renewable energy will make Earlham stand out among other liberal arts colleges, and thus be good for recruitment.

There are innumerable more reasons why someone could argue the case for climate action at Earlham. I sat in on a meeting about the potential for Earlham to generate wind energy this week. Many of the above rationales were expressed during the course of the meeting. There were representatives of many roles and differing fields, and their rationales for the project differed, but at the end of the meeting progress had still been made. Rationale is an important piece to understand, but it does not have to be a barrier.

New perspectives

This is the second to last week of my summer internship and looking back at the last seven weeks, I realize that I have grown tremendously with this internship.  I originally applied for this internship with hopes that I would become more involved in the wider Richmond community and meet more people outside of Earlham. I don’t think this I was really prepared for how much I would learn over the eight week period of time I’m spending here.

Working with Beth from Sprout of Control I have met a wide variety of folk from all different backgrounds.  What is often looked upon on Earlham’s campus as a conservative town with little to do, Richmond has shown me a very different side this summer.  Yesterday I sat in on a meeting about the “Laundry Project”, a project to get free laundry for those who have trouble affording the costs of doing laundry.  Some of the friendships that I have formed this summer have opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on how life is.


エコーフレンドリ日本 Eco-friendly Japan

Hey Guys,

I have been M.I.A for 2 weeks because of a school trip to Japan. We went to study resiliency in communities that were hit by the March 11th triple disaster. So we visited these communities and spoke to them about their respective experiences before and after the natural disaster. This was very enlightening and it was quite remarkable to see how far down the road of recovery these communities have travelled.

Japan is quite an innovative nation as we all know, but until you go to Japan you do not realize how much energy they put into becoming an eco-friendly society. During my trip, I noticed a couple of sustainable behaviors that the Japanese community at large possesses.

  1. Recycling:

The recycling program in Japan is like recycling on such Red Bull. They are ten times more organized than the United States.  The break down of items into different recycling categories is dizzying. It’s a wonder how they keep up with it. The categories include paper, plastics, aluminum, steel and PET bottles.  In Yokohama, garbage categories have been doubled to 10 different sorting categories. source: fareastfling.me

2. Eco-packages at Hotels

Hotels and inns across the nation of Japan are offering different packages at discounts to promote sustainable living. In our hotel in Morioka, we used the “Toyoko Inn eco plan”. The plan was established to be both economically and environmentally friendly.  The room charge is reduced by 300 yen for each night starting on the second night of stay. Also, certain housekeeping services like cleaning of room, changing of nightgowns, replenishing of amenities amongst other things are removed.  So if you are in Japan and you want to be eco-friendly look up Toyoko Inn, they are in every major city.

3. Bicycles

I am in awe of how large the bicycling community in Japan has become. From administrative jobs to students, a substantial number of the Japanese are commuting on bicycles.

Japan was an exciting country to visit and study and I hope to visit again in the future.

Peniel Ibe

Summer Sustainability Intern


The Grassroots Action Resource Center

The Grassroots Action Resource Center now has hours and are open 5 days a week!

Two Earlham Students doing work in the resource center.

Even more incentive to go, GARC has a hidden fairy door inside.