The Green Gator at Allegheny College

Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

By Tiffany Ng


On October 5th, 27 Allegheny students embarked on a six hour road trip to Washington DC to be immersed in the culture of the Occupy protest movement. More specifically, we went hopeful and determined to pressure President Barack Obama to stop the construction of Transcanada’s 1,700 mile long XL Keystone oil pipeline that would run through the United States posing a risk of contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer that provides drinking water to over 2 million people. While supporters of this pipeline have argued for the hundreds of jobs that would be created, the risks to the health of the people and the environment are indisputable.

At dusk, we arrived at McPherson Square, one of the tent encampments that have sprung up to accommodate all the protestors that have settled in this city. The spirit of this place was tireless. As I drifted to sleep at 2 am, two occupiers engaged in a heated political debate that I believe epitomized the core of this movement, a space for transparency and non-hierarchical change. When I unzipped my way out of the tent the next morning, I saw a bustling encampment where people were doing acrobatic yoga and preparing new protest signs. What I loved most was the mike check system where announcements were projected with the help of everyone’s voices. This sense of empowerment was insurmountable.

The rally began at 2 pm in front of the White House with over 10,000 people from all over the United States and abroad present to voice their opposition. A diverse string of leaders spoke representing Native Americans, farmers, environmental activists and even labor union leaders. The rally climaxed once we surrounded the White House in its entirety and then we marched around DC stopping traffic and making our message clear that the 99% does not support dirty energy.

We returned home in time for classes the next day and life resumed as usual, but our experiences in Washington DC remain deep in our hearts. A week after the huge protest, we received news that President Obama’s administration called for a more thorough assessment of the pipeline’s environmental impact which ultimately delays the pipeline construction indefinitely. This victory happened because of the tireless and collective energies of activists who struggle daily to make our world a better place and it’s a great honor that we were a part of it!

To learn more, click on the following link:

Green Living Community

Allegheny College’s Green Living Community (GLC) is in its second year as a Special Interest house on campus. The GLC groups together 14 students that share similar interests in sustainability and have promised to live and learn about sustainable practices. The Community now has an organic vegetable garden using compost produced by the College, a rain garden to manage stormwater runoff, drying racks for clothes, a bicycle powered blender, and even a greywater catchment system to flush the toilets. This greywater system captures sink water and uses it to flush the toilet rather than drawing on fresh water to do so.


The residents of the GLC host fun workshops throughout the year to help educate and engage the campus community about sustainable living.  This fall they’ve hosted a workshop to make kitchen cleaners, shampoo, toothpaste, and conditioner; a bike-powered smoothie event; and a vegan potluck.  They’re currently planning an aquaponics workshop and a recycled craft event before the holidays.


The GLC is also planning some fun spring semester events.  They’ll kick off the year with an Open House to allow students, faculty and staff to explore the sustainability features of the house and the practices of the residents.  As the weather warms in the spring they also hope to host a rain barrel workshop plus compost and gardening work days.  Please stop by and check out the houses – 296 Loomis and 309 Loomis – and their great events! Or apply to be a GLC resident for the 2012/2013 academic year through ResLife!

Carlyn Johnson ’11 Takes Sustainability Global

With an interest in renewable energy in high school, Carlyn chose to attend Allegheny College after hearing about the variety of opportunities Allegheny offered in the field of sustainability. At Allegheny, she had the chance to study Sustainability and Economic Development for a summer term in Ghana, intern at a renewable energy center at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, and publish a local wind power feasibility study with Allegheny’s Environmental Science Department.

These experiences helped her earn recognition as one of the nation’s top 80 young environmental leaders when she received the Udall Scholarship in 2009 and 2010. Her studies as a double major in Physics and Environmental Studies culminated in her senior thesis when she installed Allegheny’s first two solar panels and performance monitoring system on campus. After graduating, Carlyn served as a teaching assistant for an Allegheny summer term in northern Europe on Sustainability. This fall, Carlyn is working in India with the Foundation for Ecological Security, helping them begin their first renewable energy program.  She has been interviewing families in the villages and writing grants to bring biogas applications and solar lanterns to the region.

Carr Hall renovations

Carr Hall, which will house the Richard J. Cook Center for Environmental Science as well as the Physics department, is currently undergoing renovations and will seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The certification process focuses and awards points in five major sections of design: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. This means that the center will present many sustainable features making it more efficient and welcoming.

For water efficiency, the building will have Low-Flow fixtures, ENERGY STAR appliances, a living wall irrigated with rain water, and open-grid pavers and plantings in the front of the building to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Along with more efficient appliances, the building will also have a lower energy consumption due to the use of solar tubes and skylights which will limit the need for artificial lighting. There will also be some experimenting with different kinds of recycled materials for flooring, carpets, and countertops and the furniture will all be Forest Stewardship Council certified wood. Finally, at the end of the renovations, the contracting company has promised to recycle and reuse more than 75% of the waste!

How fast can you shower?

Okay, so maybe we don’t actually want you to shower together, but it caught your attention, no? Think about it. If you were to shower with another person you would be using the same amount of water and the same amount of energy, but instead of only getting one clean person you would be getting two! This week we challenge you to ask yourself, your friends, and the campus community, “How fast can you shower?” Clearly this answer is different for every person. It can range anywhere from a super-sonic speed shower coming in at a time of less than 5 minutes to a more leisurely shower (someone who is really enjoy the stellar water pressure) coming in anywhere from 15-20 minutes. Rather than showering with a second person (the shower space would definitely be pretty cramped and would most likely decrease your efficiency ), why don’t you try to take the quickest shower that you physically can?

You may be asking, “Why do I need to take shorter showers? That is prime relaxation time!” Well, as you spend time relaxing, having hot water pour over you and then swirl into the drain below your flip flops, you should really take note of how much water you are actually using and how much energy is going into heating this water. A typical shower will use 5-8 gallons of water per minute. So lets assume you take a 10-minute shower and your showerhead is pumping out 8 gallons of water every minute – that is 80 gallons (and this is HALF of the reported “typical” water used in a single shower). Think about a gallon of ice cream. Every time you shower you are pouring 80, 1-gallon cartons of ice cream on yourself. Doesn’t seem so sweet. And in terms of energy use 33% of your indoor energy use goes to bathing! This indoor energy use includes everything you power in your home – anything with a plug, that you turn on, or that needs to be plugged in!
There are many different ways that you can attempt to shorten your showers, but on of the most effective techniques in terms of saving water, as well as energy, is to turn off your shower between shampoo, soap, and conditioner. Each time you start with a new product, turn off that water until you are ready to rinse! You can find your own strategies (showering in cold water, showering every few days, etc.)– so long as it works, you can do what ever you find works best! Please do not, however, cut bathing out of your life. No one wins here.
I will leave you with one last thought – Your motto for this week? Less is more. Less water. Less energy. Less time wasted lollygagging in the shower. You’re welcome.

If you are interested in calculating your water footprint, check out :

Brought to you by S.E.A. (Students for Environmental Action)

Do you think you can go without meat once a day?

This challenge seems easy right, no eating meat at Lunch or Dinner but when confronted with the choice in a dining hall of what to eat, the majorities most likely go for a meat option, the main course. It is our culture to do so. A meal is centered around protein which is meat. But why not spice it up and challenge yourself to find protein elsewhere? For just one meal?

As a challenge inspired by No Impact Man and leading a more conscious lifestyle, this question forces to ask then why is it less impactful to choose no meat? The international meat industry has turned into an environmental disaster. Whether it be the immense amount of water thrown into the product or the contamination of our aquatic ecosystems. The industry is also expanding (since human population is expanding obviously), leading to more deforestation to make way for grazing. Then there’s the emissions associated with the industry that destroy our atmosphere. It may seem ridiculous that if you choose to not eat meat once a day for a week, that will make a difference… it will actually.
This week, our year of sustainable communities bring us a successful, vegetarian cookbook author. She is an advocate and inspiration for this wellness movement of turning to vegetables as a healthy way of life.

Check out these links for more information about eating less meat:

Brought to you by S.E.A. (Students for Environmental Action)


Alternative Methods of Science Communication

Do you know much about coral reefs? Many more students do now because of ES Junior projects presented at the Eco Craft Fair sponsored by the Craft House on April 30th. Three groups sought to teach visitors about coral reefs through unconventional methods including interactive games, visual displays, demonstrations, and fun incentives. Each group hoped to engage the public in creative ways instead of a traditional route of a classroom setting.

After conducting a campus-wide survey, coral reefs were one of the topics that most students were interested in. Our class didn’t know very much about coral reefs and felt it would be a great topic to research and educate the campus about.

In our junior seminar we learned about the problems with and alternatives to traditional science communication. Currently science is underrepresented in the media due the gap between scientists and journalists. Scientists rely on jargon that most of the public doesn’t understand whereas journalists’ job is to be clear and concise. Also, the fast-paced nature of news today is unaccommodating to the lengthy process of scientific research.

Some alternative methods of science communication include art, dance, television and film, and theatre. These methods have the ability to make an emotional connection through the inclusion of sound and images, which appeal to a wider audience including visual learners and the less-educated public.

In order to increase science literacy, we need to communicate science in more creative and engaging ways. These projects were one small step toward increasing scientific literacy on campus.

Check out this video to learn more about the projects:

Alternative Methods of Science Communication




ES 110 Environmental Awareness Blog launched…

Three students in Rich Bowden’s ES110 class have created a blog to raise environmental awareness. The blog, entitled “Environmental Media,” offers information about useful environmental webpages. These sites, ranging from large organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, to county specific pollution trackers, to Allegheny’s own programs like CEED, are given so that students are aware of the many online locations where they can find useful environmental information. So hopefully everyone will check it out and give feedback!