Learning Together!

By: Amber Schmucker, Noah Jones & Kaitlin Colbey

The Office of Sustainability would like to welcome our newest co-op students Noah Jones and Kaitlin Colbey for the spring 2017 term! Noah and Kaitlin are both students in the new Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program at Niagara College. This program is available for students with developmental disabilities and other learning challenges, and has a large focus on providing these students with an inclusive college experience. We are so thrilled that the CICE program coordinator has allowed us to have Noah and Kaitlin participate in our department; we are learning far more from these students than what we can teach them. Over the past couple of weeks Noah and Kaitlin took an afternoon to write down some of their thoughts on their co-op experience so far, and have given us the go ahead to share their blog posts on the World Wide Web. Please take a moment to read Noah and Kaitlin’s posts, and if you see them out with our other students please stop and say hello! They are always happy to make new friends.

Noah Jones:

“For 2 weeks, I’ve been having many experiences in Sustainability where I got my co-op. I’ve been learning a lot of new things and understanding how to protect the environment and wildlife. So far we’ve been finding different types of plants and different species of animals, birds and insects. My favourite part of Sustainability was identifying different species of animals, including the red-back salamanders, and going into the lagoon for benthos (looking for bugs in the water).

I have been enjoying my co-op at the Office of Sustainability. I have been making lots of new friends and taking care of the environment. I hope to continue this co-op and to plan for my trip.”

Kaitlin Colbey:

“My first day of co-op I did the indoor tree inventory at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus on the lower ground floor and the ground floor. Then I went outside to meet up with Katie, Jon, Noah and Christine to learn how to do water sampling, it was neat to learn. I am hoping this co-op goes well and I hope to become friends with everyone here, they are all really nice. I am also hoping I learn new skills doing this co-op. I am looking forward to seeing what other trees are around the school, trees are my favourite and I like looking at them and learning about them. Last, I went outside with Katie to check all the trail cameras and that was pretty interesting.”

Student Blog: Jon’s First Week

By: Jon Banninga – Student Sustainability Technician

This week, starting Monday, I began working as the sustainability technician at the NOTL Campus with the office of sustainability, alongside Amber, Christine and Katie. Besides Monday, which was dedicated to generic training modules and seminars, this week has already begun with some major projects and a variety of tasks. The main task for this week has been the inventory of all the tree and plant tags that will be used to tag trees around the campus, as well as by the horticulture department to label the campus gardens. Counting, sorting and organizing all of the tags and plaques is the main goal, which will help with future field work, hopefully starting next week. The main task for the summer will be the tagging, identifying, measuring and logging of the trees that grow here at the NOTL campus.

Tuesday, we made a tour of the grounds to preview what the boundaries of the tree inventory are and where the inventory should start. I’m really looking forward to starting outside next week, as the tag inventory I’m working on this week is mostly all done indoors. While we were out on the wetlands trail, we saw two swans checking out the north lagoon, which was the first time of the year any of us had seen some there. We also lifted some salamander boards below the escarpment and found a few red-backed salamanders, which is always cool to see. The huge amounts of rain we’ve been getting in the region made for a wet and muddy hike, but the rain held off in the morning so we could enjoy a bit of sunshine. The rest of the day I worked on the inventory of all the tree tags from the green house. Wednesday morning, we met up with the school of environmental and horticulture studies as well as some reps from Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation to demonstrate some lab equipment that was purchased with a donation from them. We took some photos and lead them on a tour of the wetlands trail to show them the lagoons and outdoor classroom. Thursday morning, we met up at Virgil dam with the NPCA and the environmental rep from GM to determine a site for a wildflower garden planting event later this summer. They assessed two different sites and it was determined that the site directly by Virgil dam would be the best because it was directly by the previous water sample sites, and easily accessible for the event. We (students) will be a part of the site preparation a few days before the event, preparing the ground and soil for planting.

Overall, this first week has been a great start. Even though the main task for the week has been tag inventory, the other small tasks and events thrown in to the picture like tours, meeting with other staff, and the site assessment at Virgil dam, have provided variety and made the week productive. I’m super excited to get going with the actual field work and tree inventory and for week two!

Sustainability’s Secrets – Two

Shop quality and locally.

I’m not going to lie to you, I was definitely trying to find a way to rhyme quality and locally there #FAIL. Anywho… I eluded to this point the Sustainability’s Secrets – One post; when giving a gift, shopping for quality items that are sourced locally is very a sustainable option. Often hand crafted locally made pieces make the sweetest gifts anyway, so here are a couple ideas that I will be using this holiday season.

*DISCLAIMER* many of the following items can be purchased at Niagara College, this post is not intended as a blatant advertisement for Niagara College’s retail store, HOWEVER, here at the Office of Sustainability we genuinely and truly love these establishments and we love supporting them. Heck, my grandparents have made a special trip to the Niagara College Greenhouse for years to pick up their Christmas plants that they often give as gifts, so it’s not just me. They are THAT good.

Here are my top 3 favourite local gifts to give this holiday season:

WINE! Here in Niagara there is definitely no shortage of wine. Gifting wine during the holidays gives you an excuse to visit some of the great local wineries and maybe do a taste test or two before you settle on which one you’ll be buying a case of to give as gifts. One of my favourite wines to give during the holidays is a nice sparkling wine and say that it’s special for a New Years toast. Giving that specific bottle a purpose makes it that much more special and personalized. If you are looking to add a little something extra there’s also all the accessories… Wine glasses, corkscrews, sparkling stoppers, etc. You can really put something together that’s very personal and impressive and usually it’s a one stop shop.

BEER! For anyone that isn’t a wine drinker there are also some amazing breweries that are popping up in the region. This gives you the opportunity to put together a really special gift for the beer drinker on your list. Not mention, once again if you are visiting the local breweries you have the chance to taste test before you buy!

HOT CHOCOLATE! For the non-alcohol drinkers this gives you the perfect opportunity to put together a yummy hot chocolate gift mug. I love giving these little make your own hot chocolate gifts to the kidlets I have on my list, but that doesn’t mean that the adults don’t go crazy for them also! If you’re stumped for mom and dad or the grandparents, giving them a school branded mug with some gourmet hot chocolate in it and other goodies just might be the ticket. They love getting their own personalized mugs and the hot chocolate ends up being a bonus. Here is a list of what I include in my hot chocolate gift mug:

  • Homemade hot chocolate mix – I always change up what recipe I use for the mix depending on what I’m going for, a Mexican hot chocolate or maybe peppermint, it’s whatever your preference is
  • A chocolate dipped spoon – these are very easy to make and you can decide how much money you want to spend to make them. You can opt to use a compostable spoon and dip it in melting chocolate and let harder, or you can do the same thing with an engraved metal spoon that you find at a local craft market for something a little more special.
  • Homemade marshmallows – I like including one big homemade marshmallow! Once again, the recipe I use always changes, BUT there are some great local spots that make yummy homemade marshmallows that would be just as great! You can get them at the farmer’s market usually.
  • Candy canes – this is just for whatever, I usually crush them up and put them on my hot chocolate, but your gift receiver can do what they may.
  • Gift cards – Sometimes I include a gift card to a local cafe or coffee shop as well, or I use this as a way to give gift cards in general because I am not a huge fan of just handing someone a gift card.

All of the items listed above can be purchased locally and really you can determine how much money you’re willing to put into it and make it your own. I know sometimes it seems like just giving wine or beer is a cope out, but for someone who genuinely enjoys wine and beer I think they’re great gifts and there is so much you can do with them! Not to mention, you are supporting local businesses this holiday season, which in turn gives back to the community as a whole. Win-win!

Sustainability’s Secrets – One

Give the gift of time.

Time is the most valuable and cheapest ($$$ wise) gift you can give, and coincidentally can be a very sustainable option. How you may ask? Well, lucky for you we’re not just in the business of secret telling, we’ve also found example giving to be very lucrative…

*ATTENTION* DAD, stop reading right now or the jig is up on your Christmas present.

That was a joke, there’s NO WAY my Dad can use a computer well enough to find this post (don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes at me too). With that out of the way, this is actually what myself and my siblings are gifting to our daddio this holiday season – the gift of time with us.

A little background: my dad LOVES sports, especially football and hockey. All my immediate family members are a bunch of Toronto Maple Leafs fans (hey now, remember what I said about this being a safe place), and it would be great to go to a game, but that’s just not realistic for us as the games are mucho $$$. So we thought, why not do something; 1. cheaper and 2. local. Now full disclosure here, I am the only environmentalist in my family, I’ve done as much converting as I can do but when I get to GHG impacts their eyes glaze over, BUT they do often get on board with local food and drink, so I decided to work that angle with my bros when broaching the topic of Dad’s Christmas present. So, now you’re like “okay just tell me what you’re getting him, Jeez Louise!”. FINE.

We decided that we would give our Dad the gift of time by way of spending a whole day with him doing fun local things with a reasonable price tag. We’ll start out the day by touring local breweries (first stop, Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery, duh!), stop back at my place for a delicious lunch made by yours truly, and then to throw in a “good ol’ hockey game” into the mix we’ll finish off our evening at a Niagara Ice Dog’s game.

By staying and shopping local we are reducing the negative impacts of human and food transportation, and by not buying him a tangible gift item we’re not giving him something that is likely to not get used and end up in a landfill somewhere in the foreseeable future.  The total cost of this gift for each one of my siblings will be around $30.00 – $40.00 (tickets = $15 each, food and drink = ~ $20 each), and I know my Dad is going to LOVE it. Not to mention it’s just going to be a fun day out with everyone. A gift like this is also very transferable to anyone on your list; a significant other, a good friend, a sibling that you really like, even your grandparents. Yes, the Niagara Ice Dog’s might not be our beloved Leafs, but it’s good hockey and what really matters is that we’re spending time together.

This gift definitely checks all the boxes: reasonably price √, thoughtful √, AWESOME (if I do say so myself) √, sustainable √. We would love to hear more about how you’re giving the very environmentally friendly gift of time this holiday season, connect with us on social media to share your gifting secrets.

Facebook: Niagara College Sustainability

Instagram: @sustainabilitync

Twitter: @Sustain_NC

Sustainability’s Secrets

 – Making the holidays greener than Victoria makes her fashion shows lacy.

Oh the holidays. Stressful for most, enjoyable for… mostest? Basically what I am getting at is that as enjoyable as the holidays typically are, we have to come clean and all admit that this time of year is also very stressful. I know for many people, especially students, the financial burden of the holidays can be a heavy one, but there are actually really cool (and sustainable!) ways to help cut costs over the holidays without cutting any corners. This week we will be sharing our little holiday cost saving secrets here! So check back throughout the week for Sustainability’s Secrets – Holiday edition!

Learning [Balti]MORE about Sustainability @ AASHE 2016

Attending AASHE 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland was an experience I will forever be grateful for. The passion and excitement that these people shared over the weekend was motivating, inspiring and unforgettable. Main topics ranged from waste management, to student engagement, to community outreach and back to strategies for a greener campus. Participants came from a wide range of places with different climates, rules and regulations, student population sizes and more. Therefore, there was a wide range of innovative ideas being shared from many different perspectives.

The student summit was a great experience. Meeting with like-minded students of my age gave me hope that change could be made by myself and my peers. The student summit was also a great way to see what potential careers are out there, and gave me lots to think about regarding my future and what my plans are regarding future education such as a Masters degree, future employment and future projects. It truly opened doors as I met many people from all over North America, obtained their contact information, and made an impact on their lives. These people are my potential employers, co-workers, and like-minded individuals who I will work with for the rest of my life, sharing ideas and making the world a more sustainable place.

Overall, AASHE 2016 helped me learn, believe and create a better future. It got me excited about the future projects I can incorporate into my schooling at Niagara College, but even more so, how to implement sustainable practices into my own life and future careers I will be involved with. It got me thinking about my future, my present and my past, and how much my everyday actions impact so many people. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned and spread the energy of the conference to everyone I encounter on a daily basis.

 

Christine Combe

Environmental Field and Lab Technician Student

Adventures in the Niagara Glen

On Tuesday August 9, 2016, Margaret Pickles led a group students on a hike through Niagara Glen. Upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised to see a full grown Turkey Vulture cooling down on the branches of a dead tree, pictured above. The Vulture didn’t seem bothered by the amount of people trafficking the paths and rested for at least 10 minutes before eventually flying away. We began by following the Terrace Path North to the River Path and returned to the top via the Cobblestone path. Throughout the hike we discussed the geological history of the area, learning about the different layers of rock and how they were formed. We began with a brief overview to put the Glen into perspective, where Margaret noted that where we stood used to be where what we think of as Niagara Falls stood thousands of years ago. As we made our way through the trails of boulders that stand taller than us and massive trees, Margaret pointed out various fossils dating back millenniums, including salt water fossils from when the Glen was a part of a tropical sea. She also pointed out striation patterns, due to the glaciers and boulders rubbing against the plates of rock. We learned about how pot holes are formed and how to tell if they were created in situ or while the rock was in a different arrangement. Throughout the hike we identified different flora and fauna, noting which species were dominant in the forest and how the dominant species changed as we entered different areas. For example, along the upper portion of the trail Maple species were dominant, however along the waters’ edge Hemlocks were more abundant. At the waters’ edge we rested and stared at the beauty that history has allowed us to enjoy. The Niagara Glen is a wonderful way to learn geological history as well as enjoy the beauty that mother nature brings to us every day.

Christine, Stacey, and Katie are all Environmental Field and Lab Technician Students at Niagara College completing their co-op requirements with the Office of Sustainability.