Final ENR Reflection

 

I guess I made it through two years of college.  Well, I don’t know that “made it through” is the right way to describe it.  I think that I did more than make it through.  I met what seems like enough new people to compose entire cities, I put more of myself into my work than I ever have before, and I made some awesome friends.  And throughout the past two years ENR has had a soft, but firm influence on me.  

To me, the biggest impact ENR scholars has had on me was the people that I met.  I came to college to meet diverse people.  At first glance, maybe a scholars program wouldn’t be the best place for this.  I signed up to live with people who were passionate about the environment, so this weeds out anyone with differing opinions.  However, I think that ENR has greatly contributed to the diversity of people that I met. Here is a picture of Mady, Maureen, myself, Alexis, and Jake during the beginning of first semester freshman year.  

Because of ENR, these are some of the first people I met at OSU, and they are all among my best friends.  Had it not been for ENR scholars, it is likely that none of us would be anything other than faces that occasionally cross paths on the sidewalk.  But because of ENR, I met these people, all of whom are incredibly passionate, well-rounded, funny, adventurous, and optimistic.  

All of them have taught me a lot in the past two years.  This is what comes to mind, but it is the tip of the (unfortunately melting) iceberg: Mady has enthusiastically taught me a lot about the hierarchy of beehives, as well as given me tours of the greenhouse in the building of the lab she works at, and generally instilled enthusiasm in me about things that I otherwise wouldn’t have been overly interested in; Maureen has given me an opportunity to reevaluate the choices that I make with regards to food at a time in my life where I have more control over what I eat than I’ve ever had before.  She grew up in a family that processes locally grown tomatoes, and as an animal science major, has perspectives on farming that challenge much of what I had held to be true; Alexis has an infectious attitude of adventure that has taught me to be more comfortable with experiences that aren’t familiar.  She has changed her major several times in spite of being capable of completing any of the degrees, and despite never having been out of the country, is going to both Spain and Guatemala this summer; Jake has reinforced the importance of giving back.  He has talked in depth about how he is willing to live frugally to create change and is not concerned about the amount of money that he will make at a job, he is concerned about the impact he will have on people and communities.

This past semester, I have been fulfilling the requirements of the second year project through tutoring Columbus City high school students in math and science in preparation for the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT).  I enjoyed this more than my volunteering at the Fawcett Center first semester because I could see the difference I was making with the students, and they were all very genuinely thankful for the time I was spending with them.  I was helping them graduate from high school, which could have a very real effect on the rest of their lives.

Now that my time in ENR is over, I am tasked with giving advice to incoming students next year.  Here it is:  You have a lot more freedom over how you spend your time in college than ever before in your life.  There are arguments that could be made for choosing your time on one thing over another.  I don’t think it matters that much what you choose, but whatever things you do choose make sure they make you genuinely excited, and make sure that you are actually present in mind and body for all hours of your time.  Don’t do something just to put it on your resume.  Don’t go through the motions.  Be there.  Give it all of yourself.  Change because of it.

2nd Year Project Proposal

For my second year project,  I would like to work on the Fawcett Center Ecological Restoration Project.  The ecosystem will greatly benefit from having a team of students working to keep invasive plant species out of the area, and working to add as many native plants as possible.  I think through participating in this project I will gain a deeper connection and appreciation of the habitats that surround me here in central Ohio, as well as an appreciation for the hard work that it takes to restore nature to a healthier state after it has been disturbed.  I chose this project because I helped remove honeysuckle from the Fawcett Center last year, and although it was difficult work, the difference that we had made in an afternoon was definitely very visible, and that was super rewarding.  However, I could still see that there was a lot to be done, and I would like to see how much a difference I can make.  This year, I am especially excited to plant native species, and learn as much about the plants of central Ohio as I can.  I find plants really interesting, but they aren’t something that I get to learn about often in my engineering classes, so this will be a great opportunity.  This project will allow me to take a break from studying and play in the dirt while improving the health of the plant and animal life here in Columbus.

Year in Review

Looking back on the past year seems surreal.  It doesn’t seem like it should be over.  It still hasn’t really hit yet, though.  At the same time, thinking back to where I was a year ago just about to graduate high school feels like a world away.  I remember feeling at the time like college wouldn’t actually really come.  I didn’t know why, and it wasn’t rational, but I think it was just because it was hard for me to imagine all the changes that were about to happen in my life.  It wasn’t real in the same way that another year of high school would have been.  That would have been easy to imagine: you already know the pattern of the hallway floors, some of the teachers you’ll have, who you will eat lunch with, and the bed you’ll be sleeping in.  The past year was filled with unknowns, but that just meant that the pleasant surprises kept coming and the dull moments were kept to a minimum.

Over the past year, I’ve definitely changed in a lot of ways, big and small.  I think the biggest change is that I’ve become a lot more self-reliant.  This encompasses a lot of smaller changes like the way I manage my time, find ways to motivate myself to do work, and generally think about my responsibilities.  Additionally, I’ve learned that my organizational skills are pretty bad, so I have become more cognizant about keeping things organized so that they don’t become cluttered, misplaced, or damaged.  Starting to move out has really driven this point home.  My sleep and work schedule has definitely shifted as well.  Later class times have allowed me to stay up later and work later at night, which often seem to be some of my most productive times to work.  My education is something I’ve begun to take a lot more seriously as well.  Now that schooling actually costs large amounts of money, and is a luxury that is coveted by so many in the world, it seems incredibly selfish and wasteful to not take it seriously.  Not that I didn’t take school seriously before, but I’ve begun to see see it in a different light.  The list could go on, but I’m gonna stop it there.

I’ve also met so many great people over the past year.  Living in the dorms, though it has its downsides, allows you to truly connect with people over the course of the year.  A lot of people have already started moving out, and I’m really going to miss being able to go knock on their door whenever I want to.  People who I didn’t think I’d get along with at the beginning of the year have become some of my best friends, and this has taught me that a lot of my first impressions can be very far from the truth.  I’ve learned a lot about people in general, and living in such close proximity to so many of them has been a big part of that.

Looking forward to next year, there is still a lot that I can do to live my life more mindfully.  For one, I could better utilize my time in between classes.  During a lot of the breaks I had in between classes I would go back to my dorm, and often get distracted from being productive by the other people there.  Although I still managed to get all of my schoolwork done, I definitely could have avoided some long nights at the library if I had been more productive during the day.  In addition, I would like to make it more of a habit to go to the RPAC, especially since it is so close to Morrill.  I was pretty good about this for the first few months of the year, but eventually it fell out of my routine, especially once classes became more demanding.

The last year has been filled with so many different experiences, and I have truly enjoyed all of them.  Growing up, I started counting down the days until summer months ahead of time.  I never in my life would have thought that I would ever be disappointed that summer has finally come and that school is ending, but I have really grown to appreciate all that there is here at OSU.  I am incredibly excited for the next three years here.

Earth Month Challenge Week 4

This was the final week of Earth Month Challenge, and I am proud of all of my fellow scholars for making sacrifices for something that is bigger than themselves.  In my last Earth Month Post, I talked about the quote “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”  In a more serious way, I feel like this still applies here.  I think it is awesome that we do things like Earth Month Challenge, but I also am slightly disappointed that it takes something like Earth Month Challenge to get us to take action against climate change.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that Earth Month Challenge is an awesome thing, and I myself am as guilty as anyone else in terms of inaction, but I just wish we could live every month like it was Earth Month.

But I can’t change the actions of everyone, and that is something I have to accept.  But what I can change are my own actions.  One of the reasons I didn’t choose one of the challenges dealing with transportation is because I felt that on campus and not having a car, it was too easy to do this challenge, and that it wouldn’t actually really entail much change from my daily routine.  However, over the summer, when I am at home and have access to a car, I want to try to drastically limit the amount that I drive.  Here on campus, I walk pretty much everywhere I have to go, so there wasn’t much room for improvement there, but when I go back home there will be.

Additionally, I want to continue to limit the amount of hot water I use in the shower, as this wasn’t a terribly hard thing to do, and could definitely add up to big energy savings over the long term.  Water has a high specific heat capacity and it takes a lot of energy to heat it up.  Finally something I learned in school is applicable.

Earth Month Challenge definitely increased my awareness of all that can be done in order to combat climate change by the average person.  I still think that much greater actions are required to truly solve this problem than the average student or citizen is capable of, but any and all cuts to carbon emissions are a very good step in the right direction.  Going back to the school theme, if calculus and integration have taught me anything, it is that a bunch of infinitesimals can add up to something substantial.

Columbus To Do List

As stated earlier, this semester for the Columbus To Do List, I chose the list dealing with parks and recreation.  In addition to visiting Batelle Darby Creek, Alexis, Maureen, Jake, and I also visited the Franklin Park Conservatory, the Topiary Park, Goodale Park, and the Olentangy Trail.

We didn’t end up venturing into the Franklin Park Conservatory building, but spent a while walking around the vast green space surrounding it.  The park has a huge variety of plants, a beekeeping area, and trails to walk you through all of it.  It was a beautiful day, one of the first ones when it finally started to warm up after winter.  This is definitely one of my favorite parks in Columbus, and one that I hope to return to to actually go inside.  Here’s a picture of us surrounded by some vibrant flowers.

 

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After the Conservatory, we spent some time driving around and appreciating the neighborhood that surrounded it, but we eventually found our way to the Topiary Park.  The park was small, but its size doesn’t take away from the experience of the park.  The park is inspired by George Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.  Here is a picture of Maureen and me posing with a couple of shrubs.

 

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I had never been anywhere where the shrubbery was so artfully maintained, and I really enjoyed seeing all of the topiaries.  It expanded the limits of what I thought bushes could be.

 

Next on our journey through Columbus was Goodale Park.  I have been there many times before, but I always enjoy going.  Out of all of the parks we went to, this one was the most brimming with activity.  There were people everywhere strolling about, reading under trees, sitting by the fountain, and just enjoying the beautiful day.  Here is a picture we took trying to be as awkward as possible under the gazebo.

 

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In addition to these parks, which are further away, I frequently visit the Olentangy Trail.  I really appreciate the fact that it is literally right outside the door.  It is really a wonderful place to go for a bike ride or walk on a nice day.  If you walk far enough, it takes you completely out of the campus area, and this is not something that people who live other places on campus have the ability to do as easily.

 

I definitely feel lucky to have lived in Columbus my whole life, and assignments like this remind me of how awesome it really is.  I will always love this city, and it will always be a place that I am proud and incredibly fortunate to be from.

 

Earth Month Challenge Week 3

One of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve ever received is “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”  I’d like to think that I lived this last week like it was Shark Week.  I replaced three of my normal showers with colder showers, and it felt about the same as the previous weeks.  Still cold, still not overly pleasant, still not awful.  I also watched a lot of documentaries on sharks.  They are some pretty amazing creatures.  Here’s some of what I learned: Hammerheads have such a wacky head shape because it allows them a wider field of vision; Nurse sharks are one of few species  in the shark world that have the capacity to sleep without continuing to swim; Mako sharks are really creepy looking; and sharks have small scales on their skin called dermal denticles that improves the flow of the water over their scales and offer some extra protection.  Basically, sharks are super cool, and though it isn’t shark week, that doesn’t prevent you from learning about sharks.  To me, this only underscores the importance of activities like Earth Month Challenge.  It’s really easy to get caught up in all the data and statistics about climate change and whatnot, and as an engineering student, I get that that’s important.  But I think that it is equally, if not more important, to foster an appreciation for the beauty of the Earth and its inhabitants, and an understanding of what there is to lose if we mess this world up.  I don’t want to live in a world where it is impossible to even have a Shark Week.

Earth Month Challenge Week 2

The second week was fine.  Similar to the first week, just one more cold shower.  I’ve definitely been putting off taking the cold showers to the end of the week.  It isn’t the most inviting thing in the world after getting out of your nice, warm, soft, bed.  But, once you are in, it isn’t as bad as you think it will be.  I think that could be turned into a metaphor for a lot of things in life, actually.  It’s definitely easy to worry or have a negative attitude about things that aren’t worth worrying about.  Things that might not be the greatest, but really are not bad once you start.  For me, a big one coming to college was studying.  It was something I never did an excessive amount of in high school, and coming to college changed that by necessity.  At first, I found it difficult to find the motivation to do it, and when I did, I would often give up or get distracted soon after I sat down with my work.  But after finding spots where I find my zen, and making it a habit, it isn’t something I mind doing anymore, and I can definitely push myself a lot harder for a lot longer than I could before.  The initial shock of the water is cold, but once your body adjusts to it, it is no longer something you notice, care about, or pay attention to, or even start to enjoy (hopefully I will reach that point).  I am hoping that right now I am just a little kid who isn’t super into the bitterness of coffee, but in time will begin to start his morning with it daily.

Earth Month Challenge Week 1

The first week of Earth Month Challenge really wasn’t that bad.  I just replaced one normal shower with a cold one, which didn’t turn out to be all that bad.  I tend to be the kind of person who, especially in the morning, loves to stay under the hot water of the shower, so it kept me from lingering in there for too long.  It really was pretty much like any week, with the exception of about 10 minutes of it.  Which really, to me, is actually somewhat disappointing.  It’s disappointing because if I were to have been doing this my whole life, just taking one cold shower a week, I could have saved so much water and energy, and my life hasn’t been any better or more enjoyable because I haven’t.  That is what really gets me about climate change and parts of my carbon footprint.  There is so much carbon floating around out there in the atmosphere just because someone could put it there, not because they greatly benefitted from putting it there.  Some of it is there because it served a purpose, and while that isn’t great, it at least accomplished something.  And while the carbon that is unnecessarily there bothers me more, it also worries me less generally.  This is because I have faith that people will see the consequences of their actions and cut out these unnecessary parts of their life.  But the carbon that is there because it truly served a purpose, to me, is more of a challenge.  A challenge to figure out a less carbon-intensive way of accomplishing the same task, and one with an ultimatum.

Earth Month Challenge Proposal

For Earth Month Challenge, as previously stated, I have decided to focus on Energy and Transportation.  It could be argued that what I am proposing falls more under Food and Water, but I think it is more of a consumption of energy than water.  For the first week, I will replace one of my normal showers with a cold shower.  During the second week, I will replace two of my showers with cold showers.  The third week I will take three cold showers, and the fourth week I will take four.  I usually take my showers in the morning, so I am hoping for the added benefit of these cold showers jolting me out of my groggy state a little quicker than I normally would in the morning.  However, I will admit that the showers in Morrill get awfully cold on the occasion that the hot water cuts out, so I will see how it goes.

Earth Month Challenge

For my participation in this Earth Month Challenge, I have chosen to focus on energy and transportation.

Here’s a list of some things that could be done in this area:

-Take the bus less often

-Hang dry clothes

-Wash clothes with cold water

-Take colder showers

-Take shorter showers

-Always turn off lights

-Contact Morrill Tower staff about turning off light in the center of the suite

-Keep room at a warmer/colder temperature — season dependent as well as dependent on the thermostats actually controlling the temperature in Morrill, which is often not the case

-Take the elevator less often

-Use electronic devices less often

-Contact politicians about emission standards for cars/green energy etc.

-Buy locally sourced products

-Travel less often

-Buy less things

-Recycle

Some campus resources available for this are:

Office of Energy and Environment

Facilities Operations and Development

Office of Student Life

Here are some websites as well:

http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/solutions/actions/less-energy.html

http://www.simplyliving.org/energyuse

http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/genergy.asp

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/conserve/system_efficiency.html