Sustaining Work at the Bard Office of Sustainability

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Sustainable Development Goals

As a graduate student employed at the Bard Office of Sustainability (BOS), I have enjoyed working on many projects under the leadership of Laurie Husted.  You may recognize her from the many emails she sends to you in advocacy for our planet, and I strongly recommend that you take the time to read some of that material on the fantastic opportunities to do your part.  It is truly remarkable all that she does in BOS on her own (and with Dan,  Katrina and Rebecca, of course), but as a human being she needs all the help she can get for Bard’s sustainable endeavors, and I got to be a part of that support.

Nearly every day that I would walk into the office would be a new experience.  Really, she would present a task and I would be clueless as to how to even begin.  “Hey, Carolyn is already working on plastics upcycling, so you can write the Clif Bar grant!”  If you’ve never written a grant before then you’re in quite the same boat that I was.

“Check this out, it’s a reusable Keurig filter – you can hack all the campus machines and get them to use this, right?  You just have to open them up and cut the green wire!”  For that day, I did figure out a less invasive procedure, but you can imagine my surprise at such a request.

“You can design the website we need for the Drawdown Ecochallenge, yeah?”  This might have taken me a week or two before I actually understood what the expectations were for it, but in Laurie’s defense it did become a much smoother operation afterwards.

Phones collected from MLK Day of Engagement

Either way, working in BOS has been less about what I’ve had to do and more about what I get to do.  Between all the running around and bringing myself up to speed on whatever the current subject matter is, I’ve been able to fulfill my own hobbies and desires through my work.

I have been able to rummage through all sorts of electronic waste that has come through BOS and identify what’s useful, what isn’t, and what can be repaired.  I’ve even been able to transplant the uncracked screen and unbroken charging port of one phone onto the body and motherboard of another, allowing one more phone to be available to an employee and one less in the recycling stream (which is really the “downcycling” stream).

BOS has allowed me to do various tabling events such as for Car Free Day or for the Drawdown Eco Challenge, and in doing so has offered me the experience of interrupting people’s days by drawing their attention toward environmental concerns.  My coworkers will inform you that I very much enjoyed doing that.

The grant I mentioned earlier that I had to write?  I was able to tailor that toward a program I was proposing on teaching the public about electronic waste and offering them the tools to build their own devices from what would otherwise be garbage.


Reusable Compost Bag

Speaking of garbage, I have redirected most of my frozen fruit plastic bags to this office, which they have then been able to offer students for carrying compostable waste like banana peels (so that they could bring it to the appropriate receptacle instead of just the nearest trash).

I’ve been able to write up a one-pager on what the satellite schools can do today to make their behaviors more sustainable, and I chose composting as the primary focus.

Even now I get to write this blog post in front of a recently installed television in the office, and I’ve witnessed three livecams on it so far (the last person to enter the office gets to change what’s playing):  A Red-Tailed Hawk at Cornell, bees in Germany, and sharks in the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If there is anything that I can certainly identify as a primary aspect of BOS work, it is that employee input matters – Laurie’s task descriptions often felt so vague because WE were in command of not just the output, but the direction.

Several posters and documents have gone past my eyes such as one Microhydro project poster where I identified areas of concern and proposed changes in structure and content.  I have also been able to design my own trash can with recycling and composting as part of one unit.

Rubber Tire Tube Vase

Since I am pursuing a degree in environmental education, one of the events I was able to do for BOS was Day in the Life of the Hudson River.  I had been trained earlier in the week for it and then was able to educate high school students on how to take substrate samples and use a D-Net to capture macroinvertebrates.  The experience was both useful and enjoyable, and I was paid to do it – what more could I ask for?

The random objects around BOS is also rather intriguing.  Just the other day I came in and saw a couple of 9v batteries chained together – apparently someone had been using it to test lights.  Also, there are melted records everywhere.  One melted record is bowl-shaped and holding Drawdown buttons, another is on the wall carrying a marker and dry-eraser.

Come to think of it, reuse is a large part of what happens here.  Glass mason and plastic Talenti jars are in every corner of the room used to contain rocks, coins, or Dove chocolate.  There is a vase made from bike tire tubing, and there is even a CD mounted on a wall (I guess you could call it art?).  These things, along with the random paintings about the room give BOS some character that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and I am thrilled that I have been able to be immersed by it all.

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