by Chris LeBoa '19
“Hey Mrs. Grant” I call out and wave to the always smiling matriarch of the East Palo Alto Senior Center.
“Hey honey” she responds while pushing an empty cart in front of her. “Just pull your car right in there. I have called some of my homeless friends and the people from Project WeHope to come by and get some food too”. We unload the boxes of produce, frozen chicken, loaves of bread and pasta from the car together, and she comments on almost every item that emerges from the trunk. “Oh the seniors are going to love this” she exclaims while holding up a box of leftover pastries from Meyer dorm’s ski trip. “Oh my friend Olga can take these to the people who live in an RV” Ms. Grant points to a box of apples and oranges left over from Arroyo’s trip. It is a process that has almost become routine as we try to redistribute Stanford’s excess to those in need locally.
At Stanford we have the luxury of food any hour of the day or night. Our student ID cards give us access to dining halls and cafes that greet us every day with platters and trays piled high with salmon, chicken, roasted vegetables, etc.
So many in the community around Stanford do not have the same privilege of having food on their tables or knowing where their next meal is coming from. The housing crisis in the Bay Area has forced many to make the hard choice of feeding their families, paying the rent, or paying for medical bills. Today over 1/3rd of school-aged children in East Palo Alto are homeless, according to a report by the Guardian.
Some at Stanford have have been working for many years to redistribute our leftovers to those in need. The Residential and Dining Services allow volunteers from Peninsula Food Runners to pick up leftovers from some dining halls weekly. Volunteers from the student group Stanford Project on Hunger (SPOON) collect forty to sixty pounds of food daily from Russo Café and the Faculty Club. The volunteers freeze the food and work with Ecumenical Hunger Program to get the food to their distribution centers.
Stanford Project on Hunger has also been working with Students for a Sustainable Stanford to collect leftover food from the row house kitchens at the end of each quarter, ski trip leftovers, athletic events, other catered events on campus.
While we try to do all that we can to redistribute food from campus to local communities we need more administrative support and action on this issue. A recent positive action is that a local nonprofit has offered us a refrigerated truck for our food collection purposes. However we are still plagued by challenges.
First, food rescue is labor intensive and we do not have enough volunteers or time to handle this almost full time job. I believe that Stanford should create a new full time position, an employee who would oversee the logistics of collecting from all dining halls, cafes, athletic concession stands, and large catered events.
Secondly, we lack the timely support of ASSU. When our freezers stopped holding temperature last quarter and we requested access to our reserve funds to purchase new freezers, they took more than a month to approve our request and have still not transferred the funds despite multiple visits and emails. This has prevented us from collecting any food from Russo Café and the Faculty Club because we do not have the appropriate storage to safely store the food until EHP volunteers can pick it up.
Lastly, if your dorm is going on a ski trip this weekend and you would like to donate the leftovers, or if you would like to get more involved please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Andrea Contreras, '19
My relationship with my period began like a pretty average one. I started out with big heavy pads that made me feel uncomfortable, and when I was about 13 or 14 my mom showed me what a tampon was, and I thought my life had been simplified forever. I thought this was the most convenient, comfortable way for me to deal with my time of the month out of all the options available. But then I started spending a lot of time living and working on boats and with scuba diving, and getting my period was the biggest pain imaginable. It slowed me down from what I wanted to do, and I was constantly paranoid about it. Thoughts of toxic shock syndrome would litter my mind, I would have to be running in and out of random bathrooms to change, and I always thought it would leak. And then someone I was working on a boat with showed me what a menstrual cup was, and my life was changed forever.
In the last year SSS has made several efforts to make menstrual cups available to students through an initiative we did with SHPRC, and we have had a few events were we have had conversations about these different options. Last April there was a great blog post talking about menstrual cups and their many environmental and economic benefits the switch can bring, as well as the easy access to these on campus! In this post I want to talk about a few of the more sustainable options available, and how some of these have worked for me. Depending on where you grew up or what your personal beliefs and ideas are you will feel differently, but here is one person’s experience with the surprisingly interesting world of a more eco-friendly period.
So back to when my life changed. I first used a menstrual cup in the summer before my Senior year of high school, right before living on a sailboat for 8 weeks. It could have been just two cycles, but when it comes to these things the world tends to hate me, and I had to prepare for three. I ordered it a few months ahead, and tried it out to see how it would work. For those of you who don’t know, a menstrual cup is a silicon wine glass shaped object that is inserted similar to how a tampon would be. It sits on your cervix, and collects blood. Honestly, the first month or two were pretty scary, learning to use something new that not a lot of people are willing to talk about was an experience that took a lot of trial and error. But eventually you get past the kinks, and it works great. I was able to focus on my work and spending time underwater, because once I figured it out my cup was comfortable, I could barely feel it, it only had to be changed every 10-12 hours, it didn’t leak, and it had a much lower risk of toxic shock syndrome. A little over 2 years later I swear by these, and the best part is it keeps hundreds of pounds of trash off the landfills, saves me money, and I don't have to worry about changing it for a year or two. It’s important to listen to the cleaning and maintenance directions of what you choose, but a really great alternative for me.
Menstrual cups aren’t the ideal alternative for everyone though, just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it works for someone else. Another product I use regularly during my menstrual cycle are period underwear. These look and feel almost like real underwear, but they are absorbent, and all you need to wear. The most popular brand of these, and the only one I know about are THINX period underwear, and they have sizes and styles available for all menstruators. Different styles hold different amounts, they have products for the heaviest and the lightest days. I really like these, and have never had an issue with them leaking. They never quite feel soaked either, it’s a little weird, but they work. Another similar product are reusable pads, which are exactly what they sound like, pads you are able to wash and reuse over and over. The shape is like a normal pad, and they are changed a few times a day, but instead of sticking like a sticker they have buttons and clasps that help them stay in place. A huge benefit of these is that it avoids the use of cotton that was grown with heavy used of pesticides, over time is less money, and greatly decreases waste produced. If you are not feeling quite this adventurous but still want to reduce your environmental impact, good options are to buy organic pads and tampons and opt for paper, or reusable applicators.
Periods are such a common and natural thing, that have large social, economic, and environmental effects worldwide. A choice that billions of people make every month should have all the options layed out, because it can provide great benefits for individuals, and decrease a lot of harm to our planet.
by Becca Nelson '20
My hands smeared with soil, I bend down and scatter handfuls of seeds over the barren earth. Gold light streams through the oaks on the path around Lake Lagunita. I pat a thin layer of soil over the seeds to protect them. Several other people from my dorm, Roble, help out. As we laugh and talk, I start raking another patch of soil. The air tastes of wet clay and dried leaves. We spread another layer of seeds as the distant foothills flush a deep purple. The seeds float downward as small brown wisps, as thin and fragile as silk. Yet given soft rain and luck and patience, some of these seeds will grow into a vibrant mix of native wildflowers and grasses.These plants will help improve Lake Lag’s biodiversity and provide an important nectar source for declining pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The seed planting is part of my project as a Roble Sustainability Leader, working in collaboration with Stanford Conversation. I am seeking to foster interconnection between the people living in Roble and its surrounding ecosystem.
2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Roble Hall, Stanford’s largest four class dorm. With its Beaux-Arts columns and gothic tendrils of ivy, Roble stands out as one of the most iconic dorms on campus. With its ornate carvings and narrow balconies, Roble endures as a symbol of Stanford’s history. Beyond its old-fashioned facade, Roble has become the locus of an innovative sustainability initiative that is addressing the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Roble Resident Fellows Jeff Ball and Becky Bull spearheaded the creation of the Roble Living Laboratory for Sustainability at Stanford (ROLLSS). According to its mission statement, “ROLLSS seeks to help students prioritize actions that are likely to make a meaningful environmental difference.” Another major goal of the program is to cost-effectively retrofit the old and inefficient Roble into a resource and energy efficient building, a challenge that can serve as a model for other buildings in the Stanford community and beyond.
As one of several Roble Sustainability Leaders (RSLs), I help catalyze discussion and action about sustainability. The other RSLs and I are engaged in a variety of projects that seek to encourage sustainability in three main ways: (1) by improving the efficiency of Roble’s building and its relationship with the surrounding ecosystem (2) by encouraging people living in the dorm to modify the environmental impact of their lifestyle and (3) by reaching out to communities beyond Roble and Stanford to encourage dialogue and policy change. I have been really inspired by the passion and ideas of the other RSLs as well as Roble’s Graduate Sustainability Fellow. Their projects include efforts to encourage composting and decrease waste in the dorm, developing an innovative MakerSpace in Roble where people can create and build cool things, and hosting informal discussions about sustainability through dinner and movie events. Roble also holds a series of Hard Earth talks in which graduate student speakers discuss their research and perspectives on a wide range of issues from the economic feasibility of renewable energy to environmental justice.
After returning to campus from winter break, I go for a run around Lake Lag. The jogging path glistens with dampness from recent rains. As I run through the fog, I pass the area along the path where we planted our seeds. Small green sprouts poke out of the soil, less than an inch high. Sustainable changes in resource use, lifestyle, and land stewardship don’t occur overnight but grow slowly like seeds gradually thrusting their way toward the light. An ethical relationship with the places and ecosystems we live in evolves with community action and dialogue. The ultimate innovation of the Roble Living Laboratory for Sustainability at Stanford is its ability to foster a community of people open to tough conversations and new ideas.
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This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.