Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Clean Side of Manufacturing

The Clean Side of Manufacturing

When I set foot on the ammonia manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio for a co-op this January, I thought for sure that I had infiltrated enemy lines. There was smoke billowing out of smoke stacks and an orangey-red flame pivoting in the distance—I assumed both were due to under-regulated pollution. I was convinced River Stewards and this plant, which made fertilizer, were opponents in the ongoing argument about what’s best for the environment and its people.
After weeks of learning about the industry and my role as a water management co-op, I argue that we
are not opponents, but rather coworkers with different strategies to obtain the same goal.
A scientist named Fritz Haber figured out to synthetically make ammonia in 1914. Very soon after its
invention the technology was applied to making fertilizer and was perfect for treating crops like wheat, corn, and rice. World population was already booming, but Haber’s technology made population rates soar. If it hadn’t been for Haber’s invention, millions of people would have died of hunger. Now our world depends on the production of ammonia and without it, millions of people would starve to death.
That really brought home the importance of places like Mission of Mary Farms, who produce an
abundance of healthy food for people in our area. We are blessed to have so much food readily
available even though Dayton is known as a “food desert”. As a river steward, I hope to see that those
who use fertilized farms as their food source switch from that to places like Mission of Mary farms and compost bedding.
The smoke and fire mentioned earlier are heavily regulated to the point where their products are almost completely steam and oxygen. Carbon dioxide is stripped out, cleaned, and sent to a soda
manufacturing company a couple miles down the road. Other byproducts are likewise separated and
sent to places that can turn them into meaningful products. The water that runs the plant is also
conserved. It runs in a continuous loop and is constantly cleaned and cared for as too conserve usage
and save the company money.
My experiences in the manufacturing industry have been enlightening and hopeful. The Lima plant is a nationwide leader in conserving natural resources and redirecting pollution for useful products. I hope I continue to learn as much as I can so I can fulfil my responsibility as a steward for the earth by spreading their sustainable manufacturing mentality.
By Tia Ritz, 2018 River Steward Cohort

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Honor of Earth Day ~ our very own River Steward "Giving Tree" Story!


Our Giving Tree

Almost a year has passed since we said our farewells and congratulations to the 2015 Cohort of River Stewards.  But their River Steward experience and the story of their senior project carries on.  It carries on in the trees that have been planted behind Adventure Central (AC) in the woods of Weselyn Metropark.  It carries on in the seeds which continue to get picked and stored in the refrigerators of AC.  It carries on in the basement under the grow lights, where the seeds slowly become sprouts.  And it carries on in the teens and staff of AC who continue sustain, nurture and steward the project day to day, and season to season.  But, it also carries on in other ways.  In ways each individual River Steward uniquely transfers what they learned into their daily lives and continue to grow, themselves, as stewards of our rivers and communities. 
Today I received an email from one of those Stewards, Rachel Bachman, who shared with me how this project has carried on for her and how this week it truly came full circle.  Once I read her email, it brought me back to a very early fall morning in 2014, when I gathered with the senior cohort to talk about the bigger picture of their partnership with Adventure Central and how it was so much more than "just" collecting seeds and working with teens. I shared with them the short video and children's story by Shel Silverstein, "The Giving Tree". I think you will see after you reading Rachel's email why and how it all came together for her this week. Below is Rachel's email for you to enjoy.....
"I have a little "story"... I had adopted one of the AC trees before leaving Dayton after graduation. Doug helped me plant a red oak in a huge ranch dressing container Nate gave me. I felt so bad for the little tree because of course I had so much going on (trips before starting my job, starting a job, finding a place to live with Kyle). At the end of the summer the tree was starting to dry out a bit at the ends of the leaves. I transplanted it into a bigger pot and I was having a hard time telling what was happening to it. I couldn't tell if I stunted it or not! Then fall and winter happened and I stuck it in my sunroom for the winter. Once spring came around I keep checking on my tree (well twig at this point) and I was not at all convinced that it was going toake it. I stuck in in my backyard in a pot and then this week I look over at it and IT HAD LEAVES! So I just spent a ton of time telling you I didn't kill my AC tree hahaha. And now I am going to attach a picture. The tree showing life made my entire earth day week (check out the cute little spider on it)!" 
excerpt of email from Rachel Bachman
Being Earth Day, I thought it was a perfect moment to re-visit this children's story and honor all those who give back to the earth in whatever way they choose.  I hope you can take a minute to listen to the story in the video linked below.Maybe one day there will be kids swinging on it and families picnicking underneath its shade. I look forward to hearing about how Rachel's tree continues to grow and give life. And, I hope to hear from many more former River Stewards about their "Giving Tree" story and how its grown.. 
 HAPPY EARTH DAY and RIVER LOVE TO YOU ALL!   with peace ~ Leslie

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Steward's Eye-opening Easter

   The last text message I received before I turned off my cell and hoisted my overstuffed pack over my shoulder read, “Jules- You’ll be touching God on Easter morning.” My dad had just sent me this message, as I was about to embark on a four day, three-night adventure in Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois with UD’s Outdoor Adventure Club. Those words reaffirmed my decision to skip out on the typical family Easter to go backpacking. Instead of listening to static while driving to grandma and grandpa’s house, I was listening to the crunch of hiking boots in a silent forest. Instead of hunting for Easter eggs, I was hunting for a glimpse of a flower bud. Instead of talking to my sister about high school, I was talking with horseback riders along the bridal trail. Instead of sitting in a pew, I was sitting awestruck at the striking star infested sky.

   The campfire colored the cave walls and our dirt-streaked cheeks with the warmth and hue of the dazzling flame. We leaned in closer, stuck out our chilled fingers, and grinned. The company was good. Swapping stories of other wild adventures, funny-with-distance mishaps, and contemplations of life’s purpose exposed us as twenty-four individual human beings. However, our attitude towards life clumped us together and marked us as different, odd. Stinging eyes served us only as a reminder of the smoke that billowed from our fire. The simple soup and pb&j tortillas sustained us without complaint. Our sweat-stained t-shirts were our armor against the night’s bite. We recognized the comfort that simplicity brings.

   At the end of the third night, we sprawled out on a boulder that jutted over the rumbling of hills and under the spherical expanse of wonder. Sounds of the Lumineers’ Stubborn Love soothed us into silence. We watched the leaps of light perform upon the inky, black stage. Noticing the three glowing dots of Orion’s belt, pointing, whispering. Without a camera separating my vision and the moment, I swiveled my head right, then left as I captured the memory. I carry that photo in my back pocket now that I have had to exit the woods and reenter the world. Walking back to my apartment after a rough night at the library, I look up, disappointed that no friendly wink meets my glance. Yet, the memories I made this Easter Break serve as a clear reminder of what it means to be full of light- to live simply, talk deeply, and savor the gifts of creation.

Julia Hall
2018 River Stewards Cohort

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Montgomery County Solid Waste Station: What We Need To Change

As we stepped out into the parking lot, I couldn't help but notice all the environmentally friendly engineering that starkly contrasted my idea of what a Solid Waste Station would look like. The parking lot was composed of a permeable substance allowing water to be restored to the aquifer. Furthermore, the waste station had a green roof and enormous windows allowing ample sunlight into the building. It is an extremely ecocentric setting for a waste station, and I was excited to learn about the renewable solutions that Montgomery county had crafted in regards to waste.

As the 2018 cohort went through the waste station, our eyes were open to the real issues regarding waste. The waste station has put in tremendous effort to teach the community about the detrimental implications of waste, and the importance of implementing sustainable solutions in the future. The building was remodeled using recycled materials and they were conscious about using sustainable products throughout their building. The goal of these tours is to teach groups about the importance of reducing waste and recycling more. The emphasis that the waste station placed on sustainability was fantastic, however it could not mask the biggest problem that Montgomery County and the rest of the United States faces: our enormous consumption problem.

In just 4 hours the entire storage area was filled with garbage (Fig 1). Most of the waste that came in could have been recycled or composted, sadly it was all taken by trucks to a landfill. On average, a landfill takes about 20 years to fill up...and the largest landfill in Ohio is 3 feet from becoming the tallest point in the state. Most of society is completely oblivious to our consumption and waste problem, not even thinking twice about where their garbage goes. It sadden me to look out the window at the station and see a large pile of garbage building up across the river. In about 15 years, that landfill would be completely full, and another natural area would be bought and used for waste that society and I thoughtlessly contributed.

Fig 1: It took about 4 hours for this room to be filled with waste that would be shortly taken to a landfill.
This experience was extremely eye-opening for our Cohort, and I was empowered that the waste station understood the importance of educating the community about this problem. While the future may seem bleak, the solution is rather simple: stop wasting so much. It is incredibly important that we refocus how we look at waste. If everyone recycled and composted more, consumed less disposable goods and educated themselves on the importance of reducing waste consumption, we would not have an extreme waste problems.

We do not have infinite space for waste. We cannot continue living as everything is at our disposal. Instead, we must implement more sustainable practices in regards to waste before the largest point in the United State is just a pile of trash.

Meg Maloney
River Steward 2018 Cohort

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Steward's Yellow Springs Experience

    On March 11th, the 2017 River Steward Cohort visited YSI Incorporated in Yellow Springs, Ohio. YSI is a developer and manufacturer of sensors, instruments, software, and data collection platforms for environmental water quality monitoring and testing. Many of the products that YSI creates are the same sensors and instruments that many of the engineering and life science stewards use in labs at UD! YSI reaches back to 1948 when a three-man partnership was forged at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Over the years, YSI has partnered with many other similar businesses, but most recently with the larger company Xylem, making YSI “a Xylem brand.” YSI is a very unique corporation and they work with businesses and scientists all over the world. They explained to us that they never know who they may get a call from, whether that be a call from the Ohio EPA or a PhD student in China.

   The 2017 Cohort began their visit with a presentation from some engineers, scientists, and the marketing team at YSI. We learned that it takes people from all types of professions to run YSI. Then we received a tour of the YSI campus. We got to see engineers at work as they build new products. The engineers even demonstrated a few of the different products to us and showed us how they are built. We ended our tour in the research and development building where we got to see how YSI tests their new products before they are sold to the public.

Charlotte Shade
2017 Cohort

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Creek Day from Anna's Perspective

Cultivating Care for the Creek: 2016 Capstone
Junior Year we sat in Zehler. Out of the sticky sun, at the table, we brainstormed. We tossed ideas like we toss rubber ducks on the river. As family now, we argued. We procrastinated. We watched youtube videos and ate GFS pb&j’s. We covered white boards with possibilities. Reached few conclusions. Then realized why we’re together, what we care about, what we want out of our project: environmental education. With that shared interest, we ran.
We partnered with Edison Elementary School. Twin Creek runs parallel to the school. We identified the water source as an asset to both the school and the neighborhood. We hoped to instill in the students a connection, ownership, and responsibility for the creek.
Through conversation with the NSC coordinator and the teachers, we learned that, firstly, the students needed extra academic support. We started after-school math and science tutoring, fostering relationships with both students and teachers. We developed lesson plans for environmental curriculum. We built these lesson plans into a three hour program, Creek Day.
Friday, March 4th, Creek Day commenced. Six stations, two 7th grade classes, eighteen blue shirts.
Dan headed the watershed station. Shout out to MCD for letting us borrow the watershed model.

Matt shared his nature knowledge. He taught about trees with crafty books for the students to record what they learned. How neat is that? “You can tell that it’s an aspen tree because the way that it is.”

Tin cans became instruments at Eric’s station. The teams brainstormed about how to reuse materials. One way? Music.

Students relayed for recycling at Danielle’s station. She refereed as they raced down the hall to sort plastics, papers, and cans into their appropriate bins.

The edible aquifers at Maggie’s station provided the sugar rush. Red Kool-Aid represented pollution. The students observed how quickly the Kool-Aid affected the taste and color of their aquifer.

Léa led students through art reflection. They painted aquifers, rivers, and trees onto flowerpots. They wrote words of Dayton pride, peace, and love. Then they dirtied their mittens planting seeds they’ll take home to watch grow into flowers. Personalized reminders of their one-on-one connection with the earth.

Our coll aboration with Edison gave us the opportunity to share our expertise and passion with a new generation of stewards. We were excited and impressed by the students’ genuine interest, energetic participation, and mad talent. We are hugely grateful for the enthusiasm and support of the teachers. Creek Day wouldn’t have been possible without their partnership.
Now we’re dusting off our hands. We’re reflecting on our past three years. We’re hoping our project cultivated a communal care for the creek, for Dayton, and for the environment we all share.
Since when are we seniors?
The river gives, y’all.   
Anna Adami
2016 Cohort

Creek Day from Dan's Perspective

Creek Day was awesome!  At the start of the day, Maggie and her mom-van stopped by our house and picked up a bunch of materials that we needed for the event such as a few tables, a watershed model, and recyclables.  After that, we drove over to Eric’s to pick up his supplies.  We arrived at the school around 10 am and went inside and talked to the teachers.  They were so excited to have us there.  After some logistical conversations about where to put the stations and how to divide up and rotate the groups, we started to unpack Maggie’s van and the River Institute van and started setting up for the event. 


It fits!  Maggie’s van with our supplies

My station was the watershed station.  Here the kids “made it rain” on the plastic watershed model with a spray bottle and pitcher of water to see where the water would go.  Following this, the students sprinkled green sugar cookie crystals all over the model to represent pollution.  After making it rain again, we checked out the water that had drained into our rivers, lakes, and streams.  It was green water, and I showed it to the kids, and they all said “Eeewww” or “That’s gross.”  When I asked them if they would drink it, they always replied with a loud “No!”

Following this, we went over to the large River Mobile map of the US which shows all the rivers in Dayton as well as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers which drain into the ocean.  Here, we followed the path of water downstream to the ocean, acknowledging how many states these rivers touched along the way.  Many learned which state Arkansas was in addition to the rivers along the way to the ocean.  Then we talked about how if I dropped my infamous empty chip bag on the ground in our watershed, it would flow to the rivers and creeks in Dayton when it rains.  Next, it would flow to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers all the way to the ocean, affecting all of the fish, animals, plants, birds, people, and communities along the way. 

Finally, we talked about how we can protect our watershed to keep this from happening.  We talked about cleaning up our dogs’ poop in the yard and not washing our cars outside in the driveway.  They mentioned most frequently that not littering and picking up trash would help protect the watershed and the people downstream.  So with this, we had a race to pick up 2-3 pieces of trash on the school property and bring them back to the table.  By the end of the day, we had a full box of trash that was found on the property.  This was one of my favorite parts of the station.  I told them, “Look at all of this trash that we collected.  You’re awesome!  We kept all of this trash out of the river today!”  It was super cool.  I was proud of them.  They were making a real difference in the health of the watershed, the fish and organisms in the river, and us.  That’s pretty cool.  They I asked how long it took us to do this.  1-2 minutes is what they told me.  Here, we learned that spending just a little time and being a little conscious of our actions, we can make a big difference.

It was really fun teaching the kids.  They were very receptive to the information and almost always willing to answer my questions.  They loved “making it rain” on the watershed and laughed every time I said it :) .  I felt like they all learned something that day from this station, whether it was to not litter, or to clean up your dog’s poop, what the AR state is called, or how pollution affects the fish, birds, animals, and us.  I felt like each person took away something.  And that’s what really matters in the end.  If one person learned anything from this, then it was worth it.  And I believe this project was most certainly worth it.  I am pretty proud of our cohort after today.  We came together and really made this happen using all of our different talents, abilities, and interests to create something truly beautiful and awesome.  And I believe that we made an impact on the 7th grade students at Edison Elementary.  Now I think they know a little bit more about protecting the environment and being stewards of our rivers.

Until next time,

River Love,

Dan Striebich