Posted by: calvinsjc | November 3, 2009

Ankle-Deep in Reality Speaking Tour!

Please come to hear Sara Kaweesa speak in the Commons Lecture Hall this coming Friday, November 6th, at 3.30pm. There will be snacks!

Sara Kaweesa is based in Kampala Uganda, where she leads A-Rocha Uganda Initiative (ARUI), a Christian conservation organization. Sara earned a Masters of Science in Forestry in Vienna, Austria and holds certificates in climate change from outstanding agencies such as Tearfund, UNEP, Oxfam GB, IIED, IPC Denmark and a host of others. Sara travels throughout Uganda and Africa, taking the message of creation stewardship to Bible colleges, pastors, elders, church congregations and to local communities in both rural and urban settings. Sara is a lay pastor at the Makerere Full Gospel Church where she serves in the ladies ministry.

Posted by: calvinsjc | October 21, 2009

ESC Project List!

We will start getting working on these projects soon! Here’s a refresher on the things we’d like to work on! If you are interested in any of these, email to let us know (let us know all you’d be willing to help with) and we’ll try and split people up so we can cover them all. Feel free to say which are particular favourites!

1) Dorm electricity and heat use:
– find out how heating works in the dorms (individual rooms,
hallways, lobbies etc.)
– find out what kinds of settings students can access regarding heat/air
– learn about practices students can use to conserve heat and not
waste energy due to seasonal weather adjustments (windows, etc.)
– find out what the breakup of electricity use in a dorm building is
(not just dorm rooms, but heating too, RD apartment, basement), as in:
what kinds of utilities, what units on a floor of residents use the
most energy, how much lights make up of the total, all sorts of
information to paint a picture of energy use in a dorm
– learn about the worst practices of students that waste energy in the dorms
– learn about ways that students can make a significant difference to
their energy use
– anything else that seems related!

2) Dining halls:
– find out a rough energy use breakup in the dining halls
– find a whole bunch of numbers on day-to-day functioning (food waste
per day, what kinds of days see more/less food waste, how much meat is
served as a proportion of total food, how many dishwasher loads are
done for different meals, things like that)
– learn about ways students can improve the above info (what kind of
impact would occur if no students wasted any food, what could be
improved/ how much energy saved in different areas)
– learn about the results of the tray-less experiments last year
– learn about the great efforts to introduce local foods (how much
more it cost, what proportion of food in both dining halls is local

3) Biking:
– learn about biking in Grand Rapids (generally speaking), including:
– clarify the biking road rules of Grand Rapids
– learn about debates and controversies surrounding biking in Grand Rapids
– find out which roads are good and bad (in terms of safety and
– find/make/adapt an easy-to-use biking map of Grand Rapids, that is
tailored to Calvin students (this is the largest part in some ways –
if this bit is done really well it’ll be GREAT!)

4) Bus:
– work towards producing a packet/document/whatever that
facilitates/educates about bus riding in Grand Rapids, tailored to
Calvin students, including:
– a map (more likely several: a large one, downtown one, Calvin to
east town one, etc., etc.) of bus routes with major AND MINOR
locations marked (part of this project is deciding what is most
practical, accessible, etc.)
– compiling lists of certain types of places (clothes stores, coffee
shops, churches, blockbusters, movie theatres, etc.) and which routes
to take to get to them, or instructions on how to get to them
– bus riding tips

5) College Parking Research:
– research a collection of colleges (around 10 or more if possible?)
that approximate Calvin (size, urban location, city integration etc.),
finding out about how they charge for parking
– annual/monthly fees
– if they have one-time use fees
– what kinds of programs they have to reduce parking on campus

6) Energy Competition, but not:
– as opposed to the month-long short-term energy competitions that
could held on campus between dorms/KE apartments, the project here is
to look into the possibility of setting up some system whereby regular
information about energy use could be sent to someone, or
automatically posted somewhere, so that the campus could see (ideally
online) regularly how these different living communities were doing in
terms of energy use
– there are several complicated considerations here, and this project
will be at the first stage conceiving of possibilities, asking about
them, having them shut down, finding another way that will work, etc.
– some things to think about:
– how can this be set up so that it doesn’t take a lot of staff time,
so that this can be sustainable labour-wise long-term
– how can this be set up so that it is meaningful data (how detailed
can info be? by floor? by building? by wing? does it factor in lots of
things like heat and gas and water, or can it be just electricity use
through outlets? could we get all this and report it all?)
– what would be a practical, accessible, visually pleasing way to
present this (perhaps online? if you can think up a format, Calvin
will be more than willing I’m sure to make web space available)

7) Recycling Bins Team!
– doing some walking tours through academic buildings (and dorms?) to
produce a lay-out of recycling and normal trash bins, to find out:
– where the 3-piece recycling stations are and if they could be
better placed (near entrances, not hidden etc.)
– if there are highly trafficked areas, or entrances, where there
isn’t a major recycling station, or even if there is, whether it is
overshadowed by the number of regular trash cans
– identify places where trash bins could be removed, and replaced
with signs to a nearby recycling station
– produce signs to put above normal trash bins, giving the detailed
location (and estimated seconds to walk – to be funny, and make people
realise how lazy they are) of the nearest recycling station
– produce signs to put above recycling stations to explain what can
go in which bit
– other similar helpful things!

Posted by: calvinsjc | October 21, 2009

Lecture/Potluck Tomorrow!

ESC, in partnership with SJC and SCL, will be hosting a potluck and lecture tomorrow in the Chapel Undercroft.

Dave Cooper, of the Sierra Club and Mountain Justice, will be speaking on the injustice surrounding and devastation caused by the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

6.15pm – Potluck (vegetarian/vegan)
7.00pm – Lecture

Posted by: calvinsjc | September 22, 2009

First Meeting


ESC’s first meeting will be this coming Thursday, at 4.30pm in the 1st van Reken lobby (in Kalsbeek-Huizenga-van Reken). There will be snacks (!), and Dave Warners, a mentor for ESC and Biology professor at Calvin, will be talking about sustainability at Calvin and what we can do in the community.

1st van Reken lobby

Posted by: calvinsjc | March 5, 2009

Clean Water Protection Act Introduced in Congress

Just a few hours ago, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced the bill. If passed, this bill could greatly increase the cost of Mountaintop Removal coal mining, by making it illegal to dump mining waste into streams and valleys surrounding mining sites.

Please take a moment to write Congressman Ehlers and tell him to support the Clean Water Protection Act.

In other news, six people were arrested yesterday on Coal River Mountain for protesting against Massey Coal. See more on that story and hear a radio broadcast concerning the arrests here

Be sure to check back soon for pictures from PowerShift!

Posted by: calvinsjc | December 30, 2008

A Word from about the TVA Ash Spill

Firsthand account of the TVA coal ash dam failure

Just before Christmas, the true cost and danger of coal became apparent in the town of Harriman, Tennessee.

On the morning of December 22, the earthen dam at the Kingston Power Plant containing coal fly ash failed catastrophically, unleashing a six-foot wall of toxic water and mud.

By the time the flood subsided, more than a billion gallons of coal sludge had damaged 15 homes — three beyond repair — before pouring into the nearby Emory and Clinch rivers.

In comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled a “mere” 11 million gallons of crude oil. And the coal fly ash spill in Harriman is three times larger than the October, 2000 coal sludge spill in Martin County, Kentucky, which the EPA called “the largest environmental disaster east of the Mississippi.”

Miraculously, there were no human injuries in last week’s spill. Yet the Emory and Clinch rivers flow into the Tennessee River — the primary water source for many Tennessee towns and cities, including Chattanooga. Coal fly ash contains heavy metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium. And though it will take years for the full affect of this environmental disaster to be known, has teamed with the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance to test the waters’s of the Clinch and Emory Rivers for contaminants. To learn more about these discoveries and find links to news, blog posts, photos, and videos of the event, visit:

In short, the toxic coal ash spill at Harriman reveals what we’ve known all along — there is no such thing as clean coal.

As Grist magazine points out, “there is no “clean coal” that doesn’t produce millions of tons of toxic sludge, just as there is not yet any form of coal that doesn’t send millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

Despite the spill at Harriman, TN, Big Coal and their lobbyists will be doing all they can in the coming year to convince decision makers in Washington that “clean coal” is the solution to America’s foreign energy dependence. They’ll do everything in their power to obfuscate the true cost of coal — more than 470 mountains destroyed to date, thousands of miles of stream destroyed, and millions of pounds of toxic chemicals released into the environment and our nation’s waters.

But we can beat these industry lobbyists — and put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining in America — if we keep up the pressure in the new year.

That’s why I am turning to you today to ask for your generous support. As 2008 comes to an end, can you make a contribution of $50, $100 — or the most generous amount you can afford — to help as we prepare for the big challenges and opportunities coming our way in 2009?

Click here or visit to make a special year-end gift to the mountains we love.

Your contributions to supports the efforts of groups working to end mountaintop removal coal mining and to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for Appalachia — and all of America.

I hope that you will consider’s leadership in the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining worthy of your generous year-end support.

From all of us at — have a safe and Happy New Year.

Matt Wasson

P.S. With the holidays in full swing, many people have not heard about the environmental disaster in Harriman, TN. Visit to learn more about the coal fly ash spill and to help spread the word

Posted by: calvinsjc | November 12, 2008

You Go, Granholm!

Good News for MI Green Energy

October 6, 2008

Granholm signs into law bipartisan package she proposed in January
LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today signed into law a bipartisan energy package she proposed in her 2008 State of the State address that will create jobs, diversify Michigan’s economy, and save customers money on their electric bills by ensuring that the bulk of Michigan’s future energy needs are produced from renewable energy resources and energy efficiency savings.
“This comprehensive package will create tens of thousands of new energy jobs by making Michigan even more attractive to job-creating companies that are looking for a place to expand as they meet the growing demand for energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power,” Granholm said.  “It also helps reduce costs for our citizens by requiring new energy efficiency programs and reducing the need for additional coal-burning power plants.” 
The three-bill package signed by Granholm at two different events today includes a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that mandates 10 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2015, regulatory reform that protects Michigan ratepayers and allows utility companies to build new electricity generation in Michigan, and a requirement that utilities meet an additional 5.5 percent of Michigan’s annual electricity demands through energy efficiency by 2015. 
Granholm noted the energy package protects Michigan ratepayers’ money by ensuring that the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies will save more money than they cost.  This energy efficiency requirement is projected to save consumers and businesses $1.04 billion a year by 2025. 
The package also includes an income tax credit to offset a portion of ratepayers’ investments in renewable energy for Michigan and a “net metering” law that allows customers to sell renewable electricity they produce at their homes or businesses to their utility companies.
“This historic package is the result of compromise and hard work from a lot of people, including legislators, our Public Service Commission, the renewable energy industry, Michigan’s utility companies, and so many more,” Granholm said.  “Together, we are sending a signal that Michigan is ready to build a bright future for our citizens by creating jobs, diversifying our economy, and meeting our 21st century energy needs while protecting both our pocketbooks and our planet.”
The demand for green energy is skyrocketing as Americans grow more concerned about the impact of fossil fuels on climate change and our national security. The Michigan Public Service Commission estimates that Michigan currently spends $26 billion to import fossil fuels annually.
Granholm has argued that an RPS is essential for Michigan’s economic future, because it will drive investment in this emerging industry.  Venture capital firms and green energy manufacturers are investing billions of dollars in expanding capacity, but they generally invest only in states that have an RPS.
Two recent studies identified the tremendous job-creating package this type of policy can have for Michigan.  The U.S. Department of Energy found that Michigan is one of only four states with the potential to create more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs in wind production alone, while the Center for American Progress estimates that Michigan can create more than 60,000 jobs by investing in wind, solar, biofuels and energy efficiency.
Green energy manufacturing is considered to be a perfect fit for Michigan given the state has superior tool and die, metal fabrication, and metal working capabilities; manufacturing expertise and facilities that can be retrofitted to produce things like wind turbines; a manufacturing supplier network that is already starting to supply green tech manufacturers; tremendous research and development expertise in our universities and corporate research centers; a world-class workforce; and an outstanding wind resource. 

One Hundred Percent EDIBLE Googly Eyes!

Nilla is watching you.
Googly FSMAfter more than a year of painstaking directed research by our Experimental Foods Division, we have finally achieved one of our most important longstanding goals: the production of edible googly eyes. Like many other great inventions, it seems almost simple in retrospect, but in this write up we walk through the process and show you how to make your own.
Capsules Capsules-2
CapTo begin with, we need a food-grade rigid transparent dome that will form the outer visual shell of the googly eyes. Empty gelatin capsules like these slide apart easily and come with one such dome on each end.You can get capsules like these in bulk at all kinds of “natural” and “health food” stores– or even at many grocery stores in the section where dietary supplements are sold. There is of course a huge selection online– you can even get them in different colors and flavors. Capsules come in range of sizes; we suggest starting with size 00 or so to get a good dome.Note: Vegetarians will observe that gelatin is an animal product. Gelatin-free capsules that perform similarly are usually available in the same places as regular capsules but tend to cost a bit more.
Illustration onlyWhile the gelatin capsules have a dome on each end, they have a lot of space in between that we really don’t need. The photo above illustrates how much of each end we want to keep: the domed part plus a few millimeters. As it turns out, you cannot use the scissors to actually cut it there– it will crack or suffer permanent creases, making it useless for our application.

Instead, using fine-point scissors, make one continuous cut from the opening to remove the excess capsule material. This actually works very well and does not cause undue stress to the dome that we want to keep.
Cutdown caps

The finished transparent domes, cut down to size.


Giant sprinkles Sprinkles!
Next, we’re going to need rolling pupils for our eyes, and these fit the bill perfectly. These are Wilton Jumbo Rainbow Nonpareils, one brand of *giant* round sprinkles a couple of millimeters across. Our big surprise: these actually taste pretty good– they’re flavored candy. The downside is that we only really want dark pupils, so there’s some fishing around to find them in the assortment..Suggested substitutes: other brands of round sprinkles and cake decors, as well as Nerds candy (look for the occasional round pieces). While you might be tempted to try using flat “confetti” sprinkles or similar types, we actually found them to be quite unsuitable– they get stuck in all kinds of unexpected ways instead of rolling freely. 
Whoppers Whopper Chopper
Prepare hemisphere The incision
Next we need a solid substrate that serves as the back surface of the googly eyes– the whites of the eyes. The substrate needs to be sturdy, so that it can support the rest of the eyes, light in color, and completely dry and free of oil. At the same time, it needs to be soft enough that we can press the gelatin capsules into it.Our substrate of choice is (are?) Whoppers, although some other things will work as well. To use the Whoppers, first cut them in half with a chef’s knife. Then, using a (virginal) half-capsule as a tool, press an indentation into the semirigid center of the Whopper. 
Sprinkle, cap Insert
First eye Whoppers Watchin you.
Place one of the round “pupil” sprinkles in the cut-off capsule dome, and press it into the indentation made in the Whopper hemisphere. Press it in deeply enough– several millimeters– that it will not fall out, but not so deeply that it restricts the motion of the sprinkle pupil. Some care is required– the substrate can shatter if you push too hard. Special worry about using this particular substrate: the outer, chocolate-like coating will begin to melt if you handle it too long.Once the capsule dome and pupil are in place, test your new googly eyes, and make sure that the ball rolls freely in the dome. That’s it! You’ve made edible googly eyes!
NillaAnother substrate that works– but not quite as well– is a medium-soft cookie. This “Nilla” wafer has a pair of working edible googly eyes on it. The cookie is a little bit too soft for this application, and makes it harder to manage, but it is indeed possible. Other cookies may be too rigid (biscotti), dense (shortbread), or greasy (chocolate chip).
ApplicationsIt has been clear for some time that a great many foods are improved by the judicious application of googly eyes. Obviously the one flaw in that scheme– up to now– has been that the foods were no longer edible. Removing this restriction opens a world of possibilities. As with many new technologies, the applications are nearly endless, and only time will tell whether this development ever sees its true potential.
As one example, we present a simple recipe:
Flying Spaghetti Monster Treats, featuring edible working googly eyes. 
Mallows Chow mein noodles
Ramen Excellent Flour Stick
The basic idea is that we make rice krispy treats, omitting the rice crispies and instead using some tasty dried noodles. Now, rice krispy treats without the rice is actually just marshmallows and butter– an effective and edible glue that can be used for all kinds of purposes.You can crib the butter/marshmallow proportions from the original source or from whatever box is handy— no two of these seem to be exactly the same. Anyway, melt a bunch of marshmallows with a little butter to make the glue. To that, add some small pieces of precooked dry noodles. Spoon the resulting mess out onto parchment paper, and decorate as needed.
(Vegetarians: Lots of other good ways to do this– start with a general-purpose haystack cookie recipe and go from there.)The “classic” choice for this sort of thing is to use chow mein noodles– already used to make a few different kinds of no-bake cookies. Of course, considering our theme, it makes sense to instead use ramen noodles. Ramen noodles have beens successfully employed with sweets lately, and it seems like a fine idea. (Remember to omit the flavor packet.) We used another type of dry asian noodle, beautifully labeled “Excellent Flour Stick,” for ours. 
Eyestalks Mounting the googly eyes to the eyestalks presents a bit of a challenge, since the “rice krispy” glue does not set immediately, and the eyes kept falling down. Instead, dip the eyestalks in the glue and place them flat on a piece of parchment paper. Then, set the eyes flat on the eyestocks to cool and bond. Later these eyestalk can be added easily to the top of the noodly blobs.
FSM Treats!The crowning detail of course is to add the meatballs– in this case Cocoa Puffs. And we’re done– one hundred percent edible Flying Spaghetti Monster treats with working googly eyes.

Courtesy of

Posted by: calvinsjc | September 24, 2008

Food Awareness Week!

This week is a collaborative effort between Calvin’s Environmental Stewardship Coalition, Students for Compassionate Living, and the Social Justice Coalition.

Wednesday: 3:30 @ Commons Lecture Hall – Gene Baur on Animal Advocacy

5:30 @ Library Lobby – Vegan Potluck

7:30 @ Science Building 010 – Public Lecture on Gene Baur’s Farm Sanctuary

Thursday: 3:30 @ Devos Forum (the Circle) – Animals and the Environment

Friday: 8:00 @ Commons Lecture Hall – Film The Future of Food

Saturday: 8:30am-8:00PM @ Koinonia House – LOCAL FOOD FESTIVAL (take the #6 bus and get off at Lake & Auburn)

Please join us for any or all of these events. It is sure to open our eyes to the ways in which our eating habits affect the rest of the world!

Posted by: calvinsjc | September 12, 2008

ESC 2008/2009

Welcome to ESC’s new blog!  We are excited to get this year started and to see what opportunities will arise for us to learn about our environment and the way we can steward it.  At ESC, we believe that our world belongs to God, and that He has put us here and asked us to care for it.  We believe in standing up for justice, whether that’s in our own personal lives, or in big issues such as mountain top removal coal mining or destroying the rain forest.

If you would like to post a thought or idea for environmental education and/or action, email us at and we’d be happy to make you an author on this blog.

Feel free to stop by any Tuesday at 6:00 in the Library Lobby (outside the third floor of the library) to find out more about what we’re doing and the opportunities for you to get involved!