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Catherine Giles

More by Catherine Giles

Sustainable Shopping: Know Your Fashion

2/8/2014

Over the past several years, the push to “eat locally, eat organic, support farm to table” has only increased in fervor. While we may think to only eat locally, we should also be conscientious of where other products come from as well. Take clothes, for instance. The laws mandate that we cover our bodies, so clothes are a necessity. Do you actually know where your clothes were made? As I sit here in my blue Old Navy button-down, a quick internet search tells me more. First that Old Navy is a subsidiary of Gap, so Gap owns Old Navy. Next, my shirt was made in New Delhi, which is in India. India’s standards for pesticide use are not the same as those in the United States. Cotton is a plant and is used to produce the cotton we utilize for most clothes. As with many plants, there are various insects, virulents, and organisms that want to eat or destroy the crop. Thus, pesticides are sprayed frequently to keep the bugs away. Frequently, this is done without protective gear and in excess, to maximize production and minimize cost. The cotton also has to be treated with bleach and other harsh chemicals before it can be dyed and woven into fabrics. At times, workers stand in vats of harsh acids and nasty chemicals, mixing in the bleach by hand. It would also be easy to say that this happens in other countries and not our own. However, the truth is that we are exposed to dangerous chemicals unknowingly everyday. I wish I could say that this never happens in the world anywhere, but pesticide use, chemical use, and worker safety are still global issues. 

Sustainability Blog: Cigarette Seeders

12/14/2013

Picture it: a creek bed, sometime in the near future. You and a buddy are picking up trash carried by the waters for a community service project. You bend down to pick up a cigarette butt and notice something interesting; poking out of the end of the cigarette is a small plant. A plant? But cigarettes aren’t seeds! What you don’t realize is that in the filter of this cigarette butt are many seeds, planted to help the filter itself degrade better over time. This is the idea proposed by Greenbutts, an organization dedicated to help decrease cigarette pollution. In order to understand Greenbutts, let’s start with the basics. How do cigarettes affect the environment? Are they a problem?

There are over 5 trillion cigarettes smoked annually. From this 5 trillion, about a third will end up in the environment as trash. 1.7 billion pounds, to be exact. In each cigarette, there are over 4,000 chemicals, 50 of which are known carcinogens. One of the deadliest elements of air pollution is particulates, which are also a key component of cigarette smoke. On average, they produce ten times as much air pollution as a diesel car engine. There’s no doubt about it: cigarettes are harmful both to humans and to the environment at large. They continue to be the number one most littered item, and have been found indiscriminately in the stomachs of marine animals, birds, and other various organisms.

Sustainability Blog: Solar Roadways

12/14/2013

Picture it: a highway, sometime in the near future. You take your significant other out for an afternoon drive in your car. Suddenly, a deer leaps out in the road, but you are able to brake in time. Why? The flashing sign on the road itself warned you to slow down.

A sign within the road itself? But that’s just a flat asphalt surface. How can it warn drivers of danger? It cannot possibly know that there is something else on the road.

 However, Julie and Scott Brusaw, a counselor and an engineer, respectively, have come up with an innovative solution to the way we manage roadways. Their idea, “Solar Roadways,” includes a solution to global warming, while at the same time revitalizing the economy with jobs.

Solar panels are wonderful (yet expensive) alternatives to burning fossil fuels. They utilize energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. The Brusaws propose to replace asphalt roadways with solar panels.

Recycled Guitars

11/29/2013

Paper. Plastic. Glass. Bottles. Cans. All are staples in the standard recycling diet fed to most individuals worldwide. However, currently, creative people are finding all sorts of ways to reuse or “recycle” old items into new treasures. Take, for example, two Argentinian men who have refashioned old skateboards into functioning guitars. The nose and part of the mid-deck are used for one part of the guitar, while another skateboard is used for the neck of the guitar. Each piece is unique, and indeed, no two of their guitars are alike. They bear the scars from their previous lives as skateboards: each ding, scratch, and scrape a testament to the hundreds of kick-flips, ollies, and other tricks of the trade. Since each piece is meticulously handcrafted, they sell for a fair, hefty price: nearly $1,000 a piece! While they are exorbitantly expensive now, perhaps with more people delving into the creative mind sphere to remake “useless” items, there may one day be a market for recycled guitars that will make them more affordable. Check out more info here.

 Also check out their Facebook page for wicked pictures as they show some of the how-tos in making these magnificent recycled Mona Lisa’s!

 

 

Image Source:

Skate Guitar

Sustainability: Light Up Your Electrical Knowledge!

11/9/2013

Turning on a light switch is easy, right? However, producing the electricity required to light up your life is actually a long process. Electricity is a secondary source of energy, meaning that you have to use a primary source to get to it.  The majority of the electricity that we use here is produced from thermal power, or stemming from heat. Water is heated until it makes steam by burning natural gas, coal, biomass, or the reaction of uranium. The steam is used to turn large propeller blades inside a turbine. The blades themselves surround a rotor, which connects to a shaft. The shaft spins magnets around a coil inside a generator. The generator is the essential part of this process; it converts energy from one form to another, in this case, mechanical to electrical energy.

Consequently, once electricity is made, getting it to your house is an entirely different process. Because there is no efficient way to store energy for the long term, just the right amount of electricity has to be produced each day. Too much or too little electricity will cause the transformers to fail, creating a total blackout. Therefore, we have to figure out how to send electricity over long distances for long periods of time. Transformers “power up” the electricity to millions of times the voltage that is required for your home use. This high voltage electricity flows across high voltage transmission lines and is powered down again before it reaches your home.

Chatham Traditions: Battle of the Classes (BOTC)

11/4/2013

Pictured: Members of the Class of 2015 rock the zombie look for their Song Contest performance.

There comes a time in every Chatham woman’s life when she has the urge to slay all those who stand in her path. No, I’m not talking about Kickboxing 101, nor am I talking about Feminist Theory 101, nor even am I talking about Oriental Sword 101. Annually, Chatham sisters - first years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors - compete for a week to determine which class is the best. This hell week is politely termed Battle of the Classes (BOTC).

Competitions include window painting, mystery events, participation, and at the end, all four classes present a skit (less than 15 minutes) consisting of multiple songs and dances. This year, we kicked off BOTC with participation in Relay for Life. The following Sunday, we painted the windows in Anderson Dining Hall to match our Song Contest themes. Various faculty and staff scored the windows in a number of categories, such as creativity, neatness, and Chatham pertinence. 

Monday, we competed in Scare Factor (a Fear Factor knockoff) where individuals ate ice cream laced with odd toppings, like ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, and Miracle Whip. Tuesday, we made blankets and answered trivia for breast cancer awareness. Wednesday, we made cheers for Chatham’s soccer team to encourage our wonderful players. Thursday, we made drinks for Mocktails during Halloween Dinner. Finally, on Friday night we sang our hearts out onstage in Eddy Theatre.

What is Maymester?

5/4/2013

 

Pictured: Student Shannon Ward (front) meeting a penguin at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The trip was part of the 2012 Maymester class, Environmental Literature, taught by Dr. Bruckner.

While most schools have an extended winter break, students at Chatham University head back in to start the semester early. One would think that if school starts early, then it must get out early; this is not so. Chatham University students get out of school at the same time as surrounding schools like Pitt and CMU due to 3-week-long extended classes, called “Maymester.” During Maymester, students can take up to 5 credits at a time. Classes typically meet for 3 hours Monday through Thursday, leaving Fridays free. It’s an easy way to earn extra credits, and the cost is built into tuition! Many classes also leave to go abroad during Maymester; this year, students went to Germany, Taiwan, and other places.

The classes offered during Maymester are quite unique. For example, Empowertooled teaches students how to use power tools while at the same time building sustainable objects, like chairs and tables, out of recycled materials. The Body, Self/Other in Three Parts is a sculpting class where students use plaster to make molds of each other’s faces and then decorate them with any and all materials and found objects. Other classes are more academic, like The Politics of Being Female. There are also fantastic wellness classes offered, like Step Bench Aerobics, Weight Training, Lifeguarding, and Flag Football.

The Chatham Bellas, Airband Champions

4/15/2013

The Chatham Bellas won Airband 2013 with Phoebe Armstrong as Cynthia Rose, Jessica Chow-Lau as Lily, Christina Fortunato as Stacie, Sade Wilson as Beca, and our very own HC Chatham Sustainability Writer Catherine Giles as Chloe. We wanted to hear all about their incredible experience; here, Catherine tells all. 

 

“This is actually happening…” ran through my head many times as I sat quietly in Campbell Memorial Chapel during the Chatham Tradition of Airband and Senior Skit. We had elected to do the final song from the movie Pitch Perfect, a cool mash-up with some stellar, replicable choreography. The competition was fierce; a quartet performed a piece from Chicago, a solo to Shakira’s “She Wolf,” a Sonny and Cher duet, and even Lady Gaga! All participants performed absolutely beautifully. After a week’s practice following the conclusion of Chatham Drama Club’s performance of Sleeping: The Slightly Updated Tale of Briar Rose, the Sleeping Beauty by Nathan Bell, I felt like we were ready. Late nights in the theater, every muscle in our bodies sore, sweat and tears…It was all going to pay off, in this one moment.

Women of the World (W.O.W.) Retreat: Why You Should Apply

3/3/2013

 

The Women of the World (W.O.W.) Retreat is a staple of the spring semester. For one weekend, students escape to Eden Hall for days filled with workshops, discussions, and serious bonding. It's a chance to improve your leadership skills, but it's also an opportunity to experience the Chatham sisterhood in a way you never have before.

Applications for the 2013 retreat are due by March 8, 2013; you can find the link on myChatham in the Student Affairs section of the Documents & Forms tab.

To help you get a better feel for the experience, we spoke with two HC Chatham team members who attended last year's W.O.W. Retreat. Here, News/Lifestyle Writer Shannon Ward (bottom left) and Sustainability Writer Catherine Giles (second from right) share their memories.

Why did you apply to participate in the W.O.W. Retreat?

Shannon Ward: Part of Chatham’s appeal is found in the way that it offers students many opportunities for self-improvement and experience in positions of leadership. For me at least, the W.O.W. Retreat offered a chance to grow as a person, to grow as a leader, and to develop bonds with other leaders within the community.

Catherine Giles: I applied to the W.O.W. retreat to hone my leadership skills. I knew it was a leadership retreat, and we learned all about effective, respectful leadership.

What can students expect on the retreat?

Alternative (and Stylish) Recycling, Part 2

2/20/2013

 

A few weeks ago, we brought some sustainable new decorating ideas to your table with everyday objects.  Get ready for the second installment of our eco-friendly sustainability blog!

1. Make a pet bed out of an old sweatshirt. Remember that Aeropostale hoodie you haven’t worn since the fourth grade? Now, instead of tossing it out, use it as a washable, comfortable bed for your pet! You’ll need a little bit of stuffing and an old pillow, but making this for your pet is easy! Simply stuff the arms with some fiberfill, insert the pillow in the bottom of the hoodie, and sew together! For a more elaborate explanation, visit this website. 

2. Make fabulous jewelry from #6 plastic containers. Remember “Shrinky Dinks”? With a #6 plastic container, you could make your own! The only stipulation is that it must be a #6. Look inside the triangle on the bottom to make sure! Grab some sharpies, scissors, a hole punch, parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut out your desired shape from the container. Color in with sharpie. Put a hole using the hold punch at one end. Lay it flat on parchment paper in the oven (a toaster oven can work, too!) and watch as your creation magically forms before your eyes! If it curls up a bit, no worries—it will eventually settle out.