When I first hatched the idea, what would later become the Marquette Climbers’ Co-op, I did not sleep for three days. I was too excited. My mind just would not let it go. In class, distracted, I sketched out crude schematics for a boulder wall, a small indoor climbing gym on which dedicated climbers could train. At night, I pictured a blooming urban homestead, its orchards and gardens pollinated by buzzing bees from a rooftop apiary. Nonstop, I fantasized about a collective of student climbers coming together to take on the responsibilities of sustainable homeownership. I pondered lessons from social psychology, pit theories of community against diffusion of responsibility. I thought too about how this idea might affect my future. Previously, I had planned to move west after graduation to follow through with my interest in wilderness therapy. I was frazzled and more than a little conflicted, but obviously inspired. On the fourth day I admitted defeat, resolved to act, and fell at last into an exhausted slumber.
Even to me, even today (almost five years later), the idea seems odd and far-fetched: a housing cooperative for rock climbers, who would come up with such a thing? Who would bother?
At times, I’ve tried since to work it out logically. It was perfectly logical, for instance, to move the student boulder wall to a permanent location. Over the years, more energy had been spent moving the wall from rental to rental (as leases expired and students graduated) than had been spent actually training on it. A home owned by sustainability-minded climbers, for the health and wellbeing of those members, was a logical solution. Afterall, though new to Marquette, housing cooperatives had been established in many college towns. A successful Climbers’ Co-op might even pave the way for other cooperative efforts in the community. Moreover, the timing could not have been better. In such a depressed market, normal rental dues would easily cover the mortgage and other expenses. It was a perfectly sensible investment.
Logic had its place certainly, but it was not logic that sustained me, months later, through the countless hours I spent redoing electrical, plumbing, plaster and roofing, or pouring over finances and zoning code. Nor was it logic that inspired my peers to join me. Our shared hopes and vision came from a place much deeper and created a culture that superseded that which was merely logical. It was not an easy thing necessarily; faith, inspiration, connection, love, these things exist sometimes as little more than a nagging hunch.
Today, the Marquette Climbers’ Co-op, is over four years old. In that time we transformed an abandoned, ramshackled house into an affordable and integrated home for dozens of young adults. We built an indoor climbing wall, for personal and community use, and a large greenhouse. We planted fruit trees and vegetable gardens, replaced old windows and invested significantly in insulation and energy efficient appliances. The house runs with a healthy surplus, and extra money is routinely reinvested according to well defined goals and objectives. But these are merely the quantifiables. Less tangible, but no less real is the value added to the larger community by challenging the status quo and challenging young people to get involved. Two years removed from living in the house myself, I check in often (but not too often) and am always reaffirmed.
Why did I bother? Why did I devote so many hours to something akin to romantic fantasy, a nagging hunch? The short answer is that young people need a place to experiment, a place to be tested, a place to learn and grow in order to reach their highest selves. A young man myself, I needed the same.
For the past several years, my inspiration in this project has guided my growth as a person and citizen; and in truth, it still does. Recent struggles with an as-of-yet unaccommodating zoning code threaten the future of the the Marquette Climbers’ Co-op. Though smaller in scale, it is a struggle not too dissimilar to that experienced by many environmental and cooperative efforts. It is a challenge thus, moving forward, to be accepted with gusto.
To that end, once again, I am forced to acknowledge my ignorance and submit myself to the next test. For the house, for cooperative and environmental efforts everywhere, I want to learn the language of law. I want to learn how that language can be used to protect our natural world and bring people together in a spirit of cooperation.
Call it a hunch.
- Ian Girard
Now, more than ever, there is a massive disconnect between the scientific community and the rest of the public due to several important factors. First, and frankly, most people do not have the time or baseline knowledge to have a reasonable level of scientific and mathematical literacy. It is much easier for someone to develop a binary response to complicated and intricate issues, which they may not understand. Furthermore, this disconnect is fueled by what is known as “The Issue Attention Cycle.” In short, this is the idea that issues go in-and-out of mainstream attention in a revolving and predictable way. Mainstream and social media evermore accentuate this cycle and with new issues consistently gaining the immediate focus of society; it is difficult for scientific research and studies to uncover emergent truths about an issue in a time-sensitive way. In addition, it is easy for individuals to have little interest in an issue that will not have a substantial or immediate effect on them. This sort of cognitive dissonance contributes to an overall inaccurately informed public and together, these several factors all create to a widespread distrust and misunderstanding of science.
This broken public perception of science produces several outcomes. The first is that the scientists who have an expert level of understanding particular public health risks (i.e. nuclear power, chemical exposure, etc.) vastly assess the risks differently than the public. More often than not, the risks that the public deem the most important and detrimental to society are those that the media focuses on, not what the experts say. This leaves open the opportunity for the media and politicians to capitalize on public misunderstanding of risks by politicizing them into partisan issues.
Inherently, this creates massive challenges for governmental agencies to create regulations and manage potential risks as well for representatives to enact effective legislation. Administrative agencies have the responsibility to create regulations and manage risks regarding their particular field, based on scientific expert’s findings. Agencies determine what the most effective strategy for regulation is so that it will fix problems that confront them in a cost-effective way. However, due to the aforementioned issues with public understanding of science, governmental agencies have taken increasing pressure and scrutiny as entities who are simply limiting economic development. Similarly, in the legislative process, representatives objectively (in an ideal representative democracy) draft and support legislation based on their constituent’s wants and needs. Therefore, if constituents are wildly misinformed, it is only a matter of time before public policy reflects the same ignorance.
In the past, when there was a greater level of trust and respect for science, scientific findings had great impacts on public policy. For example, after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring highlighted the health effects of DDT, the spur of environmentalism that followed led to banning the harmful toxin. However, more recently in 2015, President Obama committed the US to combating climate change in the Paris Climate Talks. This is a unique example of the federal government choosing to listen to climate scientists rather than to their citizens, who are more than 95% agreed that climate change is human induced compared to less than 50% respectively.
The results from widespread public policy have immediate and substantial effects on our overall society. Whether it is a ban on a toxic chemical, regulation of a specific pollutant, or mandating informational labels to inform the public, policies and regulations are imperative to fixing issues that our society has created. However, oftentimes waiting for elected representatives to make necessary changes in policy and regulation can take too long before an issue becomes worse, which is where the voice of the people comes in. Public outrage feeds the need for regulation and policy. In history, events like the Cuyahoga River fire and the Santa Barbara oil spill spawned outrage and concern about water quality among the public. Similarly, people became incredibly concerned about the danger of air pollutants after dozens were killed and thousands were injured after an air inversion trapped smog in the town of Denora, Pennsylvania. These events led to the public demanding standards for air and water quality, thus causing representatives to enact two of the most effective environmental acts to date; the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Clean Air Act of 1970.
This is the crux of why the protest for science was necessary. Protesters were not only trying to make an argument that the scientific method is something that needs to be trusted and respected, but it was more a way of showing representatives and governmental agencies that our society needs to enact policies and regulations in coordination with scientific findings. If not, there is the potential for serious health, environmental, and societal catastrophe. It is not a topic of liberals vs. conservatives or environmentalists vs. the working class, but one that is in the best interest of all citizens to support.
Scott Culbert is studying environmental science at Northern Michigan University. He spent the last semester in an environmental policy and regulation class. This blog post and the information within it are a result of what he has learned throughout his course.
The MOSES Organic Farming Conference is an opportunity for farmers around the Midwest to connect, learn, share, and come together as a community. For the second year, members of the Marquette Climbers’ Co-op had the opportunity to attend with fellow members of Northern Michigan University’s Students for Sustainability club thanks to support from the university and scholarships from the MOSES.
Ivan Swart said he went because he wanted to connect to the farming community and to learn what farming looked like, but he also went because he wanted ideas he could apply to the on-campus Superior Acres Permaculture Garden as well the greenhouse and garden at the Marquette Climbers’ Co-op.
“I learned a lot,” Ivan said which was undoubtedly true for everyone in attendance. Sessions ranged from national farming policy to how to grow mushrooms in between your crops.
One of the sessions members of the co-op were the most excited about was a presentation about agroecology, or in essence permaculture growing practices. The presenter showed pictures of his personal home growing area with hundreds, possibly thousands, of plant varieties growing together which is directly in line with visions for the garden at the co-op.
“What I learned was matched by what I became inspired by. The passion and practical applicability of the knowledge in the organic community really supported our mission and gave me a sense of hope and community in our food community. What I took away was that farming is more than making food. It’s a connection to the land and life around me.”
The mission of the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative includes being a model of a sustainable community. One of the major ways members strive to do this is by producing as much of their own food grown with organic methods as possible and as well as purchasing local foods.
Ivan also added he learned, “Farming and eating organic is hard work but it’s worth the effort.”
It’s important for members of the co-op to be able to connect with the larger organic growing community in order to learn from and share with others.
Co-op groundskeeper Andrew Adamski said, “I learned how important it is to just talk to and connect with as many people as possible and form the connections that will keep the field moving towards an innovative future.”
Written by Melissa Orzechowski
BY: Catherine Stenberg
I hold value in the beauty that exists on this planet. I love the flowers that sprout from the soil. I love the sound of crickets while my eyes chase lightning bugs. I love the rabbit that I always run into when I’m drunk and decide to take a walk around the block. I love the people that make me feel warm in my heart when it’s freezing outside. I love breathing deeply in the woods. I love nature. Sustainability is a passion of mine. I want to strive towards being as least wasteful as I possibly can in every area of my life, even with my energy. Even further into my thoughts, I believe that humans have crossed the line of being one with the environment and have created this species hierarchy while blindly destroying the planet. I believe in order to heal the damage that has been done, that humans need to not just cut back in their lifestyles to what is acceptable, but to cut back to a minimal state of consumption and waste production. I believe in striving towards a more regenerative lifestyle. In order to practice a regenerative lifestyle one must also practice mindfulness. Be mindful of all that you do, think, feel, express, know, and are. Really try to understand everything. It isn’t easy, but the more you know, the more you can help.
Vermicomposting is composting with worms! This Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative friend Scott Culbert and house member Andrew Adamski teamed up to hold a workshop demonstrating how to build your own vermicomposting bin. If you missed the workshop or want a refresher on the benefits and steps as you build your bin, keep reading!
Benefits of Vermicomposting:
-Nearly a third of most households’ waste is biodegradable materials. Most households don’t compost these biodegradable materials go to the landfill. Composting turns this would-be trash into nutrient rich soil. Really it’s a win-win.
-People have a lot of reasons for why they don’t compost: they’re afraid it’ll smell, they live in rental space so they feel composting is out of the question, or they give up on composting because it’s easier to toss food scraps in the trash than bring them to the compost bin on the far side of the yard when there is four feet of snow outside.
-With vermicomposting, you no longer have excuses, sorry! If done properly, your vermicomposting bin won’t smell- which means it is no big deal to keep your bin indoors all year round. (No more dashes through the back corner of the yard in the winter!) Plus, because vermicomposting is done in bins, when you move your worms can moved with you! No need to worry about if your landlord will allow you to build a bin out of crates in the yard or even worry that you might not have a yard at all. Best yet, you can get started for less than ten dollars!
Vermicomposting bin building:
There are a lot of ways you can build vermicomposting bins. If you want to dedicate more time and energy, making a nice composting bin out of cedar is always an option. You can find tutorials/resources online to do this. In this post, we are going to cover the most basic, affordable and therefore accessible way to build a bin.
Step 1: Gather your materials!
Materials You Need:
-Two equal-sized dark-colored plastic totes, bins, or buckets with lids.
-Drill with 1/16” & 1/4” bits
(If you don’t have a drill, you can borrow one from the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative.)
- Red worms!
-One piece of cardboard
-Four of the same object that can be used as spacers for the bin to sit on top (ex. Bricks, blocks.)
-A little bit of soil
Step 3: Preparing the Bedding
-Shred newspaper into thin strips.
-Dampen newspaper enough so it is moist but not dripping wet.
-Fluff up the newspaper and fill one bin so that it has anywhere from 3 inches to ¾ of the bin full of newspaper.
-Sprinkle a few cups of nutrient rich soil on top of the newspaper. This will help the worms digest their food and acclimate to their new environment.
-Cut a piece of cardboard so it will fit inside of your bin, covering the bedding.
Step 4: Situate the bin
-Place the lid without holes on the floor of where you want the bin to be.
-Place something to be used as spacers lifting the bin a few inches above the lid in the four corners of the lid (we used beer cans because we’re classy… A lot people use bricks or other blocks).
-Put the bin with the bedding on top of the spacers.
-Put the lid with the holes on top of the bin.
-Set aside the other bin to be used in a few weeks.
Step 4: Welcome Your Worms to Their New Home!
-Add your worms!
-Worms will eat about ½ of their bodyweight in food per day and need a vegetarian diet. Do not feed them any meat, dairy, oils, or bones. Feed your worms as needed.
-“Worm tea” (basically really nutrient dense liquid) will drip from the bin and collect in the lid. You can use this liquid to water plants as it is extremely good for them.
-After a while when there are no food scraps or newspaper strips left and all you can recognize is healthy composted soil, place the second bin with freshly prepared bedding on top of the soil. The worms will climb their way into the top bin where food is, leaving the bottom bin’s soil ready to be used!
-When you first make your bin, avoid the temptation of continuously lifting the lid and checking on the worms. It’s a good idea to give the worms time to adjust to their new home without disturbance. In general, only lift the lid when necessary.
-Only use red worms. You can’t just dig up any worms you find. If you need help finding worms and you are in the Marquette area, contact Scott Culbert, firstname.lastname@example.org or the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative, email@example.com
-Your bin needs to be moist, but not wet. Worms breathe out of their skin, but if your bin is too wet, it will start to smell. When you put newspaper bedding in, wring it out so it is only slightly damp. Balance how much wet food scraps you put in at a time so that the bin does not become too wet.
-When you put food in, put it in pockets throughout the bin. If you mix it all together like a tossed salad, it will likely become too hot and your worms will try to crawl out of the bin or die.
-The optimal temperature for your bin is 55-75 degrees. If it drops below 4o degrees for too long, your worms will begin to die.
-Don’t worry if you make a mistake, it’s all a learning process. If you do find something wrong, look at this link: http://www.vermicompost.net/common-vermicomposting-mistakes/
-If you are still not sure or have questions there is a plethora of information about vermicomposting online. Spend some time reading them.
Written by Melissa Orzechowski and Scott Culbert
It seems the best ideas are often the simplest. Our grey water system first began because flushing the toilet with buckets- rather than traditional toilet-tank flushes- was the only option as the plumbing restoration project was not yet fully complete. It was the simple connection between the water generated from doing dishes and water needed for the buckets to generate the formal system laid out today. For years, the greywater system stood as both a symbol to visitors demonstrating our vision, and an active, functional, and interactive part of our home; something that everyone could get behind.
Next, it was the obvious question of how much water was being saved that propelled the project further. By keeping track of the number of toilet uses without flushing, grey water flushes, traditional flushes, and shower flushes (collecting water from the shower rather than using the toilet’s tank) we could answer this question knowing the volume of our toilet tank and the buckets. Furthermore, by comparing the weekly ratios of greywater to traditional flushes we were able to analyze just how well we the system worked in practice. The average across the weeks that were recorded (the data tracking system was still improving) was about 3. Meaning for every traditional flush there were 3 grey water flushes. For the system we initially had, this was a very good average.
However, this is the now! This week’s ratio is a staggering 48 grey water to only 3 traditional, a ratio of 16. In the past, the collection system consisted of a container inside one sink to collect greywater, that would then be dumped into the buckets. In a fine show of increasing simplicity, coop member Heather Toman (with the support of the rest of the crew) made a direct connection between the sink and the buckets, eliminating the need for a separate container inside of the sink. In this way, we are saving almost all of the water used from the kitchen sink, meaning there is almost always enough grey water on hand for flushes in the bathroom, and hardly any need for traditional flushing!
Contributed by Ivan Swart
As the summer days fade away, darker mornings and chillier winds seem to be gracing our presence, and the Marquette Climbers’ CO-OP is settling into the fall semester. We have a lot of great projects in the works for our home, and we’ll hopefully cover all of them in the weeks and months to come. Join us on our journey and remember that you are always welcome to work with us! Our mission is to help ourselves and others to learn about and live a sustainable lifestyle, and we love having visitors. Seriously.
One of the larger projects for this year is the re-vamping of our greenhouse! Since the fall of 2014, the greenhouse as been a labor of love; an opportunity for us to grow our own food and be that much more sustainable throughout the year. It has been an all-around learning experience for those involved, and upgrades over time-like ventilation system that was installed early this summer - have made the space more efficient and productive for its intended purpose.
As we continue to move forward this fall, we've planned and designed a new heated floor system that will enable us to build new grow beds, essentially extending our grow season by at least three months. Visions of food processing through methods of canning and freezing are always ideal, but to regularly incorporate these ideas into our lives we'll simply need a larger volume of food. The extension of the grow season will enable this to happen.
On September 6th, with no prior experience on any of our parts, we darned work gloves, scrounged for safety glasses in the basement, rented a jackhammer, and made a day of it. It was grueling labor; the greenhouse was blazing hot, but it was a blast! We all took turns with the jackhammer while others lifted and moved asphalt out of the way. Some of us went to the kitchen to cook food for the masses, and everyone played a role in making the work day smooth and productive. Like most everything we do in the house, the whole experience brought us together through hard work, common goals, and that crazy unique family love we've got for each other. Needless to say, it was a great start to this large project. Check out the pictures below, and feel free to contact us with any questions/suggestions you made have!
Stay tuned for the next installment/update of this project as we move ahead with it in the coming weeks!
Much love from our floor-less greenhouse,