Gift-Wrapped Starbucks Cups: What Cannot Be Recycled

Every city has its own rules about what can and cannot be recycled. While most things hold true across the nation, like the recycling of plastic water bottles and paper, it’s important to be aware of your city’s specific needs.

We’re fortunate to live in a city that is super conscientious about being green. There are numerous recycling, composting, and other sustainability initiatives that the city practices. Whether it’s recycling at Austin City Limits music festival or controlling litter on the highways or gardening with Dillo Dirt, there’s always a way to be more green in Austin.

We can do our part by learning how to properly recycle. Here is a list of some common items that people sometimes think can be recycled but actually CANNOT BE RECYCLED:

  1. Starbucks cups: No disposable coffee cups can be recycled. Those infamous red cups come with a liner inside that keeps the hot liquid from burning the paper cup, and that liner isn’t made of recyclable material.
  2. Wrapping paper: Gift wrap often contains foil elements. The paper parts of gift wrap would have to be separated from the shiny foil to be properly recycled, so that the foil could be recycled with other aluminum products. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible. Similarly, gift bags, ribbons and bows cannot be recycled. This is why it’s good to re-use gift bags and gift wrap when possible; just don’t re-gift anything. 🙂
  3. Plastic bags (i.e., for groceries): Instead of putting these in your recycling bin, take them to the proper receptacles in front of stores like H-E-B, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart.
  4. Plastic foam: Repeat after me – NO STYROFOAM. Don’t recycle those little packing peanuts, Styrofoam cups, egg-cartons, or Styrofoam containers for leftover food.
  5. Pizza boxes: While it will feel wrong to not recycle such a big paper item like a cardboard pizza box, soiled paper items cannot be recycled in Austin. Because the material was wet/stained by food, it can’t be reused.
  6. CD or DVD cases: These are the only normal-sized hard plastics that cannot be recycled.
  7. Shredded paper: You probably shredded that document for a reason, so don’t put it in your recycling bin.

Certain items and materials that cannot be reused or cannot be classically recycled (such as cell phones, fluorescent lightbulbs, and paint) can be taken to other recycling centers and waste facilities and managed properly.

 

If you’re thinking of recycling something but are questioning whether or not it can actually be recycled, it’s best to consult your city’s rules and regulations for waste management, most of which can be found online! Or you can ask your fellow green friends. 🙂

Let’s keep Austin beautiful and recycle correctly!

— Olivia Arredondo, Green Greeks

 

(Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

Here’s a New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep

It’s February now, so you’re most likely done with that whole “go to the gym three times a week” thing. But here’s one resolution you can (and should) keep: getting active with local environmental issues, organizations, and initiatives!

As you probably know, there are endless environment and sustainability-related things to get involved with on campus and in Austin (including the Campus Environmental Center, wooo!). The following are just a few of my faves

If you’re interested in local parks and green spaces…

  • Each year, the Austin Parks Foundation hosts It’s My Park! Day, a citywide day of service in which volunteers are invited to complete specific improvement projects in their favorite parks. If you have a particular project in mind, you can even become a team leader and work with APF to plan and implement that project. Last year, over 3,000 Austinites volunteered to complete about 100 projects citywide. This year’s It’s My Park! Day is on Saturday, March 5th. Registration opens on February 9th!

kab1

  • Keep Austin Beautiful has endless opportunities to get involved. You can participate in a cleanup in your favorite park, your neighborhood, or even on Lady Bird Lake. KAB can also help plan a park cleanup for your organization (or just your friend group, because why not?)

 

If you’re itching to become an environmental activist…

bikeaustin1

  • If you constantly find yourself griping about Austin’s helter-skelter bike lanes, horrible traffic, or all of the above, consider getting involved with cycling advocacy org Bike Austin. With plenty of events, advocacy initiatives and volunteer opportunities, you can use your skills and interests to make biking in Austin easier, safer, more accessible and more fun.
  • The Sierra Club is one of the oldest environmental organizations around. But that doesn’t mean that these folks are behind the times- in fact, it’s the Club’s younger members who are some of the most active in Austin. ‘Young Sierrans’ in town meet up for regular happy hours, workshops, events and volunteer projects. Check out the Austin Sierra Club Outings Facebook page for opportunities!

 

If fresh food is your thing…

  • Grab a plot at Concho Community Garden. Semester dues are super affordable and plot owners are free to grow just about anything. Gardening at Concho is great for novices and experienced gardeners alike. Plus, plot owners and volunteers become part of a like-minded community that’s passionate about sustainable, local food.

microfarm1

  • If you aren’t down to commit to plot ownership just yet (or can totally see yourself WWOOF-ing in the future), the UT Microfarm is another fantastic resource for participating in sustainable, local agriculture. Check out one of their weekly work days, and if you’d like to get more involved, ask about one of their internships.
  • Volunteers are always welcome at Sustainable Food Center (they also have super cool internships!). You could work at a farmer’s market, help maintain a teaching garden, or even help with cooking demos. Or, if you’re just looking for a fun, one-off way to learn more about sustainable food, try one of the center’s cooking or gardening classes.

 

If you hate to waste…

compost pedallers MadeleineFroncek-24.jpg.838x0_q80

  • Sign up to have your scrapple collected by the Compost Pedallers. This friendly, super-local service picks up your household organic scraps by bike (!) and delivers them to local growing spaces, turning waste into resources and helping boost Austin’s agricultural production. The Pedallers offer student discounts and rewards, too!
  • If the Compost Pedallers aren’t in your neighborhood yet, consider collecting your scraps and biking them over to the nearest community garden once a week. As long as you keep your scrapple in an airtight container (or in the fridge!) you should be safe from weird smells and pests. Just make sure to talk to someone at the garden to be certain that you’re composting the right stuff in the right place– and then feel super great about yourself knowing that you’re keeping valuable resources right in your neighborhood!
  • Host a Green Event! Shameless self-promotion here, but if you’re a part of a student organization that’s hosting on-campus events this semester, consider working with our team to cut the waste and make your event as Earth-friendly as possible. We can offer composting and recycling services, help you choose products, food, and marketing strategies that are kind to the planet, and come up with customized solutions for any eco-problem- from recycling unusual items to creating custom educational materials! Email us at greenevents@utenvironment.org to get started.

There’s no time like the beginning of a new year to get involved (plus, with all this sunny weather there is absolutely zero reason to be indoors!). So get out there and change the world!

— Lauren, Green Events Coordinator

 

12 Reasons why I bike everywhere

12 Reasons why I bike everywhere:

  1. You look like a bad-ass. One rolled up cuff, a sweet helmet, some bike shorts, done deal.
  2. You burn calories, not fuel. On an average commute, most people will burn 360 calories.
  3. Burning more calories means you can eat more delicious food. So, treat yourself to some ice cream, or whatever makes your mouth water.
  4. Biking gives you quads of steel, and who doesn’t like quads of steel. If you really feel like feeling the burn, crank those gears up!
  5. Biking promotes a healthy lifestyle. Biking reduces heart attack, cancer, bad attitude, you name it!
  6. You get places faster than walking.
  7. And sometimes you get places faster than driving. Traffic sucks, so stay out of it!
  8. You get to feel the wind in your face, and a drop in your belly when you go fast enough. Just be careful of traffic and wear a helmet.
  9. Biking is pretty inexpensive, about 30 times less expensive than owning and maintaining a car. Bikes cost a fraction of the cost of gas, they don’t require fuel, and repairs are pretty cheap.
  10. It’s a great stress relief. Moderate exercise, like biking, releases natural endorphins that make you feel less stressed, more energized, and happier. Bike to school, I promise you will feel more motivated.
  11. You don’t ever have to worry about a parking spot. About 20 standard bikes can be parked in the space of one parking spot. Dang!
  12. Biking builds community. Biking with a friend is like a mini road trip!

 

So get on a bike and have an awesome time!

– Gabrielle Stedman

CEC Co-Director

Opt Out and Reconnect

ooo.jpgWith Black Friday behind us, along with all of the advertisements and anti-Black Friday social media posts, we may take a moment to consider our own consumption patterns. A question I try to always ask myself before making any purchase is, “Do I really need this, or do I just want it?” The answer can lead to various thoughts in my head. I can either convince myself I really need it, listing reasons why what I already have isn’t good enough, too old, or why I can’t make it myself (or don’t have time). This often ends with me regretting the purchase and reprimanding myself for buying things I don’t really need. If I decide I don’t need it, it’s usually because either I don’t have the money to buy it and I’m being realistic, I have the energy and motivation to find an alternative, or I am adhering to my belief that the less you own, the less that owns you. When I decide to opt-out of the consumerist patterns we are all so used it, I am driven to action to create what I need or want myself – using the resources and remedies the earth so readily provides.

Being part of Concho Community Garden has helped me connect more with what I put into my body – food. Not only I am more aware of the energy and resources that go into food production, but I also realize how much more we can do with plants we grow ourselves. A lot of herbs have healing properties for ailments we all suffer from. So taking a step further than just the food I eat, I try to be more connected with what I put on my body. Cosmetic or hygienic products can be full of chemicals we can’t recognize and are often harmful to our health if used habitually. By opting out of buying those products we not only stop supporting companies that are neither socially or environmentally conscious, but we also make use of natural resources and the beneficial properties they possess. Below are some recipes to make your own bath bag, eye gel, and tea – all things you might need in this stressful time of the semester! Opt out and reconnect!

ooooo.jpgWhen you just need a break from all the studying, give yourself some self-love. Let the water hug your body and let the herbs ease your worries. Wash the day’s stresses away!

Relaxing Bath Bag

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup (8g) dried chamomile

¼ cup (8g) dried lavender

¼ cup (8g) dried rose hips

1 tablespoon (8g) dried comfrey leaf

DIRECTIONS: Put all of the ingredients in a muslin bag (or a clean pillowcase, handkerchief, cheese cloth, etc.), shake it all up and tie it shut. Place the bag in the tub under warm running water. Relax and soak. The bag can stay in the tub until you get out.

ooooooo.jpg

If you are one of the many who compromise much needed sleep in order to study, surely you have experienced your fair share of baggy eyes and tired face the next day. Ditch the concealer and use this eye gel to rehydrate your eyes! The cucumber and aloe act like an instant drink of water for your eyes while soothing and calming the skin.

Cucumber Eye Gel

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon (14g) aloe vera gel

1 teaspoon fresh cucumber juice, strained (best if you juice it)

¼ teaspoon corn starch

1 tablespoon (15ml) witch hazel

DIRECTIONS: In a double boiler, combine all ingredients except the witch hazel and warm carefully – be careful not to overheat or bring to a boil. Remove and transfer to a bowl and mix in the witch hazel. Allow to cool completely. Transfer to a sterile container and store in the fridge for up to a week, this will also make it more refreshing and cool. To use, apply under the eye in an upward otting motion, being careful not to pull on the skin.

xbndc,bd.jpg

You are what you eat!….or what you drink too! Make this stress relieving tea to drink yourself out of anxiety. Be calm like chamomile and high spirited like lemon balm.

Stress Tea

INGREDIENTS:

1 liter of water

2 tbsp dried chamomile

1 tbsp dried rosehips

1 tsp dried lemon balm

1 tsp dried orange peel

1 tsp dried linden blossoms

1 tsp dried oat straw

*fresh ingredients can be used as well

DIRECTIONS:Place all ingredients in a cup/container and pour simmering (not boiling) water over them, letting them steep for 15-25 minutes. Cover while steeping to make sure you don’t lose any of the plants’ goodness through evaporation. Place a strainer over another cup and pour tea. Drink, relax, and enjoy!

*You can get all of the ingredients listed above at The Herb Bar on W. Mary St, some local grocery stores such as Wheatsville, The Natural Grocer, and Whole Foods, or grow and dry your own herbs!

(Recipes from “The Home Apothecary” by Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman)

-Mijal Grosman, Assistant Coordinator of Concho Community Garden

Home-Grown in the Big City

It is very easy to want to make the decision to grow some of your own food in your back yard garden,  but for apartment dwellers who lack a yard this task can seem impossible. Many people who live in the city express the desire to be closer to nature; what can make you more close than from growing life inside your own apartment?

The biggest issue with an apartment garden is deciding where to have it located. Popular areas such as on a fire escape or a patio offer an outside are perfect for growing some of your favorite seasonal vegetable. If these are not options don’t get discouraged. There are still options available for you, you may  just have to get a little bit creative. Hanging gardens are becoming very popular around the city, but landlords may have some issues with drilling into the building. If everything else fails you can always have a classic window box garden.

After deciding where your secret garden will be located, you need to decide on what you would like to grow. You should pick something that will be in season in your area. Aspects such as temperature, water, sunlight, and size are all aspects that need consideration when purchasing seeds.

With all things trial and error will eventually yield the best results. You may have to change locations or types of seeds as well as some other factors before you find something that you want to grow, have room to grow, and possess the right factors to grow it well. After you figure out the perfect formula all you need to do is give your garden some tender love and care and enjoy the miracle of growing your own food in the concrete jungle.

-Michael Mott

No need to fear, the Compost Pedallers are here?!

When most people think about ‘trash’ only tow things come to mind. Those are landfill and recycle. It’s said that if your trash was dumped in the ground and sorted, that at least 30% of it is compostable! That 30% less that would be sent to the landfill and 30% more that can be converted into what compost enthusiast call “Black Gold”.

compost handsPPT

East Side Compost Pedallers is a relatively new project that started within the Austin area whose main focus is to deliver household scraps to those willing to compost. Taking the extra step in making this project as green as possible, the don’t run their bussiness on fuel, but on FAT! That’s right! East Side Compost Pedallers run their compost routes on bikes! A pedaller himself said, “At the moment we’re limiting them to 25 hours a week, because this is very physically demanding work,” he said. “There’s no breaks in between, just a lot of carrying loads of up to 500 pounds each. You hit a brick wall eventually.” These compost Pedallers are not only helping a cause, but getting their cardio in at the same time!

compost pedallers MadeleineFroncek-24.jpg.838x0_q80

Currently they have 16 routes and with those routes have saved almost 500,000 pounds of waste from the landfills. For a small fee of $16 dollars you can have your compost taken up, but you would have to be on a waitlist because the demand is so high! Amazing! 46% of Austin’s stream of waste can be converted in to compost and with the “Little Compost Pedallers That Could” we could lower that number!

Interested in more?! Watch this video to see it in action! https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLstlUxYv3KHsc-IPfK2AEhevLHXm7msL4&v=tiKPFH4Qf1w

In biking, composting, and green waste we trust!

– Carlos J. Nino

 

All About Green Events

GELogoFinal1

As the Co-Coordinator of CEC’s Green Events program, my job can be a little tough to explain sometimes. I mean, yeah, I have a whole spiel I can give people…

Green Events is a student-run project of the Campus Environmental Center. We offer free consulting and assistance to student organizations hosting on-campus events in order to make these events as environmentally friendly as possible.

…but also, sometimes it’s just easier to say something like “I help with composting and recycling at events on campus.” Straightforward enough, right? Sure thing- but there’s more to the story.

There’s a major lifestyle shift happening at UT. You can see it in our dining halls, in the Union, at Concho Community Garden and the UT Microfarm, and even at major student org events like Hindu Students Association’s annual Holi celebration. Our university, which produces thousands of pounds of trash each day, is moving towards a zero-waste future.

“Impossible! Ridiculous! Total greenwashed lameness!”

Okay, so let’s backtrack a little and look at what zero-waste actually means. For better or worse, zero waste doesn’t actually mean that absolutely no waste is produced by a household, institution or city. Most of the time, zero-waste indicates that about 10% of a household, institution or city’s waste is trucked off to the landfill while the other 90% is diverted through recycling, composting, and of course, simply reducing the amount of resources thrown out in the first place. Zero-waste also indicates a new consciousness about the effects of mass consumption and throwaway culture, and what’s more, the tangible benefits of rethinking waste diversion.

Of course, the transition to zero-waste isn’t easy- especially on a campus that plays host to tens of thousands of people every single day. But various student and staff groups are taking the first steps. Zero-Waste Coordinator Jennifer Hobson is overseeing these efforts, coordinating different stakeholders and helping to create a roadmap to figure out exactly how UT Austin will become a zero-waste campus by 2020. CEC’s very own zero-waste team is hard at work researching how we can make recycling and composting as easy for students as possible, while also reducing contamination. The University Unions, as well as members of student government, are pressuring on-campus food vendors to ensure that all of their packaging is either compostable or recyclable. And the Division of Housing and Food Services has created a robust composting system in all of its dining halls, giving students an easy way to keep their scraps out of the landfill and turn them into valuable fertilizer instead.

compost ut

So what does Green Events have to do with our university’s zero-waste future? First, think about just how much stuff can get tossed in the trash at the student-organized events happening every day on our very active campus. For years our fundraisers and cultural celebrations have been stocking local landfills with free t-shirts, Solo cups, forgotten fliers, and most of all, heaps upon heaps of methane-releasing food scraps. The Green Events team aims to mitigate these wasteful, environmentally damaging consequences of the events that make our campus such a vibrant place to be. In my first semester on the Green Events team we kept over 400 pounds of waste out of the landfill. Furthermore, we can provide other sustainability solutions- from helping orgs choose locally-sourced food to minimizing paper used for advertising to loaning events a big ol’ water cooler, thereby eliminating the need for plastic bottles. And perhaps most importantly, Green Events can help educate students who may not normally be interested in environmental issues about the importance of waste diversion- and how easy it can be, too.

00df01_7519b6c7f76140599b15f02d1df733af

If you’re a part of a student organization that hosts on-campus events, consider making your next shindig a Green Event. We work with all student orgs and all types of events- although we do prioritize those that produce large amounts of waste- and can offer customized solutions for making your event as environmentally friendly as possible. Visit our website or Facebook page or shoot us an email at greenevents@utenvironment.org to get started.

— Lauren Hodges

UT Austin Sustainability Master Plan

As environmentalism, sustainability, and the effects of climate change become increasingly relevant around the globe, public institutions have begun to take responsibility for their environmental footprints. Our own institution, the University of Texas at Austin, has begun developing a Sustainability Master Plan, which is a Phase II component of the Campus Master Plan. This is huge! Throughout the course of the 2015-2016 academic year, members of the Office of Sustainability, as well as various staff members, faculty, and students will contribute to the creation of a comprehensive set of guidelines to push UT Austin in a more sustainable direction. As UT increasingly relies on revenue from oil and natural gas through hydraulic fracking and boasts one of the nation’s largest endowments, the student body must voice its concern over the environmental implications of these investments and generally call into question the sustainability of the campus as a whole. We must critically examine the sustainability of our water and energy use, food production and consumption, transportation infrastructure, and many other aspects of campus.

More details about the plan are available here: Sustainability Master Plan

The Working Group for the Sustainability Master Plan has worked diligently to ensure that all stakeholders have a sufficient opportunity to give input, so they have hosted multiple input sessions to field student, staff, and faculty sentiments regarding sustainability on campus.

What does “sustainability” actually mean? How can we implement sustainability on campus? What are our priorities? Should we focus on divestment from fossil fuels or expanding food production on campus or something completely different? What values and ethics should guide this new master plan? There are a million questions that need to be answered, and YOU should weigh in and let us know how you feel! The final public input session on values, goals, and priorities is this week! Details below.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 —  12:30 – 1:30 PM in RLM 7.124 AND 5:00 – 6:00 PM in JES A207A

If you’re unable to attend this session but want to stay connected, please sign up for the mailing list to receive updates about any future public eventsEmail List Sign-Up

We cannot underestimate the importance of the development of a Sustainability Master Plan. “What starts here changes the world” – right? We should not compromise our values or present a mediocre, politically neutral plan of action. Universities should foster critical, revolutionary thought and challenge us to move beyond the status quo. This plan will shape the campus culture and environmental policies for years to come, so we must come together, voice our opinions, and show that we care about future generations. If a massive public entity such as the University of Texas can reflect upon its own environmental impact, maybe we can encourage other large institutions to take notice and follow suit. Indeed, while individual actions to promote sustainability matter tremendously, we need rapid, monumental change at the institutional and governmental level in order to combat the rapidly approaching effects of climate change and environmental destruction.

Please join us in fostering a campus transformation! Attend the input session this week, and bring as many friends as you can! Join the email list, and vocalize your grievances, thoughts, criticisms, opinions, and frustrations! Don’t hold back or stand by as an onlooker. Be apart of this wonderful movement toward significant, meaningful change!

  • Stephanie Hamborsky, Co-Director, UT Microfarm

Home-brew Kombucha

Kombucha: this crazy drink that comes in a glass bottle, and is really expensive. Right? Not really. I know a lot of people at UT and in the Austin area drink Kombucha, which is awesome. We have local brewing companies and even kombucha on campus now! The downfall, though, is that buying kombucha is really expensive. At $3.00 + a bottle, it is hardly reasonable.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite sustainable practices, mainly because it is so simple, cheap, sustainable, and mainly delicious! I have been brewing my own Kombucha for about a year now. The whole process has been an enriching experience. It is creative, hands on, and rewarding! As a little preface, let’s discuss what kombucha is, and why it is so good for you.

What is Kombucha? 

Kombucha is a living health drink created from caffeinated tea, and kombucha cultures/scoby. It is lightly bubbly, sometimes flavored, and can taste, to some, like cider, or even champagne.

What is SCOBY? 

Scoby is technically an acronym that stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts”. A.K.A “the mother” because of its ability to produce. Sounds pretty gnarly, I know. But the thing is incredible! It is a group of living organisms! The texture is a bit weird. It looks like a pancake, and feels like one of those dots you sat on in gym class in the 3rd grade.

What are the benefits?

  1. Detoxification – One of kombucha’s greatest health benefits is its ability to detox! It is filled with enzymes and bacterial acids that your body produces and/or uses to detox your system. This reduces your pancreatic load and eases the burden on your liver
  2. Joint care – Kombucha contains glucosamines, which is a powerful preventive and treatment for arthritis
  3. Digestion – Because it’s naturally fermented, Kombucha is a probiotic product, like yogurt or kefir
  4. Immune boost: Kombucha is extraordinarily anti-oxidant rich. Anti-oxidants boost your immune system and energy levels. I like to drink a bottle of kombucha every day in the morning to jump start my morning. Goodbye coffee, hello kombucha!

Let this be your Guide to Homebrewing

url.png

Home-brew is really simple! If home-brew is something you are interested in trying, start collecting these items:

  1. 6+ 16oz glass bottles (I suggest buying 6+ bottles of kombucha from the store and saving the bottles)
  2. 1 gallon glass jar with a wide, open rim (Wal-mart/Target sells them pretty cheaply)
  3. A medium-sized funnel. Bottling can get pretty messy without it!
  4. Lots of black tea (you can start experimenting with other teas down the road, but they must have caffeine. It feeds the scoby!
  5. Scoby! – You can buy kits online for Kombucha starters, but scoby isn’t hard to find. Anyone that brews home-brew produces a new scoby with every batch, which means a whole bunch of scoby. I would suggest getting scoby from a brewer on Craigslist, or from a friend.

Once you have these items, you are ready to get brewing. Here’s what to do:

  1. Brew 14 cups of tea in glass gallon jar (8 tea bags is a pretty good number). Let this brew/sit until room temperature.
  2. Remove tea bags, and add 1 cup of sugar to tea
  3. Add scoby and 1 cup of kombucha reserved from last brew. SIDE NOTE: don’t let you scoby touch anything metal! Metals have been known to kill scoby. Only use glass and plastics when dealing with your scoby!
  4. Cover with rag/towel. Make sure your jar opening is completely covered! You don’t want anything but air and maybe water vapor to enter/exit the jar. I suggest using string/rubber band to hold the rag over the lip of the jar.
  5. Let sit for 7-10 days

At this point, you have made kombucha! Look at you, you successful home-brewer!

From here you have two options:

Option 1: Bottle and drink – taste your brew, if you like it, bottle it and enjoy! Make sure you save your scoby and 1-2 cups of kombucha for the next brew.

Option 2: Second Fermentation – Kombucha that you are used to getting from the store almost always has a second fermentation. This is what makes it flavored and bubbly. To achieve this follow along:

  1. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle
  2. Add flavorings – this is where you get to be creative! Some of my go-to’s are lemon and ginger, strawberry basil, and tart cherry. For lemon and ginger, I like to squeeze 1-2 lemons into each bottle, and i cut up several medium cubes of ginger. There is no right/wrong measurement, play around with it! For tart cherry, I like to buy tart cherry juice with little sugar. I add about 10% juice into each bottle (about 1/3 cup). For strawberry basil, get your hands on some fresh strawberries and basil. Rinse and cup. Make them into small enough pieces to fit in/out of the bottles. I would say a good measurement is 2-3 strawberries, and about 2-3 basil leaves. Again, play around, see what you like!
  3. Add kombucha – funnel in about 2+ cups of kombucha. Right to the neck of the bottle. Again, make sure you save about 1-2 cups of this brew to use for the next brew
  4. Cap and let sit for 3-4 days. Make sure you screw the cap on super tightly! Trapping the air in the bottle for the second fermentation is what makes the kombucha effervescent.
  5. Refrigerate and enjoy. Refrigerating slows down the fermentation process, and makes it more refreshing!
  6. Rinse and repeat!

So, what do you do with all that Scoby?

As you will find out, every brew of kombucha produces another layer of scoby. There are some options for dealing with this quantity of scoby.

Option 1: Make a scoby hotel! Scoby is a living thing. It is always good to have an extra scoby on hand in case your scoby gets moldy, or whatever. In order to make a scoby hotel, get your hands on another smedium-sized jar. This time, get one that is airtight! Place your scoby, and a bit of brew in the jar. Seal, and let sit. This keeps the scoby in an inactive phase. It can be activated at any point with caffeine and sugar. Check on your scoby hotel every once in a while. It may need some more brew/sugar to keep it happy!

SIDE NOTE: don’t let you scoby touch anything metal! Metals have been known to kill scoby. Only use glass and plastics when dealing with your scoby!

Option 2: Do something with your scoby. Scoby is a nutrient rich collection of organisms. I like to give my scoby away to prospective home brewers to keep the magic of kombucha going. If you get too much scoby, you can also dry them out, and put them in your garden. Your plants will go nuts. Additionally, (I haven’t tried this), but I have read about making Scoby Jerky out of dried scoby…. Did someone say Vegan Beef Jerky? I am still looking to try this!

Kombucha is wonderful and so easy to make. Start your own home-brew and enjoy the process! You may get strangely attached to your scoby!

Happy Brewing!

Gabrielle Stedman

Campus Environmental Center Co-Director

Grow your own herbs!

Since prehistoric times, herbs have used for medicine, food, flavoring, and perfumes. Depictions of herbs, dating back to between 13,000 and 25,000 B.C, have been found detailed in cave paintings in France. Hippocrates, the Greek healer and physician often referred to as “the Father of Medicine,” advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs to help the body’s “life force” eliminate whatever ailment might be plaguing it. In the Middle Ages, herbs were used to preserve meat and mask foul tastes (e.g. rotting meat, a frequent problem due to a lack of refrigeration) and unpleasant smells (think scarcity of water and indoor plumbing → lots of smelly folk). Today, herbs are still used in the diverse array of manners detailed above.

Entrance of Lascaux Cave, located in France. This cave contains paintings which depict herbs. These paintings have been carbon-dated back to 13,000 and 25,000 B.C.

Herbs are relatively easy to grow, and serve as a great introduction to gardening! If you live in a small, or shady place have no fear.  You can grow herbs indoors and outdoors, and in full sun or shady conditions! Additionally, growing herbs come with a heap of benefits:

  • It is easy to grow your herbs (organically!), which can save you $$$
  • You’re eating hyperlocal, so you can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint
  • You can live with a deeper sense of appreciation by realizing what goes into cultivating food, and moving it from “farm to fork”
  • There is something deeply gratifying and humbling about eating food that you have grown with your own hands

Tip from Apartment Therapy: you can make your own planters from old tea tins! See more here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/inspiration-windowsill-garden-86174

The steps detailed below can help you get started.

(1) Assess your sunlight situation:

  • Identify possible places to grow your herbs; consider windowsills, balconies, and porches
  • Determine which direction your window/space faces– if you’re a student at UT Austin, campus is north of downtown, West Campus is, obviously, west of campus. If you’re still confused about which way your space faces, whip out your phone and check the compass or get on google earth
  • South-facing windows are best! They get the most sun and warmth. West-facing windows are second-best.

(2) Materials you will need:

  • Containers with drainage holes
    • if growing indoors, you will need waterproof saucers
    • it’s best to use individual pots for each herb so you can tend to each plant’s specific needs
  • Seeds or starts/transplants
    • annual* herbs are very easy to start from seed
      • sow seeds according to the directions on the seed packet
      • soak seeds in water for a couple hours before planting to encourage germination
    • perennial** herbs take longer to germinate; it’s easier to start with transplants
  • Potting soil
    • avoid using garden soil! Potting soil contains perlite, which encourages aeration and drainage– a necessary for growing in containers
  • Fertilizer

* annuals grow for one season only
** perennials grow for multiple seasons

(3) Determine the light availability of your space when selecting your herbs

  • For shady spaces:
    • Mint— best grown in pots since this herb often runs amok and can spread rapidly. It’s hardy; once it is established, you never have to plant it again. Loves water. Bugs generally hate mint, so placing it at your door or on windowsills can potentially help with pest problems.
  • For sunny spaces:
    • Rosemary— easy to grow, though it grows slowly. Hardy, minimal water needs. Thrives year round. Mature plants like full sun* and well-drained soil. Rosemary likes cooler temperatures.
    • Sage— can be planted at any time of the year in warm zones. Needs full sunlight* and good drainage. Tolerates dry, indoor air. Sage likes cooler temps. If you can, take a tip cutting from an outdoor plant and use it as your start.
    • Thyme— hard to kill, grows like a weed. Minimal water needs, likes full sun*.
    • Basil— hot-weather plant. Great for beginners; germinates reliably and grows fast. Will look wilted and sad when it is water deprived, but perks back up after a good watering. Trim basil from the top (harvest top of basil plant instead of taking leaves from the bottom or side of the main stem.) Trim before flowers bloom, i.e. don’t let your plants go to seed.
    • Parsley— grows best in 60-65 degree weather. In the spring, plant it in well-drained soil and full sun*. When it gets hotter, move it insite and keep the pot next to a sunny window.

* full-sun means 6+ hours of sunlight

 

Tips

  • You can save money by making your own containers out of old tea/coffee tins. Poke holes in the bottom for drainage and use the lids as waterproof saucers to catch draining water
  • You can use florescent lights to supplement a lack of natural sunlight in the winter
  • Avoid allowing leaves to touch cold windows to prevent foliar injury
  • Keep the soil moist but not soggy; drain saucers after watering
  • Thin/trim branching plants (like basil) to keep them more like shrubs
  • Don’t throw away plants that look sad or have started to yellow! Often, a quick google search will serve up a remedy in no time at all

Come learn more and get your hands dirty at the UT MicrofarmWe have work days every Wednesday from 5-7:30pm and every Sunday from 9am-noon. Please check our Facebook for scheduling updates during questionable weather.

Happy gardening!
– Audrey Nguyen, Co-Director, UT Microfarm