Updated: Apr 24
I am so pleased to introduce our latest newsletter, which has the theme Climate Communities. There is a lot happening in our world, and it can feel overwhelming sometimes. One of my graduate students attended a mentoring workshop recently and she was moved by the session leader’s opening remarks, which was an acknowledgement that these are not normal times, and we are all experiencing some kind of hardship. Essentially, the message from this leader was, it’s okay to not feel okay. So, I am sharing that it’s been a tough road, and sometimes I worry about things that are largely out of my control. Mindful meditation has been a lifesaver for me–there are a few resources that have been particularly helpful: the Insight Meditation channel on YouTube, 10% Happier, and Headspace, which can be found on YouTube and Netflix. I bet that many of you have also found helpful resources. I’m sharing this all because I want to normalize the act of sharing how we feel in the moment, particularly when we are struggling. Such acknowledgement draws us closer to one another, creating a space for being where we are and how we feel in the moment. Such a space allows us to see our worries in a different way, which is why mindful meditation has been so helpful for me.
This is how we sustain ourselves. In this special issue, you will read about the overwhelming information about our climate and how it’s changing. We have a spotlight interview with an environmental educator and PhD candidate Estefanía Pihen Gonzalez. There are also resources about what we can do to reduce our contributions to our landfill and ways to mitigate (reduce) food insecurity.
I want to thank our Chief Editor and CBL Writing Director, Sarah Hirsh for her leadership on this effort. I wish you all the best this spring!
Sustainable Fashion for College Students
By Isabella Granda
Fashion is a form of self-expression that is unique to each individual. People define fashion in many ways, but most agree that it has to do with clothing. With fast fashion so prevalent in everyday life, it only makes sense that the consequences would catch up. The repercussions of constantly buying new clothing have caused harm to the environment. Society has created a high demand for fast and cheap fashion. The increase in demand has increased production, which means more pollution and waste. It also means that more resources like water and oil must double to keep up. Fast fashion only encourages people’s negative habits and continues to have an effect on the environment. But there is a solution! Sustainable fashion “uses textiles that are manufactured, constructed, and marketed responsibly and consciously that acknowledges and accounts for their environmental and socioeconomic impacts” (RedDress). This is a way that creates quality clothing cleanly and ethically. It involves companies that use eco-friendly materials and fair and ethical labor practices for humans and animals. Some of these companies include Patagonia, Levi’s, Adidas, and many more that can be found online. But locally and much closer to home, the UCSB Fashion Club is a resource for students interested in fashion and wanting to be more sustainable about it. The Club started during the pandemic in 2020 and has blossomed into a community over the last three years. “Our goal is to create a space at UCSB committed to celebrating explorative fashion and creating firsthand opportunities for our members,” the Club president said. When asked about sustainable fashion, the club stresses it is about purchasing pieces mindfully. Consider where your clothes are sourced from, how they were made, and what they are made from.
An interesting point mentioned was focusing on the price point versus production cost. This is a way to ensure quality, sustainable materials. Currently, the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters and contributors to global warming. According to the Club, “Shopping sustainably, supporting slow fashion, encourages the use of ethically sourced resources and labor.” The president gave some tips on how students can participate in sustainable fashion. Some options are repurposing old clothes, switching out clothes we no longer wear with a friend or selling/donating them to a local thrift store. Shopping secondhand was mentioned numerous times as a way to shop sustainably. This prevents clothes from going to landfills and is more affordable, especially for college students. As for the president themself, they refuse to throw something out unless it is absolutely useless. By repurposing old jewelry, shirts, and jackets, they find creative ways to use old items. It is a fun way for old clothes “that are no longer a vibe or are boring, to revamp them and give them a new life,” they said. Sustainable fashion is still fashion and a form of self-expression. “Honing in your style allows you to be more sustainable as you are able to buy more pieces you know you will like in the long term,” the president said. Fashion can be anything–everything with the right mindset–and finding clothing from sustainable companies or secondhand is the best way to do it.
A Conversation with Estefanía Pihen Gonzalez: Sustainability Education Specialist
By Ziyi Zheng
I had the pleasure of speaking with Estefania Piehen, Ph.D. third year. student at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and founder of the Nature Near You program. During the pandemic, when Estefanía realized that many students were restricted to natural communal spaces, sharing crowded spaces with their families. She understood her privilege of owning a home that comes with a private outdoor area. She therefore felt the need to provide these students with an outdoor space where they could connect with nature. She took the students to these outdoor spaces where the students began to explore and question their surroundings.
In these lessons that she had with the children, she made them the leaders of the conversation and continued to stimulate their curiosity to discover new knowledge. Many of these lessons were not planned, and that is the beauty of the program. “I never really had anything planned. I just went to that, that was very beautiful,” she explained. “I had prior knowledge of these places in terms of terminology and anything else related to sustainability and then I let them talk.” By allowing students to lead the conversation, they are actively learning new knowledge as they are constantly curious about their surroundings. She was inspired and incorporated the concept of a virtual explorer. She wanted students to see places beyond the lens of their immediate coastal community and have opportunities to see nature in different countries and settings.
By creating this program, she is addressing and fighting a larger ongoing issue, which is the nature access gap in underserved communities. By introducing the concept of virtual explorers, Estefanía is able to help the children of these communities to see the nature in which they live and beyond, thus contributing to reduce the gap between the community and the natural environment.
Additionally, during times when her show was in session, she provided empowerment for girls who were inspired by her virtual scouting trips. For example, she took underwater images of the ocean and presented them to the youth in her classroom. The girls were shocked because society often portrays these activities as male-dominated. Estefanía said that she was inspired by being able to show her students that women have the ability to do whatever they put their heart into. Although the program is not currently in session, she believes it is a great opportunity for students to explore and broaden their understanding of the world.
Recycling for College Students
Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. I am sure we have all heard of recycling either through school or at home, but as a college student, it can look different. Living in a new place with new responsibilities comes with a new understanding of properly disposing of waste.
Many students believe that it is okay to ignore their environmental impact because they are in college, but that is not true. If anything, college is a time to develop those skills and create long-term habits. If you can do them in a time where it is not ideal, then when living in your own home, it will be a lot easier. Plus, there are many benefits of recycling. To start, reducing the amount of waste created helps keep UCSB clean. Recycling on a regular basis helps improve the effectiveness of UCSB’s environmental programs, and by incorporating the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) you minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators. Especially with a school near the beach, it is important to be aware of the waste you create because if not, it could end up in the ocean. Many people shy away from recycling because of the overwhelming amount of information about it, but some basic items are commonly recycled. These include glass bottles, aluminum cans, paper, clean cardboard, and organic materials.
On the other hand, there are some misconceptions that come with recycling. For one, pizza boxes cannot be recycled if they are soiled in grease. Many take-out bins that seem recyclable are not because of the leftover food in them, but this can be solved by simply rinsing the recyclable take-out containers before putting them in the bins. You should also rinse bottles and cans before recycling them to remove any remnants of food items. This ensures that they can be recycled and not tossed in the trash. Make sure to check the items you buy because they will have instructions on how to recycle them properly, and if they do not, then it is safe to assume they are not recyclable. Recycling is not the only thing that students can do. In general, they can reduce their waste; recycling is a lot easier when there is not a lot to throw away.
College is already a hard adjustment to a new lifestyle, there are so many changes that thinking about waste reduction seems unnecessary, but it is for the environment that we all enjoy. Here are some tips, especially made for college students, on how to reduce waste:
When moving in and out, rather than buying new cardboard boxes, check local grocery stores or warehouses for old boxes that can be reused. Consider using paper tape rather than plastic; if you have fragile items rather than bubble wrap, use pillows or sheets.
Buy secondhand when it comes to decorating or wanting a new style. College, for most, is only four to five years, so there is no point in investing in expensive new items when you can thrift for vintage ones.
Consider a minimalist dorm style. It makes it easier to move out and can be calming when in high-stress situations.
Use natural materials, rather than plastic bins or boxes; try wood or metal.
Make recycling work for you. Set up a section where you can recycle materials rather than constantly going to the bins; it can be as simple as a cardboard box to put recyclables in.
Buy reusable utensils and plates. Paper plates might be easier, but long term, they are more expensive and wasteful.
If you can, buy your favorite snacks and food in bulk. Rather than buying individually packaged items, try finding a bulk version to save time, money, and the environment.
Buy a reusable water bottle. There are a lot of refill stations on campus, and again it saves money and reduces waste.
For more information, you can visit the AS Recycling website, which has more information about recycling on campus and its goal of zero waste.
Cliff Erosion in Isla Vista
By Ziyi Zheng
Decades ago in Isla Vista, there was a bike path along the coastline behind the houses of Del Playa. Del Playa, currently the last street of Isla Vista, is known to house hundreds of UCSB and SBCC students. However, in recent years, cliff erosion along Del Playa has raised concerns for residents in Isla Vista as well as those who reside on the ocean side of the street. Cliff erosion is the process by which sea level rises, and as more water comes into contact with the land along the coastline, the cliffs that line it begin to wear, break off, and deteriorate (US Climate Resilience Kit). Moreover, recent weather changes that led to sea level rise combined with heavy rain have accelerated the process of cliff erosion. Back in 2017, there were several terraces in the houses along Del Playa that collapsed along the coastline. Many residents along Del Playa were asked to evacuate their houses for their safety. Proven in recent accidents, the effects of cliff erosion has already made a huge impact on residents of Isla Vista, particularly those who reside on the ocean side of Del Playa. Moreover, there have been numerous accidents and deaths along Del Playa due to cliff erosion. These incidents brought on by Isla Vista cliff erosion date all the way back to 2009 and earlier (Santa Barbara Independent) and continue to happen, as some students have been injured and others have tragically fallen off the reduced bluffs on Del Playa (Santa Barbara Independent).
Tara Robinson, who is currently conducting research on cliff erosion at UCSB, provided an extensive insight into the analysis of cliff erosion, but also expressed her concern for the safety of residents in Isla Vista. She points out that many Isla Vista students are not actively thinking about cliff erosion and the potential danger they are in. The nature of cliff erosion, she explains, does not follow a clear pattern. Therefore, residents of Del Playa are always living on the edge, literally, when it comes to their safety. In Tara’s opinion, no housing on Del Playa is considered completely safe. Currently, The Isla Vista Bluff policy requires the removal of unsafe structures from the edge of the cliff on Del Playa, protecting the residents and properties from danger. However, Tara explains that this solution is reactive rather than proactive. The county does not have any enforcement in place currently to regulate cliff erosion and protect the safety of Isla Vista residents. Due to this lack of oversight, UCSB students and other DP residents should be encouraged to not overcrowd their balconies, decks, and patios, and become aware of the safety precautions as well as the danger of living on Del Playa.
Yet, these concerns might be growing among the student community. Upon interviewing many students in Isla Vista, they commonly expressed their concerns about living and partying on Del Playa. One commented that they were extremely afraid to see people put their lives at risk as students climbed along the cliffline due to the influence of drugs and alcohol. Another 3rd year student, who currently resides on the properties that experienced terrace collapse on Del Playa, stated, “Our background collapsed back in 2017 and I was scared when we had the big storms at the beginning of the quarter.” The impact of cliff erosion has been especially evident in recent years. “We got a warning from our landlord to stay away from the railing during that time,” he said. Another common concern raised by all students is the risk of partying with a large group on the balcony and patios along the cliffline. One student expressed, “Yeah, normally I am not too concerned about partying on Del Playa, but when there is a large crowd of people, I get worried about the impact it has on the land combined with the effects of cliff erosion.” Another student commented, “Yeah I think it's dangerous, but I think many people get too drunk to think about that.”
This raises an important issue about residing in Isla Vista and particularly Del Playa: unaware students, irresponsible landlords and no formal policy enforced to combat cliff erosion. All issues combined lead to a dangerous pathway down the line for residents in Isla Vista. Students need to become aware of their circumstance, and there needs to be an increase in available housing for students as well as formal policy in place to protect the safety of Isla Vista residents.
“Climate Infowhelm”: Interdisciplinary Humanities Center Event
By Sarah Hirsch
While our community experiences the uncertainty and brunt of climate change events, from fires, to floods, debris flows and atmospheric rivers, what to do to mitigate these extremes can be daunting. In November, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) at UCSB sponsored a talk by Heather Houser, the Mody C.
Boatright Regents Professor in
American and English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. As noted in the IHC informational flier: “Climate infowhelm is the experience of feeling
overwhelmed by too much information about the
environmental crisis. Heather Houser will discuss how
infowhelm feels, sounds, and looks in various media
and how contemporary art manages environmental knowledge and provides new ways of understanding environmental change.” Dr. Houser focused on how the arts and humanities figure as a different way to navigate and think through information overload. The aspects of climate change, beyond the immediacy of feeling it (as we are currently and frequently experiencing it across the globe) include: data, uncertain and evolving situations, contestations of power, and the overall stakes are being taken up by literary and visual culture. In her work, Dr. Houser questions, what happens to information, especially environmental information, when it enters art? She notes that information is currently the new material for art, as the art form and mediation is crucial to knowledge production and the processing of environmental values. The humanities, Dr. Houser argues, becomes the mediator of our environmental understandings. She states that art challenges systems of knowledge by taking scientific information and mingles it with embodiment, emotion, uncertainty, self-reflection, and speculation. What the arts and humanities do is contextualize, and in that sense make the information more manageable. Dr. Houser explains that this contextualization of the climate crisis helps us process information about it as the art or literary production provides a space for reflection on our environmental feelings. As she states, the “categories of the exceptional and the everyday are blurring.”
Dr. Houser is the author of Eco Sickness In Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect (2014), and Infowhelm: Environmental Art and Literature in an Age of Data (2020).
Addressing Food Insecurity
By Ziyi Zheng
A prevalent issue that is not addressed as much as it should be is food insecurities and students who have a difficult time accessing food. At UCSB, there are many food resources that students are able to access that often go unnoticed. Below are a few resources that students can access to help them overcome the challenge of food insecurity:
Associated Student Food Bank
Location: UCSB University Center (UCEN)
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10AM-6PM
About: The AS Food Bank is a student run organization at UCSB that provides different resources to students in the goal of helping them alleviate food insecurity. AS Food Bank provides services such as helping students with CalFresh applications, which enables students to receive money for groceries every month. They also provide resources to programs such as Kosher & Halal, where they offer UCSB low income students with a weekly bag of groceries, as well as the Vending Machine Program, where students can receive food and personal care items distributed from a vending machine. Lastly, AS Food Bank focuses on helping students on creating sustainable ways to alleviate their hunger by hosting events such as food, nutrition and basic skills workshops, where students learn how to budget, plan and understand the nutrition they receive from foods. Moreover, the seed bank allows students to begin their own garden at home by providing resources such as pots, seeds and soil.
Location: Health and Wellness Center in the Student Resource Building (SRB)
Hours: varies depending on the date events are hosted
Link to apply: https://ucsb.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7V6TsVhogC9Cku2
About: UCSB Cooks is a multi-week series hosted by the Health and Wellness center to help students discover and learn to cook new recipes. The goal for UCSB Cooks is to help students alleviate hunger by learning to cook healthy and balanced dishes with pantry stables students have easy access to. Moreover, throughout these lessons, students are able to learn the nutrients that come with each food item.
Link to apply: https://www.getcalfresh.org/?source=cdss
About: CalFresh (also known as SNAP or EBT) is a federally funded food nutrition assistance program where students are able to receive up to $281 dollars for groceries. Students can use the money from CalFresh in any participating grocery store and farmers market. Students can also use the AS Food Bank with assistance in filling out the application.
Miramar Food Pantry
Location: Sierra Madre Villages behind the administrative office that allows students to receive food to address food insecurity. Students must fill out a Self-Declaration of Income for each academic year in order to be qualified.
About: A food pantry available to UCSB graduate and undergraduate students.
Financial Crisis Response Team
About: The financial crisis response team at UCSB assists students who are facing financial crisis or in urgent need of money. Students who are facing food insecurity due to their financial situation can reach out to the Financial Crisis Response team regarding their situation. An advisor from the team will reach back in around 1-2 days. Moreover, the Financial Crisis Response team offers various loans to students to help them overcome their financial difficulties. This service is open to all students (graduate or undergraduate students), undocumented students, international students, and more.
Food Nutrition and Basic Skills Program
Location: Health and Wellness Center in the Student Resource Building (SRB)
About: The Food, Nutrition and Basic Skills Program provides students with the skills they need to become food secure. Students learn about skills that allow students to understand food nutrition and skills they need to face food insecurity.
By Sarah Hirsch
Though it is officially spring, winter isn’t quite done as another storm and more rain is heading our way. This issue, Climate Communities, was meant to alleviate some of the anxieties and uncertainties we feel. It takes on some pretty weighty issues. But it is also meant to inform and to create a connection between our communities as we all deal with these uncertain times. It was also designed to inspire, to show what is important to our communities and what we can do to mitigate some of these struggles. This edition highlights problems and solutions, and issues we still need to take on. But my hope is that as the spring settles in we will see more of the sun, and we will be able to be outdoors and enjoy the beautiful environment that surrounds us. The emphasis of this issue, Climate Communities, is community. Thank you to our esteemed colleague Estefania Pihen Gonzalez for giving us her time and expertise. As always this newsletter and its content was designed and created by our undergraduate students who did stellar reporting and research for their articles. They brought their ideas and enthusiasm to every part of this process. This newsletter is a testament to their creativity, imagination, dedication, and hope.