This Plastic Free July, we challenge you to help us work towards a healthier world through “Reduce. Reuse. Rehydrate.”
Reduce your contribution to the growing plastic pollution issue by choosing to use less plastic. Ways to do this include buying in bulk at grocery stores or choosing products packaged in cardboard or glass instead of plastic.
Reuse products when you can. Our lives already include common reusable products like forks, knives, spoons and dishware. What about expanding that usefulness to include reusable snack bags instead of plastic bags?
Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, “How did I get here?” That was the exact question I asked myself the first morning I began my career at BSTI. Up until that point, I had spent the last four years at West Chester University (WCU) studying geology and having the time of my life doing it. Although even at a young age all roads pointed towards a career in geology, it wasn’t as obvious as it is now looking back.
West Chester, Freshman Year
First semester of my freshmen year, I had every intention of declaring Physics as my major with a minor in astronomy. I spent all my free time in the physics student lounge and doing astronomy research with one of the physics/astronomy professors. My year was spent taking apart computers and rebuilding them into a computer network used to conduct early investigations of the HR 8799 system. It was also during my first year at WCU that I was asked to be a college mentor and teacher for the Women in Aerospace and Technology Program (WATP) through the American Helicopter Museum; sponsored through Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (at the time).
Discovering a Love for Geology
My second year at WCU I was nominated to be the Vice President of the Astronomy Club and run Star Parties out on the Quad. It was also the year I took an Introduction to Geology course and my whole plan of being a Physicist was turned upside down. From the very first day in the Introduction to Geology course, I knew I wanted to be a Geologist. I immediately met with the Geology department chair and switched my major. As soon as I was able, I began lining my Spring semester with Field Geology, Minerology, Geomorphology and every other geology related course being offered. My weekends quickly became filled with class field trips and teaching for WATP.
By my junior year at WCU, I was still the Vice President of the Astronomy Club, teaching for WATP and joined Sigma Gamma Epsilon (SGE); the national honor society for the earth sciences. I began assisting multiple professors within the Geology department with their research projects and started researching environmental geology company internships. I took the required geology courses as well as extra math and chemistry courses to fill my love for the sciences. I reached out to my contacts at Boeing, which I made through WATP, and completed a day of shadowing at their Ridley Park location. I was able to walk through and see the assembly of a V-22 Ospray and sit in on multiple conference calls with different project managers. By far the highlight of my junior year.
During my senior year I started sending my resume around to local environmental companies. I had multiple interviews, but no luck. I continued my courses at WCU, teaching at WATP and staying active with field trips and research days in the field with my professors. I was asked to give a speech during the annual Boeing gala event at the Springfield Country Club regarding WATP and why it is so important to engage young woman to go into the math and science fields.
Jumping into the “Real” Working World
By the end of my first semester of my senior year, I began bugging the geology department’s hydrogeologist for any information on companies who were hiring. I was persistent the entire first semester and would visit him during office hours to work on my resume. At the end of my geology seminar course, I was handed a business card: “Tripp Fischer, Hydrogeologist, Brownfield Science & Technology, Inc.,” and told to email him my resume since BSTI was looking to hire an entry-level geologist. I emailed Tripp my resume, had a phone conversation about my courses at WCU and was asked to meet for a lunch interview. Long story short, I was offered an internship for my senior year spring semester.
Along with a full course load, teaching at WATP, participating in SGE and performing research with professors, I started working for BSTI one day a week. During that time, I performed system checks (SVE/AS), sampled groundwater, analyzed analytical data, began GIS mapping and helped write groundwater quarterly reports. By graduation in May 2013, I was offered a full-time position at BSTI. Along with my full-time position at BSTI, I am a corporate mentor for WATP, do public outreach as much as possible, am a part of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals (New Jersey and Greater Philadelphia Area) and began volunteering for the Challenger Learning Center.
How Did I Get Here?
To answer my question “how did I get here,” I got to where I am now because of my love for the sciences, hard work and people who believed in my abilities to be a geologist.
It’s hot out. Really hot. And it’s getting hotter with July just around the corner. As a fair-skinned and freckled person, I know some of the major dangers of this hot weather. My daily checklist looks something like this:
Glamorous, yet practical summer hat
Now I know not everyone gets the pleasure of wondering “will I look like a lobster today?” after summer fun in the sun, but there is something else on my checklist that everyone should remember to grab:
Filled reusable water bottle
When it comes to necessities, water is pretty high on the list considering we humans can only survive about three days without it. Fortunately for a number of us on this planet, we don’t have to worry about being able to get a drink of water today. We can access water from our sinks at home, through hookups in modern-day fridges or by just popping into the convenience store down the street and picking up a disposable water bottle.
However, I have an issue with that last choice. I’ll admit, it is pretty nice to be able to pick up a disposable water bottle in a convenience store because it is just that: convenient. What isn’t so nice and convenient is the cost of disposable water bottles over time to the consumer and the environment.
Just say “No” to disposable.
At a young age, I developed a stigma towards buying water. Why would I buy something that I can get for free out of the sink? Truth be told, it wasn’t quite free considering there’s always a water bill at the end of the month (something I’ve learned now that I’m older and wiser); but it’s still much more affordable than buying bottled water (about 2,000 times cheaper actually according to The Story of Bottled Water).
In his piece Message in a Bottle, Charles Fishman points out that the average American goes through about 167 plastic water bottles a year. Last time I checked, water bottles averaged around $2.00 a pop. That’s a lot of money to be wasted on plastic each year. No thanks.
What I didn’t realize before I started working at BSTI was the huge impact that plastic water bottles have on something that wasn’t my bank account; the environment is greatly affected by disposable plastic water bottles.
The day I started working at BSTI, I was given a gigantic reusable water bottle.
Inside the bottle was a handy little fact sheet about why BSTI supports the use of reusable water bottles.
This fact sheet brings attention to the environmental impact that plastic water bottles create. Not only does it point out that tap water is more regulated than bottled water, the fact sheet also brings to attention that plastic doesn’t degrade naturally. It states, “Less than 15% [of plastic water bottles are] recycled. The rest stay with us forever.”
Forever is a long time. With more and more plastic being produced each day due to people purchasing more and more disposable plastic water bottles, it’s sure to get very crowded on our planet in the future. Just look at what it’s already done to our oceans.
Stop, think and choose #refillnotlandfill
Good habits don’t happen right away, so I’m not expecting everyone to do a 180 and use only a reusable water bottle immediately. But next time you go to grab a disposable water bottle at a convenience store, consider your wallet and your planet. Fill up one of those plastic water bottles sitting in your passenger seat, or send me a message and we’ll figure out how to get you a free BSTI water bottle.
This news made me reminisce of my own experiences in academia. Before working at BSTI, I attended graduate school at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, an R1 school where the oceanography and geology departments were closely knit. After establishing myself at Rutgers, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time when an opportunity to sail and sample ocean sediment arose.
The R/V Roger Revelle planned to sail from Alotau, Papua New Guinea, to Manila, Philippines, making stops to collect ocean sediment cores and geophysical data. The cores and data collected from this expedition would later go on to be used to study climate change and ocean dynamics in a region known as the Western Pacific Warm Pool. Not only would I be able to take part in gathering the climate data that many take for granted in textbooks, I would get to go to an exotic location to do so! With the encouragement of my advisor (even though I would miss a month of classes), I applied to take part in a month-long oceanographic cruise in the western Pacific Ocean.
I was elated when I found out that I was selected. I packed my bags, and before my first semester of graduate school I boarded my flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to begin my journey half way around the world.
Alotau, Papua New Guinea – September 4th, 2013
I finally arrived in Alotau after what felt like three days. We had two days in Alotau, so I met up with the primary investigators and other graduate students, explored the town, took in the sights, swam at the local beaches and sampled the local suds. I took a liking to South Pacific Lager (aka SP to the locals), a crisp, refreshing lager that will quench your thirst and make you forget about even the muggiest Alotau nights; it had an iconic logo as well. I kept my eyes peeled for wallabies and birds of paradise, but unfortunately I only saw the former. Before I knew it, we boarded the ship and were on our way to Manila.
Once we became acquainted with the ship and I got over my initial seasickness, the science began. I was assigned to the night crew, working midnight to noon. This seems like a nightmare when you first think about it, but in hindsight I preferred it to working during the day. With temperatures in the mid 80’s and the humidity being high as can be, sweating through your clothes was common; within an hour it would appear as if you had fallen overboard.
It was much better to be in the cooler temperatures of the night. Adjusting to working at night was easy since the local time was 12 to 13 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast. This made 1 AM out there the same as 1 PM back home. It also felt pretty cool to say “I’m on the night crew;” but I digress.
Over the next four weeks, I helped collect ocean sediment cores, seismic data and surface water samples along with the three other grad students and the post-doctoral researcher on my shift. Obtaining the sediment cores took up most of our time, the process taking all five of us to hoist the sections of the core overboard as they came up from the abyss. Imagine lifting an eight-foot section of PVC pipe filled with wet sand and mud; it was hard and at most times dirty work. Needless to say, my arms were toned by the end of the trip.
A second method of collecting ocean sediment cores involved loading and unloading a machine called a multi-core. This arachnid-esque device could collect eight 3-foot cores at once. The device was lowered then pulled up with the cores rigged to snap shut and collect a sample at the sediment-water interface. While these were much lighter than the long cores from the ocean floor, they were often half filled with water and therefore much more cumbersome when it came to packing them.
Once we had a substantial backlog of cores and started travelling, our focus switched. With the cores aboard, we analyzed the sediment with a gamma logger to quantitatively differentiate clay from sand and silt.
We continued collecting seismic data (which only took one person) and spent time splitting the cores in half, describing the contents and photographing them. After the qualitative descriptions, we packaged the cores so they could be shipped back to the U.S. where they would eventually be sampled and analyzed.
Manila, Philippines – October 3, 2013
After about a month, the science team departed the R/V Revelle in Manila, Philippines. While Manila was much more urban and developed than Papua New Guinea, it was still an interesting experience. Despite sleeping only a handful of hours, I wandered the streets around the hotel in which I was staying. I ate Filipino food from a roadside shack, which seemed intimidating at first but ended up being delicious. I ordered a chili oil noodle stir fry, which had a good kick to it, and sautéed kangkong (known as water spinach in English) with tofu, which satisfied my umami taste buds and my desire for fresh greens after being restricted to long-lasting boat food for the past month. I also drank coconut water straight from a coconut which was husked right before my eyes, and developed a love for rambutan and lychee while feeling the stares of many Manilans.
I stuck out like a sore thumb; I towered over almost all passersby, and my long hair and beard gave me a unique look. Despite the staring, the trip ended with a great dinner for all of the scientists that was hosted by a researcher at the local university. After a few hours of sleep, I woke, gathered my things and made my way to Ninoy Aquino International Airport for the long trip home.
Home – September 4th 2013
Going on an oceanographic cruise was a great experience. Not only did I get to visit exotic places, I gained some great skills and learned some great lessons that I still use at BSTI today. Logging so many cores on the ship made me confident in my abilities and helped me realize what is useful to describe in a log. Like scientific investigations, soil boring investigations (which are similar to sediment core investigations except smaller) almost always involve something to be done, whether it be screening the boring with a PID, describing the core, collecting a sample or just taking legible notes and keeping them in order. I realized I must make good use of the time I have in between borings to get everything done, even when the time in between is minutes rather than hours or days. The work on the cruise may have been different from what I do now, but I will always cherish the skills and good habits I developed on that great adventure.
Every April 22nd, people get to take a day to celebrate our Earth and demonstrate how we care about the future of our planet. Something I quickly noticed about BSTI when I started working here is that every day is Earth Day. From the company garden to coworkers devoting time to community service and planting trees, the world of BSTI truly believes in taking care of and giving back to the world in which we live.
In the past, I would have labeled myself as Earth conscious. I’ve come to realize that I’m more of a newbie to helping the Earth compared to my coworkers. On his bio page, Nicholas Santella has a caption of “Nothing should be wasted.” I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who truly believes in utilizing everything as much as Nick. Thanks to Nick and the rest of the BSTI crew, I have learned five very simple ways that everyone can help the Earth from their desk.
1. Reduce your use.
Stopping to think “do I truly need to use that?” has made the biggest impact on reducing my usage of resources. A simple choice of not printing that e-mail or writing on that post-it can make a big impact on how much paper I use in a year, or better yet in my lifetime. Think about all the trees that won’t need to be cut down because I decided to use my computer calendar instead of a piece of paper to note “Remember to call back Carly.”
If you find you’re pretty conscious about paper, you can also take a look at your energy use. Do you really need that second monitor powered on all the time? Is there a light in your office that doesn’t really need to be turned on at the moment? All of these choices help to reduce your environmental impact while you work.
2. Reuse your resources.
A big landfill issue is plastic water bottles. Plastic is made to last and too many plastic items end up taking up space in trash heaps or polluting our water systems. BSTI is a big advocate for reusable water bottles – a simple way to help you save money and save the earth. Keep a reusable water bottle at your desk and save yourself the cost and space of having all those other plastic bottles in your life.
3. Recycle everything you can.
Don’t throw that junk mail or plastic food container into the trash; put it in the recycling bin. It’s so easy to recycle nowadays that I’m still not used to it. Some areas don’t even require you to fully rinse your recyclables anymore; you can just put them in the bin.
Not sure what you can and can’t recycle in your area? Want to know where you can recycle those #3 plastic bags? I’ve found How2Recycle is a great resource for getting answers about local recycling rules and finding locations to recycle those not-as-common items.
4. Donate what you don’t use.
You may not have a use for that organizer on your desk any longer, but someone else could be searching for that exact organizer to help improve their level of organization. Better the item goes to someone who needs it than ditched, alone and unloved in a landfill where it will sit for who knows how long.
Donation centers I have donated to include Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity, but a quick search on the web can bring up more donation centers close to you.
5. Bring a plant to work.
Take care of the planet by taking care of a piece of it. Earth Day isn’t only about planting trees. There are so many interesting plants you can grow right on your desk. Nurture a flower or vegetable from your desk, then donate it to a local park or plant it in your own garden at home and start growing your own food.
There are many more ways you can celebrate Earth day throughout your workday; try carpooling with coworkers you like or picking up litter you find as you walk or ride your bike to work.
Let us know how you celebrate Earth Day, and leave us a comment below!
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