#9 The Importance of Making Time for Yourself

As a student, I find myself constantly working on something whether it be for a class, TEA literary magazine, taking care of chores, or even my blog. I haven’t been posting frequently because I have been taking time for myself. I have realized that this is so incredibly important for my mental and even physical health.

Here in America, we basically worship those who take on handfuls of projects or tasks at one time. Multitasking is a skill that one must master very early on in order to be considered successful or hardworking. I have lived by this very notion since high school. This mindset was required of me in order to stay competitive. However, since coming to college, I have realized that life is so much more than the tasks and projects we take on.

I have taken time to breathe, to decompress, and to collect my thoughts. In doing so, I have found that I wake up happier, more relaxed, and ready to take on my tasks for the day.

In order to be more productive, you have to refuel yourself every now and then. I do this by adding time for pleasurable hobbies: reading, sketching, and every now and then, teaching myself to code. Finding a balance for yourself is key to success. If you can spare just 20 minutes a day to dedicate to self-care and relaxation, you will be much better off.

Unfortunately, it took me an entire semester to realize that this was such an important factor in maintaining both my mental spirit and productivity levels. However, I will be tackling my next semester with this newfound mindset.

I guess the main takeaway would be to not be afraid of having a day to yourself. We are all entitled to some sense of relaxation at the end of a stressful day or week. Once the machine is well-oiled, you can go back to chugging along, feeling much better.

#8 Adopting Sustainable Practices: Week 1

For my fall semester, I decided that I wanted to add a class on sustainability. I ended up adding a course called: Facets of Sustainability. I was particularly interested in this class because of the adjective that was chosen to accompany this practice. Within the first week, we were taught to embrace the idea of interconnectedness and how to approach it by thinking in systems. This prepared us for the coming weeks when we were to work as a team to become more sustainable.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” ⟼ John Muir

We were split into groups and were tasked with implementing sustainable practices into our daily routine. At first, I was not sure what I would be changing in my daily routine. But I quickly found that the project was not necessarily about adopting new practices, but modifying current ones. In order to keep one another accountable for our goals: eating less meat, consuming less plastic, and driving less, we created a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.42.34 PMSo how are we approaching this?

We have been measuring our consumption levels on a scale from “none” to “high.” In order to be more accurate, we created scales that correlated with the size or number of our usage. So far, I have seen an improvement in my meat consumption. I have also been more mindful of taking public transport when available and suitable to my schedule.

For me, this project has been incredibly inspiring. For our “social impact” portion of the project, we decided to create an Instagram page which would be geared toward local students and local citizens. This is what has enriched me the most because I know that we are reaching a broader audience outside of our group of five. This project has already taught me so much about keeping oneself accountable and focused on a goal. I also feel good about this project because it has pushed me to live more sustainably. I have accumulated less trash just by purchasing products with less wrapping or packaging. When we throw something away, there is no “away,” which is really important to keep in mind as we do our daily shopping.

Here are some practices that I have adopted:

  1. Leave the house with a full reusable water bottle. Ditch those plastic ones!
  2. Bring your own coffee cup to Starbucks and they will give you a discount. (Extra plus: I have found that they fill my 27 oz cup up to the top when I paid for a discounted 20 oz beverage).
  3. Bring your own reusable grocery bags to the store.
  4. Bring your own reusable produce bags to the store. The plastic bags are unnecessary. The “living” phase of a plastic bag is much…much shorter than its “dying” phase.
  5. Read up on what can be recycled in your community. Not all places are the same. For example, Starbucks cups cannot be recycled by Gainesville.
  6. Take public transportation when it is convenient. Sustainability is not about perfection, but about mitigating our personal footprints.
  7. Eat less meat. Cows are the cutest.
  8. Read articles from sources that are focused on sustainable practices. I really like Eco Warrior Princess and The Good Trade.
  9. Avoid palm oil.
  10. Compost.
  11. Have discussions with your friends about sustainable practices. If they do not take steps to reduce their footprint, listen why.

What ways do you live sustainably? What are some practices that you have adopted? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

#7 From the Outside In

The last year of high school is dominated by the thoughts surrounding where a student is going to get “in” for college. However, being a recent high school graduate, I have found that getting into college is more about where you go outside of it.

Beginning in July of this year, I began working with the Amol Jethwani for Florida House campaign. This was my first “extracurricular” experience in college. Here, I was able to bond with an incredible group of people who were united by a common goal: getting our candidate elected. Once this ended, I discovered what I have valued the most from my college experience. College is not only about achieving the honor of making the Dean’s List but about the experiences you have as a result, and in conjunction with your academics.

I have found that your inner college life and success is determined, in part, by your outside college experiences.

Once school began, I began working with UF’s literary magazine, TEA. Working with TEA was a bit different than working with the Amol Jethwani campaign, and not in a bad way. The goals and tasks of both groups were incredibly different but shared one thing in common: the importance of the group as a whole. Both of these groups have pushed me to grow and learn early on in the college experience.

It is now September, and I have hopped on to yet another political campaign: Kayser Enneking for State Senate. Some coworkers-turned-friends gave me the opportunity to intern under them within the Kayser Enneking campaign. Inspired and excited, my internship began on Tuesday, September 18th.

The time I have spent with these different organizations has been absolutely priceless to me and far from obligatory. These experiences that I have found outside of the classroom have allowed me to open my eyes further to what is truly going on in the world.

I strongly recommend getting involved with different organizations that pull at your heartstrings or stir the fire in your belly. The world needs dedicated and passionate people in all sorts of departments and industries. I encourage that you venture beyond your dorm room, college campus, or neighborhood to see what is out there waiting for you. Not only are you providing a necessary service for your local community, but you are also providing a service to yourself. By going outside of your comfort zone, you can find who you truly are within.

What or who are you currently working with? What makes you fired up? What stirs your imagination or compassion? Leave your answers in the comment section! I am curious to see what you have to say!

xx

#6 Recycling Done Right

Local communities recycle in different ways that I was unaware of. I recently learned that Gainesville is unable to recycle Starbucks cups due to the expense it takes to process their material. Of course, other cities and counties face the same issues, but not necessarily with Starbucks cups. 

 

It is important that we play our part in making this process as efficient as possible. There are some general rules for recycling that include:

  1. No food, no liquids, no straws, no plastic cups, and no plastic dishware. 
  2. Compost all food and food-soiled paper when possible. Paper is important in absorbing oils and greases which in turn restore the nitrogen balance. 
  3. Never put plastic bags or plastic wrap in a recycling bin. 
  4. Avoid single-use items as much as possible. 
  5. Pizza boxes are contaminated by food and cannot be recycled. 
  6. Empty and rinse out materials from bottles, jars, containers, and cans before placing them in the bin. There is no need to wash, but don’t put half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the recycling bin, just scrape it out. 
  7. Some communities do not recycle glass anymore, so make sure to check with your local waste management before placing glass in the bins. 
  8. Plastic bottles and jugs with the numbers 1 or 2 on the bottom can be recycled. 
  9. Plastic caps can be recycled as long as they are not screwed on the bottle. Screwing the caps on can cause safety hazards for workers when the bottles are being compressed etc. They can also damage the gears of machines. 
  10. Prescription bottles and sample size bottles generally cannot be recycled. Check with your local management to see if they are accepted. 
  11. Recycle all clean paper and flattened cardboard boxes. 
  12. Dishware, even if glass, cannot be recycled. Take it to Goodwill. 
  13. Compostable plastics cannot be placed in recycling bins. They contaminate the recycling process. 
  14. Batteries cannot be recycled. 
  15. Electronics cannot be recycled. I suggest taking them to BestBuy where they can recycle them for you. 
Following these tips will reduce landfill waste and increase the efficiency of the recycling process. If you have any specific questions that were not answered here, contact your local waste management to have your questions answered. 

#5 What Makes an Effective Team “Effective?”

Notre Dame Football. Apollo 11. Apple. Google. Ford. Navy SEALS.

All of these teams are effective ones, but what makes them effective? There are so many different combinations of team makeups. Teams may be composed of extraverts, introverts, programmers, analysts, entrepreneurs, and leaders; just to name a few. But what makes these individuals successful in a team setting?

Nowadays, teamwork and group projects are the new norm. People who once sought peaceful solitude are now being brought into teams to work collaboratively. We have long known that teamwork is required when working with others. However, collaborative work has become incredibly important in the workplace, especially at Google. Google decided to conduct research in order to figure out what exactly makes successful teams so successful.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle

They aptly named their research, Project AristotleThe researchers decided to undertake the observation of over a hundred teams for more than a year. They found that the composition of a team does not really affect the team’s effectiveness. They observed effective teams made completely of friends and teams made of complete strangers. They could not really make any conclusions.

The researchers continued to look for patterns when they came across a common idea shared amongst psychologists and sociologists: “group norms.” These group norms would be “unwritten rules” where everyone would act accordingly. These unwritten rules seem to come about due to group dynamics and interactions. Google noticed that some teams would communicate through open and unorganized meetings while other teams would communicate in organized and regimented meetings.

The “who” part of the question was no longer important. The “how” part of the question would emerge later on in the research. How do group norms and behaviors contribute to a team’s effectiveness? The researchers eventually found that what differentiated a good team from a bad one was how the individuals treated one another within the team.

More specifically, they found that members of good teams spoke evenly in terms of time. This would allow for their collective intelligence to grow, making them more effective. The researchers also found that good teams were highly sensitive to social cues. This means that members were able to know how another member was feeling based off of their tone of voice, expressions or other nonverbal cues. These two variables actually fall under a different term: psychological safety. Good teams would feel a sense of safety when taking risks by suggesting new or contrasting ideas.

Teams with a high sense of psychological safety perform better. They feel more energized after a meeting with the team. They feel a sense of accomplishment rather than frustration. Good teams listen to one another, feel deeply, share experiences, connect, and understand.

When we think of teams like Apollo 11, Navy SEALS, and of course, the 1970s Notre Dame Football Team, we think of a machine. If the parts are oiled, they can work together to create something big. It is important that each part is maintained and looked after.

Good teams listen and good teams feel.


Resources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?smid=pl-share

#4 Sea Turtles and the Great Barrier Sea Wall

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb 

Climate change is a true phenomenon that is posing a threat to global ecosystems and populations. Climate change is a topic that is especially important to me as I have seen the effects of this issue during my time volunteering with a local Delray Beach conservation group, Sea Turtle Adventures. As a volunteer, I spent much of my time learning about the different species of turtles.

I learned how to differentiate between species based on the shapes of their tracks. I also learned how to spot a “false crawl,” which occurs when a sea turtle goes to lay her eggs but instead returns to the ocean without laying her eggs. False crawls can be affected by many different factors including the presence of seawalls.

Sea turtles find the southeastern United States especially attractive for laying eggs. According to a study, 90% of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nest on Florida beaches. However, about 25% of beaches along Florida’s east coast are protected by some sort of seawall or bulkhead.

Although seawalls are designed to protect the land from the dangers of storm surges and strong waves, they also have negative effects on wildlife. Seawalls increase the intensity of longshore currents which in turn increases beach erosion. Seawalls also increase the slope of the shore which can cause problems for sea turtles and their hatchlings.

Sea turtles are affected greatly by these massive protective structures. Suitable nesting sites may be made inaccessible, sea turtles may abandon their nesting attempt, the mortality of clutches (groups of eggs) may increase, and nesting habitat may be lost due to long-term beach erosion (Schroeder and Mosier 1998).

A group of researchers published a study in the “Journal of Coastal Research” on the effects of seawalls on nesting attempts made by loggerhead sea turtles. The researchers found that seawalls reduced nesting success and increased the likelihood of nests being washed away during storm events (Rizkalla and Savage 2011).

The reliance on seawalls will continue to intensify as the sea level continues to rise due to global warming and climate change. As a result of the increasing temperature, severe storms are also predicted to worsen which will decrease the hatching rate of sea turtles.

More research is needed on the impact of seawalls, as the study I referenced is now seven years old.

….

Thank you for reading! As a Jupiter native, this issue is near and dear to my heart. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. Also, if you want to be updated when I post something new, type your email into the subscribe section

With love,

Darby


Resources:

Rizkalla CE, Savage A. 2011. Impact of seawalls on loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting and hatching success. Journal of Coastal Research. 27(1):166-173.

 

#3 When in a Coffee Shop

When in a coffee shop, free smells of rich espresso float around the room. Concentrated eyes are glued to screens or books. Smooth jazz fills the air to mute the sounds of typing fingers and the odd tick of the refrigerated coolers. Soft laughter is exchanged between groups of friends. When in a coffee shop, I feel at home.

When I was little, my mother always had a cup of coffee in her hands. She always raved about her morning coffee and would quibble with her best friend over what coffee chain was superior. Eventually, I adopted her views on the beloved novelty. When I reached high school, I found myself spending more time in local Jupiter and West Palm coffee shops: whether it was to meet up with friends or to study.

When I moved to Gainesville, my love for coffee shops followed me. I still find myself spending quite a bit of time in local shops like Wyatt’s. Places like Wyatt’s and Subculture have always been a place where I can go to pound out some work or do some relaxing reading. I have also engaged in so many different conversations with local customers that have widened my view of my two different homes: Jupiter and Gainesville.

In my opinion, these cozy shops have brought coffee-lovers and workaholics together more than the typical Starbucks or Dunkin’. There is something unique that local shops offer that the large chains lack—a sense of community. Not only can you get your ‘morning joe,’ you can also engage with the local community.

Next time you go out to get coffee, consider trading in your Venti Caramel Macchiato and cake pops for a simple latte from a local shop. Hopefully, when you are there, you can feel some of the very things that I feel as I sit in my local shop. You can also feel good about supporting local coffee suppliers and the local economy.

With love,
Darby