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Jessica Kossuth

Sustainability While Showering

Who thinks of sustainability while showering? Few of us, probably. Most of us are considering which shampoo will give our hair the most luxuriant shine, or wondering if we really need to rinse-and-repeat as the conditioner bottle instructs. 

Fortunately for us, Wildwood's Jessica Kossuth has studied sustainability, in and out of the shower one imagines, and she's here to report that we would all be cleaner, healthier and richer if we made a number of small, easy changes. For several months, Jessica has replaced expensive shampoos, conditioners and other cleaning products with her own easy-to-make solutions. "It sounds crazy," Jessica admits, "but it works great! And there are other benefits too: I'm not using poorly regulated chemicals on my body and I'm not using the plastic bottles they come in. Not to mention, it's a ton cheaper."

What are her secret ingredients? Principally vinegar and, as needed, baking soda. Jessica explains: "I use vinegar to clean countertops, sinks, the bathroom, pretty much everything! I think it's important to know exactly what's in the stuff I'm putting in my house or on my body! For those same reasons, we also make our own deodorant and laundry detergent." 

For Jessica, sustainability does not stop with the question of how a container might be recycled. Rather, it starts with whether or not that product is needed in the first place. "While we definitely recycle everything we can at home," Jessica recounts, "we try to focus on using less 'stuff' in the first place and finding ways to reuse that 'stuff' before we pitch it." 

Jessica, a full time lab technician and an adjunct faculty member at Wildwood, has demonstrated this same well rounded view of sustainability at work. "Whenever possible, I try to minimize the use of potentially hazardous chemicals in our science labs. Oftentimes, I can substitute a less hazardous chemical in an experiment. I've also 'micro-scaled' several of the chemistry labs, down-sizing the amount of chemicals used in the experiments," a process that reduces harm and lowers costs.

Assisting the Wildwood Environmental Club's advisor, Andy Bates, Jessica helped her students act on their greener natures. Jessica proudly notes how the students, "to raise awareness of the amount of recyclable items being needlessly thrown in the trash, created 'Does Any of This Belong to You?'-- a display of recyclable cans, bottles, and paper products found in the regular trashcans over the course of three days." Another key project was the Wildwood Walking Path that provides a tour of Wildwood's native features, including the restored prairie.

Jessica has found her kind of practical sustainability taking root in more and more students. "I've noticed a growing interest in do-it-yourself projects. My students have asked questions about topics like vegetable gardens and home brewing. I think this interest in self-sufficiency and simplicity is partly based on the realization that our planet's problems can't be solved by technology alone. I think people are realizing that they can make little changes in their lives and that lots of little changes add up to big changes and big changes are how we change the world. And as an added benefit, people are starting to realize that little changes they make, like growing their own vegetables or making things at home, can be really enjoyable pursuits!"

For Jessica, another of those enjoyable pursuits has been working at a uniquely designed campus. "The things I appreciate most about working in a LEED-Gold building are the fresh air, the great circulation, and the natural light. If I had to pick just one, though, I'd say the ton of natural light is best! The building is oriented to make use of the maximum amount of natural light. I get so much sunlight in my lab that most days I don't even need to turn on the overhead lights. The building is very open and airy and I think on a day-to-day level, these characteristics really enhance the quality of the workplace."

Wildwood's buildings are naturally bright, yes, but Jessica sees how the future of sustainability for all of us might be even brighter. "I'd like to see the WW campus begin monitoring the data that makes us LEED certified. Data monitoring would inform us whether or not we're living up to the building's performance goals. Energy, water, and other metrics would help us in planning which direction to take on our road to sustainability."

For Jessica, sustainability comes down to being practical. What is best for us now? What is best for us down the line? Starting today, we all had better ask these questions. In an out of the shower.