Briquette Brigade Group Info

Group Members

Our group contains a wide variety of majors and interests, which should provide a lot of great and different vantage points on any problems we have to tackle!

photo (16).JPG
Getting cozy by the “fire”

Will Michul

I am a fifth year materials engineering major, and although I thoroughly enjoy my studies in this field, I have a vested interest in engineering for developing communities. I have worked for the past several years with Engineers Without Borders on projects in India and Nepal. I hope to apply my education toward solutions to issues that affect a larger fraction of the world, rather than a highly specialized industrial niche market. I worked specifically with waste material briquettes in Nepal, and after the seeing the success of it there, I wanted to share it with the Appropriate Technology course. That’s me on the far left in the picture.

Jake Wagner
photo_1 (1).JPG
I am a business student in my 3rd year, concentrating in entrepreneurship. I hail from Southern California just north of Los Angeles. I have a passion for nature and planet Earth. I wish to see it persist for many centuries as the amazing blue marble it is today, so it is exciting to be involved in a project that re-purposes waste and slows the dwindling of forest that is sure to cause us problems in the future. I am also interested in applying my entrepreneurial skills to this appropriate technology in the United States, for our country wastes a tremendous amount and we have the means to put that waste to work.

Jacyln Van Natta
photo (15).JPG
I am a fourth year RPTA major concentrating in outdoor leadership. I am excited to help design an alternative fuel to help slow down deforestation in third world countries. Being from Montana, I was raised to appreciate the beauty in trees and forest areas. I find value in them and I feel that they should be protected.

Kelly Young
I am a 3rd year Biology major concentrating in Anatomy/Physiology, with interests in neurobiology, sailing, skiing, and food. Coming from Lake Tahoe (on the Nevada side) I have a pretty big appreciation for conservative practices and efficient uses of resources, as well as water conservation and clean living. I’m currently working on campus as a research assistant for Dr. Strand in tracking neuroplasticity and neurogenesis in rattlesnake brains, but love the opportunity this class provides for a hands-on opportunity to build.

Our Interventions:

My intervention will consist of not consuming any packaged foods for one week. I suspect that this will result in a more vegetarian diet, though I will be considering options for meat, and that it will end up becoming a more locally (and seasonally) based diet. I will be documenting how my diet changes, how my food preparation habits change, and comparing the monetary cost of the new diet to current practices.

Upon completing my intervention, I have realized the potential such an action possesses. Eliminating packaging from my diet was an ambitious intervention from my point of view, and I was not sure if I would be able to complete this challenge because of the extreme prevalence of packaging in our food culture. But I buckled down and laid out what resources I had at my disposal. I knew that there is always a weekly farmer’s market, so that would be a good place to start. A quick web search for local foods led me to several sources, including the SLO Natural Foods Co-Op, Central Coast Grown, and SLO Veg. But even these on their own were not enough to make the complete intervention. I had to be conscious of what I was buying, and willing to travel to the source of some foods to be able to eliminate packaging from the equation. This way of picking what food I eat exposed how some products would not be available without packaging, especially dairy products. But even less package dependent items are hard to come by with out some sort of wrapping. This really limits diets down to mostly freshly produced agricultural products like fruits and vegetables, which is hard to accept because I enjoy eat a wide variety of goods. Meat can be found, but has to be procured directly from a butcher or similar source, and allowed to be wrapped in butcher’s paper, which could be considered a form of packaging by some.

This diet changed my habits in several ways. I am now much more aware of what I am purchasing, in that I plan out my meals before shopping, and every item can fit into multiple meal choices. By cooking all my meals, it has also broadened my culinary skills and my catalog of possible recipes. There is also something to be said for the pride you feel when you successfully prepare a dish. I also tend to lean more towards fresh foods rather than processed options. I do eat less dairy and meat as well. On a monetary side, purchasing locally and freshly was more expensive upfront. However, because I can fully use ingredients in multiple dishes, the cost is spread out and becomes quite close to my previous expenses. Meats and dairy items are more costly.

Jake – As much as I was trying to avoid it as my intervention, I decided to abstain from consuming meat or cheese. This is a significant intervention/lifestyle change for me, because these two things are staples of my diet, things that I eat very frequently. I was disappointed to learn of their extremely high carbon footprints, and this is what led me to stop avoiding it as my intervention and follow through with the change. A day in, the change felt easier than expected. Still allowing for the consumption of milk and eggs, I didn’t have to make any major diet changes to ensure I was still receiving enough protein (I am very active and frequently lift weights, so protein is a necessary ingredient for my body’s recovery from this exercise). I believe that once my intervention week has passed, I will continue to consume chicken and fish, but my consumption of red meat will be much more limited, perhaps once a week or less. I do not yet know how my future cheese consumption might be affected.

Update – After a few days of smooth sailing, I hit some unexpected bumps in the road. I had what I thought was a vegetarian Chipotle burrito at a catered event, and it turned out to contain chicken. Rather than throw it away, I ate it anyways. At least it was chicken and not beef, pork, or lamb. Also, I never eat Goldfish crackers, but my roommate left some out on the counter and I began to munch them (they were the flavor X-plosion type, super tasty). Then I realized, “Dammit. This is cheese.” So by now, I had already broken my intervention twice and it had not even been 5 days. I consider this a pretty significant failure. I thought I could pretty easily get through the week, but I had trouble staying full with the lighter calorie intake from veggies and fruits, and not eating cheese was a real challenge. For the future, I am going to eat chicken when it comes to meat, with maybe a red meat indulgence once a week. Cheese will be harder for me to quit, but I will try to eat less of it.

Jaclyn – I will be giving up my bed for one week. I am trying to give up a luxurious item that I have never even thought twice about. The carbon footprint a bed causes to produce, make, transport to the store, and transport to my house is significant. This will also test my discipline and give me an idea of what it would feel like to sleep like bed-less families in a third world country.
Outcome: I was only able to give up my bed for three days. I slept fine on the floor, but there is just something about being elevated off of the floor that makes me feel safer. I realized that I definitely do not need a super expensive bed, but I also know that I want to work on becoming less attached to comfortable things that are less necessary.

Kelly – I intend to not use any form of texting for a one week period, in order to see how my communication methods change and how this either fosters or takes away from my current relationships in my day to day life. I will be noting the number of times I slip up (if I’m contacted via text for business purposes) as well as logging the difficulties, changes, and interactions with people I end up having. I’ve decided to attempt to link this in to the Unicef Tap Project to encourage myself to refrain from any phone use, since it will be going toward supplying fresh water to those in need.

I consider my intervention both a failure and a success. I only really lasted two days without use of texting, but this in turn forced me to rely on other forms of written communication like email and even Facebook messaging. This wasn’t because I was dying to interact with people, but rather I needed to do correspondence for a leadership position I am in (I’m in charge of public relations for my sorority… It’s extremely difficult to interact with the public without constant communication. I caved in to texting because it was the eve of a three-day long PR event I was hosting, and I had to get in contact with all 19 of my committee members simultaneously — calling each one individually to relay the same information over and over again would have been enormously time consuming. Clearly, there are going to be instances when texting is the most convenient form of communication.

On the other hand, even though I failed to completely cut out texting, this intervention has caused me to be more direct with my family and close friends, as I find myself calling my mother and/or my sister on a daily basis rather than the usual texts I would send them. As a result, these relationships definitely feel much closer now, since even just 5-10 minutes on the phone with someone is a more intimate experience than sending off a quick text message that can be read and ignored. It has brought into perspective the importance of actual interaction with the people in our lives, although with how heavily tech-driven our society is today, and with the number of people I need to be in constant communication with, direct interaction with everyone is not going to be the most feasible option.

The Unicef Tap Project was an interesting facet of this intervention as well, although it was only really applicable when I was not using my phone at all. While it didn’t end up being integral to my attempts, it definitely seems like a good idea to encourage people to simultaneously use their technology less and be aware of global issues on a daily basis.