Trophic Cascades

Today in class we discussed what an ecosystem is, how they work, and how the earth is full of interconnected systems. One of those systems is a food web. A food web is a system of connected food chains, giving information essentially on “what eats what” and the different organisms existing in an environment at different trophic levels. A trophic level is simply what that animal primarily eats and where they fit in the food web (e.g., big fish eats smaller fish, who eats even smaller fish, who eats primary producers like algae or seaweed). These trophic exist in balance with one another. For example, plants exist as the primary producers within an ecosystem. Then comes the herbivores, who eat the plants, then the carnivores that eat them.

Figure illustrating how removing one trophic level would affect the rest of the food chain.

If there is a shift in population size at one trophic, however, it can cause a dramatic at a different level. Let’s look at sharks. Currently, many species of sharks are threatened or endangered due to the fishing industry. This impact on their population density trickles down to the rest of the food web. With less predators, species they typically prey on (tuna, manta rays, etc.) can thrive, and their population sizes will grow much larger than they were originally. However, they will deplete their limited resources until there is none left. Then, their population size will decrease dramatically. Not only this, but the sick or injured fish that are usually consumed by sharks could have a negative impact on schools. Apex predators like sharks also regulate more than just population sizes of their prey. They also function as the main force cycling nutrition throughout the ecosystem and removing invasive species.

This is known as a trophic cascade, a butterfly effect where if one population is affected, the rest of the food web is affected as well. Fluctuations in population occur and can drastically change the environment and the abundance of life there. It shows that our actions to the environment, no matter how small we believe them to be, have a rather large impact. This makes the need for conservation efforts even more necessary. Allowing sharks to increase their numbers through better regulation of fishing would be of instant benefit to coral reefs.

Trophic cascades are becoming increasingly common as humans continue to change these natural environments and impact the organisms living there. Currently, humans are taking sharks out of the water faster than they can reproduce. This is actively diminishing their population numbers at a significant rate, and we can already see the effects of it. Sharks are very important for maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.

For more information on trophic cascades and shark population decline, please check out the following links:

LUSH Cosmetics – Beauty on an Environmental Budget

When you’re shopping for body care products, whether it’s shaving cremes, lotions, shampoos/conditioners, bath or shower products, facial products or moisturizers, (and this list can continue), do you ever think how that specific product came to be? Do you even know what all is actually in the products you buy? Yes, the labels on the back can tell you, but do you know all of the chemical names and what they actually do to your body? One thing that most consumers can agree on is the thought of how we can look and feel beautiful while being on a budget. Well, LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics decided to take it a step further and figured out how to be the best kind of beautiful naturally while being on a budget and equally being environmentally friendly. It’s a company based out of Canada that does just this for everyone, no matter what age, sex, race, or worldly background.

The company’s mission statement is as followed:

“We believe in making effective products from organic* fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils and safe synthetics. We believe in buying ingredients only from companies that do not commission tests on animals and in testing on products on humans. We invent our own products and fragrances. We make them fresh* by hand using little or no preservative or packaging, using only vegetarian ingredients and tell you when they were made. We believe in happy people making happy soap, putting our faces on our products and making our mums proud. We believe in long candlelit baths, sharing showers, massage, filling the world with perfume and the right to make mistakes, lose everything, and start again. We believe our products are good value, that we should make a profit and that the customer is always right. We believe that all people should enjoy freedom of movement across the world. *We also believe words like “fresh” and “organic” have an honest meaning beyond marketing” (pg. 4).

LUSH’s co-founders have been creating products for over 30 years, but it wasn’t until after the loss of the original business, called Cosmetics to Go (CTG), that the brand’s innovators created the eco-friendly company that we know and love today. Mark and Karen Wolverton, who are Canadian business entrepreneurs, took a trip to London back in 1995. It was then and there that they first came in contact with LUSH and fell in love with the the philosophy and values behind the company as a whole. They later asked the founders if they’d thought of expanding their business into North America and in 1996, they did, opening the first North American LUSH store in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It wasn’t until 2003 that the first US LUSH store opened in San Francisco and today there are more than 250 shops across all of North America, with only 2 factories located in Toronto and Vancouver supplying their highly demanded products. “In October of 2014, we decided that we’d need to speed up our shipping times to customers. So we opened up digital fulfillment centers in Toronto and expand our distribution center..making us even more efficient by shipping shorter distances and reducing our overall carbon footprint” (pg. 17). It was also in 2014, that LUSH UK created their Lush Kitchen, which is the place where limited edition, exclusive products are created from a daily menu each week. Each Kitchen product is handmade and follows the strictly fresh policy while making the most of locally sourced ingredients. Customers can always shop from the Kitchen directly without having to cross the pond into the UK by following their social media accounts for a look at the latest menus and new products being sent out to stores.

The values of LUSH are the core of the brand as a whole and influence all that the company does. These values include always using the freshest ingredients, having all products handmade, making everything 100% vegetarian, creating “naked” packaging, buying ethically, fighting against animal testing, participating in charitable givings, implementing sustainable processes for the Earth, and getting involved in ethical campaigns.



On every recyclable black pot and bottle, they add a face sticker of the compounder who created the product along with their name, the date in which the product was made, a list of all of the ingredients used and when to use it by in order to ensure absolute freshness with maximum nutrient benefits. Every product in LUSH from the ones on the shelves to the actual shelves themselves and the other furniture in their stores are handmade in their very own woodshops. “Everything we do is made for us, by us..This way we can be sure that our products and shops are ethically sourced from beginning to end and that they’re of the finest quality” (pg. 34).

Not only do they create products that are fresh and 100% vegetarian, they’re also more than 80% vegan! For example, the glycerin that the company uses in their soap is made from non-GMO rapeseed oil instead of animal ingredients like most soap and cosmetic manufacturers use. In some cases, honey, yogurt, and eggs are used in products, but the company makes sure that that every ingredient is sourced from cruelty-free practices. The purpose of their ethical, organic buying is to help maintain sustainable farming practices and fair working conditions. Buying from small producer groups provides LUSH the opportunity to create positive change, increase sustainability, and create world-wide relationships. They even created the Sustainable Lush Fund, which takes 2% of the amount the company spends on packaging and raw materials and uses it to create sustainable farming and community projects from scratch around the world. Whenever someone buys a LUSH product, their money directly supports these Sustainable Lush Fund initiatives.

Other sustainable factors of the company include using as little to no packaging (otherwise known as “naked”) that’s recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. They’re packaging in stores is also 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, which means that the pots have already been recycled at least once.They also have bags made 100% out of post-consumer paper. They also ship and wrap their products in 100% biodegradable plastic bags, recycled paper and biodegradable filler with eco-friendly packing tape. The company also monitors their fresh water resources to make sure they don’t overuse it. LUSH also works with their transportation providers to create low-impact and ethically responsible fuels for moving products worldwide. They also have a Green Team that are dedicated environmental advocates that are in store fronts and even behind the scenes in manufacturing to make sure that every product being made is environmentally safe (pg. 43).

Though they’re mostly known for the invention and innovations of new and exciting products throughout their past  30 years of business, the company is most commonly known for patenting the original bath bomb back in 1989. They’ve also patented toothy tabs, mouthwash tabs, and solid shampoo bars in order for everyone to experience the products just as they were originally imagined without any harmful additions. Since the very beginning, LUSH has created gender neutral products that don’t need excessive packaging or preservatives to stay fresh. The policies the company created then have always been rooted in trying to minimize the impact we as humans have on our environment and are continuing to do so every day. Stop by a LUSH store today to get a first hand experience into each and every product. There’s one conveniently located on King Street in Downtown Charleston! Maybe you’ll think about making the switch like I have into reusable, environmentally friendly, and 100% waste-free beauty products that not only come from the environment, but also continuously give back to their source – the Earth.


The Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics: The Starter Guide Manual

Oyster Restoration Activity

My teammates and I have committed to several community service opportunities. One of the events involved an oyster project with the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). This event was split up into two parts: oyster bagging and reef construction. Oyster bagging took place during the fall of 2017, while the reef construction occurred in the spring of 2017. The goals of this program are to initiate oyster restoration efforts, educate citizens of the value oysters have on our ecosystem, and to influence the higher-ups in hopes of better habitat protection as well as better restoration funding. Not only do oyster reefs provide a habitat for marine life and restoration of the oyster population, they may also prohibit nearby shoreline erosion which is one factor in coastal climate impacts. Another benefit of oyster reefs on the shoreline is water filtration and coastal flood prevention. After a short introduction the team was taken to a huge pile of oyster shells and given gloves, buckets, shovels, and net-like bags. As we paired off, one person was to hold the bag steady while their partner filled it ¾ of the way with shells. The bags were tied and loaded onto a truck. Each partner took turns with the shoveling until the entire pile of oyster shells was gone which took about 2 hours. We created over 200 oyster bags that day and were invited back for the second task in the springtime due to high oyster recruitment heights in the warmer months. The second event took place at Wappoo Cut Landing. As a team we lined up across from each other as we unloaded a truck filled with oyster bags. Like an assembly line we tossed each bag down the line to be loaded onto a boat. Once the boat had an adequate amount of bags a group of 7 people loaded onto the boat and were taken about 0.5 miles away from the dock to unload the bags onto the shoreline. There were 5 boat trips in total each taking a different group of people to the shoreline. At the shoreline, each group would line up along the water as each bag was tossed to the end and placed on the muddy shoreline. Several slips, scrapes, and falls took place during the process but with great teamwork we managed to construct an oyster reef. This oyster restoration event served as a great team bonding activity and shows how much we can get done by working together. The same goes for the community as a whole. We can help improve the environment if we all contribute to the many environmental practices such as recycling, decreasing land and water pollution, decreasing land degradation/deforestation, and cutting back on the many resources that we take advantage of. Aside from teamwork, we were reminded that marine life has its own connection of systems that must be restored in order to sustain life. Without reefs the surrounding marine species have lost essential food and shelter which in turn results in less marine species, oysters and fish included. Lack of oysters can result in unfiltered water and less seafood for humans. Likewise, reef less shores make the shore more susceptible to erosion meaning less land for humans.
The track team will be returning to DNR to participate in this event again tomorrow morning. I will post follow-up pictures/videos below.

The Trucking Industry: Carrying the Weight of Overconsumption

My summers during high school were spent in a warehouse of a small local trucking company. My final summer there, I worked in the office and as the front desk person. This meant that I got to experience how much work goes in to processing orders, filling orders, loading them on the truck, and ensuring that the drivers departed with the correct freight. I also know what it is like when someone calls for a rush order, and we all have to scramble to fill it because the customer is willing to pay extra to get the order sooner. My mom still works in the trucking industry and recently shared with me that the trucking industry I knew has become far messier than I ever could have imagined. What used to be an occasional rush order from a customer, has turned in to an everyday occurrence. Orders are coming in faster than they can be filled. There are not enough drivers and trucks to meet the demands of all of the customers. The ports cannot process the amount of containers coming in everyday, which causes backups and even more rush orders. She shared this article with me that I have chosen to write about.

While this article touches on many different aspects that are contributing to the crises in the trucking industry, I think it relates to the concepts we learned in class about overconsumption. We live in a world of Amazon Prime and two day shipping. I know I am guilty of ordering things online that I could easily get in store, even from a local business, because online is just convenient. It shows up two days later on my doorstep and saves me from having to leave my house. The issue is that this has become so integrated in our society, that many of us don’t think twice before putting items in our virtual shopping carts. We do not stop to consider how far those items will have to travel and how much work will go in to ensuring that that new bracelet that was two dollars arrives at your doorstep two days later. So, not only does online shopping allow us to consume even more products because they are available at the touch of a button, it allows us to do so without considering the carbon footprint of those individual products. The article mentions the company HelloFresh. This is a company that ships fresh meals right to your front porch. This means that someone has to receive the order, another person has to fill the order, another person loads the order on to a container, a driver transports that box to a local post office, it is sorted, and then is loaded up onto another vehicle so that it can go out for delivery. All of that work and transportation for one families dinner. This dinner arrives in a large box full of bubble wrap and insulation to keep all of the ingredients fresh. Companies like these are becoming more and more popular. It is so easy in our society to just have everything delivered to us. This means that the transportation industry will continue to face these issues. More and more orders are going to continue to flood in and companies and drivers will struggle even more to meet this demand. Throughout our conversation, my mom just kept repeating that it was such a big problem, and that nobody knows it. The customer only knows whether or not their package arrived on time. While we learn in our class that we need to reduce individual consumption, it is becoming easier and easier to consume more, and that is something we are soon all going to experience the consequences of that consumption.


Consumer Product Analysis: Batiste Dry Shampoo

Batiste Dry Shampoo

As a woman pressured by looks and as a student rushed for time, dry Shampoo is the answer to most of my hair days. Most women get the same question as they sit in a salon “How often do you wash your hair?” It’s as if I’ve lived twenty years and haven’t been asked this question before, and they are going to deliver new wisdom. Presumably, they are asking to sell you their products. With the invention of dry shampoo, I like to go 2-3 days without washing my hair, which is salon recommended by almost everyone I’ve been too. Dry Shampoo allows me to cut back my water use and save time during the day. I use it so others don’t perceive me as greasy and unclean. A can of Batiste dry shampoo Is mostly aluminum, metal and plastic. It is manufactured by Crown packaging who’s recently started publishing sustainability reports for the last six years to commit to environmental stewardship. The CEO has spoken out to say “We continue to operate with a relentless focus on safety, innovation and efficiency – both in our manufacturing processes and our use of resources. That discipline has enabled us to reduce our overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, even as demand for metal packaging has continued to increase and we have grown our global footprint” (Donahue, 2017).  The latest of which details a 18% decrease in VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions, a 10% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and 49% decrease in waste to landfill. The products can be found in several major retailers including but not limited to CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target, and Amazon. On average I use an entire bottle every two to three weeks. A rough estimate is I probably consume around 24 bottles a year. After I completely empty the bottle I recycle all its parts. Its parts are not directly recycled back to the company but are repurposed materials which are used in other products. As far as waste management from the product, its recyclable when completely emptied and considered hazardous waste when still full. The Batiste website focuses primarily on this and not the material being sprayed into the air. While they’ve made efforts to reduce the VOC’s, ingredients remain in the products which pollute the air. Not only can this be harmful to human health but environmental health. The only way to reduce the impact to the air and potential communities would be to have products produced without these VOC’s. Some alternatives already exist such as, Lulu Organics Hair Power, BB Prêt-à-Powder, and verb which are powder alternatives to the aerosol. I am uncertain of how much dry shampoo effects air quality but can draw conclusions based on its negative human health effects. Aerosol’s are notoriously labeled as bad for the environment and the introduction of these VOC’s can be harmful to the environment, especially if they are replenished to often or are sprayed in not well ventilated areas.

Is Dry Shampoo Bad For Your Hair?

Almond Milk, Dairy Milk, and Carbon Footprints: Freestyle Blog Post

In recent years, the ‘milk market’ has seen a rising trend in consumers switching from purchasing dairy milk to nut and other plant-based milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and cashew milk. As a frequent consumer of almond milk (my personal favorite is Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original Almond Milk, or on occasion their chocolate almond milk), I was interested in looking at how the carbon footprint of almond milk production and consumption compares to that of dairy milk. Upon further research, I came to find not only large differences in the carbon footprints of almond and dairy milk, but an ongoing debate over the legitimacy of plant-based milks having the title of milk to begin with.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original Almond Milk

Almond milk is produced by blending almonds with water (and any other necessary ingredients that manufacturers use), and then straining out the almond pulp. To those who claim that drinking almond milk is the answer to saving the environment, critics remind them that the production of almond milk uses a very large quantity of water. According to the magazine Mother Jones, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce 1 almond! But, reports from SoDelicious, a manufacturer of almond and coconut milk products, have proclaimed that farmers have been working hard to reduce the amount of water needed to grow almonds and produce almond milk. The Almond Board in California has donated money for the purpose of helping farmers to do research to find methods of improving their techniques in reducing the amount of water they use when producing almonds. According to their reports, the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds has been reduced by 33% since 1994. The almond farming industry continues to make efforts to reduce their water consumption, while the dairy industry not only uses large amounts of water, but also is one of the highest industry contributors to green house gas emissions.

The dairy industry is responsible for 4% of all total greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, according to Georgina Gustin of Inside Climate News. Gustin describes the effects of dairy consumption in her article, noting that for every gallon of milk consumed, 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. Research done by Life Cycle Associates mentioned in the article describes that the production of 1 liter of almond milk produces 396 grams of carbon dioxide, compared to 1,467 grams of carbon dioxide produced from 1 liter of dairy milk. While Gustin does note that the dairy industry plans to make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020, the production and consumption of dairy milk has a significantly larger carbon footprint than almond milk. Despite the heavy water usage toll of almond milk production, the nut milk is a much more ecologically conscious choice than dairy milk when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most interesting parts of the almond milk versus dairy milk debate is whether or not almond milk (and other plant-based milks) should even be able to be labeled and sold as “milks”. According to Gustin’s article, members of the National Milk Producers Federation do not approve of plant-based milks being labeled as “milks”, as they are using the positive nutritional branding of milk and using it for a product other than dairy milk, as the name was originally intended for. According to the federation, plant-based milk manufacturers are unfairly capitalizing on this. The DAIRY PRIDE was also brought before Congress, which would enforce stricter regulations on what products could be labeled as milks.

An advertisement in support of the DAIRY PRIDE Act, encouraging the FDA to place tighter restrictions on what can be labeled and sold as a “milk”.

Another advertisement calling for the end of almond milk being labeled as such.

Overall, I think the debate between the ecological and nutritional benefits of dairy milk and plant-based milks is very interesting. While I will continue to be an almond milk consumer, I plan to try different kinds of plant-based milks such as coconut milk or cashew milk, as these use far less water and have low greenhouse gas emissions during their respective productions.

Sources used when writing this blog post include

It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Almond?!


Sustainably Advertisement

My media analysis is on an advertisement that focuses on the sustainability and the impacts we, as a population, have on the earth. There is text throughout the duration of the video that explains what has been done to earth and what change can be put into place to fix these negative impacts. The video has no spoken words, so the information conveyed is completely dependent on the text given on each slide of the advertisement. This seemed to be a good strategy because I had to pay close attention while watching the video in order to understand what was being explained. This tactic also was successful in keeping my attention because of the images that was presented behind the text. Some of the images were very detailed and allowed me to see the devastation clearly. This ad was created by the company called Bioengineering Group in thought of Earth Day. The main goal of this ad is to convey to the public viewing the issues that are surrounding global sustainability. The goal is to give a visual of what these impacts look like in different areas in nature such as land and aquatic life. The main value represented in this ad are to know the issues and not to ignore them, not to sit around and watch it happen. This is based on a lifestyle of taking charge. When you see something wrong, you do what is in your power to fix it. In this case we see disaster and the video is showing we can not ignore it. The point of view is from a negative view point. I do not see much of a positive message as to what we as humans are doing to help this issue that has turned into a large problem. People might see this and feel somewhat offended due to the drive of the message that we are causing these issues. No one likes to have the blame on them even if it is true. Aside from the feelings may have, I think this video is more from an educational standpoint and just meant to inform. The video starts of with the pictures of pollution that is being caused worldwide. It then goes on to explain how short of a time we have been on this earth when compared on a large scale. This was the same thing we learned from the video in class. it also informs the viewer that we have changed earth’s surface faster than nature has. This fact surprised me. Next, the video defines sustainability which I found very helpful because some may not know what that definition is. The video then ends with motivation to change our ways to promote sustainability. This video was very easy to understand, and the message was clear. The ad did its job of educating and informing the problems just by pictures and a few words. I felt motivated by the end of watching it to go out and make a change!

-Ayanna Starks