Go Vegan

A person can do a lot of various things to try to become more sustainable and to lower their overall carbon footprint here on earth. I have always tried to use minimal resources by trying to conserve the amount of water and electricity I used. I would do this by simply taking short showers and turning off lights and many other things as well. However, lately I have taken on the challenge of going vegan. I have previously only been eating fish occasionally that I had caught here locally and that has been hard to give up. But I have been vegan for around two solid months and I feel great. I have been mainly eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, and pastas. Going vegan actually lowers your carbon footprint greatly and can help you live a more sustainable lifestyle. This is because it takes a great amount of resources to produce just one pound of meat. Hundreds of gallons of water are used to feed the animal and to also water the food that the animal eats. So every part of the process of raising livestock uses a great deal of water and land to raise the animals. Therefore, eating no meat lowers your carbon footprint and helps the environment greatly. I could only imagine what would happen if the whole world lived off a plant based diet. A lot of land would be freed up and a lot less water would be used here on earth. Also, the amount of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock would be lowered and climate change may be slowed down tremendously. I would encourage people to go vegan not only because it helps the earth but also because it is very healthy for you and makes you feel amazing!

A Delicate Balance

Following the readings from A Delicate Balance: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry from this week in class, I was really made aware of how much these environmental issues we talk about every day actually effect each and every one of us very locally. Despite the feelings that issues such as conservation are more prominent in other area, it was quite eye opening to realize that so much is happening right around us on the peninsula, and surrounding areas, as well.

In Halfacre’s book, he talks about how the rapidly growing area has really affected the dynamic and environment in Charleston, including agriculture and residential life. A huge point he covered which resonated with me was the “Buy local” movement, as many local farmers have been convinced or otherwise forced to sell out their land to big development companies. This only creates more of an issue with the Charleston’s area growing population size. When you buy local, you help support the local economy as well as maintain the Charleston we know and love.

Due to this, Halfacre has really encouraged me to start going to more farmer’s markets, etc. to buy more vegetables and other produce. This is even a great way to ensure you eat healthier, while also helping your community!

Air Pollution

Being a Public Health major, I like to find things that are studied as a Public Health problem, but also as an environmental issue. Obviously, most of our degradation of the environment directly affects us. However, something I found quite interesting was indoor air pollution. Before talking about it in class and then watching a TED talk, which was coming up with a stove that would cut down on the problem, I always thought about pollution being outdoor. When I hear the word pollution, I thought of factory emissions or plastic bottles floating in the ocean.

Indoor pollution is a form of pollution that is mainly produced by cooking fires, such as that in third world countries. These fires are inside of the people houses, and are used not only for cooking, but for warmth. For fuel, the people use biomass (derived from living resources, such as wood and animal excriments).

From a health standpoint, the smoke from the fire contained in the villagers house is a major killer. These people, who are mostly women and children, need this fire for warmth and cooking, but they are constantly breathing in the thick smoke. According to the TED talk, some of the children breath in the smoke equivalant smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. This leads to many health problems, such as lung problems and strokes.

From an environmental standpoint, the fires produce black carbon, which is the second biggest contributer to carbon change. As talked about in the TED talk, these fires contribute more black carbon than all of the cars and truck in the world, combined. It can also lead to deforestation, because of the constant need for more fuel.

Though this is a major problem, the cookstoves talked about in the video could be a major help! It not only saves on fuel, but it produces electricity for the villagers to use. This talk gave me a renewed source of hope, because even though sometimes the issues hurting our environment seem overwhelming and impossible to reverse, there are people coming up with solutions that will make areas more sustainable and reverse or stop some of the effects on our environment.

TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Zsj4Lfs_o

Fast Fashion: Easy On Your Bank Account, Hard On The Environment

My first semester of freshman year I was required to watch a documentary entitled The True Cost. I can honestly say that this documentary changed my mentality when it comes to shopping for clothing. The documentary focuses on the dangers associated with the fast fashion industry and shows viewers that their $5 top from stores like H&M and Forever 21 is doing way more harm than good. Sure, the $5 top may make you feel incredible and savvy because it was so cheap, but the $5 top makes another person in another part of the world angry and exhausted. Fast fashion companies use workers who live in impoverished areas in other parts of the world to do the dirty work for them for a price that is even dirtier. The people trapped in sweatshops creating your $5 top are some of the lowest paid workers in the world. Your $5 top from a fast fashion store is aiding in the continuation of human rights violations and the exploitation of human beings.

Along with having little concern about the health and quality of life of their workers, fast fashion companies and the industry as a whole has little to no concern about the world we live in. The $5 top that has been the continuing example throughout this post will more than likely be out of style next month, or at least that’s what the fast fashion industry will make you think. According to the documentary, the average American creates approximately 82 pound of textile waste each year because clothing is seen as disposable. The image from the documentary that always stands out in my mind is the scene where clothing is being “dumped” to developing countries. The documentary shows an area of Haiti that is essentially overflowing with unwanted clothes. These clothes are not biodegradable therefore they will sit for hundreds of years releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere. That $5 shirt will probably end up in a developing country when you’re tired of wearing it or when it starts to wear out after the third wash due to the cheap material.

Fast fashion may be trendy and easy on your bank account, but is it worth the detrimental impact you’re having on the lives of other humans and your environment? After watching this documentary I spend more to get more. I may buy a basic shirt for $50 dollars or a pair of jeans for $100 from a more “high-end” retailer, but the quality is so much better than those from a fast fashion brand and the item will last therefore there will be much less waste. In the long run spending more will get you more: more wear time from an item, more time doing fun things instead of shopping to replace a piece of cheap clothing that has worn out, and more time on Earth knowing you did something to help rather than being part of the problem.


To Watch The True Cost: http://truecostmovie.com/watch-now/

A Wild Dolphin Sighting

Being from West Virginia, I am pretty used to seeing animals in the wild. I spend a good amount of time in the woods and by rivers or lakes when I am at home. This is my first year at College of Charleston and the wildlife that you see near the ocean is a lot different than back at home. The most incredible thing that I have seen here are the wild dolphins. I have seen them before in the distance while on the beach, but in late November, one of my friends and I decided to go for a walk at the battery around eleven in the morning during high tide. We parked in one of the parking spots along the sidewalk closest to the water. As soon as I got out of the car, I heard a commotion in the water extremely close to the edge of the wall. I quickly ran over and looked over the railing and there were two dolphins chasing fish! Assuming this moment would only last a couple of seconds, I called for my friend to come check it out. To my surprise, the two dolphins continued to play and catch fish less than five feet away from us. Sometimes they would go further out in the water, but they would always come back. For a while the dolphins would swim alongside us as we walked, then when they had a fish in sight, they would quickly chase them down. For a while, we were the only ones who noticed the pair. However, it was not long before everyone else who was taking a walk that day noticed that there were two dolphins so close to the wall. This whole thing lasted for around 45 minutes. In moments like these, I try to not focus on taking photos or videos, but instead, to enjoy the moment. However, my friend and I ended up taking a lot of photos and videos. Every time we would try to put our phones away, we would end up pulling them right back out. This obviously is not something that I would get to see at home, so it was great to be there at the right place and right time. It is great to see animals in the wild doing their own thing. It is so much better than seeing them cooped up in a zoo or tank. I like to appreciate the wildlife and wilderness as much as I can, and with that being said, this experience is one of the things that I will remember most from my time here in Charleston.

A Delicate Balance: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry Discussion

After reading the required text from A Delicate Balance: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I now feel the urge to read the entire book. I thoroughly enjoyed the small passages I read concerning Charleston and it’s efforts to maintain sustainability, stability, and overall balance. These readings easily elicited feelings of happiness to call Charleston home, sorrow for what fellow residents of society and myself are doing to our beautiful land, and a mixture of guilt and curiosity as to how we can stop major issues dead in its tracks. As our discussion in class on Tuesday entailed, land use is the bulk of our issue. If we are using a majority of our valuable land for livestock and all of the necessary components that go into keeping livestock alive and well, then how are we able to help our land flourish to its full potential?

While Halfacre certainly talked up Charleston, South Carolina to the best of her ability, that shouldn’t dim the light on the serious problem of overpopulation in Charleston, improper use of the land, and total destruction to the natural habitats found through the city simply for greedy human pleasures. Yes, humans may be at the top of the food chain, but what gives us the right to degrade and exploit innocent natural resources and ecosystems within a community? Absolutely nothing, in my opinion.  Prior to this assigned reading, I had absolutely no idea of all the many components of farming and maintaining rich, prosperous land. What really seems to bother me is that organic, locally sourced healthy foods are all the talk these days, but our expectations have been cut short recently due to the inability for farmers and restaurants to provide these healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables to the consumer in Charleston. We are limited on our locally sourced options due to no incentives for farmers to grow such foods considering it’s more expensive in the long haul and little if any benefit comes from growing local, organic foods. If the people want to be healthy, then we should be doing everything in our power to provide them with that opportunity. I believe that’s a great way to begin tackling the rampant obesity rates seen all around the United States.


Charleston’s Green Businesses

Before this class I did not think twice about the green businesses. It was like they did not even exist in my mind. I was the type of person that did not care about the environment. I think my blindness of whats going on was because of the the lack of education in the environmental area. I was very curious about the green businesses in the Charleston area so I did some research. I came across the Green Business Challenge. For this challenge businesses have to figure out what areas they want to improve on by going green. These areas are but not limited to energy and waste stewardship, waste reduction, green and local purchasing, and healthiness of the work place. Some of the business that participated in this challenge is SCEG, Charleston Water System, and Boeing. This is a great idea for businesses to prove to themselves that they can do something green for the environment. It is also a great attention grabber. If someone sees that this business is winning awards for going green/greener  then this is only more profit for the company. When people see that the company cares enough about the environment and not just about taking money as everyone thinks then it only drives them in to support this company in a positive way. This is a great step in the right direction for becoming greener. If only every company tried to improve their impact on the environment but hopefully one day we can make it to where everyone is going green.

German Giant Greenwashes

Cars, trucks, and basically everything else that burns fossil fuels on our roads and waterways are bad for the environment. It’s an immutable fact of life that has just become so obvious to everyone. Modern life, however, would not exist without these machines, therefore we as a society turn a blind eye to what’s happening in order to continue indulging in the conveniences to which we’ve become accustomed. Although automobiles don’t do much to help Mother Earth, governments and automakers around the globe are trying their best to get the greenhouses released from cars under control. (photo courtesy of EPA.gov)

In the United States, legislation titled “the Clean Air Act” (1970) sets air quality standards for the states in order to enhance and protect the quality of life for citizens. Automakers must design vehicles which abide by these standards in order to be sold and driven in the United States.

In 2016, however, it came to light that one of the largest automakers in the world was lying to governments and consumers about emissions on their vehicles violating the Clean Air Act, and it wasn’t even for the first time. Volkswagen, a German car company, was caught using a “defeat device” which provides bogus data on emission readings when activated. In 1973, Volkswagen admitted to using similar devices on thousands of the classic VW Bug models (independent.co.uk). However, this time the company lied on a much larger, much more expensive scale requiring a lot of technological work.

Volkswagen produced around 600,000 “clean diesel” vehicles outfitted with defeat devices to lie about how clean the emissions from these diesel cars actually were. This had the potential for the company to be fined upwards of $18 billion (forbes.com). However, as cited in the Forbes.com article, greenwashing (where companies lie about how environmentally friendly their product is, such as this example with Volkswagen) is often not caught by the US government, which is disheartening.

My family owns, and still drives on a daily basis, one of these deceitful diesel vehicles produced by Volkswagen. As consumers, my parents would not have purchased this vehicle knowing the damage it actually causes. Hopefully the lawsuit the US filed will cause other companies to learn and be honest with consumers about the impact their products have.

The EPA has published a page regarding the specific violations Volkswagen committed, and the final settlement which occurred. 

Minimalism Documentary

While watching the documentary called Minimalism, I think it is very important for people to realize how sustainability connects with the ways people over consume with materialistic things in our society. Having the mindset of someone that overconsumes, seems to be more of an increased trend here in America. While watching this video, I realized that sustainability can become a complicated to achieve when one does not know the idea of Minimalism. Not being able to know that, means one can never appreciate the minimum, there always has to be more. Therefore, having the most eventually becomes their minimum making that individual want more and more of what they already have. In the film, a great example were people who go out and buy these extravagant homes and barely use the spaces. Then they fill the spaces they do not use with items that are a waste of money. In other words, this is land that is being used for a big home that is actually not needed. These are resources that are already scarce being used more and more for these big homes. This means less land for sustainable agriculture. There were a few people in the film who had a great solution to this. That was to live in tiny houses. They require less resources, they are inexpensive, and they are created to help sustain the environment more.  Individuals need to begin to realize the more important things in society and that is not going out and buying lavish, materialistic items. Materialistic things are not going to help make the Earth more green or sustainable. But the problem is that there are not enough people caring about the environment like they should, but instead, putting their time and money into stuff that takes away from sustaining resources and also takes away a healthy lifestyle for those who are trying to be minimalists, so there can maybe one day be an efficient amount of resources that exist.

Ocean Acidification

I recently stumbled upon something that I had not heard of before called “Ocean Acidification”. It was something that I had no idea about but after reading a few articles on it I was hooked. One article I read that can be found here http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-acidification called it “climate change’s equally evil twin”. (Bennett) A basic summary of it is that it is a “significant and harmful consequence of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we normally don’t even see it coming because its effects are happening under water.” (Bennett) The ocean is absorbing an excess amount of CO2. Scientist thought that it may have been a good thing at first because it was leaving less CO2 in the air but have learned that it is costing the ocean dearly by changing its chemistry. A number that really stood out to me was that in the past 200 years, ocean water has become thirty percent more acidic… wow. A cool video that kind of explains a little bit more about ocean acidification and the impacts of it can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo-bHt1bOsw. Ocean acidification impacts many things, some of which include coral reefs, oysters, mussels, urchins, starfish and basically anything found in the ocean. Acidic oceans affect the development of ocean creatures, especially ones with shells as the added acidification cause shell building problems. I’m definitely interested in learning more about what ocean acidification actually is as I have only scratched the basic surface. I’m also interested in learning how we could better cut carbon emissions in the future in order to help stop or at least slow down the process of ocean acidification. From what I have gathered, a few of the things that we as humans can do now is to just try and lower our daily carbon dioxide use. Recycle, turn off unused lights, walk/bike instead of driving and really just supporting clean energy as much as possible are all things we can work on now to slow this down. Ocean acidification isn’t something I had ever heard of but is something that I think is important to be educated about after reading up on it and is something I would love to research more.