Community Garden Involvement

Recently, I got involved in a volunteer project in the local Charleston community. My Introduction to Public Health professor saw my involvement in urban gardening and asked if I would be interested in formulating a plan for an urban garden  in Charleston. The plan was to build a garden in an area with a high population of homeless people. My professor and I discussed how difficult it is for the homeless to get healthy foods and felt like there was something we could do. We coined the name the Garden Exchange Initiative with a purpose to provide simple, nutritious meals to the homeless. Our plan is to team up with the local organizations like the Public Health society, the College of Charleston’s gardening clubs, as well as the Low Country Herald in order to broaden our resources and spread awareness. We are currently working with The Office of Sustainability in hopes that they will provide us with the tools and equipment needed for the garden. Not only does the Low Country Herald give out free news to Newspaper to the homeless, but donations made to the Herald are incentivized with tax reductions. We plan to use raised gardening and hanging beds that will occupy an area of 100 X 50 feet.There will be full access to the homeless for plants like cucumbers, melons, peppers, and tomatoes. We plan to start tilling and planting May 1 and over the summer there will be a rotation schedule set to send at least one person to go everyday to the site to water and tend to the plants.

There have been efforts for urban gardens in the Charleston community, but none officially proposed specifically for the homeless population. Every Saturday, my professor as well as other volunteers open a shelter for the homeless that provides a meal, medical exams, showers, toiletries and more all for no cost. Through this, we are able to spread the word to the homeless population about the urban garden in hopes for a successful project.


Media Overload

I believe we have a problem with media overload. Considering the numbers, it is hard to believe many do not have a problem with it. The average American spends about 13.6 hours consuming media in dozens of different forms. With increases in technology advances, more and more options of media have become available for users. While mediums in the media are exponentially growing,  fact- based, multiple sourced journalism is dying. With smart phones and easy access to the Internet, almost anyone has the ability to be a journalist. This could be seen as positive or negative. On the negative side, anyone’s ideas, opinions, beliefs or biases can be published to the public and shared for people all over the world to see it. On the positive side, we are able to get first-hand experiences about an event, for example a video of a shooting, which decreases the story-twists reported by second or third hand accounts. With information constantly being thrown at users, it can be difficult to know which media sources to trust. We should encourage people to interact with media by asking questions first. Before trusting a media source, one should ask themselves if this is a news report, or an opinion piece. Also, users should ask themselves if the main point of the piece was proven by evidence. If the writer makes arguments, but fails to back them up, readers must be conscious of this when considering the credibility. It is important to look at the source before sharing the information. By sharing false information, it just adds to the media overload Americans are experiencing. An example that comes to mind is Facebook posts. Practically anyone can become a writer for The Odyssey, which is an opinion-based blog that allows writers to post about almost anything. These have become very popular and are often reblogged by the younger generations. These articles are not news sources, in fact, they are written by average people looking for an outlet for their thoughts and ideas. It is important to teach users not to trust everything they see online. If we can accomplish this, the overall media overload should decrease.

Greenwashing in the Automobile Industry

I had never heard the term greenwashing before class, however I was familiar with the definition. Through my public health courses, I was educated about the misconceptions behind food labeling. I learned there was little to no governmental regulation on a product’s marketing labels besides organic/GMO regulation. For example, grass-fed, cage-free, natural, all-natural, as well as others aren’t regulated the way consumers think. After looking into greenwashing some more, I found that the food industry was not the only industry partaking in these fallacies.

One example of greenwashing is in the automobile industry. General motors has sought to promote its production and development of fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2007, General Motors launched its “Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free” campaign, attempting to reframe the company as environmentally progressive. Despite this, general motors continues to be the leading producer of gas-guzzler automobiles. The campaign highlights five ways Chevrolet is “greening” its industry: increasing fuel efficiency; producing vehicles that can run on E85 ethanol; and developing hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cells. Since the launch of the campaign, Chevy’s website, commercials and print ads regularly contain green-friendly images. What is misleading about General Motors efforts is the extent to which the company has advertised the green technologies, while still heavily producing gas-guzzling vehicles. What is worse, the company claimed to be a fuel solutions leader, while working behind the scenes to hinder attempts to increase fuel economy standard policy. One of General Motors ads states that Chevrolet currently sells seven vehicles that get at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Although this is accurate, the campaign fails to note that General Motors currently produces 51 other models that get less than 30 mpg, including 35 that get less than 20 mpg. Another General Motors ad promotes the Chevy Equinox as a hydrogen fuel cell concept car. The ad states “sustainable technology for a better environment.” Yet to date, General Motors has put only 100 of these cars on the road as a test  and in all likelihood the cost of mass-producing these cars remains too high for success. When consumers see the word “green”, they often feel better about their purchase and support it without question.

It is clear all industries are taking notice of the sustainability trend that has been and is currently happening in our world. It is important for consumers to make the connect that everything they read is not always true.


Fish are friends, not food

When I think of a fish, I think of a shiny and slimy creature freely gliding through a never-ending ocean. A misconception surfaced in the food industry a long time ago that drove a new diet: pescetarians. Scientists came out with the idea that fish did not have the ability to feel pain, which made it more ethical to eat fish more so then a pig, a cow, a lamb, etc. People who felt immoral eating other animals turned to fish as an alternative source of protein. Recent studies show that fish do feel pain, and sense fear and respond to stress the same way humans do. The increase in demand of fish led to commercial fishing, which directly effects the environment. The way I see fish now is much different than the way I saw them before I knew about commercial fishing:

Not only is this morally wrong to do to another species, but it effects our great oceans negatively as well. Commercial fishers practice a tactic called “bottom trawling” where fishers reach to the deepest depths of the ocean and collect fish that reside on or near the ocean floor, destroying everything in their way. Scientists have described this phenomenon to be a parallel to deforestation, impacting our ocean and biosphere greatly.

Another important point is for consumers eating these highly-stressed fish. Fish flesh isn’t healthy for you, whether it be wild caught or farm fed. Our oceans are in a constant state of pollution with PCB and Mercury. This pollution seeps through the fish flesh and into their bodies and we ingest these harmful toxins.

Giving up meat isn’t easy to do; we have been raised to believe it is where we get our protein and the bulk of our meals. But what has helped me through it is not only its impact on my personal health, but its impact on our Earth.

Lets change the misconception about marine animals and our oceans and try to reverse the damage we have already caused!

The Lowcountry- Preservation Vs. Development

After reading excerpts from Halfacre’s A Delicate Balance: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry, my eyes were opened to an entirely new environmental issue. Well, technically we won’t say “environmental”, we will say “conservational” issue. It is a well-known fact that the city of Charleston thrives on its little peninsula with constant praise from the media reflecting its beautiful beaches, historical richness, excellent cuisines and party-spots, and the dense culture packed tightly into this Holy City.

After reading Halfacre’s book, I was quite shocked by the numbers and statistics. For example, the proportional rate of Charleston’s population growth is twice the national population growth. I also had no knowledge on the story behind the Arthur Ravenel Bridge and its monumental impact on the Charleston community. Hearing that conservationists fought for the walk/bike lane along the bridge gave me hope for future efforts. The bridge expanded and turned Mount Pleasant into a densely-populated city, and some may argue the benefits and others the negatives.

The book also discussed the Lowcountry movement for “Buy local”. I had always seen bumper stickers with this slogan, but didn’t know the real meaning behind it. This movement is something that should be emphasized, considering only 4% of Charleston’s population get their food locally. By growing locally, there are benefits in all disciplines.

The whole idea Halfacre is conveying is the balance between preservation and development. They work in an inverse relationship, and luckily the Lowcountry has numerous conservation activists that work hard to preserve the rich culture South Carolina encompasses. By reading Halfacre’s excerpts, it has encouraged me to join a conservation group or organization and contribute to the cause. It makes me want to help out that farmer that can’t seem to find college students to help pick his vegetables. It makes me want to fight for all of those people that grew up along the coast and lived off the land, the people that appreciate its richness. Once those people are gone, new generations won’t understand why these locals appreciated the land so much, which is where my generation steps in to continue to the fight for conservation.

Lets Learn How to Garden

It wasn’t until this past semester that I began to question why schools don’t emphasize learning about agriculture and farming more. After taking college courses and becoming educated on topics of my interest, my eyes were opened to many of the issues we face. As a society, we have become accustomed to food being readily available on a shelf, in plastic packaging that has been processed and shipped from all directions. We’ve been lied to about our food long enough, and I believe it is our generation that will change these injustices.

Through the office of sustainability, I was able to join an Urban Garden Apprenticeship where other students and myself created our own urban garden here in downtown Charleston. I had always wanted to learn how to garden, but never knew where to start. The program was student-led so we all worked together twice a week to plant a bed of multiple types of crops. We also made a bike trellis to support pea plants, a compost bin full of worms, and plant terrariums. Not only did we get to grow fresh produce for the Charleston community, but we learned the importance of an urban garden and how it is a great step toward a more sustainable community. I learned that the city of Manhattan would run out of food in just three days if we were to cut off the daily food shipments. Often times we don’t think about where our food is coming from or how much effort is put into getting the product to the destination. In a small, yet jammed city like Charleston, it is hard to produce enough food to sustain oneself, let alone an entire community. However, I think it is possible by gaining awareness and educating about agriculture and living a sustainable lifestyle.

As kids we were always told “eat your fruits and veggies” and “don’t litter” and “recycle your plastic”… and of course we tried, but it isn’t until you see the real impact these choices make on our society and ourselves as individuals that you begin to change.