Greenwashing at Aldi

So, I don’t know if all of you are aware, but a new chain grocery store, Aldi, has opened up in Mount Pleasant. Its cheap, basic, and super efficient. Aldi is a German-owned chain that happens to be under the same ownership as Trader Joe’s, my preferred grocery store.

I really liked to see some of the things that they were doing to maximize efficiency and sustainability while keeping costs low, however I think there’s room for improvement. On their website, they say that “Everything we do from our smaller, energy-saving stores to recycled bags and cartons capture the very essence of conservation”. While it is true that Aldi does not give free bags at checkout, they sell reusable bags that are made of thin plastic and are definitely not sustainable. These are sold for 10 cents, which isn’t quite expensive enough to really discourage anyone from getting them. Furthermore, I noticed that all of the products they sold came with copious amounts of packaging. They use plenty of plastic bags and other non-recyclable materials, so there’s definitely room for improvement in regards to sustainable packaging. I also noticed that half the store is dedicated to meat and dairy products. The products were inexpensive, which sort of indicates factory farming to keep costs low. They had no local items in the store, which shows that most of these items had been transported long distances, which increases carbon emissions.

I’m sure its very challenging to run a grocery store on sustainable principles while still turning a profit, but that doesn’t give Aldi the right to lead customers on about their sustainable principles. I believe it’s convenient for them to declare themselves ‘environmentally friendly’ because it coincides with their efficiency agenda. It’s important to not just reduce consumption on a minute level, but to change the ways altogether and have truly sustainable practices.

Peru Floods

Abnormal weather patterns have caused exceptionally warm water in the Pacific ocean, and this is the causing factor for a series of torrential floods in Peru. It is thought that the warm water is causing another El Niño, and climatologists have called it a “coastal El Niño”. Peru is a mountainous country and is extremely susceptible to mudslides, and the flooding has caused catastrophe in both mountainous regions, such as the area around Machu Picchu, along with arid, desertous regions, such Lima. According to NOAA, the ocean is neither in El Niño or La Niña, however El Niño is expected to come as early as April. The president stated that there hasn’t been an event this bad since 30 years ago. So far, the death toll is at 72. The flooding has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and over one hundred bridges. Water treatment systems have become clogged, resulting in restricted access to water in the capital. Crops all over the country are being destroyed, which will have a negative impact on the economy and the food supply. Many impoverished Peruvians live in slums, which have been completely washed away in many places, leaving thousands homeless. While the president insists that the flooding could not be avoided, the government has been criticized  for being unprepared for an event like this. Furthermore, citizens show concerns of not receiving help from the government in light of this awful catastrophe. It is estimated that the rain will continue for at least another month, leaving the country in a state of emergency. This event is just one example of how unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change will impact people all over the world.

8 Months Vegan

Veganism is one of the best ways to do your part in lessening your personal environmental impact. As I’m sure you already know, the meat/dairy industry has countless negative impacts on the environment through methane emissions, animal waste runoff, excessive water usage, and deforestation for grazing lands. By sticking to a plant based diet, not only do you decrease your “footprint”, but your physical health may improve and you can have a guilt-free conscience.

In order to successfully be a vegan, it is very important to know what foods you can eat in order to get the full amount of nutrition that your body needs, otherwise you may develop nutrient deficiencies. In terms of protein, any form of whole grain combined with a legume equals a complete protein. This includes black beans and brown rice, toast and peanut butter, bread with bean soup, lentils and barley… the possibilities are endless. Other high protein foods include nuts, dark leafy greens and broccoli. There are several processed foods that serve as high-protein meat alternatives and these include tempeh (fermented soy and rice product), tofu, seitan (high protein wheat gluten) and soy. If you are trying to avoid soy, seitan is the way to go- it’s delicious, and mimics the texture and flavor of meat when prepared correctly.

Calcium can be easily obtained through nut milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, and cashew milk! You should also take B vitamin supplements to ensure that you’re getting enough, as it can be difficult with a vegan diet. Iron is plentiful in spinach, tomato, and lentils in particular, as well as legumes, grains and dark green vegetables.

So, if this class makes you more interesting in pursuing a more environmentally-friendly life, veganism may be for you! If you decide to make the switch, don’t put your health at risk by being uninformed! If you know what nutrients you need and where to get them, you can live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

My Urban Garden Experience

Lately, I’ve been contemplating ways that I can contribute to making Charleston a ‘greener’ city. My passion for sustainability as well as plant life- and frankly, food- has lead me to many of the various community gardens all over Charleston. MUSC’s Urban Garden is by far the most impressive and extensive, and it’s so easy to help out! I got certified to become a volunteer there so I may garden as I please. I believe that the garden is a great way to create a natural habitat for all sorts of critters while providing fresh, seasonal food for the community!


The typical volunteer activities include planting seeds, such as carrots and greens at this time of year, weeding, tilling the soil, and harvesting! The best part is, all participating volunteers get to take home whatever they want. It’s a great way to build community ties and introduce the joy of gardening to all who are willing to participate.
Like many college students, I do not have a backyard or any other way to grow food for myself, so I am very grateful that the urban garden provides an outlet for anyone who loves to see things grow. I believe that the urban garden is a wonderful example of what can be done with an empty lot. Can you imagine if there were gardens like this scattered throughout all major cities? Fresh, local fruits and vegetables would be abundant, and free to all who are willing to lend a hand to make it happen! I encourage all of you to give it a try if you haven’t already, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Deforestation in Guatemala

Recently, deforestation has caused a lot of destruction to the natural environment of Guatemala. Logging, forest fires, and agriculture are the main causes of the deforestation, and the issue is difficult because it’s hard to pinpoint any one effective solution. Illegal logging is a major problem, because many of the rural indigenous people live off the land and cut down trees for firewood. People also cut down trees to sell for the quality of the wood, and this occurs on protected land and national parks as well as non protected lands. There have been programs implemented in attempt to reduce this problem, such as educating indigenous people on how to harvest wood sustainably, however the problem remains.

Forest fires are another major cause of deforestation. Drug cartels have been burning large areas of land for landing strips and trails near the borders of Mexico and Belize in order to traffic the products. I was recently in communication with a woman who lives in Guatemala, and she said that gangs often start fires and raid houses for valuables when the surrounding area is evacuated.  Not only is this a wicked crime to commit, but it is also detrimental to the natural environment of the area, which leads to much bigger problems.

Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in Guatemala, as many of the indigenous and rural people are farmers. All forms of deforestation cause a decrease in soil stability in mountainous regions, but agriculture has the greatest impact because it is so widespread and not illegal. Many people farm on steep slopes in the mountain, and the lack of trees to hold the soil together makes the area much more prone to landslides. Guatemala has suffered from multiple tragedies in the past due to the deadly combination of hurricanes and weak, unstable slopes.

While there are many initiatives being taken to mollify the impact of deforestation in Guatemala, the government has neither the will nor the money to put effective strategies into practice to reverse the impact of deforestation. However, awareness is the first step towards taking action to resolve a problem, and educating people on the impacts of their way of life and how it can be made more sustainable is becoming more widespread. Much of the natural environment remains pristine in Guatemala, so there is definitely hope for the future!