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.


Green Biz- Getting Real

One article that I found particularly interesting on Green Biz, is called Getting Real- A Week Inside Al Gore’s Climate Reality.

In 2005, Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps; which is devoted to solving the current climate crisis. The climate realty leaders focus on the truth of how much innovation, investment, and local action needs to happen to actually produce a change. The project has more than 11,000 member global leadership corps  that includes founders of nonprofits and social enterprises, organizers of moms, a creator of the widely distributed islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, authors of policy and books, and holders of local offices. I found this exceedingly important that so many influential people are actually dedicating their time to solving this devastating problem that the world is currently faced with.

The author of the article went to an event for the project that seemed to be a mix of a conference and training session for new attendees and leaders. The main focal point of the event was a 2 hour presentation on day 1 and an hour long presentation on day 2 that was given to the audience by Al Gore. The presentation was read from 30,000 slides that are constantly being updated and revised. All of the slides are available for the leaders with annotations and source references.

Al Gore also made a sequel to “The Inconvenient Truth” that premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and it is coming out in July. The most recent movie is more hopeful and focuses on solutions.

“The Inconvenient Truth” and the event raises awareness that climate justice is much more than global warming having a huge impact on those that are more vulnerable. The two also focus on the wrongs that have been enforced on alienated and marginalized communities in the form of pollution, lack of respect for culture and health, and economic dependencies.

Plastic bags and the 5 Gyres Institute

For my event, I went to the event that we had in sustainability week titled “ban the bag ban.” Though the name gets a little confusing, we talked about how the bag ban on Folly went into effect and the bans that are trying to ban that ban. We started off by watching the movie that was produced by the 5 Gyres Institute on microplastics in the ocean. The movie was called the “Smog of the Sea” which is what they call these plastics which are broken down into tiny pieces and then ingested by the fish. They sailed through the Bermuda Triangle and collected samples along the way with special nets. They also examined small fish that had been caught and counted the pieces of plastic that were ingested by them. Their estimate is that there are 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean each year. With their samples, they resolved that 5.2 Trillion plastic particles could be found floating on the surface of the ocean at any time. Not only are these plastics harmful to the fish which ingest them but, they are also hydrophobic which means they don’t soak up water but they soak up everything that that doesn’t mix with the saltwater, meaning chemicals. These chemicals are released into the bodies of the fish when they ingest the plastic and then they are caught for us to eat. This means we are eating the muscles, which are the parts with all the toxins.

After the movie, we talked about the ban on plastic bags and the people in government that support it. We were then able to write them postcards thanking them for support and encouraging them to keep up the good fight. We also talked about how wasteful plastic bags are. There are over 1 trillion plastic bags manufactured in a year, taking 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture them. Each American uses approximately 813 plastic bags in a year. At the end, we received CofC reusable bags. The very next time I went to the store, I made sure to ask for the paper bags!

Volunteer Blog Post: PowerSPOT Power Products

For my volunteer blog post, I chose to work along with my boyfriend’s dad one weekend while visiting down in Greenville, SC. He is the founder and owner of the company called PowerSPOT Power Products. The website is The company’s location is 2607 Woodruff Road, Suite E-520, Simpsonville, South Carolina 29681, USA. This company’s main focus is to focus on the production of electricity through the manufacturing and creation of solar powered products. While learning alongside and what his company does, I discovered that their main focus is to create energy efficiency through the use of their products by running electronic and other technological devices through solar powered energy. What was very appealing about the company was the solar panels outside of the building where the products are made and manufactured. This means that sustainability is a huge focus here because power and electricity within the building itself, is being run through solar powered panels.  Some of the products that I got to discover were a solar powered flashlight, solar panels for homes, a portable home outlet to help start up power in case electricity went out, a PowerPak battery which has a USB port for charging phones and laptops, and a PowerPak Mover which is a battery with two USB ports and an LED Lamp.  All of these products have built-in solar panels that run off of natural energy.  What is nice about these products is that these are things we all use in our everyday lives and do not realize how much energy and electricity are being used.  This can be emphasized with the battery products that include USB ports.  Every day, on multiple occasions, we use USB cables that help us plug our phones into the walls so that they can charge.  This is one of the main ways in which we use so much electricity on a day to day basis.  If we knew about more products such as these, we could create a more energy efficient and sustainable environment.

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.

Greenwashing at Rite Aid

Today, I’m going to talk about greenwashing at Rite Aid. I’ve been working at the Rite Aid on East Bay street for the past year, so I have gotten to see their complete lack of any real environmental policies. To start, there is an commercial that plays every day on the speaker system advertising “how you can go green today at Rite Aid” and to ask a cashier for more details. The details in question is just the option to opt out of having your purchase bagged when you leave. That’s pretty much it. For a while, all of our name tags had these little extensions on them advertising going green at Rite Aid. This really irks me because it is not really an environmental initiative. It is just trying to capitalize off of a practice that people have been doing for ages. Next, I want to speak about how we do not really do much to help the environment. We basically do not have any form of recycling. All of the cardboard we use is broken down and thrown into a dumpster. Also, I understand the receipts are printed on a special type of paper that is not usually recyclable, but we waste a lot of that stuff. A receipt will always print out for a purchase regardless of whether or not the customer wants one. Then, we have to throw pounds upon pounds of this paper away everyday just for it to be locked in a landfill somewhere. I once joked with a coworker by putting the replacement printer paper in the trashcan because it was just going to end up there anyway. Finally, we do offer reusable bags at the store which is a plus, but the bags have been known to contain harmful materials in the past. I have tried to ask my managers to make attempts at recycling, but so far, it has been to no avail 🙁

Recycling at Work

For almost 2 years not, I have worked at a small shoe store on King Street. Despite the small size of the store, I never fail to be shocked by how much trash is accumulated in the small time frame we are open from 10 am to 7 pm.

Each box we have is lined with a few layers of tissue paper, and each shoe is stuffed with wads of the tissue paper. In the box, the shoes are placed and tissue is then put in the spots between the shoes so that they do not move around too much while stored on shelves. When someone buys a pair of shoes, all of this, and usually the boxes are simply throw away. I constantly think how much paper could be saved if we were to reuse this tissue paper instead of just dispose of it after every purchase. On top of boxes and tissue paper, we also have tags, packaging for accessory items, cups, napkins, and more that are thrown away each day. Each day, we throw away 2 or 3 trash bags full of paper!

With busy season coming up, this waste is only going to get worse. To combat this, I talked to my manager and we are now making an effort to recycle more. Shifts during the summer can get hectic and separating recycling can get hard, so I have made a recycling bin to place right behind the door in our back room, so that is easily accessible from the sales floor. I hope our employees begin to get in the habit of recycling all of our boxes and paper products, in an effort to cut down on our tremendous waste.

Sustainability and Media Corporations

Just like all things American, media has fallen to the corporate system. The current disposition of the media world has been heavily influenced by federal policy. Before the Telecommunications Act of 1996, America saw upwards to fifty major media companies. The passage of this piece of legislation, initially intended to serve as a check on the accuracy of media corporations, led to an unintended consequence of major company buyouts. Today we can count the number of media outlets on two hands.

America’s foundation is built on democracy, rights, and freedom. The conglomerate media system is counterproductive to these ideals. There are less voices and opinions when few are in charge of what and how information is shared to our country’s people.

If analyzed through the lens of sustainability, we see many problems that arise from the very nature of having media outlets funneled down to only a few major companies and individuals.


With the lack of competitors, big media is given the space to focus on money and profit over general public interest and quality services. If there are limited alternatives, media consumers will be forced to pay the prices set by these monetary-driven, impersonal corporations.


We have seen politics stick its greasy fingers into the monopoly of large media business. Rupert Murdoch, one of America’s most famous media tycoons, is a proud supporter of the Republican Party and has donated millions to certain news groups. In return, they are obligated to have a biased towards the red. Another important social factor is the lack of diverse correspondents and news coverage relating to women and minorities.


As the conglomerate system of media becomes more of a norm in our society, Americans have tended to put local news on the back burner. Depriving our country’s people of varied opinions and unbiased facts may lead to a narrow-minded, numbed society. It is not a community-based system and does not support social solidarity. This could be detrimental to environmental advocacy and education amongst the masses, and we will initially encounter these negative effects at a local level.

Your everyday items that make the Top 25 “greenwashed” products

Greenwashing was a new term for me. I have learned that greenwashing practices evolved as consumers began to spend more dollars on eco-friendly items. With this increasing change in shopping trends, businesses have had to reevaluate what they will push and endorse in some cases for more profit. However, in selling and promoting more eco-friendly items comes higher costs. Higher production costs are what is most dreaded by companies, so what how do they fix that? They make you believe you are buying an eco-friendly item, spending less of the production cost and taking your extra money.

While I was surprised, I wasn’t surprised. We live in a world that is driven by profit. However, I would have though that those passionate about sustainability would be more ethical in advertising and production practices. With that being said, as we allocate more money into buying better, sustainable, eco-friendly products, let’s do our research in making sure we are actually doing so with our new found favorite brands. I have researched what are the top 25, most commonly used items that are greenwashed so that we can better know our options. Below are a few that may surprise you.

1. Airline tickets
I know, we do not typically think this is on the TOP 25 because what college student has enough money to buy plane tickets a few times throughout the whole year? Truth is, even college students travel quite a lot to visit family between breaks, at least once a year per student makes for a lot of the profit, not including other consumers. While airlines like the one I work for, American Air, are buying and building bigger planes there is Easy Jet who focuses on producing smaller “Eco friendly” planes. The smaller they are the less emissions they give is the idea, however, the emissions are very much being emitted, no matter the size.

2. Kids toys
This one is a given and I know we have covered it in class also. Many toys claim to be no non toxic, BPA free, or lead free, but what other chemicals are included in the toys paint? What about the packaging? What about while we shop for the toys, are we using a reusable bag given to us by the store? Now look at the bag, is it made out of plastic or actual recycled material?

3. Software
Electronics take up a whole lot of energy that we use. Do you every really unplug or turn off your laptop when not in use? I really have to remind myself at times. With that being said, software is actually on the TOP 25 items being greenwashed. While some products claim to put profit towards eco friendly practices and business, including from Microsoft, they also made consumers have to buy new computers just to run Windows 7 new software.

4. Meat
I was fascinated to learn in my Nutrition class just because the foods you buy state organic does not mean they are fully organic. In order for your product to actually be the organic you are probably looking for, it has to say 100% Organic. Simply stating Organic can mean just up to 90% of the meat is Organic. In some cases, even only part of the product is organic, anywhere from 50-70% even though you are lead to think otherwise. With that being said, sadly, a label can state “All Natural”, yet the animal was treated with antibiotics and fed GMO corn.

5. Tampons and Sanitary Pads
This one is kind of a given if you really think about it, but thing is we don’t really think about it. Who thinks of cotton when they feel their insides are being pulled out once a month? Truth is, on top of certain companies claiming they monitor the amount of their product going to landfills by foregoing tampon applicators, they dont mention all the chemicals that go into the production of the cotton you are putting into your body. Might I add, these are chemicals that cause wildlife toxicity and as a direct implication to you, also cancer causing.

Extra Credit Post Media

Last week, we briefly discussed in class how 6 or so companies own and control 90+% of the media in the United States. This is alarming, because this small group controls almost all of the news and coverage that the American population receives on a regular basis. This is called media consolidation, and this is affecting the US more and more as fewer people amass more of the medias power.

A graphic about media consolidation can be found here:

Environmentally speaking, this cal be alarming. In between fake news, and only getting most of our news from such a small amount of sources, it can be hard to figure out what is true and what is fake. Because the people who fund these companies usually get to control what media is released, there is worry about how transparent the media we are served really is. This can concerning environmentally because if someone is rich enough and does not believe in man’s role in climate change and global warming, they potentially could feed millions of people information that makes them believe similar falsities. Problems could arise from this, especially if the general population began to not believe in climate change and its consequences, and the majority of people stopped any green practices such as recycling that they do to lessen their footprint. This would cause a multitude of social and environmental problems across the globe. This could also become a problem because most people do not do research on what they read, or the sources that post them, to begin with. Not doing such research could allow for these 6 companies to influence the public to believe pretty much anything, and also cover up things that they do not want the pubic to find out about. About 15 people own the United States media, and this consolidation gives these few a lot of power.  The graphic above states that 232 media executives control the information that 277 million Americans consume on a regular basis.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed for this consolidation to happen. It allowed for mergers of media companies, and was substantially paid for by corporate media lobbies. This act allowed for media corporations to consolidate into the small number that they are today (for example,  how Disney umbrellas to own ABC, ESPN, Pixar, and many other smaller corporations). It is alarming that one company has so much power, and essentially control, over the American population and the information that we receive.