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One Step, Two Step, SustainabiliStep…

Posted by: holmesbc | November 21, 2014 | No Comment |

Believing in an ideal or way of life is a cornerstone of all thinkers, praised or unappreciated. There are the scientific, the economic, the religious, the political, and the environmental pulls of passion, but what makes every belief unique is the way in which they are folded into the fabric of every individual’s life and how those threads act in part to warm or cool the spirit of others.

To warm the fabric of other’s lives means to take their beliefs in your hands, fold it into your own, and create a message that is not only diverse, but rich with melodic harmony between two seemingly opposing forces.

This whimsical connection of individuals can be seen in all areas of livelihood. Take your mechanics, politicians, librarians, any profession, hobby, activity of any odd person on the street and what do they have in common? Every single one, no matter how outlandish or ghoulish they may be, every single ounce of stardust in them enjoys the release from reality – that portion of the day, week, year, (or if you’re very intense) every decade that you have to take a breath in of a fantastical world that you read in books, imagine in dreams, or create in spaces of thought. One’s connection to something they see as an accessory to their happiness is a powerful thing. One can live without many things, but one thing they will not easily give up is their goal of euphoria. Yes, it is the apex of happiness and hard to achieve most days, but so are the best of our goals in life. It is the individual baby steps to this grand goal which allow a person to persist; the small things that open your eyes to the possibilities all around you. That is where progression towards true enjoyment is found.

Sustainability is a mission that is true to many hearts. The goal of promoting and fostering a worldview that not only promotes, but inspires others to continue, to progress, to create a path that is widely traveled, though experienced individually, uniquely, and spiritually. The path less travelled is poetic, but the path that is travelled hand-in-hand with others, despite differences, is transcendent. Yes, it is sometimes difficult to open your imagination to include the presence of another, but what you find is that once opened, you double the chance and capacity for happiness.

Imagine a world in which everything is possible; a world in which all of your favorite little, tedious details of life are simply displayed in front of you in a medley of connections that you never previously conceived. Now picture your walking buddy on that path seeing the same compilation of stimuli, but with a different narrative. Now picture every single individual that has ever walked on that path and all the different details they perceived on the course to their destination. Now picture this path is your journey through a play, full of talented College of Charleston actors, and the path that every individual in the audience has treaded upon is sustainability. The destination? Silly, haven’t you heard? It’s the journey, that enjoyment of the whole adventure you experienced in that theatre.

On October 30th-November 7th, Center Stage presented the Crucible as a baby step in the grand goal of incorporating sustainability into theatre production.  The talented cast and crew of the Crucible started on the path with the sustainable utilization of used book covers to create their whimsical set of large cubes as their stage set, minimal lighting, creative costume design from used resources to create a well known story through a sustainable narrative. The Office of Sustainability paired with the eclectic crew to provide those at the Talk Back with food that was locally sourced and waste that was composted or recycled. Yes, these steps could be perceived as small in the grand mission of accomplishing full-circle sustainability. But you forget my friend, every small step you take is bringing you that much closer to the destination and when in stride with others, the journey can become that euphoric memory never to be forgotten. As George E. Clark once remarked “theater reaches audiences in a very personal and compelling way, touching both the heart and the mind. Because theater can also impart technical information and encourage action, it addresses one of the most notorious challenges of the sustainability project: moving people from the status quo to sustainability action.” Yes, sustainable theatre production is a path less travelled, but this road is accompanied by a link of interests all coming together inthe magic of imagination and creation. And who doesn’t love a little magic? Grab your friend, enjoy your life, and saunter ever more gallantly in the direction of sustainability. And never forget that the journey never truly ends, just as this adventure of sustainable theatre production is yet not truly over.

To be continued..

-Callie Rhodin, Sustainability Intern

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Photos by Stephanie Green

under: Blog, Callie Rhodin, Guest Bloggers, Sustainable Theatre

The Alpha Delta Pi Salad Bowl

Posted by: holmesbc | November 11, 2014 | No Comment |

The Office of Sustainability works together with Alpha Delta Pi

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While working with the Office of Sustainability’s Garden Apprenticeship Program, my eyes have been opened to the importance of sustainable gardening. My name is Brianna Taber. I am a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Public Health and minoring in Sociology. I have worked with the Office of Sustainability as the Alpha Delta Pi greek chair in the past and this semester I started working with their garden apprenticeship program. We have helped maintain one of the gardens on campus throughout the semester and have learned more about gardening in a sustainable manner.  I wanted to take the knowledge that I have learned through the program and apply it to my life in a way that would affect more than just me. The best way for me to do this was to open a conversation with my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, about starting a garden at the sorority’s house located at 36 Coming Street.
The idea began at the beginning of the fall semester. I knew that I wanted to grow a plant that everyone in the sorority would enjoy planting, harvesting, and eating. I met with Lexa Keane from the Grounds Department at the College of Charleston to discuss what the space looked like at the house and what could possibly be grown. We came up with the idea to grow lettuce and kale in a large pot. The play on words “salad bowl” have been used to name the garden. I also talked with Kelsea Sears from the Office of Sustainability about where I would gather the materials to start the garden. With the small budget we were working with I decided to recycle a pot that was already at the Alpha Delta Pi house. We got free compost from the Grounds Department. The kale and lettuce seeds were donated by the Office of Sustainability. Now we had all the basic needs to start the garden.
The planting day was on October 23rd. We had girls from the sorority come to help plant. The garden has been growing as planned. There are many little green sprouts in the pot. We have been lucky with the warm fall that Charleston has been experiencing. Various girls within the sorority have been helping with watering the garden. We are very excited about this collaboration with the Office of Sustainability and the sorority. We hope that the salad bowl will be a huge success and to in the spring have another planting day to grow more.

By: Brianna Taber

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under: Uncategorized

Connecting Public Health to Sustainability

Posted by: holmesbc | November 7, 2014 | No Comment |

When I tell people that I am an intern at The Office of Sustainability, the first statement I usually hear is, “I thought you were a Public Health Major?” It is really hard to get people to understand the connection between the two. Most people think of of Public Health as workers at the Center for Disease Control or someone who is going to go to Medical school after undergrad. While some do become doctors and medical professionals, most Public Health majors work in administrative positions at hospitals, some go to Law School to become environmental lawyers, and a lot become policy makers for the government

The connection between sustainability and public health is very strong. Some of the courses one can take while getting a public health degree are, introduction to toxicology, introduction to public health,  and epidemiology. A big part of all these courses is policy making and grant writing. Students learn what the process is for writing a Public Health grants and make policy changes. College of Charleston passed an on campus smoking ban last year that went into effect this summer and Public Health students had a helping hand in creating the policy and getting it passed.

Epidemiology looks at diseases and how and where they begin. Some diseases that students study are diseases that would not be prevalent if people had access to clean water, i.e Cholera, or had access to healthier food . Sustainability looks at sustaining and prolonging existing entities, including human live. To sustain the live and improve the lives we have now, we must improve water quality, air quality and access to fresh food, all things that public health student learn about, and topics that the Office of Sustainability address.

            Public Health is about improving the health and well being of the public and (my own definition) sustainability is improving the public and environment so that the well being of the public can also improve.

-Avie Taylor, Public Health ’15

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under: Avie Taylor, Guest Bloggers

Putting the Green in Halloween

Posted by: holmesbc | November 4, 2014 | No Comment |

To continue the theme of “greening holidays” from my last post on St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would discuss a few ways you can make your Halloween more sustainable. Halloween is up there on my list of favorite holidays – who can resist some delicious candy and a good scare? – but all of those wrappers don’t just disappear. According to the EPA, over 30 percent of municipal solid waste in the U.S. comes in the form of packaging, which includes all of those candy wrappers for Halloween treats. Individual wrapping is used for health and safety reasons and is not something that is going to change anytime soon. However, there are plenty of other ways you can reduce your impact on this holiday.

Pumpkins

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), U. S. farmers produced more than one billion pounds of pumpkins last year to meet the demands of fall. Most of these pumpkins are used for carving and seasonal decoration, but are then tossed in the trash, destined for the landfill at the end of the holidays.

There are several ways you can reduce your impact. Instead of purchasing your pumpkin from a grocery store, visit the local farmer’s market to buy locally grown or organic pumpkins. This not only supports the local economy, but also reduces the shipping impact of pumpkins grown halfway across the country. In fact, 92% of pumpkins are grown in 5 states, none of which are South Carolina (IL, CA, OH, PA, and NY, in case you were wondering). While you are picking up your local pumpkin, you can also pick some apples to make a delicious treat, whether that treat is candied or caramelized.

Be sure to use the whole pumpkin rather than simply decorate it. Instead of throwing out those pumpkin innards, you can reuse them to make delicious snacks like pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, or even pumpkin soup. And you can always roast the seeds for a real treat. Check out this website for some great recipe ideas!

Lastly, rather than tossing the remains into the trash, use them to compost. If you are looking for a place to compost here at CofC, the Grounds Department, located at 45 Coming Street, accepts drop-offs every Friday from 9am-3pm!

Costumes

 While you could literally go green as the Jolly Green Giant, you could have another take on “green” and make a costume out things you already own. What better way to show off your creativity and your social consciousness at the same time? My personal favorite homemade look is Brooke Shield’s Citi Bike Costume, which also promotes a sustainable method of transportation. Maybe you can adapt this idea to the CofC Bike Share and blend in among our fleet at Stern Student Center!Brooke-Shields-CitiBike-Halloween1-537x439

If that isn’t your thing, you can also hold a costume swap. Rather than buying a new costume, hold a swap with your friends and trade them around. Not only is this practice “green” by reducing waste, but it can also save you some green. According to NRF, the average person will spend $77.52 this Halloween for a total of $7.4 billion spent nationwide. Instead of having to spend big bucks on something that is only worn once then tossed aside, join us at the upcoming Clothing Swap on November 17th. This will be held in the Stern Ballroom from 4-6pm and will be a great opportunity to grab some new gear and plan ahead for next year!

With these tips in mind, you can continue your festivities without sacrificing any of the fun. In fact, by cutting down your costs and waste, you may have even more to celebrate! Happy Halloween!

-Morgan Larimer, Bike Share Intern

under: Guest Bloggers, Morgan Larimer

The Power of Musicking

Posted by: holmesbc | October 15, 2014 | No Comment |

Despite having played an instrument since the age of six – first piano, then guitar, until finally discovering my passion in vocal music – I never considered it any more than a hobby. I recognized that perhaps it meant something when, after a tiresome day or stressful week, all I wanted was to get near a piano and a solitary place to sing. Regardless, I never thought it possible to interconnect my passion for music with my more academic studies: political science and environmental studies. Last fall, however, I was fortunate enough to discover something called “ecomusicology”. Simply put, Ecomusicology examines how music both reflects and affects our relationship with nature in political, individual, and spiritual spheres. It expands into areas of non-human animals, and even plants, and their relationships with or reliance upon sound. What enthuses me, though, is the intersection between music and politics, particularly environmental politics and environmental justice.

The first weekend of October, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to attend a conference titled “Ecomusics & Ecomusicologies: Dialogues”. Topics discussed ranged from indigenous groups’ use of sound for healing, music in response to mountaintop coal removal in Appalachia (of which there is a LOT, and which I will touch on in a bit), and affects of sound on self-awareness and being – among many others. The creative arts are a necessary tool to bring out our true “humanness,” as one presenter put it. As an environmentalist, I have to wonder why music and the arts are left out of our usual discussion of sustainability. How can we sustain the human population if we disregard the histories that progressed us to where we are today? The arts as a whole are representative of cultures, values, beliefs, and concerns of any given time throughout our human history. Thus, in the quest to answer “What is it we wish to sustain?” I feel we should also be thinking about what we are proud of as a species. Perhaps I am biased, but I would think the arts are something almost all of us can say we are thankful for.

 

As environmental activist Tim DeChristopher said, “We will be a movement when we sing like a movement”. I love this quote for the fact that it emphasizes the simple power of song in forming a sense of community, one that is going to be essential for our species to thrive in the near and distant future. Music is not just a thing produced, but an action we engage with, sometimes called “musicking”. The act of musicking is social and political in that it establishes a set of relationships between all involved. This perception of music is essential to the understanding of music as protest. When I traveled up to New York City in September for the People’s Climate March, I was fortunate to happen upon a small group of people (amidst the 400,000 there) singing “If I Had A Hammer” as they marched. As a child, “If I Had A Hammer” was a song I listened to during car rides down from Ohio to South Carolina, a song on a Peter, Paul, and Mary album that my father insisted on overplaying. Now I understand that particular song’s significance in countless social movements across America. This enhanced depth of understanding is of not only songs but also social activism in general, and I am thrilled to apply it in my own life, political engagement, and my overall understandings of sustainability and the human species.

-Abby Tennenbaum

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under: Uncategorized

Mindfulness + Sustainability

Posted by: holmesbc | October 6, 2014 | No Comment |

About a year ago I was on the medical school track until I realized I wanted to see more of the world versus more time studying in a classroom. Medicine is still fascinating to me but it’s not my passion. Then sustainability waltzed on into my life.

At the beginning of Spring 2014, you could have called me sustainability virgin. During that semester I took a course on sustainability with Dr. Brian Fisher and interned at the Office of Sustainability.  When I entered the realm of sustainability, I had an open mind; one could say I was eager to learn. After one semester of an internship and the sustainability course, I had a pretty good grasp on the major goal of sustainability. My personal definition wasn’t as clear to me. What I was clear on is what sustainability did not include reduce, reuse and recycle. Sustainability is a balance between systems. These systems include human and environmental systems. The systems thinking aspect of sustainability can be complex but the general categorization has been helpful for me because although I was not interested in conventional medicine and becoming a doctor, the topic of health never left. When I started visualizing society, as a human system the future was not as limiting and daunting.

I began to realize the human system has multiple facets. A few of them being economic, social, physical, and mental and all of them need to be healthy to be successful. Personally, the word health to me has started to coincide with sustainability. Anyway, I have noticed I have been consistent with yearning to do things that aid in optimizing the physical and mental health of people.

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There are several ways to build the mental and physical health of our society and they all coincide with creating a more sustainable environment. Mental health is a topic that has similar “new age” aura around it as sustainability. People are too scared to approach the truths. Mental health has been a apart of my life ever since my father passed away when I was a toddler. After he passed my mom put my sister and I in therapy to “talk about our feelings and help us cope with our fathers’ death properly. Again, I was very young and I don’t remember talking about anything grandeur. Anyway, from that point on I have always been open and honest with myself. It wasn’t until the past few years that I realized how important and healthy it is to be aware of your emotions, how they’re expressed and why. My mom has a case of severe depression and PTSD along with General Anxiety Disorder (according to the DSM V). Growing up and through her adult life, she never talked about her issues. I remember clearly that we were always in therapy but she never went for herself. A lot of events built up and inhibited her to be strong which led to her eventual surrender. As I was walking through Forever 21 sophomore year, I get a call from my sister informing me that my mom was going into an institution. At that time, Conner was a senior in high school and my youngest sister was in 7th grade. Obviously not an ideal time but the timing proved the severity of her depressive state. She arrived at Emory hospital and they had her go through Electric Shock Therapy. The ECT treatment ended up not working because a year later she traveled back to Emory and began ketamine therapy. Which brings us to today. Yes, it is sad but she should be an example to everyone out there: talk about your emotions and be ok with them because not doing so is not sustainable (my mom as exhibit A).

Along with the ketamine treatment, she visits a psychiatrist every week and partakes in mindfulness therapy. At first, and for a WHILE, I was doubtful that breathing a few times a day would improve your mood. And really who has time for it? About a year or so later positive psychology popped up as one of the psychology class options. I decided to enroll because I could tell it was helping my mom a lot but I needed evidence! As the course has gone on I have become less and less skeptical about mindfulness. Honestly, I have started to make a lot od connections between positive psychology and mindfulness. The two work hand in hand. Ok, I know breathing for 10 minutes a day seems useless and why would we do that when we have so many other tasks on our list to do? Well, I thought the same way about 6 weeks ago. Hear me out.

Mindfulness has several forms: yoga, meditation, breathing, and tai chi, just to name a few. Through those practices one can improve physical and mental well being. Mental well being is what will help with sustainability because mindfulness cultivates characteristics such as gratitude, optimism, adaptability, forgiveness, and living with an open mind and living in the moment. If you are in my brain, you are making lists upon lists of examples about how this would help sustainability. I am going to go through a situation in which mindfulness helped me close friend out with sustainability.

My family is a bit confused as to why I have gained interest in sustainability. In their mind I went from Neurosurgeon path to paid hippie. Originally, I got defensive for several reasons. One, my family must not know me because when have I ever exhibited hippie like qualities and two, I knew there was more to the concept than hugging trees (although I find myself unintentionally doing this at times). Anyway, my family has an intense and successful background: bank chief finical executive, board member, highly regarded in their local political system, lawyer, mathematician, professional ballerina and Olympic swimmer. When you have a group like that it’s hard for them to understand. Mindfulness helped me rework through my head and adapt to their perspective. The adaptability mindset that is cultivated allows you to step out of your own head and observe how others are handling the situation without taking judgment, just with an open mind. I realized I needed to explain to them what I am doing in a way that will speak to them. First, I sent them a youtube video about the Office of Sustainability mission along with an article I was interviewed for and by doing so they are now clear on what my idea of sustainability is and that I am working hard at my job (and a campus celebrity J ). Secondly, I am going to send them a note about how I can apply sustainability to any job that I am doing by living according to my values. I want to point out to them that I am not working towards being an environmentalist. My family has worked hard to get to where they are and all they want is the best for me, which mainly means they want me to have a stable financial situation. Third, I would talk with them about the potential jobs I am thinking about (NO CLUE, but they don’t have to know) and their potential income. Lastly, I will ask if they have any questions.

Throughout the process I am exhibiting adaptability and openness along with non-judgment (especially when I am acknowledging that they probably have questions). This is a concrete example but mindfulness itself provides sustainability to the individual through cultivating mental strength. As Garden Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, I have found being in the garden, around green plants oxygenated air and natural aromas is a mindfulness experience in itself. Simply noticing the details around you is a form of mindfulness.

Keep in mind I am NOT a positive psychologist and these are just my observation after 6 weeks in a positive psychology course. There are plenty of studies and accounts that have found empirical evidence supporting mindfulness. Please look into the studies if you are doubtful because the studies are what sway me as well.

Sustainability is complex and can be frustrating…I know. But if you keep an open mind, your head and heart in the moment and take a deep breath, you have no idea what you will be able to achieve!

-Kelsea Sears

 

 

 

under: Kelsea Sears, Office Staff

One of my favorite T.V shows over the past couple of years has been Mad Men, a show whose intricate plot unfolds while following a set of characters working for an advertising agency in Manhattan. In one of the earlier seasons, the main protagonist Don Draper offers a bit of advice to a client saying, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.” I like to think that one of the goals of sustainability is to change the questions that people are asking, to change the conversation. Instead of where do I shop, where is my food coming from? Instead of where I can I throw this away, can this be composted or recycled? Instead of where can I park, how can I get there?

Photo via Post & Courier

Photo via Post & Courier

That last conversation is something that I am quite passionate about. As a cyclist, I am in favor of promoting not only cycling, but also other forms of public transportation. With the population in the Charleston area set to grow significantly over the next 25 years, dealing with how we are going to transport ourselves from one place to the other is going to be, if it isn’t already, a serious issue. And for a region that’s already cramped for space, adding more parking spaces and highway lanes isn’t the answer. Last night Gabe Klein, the former Director of Transportation Systems in Chicago and Washington D.C., gave his follow up presentation on his findings and suggestions for ways that Charleston can begin to address its growing transportation needs for the near, immediate, and distant future. His suggestions ranged in scope from bringing back sections of the old Charleston streetcar network (which used to be fairly extensive) to upgrading the city’s parking meters and raising the price of parking to increase revenues for other transportation initiatives.

In regards to my personal favorite mode of transit, biking, Klein mentioned that Charleston is in the “awkward adolescent stage” when it comes to commuting by bike, and I would definitely have to agree.  There are enough cycling commuters to be noticed, but not enough of a mainstream cycling culture for cyclist to begin policing themselves to start following the rules of the road. Klein spoke of tensions that exist between different commuters and those who commute by different modes, and in Charleston, there is definitely a tension between drivers and cyclists. But these tensions are often artificial and are indicators of successful changes in transportation mode shares. A recent local example is the new bike parking available on King Street.

Hopefully many of Klein’s recommendations will come to pass. I realize there are barriers to accomplishing these goals, not the least of which is funding. Regardless, the fact that he was doing work in Charleston means that we’re beginning to realize that we don’t like what’s being said, and that we’re changing the conversation.

-Aaron Holly, Graduate Assistant

under: Aaron Holly, Blog, CofC Bikes

SISE 2014: What I learned

Posted by: holmesbc | September 11, 2014 | No Comment |

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In April of 2014 my project advisor at the Office of Sustainability, Ashlyn Hochschild, emailed out several different opportunities to get more involved in the sustainability realm. One of the things listed in the email was the Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (SISE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a two week intensive for undergraduate seniors, graduate students, and sustainability professionals focusing on renewable energy and the sustainability of those energy practices. Not having anything to lose, I decided to apply.  Fast-forward four months and a very intense application process later I was boarding a 6am flight to Chicago.

SISE provides a unique learning opportunity for the 50-60 people selected to participate every year by combining interesting lectures, unique research projects, and amazing field trips. The lectures we attended were given by some of the top energy and sustainability professionals in the Chicago area with topics that ranged from sustainable airports to batteries to the importance of business and entrepreneurship in the field. Not only did these top professionals lecture us, but also they acted as mentors for the duration of the program.

For the group research project we were given a problem to research and solve in our assigned groups over two weeks relating to the theme of Urban Energy. We were mentored, presented, wrote business plans and what resulted was twelve groups with twelve great ideas. This project gave everyone an opportunity to explore an unfamiliar topic and to gain the experience of accomplishing a large task in a short amount of time while also building our professionalism skills.

The last main learning component of the program is the field trips. We visited a total of three sites in Chicago during our two-week stay: Illinois Institute of Technology, O’Hare international Airport, and Argonne National Laboratory. Each site showed us what sustainability looks like in the real world, specifically the energy field. Between learning about the smart grid technology already available at IIT, the goats and sheep kept at O’Hare, and seeing the Advanced Photon Source and Transportation Labs at Argonne, the participants gained a true understanding of how the world is beginning to make a change towards a more sustainable future.

I knew when I accepted my invitation to attend the fourth annual SISE I would be exposed to new ideas and learn so much from the lectures and field trips, but I would have never expected that I would learn the most from the other participants. Living with 60 strangers for two weeks seems like it could end in disaster, however working, learning and living with everyone 24 hours a day gave me a better understanding of the world and sustainability. When we weren’t in lectures or on trips everyone would go explore the wonderful city we were in. Somewhere between waiting 90 minutes to try Chicago’s famous pizza, stuffing too many people in a sketchy cab, arriving to the park to hear live music about a minute before it ends, finding a random band playing swing music on the sidewalk and dancing with new friends, watching fireworks off Navy Pier, staying up until 6am in the dorm singing in 15 different languages and dancing, having cook-outs, taking too many selfies, seeing the Air & Water Show, playing Cards Against Humanity and Hanabi, and just having wonderful conversations with people, the participants of SISE 2014 became a family.  The feeling I had at

SISE is one I hope everyone can experience at some point in their life. Being in the realm of environmental studies and sustainability comes with a lot of negativity but being surrounded by people who have the same goal of bettering the world, I have never felt more hopeful about the outlook of our existence on this planet.

One the first day of SISE, I walked into aconversation between participants on the physics of the organic chemistry of some type of renewable energy and I thought I was accepted by mistake. That conversation was my first exposure of many to the great minds of chemistry, physics, mathematics, economics, policy, business, geography, architecture, and so much more that made up the participants of SISE 2014 who taught me so much about the world and myself. Three weeks after SISE ended, I still miss the family I gained there, but I know that in our respective areas of the world we will still be working together to make a difference. – Virginia Whorley, Sustainability Intern

under: Office Staff, SISE, Virginia Whorely

Ideas on Communication

Posted by: Jen Jones | August 27, 2014 | No Comment |

Guest Blog from Office Intern and MES/MPA graduate student Tripp McElwee

I was messy as a youth.  Very messy.  My room was constantly a wreck, littered with dirty clothes, candy wrappers, and whatever toys I was interested in at the time.  My parents would constantly tell me to clean it up.  Sometimes it was asked nicely, sometimes it was firmly bellowed, and sometimes it was screamed, but it never worked.  I was never told why I needed to clean my room, I was just told to clean it up.  In my mind it was a schedule:  create mess, receive punishment, clean room, create mess… repeat.  The rate of ascension of my parent’s anger was only paralleled by the rate of crap piling up in my room. 

As a college student, I began to realize that my messiness actually negatively impacted my life.  A lack of organization of my possessions led to me looking for things all the time, this led to being late all of the time, causing frustration and scattered thoughts.  It wasn’t until my early twenties that I learned there is a reason for being organized; you are more calm, more efficient, and a generally more effective adult.  Whenever I truly understood this I developed the proper habits to become the relatively clean, organized individual I am today.

Good for you Tripp, what does this have to do with sustainability?

Changing habits is difficult, and people generally do not change them by being commanded or accused of doing the wrong thing.  Change comes through understanding.  As much as I love my dear sweet parents, the best thing they could have done when I was a youth is sit down and discuss sincerely the reasons why organization is important.  Maybe it would have worked, and maybe it wouldn’t, but it was the only real chance at changing my behaviors.  For me, sustainability isn’t actually about changing habits, it’s about changing paradigms.  If thought processes are changed, then the habits will follow.  If a citizen or a business is commanded to recycle their paper and plastic without any ideological backdrop, it is unlikely to continue for very long.  If a citizen sees the Charleston County Landfill with their own eyes and understands the finite dimensions of waste disposal, it may lead to a much more sustainable solution:  a change in ideology.

I have often been frustrated by environmentalist’s accusatory tones when communicating with people who think differently from them.  One that truly wants to make macro changes in public opinion must understand that this type of communication will only further alienate those with differing views.  Creating more sustainable systems will occur through leading by example, and positivist education, not through apocalyptic sermons and accusation.  If you believe in a more sustainable future like I do, lead by example, strap on a smile and educate your friends and co-workers.  In time, the room might start to clean itself up.

under: Guest Bloggers, Tripp McElwee

On Leaking Faucets

Posted by: cohenoa | July 7, 2014 | No Comment |

The KlawAfter moving to Charleston without a place to live and suffering a series of frantic and disappointing Craigslist encounters, I found myself a room to sublease.  I met with the current resident of the room the same day I contacted her, checked out the second story home once, and moved in a few hours later.  It seemed like I was getting a great deal – the home sat right near Colonial Lake and I was paying under $600 per month, utilities included.  I shared the house with three girls, all of whom seemed to be agreeable human beings from my limited impression of them.  It took me a few days to realize how unsavory my situation actually was.

The faucet dripped.  Constantly.  The only way to make it stop was to push down, hard, in just the right place and in just the right way.  I was the only one who would make the effort to get it to stop or put a mason jar underneath to catch the water, but I would come home to find that the tap was leaking so much that it might as well have been on and the mason jar – overfull with water – had been defiled with soap and dish scum.  Then their water bill came in and usage was astronomically high, something like three times what one household would normally use in a month.  I was astonished that my housemates had done nothing to fix the problem up until this point, nor even considered it a problem, and clearly there were no intentions to act in the immediate future.  It was infuriating that around the world people kill and die for access to drinking water but my privileged housemates were wasting it without a second thought.

So what did I do? I did some research, rode my bike to the nearest bathroom supply outlet, bought some replacement parts, and fixed the faucet.  It took me maybe an hour.

While this is indeed a great outlet for complaining about my living situation, I do have a point.  Sustainability is not some highfalutin word for soaring idealisms and unfeasible praxis – it is about real people and solvable issues.  At its core it is about making your stomping grounds more efficient, and consequently more livable.

So let’s leave “sustainability” for the thinkers.  The common man has his equally noble role to play: to make his living space as livable as possible with what he’s got.  And it’s easy.  Keeping your kitchen clean, using diluted dish soap, taking shorter showers, using less toilet paper, flushing less often, fixing your screen door with a piece of used floss, that sort of thing.  Reducing then reusing and only then recycling.  It’s not about the environment; it will be fine with or without us.  It’s about you, it’s about me, and it’s about all the leaky faucets on this rock we call Earth.  Anything less is a fundamental lack of respect.

-Corey Klawunder

under: Uncategorized

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