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Baby Steps

Posted by: holmesbc | March 29, 2015 | No Comment |
Part of the process of adopting a more sustainable mindset is reflecting on one’s behaviors and habits and whether or not they are compatible with the lifestyle changes that they are trying to make. More often than not the answer is no, which inevitably leads to a transition state where one is trying to rid themselves of old habits while they try to adopt new ones. It is incontrovertible that the current lifestyle standard of the United States is built upon unsustainable practices: we use gasoline and oil to run much of our transit and production infrastructure, we produce literally mountainous piles of non-recyclable materials that find their way into landfills every year, our factory farming systems contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and are the perpetrators of immense amounts of environmental harm every year, it is still widespread practice to implement land transformation practices such as deforestation and land flattening in order to build our homes and communities, etc. These are all questions that get raised when one begins to consider the question of how to live in a sustainable manner.
All of these practices have been established as culturally excepted norms, so the realization of having had a personal contribution to them can be emotionally strenuous and make the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle very challenging. Realizing that you have a problem is always the first step to ameliorating that problem though. It is the first step that for many can be an extensive trek, which is not an unrealistic expectation considering just how extensively entrenched these practices are in society. For the majority of people it is an unrealistic expectation to adopt an entirely new lifestyle cold turkey. Rome was not built in a day, and when your job requires you to drive a car to work, or you buy berries that are sold in plastic packaging so that you can eat healthily, or you buy a modest home on a bulldozed plot because you need a place in which to raise a family; it really is not feasible to expect the majority of people to adopt a new lifestyle in a day either.
In light of these considerations, I think that the most important part of transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle is to take confidence and positive reinforcement in the small changes: such as making the switch to reusable shopping bags, riding a bicycle around town more, finding blueberries that are sold in more sustainable packaging, etc. Over time these small habitual changes will add up to have a great deal of impact when it comes to improving your life, and the driving force for that impact will be the positive self-reinforcement given from finding confidence in these changes. It will undoubtedly be one of the most effective driving forces that will allow you to roll, crawl, waddle, walk, and then run to a more sustainable future.
-William Hester, Physics ’16
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under: Uncategorized

#CofCMoves: Dr. Kevin Keenan Moves with CARTA

Posted by: holmesbc | March 26, 2015 | No Comment |

How do you move? Do you walk, bike, or use public transit? Join the Office of Sustainability and participate in the College’s first official event celebrating the different modes of transportation that the College community uses to commute to campus. On April 9th, during Sustainability Week, let us know how you move by using #CofCMoves and why you move the way you do! 

We interviewed Dr Kevin Keenan, Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department, Director of Urban Studies, and Director of the Urban and Regional Planning Certificate, about why he moves with CARTA.

Office of Sustainability: Why do you bus, bike, walk, and/or carpool rather than driving?IMG_5923

Dr. Kevin Keenan: I take the bus for several reasons: (1) it is free for CofC staff, faculty, and students; (2) parking is very expensive downtown; (3) it is more relaxing in the morning than driving; and (4) CARTA needs a ridership.

OOS: How long have you been doing so and how far do you commute daily?

KK: I have used the bus regularly for about 3 years, my commute and 4 miles.

OOS: What are the benefits to commuting by Bus/Carpool/Bike versus driving alone?

KK: I save a ton of money on gasoline (about $30 per week), don’t have to worry about parking or angry drivers, and using transit is relatively easy here in Charleston.

OOS: What do you value most about the way you commute?

KK: I value the financial savings.

OOS: What is the biggest challenge you face as a commuter?

KK: CARTA does not run 24 hours, and sometimes there are large chunks of time between each bus.  This means that if I have to stay late at night for work, or if I have to leave here quickly at a time when the bus is not available, I have to resort to my car or a cab (if I’m already downtown and need to get home, for example).

OOS: What are some improvements you’d like to see?

KK: I think that CARTA is a pretty good system given the context of the South and Charleston being a small city.  I’d like to see better, newer buses that are more efficient, though I must say the fleet that they have is completely fine and works well.

OOS: Are there any myths about your method of transportation that you’d like to address?

KK: People think that CARTA is dirty, that it never runs on time, and that it is for poor people.  This is not true (though poor people do indeed ride the bus), and while there are challenges (such as late buses sometimes), the benefits outweigh the costs in my estimation.  Further, being around “poor” people is not a reason to not take the bus.

OOS: Would you recommend this method to others?

KK: I highly recommend the bus.  It is safe, efficient (both in terms of gas and financial savings), and it is good for the environment.

OOS: Do you have any fun commuting stories?

KK: I don’t have a fun commuting story, but I do have an ironic one related to public transit here in Charleston.  On the day that the guy stopped his car on the Ravenel Bridge and threatened to jump unless someone brought him a pizza, I was scheduled to have CARTA deliver a presentation in my graduate Urban Transportation: Problems and Prospects class on the role of public transit in the Lowcountry.  The irony, of course, was that that one event disrupted the entire transportation grid, causing massive delays around the region.  This underscored how many people use cars, how there are too many cars, and that we desperately need alternative modes of movement that a large number of people use.

 

under: Uncategorized

#CofCMoves: Richard Moss Moves by Bike

Posted by: holmesbc | March 26, 2015 | No Comment |

How do you move? Do you walk, bike, or use public transit? Join the Office of Sustainability and participate in the College’s first official event celebrating the different modes of transportation that the College community uses to commute to campus. On April 9th, during Sustainability Week, let us know how you move by using #CofCMoves and why you move the way you do!

We interviewed IT Senior Application Analyst Richard Moss about why he bikes.

Office of Sustainability: What is your role at the College and how long have you worked here?IMG_5938

Richard Moss: I’m a Senior Application Analyst with the Student Programming group in IT.  I’ve been at the College since 1997, having helped in bringing up the old CougarTrail system, the web application we used prior to Banner.

OOS: Why do you bike rather than drive?

RM: A combination of saving some income on parking, and building into my schedule an activity that provides regular exercise.

OOS: How long have you been doing so?

RM: Since they opened the new bridge in 2005 (I live in Mount Pleasant)

OOS: How far do you commute daily?

RM: My commute is 6 miles, door to door.

OOS: What are the benefits to commuting by Bus/Carpool/Bike versus driving alone?

RM: I look forward to the commute now.  With about half of the route on the bridge pedestrian/bike path, there’s very little time spent in traffic.

OOS: What do you value most about the way you commute?

RM: Getting out in the world and feeling the weather, and getting some exercise. I’ve also made numerous friends along the commute, over the years.

OOS: What is the biggest challenge you face as a commuter?

RM: Staying alert, and developing habits that are safe.

OOS: What are some improvements you’d like to see?

RM: There are bike lanes on most of Coleman Boulevard, but they are incomplete.  It would be nice to have those completed.

OOS: Are there any myths about your method of transportation that you’d like to address?

RM: It’s not totally cost-free.  My bike needs regular maintenance and a collection of cold weather apparel is a must.

OOS: Would you recommend this method to others?

RM: Absolutely.

OOS: Do you have any fun commuting stories?

RM: I engage in my own adopt-a-highway activity on the bridge and in front of the port facility on East Bay.  Sometimes, I come by useful items.  There have been a number of occasions where there’s been an eerie correlation between my thinking I need something, and finding it on my commute – an 8-foot step ladder; a brown t-shirt; an old raincoat (for working in our churchyard, that very morning!?); work gloves; boating cushions; a waterproof boating bag.  And the list goes on. Otherwise, I’ve taken to collecting miscellaneous metal items I clear from the roadway (mostly stuff you wouldn’t want to run over, when in a car).  I recently took the home-side portion of that collection to the scrap metal yard.  It returned to me a very small amount of cash, and the very great feeling of satisfaction similar to what Reid Wiseman must get when he turns in his aluminum cans!

under: #CofCMoves, Bike, Richard Moss

What’s the harm of a little plastic bag?

Posted by: holmesbc | March 23, 2015 | No Comment |

Why is it so important to start acting on the use of plastic bags? There are many reasons, but to sum it up, they never disappear and they do more harm than good. One might think that since they threw away the plastic bag, it’s gone for good, and never have a second thought about it. But there’s more to a plastic bag life cycle than one might think.

It’s a handy tool to use when it comes to having to carry things around, I’ll give you that. But that’s about all it’s good for. Once it leaves your hands, whether you threw it in the trash or it accidentally blew away into the environment, that’s not the end of the bag’s life cycle. Polluting water is a major problem that plastic bags are creating. A large quantity of plastic bags find their way into water systems, such as a river, which will eventually output them into the ocean. Specifically here in the low country, it’s not a challenge for a bag to end up in the ocean since it’s only a few short miles journey.

Plastic bags can end up in a water system which eventually leads to the ocean. Once there, it now has a chance to harm many organisms. One species in particular are sea turtles, whose main diet consists of jellyfish. A plastic bag floating through the ocean looks oddly similar to a jellyfish from a turtle’s view, and the turtle ingests it, not knowing that it is plastic. Once the plastic is ingested, things turn ugly. The turtle is unable to digest the plastic and it ultimately causes a blockage, otherwise known as impaction, which causes the turtle to become sick. Now with the help of plastic bags piling up in the environment from humans, endangered sea turtles have a greater chance of becoming sick and even dying. The sea turtles are only a handful of the animals that are impacted negatively by the abundance of plastic bags.

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California is stepping up and proposing a ban on single use plastic bags. This is a step in the right direction to ensure that plastic bags are not piling up in the environment. While this is an excellent step in putting a halt to this dilemma, more states and cities need to jump on the bandwagon to put an end to the use of plastic bags. One tossed plastic bag turns into ten, which turns into many more, and eventually plastic bags are everywhere, choking the environment. Do the world a favor, forgo the plastic and reach for a reusable bag!

If you’re interested in finding out more on the life cycle of a plastic bag, take a look at here at a wonderful mockumentary explaining it all!

-Jaclyn Trayte,  Marine Biology ’16

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under: Uncategorized

#CofCMoves: Sean Bath Moves with CARTA

Posted by: holmesbc | March 19, 2015 | No Comment |

How do you move? Do you walk, bike, or use public transit? Join the Office of Sustainability and participate in the College’s first official event celebrating the different modes of transportation that the College community uses to commute to campus. On April 9th, during Sustainability Week, let us know how you move by using #CofCMoves and why you move the way you do!

We interviewed MPA/MES Grad Student Sean Bath about why he moves with CARTA.

Office of Sustainability: What is your role at the College?

Sean Bath: I’m a graduate student in the Public Administration and Environmental Studies dual degree program. I’ve been at the College since I started my undergraduate study in 2008.

OOS: Why do you use the bus rather than drive?

SB: There are many reasons. First, it saves me money. CARTA buses are free with a CofC ID and I don’t have to pay parking. Second, I can work, read, socialize, or nap on the bus. Not having to worry about driving is incredibly relaxing. Third, my girlfriend and I can share a single car without running up the mileage unnecessarily. Fourth, it promotes daily exercise with a purpose. I have a nice 10 minute walk to get to my home from the bus stop. Lastly, it significantly reduces my carbon footprint.

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OOS: How long have you been doing so?

SB: I’ve been using the bus since 2012. The catalyst was the need to share the car and finding out that it was free to use CARTA, but it was the experience of using the bus that removed any anxiety or subconscious misgivings I had about it. Nowadays, I would continue using the bus even if I had to pay the fare — it’s still far cheaper than driving when you consider gas, wear and tear, parking, stress, etc.

OOS: How far do you commute daily?

SB: I commute about 6 miles from James Island. The express bus takes 20-30 minutes to get downtown, only stopping once, at MUSC. I choose to walk to the Wal-Mart bus stop, which takes me about 10 minutes, but the lot is designed for parking your car and using the bus to get downtown.

I commuted about the same distance via SC-61 when I lived in West Ashley for a year. That bus was normal service, with plenty of stops along the route. Travel times can vary depending on traffic and how many people are waiting at stops, but I’d say 30-45 minutes was the norm.

OOS: What are the benefits to commuting by bus versus driving alone?

SB: I’ve already mentioned several, such as reduced cost, reduced stress on the road, the ability to multi-task, and reduced carbon footprint. You also have the opportunity to meet interesting people and develop a sense of community.

OOS: What do you value most about the way you commute?

SB: I most value the sensation of being able to commute regularly for free. Ironically, there is a feeling of independence there. It also feels pretty good to reduce my carbon footprint without discomfort.

OOS: What is the biggest challenge you face as a commuter?

Personally, I’m lucky that my biggest challenge is reliability. I’d say 95% of trips are perfect or with slight delays, but the 5% of times when a bus never arrives can be crippling. I try to mitigate this by avoiding the last bus on a schedule, but it’s still pretty lousy to wait for the next bus. Those who live in more distant suburbs may have more trouble finding a nearby bus stop. Those at the end of a line can experience longer delays. Lastly, shelter at many bus stops is non-existent.

OOS: What are some improvements you’d like to see?

SB: I’d like to see them further improve the bus GPS tracker on the mobile website by making it a downloadable app with the ability to place alerts for incoming buses or for situations when a bus shuts down or is significantly delayed. Riders already get this information if they call CARTA, but an alert could save headquarters all the time answering phone calls while proactively informing app-users. App users could then tell other riders.

OOS: Are there any myths about Carta that you’d like to address?

SB: The biggest one is the idea that only lower income folks use CARTA. Yes, many of them do rely on it, but they’re not alone, especially with more students, faculty, and staff of MUSC and CofC taking advantage of the free ridership. CARTA ridership just keeps on growing. I’ve seen more than one person continue to use the bus after leaving these institutions.

I’d also challenge the notion that the buses are unsafe because of the other riders. I’ve never seen any aggressive behavior on the bus. There are security cameras installed in the buses and the drivers should intervene if anythingis called to their attention.

OOS: Would you recommend this method to others?

SB: Absolutely. Try it out and let it grow on you. Adapt to it and try to get rid of any anxieties you have by experiencing the normality of it. Then, be smart about it and figure out how to use the bus tracker to plan your walks to the bus stop: http://www.veoliavision.com/shadow/Predictions_Mobile.aspx?ccid=723

If you don’t feel comfortable trying it alone, try it with a friend.

 OOS: Do you have any fun commuting stories?

SB: Twice I have had the opportunity to speak with candidates for Congressional office, one Republican and one Democrat. I’ve had great conversations with two separate Chinese post-docs working at MUSC, a mid-career student learning cyber-security, and many, many people from CofC. I’m mostly an introvert and I rarely talk to people on the bus. Still, every now and then a great conversation just happens. You see the sames faces every day. Even if you don’t exchange words, you share something.

 

under: #CofCMoves, CARTA, Sean Bath, Uncategorized

The Necessity of Community

Posted by: holmesbc | March 13, 2015 | No Comment |

I came to college wanting to study the environment. I wanted to learn the science of the world around us thinking this alone would enable me to seek solutions to the environmental problems being faced across the globe today. I began my freshman semester of college as a Physics major with an Environmental Studies minor and like most teenagers, thought I knew everything and had it all figured out. Yet, as I learned very quickly, I did not have it all figured out and I knew very little about sustainability. Sustainability is more than the science of the environment. It’s about environmental philosophy, psychology, sociology, and it even reaches far beyond the knowledge found within classroom walls. Sustainability is rooted in something that cannot be taught: community. For me, the realization of this gave environmentalism and sustainability a whole new face. Sustainability, I realized, is rooted in community because it needs community to thrive. How could a movement encouraging us to return to local systems and be aware of our impact upon the world around us survive without a foundation in community?

As I continued to ponder this, I looked around and realized our society is being drained of true face-to-face community. Walking to class I see people walking staring at their phones or listening to music rather than making conversation with fellow classmates standing at crosswalks. At coffee-shops I find an eerie silence occasionally broken by the sounds of an espresso machine or computer keyboard. I find myself surrounded by ‘neighbors’ that I don’t even know, and nobody speaks, only looks at their phones browsing Facebook for the 10th time or snap-chatting a friend in another place.

My grandfather is one of the wisest men I know. He values good stories, hard work, and above all, community. It seems nearly everyone knows him and sees him as a close friend. He often helps out a neighbor on his farm and they share the profits such as eggs, ham, and some really great tomatoes. “What happened to community like this, Kate?” he often asks me. Then I realize, instead of actually going out and building community such as this, we like videos about community on Facebook and retweet them on twitter. I am certainly guilty of this too. I’ll watch videos and read books on community building instead of trying to make changes in my life to focus less on Facebook and more on people. It’s time to put thoughts and words into action.

Its time rebuild community, to get to know our neighbors, to talk to each other in coffee shops and on the way to class. Its time to close our Facebook tabs and go on bike rides with our friends (insert shameless plug for CofC Bike Share program here). Its time to do more than ‘liking’ movements on Facebook and start putting in the hard work to positively impact our shared environment together as a community.

-Kate O’dell, Physics Major & Environmental Studies Minor and Bike Share Intern

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under: Uncategorized

Vermicompost, Pt. 1

Posted by: holmesbc | March 12, 2015 | No Comment |

Our notion to bring vermiculture-style of composting to the college began over a year ago when Makenna and I were partnered to complete an Ecollective assignment for our Intro to Environmental studies course. Our project was based on the premise that because the College of Charleston produces over 1,000 tons of waste each year, and although there had already been a significant composting initiative in the dining halls, we saw that there will be an increasing demand to compost at a higher and more efficient rate.  Vermicompost will hopefully increase the rates at which the C of C composting program operates once the project reaches optimal scope, maximizing the amount of nutrient rich soil being produced as well as speeding up the composting process.

What began as a simple assignment quickly grew into the tangible roots of an idea. After completing the assignment, we wanted to do more with the project and took steps to making it a reality on campus. After the arduous process of approving our idea, we finally got enough funding to start. Based on the fact that one pound of red worms can eat up to half a pound of food waste each day, we saw the need to incorporate vermicompost onto our campus by purchasing a vermicomposting bin which can hold up to 5,000 worms, eating a total of up to five pounds of food waste each day!

We began by using our modest budget to acquire a starter kit of worms, a bin, and soil in order to get things going, as neither of us had any experience with vermicompost before. However, after getting our worms and spending time getting to know their preferences and habits, we’ve come to be quite fond of them (sort of like our worm children, as weird as that may sound). The project is currently progressing gradually. At the moment the worms have amassed such a great volume of converted compost that we recently added another bin on top of our first. The worms subside on a diet of greens and browns, greens being mostly vegetable matter, and browns being fibrous things such as coffee grounds, cardboard, or newspaper.

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-Simon Engel

 

under: Uncategorized

Sustainable Nail Polish: What’s the Hype?

Posted by: holmesbc | February 19, 2015 | No Comment |

Nail polish can be a fashion statement or some consider it a necessary part of their outfit. Doing my nails is my hobby and I am obsessed with nail polish. Let’s be honest: I probably do them 2-3 times a week when I’m not overwhelmed by schoolwork. There are quite a few blogs and tutorials about how to accomplish different techniques and designs. There are so many people who love nail polish as well and there are many groups to join to find the best sales and best brands. But how does this apply to you? Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? Just don’t like cruelty to animals? Or maybe you want to learn why there has been all of hype around 3- and 5-free polishes. I’ll address some of those questions here.

I will begin by talking about the vegan nail polishes that spurred that question. In order for a brand or specific nail polish to be considered vegan, they must not test on animals and they cannot contain any sort animal by-product. Well, aren’t all polishes vegan? No. The metallic colors or the sparkles you love are usually made from fish scales. Having a lot of friends who are vegetarian or vegan, I know this makes a huge difference to them.

Another thing that people don’t know about nail polish what some are made from. You may see brands that say 3- or 5-Free. What does that mean? It means that they are free of that many toxic chemicals that one normally finds in nail polishes. First is the dibutyl phthalate (DBP) which can cause reproductive impairments, mostly in males. Toluene can lead to liver and kidney damage and can cause damage to fetuses. Formaldehyde, which they use to embalm bodies and prolonged exposure has been linked with leukemia. The 5-Free polishes are without the previous toxins as well as camphor and formaldehyde resin, which also cause negative effects on the body. Read more here!

But one day I was asked, “How is that sustainable?” That is a very good question, so I began to research it. I was able to find a list of polish brands that are 5-free, vegan, and they are sustainable!

You can see the list here: Sustainable Nail Polish?  One of the brands that made the list is Zoya, which is my favorite brand of polish and products. They have a huge array of colors and their polish remover does not smell horrid like others. Zoya tries to promote sustainable efforts and every year (around Earth Day) they will let you exchange your unwanted polishes for a half-price discount on just as many new Zoya polishes in order to be able to dispose of the nail polish responsibly.

So next time you think about polishing your nails, think about how that polish was made and what the ingredients are. Being conscientious and knowledgeable about what you use and how you live your life can lead to a better life for everyone on the planet.

-Danielle Woodberry, Sustainability Intern

Read more about Danielle’s nail polish endeavors on her blog!

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under: Danielle Woodberry, Guest Bloggers
The Cougar Undergraduate Business Enterprises (ENACTUS) and the Office of Sustainability at the College of Charleston are striving to promote a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle for students of the Beatty Business School. If you didn’t know there is now a COMPOST BIN next to the receptacles by CUBE. Also CUBE will be switching over to more natural and organic products in the upcoming months such as healthier alternative snacks, Sugar in the Raw, and fair trade/alliance organic coffees.
The CUBE is a student-run non-profit business that proudly serves coffee and other refreshments with perfectly paired snacks all under $3.00. Why stop at Starbucks to get robbed on coffee when you can help support fundraising for multiple great causes? The CUBE helps charitable projects such as: Water for Africa, LemonAid Stand, Oyster Reef Building, and many more ENACTUS programs.
If you didn’t know ENACTUS is an international organization that aims to use entrepreneurial pursuits to create a better world here and now. The main goal of ENACTUS is promoting positive impact through entrepreneurial action, involving a variety of projects to raise funds to support social change.The ENACTUS Chapter at the College of Charleston offers projects including: Low Country Goes Green, CUBE, Cougar Apprentice Program, Kick It Forward, A Global Affair, Public Relations, Recruitment, and a Presentation Team.
If you would like to get involved with ENACTUS please email Shannon Caulk (caulksn@g.cofc.edu), if you would like to volunteer for shifts at CUBE please email Laura Berros Pradas (berrospradasl@g.cofc.edu).
CUBE Hours (may vary):
Mon/Wed/Friday- 8:00am-1:00pm
Tues/Thursday- 9:00am-1:00pm
-Graham Massell
under: Blog, C.U.B.E., Sustainable Food

Rage Against the Drying Machines

Posted by: holmesbc | January 30, 2015 | No Comment |

According to General Electric’s website, clothes dryers are the third most energy intensive appliance found in most homes. While there is large variability in the wattage of dryers, on average they operate using 3400 watts. This is more than your oven! For residents of SC this means nearly $100 every year just to dry your clothes. But believe it or not, SC has one of the cheaper rates in the US. If you lived in Hawaii you would pay over $300 every year. Fortunately, a better alternative exists. This alternative requires no energy input, will make your clothes last longer, and is much cheaper. What is this solution?

A solar clothes dryer.Untitled

I myself have not used a clothes dryer in more than a year. Rather, I purchased a clothesline (550 cord works really well and is around $8 for 100 ft.) and, for indoors, a clothes rack and voilà you have a solar clothes dryer. While it does take a few more minutes to hang dry your clothes than throw them in a dryer, I have come to much prefer their feel and even their smell. Even heavy items like jeans or your bedding can dry within 12 hours 99% of the time. If you’re pressed for space, take advantage of your shower curtain rod or other miscellaneous surfaces around the house.

Save your money, add longevity to your clothes, eliminate a fire hazard, and stop wasting energy doing something that can be naturally done for free. Stop using/don’t buy a clothes dryer. It just makes sense.

-Craig Bennett, Data Manager at the Office of Sustainability

under: Blog, Craig Bennett, Guest Bloggers, Office Staff

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