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Alternative Transportation

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 20, 2015 | No Comment |

When I was little, I always liked riding bikes, but it was only for recreation. The first time I used a bike as a form of transportation was for summer art camp (REDUX) in high school. I didn’t have my driver’s license yet and I wanted to save my mom a trip. So, unknowingly, I became one of those “bikers.” A biker who has to deal with rude cars (unnecessary yelling and honking and cutting in front), rain, scorching heat, freezing cold, blinding dust, and wind that tries to push you backwards. And there’s also those days of amazingly beautiful weather where you’re so glad you’re not stuck in a car.

I rode my bike from West Ashley, over the Ashley River Bridge, and through the busy streets to the REDUX art camp in downtown Charleston. At first I was very timid, always sticking to the sidewalks and fearful of the cars whizzing past.

It wasn’t until my Freshman year at the College of Charleston, where I learned that bikes are supposed to be ON the road following the rules of the road, that I became a more “daring” biker. And by “daring” I mean racing cars to stop signs and shaking my head at rude drivers. Sometimes I imagine myself throwing rotten tomatoes at them. (If anyone wants to get my a fog horn, that would be wonderful, because bike bells don’t work on cars.)

Being a biker wasn’t a decision for the environment or to try and save the world, but one of convenience. Transportation that takes me from the doorstep of point A to the doorstep of point B and includes FREE parking and also keeps me in shape. The only drawback is the dangerous conditions I have to deal with on the road. Roads were created for all people, not just cars. Here’s to making the roads safer for all forms of transportation!

-Eileen Szwast

Eileen is a rising senior at the College of Charleston, with a major in Studio Art and minor in Environmental Studies

Eileen is a rising senior at the College of Charleston, with a major in Studio Art and minor in Environmental Studies

under: Sustainable Transportation

Vermicompost

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 17, 2015 | No Comment |

What initially drew me to the office was the chance to learn more about sustainable practices as opposed to just being aware of them. I came to the conclusion that only good can come out of an environment filled with smart individuals contributing to collective efforts. So far my favorite thing I’ve learned is how to compost. And around the same time as learning about it, I started up my own bucket of vermicompost.

The vermicompost bucket!

The vermicompost bucket!

Pretty much just a bucket filled with some soil or substrate, and a bunch of worms.

After a week or two, the worms had already started to break down the majority of food scraps and paper wastes I had put in the bucket. The process has only sped up from there.

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Pretty soon I’ll have my own stash of compost! I plan to use it in my future gardening endeavors.

In regards to the connections I’ve made through the office, I’ve become somewhat employed at Blue Pearl Farms. It’s a blueberry farm where the only rules are to fiinish the task at hand and to eat the biggest blueberries. It’s some hard work but at the same time I’d rather be working out in a field as opposed to working in a cubicle for the rest of my days.

-Tanner Wharton

 

under: Garden Apprenticeship

To plant a garden

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 16, 2015 | No Comment |

Before I became acclimated with sustainability, I thought it was analogous with environmentalism. My definition of the term was based on maintaining Earth’s physical resources and protecting its biological functions. However, since working at the Office, I’ve realized that sustainability is so much more. While addressing environmental issues is essential to living more sustainably, we must also consider the fact that these issues would not exist if our values lied elsewhere. In my eyes, sustainability seeks to reform and protect people, and favors a society driven by feelings and ideas, rather than things. It works towards achieving ideal concepts such as individual meaning and life purpose, self-fulfillment and sufficiency, the development of meaningful relationships and a sense of community.

 

I feel extremely fortunate to have been exposed to these things through the garden apprenticeship program here at the Office. Gardening embodies two seemingly opposite but both integral parts of sustainability: self-sufficiency (me) and community (we). Being able to provide for yourself by growing your own food is unbelievably empowering. It allows us to be independent of industrial agriculture and get reconnected with what we consume. While gardening can be personally fulfilling, it also provides a sense of belonging and interdependency among people. Instead of isolation, there’s the accumulated knowledge of fellow gardeners to draw on. The entire process is a teaching-learning experience where we grow with and from each other. It’s about teaching people to fish so that we can do so alongside each other, instead of just doing the fishing ourselves. Beyond that, the apprenticeship program has allowed me to form relationships that would have never spawned otherwise, and for that I am so grateful.

 

Gardening makes you feel grounded and connected to your food, as well as to the people around you. The process can be therapeutic and tranquil, and the results oh-so-satisfying. When you dissect the word agriculture, you find the prefix agri- (meaning field or related to the land) and the word culture (a way of life of a group of people and their behaviors, beliefs, and values). Agriculture literally means getting in touch with the Earth as well humanity, forming a holistic connectivity with everything around you.

 

The garden apprenticeship program has made me feel as though I am part of something larger than myself – a community. This natural result of gardening is also one of the ultimate goals of sustainability. Barrett Brown of the Integral Institute for Sustainability offers a definition that embodies these notions of self-sufficiency and community: “an alignment of the different levels of our individual and collective consciousness so that we can create, maintain, and healthily evolve.” Our path to a sustainable world will be accomplished by participating in actions that contribute towards self-reliance, a shared purpose, and the greater good. This is why I firmly believe that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

 

 

-Katie Kerbel

 

Katie graduated from the College last spring with a degree in Arts Management and Environmental Studies.

Katie graduated from the College last spring with a degree in Arts Management and Environmental Studies.

under: Uncategorized

The Root of the Problem

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 15, 2015 | No Comment |

The Root of the Problem

 

Roots. The networks that make up various types of plant life, drawing in water as well as nutrients and leaving complex compounds behind. These intricate systems have been the foundation of every civilization known to man, yet our generation has voluntarily chopped off it’s green thumb in favor of whatever is most convenient. Convenience is rarely a good measure of worth, and it is unsurprising that this mind set has led to mass produced nutrient deprived vegetation and soil, as well as very little awareness of how to fix the problems that we have created. Learning the skill of planting has never been more relevant, or more inaccessible. How do you bring gardening to people who don’t realize why it is important, or even if they did, don’t have an area to grow one? To build a garden, all that is needed is a little bit of healthy soil, a little bit of space, and only a few pots and planters to start with. In many cases, an urban garden can be found locally. Such is the case here in Charleston SC, where there is an urban garden at MUSC. The most important thing of course, is to learn how to keep plants healthy in whatever environment you may find yourself… even if that’s a sweltering hot and humid 102 degree Charleston during the summer!

During week 1 of the Garden apprenticeship it became clear to me that I know much less than I realized. We spent two full days talking and learning about compost. A complex subject that we barely scratched the surface of, including how to use worms to do it for you. We also learned the science that is sheet mulching.

Week 2 we all met with Carmen at the aforementioned MUSC urban garden to lend a hand, but also to learn about the role that pH plays in soil composition and plant development. Carmen knows a ridiculous amount of stuff about plants, so…

Week 3 we met with Carmen again to get more hands on experience, and to talk about planting schedules as well as growing plants from cuttings such as those that are definitely not from your neighbor’s lemon tree.

Week 4 we focused on what is now one of my favorite topics, bees! We visited Blue Pearl Farms, a small farm on the outskirts of Mt. Pleasant that has managed to grow blueberries naturally and profitably. After careful instructions we were allowed to pick berries and taste test a few. After listening to the owners of Blue Pearl talk about their experience with their farm, we had an opportunity to wear some HAZMAT worthy gear and get up close and personal with the busy bees themselves, who are responsible for much of Blue Pearl’s success.

This is when we found the Queen Bee!

This is when we found the Queen Bee!

It wasn’t until week 5 that we covered planting seed with Lexa and Katie from the grounds department, and using compost that is made on site at the College of Charleston, we planted a handful of plants to be re planted as tiny sprouts in roughly a month’s time. Until then they are being kept in the greenhouse behind grounds.

Because many plants are grow more efficiently in communities, or guilds, this week will be focused on learning about companion planting among other things.

When I applied for an internship at the Office of Sustainability, with only a vague idea of what sustainability meant or how urban gardening could make an impact on it, I thought I was making a decision to be more conscious of my effect on the environment. In reality however, I am learning how little I know about the pressing problem of food production in the United States, of chemicals and GMOs, and many other very real threats being posed to our society, by our society. Returning to our roots, our networks and communities, to find support and knowledge is the best chance any of us have of making any permanent change to these harrowing conditions. Like a plant, it is from our roots that awareness and the impending reform necessary to continue our way of life will grow.

-Savannah Langley

under: Garden Apprenticeship
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Bike Racks at the College (Check out these Racks!)

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 9, 2015 | No Comment |

College of Charleston campus has lots of options of where you can park your bike.   Guess how many bike racks we have on Main Campus, Harbor Walk, and the Avery Center? Over 200!

Yet some days it feels like you can never find a decent place to park because the bike racks are filled or a balky beach cruiser fell over taking up 5 spots.

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I am looking at you, Bell South……….

Sometimes racks are being prevented from doing there duty.

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I don’t know…..

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Is that an iced coffee?

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Caution: bike rack can’t rack

We are here to help you out! We have found all those bike racks that are hidden gems which people don’t realize are there.

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Check out this sweet rack behind the New Science Building

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If it is raining, keep your bike covered behind Berry Residence Hall.

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You thought this was some weird art? No! This is the bike racks behind the Education Center!

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Instead of following the crowd, park behind Robert Scotts Smalls instead of on Cougar Mall

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Might not be the best view at Harbor Walk but there are bike racks in the loading dock area

Where ever you end up parking remember to make sure your bike is secure.  Bike on my friends bike on.

-Eliza Bower

Eliza is a graduate of the College with a BA in Historic Preservation and Community Planning, and Art History, with a minor in Urban Planning.

Eliza is a graduate of the College with a BA in Historic Preservation and Community Planning, and Art History, with a minor in Urban Planning.

under: CofC Bikes
Tags: ,

Trash Talk

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 3, 2015 | No Comment |

There are some things that you can’t close your eyes to once you’ve seen them. The worldwide waste problem that humanity is facing has to be addressed. The problem has been burned and buried, but the giant trash elephant in the room has to be addressed. According to the EPA, in 2013, the United States alone produced over 254 million tons of waste. Of that, 34.3% was recycled or composted. Over the last 25 years, recycling has become more commonplace and the recycling rate has more than doubled from 16% in 1990. Through source reduction, composting, and recycling, the United States has made great strides to reduce the waste produced and sent to the landfill. The goal for zero waste is to have 90% recovery of the resources that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. We are a long way from the 90% goal, but it is a goal that we can all strive for. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t account for industrial waste, only municipal waste, which “consists of everyday items we use and then throw away” (EPA). The EPA states the industrial waste is approximately 7.6 billion tons per year.

 

The industrial waste is linked to our municipal waste as the hidden costs behind our consumption. In order to reduce both municipal and industrial waste, we have to be active in our lives and communities. Civic engagement and sustainable living are closely tied together. In order to truly be sustainable, we have to support each other in the community. One way of supporting each other is by sharing knowledge and skills that can help create a ripple effect of lasting change and mindset altering. Reducing consumption, mindful purchasing, recycling, and composting are all great things that we can do to start a change. If we strive towards these practices and effectively communicate the urgency of the waste problem, it will hopefully be infectious to the people around us and spread from the ground up to the top.

 

Buy products made locally, or even learn how to make replacements of some of these things yourself. When purchasing commercially produced products, stop and ask yourself if you really need it. Chances are you won’t need as much as you think. Placing a compost and a recycling bin right next to your trash is extremely easy and takes a short time to get used to. Encourage and educate the people in your sphere of influence about the small changes that can be made in order to make a large change overall.

 

It’s not a big commitment and it’s only made through small changes. When we add a few slight inconveniences (that will quickly become habitual) to our daily routine, we can start to make a change that will become normal for generations to come. I dream that future generations will have the default mindset of “how can this be reused or recycled” instead of the current “but the dumpster is so far away” mindset. It will be a long process, but change is already happening. We can only do it together and I hope we can all agree that it’s time to face the waste.

-Arthur Phillips

 

Arthur is a rising senior at the College, majoring in Philosophy

Arthur is a rising senior at the College, with a major in Philosophy

under: Zero Waste and Civic Engagement
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Commons Activism

Posted by: gregwarehj | July 2, 2015 | No Comment |

I was thirteen years old when I discovered volunteer work. I was also thirteen years old when I joined my high school’s Environmental Club. At the time, these seemed like two separate events; thirteen-year-old me was just pursuing two completely different interests at the same time.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I realized these two interests – sustainability and civic engagement – were rooted in one core concept: community.

 

Every living, breathing member of a community has a right to work towards the betterment of that respective community. Whether natural or anthropogenic, local or global, we are part of different communities that require our participation to maintain their function. Civic engagement looks like active citizens working to realize and address social issues that face members of their society – issues like hunger and homelessness. Civic engagement needs communal collaboration in order to be effective and yield positive change and development for the community. Sustainability, too, requires this type of community-first thinking and collaboration in order to be truly effective. We live in a world that has a finite amount of resources that can be regenerated within a certain time for a certain amount of living beings. Whether we choose to believe it or not, there exists a commons from which we gather our needs. Commons activism refers to the duty we have to protect things we all share and ensure that everybody is able to at least satisfy their basic needs from the commons. Both sustainability and civic engagement use commons activism to address inequities within socially constructed systems and imbalanced cycles in the natural world.

 

This past week I had the benefit of attending a summit that looked at the issues facing people experiencing homelessness and how providing housing and other services can not only be beneficial for the individuals, but the community they’re a part of as well. The Office of Sustainability worked in conjunction with the Center for Civic Engagement and Aramark to help divert waste from the landfill by making the event Zero Waste. It was really interesting to see the different members of the Charleston community come together to talk about the issue and hear from representatives of organizations in other cities that work with homelessness and housing first programs.

 

Community-first thinking is an important part of active and engaged citizenship and sustainability; it is the lens through which we view the world. However, it is only the first step; it is what we do with what we’ve seen with that lens that makes a lasting impact.


Maybe thirteen-year-old me didn’t know exactly what she was getting herself into when she joined the Environmental Club and started volunteering, or maybe she did. Either way, twenty-one-year old me sure is glad for the journey, the experiences, and the sense of knowing, with certainty, that communities can sustain themselves long after individuals expire.   

-Nicole Fernandez ’16

 

Nicole is a rising senior at the College, with a double major in Biology and French and Francophone Studies, and a minor in Environmental Studies

Nicole is a rising senior at the College, with a double major in Biology and French and Francophone Studies, and a minor in Environmental Studies

under: Zero Waste and Civic Engagement
Tags: , ,

Thank You

Posted by: holmesbc | May 1, 2015 | No Comment |

4/27/15

As I sit on my 3rd flight within 36 hours, I figured this would be a good of time as any to write my blog post for this semester. This post isn’t about a certain topic or event that I attended, but it’s more of a reflection of my time at the Office of Sustainability. With my classes coming to a close and my internship ending, I wanted to take this time to look back since I will be walking across the cistern in 19 short days.

 

In early December of 2013, I got an email that would change my life in ways that I had no idea. I had been offered an internship with the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability to run the Sustainable Greek Initiative for the following semester, something that fit both my interests and my experience as an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta. I had accepted the position and in January 2014 I started what has become the most amazing journey I have been on. I learned so much my first semester with the office and as it turns out, this sustainability thing is kind of awesome and has captivated me in every sense of the word.

 

Flash forward to the summer of 2014 when I had finished my first semester working at the Office of Sustainability. I was moving to a new apartment when I found out that we had been accepted to present at AASHE that October in Portland, OR. I’m pretty sure I was shaking when I found out, and rightfully so, AASHE is a BFD. The summer of 2014 I also applied, was accepted to, and attended the Summer Institute on Sustainability & Energy at University of Illinois at Chicago. I won’t go into much detail other than it was probably the best 2 weeks of my life. Not only was I learning about current issues in sustainability and energy in an amazing city, but I made incredible friendships with interesting people from around the country. My blog post from last semester was on SISE and it can be found here.

 

So now here I am. I’m on a plane flying back to Charleston after being in Chicago to present my research at the 2015 SISE Alumni Spring Symposium. I’ve presented at national conferences, attended amazing lectures, made incredible connections, and all in the past year and a half. 18 months ago I would have never thought I would be searching for jobs in the environmental policy field, let alone be flying to Chicago to present my personal research so I don’t know what my life would look like, or where I would be without the Office of Sustainability. This office has given me the opportunity to grow as a person, a young professional, and as a friend. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined and for that I can only say thank you. Thank you for the constant support and guidance. Thank you for teaching me that failure is an important part of learning, just like coffee. Thank you for helping me find my path and for letting me know it’s okay to wander off that path sometimes. Thank you for the laughs and the stress and the chaos and the experiences. Thank you for giving me a chance.

-Virginia Whorley ’15

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under: Blog, Office Staff, Virginia Whorely

Worms are Cool: Vermicompost, pt. 2

Posted by: holmesbc | April 28, 2015 | No Comment |

Worms: a faceless animal that to most after the age of five is of little interest. I felt about the same way until around six months ago when my friend Simon and I applied for and received money from the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability to start vermicomposting on campus. We got 2,000 Red Wriggler Worms to help break down the schools compost. I went from being disgusted by looking at the worms to petting them like one does to their beloved furry friend.   I am in awe of what these tiny creatures can do! Here is what I have learned from putting my hands in the dirt with worms:

 

Worms will eat just about anything.

I am amazed to what I will put in the feeding bin and see completely digested by the worms. All types of fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, newspaper, junk mail, cardboard, and leaves are consumed by the worms- and the list goes on. (We have noticed that the worms tend to avoid citrus peels, due to the acidity). If it was once growing from the ground the chances are they will eat it, and eat it fast! One worm can eat up to half of its body weight in one day.

 

Worms love each other.

Their companionship comes in more ways than one. The first is their obvious desire to reproduce. The worms reproduce around every 3-4 months, doubling their population. This allows for us to expand the system by adding more stacking bins so the worms have additional space to inhabit and new food can be added to the bins. Worms also support each other when they are stressed. If the temperature, moisture, or food content is too extreme, the worms ball up around each other as a method to protect one another from the poor environment. This is a helpful signal for us to check in with the systems variables and adjust as needed.

 

Small creature can have big effects.

This does not just apply to worms. Many other creepy-crawlers are attracted to the worm bin. Some critters have a neutral effect such as larvae and fruit flies. Fruit flies are a nuisance but will not directly harm the worms. The larvae actually act similar to the worms and decompose the food with high-quality castings. Lately mites have been enjoying our worm’s food. Mites can be seen crawling on the food scraps and look like little red-brown dots crawling around. When this happens, we pick out as much of the infected material as possible. Mites will not harm the worms but will eat their food.

 

Dry worms grow- just add water!

When we received the worms, they were about the size of my fingernail. After no food or water for a couple days in the mail, the worms had shrunk. After assembling the bin and adding appropriate bedding for the worms, we left them alone for a few days to adjust to their new home. When we checked on them next the worms were almost unrecognizable! They were darker in color and some were as long as my pinky finger. This amazing survival technique showed me the durability and evolutionary intelligence behind such a tiny creature often regarded as simplistic.

 

Imitating worms isn’t just for the dance floor anymore.

Dealing with waste issues, our world needs other solutions than filling up landfills. Taking nature’s own systems, proven to work through years of evolution, and using them to solve problems is where future technology is headed. Using worms to break down food and paper waste is natural, efficient, and easy. These worms are showing me how breathtaking this natural process can be. We do not need machines and chemicals to accomplish daunting problems. Sometimes the answer is right beneath our feet- we just need to look!

 

And an obligatory worm selfie:worms

 

-Makenna Coon, ’16

under: Guest Bloggers

#CofCMoves: Alexa Thacker Moves by CARTA

Posted by: holmesbc | April 8, 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 asked Alexa Thacker of the Office of Institution Events why she rides CARTA.IMG_6052

Office of Sustainability: What is your role at the College and how long have you worked here?
Alexa Thacker: I serve as Facilities and Events Support in the Office of Institutional Events and have been at the College for 11 years.
OOS: Why do you bus, bike, walk, and/or carpool rather than driving?
AT: I take CARTA for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it’s convenient and a perk of working at the College, and I don’t have to worry about traffic and downtown parking and expensive garages.  I can get work done or read a book and relax on the bus ride instead of having to focus on the road and the nutty drivers around me.  It also reduces wear and tear on my car, saves on gas, and helps me feel better about my footprint since I’m not just one more person driving to work alone.
OOS: How long have you been doing so?
AT: Approximately 6 years
OOS: How far do you commute daily?
AT: 20 miles round trip
OOS: What are the benefits to commuting by bus versus driving alone?
AT: Besides the reasons I mentioned above, I get to catch up with folks that I might not normally get to chat with while we’re waiting for the bus.  It’s also sometimes an extreme exercise in patience, especially when the bus is running late and you have obligations that are being impacted.  But I figure I’ve usually been placed in the situation for a reason, and I just need to look for the positives in it.
OOS: What do you value most about the way you commute?
AT: Being able to catch a few extra winks of sleep while on the bus.
OOS: What is the biggest challenge you face as a commuter?
AT: Late buses!  Particularly when the weather is not perfect and you’re standing out at the stop and can’t get information from the CARTA dispatcher about when the bus may be arriving.
OOS: What are some improvements you’d like to see?
 AT: A major improvement that has already helped is the online Bus Tracker.  When I first started riding, CARTA had some sort of notification system that was completely useless; I think it actually only existed in name only.  The Bus Tracker gives a much more accurate time frame of arrival and departure times at a certain stop, yet I do think they could add in text notifications or warnings that indicate when a bus is in an accident or has broken down along with an ETA of next service so that we can make alternative arrangements as necessary.
OOS: Would you recommend this method to others?
AT: I do.  Most people are surprised when I say I take a bus to and from work.  I think it’s great.  I, however, can only speak to using the Express Bus and the DASH Trolley system.
OOS: Do you have any fun commuting stories?

AT: One time I was just zoned on my way home in the afternoon; I have no idea what I was thinking about.  But I climbed aboard the bus, recognizing the driver.  I didn’t pay too much attention to the folks riding, though a few looked new.  We get to the interchange on Meeting and instead of taking a right to Mt. P, the driver goes left.  I’m thinking, “what the heck?!”  It’s then that I realize I had gotten on the wrong bus and was on my way to North Charleston; the driver was covering a different shift and I didn’t look to see which bus was which.  So I ended up riding all the way to the North Charleston K-Mart and back downtown to the Charleston Museum and got on the next bus to Mt. P.  I did get quite a bit of paperwork done that afternoon during that detour!

under: #CofCMoves, Alexa Thacker, CARTA

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