Therapeutic Gardening

Last year, as part of my fall break, I decided to attend a community service trip to New Orleans where we spoke with victims who had been affected by hurricane Katrina. We visited the ninth ward in New Orleans, an area that had been hit particularly hard by the Hurricane. In this neighborhood, a family had started a local garden which served as a meeting place for the community induced local residence to participate in a healthy hobby…gardening!

One Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of volunteering at the garden. Everyone greeted me so warmly and told me why they started gardening and that they hoped to continue with it in the future. At the time I attended, they had just begun composting and planting apple trees! I felt fortunate that I was able to talk community members, hear their emotional stories, and learn how they benefited from working at the local garden.

Prior to this event, I had never really thought about how beneficial gardening could be, but this experience showed me how gardening can be therapeutic. Many studies have pointed to the cognitive and health benefits gardening can provide; but there is nothing like observing these salutary effects first hand. After my experience in New Orleans, I knew that the gardening apprenticeship program was something that I would want to try as my first project at the College. I learned about different types of plants, and the small gardens that were being tended to on campus. I even had the opportunity to get my hands dirty and do some gardening with the help of other members from the Grounds Department.

This experience has heightened my appreciation of Nature and I only wish now that I had taken up gardening earlier! My mom was always enthusiastic about gardening. When growing up, and my family vacationed at our house in Upstate New York, my mom could be found outside the front of the house every morning gardening for hours. My mom always told me that gardening was her own form of meditation a change for her to replenish her spirit. I now am beginning to appreciate what she meant.

Christina Hughes, Project Rotation Intern

Christina is a sophomore at CofC majoring in Dance with a concentration in Performance and Choreography.
Christina is a sophomore at CofC majoring in Dance with a concentration in Performance and Choreography.

The Charleston Farmer’s Market

Up until this past summer, I thought of the downtown Charleston Farmer’s Market as a nice place to spend my Saturday morning hangovers- laying in the grass, eating Roti Rolls, pondering life’s big questions, trying to find the balance between avoiding eye contact with vendors while still getting as many free samples as possible. It wasn’t until I started working there that I realized the full potential of the market and how much energy and effort goes into making sure it runs smoothly each Saturday. After spending an entire summer’s worth of Saturday mornings at the market as an apprentice with Blue Pearl Farms, I have observed a pattern of patrons which is worth noting.

7:30-9:15 – Here we see the regulars: eager to avoid crowds, genuinely interested in how their farmers are doing, reusable bags in tow and always with exact change, a true farmer’s friend. Keep in mind the market opens at 8 so these people make their own rules.

9:15-10:00 – Visiting tourists, the early risers who saw the market being set up from their window at the Francis Marion Hotel. Curious, but quick to let you know that whatever you’re selling they cannot bring home in their carry-on luggage even though it’s all so amazing and they love what we’re doing. They want samples but they also don’t want to get too involved because of their guilt, so they avoid eye contact like the plague.

10:00-11:00 – CofC students who didn’t go out last night and are capable of being real human beings, parents taking their kids to the bouncy houses, more tourists. Light acoustic tunes start somewhere around here.

11:00-12:00 – CofC students who did go out last night, not capable of being real human beings, looking particularly rough and just trying to get a breakfast sandwich and make it to the iced coffee stand alive.

12:00-1:00 – The lunch crowd. These people are on a mission, power walking back and forth trying to find the best option. Definitely will not make eye contact and could honestly not care any less about anything besides what they’re getting for lunch.

1:00-2:00 – Tourists who just realized there is a farmer’s market- “does this happen every weekend?”- and people who are offended when you’re sold out despite the fact they waited until the last possible moment to come to your stand.

What have I learned from this? First, the Farmer’s Market is a truly amazing place for people watching. But more than that, I feel that if people knew how much time and energy goes into making sure everything runs smoothly, they would see the Farmer’s Market in a whole new light, as I have. Vendors start setting up at 5:30am and don’t finish packing up until near 3 or 4pm occasionally, and for a lot of them, this is their livelihood. A day of bad weather or a cancelled market directly affects their wellbeing. So take some time to appreciate your local farmers and vendors. Go to the market and talk to them. Have a free sample. Ask them any and all questions about what they’re selling. Support them with your dollars. There are so many reasons to buy local, but more than anything it just feels good to support people in your community who are doing and creating what they love.

Britton Holmes, Sustainablility Fellow, Project Lead: Garden Apprenticeship Coordinator

Britton Holmes is a Senior at the College with a double major in International Studies and Political Science, and a minor in Spanish.
Britton is a senior at the College with a double major in International Studies and Political Science, and a minor in Spanish.

Powering the College of Charleston

For those who don’t know, South Carolina Energy and Gas (SCE&G) is one of the main energy providers for South Carolina, and the provider for the College of Charleston (see map below).

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Since 2011, at CofC we collectively consume about 100,000 Megawatt hours, the equivalent of about 14,000 homes in the United States.  This power comes from a dozen different plants throughout South Carolina.  The plants include: Nuclear, coal fired, natural gas, hydroelectric, and even some solar power generation (most significantly the 10 acres of solar panels on the roof of Boeing’s Final Assembly building in North Charleston).

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Currently the vast majority of our power comes from fossil fuels. However SC will soon triple its Nuclear power profile when new reactors as V.C. Summer come online in 2019-20. This increase in Nuclear will be accompanied with the closure of several coal plants.

Since 2011, CofC energy usage has increased slightly each year.  This increase, when coupled with rising rates, has undoubtedly caused college utility costs to rise since 2012.  As an institution, we urgently need to address these growing costs and consider the ramifications.  This is not a matter of changing a few light bulbs.  We need to fundamentally rethink our consumption habits and redesign existing infrastructure to ensure our institution’s fiscal and ecological sustainability.

Craig Bennett, Data Manager at the Office of Sustainability 

Craig graduated from the College of Charleston in 2014 with a BS in Biology, and is currently in the College's MES/MPA program.
Craig graduated from the College of Charleston in 2014 with a BA in Biology, and is currently in the College’s MES/MPA program.

Simple DIY for Sustainable Toothpaste

When I decided to start making the journey to zero waste last year, one of the first things I did was to start making my own toothpaste. First of all, what is this “zero waste” I speak of? If you are not familiar, it is exactly what it sounds like: a lifestyle that produces very little waste that must be disposed of. There are some great blogs out there by people and families who have gone completely zero waste (Trash is for Tossers and Zero Waste Home, to name a few).

Secondly, why was toothpaste my first step? Besides ditching plastic water bottles and bringing your own bags to the grocery store, it was a super simple swap for me to make. It only requires three ingredients, two of which are commonplace in most kitchens: coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint (or cinnamon, anise, etc.) essential oil. It is so simple and it has eliminated the packaging waste of my old toothpaste tubes. I reuse the jars for my coconut oil to buy groceries in bulk (see Will Hester’s great post regarding that) and baking soda containers are recyclable. Plus, it costs almost nothing to make, when you consider how little of the ingredients you are using. And who doesn’t like DIYs?!

While we are talking about waste, toothpaste tubes are not the only waste associated with our oral hygiene. Think about how many toothbrushes are thrown away each year – 4.7 billion! While Terracycle does recycle them, it is their most difficult item to recycle. But there is an alternative: compostable bamboo toothbrushes. Their bristles are plastic, but the rest of the toothbrush is compostable or can be upcycled as plant markers in your garden, or a whole lot of other creative things. I use Brush with Bamboo, but there are several different brands out there to check out. This is another super simple way to replace plastic in your life.


3 tbs coconut oil

1 ½ tbs baking soda

Organic food grade peppermint essential oil to taste

Combine ingredients and mix in a glass dish. Store the toothpaste in your bathroom with a spoon for scooping onto your (compostable bamboo) toothbrush. If the coconut oil becomes too liquid, stick it in the fridge. If it becomes too solid, run the container under warm water for a few minutes and it will soften up. It may taste weirdly salty at first and it won’t foam like you are used to. You will get used to it, trust me. Just stick it out!

Tess Dooley, Rotation Sustainability Intern

Tess is a senior majoring in Marine Biology with minors in Math and Environmental Studies.
Tess is a senior majoring in Marine Biology with minors in Math and Environmental Studies.

Salary Negotiation & You, a Love Story

This past week I attended the Start Smart Workshop, a salary negotiation workshop sponsored by the American Association of University Women.  The workshop was designed to help combat the gender pay gap and help women learn to negotiate their salary and benefit packages. The lessons and skills that were taught during the workshop were applicable to all people about to enter the working world and begin their first salary-based job.  The women running the workshop revealed that women on average make a little over 20% less than men for the same position.  This pay disparity is even worse for women of color.

The workshops’ leaders argued that one of the best ways to combat this pay gap was at the salary negotiation phase of accepting a job.  This happens after you have received a job offer.  The presenters said that women are often more willing to accept an initial salary offering than men.  They then went on to describe how you should prepare for a salary negotiation.  Their first point to consider, was that by the time you have been offered a job an organization has a vested interest in you.  They have vetted out other candidates and selected you as their favorite; because of this you should understand that you often have some leeway when it comes to negotiating a salary and benefits.

Prior to entering a salary negotiation you need to do your homework.  The first thing you should do is examine the job description.  If you have qualifications beyond those requested for the job; your qualifications give you some room to negotiate your salary.  You can use websites like to research the median salary for people in the same position in your city or region.    You also need to prepare a budget, determining how much it will cost you to live in the area where you work and what is the minimum salary you can accept.  Once you have done all this you should determine a target salary based on your qualifications, what others with the same position as you earn and your budget.  Once this is all prepared you will be ready to negotiate your salary.  For instance, you will know if you offered a salary significantly below the minimum salary you set up in your budget you probably can’t accept the job.  On the flip side if you are offered your target salary or even a dollar amount above your target salary you can still advocate on your own behalf for a salary increase.

Sometimes organizations will have a set salary cap for employees starting at a certain position or they just don’t have the ability to give you a higher salary.  If this is the case you should talk to the company about their benefits package.  Companies sometimes have more room to negotiate benefits packages than they do salaries.  The takeaway from the workshop was that being prepared is a key element of salary negotiation.  Educating workers about salary negotiation is a vital piece to reducing and eventually eliminating the gender pay gap.

Harlan Belcher, Sustainability Intern, Sustainable Food Policy 

Harlan is a junior at the College majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law and minoring in Environmental Studies.
Harlan is a junior at the College majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law and minoring in Environmental Studies.

Community Supported Agriculture

I was set to pick up my portion of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from The Daily, a small eatery just North of the King St. overpass, but trouble with the past weekend’s thousand year flood led to a rough start to the Fall season for Pete Ambrose of Ambrose Farm. He and his farmhands worried constantly as to whether they would be able to weather the storm. Luckily, to his benefit the clouds eventually cleared, and the sun once again shown on his field of crops. With the delay, what would have been a Tuesday afternoon delivery turned into a Friday afternoon delivery, but I was no less appreciative of the bounty of produce that would be awaiting me.


As I pulled into The Daily’s parking lot I happened to run into Ambrose’s delivery driver Nick, we chatted briefly about the past weekend’s events, and it seems that the farm suffered minimally in comparison to the Peninsula and other parts of the state. The marshes that exist throughout John’s Island (where the farm is located) aid in diverting the water away from land. This is a natural filter many areas in the lowcountry lack, due to previously beneficial marshes being filled in for land development.


When I entered The Daily, I was delighted to find a wall full of brightly colored reusable totes filled with a fresh harvest. On the bags was the Ambrose logo of a tomato and the question of “Who’s your farmer?” It’s an interesting question to pose in today’s society with most food exchanging upwards of a hundred hands in its life span. The hundreds of thousands of miles that food travels in today’s food system leaves many consume’s with a laundry list of questions about where it comes from, and the methods that go into its growth. This is why a CSA is such a beautiful thing. You have the ability to meet the person who is growing your food, find out how they’re growing your food, and make sure every penny that you spend on produce is going directly to them. Its a wonderful system.
In this weeks bag I received a plethora of goodies including: malabar spinach, bell peppers, shishito peppers, red radishes, okra, green peanuts, white sweet potatoes, and string beans.


As of yet, my plans are to roast the peanuts, which requires that I soak them in a salt solution overnight, and bake them. I hope to mix up a salad with the spinach and red radishes, and pan fry the okra. As for the bell peppers and white sweet peppers, I’ll use them in a breakfast hash, and the string beans will work nicely as a side dish to my next potluck.


-James Mulhern, Sustainability Intern 
James is a senior at the College, majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean
James is a senior at the College, majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Everyone knows how notoriously bad for the environment packaging plastic is. In many places the plastic bags we use to transport goods cannot be recycled and even impede the process by getting caught in the machinery that separates solid recyclables. Every time we consume a candy bar, bag of rice, or any other item that is packaged in plastic, we support the processes that resulted in that packaging’s creation and will also end up supporting the ones responsible for its disposal.

A few years ago I decided that I did not want to contribute to the mass manufacture of any plastic packaging or the immense pollution and environmental destruction that inevitably results from its disposal, so I set out to find another method of purchasing items that would allow me to sleep at night without having to think about what I just contributed to.

As a vegan a significant portion of my diet is comprised of unpackaged produce from The Veggie Bin and Farmer’s Market, but there are items that are typically wrapped in packaging that I consume on a regular basis. These include: beans (of which there are 12 kinds I consume regularly), lentils, grains (quinoa, amaranth, rice, and so forth), baking supplies such as flour and sugar, teas, seeds, granolas, specialty items such as chia seeds, nuts (my favorite), etc. The amount of plastic needed to buy all of these items in a traditional supermarket is JARring to say the least.

One day I discovered that all of these items could be bought in bulk from stores such as Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and even the Veggie Bin now! Unfortunately all of the bulk sections I’ve been to have plastic bags to put items in, so I still wasn’t getting away from the packaging! Enough was enough, so I turned and reached for the Jars!

Wide-mouth Bell mason jars to be exact! Over the years I have accumulated a stockpile of somewhere around 50-60 jars. About once every semester I head to Whole Foods and raid their bulk section for all of the items I mentioned above.

The process is simple: bring jars to store, weigh jar at front and write down weight, fill jars up in bulk section making sure to record the item number in each one, and then go to check-out and have them deduct the weight of the jar with each item. At the end you will have tons of food and will have incurred ZERO waste from your purchase. Once you have eaten everything, just wash your jars and repeat; it’s that easy!

There are many benefits to shopping in this manner. There are the obvious ones such as not contributing to the manufacturing of plastics and the environmental destruction they cause, but there are also the not so obvious ones. For instance, using mason jars is immensely satisfying! Aside from that which comes from curbing your impact on the environment, there is also a strong social gratification. No matter where you shop, if you walk in with 50 mason jars you will instantly become a rock star! Every single time I have been to Whole Foods I have been met with a sense of admiration. People say things like, “Oh, that is a really good idea!” or “That is definitely something I should try sometime!” The majority of people don’t realize the effect their consumption has, so it always feels good to introduce them to alternative methods that are less damaging.

I have talked before about how important spreading ideas and awareness is to sustainability. If you find some way to live more sustainably let others know about it! My mason jars are one way that I help to raise awareness about the consequences of plastic consumption and how I avoid it. It’s a matter of reduction, the first of the famous three R’s that is, unfortunately, often the most overlooked. There are ways to reduce your impact in every part of your life, a shining example of which is the Uterine Linings Playbook blog post (which I can’t praise enough) that preceded this one. It’s the little changes, like using mason jars instead of bags, that add up to have an appreciable effect in the long term.

William Hester, Webpage Designer at the Office of Sustainability


Will is a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Physics and Mathematics.
Will is a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Physics and Mathematics.

Uterine linings playbook

Warning: This blog contains some hard truths. If you were unaware before, women have uteruses. Uteruses bleed once a month. Women choose to use tampons, pads, or be like that kick-ass girl who ran a marathon WHILE ON HER PERIOD WITHOUT ANYTHING.

A Menstrual What?

Menstrual cup. Yup, it’s exactly what you think it is; a cup women can insert to hold their menses. And yes, we are really talking about this. Just as one would use a tampon or a pad to absorb the monthly flow, the menstrual cup holds the discharge until you remove and empty the cup. When I finally decided to try the cup, I one hundred and ten percent believed that the cup would not work. I’m all about that zero waste life, but experimenting with my time of the month is a no go. I never thought I would actually prefer the menstrual cup to a tampon or pad. I never thought I would be helping my roommate decide which brand to buy. I definitely never thought I would publically announce via blog my experiences, but here I am. My mom must be so proud.

I definitely am not the menstrual master or adventurous by any means. I refused to use tampons until senior year of high school. But I am stubborn, so when my roommates bet I couldn’t do it, I found myself purchasing a menstrual cup from Amazon. I had plenty of reservations and questions.

Does one size fit all? Yes and no. Think of it as buying one super tampon that you reuse. You don’t buy custom tampons. The only sizes you need to worry about is 1 or 2. Did you have a baby? Use a 2. Are you still being pestered by your mother about having kids? Use a 1. You are not buying a cup for the amount of flow. The menstrual cup companies made these sizes assuming the worst. So you’re always covered.

Yeah, but I’m special. Nope. A common myth people believe is that vagina sizes vary significantly, but, as most myths, that would be false. The only time anything changes is when you have a baby, and for those people there is a size 2.

How do you clean it? This was my concern: germs, infections, and other things ain’t nobody got time for. The cup is completely sanitary. Before using your new cup, wash the cup with soap and water. Then, you place it in boiling water for 5 minutes. Every time you remove the cup, rinse the cup in water. After each menstrual cycle, boil the menstrual cup for 5 minutes then place the cup in a cute tote for ready use the next time you have your period.

How often do you change it? Up to 10 – 12 hours. No need to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome (something I have an irrational fear of) because the menstrual cup is made from safe medical plastic. The best part is, after you empty and rinse the cup, you put it back! Wake up, clean menstrual cup, reinsert menstrual cup, go. Clean menstrual cup, reinsert menstrual cup, sleep. Eat. Sleep. Menstrual Cup. Here are examples of when you can use the menstrual cup:

  1.       Running
  2.       Swimming
  3.       Back packing
  4.       Breathing

Could you leak? Nope. Sometimes you’ll need to change it out more frequently when you have a heavier flow, JUST AS YOU WOULD WITH A TAMPON OR PAD. Except for tossing after use, you clean and reuse.

I have a heavy flow. I feel you. I tend to have a heavier flow, and by heavier I mean my uterus would save more lives than the Red Cross. Why I love this cup so much is because it seals, which means no leaks. This cup actually works better than a tampon or pad. I WORE WHITE PANTS WHILE ON MY PERIOD. The women in the tampon commercials got nothing on me.

  1. How much? $20 – 40.

Yeahhh…no. That’s way out of my budget.

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I thought this blog was supposed to be about sustainability? Right. Using the cup is sustainable. Your used feminine care products do not just disappear. They spend the next hundreds of years just chilling at a landfill just like the rest of your trash. Now, think about all the times you have your period. Think of all those pads piling up. What only was a part of your life for 6 hours is now part of the landfill for hundreds of years. One pad isn’t so bad, so you don’t feel guilty tossing one. It’s easy to forget about your trash once you toss it, but think of all the pads that you will toss in your lifetime, in your mother’s lifetime, in your roommate’s lifetime, in your children’s lifetime. Think of that super pack of tampons you just bought; that’s future landfill. Think of all the super pack of tampons that all the people at the College of Charleston bought. Landfill. Think of all the …. you get the point. (Learn more about sustainable cycles here)

I’ll admit, using a menstrual cup is a small step for all the world needs to do to be sustainable. You’re probably thinking what’s the point, but you’re thinking of this all the wrong way. You’re over achieving. Think about the impact in your life, the amount of waste YOU will reduce. As a wise wrinkly man once said, “be the change you want to see in your local landfill.” Or something like that. I’m a science major, not a historian.


This post was written by an intern at the Office of Sustainability



Minds Set in a Bubble

Once upon a time, a red-head was biking home in the Charleston heat. She noticed a car slowing down beside her and thought, What is this crazy driver doing? When she did not respond, the driver whistled and yelled, “Hey — You hot?” She ignored him, thinking he was a random stranger hitting on her, only to realize that this “crazy driver” was her friend waving to her as he drove away. Oops!


Yelling my name would have helped… Oh well.


This funny story highlights an interesting way that people interact. It’s awkward for a person in a car to interact with a biker or a pedestrian or even another person in a car. When drivers do interact with anyone outside their car it’s either honking at someone or slowing down to yell out the window — usually inconvenient to others on the road. Drivers seem to be in their own little bubble while bikers and walkers have more freedom for face-to-face interaction. But even pedestrians ignore each other.


How do we get out of this mindset of “I’m-in-a-bubble-going-quickly-from-point-A-to-point-B-so-nobody-bother-me”?

I would argue for a less stressful and more efficient transportation system that includes all modes of transportation. Maybe then the mindset of commuters can be more friendly and open.

-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

Alternative Transportation

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