Do It Yourself, the Story of a Dirtbag Landlord

Being in my final year at the College, I know all too well the workings of a dirtbag landlord. Like most of us calling the peninsula home for the majority of the year, I am often perturbed by the lack of quality affordable housing that exists downtown. I could go into a lengthy spiel about gentrification and it’s destruction of the culture that once existed in this city, but that’s a rant for another time. This blog post is centered around the dealings with of an unhelpful landlord and what it means to be self-reliant. Over the past few months my house has fallen victim to various problems including a leaking pipe under my kitchen sink to a broken fill valve in my toilet. Various calls and left voicemails have led to constant frustration with my current landlord. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Luckily enough, I was granted a set a tools a few Christmases ago which have come in great hand when taking on various tasks around my house. With a little help from my handy dandy youtube app I can fix almost anything that goes array (besides the pesky squirrels that seemed to have taken up lodging in my attic).

Some basic tools that are good to have on hand:

-phillips head screwdriver

-a flat head screw driver

-an adjustable wrench

-a hammer

-duct tape

With these tools, most jobs are attainable even to the most novice handyman/woman

Being able to do things on your own is a big step to leading a sustainable lifestyle. Once you begin to recognize the systems that you rely on, you can begin to recognize how easy it is to take yourself out of those equations with a little self-taught know how. It can be really empowering after you have completed a task on your own. Even small tasks like changing a tire on your bike or repairing a pair or ripped shorts. Being able to do things for yourself can help things get done faster while also reducing the waste that is created by many of the systems we rely on.


-James Mulhern, Community Partnership & 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

How we are all Turning into Cold, Hard, Shiny Plastic


You think the Girl World is rough? Wait until you realize what the Plastic World is like.

1.) Everyone has to deal with the Plastic World


Janis is right.  Almost everyone has plastic in their hair.  

This comes from the typical shampoos and conditioners that you use. If you don’t want your hair to be made of plastic any more, look at the ingredients! The two most common plastics used in beauty products are called polypropylene and polyethylene. If you want to be 100% sure, download this app that allows you to scan any product and will tell you if this product contains plastic:

2.) Karen’s excuse is actually legit

Although the research is very up-and-coming, there have been suggestions that ingesting plastics could be connected to human health issues.  So far, plastics have been found to negatively impact marine organisms such as oysters, fish, and marine mammals. Some of the problems include slower growth rates, digestion complications, poorer fertility rates, and DEATH.  

3.) Plastic is a Mean Girl

The plastic pollution you produce, not only affects you, but also affects the entire globe.  Since the ocean currents are constantly flowing, your trash can travel vast distances.  For example, when Regina George eats a Kälteen Bar and does not dispose of it properly, it enters the Atlantic Ocean and begins to breakdown into MICROPLASTICS.  A salmon then eats some of these microplastics and gets caught by an African fisherman.  Next thing you know, Cady Heron is eating that salmon, and Regina’s trash, in her happy hometown in Africa. Further proving that Regina George and plastic are life ruiners.

4.) So, how many of you have ingested microplastics?

That’s what we thought.
This is due to something called biomagnification, which is the buildup of toxins in an organism as a result of eating lots of other organisms in which the toxins are more widely distributed.  This means that at the beginning of the food web, organisms like phytoplankton only have a couple of microplastics in their stomachs, but once we look at our digestive system, that number is multiplied by the amount of organisms it has taken to feed you.

5.) Welcome to the Burn Book, Beaches



6.) Just tell plastic,


Mission Statement: To raise awareness in the College of Charleston community about how our actions affect the oceans and how to reduce our impact on a local level.

-Isabelle Sui and Elena Mpougas, Sustainability Interns & Project Leads: 71% Project

Isabelle and Elena are seniors at the College and founders of the 71% Project on campus.
Isabelle and Elena are seniors at the College and founders of the 71% Project on campus.

Sustainability: Zoos and Aquariums

A couple of weeks ago, I was very excited to hear from a friend (thanks Paige!) that our hero/woman crush (not just on Wednesdays), the ocean explorer and conservationist Sylvia Earle, was going to be speaking in Charleston! Along with architect Jeanne Gang, she was serving as a featured panelist turned for a discussion entitled “Why Do Zoos and Aquariums Matter?” hosted by the Center for Humans and Nature and the South Carolina Aquarium. Other panelists included psychology professor Susan Clayton, President Emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society George Rabb, and leader of Center for Conservation Leadership Dr. Alejandro Grajal.

The historical precursor for zoos and aquariums are menageries, which were collections of “exotic” animals kept by royalty or wealthy people. The purpose of a menagerie was solely entertainment- they were places where people could go to see animals that would surprise them and make them feel wonder. Animals were taken out of their natural habitat and little if any effort was made to educate people on the environment the animal was taken from or the animals and plants it would normally interact with in its native habitat.

Today, zoos and aquariums exist to educate and conserve as well as to entertain. Animals are kept in captivity as ambassadors for their species. Sylvia Earle credits aquariums with teaching her “at an early age that fish have faces, beautiful eyes, amazing behaviors and- although you would never guess it if you only see fish in a can or chowder or on your plate, swimming in lemon slices and butter- every fish is a unique individual…each represents the miracle of life.” Working towards sustainability requires building relationships between people and the environment, and in an increasingly urban world, zoos and aquariums may be the primary way in which many children engage with and develop attitudes about nature.

As we have learned more about how much species depend on each other and on the environment they inhabit, concerns about keeping animals in captivity has increased, and rightly so. Many zoos and aquariums have made efforts to build enclosures that more realistically portray animals’ natural habitats, and are improving ways to measure the health and well-being of animals in captivity. However, there is much more work to be done. Removal of animals such as primates, large cats, and dolphins and whales from the wild should end: it causes harm to the animals’ well-being as well as to the environment as a whole. Sylvia Earle believes that captivity of these animals should be phased out completely, and I agree (watch the documentary Blackfish to learn about the worst aspects of keeping large mammals in captivity).

Jeanne Gang is an architect renowned internationally for her innovative, environmentally sensitive designs. She is interested in redesigning zoos and aquariums so that they promote conservation and education over entertainment by sharing space with schools, creating spaces for people to sit and talk with each other about what they have experienced and learned at the facility, and redesigning or getting rid of gift shops “where visitors are invited to purchase plastic trinkets [which] promote the very materials threatening the health and well-being of wild animals—the plastics that create carbon pollution in their production, choke poverty stricken areas, and blight our ocean”.

According to surveys of zoo and aquarium visitors, emotional connections with animals are more correlated with pro-environment behaviors than awareness and understanding. Zoos and aquariums will be most effective if they can allow people to learn through experience, through interacting and engaging with the animals and environments that are on display. We should support zoos and aquariums that encourage conservation through engaging education, and should encourage other facilities to follow this example.

Link to essays by all the panelists:

-Sarah Shainker, Share Your Story Project, Sustainability Intern

Sarah is a senior at the College of Charleston studying Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies.
Sarah is a senior at the College of Charleston studying Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies.

Beauty Products & Sustainability

Think about your daily routine. Do you wake up and brush your teeth? Wash your face and hair? Then moisturize? Shave or put on make up? Although it may take as little as 20 minutes to complete these morning rituals, thousands of chemicals can be entering your body through these processes. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Web Page, out of a “survey of 2300 people, on average, respondents use nine products daily,” containing “126 unique ingredients.” As long as the FDA approval stamp is on the bottle, we often pay no attention to the ingredients listed. For future reference, here is a list of the “Dirty Dozen, 12 Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics:”

  1. BHA, BHT: These ingredients are commonly found in lipsticks and moisturizers, and they are possible carcinogens
  2. Coal Tar Dyes: Coal Tar Dyes will show up as Phenylenediamine, or CI followed by a number. They are often found in hair dyes and lipstick. They are known carcinogens and are linked to brain damage
  3. DEA (diethanolamine): This chemical, found in shampoos and soaps, makes cosmetics creamy and sudsy. They are also carcinogens.
  4. DBP (Dibutylphthalate): DBP is commonly used in nail polish and is linked to hormonal disruptions, birth defects, and liver failure.
  5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Ingredients such as DMDM hydantion, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives that are used to increase the shelf life of cosmetics. They are also carcinogens.
  6. Parabens: 75-90% of cosmetics contain Parabens despite their connection to hormonal disruptions, breast cancer, increased skin aging, and DNA damage.
  7. Parfum aka Fragrance: Even though it’s only listed as fragrance or parfum on the ingredients list, these can contain up to 3,000 different ingredients within themselves. They can also be linked to asthma, allergies, and cancer.
  8. PEG compounds: PEG compounds are found in cream based cosmetics and can cause skin irritation.
  9. Petrolatum: Petroleum jelly is used in hair products to add shine and is also found in lip balms, lipsticks, and moisturizers. It causes skin irritation and allergies.
  10. Siloxanes: Stay away from ingredients ending in –siloxan or methicone. They are found in hair products and deodorants and can impair fertility and cause hormonal disruptions.
  11. SLS (Sodium laureth sulfate): SLS is a carcinogenic foaming agent found in cleansers, bubble bath, and shampoo.
  12. Triclosan: This chemical is found in antibacterial cosmetics such as deodorant, cleansers, and hand sanitizers. It can cause skin irritation, antibiotic resistance, and hormonal disruptions.

If this freaks you out as much as it freaks me out, but you’re afraid you are too lazy to study the ingredients in the store, checkout the apps below that provide easy access to information on the side effects of certain chemicals.

  1. Fooducate: This app allows you to scan the bar code or search the name of the product and find out everything you need to know about the ingredients.
  2. Think Dirty (my personal favorite): Think Dirty is an app that rates the toxicity of your cosmetics and personal care products.
  3. GoodGuide: GoodGuide, similarly to the first two apps, provides information on the ingredients found in household cleaning products.

-Caroline Kelly, Sustainability Intern 

Caroline Kelly is a sophomore studying Communications with an Arts Management minor.
Caroline Kelly is a sophomore studying Communications with an Arts Management minor.

Feminism, Intersectionality, and Sustainability

What is feminism? Feminism is the idea that no one should be discriminated against based on gender and no one should be given privilege based on gender. This is the simplest way to define it. It is not the hatred of men, it does not apply only to gender (which is socially constructed anyway), and it is not the belief that women are better than men. Feminist scholars dig much deeper into the complicated ways socially constructed gender norms affect individuals and cultures, but we’re going to keep it simple today.

Feminism cannot exist without intersectionality. Intersectionality is a concept that highlights the way in which gender affects people differently. Gendered experiences can vary based on race, gender identity, sexual identity, ability, gender expression, nationality, class, mental health, or any combination of these identifiers.  For example: a black bisexual cisgendered female will experience gender differently than a transgendered white male, therefore, they will face different issues. All valid, of course. What happens to feminism without intersectionality? It becomes white feminism. White feminism focuses exclusively on the experiences of white, upper/middle-class, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied women. Wow, what a narrow focus! How can we solve problems we’re not even looking at?

Okay, that’s great and all, but what does this have to do with sustainability? Isn’t that just the Earth and Environment and stuff? Let’s take a look at environmental justice, shall we? Environmental Justice focuses on the interconnectedness of environmental issues and social issues. If you examine environmental justice through a more gendered lense then you’ve got ECOFEMINISM. Ecofeminism “is an activist and academic movement that sees critical connections between the domination of nature and the exploitation of women”. Marginalized groups are more likely to experience poverty and are less likely to be represented politically. Without political and economic power, they are more likely to experience the negative effects of climate change, pollutions, and environmental degradation. That being said, when we talk about sustainability we need to be aware of how people are affected. It’s also important to consider that the causes of environmental issues are related to the causes of social issues. If you want to get to the root of environmental issues, you must examine cultural and social issues. Alright… so how about environmental groups? Who is at the forefront of (accepted) environmental philosophy? Who is heading the most influential environmental organizations? Primarily white, cisgendered, straight, able-bodied men(BTW we still love you, we just want your support).

How can/should this change? We need to make sure that marginalized groups are given an amplified voice and are well-represented.  In any group, not just environmental ones, you should definitely ask yourself a few questions: Is there diversity? Is there vocal diversity as well as physical diversity? Hmmm? Are all present demographics given a platform to speak up and speak out? Are their voices given as much power as privileged ones? yes? NO you say!? What can you do? Make sure that you check what privilege you have and lift up others without that privilege(hey woman in the corner, how do you feel about [insert issue here]?). Make sure your organization, or one you are supporting, is listening to and including communities that are affected by environmental damage. Make sure there are diverse leaders and that diverse perspectives and tactics are taken seriously. If you are not holding privilege in a certain situation, be aware of how you’ve been taught to stay silent and then SPEAK UP(even when you’re silenced or interrupted). You matter.


Tanner Glaze, Sustainability Intern: Community Partnership Program 

Tanner Glaze is a junior at the College of Charleston majoring in Psychology with a minor in Environmental Studies.
Tanner Glaze is a junior at the College of Charleston majoring in Psychology with a minor in Environmental Studies.

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).

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 12.57.10 PM

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).

 Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 12.49.55 PM

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.