Community Gardens

Recently I took a trip back to my home state of West Virginia. I took a short trip back to the neighborhood where I grew up, a couple of blocks away there was a large community garden. Where people could come to both plant and harvest local produce. These community gardens provide many benefits to the local community. Food in the United States travels an average of 1,300 miles and uses gallons of gasoline in the process. Producing food locally reduces greenhouse gas emissions related to the transportation of food. In some cases up to fifty percent of transported food can be lost due to spoilage, food grown locally can greatly reduce food waste.

There is also an added economic benefit community gardens have been shown to increase property value in their respective areas. Can add as much as $9,000 in added city tax money. Developing and maintaining these gardens areas is much easier and less expensive than parkland due in part to the fact that gardens do not require much land and the upkeep is done by the people who grow food in the area. these gardens have even been shown to attract small businesses to the area, which is a boon to low-income areas. Many community gardens also provide opportunities for students and low-income families. For example, students at the local middle and high school classes will occasionally take trips there for horticulture and environmental related classes. And Families can save anywhere from 75 to 380 dollars on food costs. Furthermore, these gardens help to provide access to healthy foods in low-income families where good produce and healthy food options can be hard to come by. People who garden are also more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than people who do not.

Eating local produce can also be a much healthier option as the people who eat them are not ingesting chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Local produce can also be eaten fresh without the use of preservatives used in food that is transported. Another health benefit is that community gardens have been shown to improve mental health as well, improving upon mental fatigue as well as life satisfaction. Needless to say, these gardens are also aesthetically pleasing and add an air of beauty to the local area. As mentioned before they are also a great learning place for students, helping to teach about environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Community gardens provide an array of environmental, economic, as well as health benefits. It seems that more and more communities are choosing to move in this direction. Not to mention the memories that it can provide, it’s been quite sometime that my family has been there to make use of the garden. But I’ll always remember those evenings when my mother and I would walk down to the garden and collect our produce, anything from green beans to squash. When I was very little she would always say to me “Look, honey, you grew that.” Oh, the wonderful joys of community gardens.

Volunteering with the DNR

Recently I became a volunteer with the SC DNR which encompasses a large variety of volunteer areas. I volunteered for the Charleston area which has opportunities for species monitoring as well as habitat improvement. One of the opportunities is rebuilding oyster habitats by placing shells into tidal areas. Once I volunteered, the volunteer coordinator put me on a list-serve that sends out alerts for upcoming projects and volunteer events. An upcoming project I would like to help with is the tagging of Monarch butterflies.

Tagging monarch butterflies along the coast of South Carolina is important because they choose to stay here during the winter as opposed to migrating to Mexico like most other Monarchs. Since the number of Monarch butterflies has been decreasing, the DNR is interested in seeing how many are occupying the area.

The training and tagging will begin in early December and last throughout winter. Many of the DNR volunteer opportunities require flexibility in one’s schedule because many of them are weather dependent. Volunteering with the DNR is also a great way to get your foot in the door for possible hourly positions. Here is the link to the volunteer page:

Volunteering with the Zero Waste Corps

Earlier in the semester i n the month of October I volunteered with the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability Zero Waste Corps at the College’s Boundless campaign event at Dixie Plantation. The Boundless campaign event is a comprehensive fundraising campaign through the College. The Boundless campaign event has raised 138.7 million dollars up to June 30, 2016 and the event on Dixie Plantation was created to host the donors to the event. Due to the evacuation caused by Hurricane Matthew, there was significant drop of attendees to the Boundless campaign event, there was still a good number of people there.

At the event we were given a red Zero Waste Corps shirt to signal to the event attendees that we were there to help them navigate waste management. In total there were 10 volunteers through the Zero Waste Corps. The supervisors of Zero Waste Corps explained to us which waste products went into certain containers. There were two containers, one for compostable and for recycling. The majority of the products at the Boundless event was either compostable or recyclable. In the compostable container, things like leftover food, specialty cups, speciality plates and cutlery were able to be composted. Items like straws, plastic bottles, beer bottles, and other paper products were added to the recyclable container. Our job as volunteers were to stand beside both containers that were strategically placed around the main area of Dixie Plantation and instruct people on where to dispose of their waste if they did not already know. Another job we had as Zero Waste Corps volunteers was to answer questions about the zero waste initiative and how a successful waste management event can be accomplished.

Volunteering with the Zero Waste Corps was very informative and rewarding. I felt like I was doing something to help make our earth a greener and more sustainable planet. It was great working with the other volunteers and participating in a group effort to make an College event zero waste. Even though things like that seem small in the grand scheme of things, every little thing counts no matter how small we think it is. I believe that every College of Charleston student should volunteer with the Zero Waste Corps at a campus event to gain some experience with sustainability and it was an overall great experience.

The Office of Sustainability’s Zero Waste Corps’s purpose is to eliminate waste and increase recycling on campus and through campus events. The College of Charleston’s Zero Waste Corp focuses on 6 areas of focus such as: aversion, minimization, prepare for reuse, recycling, recovery, and disposal. Some common events that the Zero Waste Corps do every year is the Charleston Affair at the end of the spring semester, the waste audit in cougar mall in the spring semester with Alliance for Planet Earth, and the Office of Sustainability’s Greenbag Lunch Series. The Zero Waste Corps also gives the option of planning event to make it Zero Waste to the campus community and provides feedback to organizations and events around the Charleston peninsula.

Homelessness and Environmental Innovations

Homelessness has gradually decreased in the past years, but it is still very prevalent in America. Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is due to the high cost of housing and unemployment. Our society mainly recognize homeless people standing in front of stores begging for money wearing worn down clothing, but experiencing homelessness can be from sleeping outside of a tent or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. There are many perceptions on the homeless. Nonetheless, homelessness affects us, from the environment we live in from sustainability to our economy. Homelessness is a social issue that connects us with the physical and natural environment. There are some arguments that environmental degradation is correlated or the same as social equity, this could be the result of large corporation greed. For example, large corporations who are producing harmful chemicals in the environment near a poverty-stricken area, where homelessness is more prevalent.

Every Saturday, I volunteer with the Low Country Herald. The Low Country Herald is a nonprofit organization that produces print publications that the homeless sell to the people, and they get to keep the profits to generate an income for them get out of poverty. Paul Gangarosa is the founder of this nonprofit organization and a professor at the College of Charleston.

Professor Gangarosa is trying to create a Shower truck for the homeless in Charleston, SC. This would provide the homeless to have a suitable area for them to shower and provide hygiene products. This is also, an environmental effort by having a portable shower truck: conservation of water (having timed showers), low consumption of energy, portability (meaning not having a permanent area, less space is used), and cost-effective. This project is still in the works. His other projects include building tiny houses for the homeless this would incorporate green building practices into public houses. This would be both sustainable, cost-effective, and a way to get people off the streets.

Every Saturday, volunteers and I usually set up a couple tent, tables, and chairs on a vacant lot. And then we usually bring food trays that contain various amounts of foods that are all voluntarily brought. So I usually serve food for the homeless and wrap up their foods if they are on the go. We also, provide hygiene bags that contain travel sized soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, women’s hygiene products, shampoo, conditioner, and many more. Every second Saturday, a health clinic comes and people who are certified to check the homeless body conditions. This includes measurement of blood pressure, glucose levels, temperature, and giving them advice to keep up their health.

We also ask questions to the individuals who come on Saturdays, we ask for their name, age, if they are experiencing homelessness, and if they had a job or not. By asking these questions, this helps us become more aware on how prevalent the homeless community is in the area and what we could do about it. We hand out flyers for the homeless that has a number on it, if they need a job.

All in all, I think we should create more sustainable innovative ways for the community to go green. This would not only help our environment overall, but also the homeless.




I chose to attend the screening of Cowspiracy by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn.  At first I didn’t know what to expect and thought it would be a lot like Food, Inc., focusing on the mistreatment of animals and where our food really comes from.  I was pleasantly shocked that this film wasn’t just about cows and their waste, it was so much more in connecting all other environmental aspects linking back to livestock.  I would compare this film to the documentary about fracking by Josh Fox called Gasland.  The styles used and commentary are similar.  Being filmed from an average humans view point is what really gets me.  This film made me believe that I could potentially be doing what Kip Anderson has done but with the concerns that are dear to me.

This film was filled with statistics and quotes throughout.  One that stood out to me was “Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”  This blows my mind.  How can over half of the CO2 emissions the world puts out into the atmosphere be from producing livestock? How could I not have known about this just like Kip was confused why no one would talk about this leading issue.  Usually the methane produced by livestock is talked about but nothing about how much carbon dioxide is being emitted.  Livestock and growing feed for the livestock to consume takes 56% of the water in the US.  Over half of our water is being used to grow meat for us to eat? That just seems impractical.  It was mentioned in the film that the food being fed to the livestock could easily be fed to humans and we could also be able to resource all that water for either drinking or growing other foods for us the eat.  To produce one pound of beef it takes 2,500 gallons of water. 477 gallons to produce 1 pound of eggs and 900 gallons of water for one pound of cheese.  These numbers are insane and I feel ashamed to have ever eaten and partaken in such a detrimental act against our environment.

The thing that stuck out to me the most in this film was when it was said that you can’t be an environmentalist and eat meat.  I care way too much about the environment to be eating meat and this film made me realize and opened my eyes to maybe an alternative way of eating that I should pursue.  I know nothing about being and eating as a vegan, but after watching this film I really believe that I need to make the effort and re consider my eating options and the food I put into my body.  “Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animals life.”  Eating meat and the industry of livestock is causing too much damage to this earth.  So many environmental problems can be traced back to livestock.  Becoming a vegan is a huge change to one person’s life, but it has an even greater impact on the earth in such a positive way with immediate results, how could anyone not even consider how beneficial for the earth and oneself that it is.

Chapel of Sacred Mirrors: Pure Flow

On the 11th of November I had the privilege of making my second trip up to the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (COSM) in New York. COSM is the home and studio of renowned visionary artists Alex and Allison Grey, a power couple that have gained recognition for their depictions of the sacred through art. The Grey’s are strong believers in cosmic consciousness, advocating the interconnectedness of all things and the value of sacred spaces. Throughout their home is a diverse array of altars and psychedelic artwork, often showing some sort of manifestation of the divine.

Last time I visited COSM, the special event was a full moon gathering, celebrating the phases of our endearing satellite. On the night of this visit, the event being held at the Chapel was “Pure Flow: An Evening of Sacred Water Consciousness.” After settling down in the Grey’s cozy living room, I chatted with the people around me and once again found that the visitors here are some of the nicest, if not the nicest group of people of whom you could possibly come into contact. They spoke of love, nature, and the occasional dosage of psychedelic drugs, but at the home of visionary artists, this comes as no surprise. After a few minutes passed, the event kicked off with a presentation by Rachel Marco-Havens, the Director of Youth Engagement at the NY organization, Earth Guardians. Earth Guardians is a youth-led inter-generational  non-profit organization focused on raising young leaders dedicated to youth empowerment and the protection of the Earth. Her slideshow emphasized the importance of the No DAPL movement, relating it back to the expenditure of fossil fuels in the Hudson Valley as well as the entire state of New York. According to Rachel, one of the best ways to combat the assault on Mother Earth is to empower youth, training them to deal with the powers that be. In the case of Standing Rock, Earth Guardians has put together a fundraiser to help train the youth in their stand against militarized violence: water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, intimidation, ect.

To lighten the mood of the room, the presentation was followed by a musical performance by Bethany Yarrow & Rufus Cappadocia, whose ethereal music contained themes of earth activism and social justice. The way the people in the Chapel came together during these songs was really something else, a moment of harmony that could be felt in the air. It was as if the intentions of everyone in the room came off of them like steam, fusing in the air to create a syncopation that seemed tangible. After the musical performance the Grey’s stepped in to close the ceremony before letting their audience wander about the house. Alex gave us a reminder that all space can be sacred, and it is our responsibility to protect what we love, because no one else will. This is why the movement at Standing Rock is so important. It is symbolic of the necessity to wean off of our fossil fuel addiction, as well as our need to acknowledge the sacred quality of wilderness. As John Muir stated, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.


From my last trip to COSM

From my last trip to COSM

Is Your Life Too Plastic

This semester I attended an event held by the Alliance for Planet Earth, which included a panel discussion and documentary on plastic usage and waste. I work at a local hardware store and was informed about this event by one of my local customers and a panel member for this event, Tim Goodwin, Mayor of Folly Beach. He told me about the seriousness of this issue and how they are attempting to change it in Charleston. Tim Goodwin is, not just a public official, but an advocate for his community which he has served for the past 14 years. When he is not busy with his mayoral duties at City Hall, he can be found out in the community helping with endangered turtle nests, volunteering at local churches and soup kitchens and even working with the college to help better our environment.

Mayor Goodwin informed me about the recent ban on plastic bags at Folly Beach and encouraged me to attend this panel. I was aware of the effects of plastic on our environment, especially in coastal areas, but I did not know the severity of it until attending this event. I have watched many documentaries on the effects of plastic on the environment and where it all ends up and they always left me feeling like there is little to no hope for the future, but this event gave me hope for the future of our environment.

The panel members discussed the seriousness of plastic consumption and waste and where we are today, in terms of contributing. They provided tons of statistics and facts about plastic that were astonishing. To put the seriousness of this issue into perspective, think about this, we use over 1 trillion plastic bags a year, and this is just one form of plastic. To produce a plastic bag in the United States it takes 12 million barrels of oil. So, you can only image the amount out materials and waste that go into producing all the plastic we use on a daily basis. When plastic is thrown away it usually ends up in the ocean and from there takes years and years to break down, but even when it breaks down it is still just as harmful because it is in the form of microplastics, which is very harmful to marine life. In totally, 8 million tons of non-biodegradable plastics enter the ocean each year and of that, 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic are floating on top of the ocean.

The panel informed on how the plastic bag ban has affected other areas in the world. Currently, 54% of the world has a ban on plastic bags and positive results have come from it. In San Jose, they have seen many positive impacts as a result of the 90% reduction rate in plastic bag usage, include; less storm drain blockage, less flooding and sewage back up. Ireland has managed to reduce 95% of their plastic usage and this is amazing to me! If we can follow in the footsteps of these communities I think that we will be able to pave the way for others and ultimately save parts of our environment that are being destroyed.

Mayor Tim Goodwin has done a lot to help out his community as well as his environment and in doing this I think that we can use his actions as a model for shaping the way we do things in Charleston so that we can protect our beautiful coastline and the ecosystems that make it up. We have to do what we can now to reverse or at least decrease the negative impacts we have had on our environment and if Charleston can make a change like this as a whole, other communities will hopefully follow in the footsteps.



Bag It-Is Your Life Too Plastic?

On Wednesday, November 16th, I attended the panel discussion and Bag it screening.  The panel discussion included presentations from Lia Colabello, Director of Community and Partnership at 5Gyres, the City of Folly Beach Mayor, Tim Goodwin, and Katie Zimmerman, Program Director of Air, Water, and Public Health for the Costal Conservation League. I chose to attend this event because after working in various restaurants, it has made me realize the incredible amount of plastic waste thrown away each day. Due to ignorance about recyclable products and removal costs, recycling is often overlooked. I was curious to learn more about the short and long term effects of plastic in the environment, and the efforts against it.

The panel discussion began with Lia Colabello of 5Gyers introducing shocking statistics about the organizations findings. Out of curiosity after the event, I looked into the movement 5Gyers is creating.  It was founded after a couple researching pollutants in the Pacific Ocean sailed through the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, and realized the greater issue to come.

Lia explained and effectively advocated the organization’s goal of making plastic a worldwide concern. An increasing “smog of the sea” is being created by over eight million metric tons of plastics made from petrochemical we deposit into the sea each year. The plastic then degrades into microfibers, making it look tasty to marine life and nearly impossible to remove. These toxic laden plastics are eaten and absorbed into fishes flesh, up to 90 pieces have been found in a single fish. Now that these plastics and chemicals have made their way into the food chain, they may soon be present in our food sources.

Katie Zimmerman explained the local effects plastic has caused and outlined the plan of attack for the future. Although the Charleston area has become greener with recycling in recent years; the Charleston Harbor contains over seven tons of plastic mircobits with one of the highest amounts of styrofoam pollution in the U.S. She discussed the upcoming want for change and how the movement began.  School children from Isle of Palms, in fear for the sea turtles they saw on a field trip, convinced their parents to opt for change.  I thought it was interesting that young children saw how plastic waster was influencing the environment, while many adults are still unconcerned with the effects. However, the tricounty area seems close to a less plastic future; a survey of business owners in the tricounty area of 4800 citizens, over 83% supported a plastic ban.


Mayor Goodwin further reinforced the importance and success of plastic control acts.  Folly Beach has just passed a plastic bag and styrofoam ban, with an auxiliary container act to come. He emphasized how everyone has the right to a clean beach, especially our future generations.  The push for a cleaner environment in Folly was expected, and passed with little resistance, showing the growing waste concerns. This is a remarkable moment, and hopefully other areas like Sullivan’s Island, will feel the need to keep up with Folly’s progress.

After attending the event, I felt informed and am looking forward to getting involved with the anti-plastic movement.  Bag It was eye-opening, and took a closer look at the health effects of the chemicals produced from and within plastic products through the perspective of a concerned citizen, further reenforcing the warnings of the panel.  I found the local speakers to be very encouraging and optimistic about the positive change we can create in the environment with our knowledge and participation.

Cowspiracy: A Call for Compassion

Filmed by two youthful environmental/social activists, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, Cowspiracy is a documentary investigating what they argue to be the number one contributor to climate change, animal agriculture. Andersen delves dangerously deep into uncovering the secrets suppressed by the environmentally destructive industries that threaten our planet. Revealed in this film, animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and essentially every other environmental ailment.

The mystery: no one is talking about it. The deeper Andersen and Kuhn dive, the higher a wall is built shielding a seemingly dark industry secret. World-leading environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club,, WWF, and Greenpeace, are all silent. But why? Ultimately, the reason boils down to the same thing it always does; money. Whether or not these organizations were engaged in money-laundering with bigger oil or factory farming companies is unclear, but the very fact that it’s unclear is the underlying issue. When interviewing these organizations, discussions of climate change and its greenhouse gas contributors flowed smoothly, but as soon as Andersen pointed the conversation in the direction of animal agriculture, the responses were dismissive. Some fumbled with the question claiming that it’s “hard to target one thing exactly” and others seemed, some responded angrily as if playing the defense, and others seemed downright clueless.

Ultimately, one of the biggest issues is the simple fact that Americans love meat.  On average, each person eats nine ounces of meat a day. This animal-based diet that the human population relies on drastically reduces any chances we have of farming sustainably. The detriments of raising animals for food are vast; 150 gallons of methane per day are emitted by cows, ¾ of fisheries are overexploited, one acre of rainforest is cleared every second for livestock production and logging. Mass producing agriculture corporations have shielded us from the ugly and inconvenient truth of this reality, thus, nothing is changing because so few people can understand the true nature of the problem or that something needs to be changed. They know that if they were to remove the blindfold they placed on society and reveal everything that happens behind the barn doors, they would start losing profits, fast. In fact, animal rights activists are the number one FBI priority because of the threat they pose on large meat and dairy distributors.

As a rapidly growing society, we need to make a decision about what we want our future to look like. This is not just an environmental movement but a global, social, and spiritual revolution. The Dalai Lama once said, “When we are concerned mainly with our own interests, inevitably we tend to neglect others’ interests. Because of this, preoccupation with our own interests—our own narrow desires, ambitions, and goals—undermines our ability to be compassionate…. the more we concern ourselves with providing for others’ well-being, the more meaningful our lives become and the happier we ourselves will be”. If we can transform the way society thinks, we can transform the way society eats. We can do it, we just have to choose to do it.

Current Events: Climate Change and Trump

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of the events throughout the semester so I am choosing to write about the current situation on climate change with our new president. This course has exposed each of us to our impact on the carbon footprint. I found it very interesting to take the quiz and find out how much of an impact my life has on the carbon footprint and the ways in which I can change it to make my number lower.

In a recent article published in The Guardian, “What businesses want Trump to know about climate change,” several companies voiced their reasons why they want Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement. Some of these companies included New Belgium Brewing, Staples, General Mills, Monsanto, and several others. It is interesting when taking into the account of the carbon footprint to consider the way that businesses affect the not just the economy but climate change as well. New Belgium Brewing pointed out the threat of climate change to their entire industry because they are brewers and depend on agriculture. Even Monsanto understands the threat of climate change on the crops and the carbon emitted from the soil affecting our planet.

Another company, Staples, is not a company that I would have thought of when considering climate change. I loved learning that the company set a goal in 2010 to reduce their carbon emissions halfway by 2020 and they are already 50% of the way there. The director of sustainable products and services, Jake Swenson, gave the example of the way suppliers, landowners, and products will be affected by climate change because the forests could have an increased risk of fires, droughts and insects due to the rising temperatures.

General Mills is taking efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions through focusing on healthy soil. The chief of sustainability is ensuring that farmers take efforts in growing clean dirt that does not hold unhealthy gases contributing to climate change. Even companies like Levi, a 160 year old company, depends on the availability of raw materials to keep their business successful.

With reading the support from companies who believe in climate change, it made me realize how much the economy is effected and not just the planet. Similar to what we learned in class about the economy and the environment, I agree that they must work together. These companies understand that to continue creating their products they must have good resources to do so. If the world is affected by a growing impact on climate change then the companies will not be able to thrive successfully. And when the companies are not doing well, the whole economy starts to decrease and the way we care for our people and the planet will be greatly affected. The companies, the people, and the president or other authoritative positions can each make a big difference with several small steps. Working together is ultimately the way to reduce the carbon footprint of the world. I hope that the support of these companies encourages others to do the same. The link to the article can be found below for those who are interested in reading the full article.