“Bag It: is your life too plastic?”

Wednesday, November 16th, I attended the documentary and panel about plastic usage and waste. The colleges, Alliance for Planet Earth, held the event. The panel included, Mayor of the City of Folly Beach, Tim Goodwin, Director of Global Partnerships & Community Engagement with 5 Gyres, Lia Colabello, and Program Director of Air, Water, & Public Health at Coastal Conservation League, Katie Zimmerman. And the documentary that followed was, “Bag It: is your life too plastic?”.

I chose to attend this event out of curiosity and to hear Mayor Goodwin speak on the recent ban on plastic out at Folly Beach. I have tried my best recently to stay informed on plastic use in my own life and how our communities near and far are considering their plastic use and waste. After attending this event, the statistics and thoughts shared throughout have reconfirmed the frightening knowledge I already knew, and yet was still able to illustrate a promising future if certain steps are implemented.

Firstly, each panel member spoke and gave their thoughts on where the world is today in terms of plastic consumption and waste. Compelling facts and statistics were shared by each member, certain ones that I found to be very memorable are: 8 million metric tons of non biodegradable plastic enters the ocean annually, 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic are floating ON TOP of the ocean, 1 trillion plastic bags are used a year, and in the United States it takes 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture a plastic bag. And to bring it close to home, there are currently 700,000 tons of microplastics in the Charleston Harbor. After hearing these statistics it almost seems crazy not to have a ban on them everywhere!

This leads to the next topic mentioned, bans and their efficacy. When talking about putting a ban on one of the most prevalent materials used today, one must think how influential will this new policy truly be for our communities and environment? Some answers were provided based off the 54% of areas in the world that are currently under plastic bag free zones. In Ireland, there has been a 95% reduction rate in waste due to plastic. In San Jose, due to the 90% reduction rate in plastic bags they have seen a positive impact on storm drain blockage. When heavy rains would come, violent floods would result due to blockage in the storm drains by plastic waste.

The statistics shared, the impacts noted, and lastly Mayor Goodwin’s words on the recent ban at Folly were the most notable parts of the event for me. I was curious to know how the Folly Beach community responded to the ban, was there any backlash, and how he was moved to make this decision? Luckily, most of these questions were answered! Mayor Goodwin stated that there was 4,784 respondents to the call to action on plastic, all saying that something should be done. With this kind of positive feedback it was easy to fuel the movement towards banning plastic. Mayor Goodwin did mention that there was a small window of backlash towards the ban however. He noted that small ‘mom and pop’ shops were worried that they would not be able facilitate paper bags and that would impede on storage. But Mayor Goodwin responded by saying that plastic has not always been around, and if stores in the past were able to make do, then we can very much make it happen now as well.   

Overall, I found the panel members and documentary to be very enlightening. The documentary was able to open my eyes to the fierce impact of plastic all over the world, and the panel members were able to express ways that this impact can be altered. Mayor Goodwin shared that he used to work for conglomerate, DuPont, and now he is the Mayor of the City of Folly Beach where the first ban on plastic in the state of South Carolina has been passed. Additionally, the panel members have urged students to stay involved in the issue and stay abreast on the politics surrounding the issue. If we are informed and educated we can use our knowledge to influence others, furthering our chances to make big changes.

Also, the event was a Zero Waste event and the food was provided by Grow Food Carolina!!


Volunteering at the MUSC Urban Garden

Last Saturday, I went to the urban farm at MUSC and volunteered. It was such an amazing surprise to arrive and find a diverse, thriving garden unlike any I had ever seen on the Charleston peninsula. Many types of greens, tubers, veggies, herbs, and even succulents filled this green oasis. I entered the garden and saw that others had already arrived and had begun helping with various tasks. Everyone seemed to be very enthusiastic and happy to be spending their morning contributing to the prosperity of such a beautiful space filled with nature. To get involved, I talked to Carmen who helped give me instructions. Carmen works at the garden. She was very friendly and taught me how to do certain tasks and why they were important. First, she showed me a great way to prepare the soil for new plants. I began by taking a broadfork and pressing it completely into the soil. When I leaned back the broadfork would lift the soil upwards. This process helps to aerate the soil without causing damage to the beneficial life systems that take place within. At the MUSC Urban garden, plants are grown in large raised beds. Aerating with a broadfork is used to aerate the soil instead of an alternative such as vermiculite. Carmen taught me that this is because it would take a vast amount of vermiculite to stimulate aeration in sic a large a raised bed compared to using broadfork. I took turns with other volunteers completing this task and removing the weeds from the surrounding area with a garden hoe. Eventually, we had aerated four separate parallel rows that were 15 feet long. Once these were completed, we planted young bok choy sprouts one hand’s-width apart on the four rows. After we had planted the bok choy, I learned how to grow and plant sugar cane. I took a 3 ft. section of sugar cane, dug a horizontal trench six inches deep, placed the sugar cane within, and buried it. Now, in several months, there will be stalks of sweet sugar cane to enjoy! By the time I finished planting the sugarcane, the volunteer period was coming to an end. We were told that since we had helped, we were allowed to take some food from the garden. I collected sweet potato, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and many different types of greens/herbs. After I harvested these organic, fresh plants, I returned home excited to cook up a delicious lunch. To begin, I cooked the sweet potato, radish, carrots, and mustard greens together to create a root vegetable medley. Next, I crisped tempeh with garlic confit. Once it was finished, I added in some kale and broccoli greens. In the end, I created a very tasty meal using the veggies I had earned volunteering. It’s a very special experience to harvest plants straight out of the ground and convert them into a nutrition-packed vegetarian meal.

Overall, I had a very fulfilling, educational experience at the MUSC Urban Farm. I learned different techniques to sustainably produce organic food and discovered a wonderful place to volunteer outdoors with others. I definitely plan to return to this urban sanctuary to volunteer and grow my knowledge of sustainable agriculture.

Herbalism Workshop

On October 26, I attended the College of Charleston’s Office for Alternative Agriculture, herbalism workshop. During this workshop, a presentation on herbal medicine was given. The speaker gave a general overview of what herbalism is, explained different doctrines, medical implications, resources, forms and uses. I will be summarizing the information I learned from the presentation in this post. For those who are unaware, herbalism is the practice of using natural herbs as healing aliments as opposed to using westernized medicine, such as prescription pills and other chemically developed medicines. There are different ways to practice herbalism. Some choose to consume herbs as a way to prevent and suppress symptoms of illness. While other individuals may treat themselves with herbs once they notice they are not feeling up to par. The traditional method of herbalism however, is to consume a variety of herbs daily to prevent feeling ill in the first place. There are several ways herbs can be consumed. They can be dried out and pressed into powders, which can be mixed into food or drinks. Or grinded up and placed in capsules. Tinctures are another method of consumption, which converts herbs into a liquid form by placing them in ethanol or vinegar. Once fermented, the leaves are strained and users consume the liquid at small doses at a time. Combinations of dried herbs can be placed in bags for tea. Herbs can also be mixed into soaps, vaporizers and candles for aromatherapy. There is no right or wrong way to consume herbs however just with anything, too much of one thing can be harmful. Most medical conditions can be treated by herbalism, with exceptions of course. The speaker focused on mental health issues that can be aided with the help herbs. Using the following herbs for example, can relieve anxiety: passionflower, holy basil, kava kava, lavender, chamomile and jasmine to name a few. Alertness can be increased by ginseng, maca, gingko, rosemary and matcha. Generally users do not experience side effects while taking herbal medicine. Addiction and dependence are also not associated with herbal remedies. The same cannot be said for pharmaceutical medicine. A large range of problems can arise from long-term prescription pill use. This especially occurs when people on controlled substances such as depressants, painkillers and stimulants. One does not need to get a prescription for herbal remedies, though it may be advisable to talk to a doctor of naturopathic medicine or herbalist before buying multiple herbal tonics. This will ensure that the client does not over consume supplements.

At the end of the presentation, students were allowed to go up to a table and make their own herbal teas and incense. We were presented with flowerpots of freshly grown rosemary, lavender, spearmint, lemon balm and sage. I had no idea how easy it is to make tea. All one needs to do is separate the desired herbs from the stem, place them into an empty tea bag which can be purchased at any food store, and tie the bag shut. Overall I enjoyed my experience at this workshop and hope that more will occur in the future. I hope to professionally practice herbalism as part of my career in health.Herbs from workshop