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.
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: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/volunteering/marine.html
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.