Trash to Treasure: Wearable Artwork

In a previous blog post I wrote about the documentary The True Cost, which focuses on the environmental effects of fast fashion. I’m also writing my research paper on the fast fashion industry, so I clearly have a connection with this topic. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this afternoon with absolutely no intention of using this as a time of learning, but I happened across a video from the HuffPost Lifestyle page that stood out to me.

The video features a natural dyer and artisan by the name of Cara Marie Piazza. Piazza uses the bouquets of flowers from weddings to create beautiful masterpieces that the bride is able to keep forever. Instead of throwing the flowers away when the big day is over, Piazza uses the flowers to dye clothing such as a kimono so the bride will have a forever keepsake. While this is a super unique thing to do, it is also a cool way to repurpose flowers and clothing items.

As if repurposing or upcycling flowers and clothing items isn’t enough, Piazza makes the point that the natural dyes from the flowers are better for the environment than synthetic dyes. Synthetic dyes as well as synthetic dye production sites pollute the water. I had never though about the synthetic dyes and their production process as a pollutant, but now I do and it’s scary especially since I love to tie-dye and try new dying techniques. I have thought about trying natural dyes in the past, but this video definitely makes me want to change the way I tie-dye.

Piazza also talks about fast fashion in this short video and she encourages viewers not to throw their clothing away. She urges viewers to repurpose old clothing or at least donate the clothing to someone who is in actual need.

I really think that Cara Marie Piazza is on to something incredible in the fashion world. Her technique gives consumers the uniqueness many want from fast fashion, she can repurpose clothing to turn them into works of wearable art, and she uses natural dyes that are made from things that come directly from the earth.

Sustainable Urbanism

It’s crazy to think that cities as we know them today are systematically different than they were even 100 years ago. During the 1960’s especially we saw a major shift in urban areas. As the automobile became widely used and aspects of war affected families, Americans jumped on the band wagon of suburbanism. They valued living in the quiet country as a form of escapism, and also as a way to rebuild their family structure in a peaceful environment. This trend caught on extremely fast, and if you had the money you could have a nice home in a suburban community erected in less than a month. This is the mindset behind how many of these neighborhoods were built- quickly with few, cheap materials.
In the last fifteen years we have seen another shift. Now Americans want to live in the city center again, surrounded by the hustle and bustle, so urban areas have been straining to support these new residents. This trend is only increasing, and in thirty years a majority of us will live in one of twelve major hubs in the United States. So how can we plan for this influx of people in order to save the integrity of the area? Cities have a need for a new comprehensive plan including aspects of transportation, housing, job opportunities, and tourism. An overarching theme of these master plans is sustainability.
One way we can implement sustainability is by utilizing the abandoned suburbs I discussed earlier. In order to divert a large portion of Americans from moving to overcrowded cities, they must have access to an area that gives them everything a city center could offer. Through an idea called “retrofitting suburbia” there is potential to give some TLC to those smaller cities and neighborhoods that were lost in our turn of the century urban flight. This plan allows developers and city planners to reestablish an area that has existing structures, but no draw.
City centers offer many aspects that millennials are intrigued by. Some of these include an awesome job market, mixed use housing, and strong community involvement. Retrofitting aims to integrate these components to a suburban area with hopes that people would want to move there; featuring compactness, connectivity and multiple transportation options, diversity, and cultural relevance. Developers will take abandoned box stores or malls and convert them into mixed use structures. There will be bike and car sharing programs implemented. A new town center will be established as a grounds for community gatherings and events. Green space will allow people to get outside and enjoy their city. Energy/water saving technologies will be used.

Retrofitting is a great way to ensure that our country can sustain us in years to come. However it will take a shift in cultural norms and a greater overall mindset which focuses on environmentalism. Let’s work to save our cities!

I Stand With Standing Rock

I am a part of an organization called APE, Alliance for Planet Earth, here on campus, and through APE I have had the opportunity to stand up for issues I believe are important and help raise awareness on campus. Most recently, I tabled in cougar mall and helped students sign petitions to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. At our table we not only had the link and website for people to sign the petition, but we also had contact information for our South Carolina politicians so we could contact them and voice our opinions. In such big widespread national issues such as the DAPL, voicing your input and strong opinions to officials that are meant to represent you is crucial. They are the voices that are heard at the end of the day, and when enough concerned citizens contact them on an issue they react.

The reactions I received for people were very across the board and all interesting. I personally only got one person with an outright negative reaction who was in favor of the DAPL, but other than him I got a response of either enthusiasm or a cold shoulder. I believe that the students who gave us the cold shoulder didn’t do so because they had no opinion on the matter, but because going out of their way or changing their routine to discuss something with people they don’t know is too unfamiliar. I can’t say that I wouldn’t be intimidated by someone tabling and trying to get people to come over. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t given the cold shoulder to other tables that have tried to bring me in. But how do we break this urge to ignore instead of interact?

But all and all the turn out was successful, and in higher numbers that we had anticipated. And knowing that I may have made the tiniest impact on an issue I believe in is an amazing feeling!

Food Inc.

People warned me when I told them that I was going to be an Environmental Studies minor. They told me I would become sad, would become discouraged…and also that I would become vegan. I always laughed at the last warning. I grew up in a German family and the entire food pyramid is built around meat and butter. It is what I grew up with. However, recent facts learned in class and the documentary Food Inc. make me want to rethink what I eat.

The thing that struck me the most about Food Inc. was the power that the big companies in the food industry hold. The fact that 80% of the meat in supermarkets is controlled by only four major companies was a wake up call.  It is true that the illusion of diversity is upheld but it is only that, an illusion. They have grown so big that if one thing goes wrong, it will affect one fourth of our meat. That is a little terrifying. Also, it was made clear how these big companies are abusing their power when it comes to their workers and farmers. I was already aware of the terrible conditions that some animals find themselves in but I was not aware of how bad the situation was for the people. When the lady showed the crew inside her chicken farm against the will of Tyson, it struck me how brave that was of her. Companies can make sure that farmers get so in debt that they cannot afford to stand up to them is wrong on multiple levels.

Also, the way workers get treated needs to be looked into. When they interviewed workers from Smithfield it became clear that we have moved backwards ninety years when it comes to worker conditions in the meat packing industry. Consumers enjoy cheap food but have they ever thought of why their food was so cheap? It is because immigrants are being used for cheap labor and they cannot fight for better wages because plants set up shop where they know the people need the job and will not fight back. This exploitation of humans needs to be common knowledge to consumers in order to make any change in this system.

Now, not saying that I will become vegan but it does make me want to become more aware of where my food comes from. Is my meat from one of the four big companies that controls the meat industry or is it from a local farmer? Is this chicken truly a free-range, organic chicken or has it been pumped full of hormones to the point of its hearts exploding? It makes me want to learn when certain fruits and vegetables are in season and if they came from local growers. I agree when the documentary said at the end that consumers often feel powerless when it comes to what they eat. In the case of the food industry, knowledge is power, and I plan to use knowledge to at least make a minor, positive change in our environment. And maybe, if more people follow, we can even change the whole industry.

Less Stuff???

When I was around 7 years old, my sister and her son moved in with us. One thing that my sister did on a regular basis was to give things to “charity”. This meant going through toys, clothes and whatever else and giving away the old things we didn’t need or simply didn’t use. The first time she approached my room with a giant black trash bag, I definitely freaked out internally. Less stuff?? What if she gave away my favorite shirt with that beautiful horse or my favorite stuffed dog from Build-a-bear! She, in fact, did not get rid of those things but she did give away the things at the way back of my closet that I never used. Over the years, we made this a yearly routine, going through our closets and giving bags away or simply passing them to our younger friends. Though it was annoying sometimes, and sometimes I didn’t want to give up something, even though I hadn’t used it in years, I am incredibly grateful for my sister’s ways. Now, I continue this tradition and it greatly helps, especially with living in a very small apartment downtown. I have grown less attached to my stuff and it greatly cuts down on clutter, which is definitely a stress reliever.  I think that it has also cut down on the amount of clothes and other things that I buy. If I know I am only going to wear it once, I’m not going to buy it. To me, the movie Minimalism was simply on cutting down on the amount that we buy. I absolutely love this idea, and though I am not perfect at it, I try to buy less and have less clutter. It’s not only helpful to our environment, but also to the level of stress I have (plus, it’s a lot better for moving).

Gasland / Gasland II

Recently I have watched a two part documentary about fracking called Gasland.

This documentary focused on one man who lived on land that companies wanted to frack on. They offered him money and hounded him about allowing them to frack on his land. When this was going on, he set out across the country (mostly in the west) to see what he could dig up about fracking.

The things that he found out were extremely alarming. Understanding how fracking can be seen as beneficial (technically easier to extract natural resources while providing usually technically economic benefits for small towns) still does not justify its negative impacts. This documentary showed many environmental and social impacts that fracking has on the communities that it borders on. Environmentally, fracking is alarming. It involves forcing water, sand, and a multitude of chemicals under the ground to force natural gas and oil to the surface. These chemicals are often unregulated, and find their way into the environment. Runoff of these chemicals are shown to be stored in shallow man-made ponds that are lined by nothing stronger than a tarp to keep the chemicals from leaking back into the ground. Fracking can also cause seismic activity. (This is currently important because there have been large earthquakes in the midwest lately, but a large one was during the election on the same day that Trump said yet another ridiculous thing – so it took the media’s attention away from the earthquakes- subsequently causing a lack of coverage so it was not as big of a story as it should have been)

Socially, fracking is shown to cause a lot of problems. These documentaries showed how people in the midwest had their tap water polluted by fracking companies, and how it was both undrinkable as well as flammable. It showed how people were able to turn there water on and then light it on fire. It caused illnesses and conditions in people who drank it and were unaware that it was contaminated. Fracking also caused fumes that made people sick. Another thing it did was (because a lot of people in the midwest raise cattle) was kill or cause illness in those cattle. These factors drove people from their land, even if the fracking was not going on directly on their property.

From these two films, I have learned a lot more about fracking. Even though it has the potential to wean the US off of our dependency on foreign oil, the destruction it causes is not worth it. Fracking companies fight hard with very powerful lawyers to protect themselves as well as deny any responsibility for the environmental and social damages that they cause. They hide what they are actually doing, and in the film, they refused the man who was making these documentaries from filming a lot of what was actually going on both near the rigs as well as in the courtroom. Overall, I believe that we should end fracking and place both the monetary aspect as well as our energy as a nation into focusing on renewable resources.

ESA Under Attack

A hearing was held today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to hear arguments by Republicans who support fragmentation of the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides federal protection for wildlife organisms which are deemed “endangered” or “threatened.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information about the legislation on their website.

The Endangered Species Act allows the federal government to protect species through various involvements in business, agriculture, private property, and other aspects of life. Some of these encroachments are what is making Republicans in Congress have the desire to strip back the Endangered Species Act. Many voice their concerns over business and economic inhibitions, while others are more concerned over property rights. For example, one lobbyist argues that it is difficult for farmers to meet demands when wildlife populations exist (which are protected under the Endangered Species Act) in areas where they need to conduct agriculture. Others argue that the ESA is limiting natural gas production, as well as other industries such as mining or logging, in this country.

More Republican Congressmen and women also believe that the federal government should not be allowed to tell private citizens what to do with their private lands. Under the Endangered Species Act, the government can protect endangered populations on private property which is seen as infringement by those who do not support the bill.

Republicans are arguing for these drawbacks of the ESA under the guise of “modernizing” the bill. However, this is just a ruse for wanting to strip away protection for thousands of animals in order to protect personal interests in the businesses and people it would benefit.

Others who took the stand during the committee hearing included environmentalists who do not support the “modernization.” One such individual, Jamie Rappaport Clark, pointed out that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the list due to the protection the ESA offers.

The ESA is a critical piece of legislation to save animals around the world who face extinction.

Chasing Ice

Until watching Chasing Ice I never had a complete grasp on how global climate change affects the environment. Chasing Ice is a documentary that beautifully showcases environmental photographer, James Balog’s, works and talents in a way that puts the destruction of the environment due to global climate change on display. The documentary is terrifying and sad, yet incredibly beautiful and breathtaking.

James Balog captures visible evidence of global climate change by creating time-lapse videos of glaciers around the world over long periods of time. When watching the finished time lapse of each glacier it was shocking to see how far the glaciers had receded and how quickly they are melting. I think using a time lapse is the most effective way to show how quickly our environment is being destroyed by our own actions because it shows a beginning and an end point, but you can see all of the time between those two points as well.

Chasing Ice permanently changed the way I view global climate change. I used to think that climate change was something that would not have a huge affect on my life and I never took into consideration that it’s not just me having an effect on my environment; it’s me along with billions of other people that are more than likely living a life similar to mine. Chasing Ice, unlike other some environmental documentaries, shows viewers the right now effects of our actions instead of telling viewers how climate change will affect the Earth in the future. This documentary is powerful and gives real evidence that our actions have already made a massive impact on the world we live in.

To Watch Chasing Ice:

Downtown food desert: Bi-lo closing

The topic that had interested me the most from a previous class discussion, was the closing of the Bi-lo grocery store located on Meeting Street. The closing of this grocery store was more detrimental than one would think. For starters, the individuals living near the grocery store were put into a food desert. Everyone does not have the capabilities of getting to a grocery store whether it is merely just not having a vehicle, having the sufficient amount of time to set aside time for grocery shopping, or money. The closing of this grocery store put people in great inconviences. I do not think that when stores like this make a big decision to go out of business, the needs of the community are not thought about as greatly as it should. An article from the Post and Courier stated that there could possibly be another supermarket, apartments that may or may not be affordable for people that already live in the area, and a pharmacy. These proposals are not that great in my opinion because they are most likely not going to be very unaffordable for the community that lives near the formally closed Bi-lo. I believe that if you are going to take away something that was beneficial to the Charleston community, at least make sure what is planned to be implemented is affordable for the people that is actually in the neighboring community. The Post and Courier also states that there is no concrete plans made to make sure this plan is implemented, which is steady keeping people in a food desert area. I believe that the property owners, which are McAllister Development, have to set in place a more concrete plan to do something about the lack of a grocery store for the community because the proposal they have now is only giving people false hope.


“Fed Up” Film

Believe it or not, obesity can be in direct relation to specific environmental issues that we may experience on a daily basis. Along with the long list of chronic diseases associated with obesity, public education, healthcare, land use, and the location of restaurant and food stores can have a lasting impact on our health. An unhealthy economy is bound to boom, where portions are increased, quality of products are decreased, and you get more bang for your buck if you take the unhealthy food route oftentimes.

In my free time, I watched the film “Fed Up” written and produced by Stephanie Soechtig. This movie was certainly eye opening in the fact that we are raising our new generation of children to know nothing other than sugar and fatty foods. Not only are chronic physical diseases bound to happen, but mental, emotional, and spiritual health may be compromised. This documentary honed in on the sugar industry specifically, arguing that they are legally sickening and killing people simply through such a toxic ingredient. Just to name a few facts directly from the documentary, 80% of 600,000 food products in the United States contain added sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is almost unheard of these days. Food companies continuously insist on dumping loads of added sugar into our food products, simply because they know we like how it tastes and we will continue to buy it.

What was once thought of as a reward every now and then has now turned into something that is just as addictive as cocaine. As stated in the video, sugar is, if not more, addictive than the harmful drug cocaine. Yet, we let our children consume oftentimes triple or quadruple our daily recommended serving of sugar. With more than 70% of Americans being obese at the time this video was made, my guess being that number has risen since, something must be done to stop this quick spreading epidemic dead in its tracks. Healthier alternatives, along with the complete disposal of high fructose corn syrup and other harmful cheap sugar alternatives, must be put in place to save our future generations before it’s too late.

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