Earth day was first established in 1970 as a nationally recognized day where humans recognize all that Earth has given us, and because of this we give back to the Earth we live in. This weekend I attended the Charleston County Earth Day Festival. This festival educated people of all ages on various environmental and sustainable topics. There were different stations and vendors around the Riverfront Park such as a wellness booth, a sustainable market where sustainable products were sold such as purses to various types of organic produce, and an energy booth. I really enjoyed that these various booths encouraged interactions instead of just lecturing to people about these various topics. For example, one station had mini pots and little herbs that people could plant as a form of education on planting and gardening.
With the amount of people that came out for this event, the people who planned this event made it happen in a waste- free way. Food vendors were required to provide all compostable silverware, plates, straws, and cups. Any form of styrofoam or plastic was not allowed by any of the vendors once they entered the park. With this, there were various disposal recycling stations around the festival which had different labeling to help educate the separation of these products when recycling.
I also really enjoyed that this event was free and open to the public, allowing for anyone to join in the celebration of Earth Day. I enjoyed the Breaking Down Plastic Event but that catered to a different group of people (A low range of people who would be able to afford a high priced ticket). I liked the fact that the Earth Day event was free because it tended to attract families out which educated the young children in a fun and interactive way. I feel that more events like this should be free to attract the type of people that WANT and SHOULD be educated on environmental and sustainable topics; but are limited to this education because of the cost for these events. Because in my own situation with paying for college, it is hard to attend events that cost so much money. And most of the time I will skip out on events if I am limited because of this. I wish more people would take action and educate themselves on various environmental topics. But for a start, Earth Day is always here to educate.
I never realized how many initiatives local businesses in South Carolina are taking in order to care for current Charlestonian’s and preserve the future for many. One guest speaker presentation that really spoke to me was about the wonderful local business called GrowFood Carolina. They are a non-profit, all local, wholesale produce distributer. The mission of GrowFood Carolina is to strive for more locally sourced foods produced in South Carolina, such as vegetables. GrowFood helps farmers distribute their products to the community through grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Earth Fare, meaning that they will never sell directly to the consumer. I found it interesting to learn that the College of Charleston receives a good portion of their produce from GrowFood Carolina. One major issue that farmers face is getting their produce to the consumer after it’s grown. That’s where GrowFood Carolina comes into play, ultimately being the middleman that will get the produce from the farmer to the hungry consumer.
This method makes growing and producing food locally much easier and better accessible to many. This way, the end goal is to secure the future of a regional food supply and ensure an enduring productive and diverse landscape. When it comes down to it, many of us consider South Carolina to be an agricultureal state, but why is it that only 10% of what we eat sourced locally? The numbers don’t seem to add up when considering that oftentimes we import our fruits and vegetables from places such as Mexico rather than eating our own local, fresh produce.
When asked why GrowFood Carolina does what they do, their simple response is for the personal health of individuals, the health of the environment, and for the health of the rural economy. There are three guiding principles that GrowFood strictly follows, those being the farmers, consistency, and collaboration, listed in order of importance. These three guiding principles intertwine with one another to form a well balanced company. On top of their already awesome business, they also donate food to the needy and volunteer often in the community. I will absolutely be supporting their business in the future!
For my event or activity outside of class I volunteered at our local food bank, the Lowcountry Food Bank. I know what you are probably thinking, what does this have to do with our class? So basically, we went to the Zucker Middle School and volunteered at a fresh for all. For those of you who do not know what a fresh for all is, no worries I didn’t either before volunteering.
Usually when I help out at the food bank we focus on helping lower income families learn to cook and buy groceries at a price that works for them but this time it was different. Before arriving at the middle school all I knew was that this was also the day that the school was hosting parent-teacher conferences so that the parents could pick up report cards. When I arrived at the middle school, I was escorted to an outside portion of the lunch room where there were various cardboard boxes set out in a line on about three or four big tables. In each of the boxes was all kinds of fruits and vegetables! I soon learned that the main goal of the fresh for all was for the parents to not only pick up report cards but also for the parents to get as many fruits and vegetables as they needed for their family.
Not only did this fresh for all promote healthy eating, but they also promoted local farmers and less processed foods. I thought this was awesome when thinking about how much better eating and buying like this is versus eating and buying processed, chemically-saturated foods not only for our bodies but for our environment as well. Programs like the food bank promoting eating locally grown, less processed foods are the small steps our environment needs to improve.
Recently, I got involved in a volunteer project in the local Charleston community. My Introduction to Public Health professor saw my involvement in urban gardening and asked if I would be interested in formulating a plan for an urban garden in Charleston. The plan was to build a garden in an area with a high population of homeless people. My professor and I discussed how difficult it is for the homeless to get healthy foods and felt like there was something we could do. We coined the name the Garden Exchange Initiative with a purpose to provide simple, nutritious meals to the homeless. Our plan is to team up with the local organizations like the Public Health society, the College of Charleston’s gardening clubs, as well as the Low Country Herald in order to broaden our resources and spread awareness. We are currently working with The Office of Sustainability in hopes that they will provide us with the tools and equipment needed for the garden. Not only does the Low Country Herald give out free news to Newspaper to the homeless, but donations made to the Herald are incentivized with tax reductions. We plan to use raised gardening and hanging beds that will occupy an area of 100 X 50 feet.There will be full access to the homeless for plants like cucumbers, melons, peppers, and tomatoes. We plan to start tilling and planting May 1 and over the summer there will be a rotation schedule set to send at least one person to go everyday to the site to water and tend to the plants.
There have been efforts for urban gardens in the Charleston community, but none officially proposed specifically for the homeless population. Every Saturday, my professor as well as other volunteers open a shelter for the homeless that provides a meal, medical exams, showers, toiletries and more all for no cost. Through this, we are able to spread the word to the homeless population about the urban garden in hopes for a successful project.
One article that I found particularly interesting on Green Biz, is called Getting Real- A Week Inside Al Gore’s Climate Reality.
In 2005, Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps; which is devoted to solving the current climate crisis. The climate realty leaders focus on the truth of how much innovation, investment, and local action needs to happen to actually produce a change. The project has more than 11,000 member global leadership corps that includes founders of nonprofits and social enterprises, organizers of moms, a creator of the widely distributed islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, authors of policy and books, and holders of local offices. I found this exceedingly important that so many influential people are actually dedicating their time to solving this devastating problem that the world is currently faced with.
The author of the article went to an event for the project that seemed to be a mix of a conference and training session for new attendees and leaders. The main focal point of the event was a 2 hour presentation on day 1 and an hour long presentation on day 2 that was given to the audience by Al Gore. The presentation was read from 30,000 slides that are constantly being updated and revised. All of the slides are available for the leaders with annotations and source references.
Al Gore also made a sequel to “The Inconvenient Truth” that premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and it is coming out in July. The most recent movie is more hopeful and focuses on solutions.
“The Inconvenient Truth” and the event raises awareness that climate justice is much more than global warming having a huge impact on those that are more vulnerable. The two also focus on the wrongs that have been enforced on alienated and marginalized communities in the form of pollution, lack of respect for culture and health, and economic dependencies.
For my event, I went to the event that we had in sustainability week titled “ban the bag ban.” Though the name gets a little confusing, we talked about how the bag ban on Folly went into effect and the bans that are trying to ban that ban. We started off by watching the movie that was produced by the 5 Gyres Institute on microplastics in the ocean. The movie was called the “Smog of the Sea” which is what they call these plastics which are broken down into tiny pieces and then ingested by the fish. They sailed through the Bermuda Triangle and collected samples along the way with special nets. They also examined small fish that had been caught and counted the pieces of plastic that were ingested by them. Their estimate is that there are 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean each year. With their samples, they resolved that 5.2 Trillion plastic particles could be found floating on the surface of the ocean at any time. Not only are these plastics harmful to the fish which ingest them but, they are also hydrophobic which means they don’t soak up water but they soak up everything that that doesn’t mix with the saltwater, meaning chemicals. These chemicals are released into the bodies of the fish when they ingest the plastic and then they are caught for us to eat. This means we are eating the muscles, which are the parts with all the toxins.
After the movie, we talked about the ban on plastic bags and the people in government that support it. We were then able to write them postcards thanking them for support and encouraging them to keep up the good fight. We also talked about how wasteful plastic bags are. There are over 1 trillion plastic bags manufactured in a year, taking 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture them. Each American uses approximately 813 plastic bags in a year. At the end, we received CofC reusable bags. The very next time I went to the store, I made sure to ask for the paper bags!
For my volunteer blog post, I chose to work along with my boyfriend’s dad one weekend while visiting down in Greenville, SC. He is the founder and owner of the company called PowerSPOT Power Products. The website is http://www.powerspot.solar/. The company’s location is 2607 Woodruff Road, Suite E-520, Simpsonville, South Carolina 29681, USA. This company’s main focus is to focus on the production of electricity through the manufacturing and creation of solar powered products. While learning alongside and what his company does, I discovered that their main focus is to create energy efficiency through the use of their products by running electronic and other technological devices through solar powered energy. What was very appealing about the company was the solar panels outside of the building where the products are made and manufactured. This means that sustainability is a huge focus here because power and electricity within the building itself, is being run through solar powered panels. Some of the products that I got to discover were a solar powered flashlight, solar panels for homes, a portable home outlet to help start up power in case electricity went out, a PowerPak battery which has a USB port for charging phones and laptops, and a PowerPak Mover which is a battery with two USB ports and an LED Lamp. All of these products have built-in solar panels that run off of natural energy. What is nice about these products is that these are things we all use in our everyday lives and do not realize how much energy and electricity are being used. This can be emphasized with the battery products that include USB ports. Every day, on multiple occasions, we use USB cables that help us plug our phones into the walls so that they can charge. This is one of the main ways in which we use so much electricity on a day to day basis. If we knew about more products such as these, we could create a more energy efficient and sustainable environment.
So, I don’t know if all of you are aware, but a new chain grocery store, Aldi, has opened up in Mount Pleasant. Its cheap, basic, and super efficient. Aldi is a German-owned chain that happens to be under the same ownership as Trader Joe’s, my preferred grocery store.
I really liked to see some of the things that they were doing to maximize efficiency and sustainability while keeping costs low, however I think there’s room for improvement. On their website, they say that “Everything we do from our smaller, energy-saving stores to recycled bags and cartons capture the very essence of conservation”. While it is true that Aldi does not give free bags at checkout, they sell reusable bags that are made of thin plastic and are definitely not sustainable. These are sold for 10 cents, which isn’t quite expensive enough to really discourage anyone from getting them. Furthermore, I noticed that all of the products they sold came with copious amounts of packaging. They use plenty of plastic bags and other non-recyclable materials, so there’s definitely room for improvement in regards to sustainable packaging. I also noticed that half the store is dedicated to meat and dairy products. The products were inexpensive, which sort of indicates factory farming to keep costs low. They had no local items in the store, which shows that most of these items had been transported long distances, which increases carbon emissions.
I’m sure its very challenging to run a grocery store on sustainable principles while still turning a profit, but that doesn’t give Aldi the right to lead customers on about their sustainable principles. I believe it’s convenient for them to declare themselves ‘environmentally friendly’ because it coincides with their efficiency agenda. It’s important to not just reduce consumption on a minute level, but to change the ways altogether and have truly sustainable practices.