Watching Cowspiracy was very shocking and devastating. One of the major things that I found shocking was that many environmental organizations ignored the fact that animal agriculture was the number contributor to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Cows produce 51% of greenhouse gases- more than the entire transportation section. With a big issue like this you’d think environmental organizations would draw more attention to this since they want to save the environment, right? Unfortunately the opposite happens and they refuse to bring attention to the subject. In fact, environmental organizations depend on memberships to get their funding. A ton of people eat meat and if you start telling people to change their lifestyle and stop eating meat for the sake of our environment they might withdraw their membership and the organizations lose money.

In order to get meat to the table, a lot of grassland is needed. Land is becoming limited because of our growing human population. So forests get cut down and deforestation becomes an issue. Once you have grasslands, you’ll need a lot of water for cows to drink and survive. Raising livestock in the United States in total consumes 32 trillion gallons of water. While the cow is growing at an extremely, unhealthy fast rate they are releasing tons of methane into our atmosphere. A lot goes into the animal agriculture industry and a lot of bad stuff comes out of it.

A devastating scene in the movie was when a backyard duck farmer cut a ducks head off in front of another duck and a little girl. The little girl didn’t even flinch and asked why the duck was still moving. Later on the duck farmer explained what he did was “just something that had to be done”. It was extremely heartbreaking.

Cowspiracy was filled with a lot of good knowledge and made you really think about what other issues are being hidden from consumers. Towards the end of the movie it was really pushing the idea of not eating meat at all and how cutting down meat consumption won’t help. I don’t completely agree with this. I believe that anyone can help make a positive change to our environment. Realistically, every single person will not stop eating meat but if people are aware of what is going on in our country and find out that there are solutions to these issues I think that will start a great domino effect.

MUSC Urban Farm and Dixie Plantation

I’ve been working at Dixie Plantation and volunteering at the MUSC Urban Farm since freshman year. I absolutely love the work that community members/college students and I get to do out there. Members of Cofc’s Farm and Garden Club get awesome hands-on opportunities to go out to Dixie Plantation to plant vegetables and learn about sustainable farming. This semester we were building beds and planting broccoli, radish, kale, and more! With each season, students learn about which food to grow and the different techniques to garden. We also prepped the land for spring semester because we are putting up a pollinator garden as soon as we get the chance. With that we do hope to install beehives on the property in the near future. Dixie plantation is 800 acres and a lot of it isn’t used for farming yet. After a few hours of working on the farm students are able to hike around the plantation and learn about the different water systems on land and the history of the plantation.

MUSC Urban Farm is another great place to learn about sustainable farming and gardening. While working there I also learned about many different ways to farm with however much space one may have. The farm members want to educate people on growing their own food and how beneficial it is. In order to educate community members even further the urban farm has a beehive, compost piles, and recycling/compost bins for trash. Visiting the beehive will make you want to start your very own and Carmen, farm director, can teach you how to start one up. The urban farm is a great place to learn about the many different ways people can have a sustainable life with the stuff they already have.

On both farms the main goal is to educate community members on how to live a sustainable life and how to grow your own food. When working on these farms, workers are given a free grocery trip afterwards! You can take home veggies that you pick. The rest of the harvested food is donated to neighborhood homes that are in need of natural foods so that nothing goes to waste.

Red Wolf Documentary

On November 3rd, I attended a documentary showing about the endangerment of the Red Wolf. Red wolves are not hybrids of coyotes and wolves, even though many people say they are. Red wolves are much larger than coyotes. It is also thought that red wolves share a common ancestor with wolves. Currently, there are no more than 40 red wolves living on earth today. If you compare red wolves to lion, tigers, and polar bears one could say that those species are flourishing. But that does not make the red wolves condition more important than lions, tigers, and polar bears – both cases are devastating.

At the moment, the very few red wolves that roam the earth are being protected in the Alligator River Wildlife Refugee in North Carolina. While the red wolves are receiving protection, the area isn’t ideal for the species. Red wolves, like regular wolves, require a lot of land to thrive.

Years ago, the protection for Red Wolves was almost terminated because private land owners were complaining about seeing red wolves on their property and that they were competing with the endangered species for deer. In order to do this, Fish and Wildlife was about to declare the Red Wolf extinct so that they can halt all works for protecting the red wolves. This is something that I found insane, how do you declare a species extinct when there are still 40 of them roaming around trying to survive? Luckily, Fish and Wildlife didn’t pull the plug and continued to provide protection for the endangered species.

The endangerment of the red wolves was incredibly sad to hear. At the end of the short movie, there was a speaker to talk about an organization that works to continue protecting the red wolves. The speaker really wants to get the attention of many people about the red wolves. Right now many people aren’t aware of what is happening to animals like the red wolves. I’m sure if more people were aware of what is going on, more people would care and want to take action.

Five Gyres – Microplastics

This semester I had an amazing opportunity to intern for Five Gyres through the Office of Sustainability. Five Gyres is an organization, founded by Sylvia A. Earle, that researches plastic pollution in our ocean and discovers what solutions are out there to help out our ocean. During my internship, I learned so much about the issues at hand regarding our ocean and aquatic wildlife. I spent a lot of my work focusing on microplastics. Microplastics, or microbeads, are tiny plastic beads that are in our cosmetic and hygienic products. When we wash our face, tiny microbeads are washed down the drain. Water then goes through a water treatment plant where it is ‘cleansed’ before entering the ocean. Since microplastics are so small, a majority of the time the beads slip through the treatment plant and sneak into the ocean. Imagine how many microbeads float in our ocean from the thousands of people who wash their face on a daily basis. When in the ocean, the microbeads act as a sponge, absorbing many toxins and pollutants. These pollutants will either form gyres or float among the ocean. Aquatic wildlife feed on the toxic microbeads and for those who are meat-eaters, researchers are finding that people are ingesting these microplastics as well due to fish consumption.

This was saddening to learn but there are ways to help the ocean and its wildlife. LUSH cosmetics and Native Eyewear are two of many companies that are eco-friendly and aware of the ocean-polluting issue. All of LUSH’s products are animal-free tested, made naturally by hand, and does not contain microbeads. 80% of their products are vegan and their products have an expiration date because of the natural preservatives it contains. Native Eyewear is a cosmetic company that sells makeup made without any microplastics. So when someone goes to wash off his or her makeup, the makeup being washed down the drain is not harmful to the environment.

Soon, companies that do or do not contain microbeads in their products will no longer have the luxury option of choosing. A microbead ban is projected to go in action in January 2017. This ban will permit cosmetic and hygienic companies from making their products with microbeads.

Along with microbeads, I also did work with microfibers. Microfibers are tiny fibers that fall from clothing in washing machines. Just like microbeads, microfibers are too small to be caught in water treatment plants and they escape into the ocean. Patagonia outdoor clothing and gear is one of few companies that is trying to shift consumers to clothing without microfibers.

Working with Five Gyres was incredibly interesting and I have already made the switch to microplastic-free products. My toothpaste, cleanser, shampoo, lotion, and many more products all come from companies that promote a microplastic free lifestyle. It wasn’t a hard switch at all, especially after learning about the harmful effects that our cosmetic and hygienic products could have on our environment. If you visit Five Gyres website, they provide information on harmful plastic that are in people’s daily lives and solution to these issues.