As well as taking Intro to Environmental Studies and Sustainability, I am also taking Global Health. About a week ago we had an out of class assignment that was called an Environmental Audit, where we could pick from different projects to do that would take about two hours of our time. I choose to go to a grocery store, in particular Harris Teeter in Mount Pleasant, and look at how many varies there were of different fruits, vegetables, and other foods. I was also looking at the price point per pound of these foods given on the list. I was actually very interested in this project, mainly because I was curious to see what the outcomes would be.
When I walked into Harris Teeter, I went straight to the produce sections because the first foods to look at were bananas, apples, oranges, etc. I found that looking for the number of varieties there were a lot more than I honestly realized before coming.
While I was looking at all the different kinds of grapes, one of the store employees came up to me asking if I needed help. I didn’t but we continued to talk about my school project. He told me a lot about the differences of organic and non-organic foods. He said that the way they have to treat these foods is much different. For example, the containers they come in are placed away from the non-organic, the sinks are different as well as the knifes, gloves, refrigerators, and the way they are stocked are all different. Harris Teeter also has their own composting system that helps because of how much waste they have due to the fruits and vegetables going bad so quickly. I found all this information so crazy. Although I know it has been talked about in class, I just feel like hearing it from the actual store employees made it all so real about what it takes for something to truly being organic and why it all costs more to eat.
There was a lot more about this Audit that I found interesting like all the difference varieties and what made them so different, so below are the pictures of the Environmental Audit I conducted. I am really glad that this assignment was assigned because I was really able to take the classroom information we have been learning and apply it at the actual grocery store.
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.
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.
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.
The documentary Cowspiracy is about the the assertion that livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the transportation sector’s emissions. When it comes down to the earth warming, there is more to climate change than just fossil fuels. Livestock produce more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, boats, and planes combined. Cows produce a substantial amount of methane gas from their digestive system. Methane gas from livestock is 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide from vehicles. Livestock plays a major role in global warming, it is also the leading cause of resource consumption in environmental degradation that is destroying our planet today. Both co-producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn argue that our institutional and individual attention to selected environmental issues will not make a collective difference unless we also confront the realities of animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture’s environmental effects are so pervasive that apparent progress elsewhere cannot counter its destructive and growing impact. The film suggests that protecting expanded areas of the oceans will not protect oceans or ocean animals. This goes the same for growing food organically. If we start growing food organically, even on a commercial scale, this will still not protect the land from what has already been done to it. The same also goes for cutting down trees. Keeping lumber operations out of the Amazon will not save the rainforest. No matter what we do or how hard we try to come up with alternative ways to save our planet we have already put us in a deep enough hole that we may not be able to get out of. When looking at statistics, over 100 billion gallons of water is used in the United States but when compared to animal agriculture they consume more than 34 trillion gallons of water. They found that one hamburger is equivalent to 660 gallons of water. That one hamburger is equivalent to showering two entire months! Talk about a waste. We focus so much of our attention on the domestic use of water in American homes which comes down to only 5%. However, when you look at the amount of water animal agriculture uses, they use almost 55% of the water in the United States. That is 2,500 gallons of water for just 1 pound of beef. One thousand gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk. That is insane to me. This causes growing water shortages which makes animal agriculture unsustainable. Seventy billion animals are raised annually worldwide. Everyday over 144 million animals are killed for food. The U.S. farm alone produces 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. That is a lot of cow poop.
When looking at the amount of meat an average American consumes, we consume over 209 pounds of meat each year. Everyday, a person that eats a plant-bladed diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, all equivalent of just 20 pounds of CO2 and one animal’s life. In order to stop this we need to think about when we eat meat, dairy and eggs, we feed this growing catastrophe. Change will happen as quickly as we convince each other to change what we eat.
I attended the screening of the documentary Cowspiracy. A month or two prior one of my friends told me she was considering becoming a vegan. She has been a vegetarian for over a year for environmental and health reasons, but after watching Cowspiracy she realized cutting out only meat wasn’t enough. To be honest I thought she was a little crazy. I’ve mostly been a vegetarian for the past few months, but to cut out cheese? And eggs? What about milk and yogurt? How can someone survive without such key parts of our diet? These questions ran through my head while talking to her. However after watching Cowspiracy for myself I can see what inspired my friend to make the change.
Cowspiracy is a documentary made by Keegan Kuhn and Kip Anderson. The film begins when Anderson discovers that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all transportation admissions combined. Not to mention the meat and dairy industries combined use nearly ⅓ of all fresh water in the world today. Anderson found this information from an article posted by the United Nations, but wondered why the big environmental agencies like Greenpeace and the Sierra Nevada Club were silent on the matter. The documentary follows Anderson as he searches to uncover the truth. I was surprised by all of the governmental and environmental agencies reluctant to admit the impact of agriculture farming on the environment. The deeper Anderson dug the more shocking it was. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. So why would environmental organizations not be speaking out about it? Or willing to admit it in an interview? One possibility is that by telling people that the only way to save the planet is to stop eating meat and cheese, they may lose support and members.
At one point in the film Anderson met a farmer who raises about 30 ducks in his backyard. In the film he picks two ducks and beheads them on camera. It was almost unbearable to watch as the duck squirmed helplessly as his neck was hacked apart. Almost even as horrible to watch was the body still squirming after the head was detached. Behind the farmer a man held the other duck who watched his soon to be fate. After this scene Anderson is very shaken up and he states that if he cannot kill an animal for food he cannot justify another person doing it for him. This idea has been something I have been thinking about for a while. Pigs are very intelligent animals and act almost like dogs do. Mama cows cry when their babies are taken away from them. These animals may not have the same level of consciousness as humans, but they still have a sense of community for one another. I could never harm one of these creatures, but by eating them am I not still the cause of their death? It has become something I can no longer justify.
I thought not eating meat was enough. But watching Cowspiracy I don’t think it is. Two days after a calf is born they are taken from their mother and given a new home in a space hardly bigger than they are. The film footage showed lumps all over the stomachs of cows as they were shuffled from their small enclosures into the area where they would be milked. Chickens are fed so many hormones that their bodies grow bigger than their legs can support. Chickens raised in the industry can barely walk more than one or two steps. To take away an animals ability to walk is not right.
Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher, was interviewed and he had some very bold statements. He
said that if you are not a vegan than you are not an environmentalist. While this seems really harsh the facts show that the number one way to lower our impact on the environment is to cut out meat and dairy products completely. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. Each day we have the opportunity to make a real difference, it comes down to whether we care enough about our environment to do so.