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The Avocado War

By: Lia Paw

A lot of people believe that animal agriculture is bad for the environment, so they urge people to be vegetarians. But meat is not the only thing, that can destroy generational resources. Avocados are included.

These delicious looking fruits, which contain 73% water, 15% fat, 8.5% carbohydrates, mostly fibres and 2% protein, are one of the highest demanding products in our world. Due to the demands, it becomes multibillion-dollar industrial products.

The fruit is harvested in Chile, Mexico, and California. The profits from these fruits have made many industries, business corporations, and investors to go to the extreme of producing and selling them on a large market scale. And the consequences are the suffering of carbon footprint, deforestation, droughts, business instability and many more.

In Mexico and Chile, many lands are used to grow and produce avocado. The water used to maintain the good quality of these fruits is also intense. It takes 18 gallons of water to produce one avocado. Two small avocados in a packet have a CO2 footprint of 846.36 grams (almost twice the amount of a kilo of bananas). The energy used to preserve the avocados during shipping is highly intense.  The increase in avocado production has had negative impacts on local food security as the global demand is causing prices to rise, which makes it hard for some people to purchase.

Since avocado is made up of 73% water and requires a lot of water to grow,  the water exported within the fruit is lost to the local ecosystem where the fruit is grown. With the global temperature rising and water becoming limited, this has impacted the local communities who do not have access or authority on the use of water.

Avocado production has also started violence in the region where the fruit is grown, as the profits for these fruits are very high. There are a lot of incidents, where farmers are kidnapped, threatened, asked to give profits made from avocado production in Mexico.

In conclusion, although Avocado is a healthy and sustainability superfood compared to meat, it has serious environmental consequences. Fruit, meat, or vegetable, whatever it may be, it is very important to understand that going to the extreme always have high risks. When it is good to eat avocados, it is again important to remember the impacts it has on humanity.

Source: Netflix: Rotten (Episode 2)

Source: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-11-20/mexico-cartel-violence-avocados

Source: https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/why-our-love-for-avocados-is-not-sustainable/

We Live in a PLASTIC Bottle World

By: Annaliese White

Look around the DH, and you will notice that the majority of the drinks offered are in plastic bottles. I am just as guilty as the next person, as I often raid the DH and grab numerous bottles of apple juice, chocolate milk, and gatorade. Although I am usually conscious enough to recycle them, not all people think before they throw away their plastic bottles. Next time before you go to throw away a plastic bottle, realize this: it takes over 400 years for that plastic bottle to break down in a landfill. That means that the plastic bottle in your hand, if you decided to throw it in the trash instead of recycling it, would lay in a landfill for over 400 years. Think of all those plastic bottles just taking up space and polluting the environment! In fact, a recent statistic in National Geographic estimates that only about 9% of all plastic produced ends up being recycled. This means that nearly 91% of plastic is left to fill up landfills. Instead of getting the drinks in the plastic bottles at the DH, try and use a reusable water bottle. However, if you do end up using a plastic bottle, remember the right way to recycle it, as some places may not accept plastic that is not recycled correctly. 

Remember these steps when you go to recycle a plastic bottle:

  1. Empty out the bottle of any excess liquids and rinse it out
  2. Check with your local county to see if they allow the caps to be recycled with the bottle. (In Greenville you are allowed to leave the lid on recyclable plastics)
  3. Check the number of Plastic on your bottle, 1 & 2 are recycled in Greenville. Although Greenville does accept 1-7 plastics, 3-7 once reaching the processing plant are usually sent to the landfills.
  4. If you can, try and break down the bottle to reduce space in the recycling bin!

Although recycling might seem like a small choice, the outcomes of that choice hold a great importance. From that recycled plastic, items such as t-shirts, carpet, sleeping bags, pens, notebooks, and a lot more can be made from recycled material instead of using new raw materials! In fact, using the recycled plastic instead of new materials saves 66% of the energy that would have been used if the product were made from all new materials. Instead of laying in a landfill for centuries, wouldn’t you want that plastic bottle to continue on and have a new purpose?

Sources:

“How to Recycle Plastic Bottles & Jugs.” Earth 911, 13 June 2019, earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-plastic-jugs-bottles/. 

LaFleur, Elizabeth. “Recycling in Greenville: You’re Doing It Wrong. Here’s How to Do It Right.” The Greenville News, 29 Aug. 2019, www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/2019/08/26/recycling-greenville-sc-stop-doing-wrong-do-right-heres-how/1931140001/. 

Parker, Laura. “A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled.” National Geographic Society, 1 July 2019, www.nationalgeographic.org/article/whopping-91-percent-plastic-isnt-recycled/. 

“Solid Waste, Learn about Recyclables .” Www.GreenvilleCounty.org, Greenville County, www.greenvillecounty.org/solidwaste/LearnAboutRecycling.aspx. 

 

Guerrilla Gardening for Food Equity

Izzy Pippen

Food insecurity affects the daily lives of 38 million Americans and 18% of children in America are living in food insecure households (Ladner, 2011). Federal social programs and food banks designed to assist lower income individuals put food on the table help immensely in the short term but are not sustainable systems for reducing food deserts and long-term hunger. In post-industrial America the hunger crisis grows more and more each day. Children rely on breakfast and lunch provided by schools for their only steady meals, and parents sacrifice meals that they may have so that their children can eat. One of the main issues with government and non-profit programs is the lack of fresh high-quality food. Cast-off food, canned donations, and cheap junk food become the only types of food that are accessible (Ladner, 2011; Meenar, 2012). The high concentration of junk food and lack of accessible healthy options in low-income, urban and predominately minority areas increases the risk of nutrition related chronic diseases. I am from Indianapolis, Indiana, and the city has many areas where food deserts are prevalent. I worked directly with urban food systems when I worked for a non-profit called The Patachou Foundation that provides scratch made after school meals to school children in the most in need areas of the city. The foundation farms a small plot of land in the heart of the city that provides thousands of pounds of produce. My interest in and passion for sustainable urban food systems comes from first-hand experience.

 

The Patachou Foundation

Since the 1980’s, local food systems have been posed as a solution to the plethora of problems that have arisen from the commercialized and globalized modern food system. The urban farming movement advocates for a vast variety of causes including “social and economic issues such as health, nutrition and lifestyle, social justice, food security, community and economic development, to environmental issues such as land preservation, environmental conservation, and urban greening,” (Kremer, DeLiberty, & Schreuder, 2012). The urban farming movement is not simply about growing food, but the effects are diverse and widespread. Through the integrated wholistic system of learning, activism, and health urban farming became a catalyst for renewal in communities across the country.

Urban Farm in Detroit, MI

The urban agriculture movement began as a response to the heavy industrialization, high prices, and inaccessibility of fresh produce in urban areas. In discussions on urban agriculture the food that is grown and made accessible is the predominant focus, but having an urban farm or garden also increases community interactions, adds more greenspaces to an area, decreases crime in the area, and fosters positive interactions between people from different walks of life (Ladner, 2011; Reynolds & Cohen, 2016).

One of my idols and inspirations is Devita Davison, founder of Food Lab Detroit and an incredible activist for food justice. Her 2017 TEDTalk on the growing quilt of urban farms across Detroit, Michigan shows the power of the African American community in Detroit and how their entrepreneurship and empathy has created a healthier community. Detroit, once the industrial capital of America has transformed its abandoned land, creating 1,500 farms and gardens across the city.  Detroit is a

Devita Davison of Food Lab Detroit

great example of urban farming for food security and sustainable development. Case studies in Detroit, MI show an increase in empowerment through urban agriculture in groups of people that are usually marginalized (Lawson & Miller, 2013). This sentiment is echoed in the South Bronx and Madison, WI (Lander, 2011; Reynolds & Cohen, 2016). Working in the dirt with another person doesn’t require a college degree or a shared language. The love and care that is put into community gardens creates a group of people who have a mutual wish for improvement in their community and are willing to enact change. Many of the groups that organized the community gardens also run non-profit and assistance programs (Cohen & Reynolds, 2016; Gu, Paul, Nixon & Duschack, 2012; Lander, 2011). Some groups work to help refugees find stability, some work to create safe spaces for women of color where they can learn safely, and some teach entrepreneurial skills to the youth of the community so that they have the tools that they need to be successful.

 

Some groups engage in activism, advocating for the groups that make up the community they created through their growing. Not engaging in the capitalist system that is oppressive to minority groups shows the self-sufficiency and the will to enact change that urban farmers have. Reynolds and Cohen describe this resistance, saying, “Producing one’s food in the city can be a strategy for personal and political resistance to many aspects of the conventional food system, from the monopolistic effects of corporate consolidation in US agriculture to the social and environmental ramifications of industrialized farming…” (2016). Guerilla gardening is a term that has been used to describe these urban farms because they work in cohesion with the landscape instead of against it, and it likens the farming to a type of warfare which I believe fits the power of the resistance.

Citations:

Davison, D. (2017. April). How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/devita_davison_how_urban_agriculture_is_transforming_detroit?language=en

Gu, S., Paul, K., Nixon, K., & Duschack, M. (2012). Urban farming and gardening taking roots in inner cities. Acta Horticulturae, (937), 1097–1107.

10.17660/actahortic.2012.937.137

Kremer, P., DeLiberty, T. L., & Schreuder, Y. (2012). Defining local food systems. In Gatrell, J.D., Ross, P.S., Reid, N. & Tamasy, C. (Eds.), Local food systems in old industrial regions: Concepts, spatial context, and local practices, (p.p. 71-93). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.

Lander, P. (2011). The urban food revolution: Changing the way we feed cities. British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Lawson, L., & Miller, A. (2013). Community gardens and urban agriculture as antithesis to abandonment: Exploring a citizenship-land model. In M. Dewar & J. M. Thomas (Eds.), The City After Abandonment (p.p. 17-40). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Meenar, M, R. (2012). Feeding the hungry: Analysis of food insecurity in lower income urban communities. In Gatrell, J.D., Ross, P.S., Reid, N., & Tamasy, C. (Eds.), Local food systems in old industrial regions: Concepts, spatial context, and local practices (p.p. 71-93). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.

Friends of the Forest

Annika Patterson

Trees are the lungs of our earth, they sustain and increase quality of life, and they filter the air as humans pump harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. A tradition as old as American western expansion is the nationally recognized holiday of Arbor day. Arbor day was first practiced in Nebraska on April 10, 1872 in a statewide effort to make up for a lack of trees in Nebraska’s natural environment. Prizes were offered for planting the most trees properly and on this first Arbor day an estimated 1 million trees were planted. By 1920, 45 states and territories were celebrating the holiday and now it is celebrated in all 50 states. While not always under the Arbor day banner, the general spirit of this holiday is shared all over the globe as communities gather to plant trees for a greener tomorrow. 

This year, the Greenbelt celebrated this incredible holiday in October, as COVID-19 has led to plenty of scheduling issues. The Greenbelt community, with the generous help of TreesUpstate, worked to plant two trees on the lawn near the Belltower. My group, The cabin, worked to plant our wilting cherry tree, Sherry.

I’d say we did a pretty good job.

In our current political and world environment, advocacy for the protection of our trees and the action to plant them is increasingly important. In the United states, under the new commander and chief, 100,000’s of acres of land previously set aside for national parks and under federal protection are being served up for potential development and mining. National Parks services are also facing extreme budget cuts and losing much of their voice in our beautiful parks present and future. Trees and the bountiful ecosystems they host are so very important and deserve our protection. Only through sharing our voices and advocating for these natural spaces will they be preserved. 

 

Citations

“The Importance of Trees – Learn Value and Benefit of Trees.” SavATree,

www.savatree.com/whytrees.html. 

“History of Arbor Day.” History at Arborday.org,

www.arborday.org/celebrate/history.cfm. 

Hunter, Dana. “The Trump Administration’s Effect on National Parks.” Scientific

American Blog Network, Scientific American, 28 Aug. 2017,

blogs.scientificamerican.com/rosetta-stones/the-trump-administrations-effect-

n-national-parks/.

How Sustainable is Your Cup?

By Chloe Sandifer-Stech

If you know me, I have always fiercely defended my caffeine addiction. In fact, one of my first concerns living in the Greenbelt was how I was going to get my daily cup of joe now that I was further from the dining hall (flash forward I purchased my very own Keurig, which now my current prize possession). I always said that as long as my caffeine addiction was not hurting me or others, I didn’t see a real problem with it.

However, ever since my Lifestyle Project this semester I’ve been thinking more about the long-term effects of my actions. One of the category’s I chose was to be vegan several days out of the week. I already eat mostly plant-based, but I wanted to challenge myself further to cut out all animal products completely. Changing my eating habits made me think critically about the environmental imprint of my food: Where was it sourced? How much water was used to make this? Were farmers and workers paid fairly? I started to examine my food choices outside of just animal products, which fed my curiosity about the sustainability of coffee.

One lesser-known sustainability concern about coffee is the method it is grown. Beginning in the 1970s, the rising global demand shifted coffee cultivation from traditional shade-grown farms to farms exposed to direct sunlight in order to increase yield and profit. Sun-grown coffee transforms the plantations into monocrop cultures, a practice which significantly weakens the productivity and health of the soil. In response, farmers are required to use additional chemical fertilizers and protect from pests and diseases that are more prevalent from lack of tree cover. Deforestation and fertilizers disrupt the biodiversity and nutrient cycles of the natural ecosystems, and thus farmers often have to clear large areas of forest to keep up with this farming practice. Specifically in Central America, around 2.5 million acres of forest have been lost to sun cultivation due to the $100 billion dollar annual coffee industry.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you are buying sustainably sourced coffee is to look for the Rainforest Alliance certification on packaging. The Rainforest Alliance ensures that coffee farms meet certain social, economic, and environmental criteria. The certification ensures that coffee farms do not pose a significant threat biodiversity, maintain fertile soils and clean waterways, and pay farmers proper wages. So, next time you shop for coffee, look out for the green logo! Some well-known coffee brands that are rainforest alliance certified include Caribou Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee, and Dunkin Donuts. Personal actions also go a long way in reducing the environmental impact of your morning joe. Buying reusable k-cups as well as composting your coffee groups helps to reduce waste and recycle nutrients back into the soil. Coffee addictions are okay, but make it sustainable!

Sources

  1. Find Certified Products: https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/find-certified?location=330&category=130&product=144&keyword=&page=2
  2. How Green is Your Coffee? https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/oct/04/green-coffee
  3. Sun-grown vs. Shade Grown: How it Impacts the Environment and the Farmers: https://www.dlgcoffee.org/news/2017/4/6/coffee-cultivation-sun-grown-shade-grown-and-how-it-impacts-the-environment-and-the-farmers#:~:text=Beginning%20in%20the%201970’s%20the,ecosystem%20and%20on%20coffee%20quality
  4. Coffee and it’s Impact of People, Animals, and the Planet: https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/coffee-and-its-impact-on-people-animals-and-the-planet/

Should I really buy more clothes from Urban Outfitters?

Victoria Cruz-Solano

During quarantine, I would spend hours browsing through shein, urban outfitters, and forever 21 looking through endless pages of clothes to buy stuff. Did I really need more clothes? No. But I loved the serotonin kick that I got looking through the clothes, checking out, and receiving my package in the mail. I would see influencers on Instagram do shein hauls making me more inclined to go buy stuff. But I started seeing tiktoks about fast fashion and how most of these common clothing brands partake in this ‘fast fashion industry’. I started researching and learning about fast fashion and realized how many brands are fast fashion brands. 

What is fast fashion? Fast fashion is when clothing is produced quickly to keep up with new trends. Fast fashion is very common because of the extremely low prices. Why spend $35 on a shirt where on clothing websites like Shein and Romwe you can spend $10? Although fast fashion produces very cheap costs for consumers it comes at a cost. Fast fashion brands often exploit workers by paying them very little and having them work in very unsafe conditions. Fast fashion also has a drastic effect on the environment producing microplastic pollution, textile dye pollution, and increased carbon emissions. The fast fashion industry contributes to the ever-growing plastic pollution in the ocean through microplastics. 

Microplastics are from the fibers of your clothing. Surprisingly, most clothes are made with some plastic fibers, microfibers. Microfibers are usually very small and are found in acrylic and polyester clothing. When your clothes are washed once, up to 700,000 fibers can come off and go into the sea. According to Intelligent Living, the United States and Canada produce about 500,000 tons of microplastics from fibers that are deposited into the ocean. That’s the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. The microfibers are now incorporated in the food chain because small fish mistake them for food and they work their way up the food chain where we eventually consume microplastics.

 

 

 

The fast fashion industry also is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. People are buying more to keep up with trends, and the fast fashion brands are pushing out more clothing to keep up with demands. People bought 60% more clothes in 2014 than 2000 but only keep clothes half as long (McFall-Johnsen). While people are buying more clothing, they are keeping them for a shorter period of time. “The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is dumped or burned in a landfill every second” (McFall-Johnsen).

The fast fashion industry produces cheap clothing to keep up with trends at a huge environmental cost. So what other options are there? Today, there are more options available for people looking to shop elsewhere. There are a number of sustainable clothing brands such as Boden and Patagonia. Many people can’t afford sustainable brands so they are turning to secondhand shopping. There are many second-hand shops available today through online sites such as depop, Poshmark, and mercari, and there are many thrift stores and consignment stores in cities. 

The fast fashion industry provides cheap clothes at an environmental cost. We realize the impact of buying new on the environment and turn towards more environmentally friendly ways.

Citations

McFall-Johnsen, Morgan. “The Fashion Industry Emits More Carbon than International Flights and Maritime Shipping Combined. Here Are the Biggest Ways It Impacts the Planet.” Business Insider, 2019, www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10. 

Hayes, Adam. “How Fast Fashion Works.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 16 Sept. 2020, www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fast-fashion.asp. 

Steffen, Luana, et al. “’Fast Fashion’ Is Polluting The Oceans With Microfibers.” Intelligent Living, 25 Feb. 2020, www.intelligentliving.co/fast-fashion-is-polluting-the-oceans-with-microfibers/. 

Ideas into Actions!

By: Sydney McManus

 

It wasn’t long after becoming a student at Furman University that I began taking advantage of all the opportunities that I was presented with. I became involved and proactive with my time, committing myself to organizations that would develop my personal and professional skills. As my freshman year progressed into what is now my sophomore year, I found myself being drawn more and more to the idea of sustainability, best defined by Kate Raworth as “ensuring that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer.”1

 

During an on-campus job search my freshman year, I stumbled upon an opportunity at the Shi Center, now Shi Institute. Within two weeks I found myself as a member of the Shi Institute fellows’ program and the Shi Institute family. A family that was supportive, inclusive, and driven; aiming to encourage, enact, and initiate change and sustainability on campus and beyond. I was off to the races learning all I could about sustainability and sharing with others along the way, all with a goal of breaking down a stigma that I, myself, had once bought into.

 

This year, my sophomore year, I found myself presented with the opportunity to again hold a fellowship position at the Shi Institute and, additionally, the opportunity to live in the Eco-Cabins also known as the Greenbelt…but it gets better, so hang in there!

 

During a “routine” week (whatever routine now looks like in the face of COVID), I was contacted by another student about organizing an event on behalf of one of the clubs I am in, Furman Creative Collaborative/TEDx. Being the ambitious and overcommitting person I am, I said YES. Now I am sure by now you find yourself wondering why all of this is important, but here it is. IDEAS into ACTIONS!

 

The event I was organizing came to be called Countdown to Our FUture (yes, FUture is a Furman reference) revolving around the CLIMATE CRISIS, with a goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, and the initiative’s origin coming from TED…….as in TED Talks. I found myself excited to have an opportunity to bring this independently organized TED event to my campus community and the Greenville community and to be so interested and connected with this topic after all the opportunities that I have had the chance to be a part of.

 

IDEAS into ACTIONS is one of my favorite elements of the events description from TED and something relevant to not only sustainability but life. As stated by TED “Countdown is a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action.”2 The words “ideas into action” resonate so profoundly with me and should with the global community as well. So often our world is faced with challenges, but we never foster the creative minds that will allow the problem-solving ideas to be presented and enacted.

 

On October 12th, 2020 Countdown to Our FUture was held with 450 people in virtual attendance. This event lit a spark inside me, and I hope it lit a spark in others as well. I hope nothing more than for the people who attended to have learned and to have been encouraged to turn their ideas into actions! With speakers from around the globe, some of those individuals including actors Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo, along with activists such as  Xiye Bastida, Nana Firman, and so many more, the diversity of people involved with this movement is incredible, inspiring, and gives me hope that one day, perhaps, the world can turn all the impactful IDEAS into ACTIONS.

 

You can visit the link below to watch the full virtual launch of Countdown from TED.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dVcn8NjbwY

 

Sources

  1. What on Earth is the Doughnut?… (2020, September 30). Retrieved from https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/
  2. Ted. (n.d.). To a better future. Retrieved from https://countdown.ted.com/

Lookout for Greenwashing

By Catherine Dawes

During quarantine, people tried new things,  made DIY crafts, learned a skill, or tried to be more active. For me, I wanted to practice being more sustainable. At the time I made this goal, I knew I was going to be living in the greenbelt sustainability cabins when I returned to Furman, and I wanted to change a few lifestyle habits in preparation. I decided to purchase and use items that were more sustainable for the environment, so I purchased products from companies that had a reputation for being environmentally friendly. However, I soon realized these products were not sustainable as they were from companies that greenwash. Corporate greenwashing is the process of promoting sustainable products or practices while hiding non-sustainable practices from the public. Corporations use greenwashing to appear as an environmentally friendly business to the public to attract larger audiences; not only is this deceitful and causes consumers to be skeptical, but sometimes the products they promote cause more harm to the environment than products that do not claim to be sustainable.

A prime example of corporate greenwashing stems from Burt’s Bees which was acquired by the Clorox Company. Burt’s Bees sells products that are made from natural ingredients, but that does not always suggest the products are sustainable as accessing these natural ingredients can cause harm to the environment. Their mantra is to be environmentally friendly; however, they hide the fact that they are owned by the Clorox company- an organization known for not being sustainable as they use harsh chemicals. The only spot on their website that alludes to being owned by the Clorox company is at the bottom of their webpage in small print where the information is less likely to be seen. Through this partnership, Burt’s Bees and Clorox are ultimately one greenwashing corporation with Burt’s Bees’ sustainable front ultimately representing the unsustainable Clorox corporation.

While this currently is corporate greenwashing, Clorox announced a plan to become more sustainable as a company. In 2019, the company announced their intentions to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% in the coming future. This is part of their IGNITE strategy announced in 2018. Other sustainable goals in the IGNITE strategy include reducing plastic and other waste production, focusing on climate change, and overall being environmentally friendly. Although the project started off on the right track in 2019, it is relatively new and only time will tell if Clorox will abide by the goals outlined in IGNITE.

Overall, the best way to distinguish between which companies greenwash is to do research into company practices. Even if the research consists of “which companies practice greenwashing”, it is a good start to help educate the public about this issue. For a quick search to see how sustainable a personal care product is, use the website listed below:

https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

 

Citations

Gunther, Marc. “The Real Story Behind Some of the 10 ‘Greenest’ Brands.” Greenbiz, 10 June 2016, https://www.greenbiz.com/article/real-story-behind-some-10-greenest-brands.

Tsui, Jenna. “The Negative Effects of Corporate Greenwashing.” Sea Going Green, 26 Feb. 2020,  https://www.seagoinggreen.org/blog/the-negative-effects-of-corporate-greenwashing.

Burt’s Bees. Clorox Company, 2020, Durham NC. https://www.burtsbees.com/values/.

Legg, Teresa. “4 Ways greenwashing will damage your brand.” The Carbon Report, 22 Oct. 2019, https://www.thecarbonreport.co.za/4-ways-greenwashing-will-damage-your-brand/.

Taylor, Amy. “Greenwashing: Don’t be Fooled.” 100 Days of Real Food, 24 Mar. 2020, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/greenwashing-dont-be-fooled/.

“Sustainability in Our Facilities.” The Clorox Company, 2020, https://www.thecloroxcompany.com/corporate-responsibility/environmental-sustainability/operations/ghg-emissions/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2020.

Forest Fires and Greenhouse Gases

-Carolyn Little

Over the past few weeks, I have learned how to become more sustainable without even realizing it. I believe that the process is very difficult in daily life. However,  a friend recently told me the other day that “imperfect sustainability is okay because it is a learning process.” Ever since she told me these words, I have felt more comfortable with learning how to be more sustainable instead of being pressured to do so each day. Since this semester started, I have learned to become more sustainable by avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases. I knew that the emission of harmful chemicals in our environment was unhealthy beforehand, but I did not realize to what extent this affects our environment or how to prevent it. For example, a few years ago in 2016 when my family and I vacationed (again) in the Smoky Mountains solely for the purpose of going on multiple hiking trails, I heard that the Chimney Tops fire occurred merely days after we left. The fire was caused by two brainless people, who were (thankfully) arrested. The fire hit “11,000 acres, which [was] about 2% of the over 500,000 acres in the park boundaries” (National Park Service). This fire made me further appreciate the beauty of nature and be grateful that most of the animals survived the fire, while I also learned what greenhouse gases release into the atmosphere and how it affects the environment. This Chimney Tops fire, for example, released harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and many other chemicals that are harmful to ecosystems and to organisms’ respiratory health. When trees are killed by fires, they release even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fires in general produce “aerosols, including black carbon and gases,” which block sunlight distribution and pollute the atmosphere by “warming the planet” (Berwyn). These gases cause climate change, which is detrimental to our planet’s health, organism’s health, and agricultural health. 

2016 Smoky Mountains fire

One way that I have participated in helping prevent greenhouse gas emission during this semester is by biking instead of using my car. The majority of transportation vehicles release carbon dioxide into the air as well due to the “combustion of petroleum-based products,” like gasoline (EPA). In 2018, 28.2% of greenhouse gases that were released from the atmosphere were caused by vehicles, which still is the largest contributor of negative chemical emissions (EPA). A way to lower gas emission by transportation is by using public transportation more frequently, such as electric buses in China and Chile and/or bicycles, instead of individual vehicles, which can help “cut transport emissions [by] 80%” (Wang). I have helped prevent this emission by using my bike more often than I ever had in my life. It is even a good exercise tool as well! My watch tracks the distance I bike and says that it is about 2 miles to get to Plyler and back.

Overall, I did not realize to what extent greenhouse gases from transportation and fires affect our planet, but now I know that every bit of even a little sustainability counts in order to keep our environment safe and healthy. 

 

Berwyn, Bob. “How Wildfires Can Affect Climate Change (and Vice Versa).” Inside Climate News, August 23, 2018. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23082018/extreme-wildfires-climate-change-global-warming-air-pollution-fire-management-black-carbon-co2#:~:text=Wildfires%20emit%20carbon%20dioxide%20and,effects%20on%20warming%20and%20cooling 

 

“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23082018/extreme-wildfires-climate-change-global-warming-air-pollution-fire-management-black-carbon-co2#:~:text=Wildfires%20emit%20carbon%20dioxide%20and,effects%20on%20warming%20and%20cooling

 

“Chimney Tops 2 Fire.” National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains, December 22, 2016. https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/chimney-tops-2-fire.htm

 

Wang, Shiying. “Everything You Need to Know About the Fastest Growing Source of Global Emissions: Transport.” World Resources Institute, October 16, 2019. https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/everything-you-need-know-about-fastest-growing-source-global-emissions-transport

 

A Home That Hugs You

By Emma Johnston

It occurred to me recently that I kind of like being in small spaces. I grew up sleeping in a “Privacy Pop” (sometimes under a weighted blanket), and have this tendency to curl my limbs in tight to my body whenever the situation (and seating) allow it. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say I’m a claustrophiliac. I certainly prefer soothing compression over strict confinement. But it got me thinking…

1969 Lamar exterior

…we were staring at the exterior of a refurbished 1969 Lamar vintage camper at the Swamp Rabbit Inn in Travelers Rest. My mom was in town to deliver a “new” used bike, and we took it – and my old cruiser – for a ride on the trail. She had stumbled upon a listing for the camper the week before, and arranged to see it in person. Absorbing what 17 feet by 7 feet by 8 feet looks like in real life, we gushed at how precious it was; like, theoretically, how adorable it would be for someone else to inhabit it – perhaps a doll-sized person. But as soon as we stepped inside, I became completely captivated with the idea of downsizing to “camper living.”

Cozy bohemian-style living area

The interior was stunning, which you wouldn’t (or, at least, I didn’t) necessarily expect from a trailer. A macrame chandelier hanging over a live edge dining table. A beautiful copper bathroom sink. A bohemian-style queen bed under a panoramic window. And a layout so smart, you wouldn’t even believe you’re looking at less than 100 square feet of space. Not to mention all of the amenities you could ever need: heating and air conditioning, electrical outlets, cable TV, high speed wifi, and a full kitchen! What dawned on me during this tour – which basically amounted to turning 360 degrees – was how much someone could genuinely love living here. Sure, there are the prudent reasons for downsized living: the minimalist lifestyle, money-saving benefits, mobility and, perhaps most importantly, environmental friendliness. But I’d figured that, in the transition, the emphasis would be on what had to be given up in the transition. Inside that perfectly-appointed little Lamar, however, was not a vibe of sacrifice but of refinement, dignity, and comfort.

A full kitchen!

Although downsizing or tiny living is becoming increasingly popular, the average American residence continues to increase in size. The average American home has swelled by 140% from the typical 1,000 square feet in 1950. During the recession of 2008, Americans began to downsize, citing economic or environmental reasons. But this phenomenon was woefully short-lived. Now, it seems as with so many aspects of American life, there are increasingly polar opposites: those seeking to live larger and more opulent, and those looking to clean out and scale back. There is, of course, evidence that Mother Earth favors the latter.

Perhaps the greatest sustainable outcome of the switch to tiny living is the reduction of carbon emissions. Out of electricity, natural gas, and heating oil, electricity uses up the most energy in American households, making up 53% of the energy used in an average American home. According to Timothy Carlin, author of the article “Tiny Homes: Improving Carbon Footprint and the American Lifestyle on a Large Scale,” the production of electrical energy also primarily relies on coal as fuel, creating 241.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions. This amount of carbon waste would fill 15,100,000 dump trucks. On the individual level, the average American carbon footprint is more than 28.5 tons of carbon emissions per year, with about 2.72 tons produced from electrical energy. 

So, how does camper living decrease carbon emissions? Clearly a camper comprises a much smaller space than the average American home, requiring less electrical energy to run compact appliances, provide temperature control, and provide lighting. In fact, natural daylight can illuminate nearly the entire space. In addition, campers require minimal natural gas for heating and cooking. Not only do campers cut back on carbon emissions, but they also save water with composting toilets. This is the most common type of toilet in a camper, as these structures are not connected to a pre-existing septic system. Composting toilets reduce household water usage by up to 60%, reduce marine pollution, and oftentimes, the waste is recycled into the environment as fertilizer, creating more productive and fertile soil. 

Aside from these measurable, directly-sustainable benefits of camper living, there are other advantages that may not be as apparent. With the necessity of downsizing comes picking out only the most essential belongings, from clothing and keepsakes to kitchen goods and cleaning supplies. Intentionally eliminating unnecessary items that don’t actively serve a purpose in everyday life is the mentality needed for camper living. This minimalist mindset – enforced by limited camper storage – decreases consumer waste; you simply don’t have the physical room for the purchase of unnecessary items, so you don’t have the mental room for constant upgrade and replacement, either. This, blissfully, produces a feeling of control over – and settled satisfaction in – one’s life.

Happier Camper Adaptiv™ example interior

Back on campus, I pondered how I could really make that lifestyle a reality someday. There’s the option of purchasing an old camper and refurbishing it, like the folks at the Swamp Rabbit Inn. I also discovered a company called Happier Camper, which offers flex-designed trailers for downsizers concerned more with function and flexibility over aesthetics and repurposing. Happier Camper also offers an “Adaptiv” line of block-in-grib components for existing camper- or van-owners. These modular interior pieces allow for complete customization of the layout of just about any size trailer or campervan.

Consider how it would feel to truly love every square foot and every single feature of your home – from gorgeous flooring to awesome appliances to the perfect mattress – because being scaled way down makes it much more affordable. You can feel savvy and righteous in your eco-friendly lifestyle, but you can also genuinely enjoy how every single charming nook and cranny hugging you in serves a purpose. Turns out I’ll take a hug from a nook or cranny anytime, anywhere – maybe someday everytime, everywhere.

 

Sources:

“Adaptiv™ System.” Happier Camper, Happier Camper, happiercamper.com/pages/adaptiv%E2%84%A2-for-campers. 

Carlin, Timothy. “Tiny Homes: Improving Carbon Footprint and the American Lifestyle on a Large Scale.” Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day, College of Saint Benedict, 24 Apr. 2014.

“Stay in Travelers Rest With Lola The Glamper Camper.” Swamp Rabbit Inn, Swamp Rabbit Inn LLC, 19 Oct. 2018, www.swamprabbitinn.com/blog/2018/10/11/go-glamping-with-lola-the-vintage-camper. 

“To Flush Or Not To Flush: The Truth About Composting Toilets.” The American Home Shield, American Home Shield Corporation, www.ahs.com/home-matters/cost-savers/the-truth-about-compost-toilets/. 

“​1969 Lamar.” Vintage Camper Trailers, 4 Jan. 2019, www.vintagecampertrailers.com/for-sale/1969-lamar.