The Grounds Department sits nestled behind the library and historic housing. At first glance I noticed a rainbow plant box around my height with “CofC Composts” sprawled across it. The colors don’t stop as you go up the pathway and away from the garden and boxes. Once inside the office, a beaming CofC alum Alexa Keane greets me. Her smile momentarily distracts me from the purple eyeliner and pants adorning her. Then, all I notice are the plants that clutter the desks around me.
“What’s with the plants?” I asked.
Keane smiled and explained that she’s trying to protect the plants from the winter’s cold.
“We should be getting a greenhouse soon,” Keane said, because then the plants will always stay “nice and toasty.” Inside the Grounds Department, paperwork is occasionally swapped out for plants atop the desks. But don’t let the vegetation encroaching onto their workspaces fool you–these sustainability-lovers work hard. Some of it is actually groundwork – like literal gardening (in the soil) ground work.
Grounds has a ton of things planned for this coming semester. If you haven’t heard, they are planning an herb-remedies party as well as more herbal seminars, potlucks and even vertical gardens. They’re also going to continue work with their composting initiative. Got banana peels, decaying plants and more? All the gross stuff that ends up at the bottom of your trashcan can transform into rich, “delicious” soil. So help out the cause and drop off your peels and cores on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re sitting there thinking, “I love nature and sustainability so much! What else can I do?” Great question! Keane and her team of highly qualified helpers would love to see everyone get dirty in the garden. They want to create beautiful spaces for people to come and hang out (be on the lookout for the beautification of the McAlister Residence Hall) as well as build a community where people can spend time together marveling at the beauty of nature–even if that’s just enjoying the little things like a flower bud and a warm spring breeze. If that’s an idea you can get behind, go for it. Check out Grounds and see what you can do to help.
Stop by the Grounds Department or shoot the highly qualified Keane an email. You might see her on her bike with a trailer in tow collecting compost from local businesses, or swinging by The Collective Coffee Shop or Harbor Walk. And if you’re lucky, you might be able to find her handing out some of her fragrant lemon basil or fresh radishes she grew in the garden. One thing we can promise you is that she’ll have a smile on her face, especially if you mention your own love of persimmons or vermiculture (read: worms).
The Grounds Department stands by reusing anything and everything, whether it’s getting materials from the school dump or composting. Something old and broken is transformed into something beautiful with just a bit of time and the right eye. Open your own eyes and make a difference at CofC, making Charleston more beautiful with every turn of a shovel or bit of earth upturned. As we’ve been told, green is all the rage this spring. So pick up a green thumb and get dirty.