Sustainability is a word often associated with “tree-huggers” and environmental freaks, but what exactly is it? In the next few days, students at the College of Charleston can involve themselves in various activities around campus to learn about sustainability and to make the College a more sustainable place. Monday, April 6th, was the first day of Sustainability Week and will be a fun-filled extravanganza with plenty of events geared toward leading a more sustainable lifestyle. Ashlyn Spilis-Hochschild, graduate Sustainability Fellow at the Office of Sustainability, has worked to ensure that this week will be a success. Hochschild said, “The week really highlights the holistic nature of sustainability.” To her, sustainability is more than just living a “green” lifestyle. “For me, sustainability is about relationships,” said Hochschild. “While eliminating waste and providing water refill stations are important components to sustainability, to me I see sustainability more about empowering people to see how they are connected to the systems that sustain them and understand how the impacts of their choices on other people and the environment.”
Sustainability Week started with a bang on Monday with a concert and art walk at 5:00 p.m. at the Stern Gardens. The event was hosted by the Office of Sustainability partnering with Greek Life. Greek organizations hosted a cooking competition and there was an art walk with sustainability themed student artwork. A concert featuring local bands and spoken word followed. The theme of the kick-off event was engagement, social justice, community, and sustainability. Hochschild said, “The goal of Sustainability Week is to give the campus community the opportunity to discuss and engage around a topic within sustainability. We want to empower students to create change!”
Wednesday night, April 8th, Dr. Raj Patel will join the CofC community at the Sottile Theater for a keynote presentation on sustainability. Patel has written multiple books critiquing world food systems and the effects of globalization while providing sustainable solutions. Raj Patel will be speaking on themes discussed in his book “The Value of Nothing.” The book is inspired by the quote by Oscar Wilde, “People today know the price of everything but the value of nothing” and how we only attach value to people and products based on the cost the economic system places on them. “We often associate value with cost,” Hochschild said, “and don’t see all of the inputs and outputs of the products we purchase, that our choices have both a human and economic consequences.” Patel will argue that we should rethink economic systems and value beyond prices.
Following Patel’s discussion, the Sustainability Office will host a DIY workshop on Friday at which CofC students can make their own salt scrubs. This is a hands-on way for students to incorporate sustainable solutions into their lives while learning about natural ingredients and their healing powers. The workshop will be driven by a conversation about the theme of “value” and what is means to our community. Hochschild commented on the importance of showing students how to be sustainable. Every little change we make can contribute to a larger revamping of the way in which the College utilizes resources. “Sustainability,” said Hochschild, “is about preparing students at the College to be change agents and game changers so after graduation they have the skills and confidence to go out in the world to create change.”
The final day of Sustainability Week will include the College’s first “Perma-blitz” on Friday, April 10th at 3:00 p.m. at the Warren Street Parking Lot. Perma-blitz is the brain child of the amazing Lexa Keane, a student who worked with the Sustainability office for two years before she graduated in 2013 and started working for the College’s Grounds department. A perma-blitz is an event that gathers a group of people together to use permaculture techniques to quickly build a garden in a sort-of flash mob style. Students will learn how to create a sustainable garden as well as how to tend to it.
Sustainability Week will surely be enjoyable, but more importantly will teach CofC students about the urgency of sustainability and of the importance of valuing our resources. “One of the best parts of this Sustainability Week is just how diverse all of the events are,” Hochschild said, “Sustainability has a role for everyone and I believe that is reflected in the week’s events. Everyone can get involved. For our office, students are the drivers of sustainability on campus and I hope each person feels empowered by the events of the week.” Students should value the opportunities that the week will bring because the improvements that will develop in our school’s sustainability will be truly priceless.
For more information on sustainability and to see the entire Sustainability Week schedule of events, visit the Office of Sustainability’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SustainCofC