The Office of Sustainability hosted its fourth annual Sustainability Week from April 6-11. Students were surrounded by numerous events that promoted, educated and celebrated the benefits of maintaining an environmentally conscious and healthy campus. Centered around the theme of value, the week focused on how society places value on entities such as ourselves, others and the systems that sustain us.
The Director of the Office of Sustainability, Brian Fisher, began the week long campaign in 2012 and it continues to introduce students to new and intriguing discussions on how to create and maintain a vibrant campus while respecting and protecting the environment. Fisher’s vision was to reinforce that only with collaboration can society begin to build critical social capital and investment – important variables that are needed to sustain anything. With the key to sustainability being collaboration and connection, multiple organizations, departments and offices come together each year to celebrate sustainability at the College and empower those on campus.
“We want to provide students the opportunity to gain experience leading projects and implementing real solutions on campus,” expressed Office of Sustainability intern, Ashlyn Hochschild.
The Office of Sustainability opened the week with a Sustainability and Greek Week kickoff event. Partnering with Greek Life, the celebration featured a local food cook-off competition, in which Greek students prepared their own dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Those at the kickoff also enjoyed an art walk and musical performances featuring students at the College. With the help of a student run Sustainable Greek Chair Initiative, the Office of Sustainability works closely with sororities and fraternities, helping members become aware of the importance of sustainability and ensuring that chapters on campus are environmentally conscious.
The week also introduced the campus to economist Raj Patel. Discussing “The Value of Nothing,” also the name of his new book, Patel shared with students the effects of globalization and world food systems, emphasizing that there is a great importance in rethinking economic systems. “[Patel’s] work reveals the hidden effects to both human and environmental systems, and how democracy can play a significant role in developing solutions,” noted Fisher. Having published numerous books, the activist and Cornell graduate draws inspiration from the Oscar Wilde quote, “People today know the price of everything but the value of nothing,” stressing that society only attaches value to products based on an economic system, costs and price tags.
Following Patel’s presentation, the Office of Sustainability hosted a DIY salt scrub workshop. Emphasizing the benefits of sustaining oneself while utilizing locally grown resources, fresh ingredients from Dixie Plantation and the College’s Grounds Department were provided to allow students to create their own personalized healing scrubs. In making these scrubs, students were able to fully embrace the concept of placing value on self, others and products that incur zero cost to create. Event moderator Kelsey Deporte said to the crowd, “The community has no price tag, and therefore it is hard to value it.” For every jar of salt scrub made during the event, an additional salt scrub was donated to community partner, Florence Crittenton. A residential program that offers comprehensive help for pregnant teens and young women in South Carolina, Florence Crittenton provides shelter, academic education, counseling and life skills instructions to young mothers.
Other activities during the week included a documentary screening, campus waste audit and a rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that featured sustainable costumes and set designs.
Reflecting on the week’s events, juniors Latisha and Davisha Robinson expressed that the main concern of sustainability on campus is energy conservation, proposing that the College install solar panels throughout the campus. The students also admitted that a majority of college students are not aware of the importance of sustainability and simply do not have enough information on how to become environmentally healthy. To combat these issues, the Robinsons insisted that courses should be offered teaching the campus about sustainable practices. “The school offers tons of bins, and people need to learn how to throw things away properly.”
During the College’s waste audit, Hochschild reported that about 80 percent of the items thrown away could have been recycled or composted. She continued , “There is no ‘away’ when you throw something in the trash, just like when you bite into an apple it isn’t ‘just’ an apple.”
“Its important to see how you fit within all the systems that sustain you, whether its waste, food, energy, transportation, and how you affect others and the environment.” Hochschild said.
The fourth annual Sustainability week presented numerous opportunities for students to learn, discuss and become apart of the campus’ environmental solutions – placing value not only on the environment, but on the community as a whole.