Two Potential Problems

My work at the Shi Center has revealed some significant flaws within the world of sustainability. First off, the world of sustainability is political and the renewable energy market is dominated by government-enforced utility monopolies. Take South Carolina for an example. In early June, a bill was passed to raise South Carolina’s solar capacity for both residential and non-residential institutions. Everyone that had anything to do with politics in this state cheered and felt that a victory had been won. By examining the details of the bill, I have seen that this act does nothing more than provide a drop of water into a bucket for sustainability measures. The state kept the control of energy-generating systems out of the hands of the consumer and in the hands of the utilities, while still limiting the power that these systems can produce. Now I do not blame utilities for being so intrusive in legislation, they are the result of failed planning of an outdated business plan, which has difficulty catering to both renewable and non-renewable energy sources that are created either from facilities or residential homes. The utility companies are then forced to buy the energy produced from residential/non-residential areas by the government. Consequently, it is not economical for either the consumer or the utility to go “green”.

My other problem I noticed is the idea that it is not in the best interest of most people to practice sustainable measures. The companies who claim to be carbon neutral are not truly carbon neutral because buy their offset from other sources since that’s the most feasible way to do so. There are few companies actually achieve true carbon neutrality. The only organization that I have found that made it in their best interest to be sustainable is Wal-Mart, a company that has been subjected to criticism about their “environmental friendliness”. Wal-Mart has the most Mega Watts of solar installed than any other company in the United States and they were one of the first companies to go out of their way and request that their manufactures use eco-friendly boxes. Their criticism came from a woman named Stacey Mitchell who basically explained that Wal-Mart donated to free market groups around the country so they can monopolize solar energy. I am sorry to upset her “ingenious” calculations, but is it so strange that Wal-Mart would donate money to a group that advocates for free markets, considering that a free market is where a company like Wal-Mart thrives the most? The groups advocating for free markets oppose government subsidies for sustainability measures because these subsidies come out of the taxpayer’s pockets. Solar energy will never become popular because of anything the government will do for the consumers; instead, solar energy will become popular when solar is mass-produce for an affordable price. I will hope that other companies around the world will look to Wal-Mart as an environmentally friendly role model.

Benjamin Longnecker

Final reporting year

This is my senior year and also the third year that I’ll be working on Furman’s campus assessments the greenhouse gas assessment (GHG report) and the Sustainability Tracking,  Assessment, and Rating System (STARS).  Although its strange to say this is my last year of reporting for Furman, I’m quite excited about this years reporting.  Previously, years that we submitted both STARS and a GHG report had two fellows to work on the job.  This year we have three students working on the projects and me helping guide anyone who doesn’t understand any aspects of the process.  Having the extra hands working for the project both means we should be able to finish a little earlier than usual, and that we’ll be able to do more once we’ve finished.

Ordinarily after submitting the reports to The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and to the The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) the fellow will still have a little work left to do.  We still have to decipher any changes in the emissions, try our best to understand whether the emissions factors that the calculator uses have changed, a policy has changed, or the specific action which causes emissions has actually become more efficient.  Collecting and presenting all of this information is crucial so that people understand how we’re making progress on campus and what changes have been successful.  Lastly the fellow must write a brief report detailing how the assessment was done so any new fellows will be able to understand and follow their work.

Only after all of this is done can a fellow begin to work on one of the most interesting aspects of the position.  Plans forward, possible improvements to look into, changes other schools have made which could be replicated at Furman.  All of these are also part of what a fellow can do and it gives the fellow a real chance to look for meaningful changes with real impacts that Furman could make.  With so many fellows working towards assessment this year I really look forward to having more time for looking at these possibilities.  Even more importantly for me, we have more opinions and perspectives when looking at the future and possibilities for Furman.  Although the work has only just begun, I look forward to one more year of good reporting full of interesting information and number crunching.  Having a group of younger fellows start this work too just makes it more interesting and I hope that they enjoy this coming year’s work as well.

Kris Hajny

2014-2015 Sustainability Outreach and Engagment Fellowship

Welcome to The Green Scene! As the newly hired Communication and Campus Engagement Fellows at the Shi Center for Sustainability, it is our job to manage outreach for sustainability on Furman’s campus. We are in charge of this blog, other social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, other communication on campus, and advertising our events. Our passion for sustainability and enthusiasm for generating engagement on campus are our motivation for doing what we do.

For the 2014-2015 school year, we hope to engage the campus by:

  1. Promoting recycling on campus
  2. Creating awareness of the campus’s energy consumption
  3. Teaching students the importance of eating local and helping them do it on a college budget

These three goals will be what we focus on throughout the year. We hope to host different events, campaigns, and projects to get the word out on campus. We look forward to working with Furman’s campus throughout the year!

Cheers,

Anna Leger and Victoria Wornom

Rachel Martin on Spring Composting

Spring is in the air! Plants are sprouting, the air is warmer and the compost is turning. As the assistant compost manager at the Furman Farm, my job is to manage the seven composting stations on the farm and a few larger piles off campus. With constant management, the compost is robust and healthy –aiding the newly planted seedlings with rich nutrients.

Seeing plants burst out of the ground full of color and life is not a trivial experience. As someone who had never gardened before taking this position or had really seen spring (native Floridian), I am constantly amazed at the ferocity of life in the tiny seedlings. Seeing real spring up close, especially in a garden setting, demonstrates the renewal of spring. I am fortunate to work in such a beautiful setting.

Image

Success Begins With An Idea

As the Communications fellow at the Shi Center, it is my responsibility to promote events on campus such as CLPs that involve environmental or sustainable causes. This semester, I have worked closely with other student fellows to plan for Earth Week as well as help advocated for the Community Conservation Corps as they are representing Furman University in the Climate Leadership Awards for 2014. I have also been editing and arranging the word press blog to make it as assessable as possible to students and professors. Lastly, I have been preparing my presentation for my position here for Furman Engaged on April 11th.

Earth Week this year took a lot of planning but went very well when the week finally came. Each day there was a different theme regarding keeping the earth healthy and many talks and events were offered in light of this awareness. Monday was Electricity Day, and all the lights were turned off in the Dining hall for one hour to raise awareness of how much energy is consumed on a daily basis on campus. On tuesday, Transportation Day, a group of students got together and held a “bike parade” in which they rode their bikes around campus to show how students can help keep the air healthier by not driving to their classes. Wednesday was Water Day and a water taste test was held comparing bottled water and tap water. On thursday it was Trash Day and all of Furman’s trash left from food was piled up outside of the Dining Hall to provide a visual demonstration of how much Furman students waste in food on a daily basis.

On Student Involvement Day, Friday, we simply asked that all students be quick to recycle and turn off lights when they were not using them. When Earth Day on Saturday, March 29th came, we were more than ready to provide people with more information about the Shi Center and sustainable practices at the vendor fair in the Trone Center in the afternoon before the Water Walk. There were vendors from Greenville and Traveler’s Rest with homemade jam, coffee, and more to sell to students. Over-all the week was a success and brought in many new-commers who were interested in sustainability.

The Community Conservation Corps is doing well in the competition, but more votes are always appreciated! I have been posting relentlessly on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter trying to get people to vote for them in the Climate Leadership Award. In addition to this, I have had much success with advocating for the Shi Center and what we do here as a team. I have been working on designing posters to hang up promoting fellowship opportunities as well as continually posting about new events and articles written in the sustainability field. Over-all my work here is coming to a close and I am happy to say I have enjoyed every moment of it!

 

Applying Full Cost Analysis

As the full cost analysis fellow, my time of late has been dedicated to developing a template of exactly how full costs would apply to an example such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. This template consists of “public” and “private” costs. The public costs consist of costs that affect the community as a whole. The private costs consist of costs that affect a company specifically meaning its bottom line.

The cost system that I decided would work best for the template was a tier system similar to the one used by the EPA. This involves three tiers of costs for an organization. The first tier (Tier 0) consists of conventional capital and operating costs such as materials, labor and equipment. The 2nd tier, (Tier 1), includes upfront environmental costs that are known at the outset of the project as well as regulatory and voluntary environmental costs. The 3rd tier, (Tier 2), consists of contingency costs such as fines or penalties that could occur in the future. The 4th tier, (Tier 3), include the least tangible costs such as corporate image, community relations and consumer response.

My plan for the future will be to apply this analysis to a specific example. In this case, the Civilian Conservation Corps. I hope to have the date and do the analysis in time to present the results in my Furman Engaged presentation on April 11.

Traveler’s Rest takes the Spotlight

As a Shi Center Fellow at the City of Greenville, I have been challenged lately to reconceptualize what makes a place unique and how to get people on board with that image. Today Arnett Muldrow and Associates, a consulting firm working with the City of Greenville, will unveil their branding and logos for Greenville’s “West Side.” The “West Side” is an internal term used by the City referring to three distinct declining neighborhoods undergoing a rather involved comprehensive redevelopment plan. These neighborhoods are Southernside, the West End, and West Greenville. As an attempt to get people involved and interested in participating in planning charettes (also known as data collection for consultants), Jaclin and I planned movie nights, lunch and learns, and created spotlights on the importance of community branding to enhance a preexisting sense of place. As the unveiling of the “West Side” brand occurs March 21, 2014, I thought it might be nice to share a spotlight I recently wrote regarding the role of rebranding in Traveler’s Rest, especially as Arnett Muldrow and Associates are the creators of this image. It will be interesting to see how rebranding of the “West Side” will impact future investments in the area, both positively and negatively. Enjoy!

“Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and situated between Highways 276 and 25, Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina is an ideal place to take a break and regroup. Traveler’s Rest, or TR, historically served as a “resting stopover” for weary travelers, with some staying for months to wait out harsh winters. Due to recent attention as an emerging, eclectic, American small town, Traveler’s Rest has now become a destination to travel to rather than a place to travel through. Gradual structural and economic redevelopment along critical corridors such as Main Street served as an impetus for heightened attention and recent rebranding. Community marketing of Traveler’s Rest helps bolster community pride and establish a strong sense of place in this quaint South Carolina town.

The economic redevelopment of TR has had a notable difference in the feel, culture, and branding of the community. Growing assets such artisan shops, family owned small businesses, seasonal festivals, eateries, and outdoor recreational spaces unify TR and add to its attractiveness as a respite in bustling world. Downtown Traveler’s Rest boasts a brand all its own, full of unique places that you cannot experience elsewhere. Through working with Arnett Muldrow and Associates, economic redevelopment capitalizes on these distinct assets and has led to a plethora of many new small businesses cropping up. In tandem with economic redevelopment, rebranding serves as a communication tool unifying the growth of TR as a community by building off of TR’s intrinsic qualities, prompting people to “TRek to TR.”

Taglines such as “Get in your element” or “It starts with TR,” add value to the intrinsic properties of Traveler’s Rest, branding this small town as a place with distinctive character. Light post banners adjacent to the Swamp Rabbit Trail play off of TR’s acronym with words such as “TRavel,” “TRadition,” or “TRanquility” that build on one’s experience after visiting TR. Blue and yellow way-finding signs direct traffic and identify key places of interest, helping establish a sense of place as well as brightening Main Street downtown. Potentially overlooked, this physical branding helps establish a unified identity and further instills an already existing sense of community pride by featuring assets. Traveler’s Rest did not suddenly acquire a new identity after these efforts, but certainly unified as a brand emerged that represents what the community is about.

Branding does help establish a community’s character as it puts a word, for example, to a preexisting yet unspoken identity. This rebranding in Traveler’s Rest helps relay to visitors that it is a unique destination rather than simply a place to pass through. I personally visit TR regularly; sometimes I use the Swamp Rabbit Trail to bike to my favorite coffee shop, other times I simply go to the grocery store. Even still, the logos and rebranding of TR has definitely instilled a strong sense of pride and place within me for quaint TR. Community branding encourages others, like myself, to visit and stay to experience why Traveler’s Rest is a unique community.”