The Horrors of the Clothes we Wear

Ever heard of sustainable fashion? I hadn’t either until about a year and a half ago. To be honest, I thought it was very strange that it’s not on most people’s radars. This is because every member of society wears some form of clothes (hopefully) and many of us tend to even own too many clothes (guilty). In fact, our skin is the largest pore on our body, so shouldn’t we think about what we’re putting on it? These were the types of questions I was asking myself while I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark my junior year. Copenhagen is the hub of forward sustainable initiatives and has taken great strides as a leader in sustainable apparel. Sustainable fashion was everywhere; so much that they honestly just called it fashion. They really put great care into their clothes and treat those that made them with respect. Since I’ve gotten back to the states, I have been working on my senior thesis, focusing on radical transparency in the sustainable fashion industry and companies knowledge and value of the textiles in supply chains. It sounds like a lot and it is! Therefore, I decided to take advantage of this blog post to enhance the minds of our consumers on a very important, but not talked about enough issue. You are the consumer, by the way.

The bigger picture of all of this is that it’s time for fashion to be made with a more sustainable approach. Now, take a look at your hangtag. It’s likely that you’re wearing cotton or polyester, two of the fashion industry’s most popular fibers and the hardest ones to trace. Unfortunately, cotton depends on large amounts of water to grow, and polyester depends on now-declining reserves of oil and gas. Therefore, the idea behind sustainable materials is that they are less damaging to the environment to produce, consuming fewer natural resources and creating less pollution.

If you’re wondering what you can use instead of cotton, I can tell you! Bamboo, linen, hemp, and recycled polyester are great! Although they are being produced in only small amounts, they have great potential. Bamboo is quick to grow and easily renewable, and linen and hemp use less water and pesticides than cotton. Also in the industry is slaughter-free leather, flax, and recycled materials. For a college kid on a budget, I usually get the question of how they can afford to buy sustainable fashion. When you’re first starting to transition to sustainable apparel, I think it is best to start with second-hand clothing. It has already been produced and the beautiful, gently-used items are begging for a new home.

Sustainable fashion has a goal to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. The best of both worlds! Luckily, the era of sustainable fashion being ugly and well, un-fashionable has passed. But it is important that sustainability is better communicated so it’s not considered a compromise. If you want to shop more sustainably, it is essential to keep your eye out for sustainable materials and clothes that are made ethically. Popular sustainable brands include Eileen Fisher, H&M Conscious, Stella McCartney, People Tree, Modavanti, ThredUp, and Modern Meadow. Certifications that could be found on tags could include Made in USA, Global Organic Textile Standard, Leaping Bunny Certified, and Fair Trade USA. I can go on and on, but I will stop. I am happy to talk about sustainable fashion anytime, so please email me at jordan.wolfe@furman.edu if you’re interested to learn more!

Life of a Recycling Fellow-Matthew Terrell

Life of a Recycling Fellow-Matthew Terrell

Baked beans, hot sauce, dog poop, and pizza boxes: all forms of contamination I have found in the recycling bins on Furman’s beautiful campus. Contamination occurs when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclables items. I know what you are probably thinking, “Just pick out the non-recyclables.” Placing garbage or other non-recyclables in a recycling bin can contaminate the whole bin making it unusable. This makes all the hard work Furman’s students, faculty, and visitors do to recycle go to waste. My job as a Recycling Fellow is to monitor the recycling on campus, whether it be at school sporting events or the area in front of the PAC. When I check the recycling bins, I make sure to look for contamination. Contamination isn’t a topic that should be ignored. Luckily, I don’t find a great amount of contamination on campus, but when I do, it is normally in a recycling bin near a residential area. Whether you believe me or not, some students generally don’t care about recycling. They don’t bother to learn which items are recyclable or non-recyclable. Before I started working for the Shi Center, I can admit that I was not that knowledgeable and didn’t make an effort to recycle. But, this job and my peers have made me realize how important recycling is. I could throw out statistics that tell you how much money is wasted each year by throwing recyclables in the garbage, but that wouldn’t necessarily change things. What does matter is the effect one single person could make by simply placing an aluminum can in a recycling bin. The environmental benefits from recycling is so astronomical, that it’s hard to explain in just this short blog post. Simply put, recycling conserves energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces greenhouse gases, and conserves natural resources.

What I enjoy most about my job as a Recycling Fellow is that I am constantly learning new things. By being around other people who are knowledgeable about recycling and sustainability, I get this drive to want to know more, so I can educate myself and others. My job is to monitor recycling, but I also learn from listening to the Waste Management Fellow and the Data Analysis Fellow. Recycling is a big but still small part of sustainability. But it is important that people are educated about the matter.

My future plans are to major in Sustainability Science. This will allow me to gain knowledge in other topics besides recycling, such as waste management, resource management, water quality, and other topics in sustainability.

I Survived the Apocalypse

I Survived the Apocalypse

My name is Annie, I’m a nineteen-year-old college student, and I’ve survived the apocalypse.

Yeah, that caught your interest, didn’t it? Now, to be fair, it’s probably not the zombie disease-filled, Walking Dead-esque apocalypse you’re thinking of, but it is nonetheless lethal. The apocalypse I am referring to is the so-called “smogpocalypse,” the thick cover of carcinogenic, gray, fog-like gunk continuously pervading China’s skies.

Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to stroll through these pollutant atmospheric gases during my two week trip with Furman University’s Summer China Experience. At first, like any naive tourist, I viewed the smog as merely a minor annoyance, as it obstructed the incredible skylines of Shanghai and gorgeous scenery and architectural masterpieces of ancient China from my amateur photographic endeavours. However, as the trip wore on, I began to feel the effects of the true horrors behind the smog. I noticed first that despite being a comparatively fast walker my pace unconsciously began to slow over time, making it harder and harder to keep up with the group. I came back to my hotel room every night exhausted. Breathing became increasingly more challenging, especially when I was partaking in slightly more vigorous activity, such as climbing the Great Wall. And, to top it all off, by the end of the trip I had developed a small cough.

While the side effects of my smoggy encounter were irritating, they were nevertheless non-threatening and short-lived. After all, I was only in China for two weeks. However, for the 1.3 billion and counting people currently living in China, the smog is a much more dangerous, inescapable reality. In fact, the country’s former Minister of Health has estimated that up to 500,000 people die each year from complications due to air pollution. For reference, that’s roughly the size of the entire Greenville County. But that number only includes those who have succumbed to the smog–the number of those who suffer serious health problems because of it is much higher. In fact, smog has been linked to several limiting and debilitating health risks, such as increased asthma attacks, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung infections, respiratory problems, lung cancer, and even heart failure.

However, the negative consequences of smog run deeper than just the massive amount of physical ailments and life loss. Air pollution also underscores the utter lack of representation that environmental policy enforcement has in China’s legal court system, as less than one percent of environmental disputes go to court. Why isn’t China giving the environment the attention it deserves? Well, China has undergone a huge economic and industrial boom over the past several decades, emerging into the world as a force to be reckoned with and on the road to becoming a developed nation. And, like all industrially-developing nations, the focus is more so on increasing industry activity, technology, and wealth, and less so on the environmental impacts in doing so. Makes sense, right? The United States and Great Britain were the same way, back when we were going through our own industrial revolutions. However, China’s smog hasn’t just stayed within the confines of the Great Wall–instead, it has crept across the Pacific and found a new host in the west coast of North America.

So, now that the smogpocalypse has spread a little closer to home, are you a little more concerned? You should be. However, doing something about that concern is a little more challenging. What can we do to help vanquish the air pollution? Do we force China to instate more environmental protection policies? The problem is that China actually already has some really great environmental laws, they just aren’t enforced properly. But “forcing” a large and powerful nation (which, by the way, we rely a lot on for cheap production) to conform to our standards isn’t exactly a viable option, from both a political and logical standpoint. Then, do we place an embargo on their goods? Once again, our economy relies A LOT on China, and that’s not exactly something we can change overnight.  So, what can we do?

The truth is, there is no known right answer. Unfortunately, the smog is a big problem that isn’t going to go away any time soon. Some people say it is best to just wait it out, let the natural course of industrial development occur in China and eventually, once the expansion settles down, the nation can start focusing more on environmental preservation. Others suggest investing more in researching and implementing cleaner forms of energy, which would reduce the coal burning in China that causes the smog. One organization, Greenpeace, works to investigate, report on, and campaign against China’s overuse of coal, as well as its outdated Air Quality Objectives.

However, when it comes down to it, there are multiple sides to this issue. On the one hand, China’s smogpocalypse is a mega health risk and widespread killer. On the other, China is a country experiencing economic growth, and as such should be given some leniency on its environmental impact, just as the world gave us two hundred years ago. But how much leniency, and at what cost? When will the number of lives lost, and the quality of life degraded be too much for China to continue to put environmental protection on the backburner? This issue has been at the forefront of world environmental talks for many years, and as such won’t be solved with a quick and simple solution. However, with bright minds like yours, readers, caring about these issues and working together to come up with intelligent and effective ideas, we could maybe get a little closer to finding the smogpocalypse cure.

Island State of Mind: A Solution to Loss of Crop Yield-Cullen Carter

As many of you all know the United Nations Climate Change Conference was recently held in Paris, France. The talks concerned global warming, the effects that could ensue because of it, and methods and plans to slow down the process. The implications of failing to acknowledge this problem are serious, and United Nations meeting was an important step toward a more globalized effort to reduce our contribution to global warming.

I mentioned that there could be some serious negative implications to ignoring the climate change, and one of these is a severe loss of food sources. A rise in temperature would not only effect plants and crop yields, but even livestock as well. A greater temperature would require a greater amount of water to sustain both the crops and livestock, and droughts caused from the warming would inhibit the use of more water to sustain the food sources. It quickly becomes a downward spiraling effect, and less and less land could be used for crop production. Most of the data are only estimates, but the U.S. alone could suffer a yearly loss of around 10-30% yield of an assortment of crops. This, paired with an increasing population and less food being imported, could severely strain the food supply. This would then inevitably lead to an increase in food prices.

I am only highlighting just the one facet of negative implications that would occur from a warming Earth. There are many others, and all could cause equally dangerous problems. However, with every problem there comes a solution. When concerning the loss of land that can be used to sustain crops, many designers, architects, and researchers are working on several designs for floating “islands” to grow crops on. The crops are grown hydroponically (using mineral nutrient water solutions without soils) that are supplied with solar stills, which are barrels that absorb sunlight that cause reservoirs of water to turn to steam which collects and condenses into clean water. This simple design allows for a collection of water from any source, including salt water. The apparatus uses fans and pumps to circulate up to 150 liters of clean water a day for the crops contained on the floating greenhouse. A small startup of the project can be found here: http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/jellyfish-barge-solar-powered-floating-greenhouse-studiomobile.html. Although the implications of global warming are serious and perhaps dire, many groups and individuals from all backgrounds are working to tackle the many problems involved with global climate change.

Importance of Bikes-Lauren Prunkl

I grew up exploring my grandparents’ town Mobile, Alabama by going on endless bike rides. My grandfather always makes sure that each family member has a bike to ride whenever we are at his home. At age 76, my grandfather still cycles forty plus miles at times. My Uncle Scott has been an avid cyclist for many years. In 1996, my uncle was in a severe seaplane accident. His best friend and the pilot tragically died in the crash. My uncle was rushed to the hospital with only a 3% chance of survival because of all the major injuries he incurred. Miraculously he survived after many surgeries. Only thirteen months after the accident he completed a triathlon in Destin, Florida. He continues to do Ironman’s and cycling races today. The importance of biking has been prominent in my family which is one reason why I find biking so important.

As the Alternate Transportation fellow, fostering a community centered on biking is important for students to stay healthy, but is also very significant for building sustainability on campus. Offering alternate transportation options such as biking, carpooling, and public transportation helps Furman reach its carbon neutrality goal by 2026. Many Furman students bike on campus, but some cannot bring a bike to school. Paladins on Bikes was created to give students an opportunity to rent a bike for a semester. There are currently twenty bikes for students to rent. The program started in 2014, and provides students with a bike, helmet, and U-Lock for a standard fee. My main job is to run the program throughout the year. Promoting biking by offering group bike rides is one way to increase bike participation on campus. This Saturday there will be a bike ride to Travelers Rest for bike rental members and Furman students. This is a great way to stay out of the car, be active, and connect with people who enjoy riding.

Along with having bike rentals comes the need for maintenance. A Fixit bike repair stand has recently been installed in the Trone Student Center courtyard. There are various tools and an air pump for students, faculty, and community members to use. In addition, a bike cover was installed in October in front of Lakeside housing. These have been exciting additions to Furman’s campus. I was put in contact with Village Wrench which is a non-profit organization focusing on bike repairs for the Greenville community. They host events to build leadership and repair skills among those who heavily rely on bikes as their main transportation. Connecting Heller Service Corps with Village Wrench will allow students to serve the Greenville community, as well as provide bike maintenance sessions on campus. Lastly, Paladins on Bikes partners with Sunshine Cycle Shop for standard and major repairs on the bike rentals. They have been great to work alongside to maintain the rental program. Enjoy the sunshine this weekend by riding your bike. As my Uncle would say: it’s a “Great day to be alive!”

Pondamonium -Darrin Anderson

As the years go by, the importance of ponds become more and more apparent. As more amounts of pollution occurs in the world, healthy ponds keep biodiversity with the freshwater variants of plants and aquatic life. The incredible amounts of pollution throughout the world threatens about 100 million humans, as well as kills 1 million sea birds and mammals every year. With the mind-boggling numbers of pollution, correctly constructed and maintained ponds reduce number of pollution related deaths. Freshwater ponds reduce the effects of pollution, while providing a welcome view and relaxing space for everyone around them.

The pond at the Shi Center contains koi fish, as well as a gold fish. There is also another pond on campus in the Asian Garden, this pond harbors over 30 koi, and sustains life for animals around the area. Life that is welcomed in the Shi Center pond may seem insignificant, but as the number of ponds increase, the animals that are sustained in a healthy environment also increases. When people think of ponds, they think of an area where fish swim, and insects thrive, they are not incorrect. One important action towards curbing pollution is sustaining healthy ponds throughout the globe, and acting to keep the water sources in the world unpolluted and able to sustain life.

Ponds around the world keep wildlife thriving, while keeping a great view for everyone around. Important pollution constrictor can also be describing ponds, as they keep wildlife going, and aerate the freshwater.

Sue at the Shi Center keeps the pond healthy and prospering. Sue’s tremendous knowledge of everything from plants, to trees, to water systems is used to competently do the job of preserving the Shi Center. I had to adapt ways to get the jobs assigned by Sue done, and learn about the many families of plants and trees and ponds to better my understanding of landscape architects’ method to their madness. Years of knowledge by Sue Black is employed to keep the Shi Center area and ponds beautiful, I learn, every day from Mrs. Black, invaluable knowledge of pond upkeep and landscaping methods and techniques to assist in my future endeavors in landscaping and pond maintenance.

The Tijuana Dump and Bottled Water: An American’s Journey to Waste Management – Chambers English

As a product of middle-class suburbia, I never knew the realities most of the world regularly faced. Over the past two summers, however, this small view of the world has been crushed while I served with Spectrum Ministries in Tijuana, Mexico and experienced the truth about poverty. The full-time missionaries connected us with the direst of circumstances: neighborhoods without running water, hungry orphanages, and a community of people living within the city dump. For the first time, my nose smelled a million tons of rotting garbage, my ears heard the stories of the forgotten, my eyes saw malnourished children, my hands felt the leathery embrace of resident laborers in the dump. And I was forced to drink bottled water.

Through the weeks I spent south of the border, I saw consumerism in an entirely new way. Municipal water hardly reaches downtown Tijuana, so the suburbs largely rely on companies to deliver unregulated water to cisterns at their homes. The companies pump water from aquifers and reservoirs tainted with chemicals, human feces, and agricultural waste. My team bought case after case of bottled water to supplement the limited, doubtful water which came through the taps of the suburbs and quench the thirst of the destitute. The greatest victims, exiled to the city dump to toil endlessly, had no access to water at all. Often these men and women forced themselves into such a calloused corner through a combination of American deportation, drug-use, and crime. They slave away for the dump owner, building make-shift homes from the products they find, sorting and burning trash, and selling materials for a fraction of their value.

The people I met and the injustice I witnessed are forever burned in my mind. Returning to the States, the transition back to such affluence and wanton waste shocked me, so I try to consciously limit my consumption. One easy way we can all cut back on our waste is by drinking less bottled water. Here, our municipal tap water is regulated every hour for cleanliness — we are not in dire need of safe water. In fact, much of bottled water is actually taken straight from the tap. This scam by beverage corporations has fooled some American consumers into paying 2000x more for bottled water than tap. So the next time you’re in the grocery store and pass by the bottled water, save your money and your decency. Others around the world don’t have the luxuries you do.

The Story of Bottled Water

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0