Community Conservation Corps

I’ve sometimes heard students accuse Furman of green washing and not really making sustainability a priority. As the Community Conservation Corps Fellow, I am proud to say that I have seen first had Furman’s commitment to sustainability and each of its three fundamental pillars. The Community Conservation Corps (or CCC) is an organization Furman established as an inventive way to move towards carbon neutrality. This organization provides a free weatherization service for low-income homeowners. Through this work the CCC helps the environment in addition to improving the social and economic standing of the local area. By making homes more energy efficient the CCC limits the amount of energy consumed by homeowners and decreases the carbon footprint of these homes. Socially, the CCC improves the comfort and quality of life of homeowners. Finally by cutting down on energy bills saved homeowner money can go back into the community, which improves their lives as well as bolstering the community economy.

This summer, in addition to attending weatherization audits and working on managing its data I’ve been focusing on two main projects to try and help the CCC. In order to increase the number of homeowners signing up for weatherization projects I’ve used GIS to analyze the CCC market history and look for any patterns in the customers. This data can then be used to suggest spatial marketing strategies and who our customers are.  Secondly I’ve been working to write and submit an academic article explaining the worthwhile benefit of a program like the CCC to other universities as well as how the CCC embraces the social, economical, and environmental triple bottom line of sustainability. Hopefully this work can raise awareness about what the CCC is doing and encourage other universities to consider new innovative programs.

-Laura McComb

The Community Benefits behind Community Gardens

Prior to deciding on my major, Health Sciences, and engaging in internships and May-X experiences related to the field, I was unaware of how much action Greenville takes in order to care for the underprivileged or hard to reach populations. In one of my health sciences courses, public health, I learned about a bell curve that displays those that are easy to reach, relatively hard to reach, and difficult to reach within a population in attempt to help, support, or even sell a product too. Food Deserts or areas in the county that lack availability of healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods are prevalent throughout Greenville and its surrounding counties.

In order to raise awareness and promote the idea of food oases, Greenville organizations have developed nearly seventy plus community gardens to help reach those living in food desert areas. These individuals are also known as those that are relatively hard or difficult to reach in a population. Many non-profits and entrepreneurs have drafted ideas such as food trucks and farmers’ markets to help reach food desert populations; however, those ideas have not succeed or worked as well as expected. Although these initiatives seem constructive, in attempt to bring fresh produce and other healthy foods to food desert communities, the target population or the hard to reach individuals lack the disposable income to pay for the quality of food being sold at vendors.

To help reach food desert communities an organization called Gardening for Good, a program of Greenville Forward, has partnered with community groups, organizations, and businesses to help assess communities in Greenville to determine their needs. Once the needs are determined members of Gardening for Good reach out to their partners for funding, donations, and volunteers. Community gardens are more reasonable because they do not only provide free or low cost produce but also educational opportunities. The residents that live within reach of a community garden have the opportunity to learn from one another about planting and harvesting produce. Members can gain a better understanding of growing seasons, how to become a successful gardener, and the nutritional benefits of eating locally grown produce. In addition, communities can implement produce-sharing programs where gardeners can share produce with each other to increase produce productivity. The neighborhood could also host community meal nights where members of the community come together to create a meal from produce grown in the garden. Lastly, the community garden can also provide a space for community gatherings. Overall, a community garden can do more than provide fresh produce for a food desert community to ultimately improve the health and overall wellbeing of individuals. A community garden can help build a community.

-Bianca Forte

Furman Making Connections

It is a comforting feeling to know that Furman is a liberal arts institution which cares about the environment outside of our own beautifully manicured backyard. Showing interest in other countries’ environmental hardships only impresses on the fact that Furman is a single entity trying to use its resources to make an impact and contribute to the international community. This past month, Furman sponsored the Chinese Environmental Film Festival. Eight films were featured, each in a different yet intentional format. There were over 400 in attendance, and collaboration within multiple departments on campus. I was surprised to see how such a large portion of the campus seemed to be involved in putting together the event.

As a freshman in the seminar “Debunking the Myths of China”, I felt especially connected to the Festival since part of my class included researching, advertising, and responding to the Festival. In addition being in the seminar centered on the Film Festival, my sister was also one of the contributing film makers for Food and Sustainability in China: Documentary Shorts from Davidson College. I was struck by how connected I seemed to be to this Film Festival. For a class project in my seminar, I used my video editing experience from working at the Shi Center as an AVD Fellow to edit the commercial meant to advertise the Festival to the student body.

I know that I was not the only student who felt connected to the Film Festival. Entire science classes, Asian Culture department heads, along with generally interested students attended the Festival, and together, learned something new about the environmental problems in China. I think all those involved with planning, organizing, and facilitating the Festival did a wonderful job of creating an interesting learning environment where people with varying degrees of knowledge could come together and interact without feeling unprepared or misinformed. It was an educational experience that I enjoyed because it allowed me the chance to learn about environmental issues, but also see different filming and documentary techniques, which I can apply to my Fellowship at the Shi Center.

The Film Festival seemed to connect many people and ideas. This may be most clearly visible from my perspective, but the Film Festival is the single organized event that I have felt very connected to while at Furman. I think the Sustainability, Asian Cultures, and all other departments involved worked together to provide an interesting and entertaining event for Furman students, our surrounding community, and the world at large.

By Kate Stevens

Furman Earns Gold STARS

Since the STARS report is now complete this semester, I have been working on analyzing the information from the report.  Furman University received a Gold rating on STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) for the first time. In general, Furman excelled in the areas of Academics and Engagement. There are a total of 684 courses offered that include sustainability, and twenty-four academic departments at Furman offer at least one sustainability course and/or course that includes sustainability. Students are more aware of sustainable issues. In the Sustainability Perceptions survey administered earlier this year, 78% of participating students believe that sustainability is important in how they live and 59% are interested in integrating sustainability in their careers. In terms of sustainable engagement on campus, Furman has a variety of co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives such as the Global Issues Forum, The Furman Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, Environmental Action Group (EAG), and a Summer Scholars program. Furman students are also giving back to their community. A total of 1,960 students are engaged in community service and contributed 42,064 community service hours.

One specific area were Furman could make improvements is in the Planning and Administration category. Furman does supports underrepresented groups through organizations such as the Legacy Peer Mentorship Program, but there has been no diversity and equity assessing on campus that addresses areas such as campus climate, student diversity, employee diversity, and public engagement. Also, Furman significantly lacks investment that promotes sustainability. The institution could make improvements by forming a committee that would make sustainable investment recommendations and by investing in companies that are committed to social and environmental responsibility. Through the information provided by the STARS report, hopefully Furman can continue to promote sustainability on campus and begin making changes towards furthering these efforts.

I have enjoyed learning about Furman’s sustainable actions in depth.  It is amazing how much we have advanced towards a more sustainable campus, but there are still many changes that could be made.  I hope to continue my analysis of this report and work towards understanding changes Furman can make to better serve our community and environment.

Conservation

Darrin Anderson

Conserving significant sites is important. As time progresses, areas begin to degrade and get overrun. When the area is run-down, people do not look at the area as something significant, rather as a battered place that needs to be fixed up. After too long, the area begins to look as if it is not even worth restoring due to the over-degraded state, but there is pretty much no point where conservation is not the answer. One must stop the erosion of an area before it gets to the point of no return. Conservation is needed to keep areas of significance alive and beautiful, and the area’s ability to be admired and observed to the fullest.

At Furman, the Shi Center is an area of importance. Many functions are carried out, and many undertakings are done in the building. Without conservation, the Shi Center would not have the ability to be admired and observed as much as it does today. Trees and plants would be over-growing the area, weeds and shrubs would be covering the beauty of the area, and leaves and vines would inveritably be covering every square inch of the area. Conserving the area has great importance, not only to keep the place elegant, but also to keep it functioning the way it should for the students, faculty, and visitors at Furman.

When the time comes for efforts for conserving areas of great impact, you must think to yourself how important conservation is in this world. Look at all the places that have had impactful events in history, imagine them without upkeep next time you go to see Gettysburg, or Lincoln’s Memorial in Illinois. Conserving the areas of importance is crucial to the remembrance of events, as well as ability to continue functions of existing areas that are, to this day, impacting people of today. Taking efforts to keep areas clean and clear of debris should not be forgotten, the efforts should be carried out every day to keep things beautiful and functioning for everyone around. Conservation is important for keeping the many areas of significance thriving and looking good. Conservation also keeps the publics’ interest, allowing people to observe and admire the area to the fullest, and appreciate what the area stands for.

Importance of Upkeep

Upkeep is a very important part of any sort of landscaping employed anywhere. As time progresses, the landscape architecture begins to overgrow and overwhelm the area being beautified. If not rectified, initial input of arranging the landscape is later laid to waste. It is important to have people who know how to sustain landscape that is initially implemented and designed to enhance the look of a property. Sustaining the landscape of an area is difficult, and it takes knowledgeable people to upkeep beautifying performed on a property.

 

Working as landscape fellow with a couple years of previous landscaping experience, carrying my experience to the Shi Center, I believed I had relatively valuable knowledge of implementing and sustaining landscaping of a property. I was wrong. My boss Sue Black proved my knowledge relatively inadequate for the job of assisting her with her job of keeping up with the area around the Shi Center. Tremendous knowledge of everything from plants, to trees, to water systems is used to competently do the job of preserving the Shi Center. My minor knowledge of grading, irrigation, and trenching proved mostly useless for the job at hand. I had to adapt ways to get the jobs assigned by Sue done, and learn about the many families of plants and trees to better my understanding of landscape architects’ method to their madness. Years of knowledge by Sue Black is employed to keep the Shi Center beautiful, I learn, every day from Mrs. Black, invaluable knowledge of landscaping methods and techniques to assist in my future endeavors in landscaping.

 

Every Day duties I engaged in included weeding, raking leaves, pruning, and other general upkeep activities. Some joked that by the end of my work, my middle name would be weed. This was not an understatement. Tink was an excellent supervisor to my daily duties as numerous hours of weeding were done to keep the weeds at bay from areas that are affected by them. All the aforementioned activities are crucial in keeping the Shi Center looking so incredible, which is one reason Landscaping is such an enjoyable enterprise. Sue Black had techniques that were outstanding, and decimated the workload. Techniques Sue taught me included a faster weeding technique, and a quick way of pruning plants that might normally take hours. One impressive bit of knowledge Sue taught me was about the pump for the pond. The contraption looks menacing when first encountering it, but when Sue showed me the workings of the machine, it was not so much. Props to Sue for knowing how to run the instrument! It is impressive! To sum up, When attempting to sustain a property, one must be equipped with multiple methods and techniques that allow for easier and more efficient upkeep.

 

Fall is the season of leaves and cold. So many leaves falling pose a challenge of having to collect the leaves for disposal for beauty purposes, as well as safety purposes. It may seem like a trivial matter that the leaves are piling up on the ground around the Shi Center, but it is not. Sue points out the harmfulness of the buildup as the leaves kill the grass if built up, and people could feasibly slip and fall on the leaves. Cold is another factor that is generally prevalent in the fall. Plants must be properly prepared for the temperatures that could theoretically kill them with cold. Expert knowledge of the leaves and the cold keep the public safe, and the plants alive through the fall season.

 

As the semester winds down, I find myself learning about an eclectic mass of information pertaining to the landscaping business. This Knowledge, if applied, can be used by me to better my understanding of landscaping, and better my use of the knowledge. Guided by Sue Black, I have learned proper methods to many workings around the Shi Center. Landscape upkeep is hard, and the knowledgeable Sue Black is one of the people who keep the property of the Shi Center looking immaculate for the visitors and workers.

 

By: Darrin Anderson

More Than Just a Trail

In 2008, an abandoned railroad was officially transformed into a notable sustainability initiative in the form of a trail right in our community- the Greenville Hospital System Swamp Rabbit Trail. The GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail is a 14.5 mile rails-to-trail trail system that connects Traveler’s Rest, Furman University, and the city of Greenville. I am honored that as an AVD videographer/Storyteller fellow at the Shi Center, I have the opportunity to help tell this rich story- one beginning with the history of a movement of people, progressing to booming businesses within “stopover” towns such as Traveler’s Rest. The story extends to the development of communities where healthy choices are valued through organic food restaurants and exercise, and where educational institutions such as Furman University are able to conduct valuable research about community building through trail use analysis.

With videographer Andy McClure’s expertise, I am putting together a video that paints the picture of a rather dry-sounding term with regards to the trail: full cost analysis. This refers to the presentation of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of the trail. The wonderful thing about video, however, is that we can show rather than tell. Essentially, the unique aspect of the trail and its true effects on the communities it connects come down to people’s stories. So far, we have gathered b-roll and footage of the trail with a GoPro. I am looking forward to working with Andy’s drone, which will be my first experience with a drone to date. Our story will come to life with our interviewees, which include a Furman health sciences professor Dr. Julian Reed who has conducted trail research, as well as Ms. Dianna Turner, the city administrator of Traveler’s Rest.

My inherent fascination with stories began at a young age. My father’s stories of people he met around the world and his task of communicating their anecdotes as a broadcast journalist inspired me to pursue Communication Studies during my undergraduate career. Every moment of my childhood, along with my brother’s, are preserved for eternity through my father’s ceaseless videography. In tandem with my passion for sustainability and meeting new people, this position has truly solidified my love for video.

My position as videographer allows me to be involved in multiple projects simultaneously; I am so thankful for these opportunities and to build on my experience! Recently, us AVD fellows participated in the Planet Forward Selfie Challenge, wherein we submitted 60 second selfies highlighting a local sustainable innovation that we had discovered. I touched on a bike rack made out of cob in Traveler’s Rest directly on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The bike rack caught my eye due to its unique design. Moreover, it is a sustainable innovation as it is made entirely of cob, an all-natural material that is durable in all types of weather.

This is my second year working with the Shi Center, and I feel privileged to continue to be involved in the initiatives of this sustainability hub.

By: Elisa Edmondson