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

Food Systems and Connections

Upon questioning my understanding of food systems, I find an accurate comparison in thinking of a door left slightly ajar. It goes as so: In a dark room, the light from behind a slightly cracked door leeks a sliver of simulated-sunshine onto the floor. Behind the door lies the intricate web that is food systems: farming, food access, health, social justice, institutions, environment, infrastructure, culture, etc. Where my understanding of food systems may have been quite utterly in the dark before, I have gained experiences that have allowed enlightenment.

A summer as the Assistant Farm Manager brought me first hand experience in actually producing food through managing an organic garden and exploring the various aspects of education, business, and environment involved. Expanding from my past Shi Center Fellowship, my current pursuit involves unearthing the story of Dr. Powers research on food deserts in Greenville County. It then follows the work of Dan Weidenbenner at Mill Village Farms and Reece Lyerly at Gardening for Good as they actively take part in the food system. Addressing food access and community vitality, the question arises: How can the multiple initiatives responding to food system issues such as food deserts most effectively/efficiently ensure positive/sustainable change across the boards of social, environment and economical health? In simpler terms, what defines success?

The aspects of producing a video to explore the connections between the above-mentioned variables involve planning and conducting interviews, editing and piecing together footage as I work with Andy, our videographer. But above all it involves telling a story. Using moving images and audio as a medium to

simply yet essentially offer a glimpse inside the lives of individuals and their relationship to, and impact on the world around them.

This past week I was able to attend workshops at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference held here in Greenville. Absorbing all sorts of relevant knowledge revolving around food systems, one presenter, Natasha Bowens (http://browngirlfarming.com/), particularly stood out to me in terms of impact. She re-emphasized the importance of storytelling and offered a refreshing perspective on the representation of race in the farming world. I only caught a glimpse of her story in the hour and a half of the established workshop time, but I question in terms of her impact on me, what defined her success? Perhaps her authenticity and ability to cast connections over everyone in the room.

There are obvious reasons why food systems are relevant to everyone. The inevitable connection is in the reality that we all eat. But all the threads that weave the food system together are not always easily or consciously seen. I hope this video can establish relevancy in the way the various dimensions of food systems are working in our community. Though five minutes of video is only a glimpse, I hope it can still cast connections over those who might come across it.

I catch tiny glimpses of people each day. From casual hellos with acquaintances to deeper talks with friends, conservations chip away at finding out who a person is and work to build bigger relationships. This video is only part of the conservation of a bigger relationship to the world, but we have a role in it.

As I work to tell this story, I know I am still writing mine. I will continue to strive to open doors in the hope that I may see more.

Stay Fresh,

Phoebe Ferguson

Assessing Furman’s Progress

Does Furman really care about sustainability? How do we compare to other schools? What changes can we make? These are all essential questions many students and faculty ask about Furman’s progress and it is part of my job to answer them. I am a Junior Assessment Fellow and have been working specifically with the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). STARS is a reporting tool that helps universities measure their sustainability performance by pursuing various credits. These credits cover a wide range of topics in the fields of academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration information.

I have recently been working on gathering the information for these credits. I first formed emails to send to faculty and staff about the specific material required. I am currently in the process of receiving these emails and collecting all of the needed information. The most challenging part of my job so far has been trying to understand the specific credit requirements. Even though there is a manual with required information for each credit, these criteria can sometimes be unclear and open to interpretation. Also, we are working with a new version of STARS this year, so the information is generally new even for the more experienced workers.

I work with a group of three other students, which is very helpful in the assessment process. Since this year we are completing two different sustainability assessments, more people were needed to finish everything on time. Also, there is a senior assessment fellow who has prior experience. I enjoy working with such a large group because I can ask for help if needed and receive a large range of opinions/ideas.

I am looking forward to getting our results back once we submit all of the data. It will be interesting to work with my assessment team to evaluate the changes that can be made to create a more sustainable campus in the future. I am already beginning to see trends in Furman’s sustainability progress so far. Even though we aim to receive a gold rating, the more important goal is to understand areas where Furman can improve and work towards making these differences.

Sidewalks, Bikes, and Overall Sustainable Transportation at Furman

This year I’ve been delighted to be working at the Shi Center. There are really some great projects underway and it is really a wonderful environment to work in. As the transportation fellow, my main responsibilities have dealt with making Furman a more pedestrian and bike friendly campus. This summer the Shi Center worked to take two major steps towards making this possible.

One of the more unique aspects of Furman is that students are required to live on campus. In 2008, Furman purchased the Vining’s, a near by apartment complex, in order to make room for housing more students. However, despite the proximity of the Vining’s, walking or biking to class has been a risky endeavor due to the high speed cars go as they drive on the road separating the Vinings from campus. This summer the Shi Center collaborated with the Vinings and facility staff in order to build a sidewalk connecting Furman to the Vinings. This new sidewalk allows for pedestrians and cyclists to leave their cars at home and instead, use a more sustainable form of transportation to get to class. In order to celebrate this great accomplishment and recognize the people who helped make this possible I helped organize a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration on October 22nd. I believe this event was very successful. It began in front of Timmons Arena where we held the ribbon cutting ceremony and allowed for a couple of speeches. The Paladin Regiment’s drumline then helped lead off a parade of people who traveled as a group to the Vinings. Here we had food and raffle prizes to help thank everyone for showing up and helping to make this project happen. This sidewalk is a huge step to making Furman a more pedestrian and bike friendly campus, for it allows a large portion of the student body access to a safer route.

The second major accomplishment Furman made this summer is that is got a new bike rental program off the ground and running. FUPOB, the new bike rental program, allows for students to rent a bike, helmet, and bike lock for an entire semester for just $30.00. Currently, the program has twenty bikes, all of which were rented out for the fall semester. I’ve been working to make sure the program is running smoothly, and as a member of the program can confirm that having a bike has made a huge positive impact on my life. Being able to bike saves time, is relaxing, has allowed me to explore the nearby area, and is helping me stay in better shape. I absolutely love it. I can also tell that even after only renting the bike for a couple weeks I was already much more likely to buy a bike after graduating and would now definitely consider biking to work later in life. I am therefore very excited about this program. Not only do I believe it is having a positive impact on students throughout this semester, but I believe it also has the ability to spread bike culture on Furman’s campus, increase the likelihood students will continue to ride bikes in the future, and decrease the student population’s use of cars to get around campus.

As the transportation fellow, I hope to help Furman’s campus take further steps towards being a pedestrian and bicycle friendly university. Whether this means trying to get covered bike parking in residential areas to keep bikes from rusting and being wet in the morning, or working to make bike maintenance more accessible to bike owners on campus, I am eager to tackle more projects and hope I can help make a positive difference to Furman’s campus.

Laura McComb