Watching Cowspiracy was very shocking and devastating. One of the major things that I found shocking was that many environmental organizations ignored the fact that animal agriculture was the number contributor to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Cows produce 51% of greenhouse gases- more than the entire transportation section. With a big issue like this you’d think environmental organizations would draw more attention to this since they want to save the environment, right? Unfortunately the opposite happens and they refuse to bring attention to the subject. In fact, environmental organizations depend on memberships to get their funding. A ton of people eat meat and if you start telling people to change their lifestyle and stop eating meat for the sake of our environment they might withdraw their membership and the organizations lose money.

In order to get meat to the table, a lot of grassland is needed. Land is becoming limited because of our growing human population. So forests get cut down and deforestation becomes an issue. Once you have grasslands, you’ll need a lot of water for cows to drink and survive. Raising livestock in the United States in total consumes 32 trillion gallons of water. While the cow is growing at an extremely, unhealthy fast rate they are releasing tons of methane into our atmosphere. A lot goes into the animal agriculture industry and a lot of bad stuff comes out of it.

A devastating scene in the movie was when a backyard duck farmer cut a ducks head off in front of another duck and a little girl. The little girl didn’t even flinch and asked why the duck was still moving. Later on the duck farmer explained what he did was “just something that had to be done”. It was extremely heartbreaking.

Cowspiracy was filled with a lot of good knowledge and made you really think about what other issues are being hidden from consumers. Towards the end of the movie it was really pushing the idea of not eating meat at all and how cutting down meat consumption won’t help. I don’t completely agree with this. I believe that anyone can help make a positive change to our environment. Realistically, every single person will not stop eating meat but if people are aware of what is going on in our country and find out that there are solutions to these issues I think that will start a great domino effect.

South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program

A couple of Saturdays ago on November 12th, I volunteered for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and took part in the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program (SCORE). This is a program that collects used oyster shells from around Charleston and reintroduces them into the habitats from where they were originally taken from. Due to the high local consumption rates of oysters, humans are taking a significant portion away from what would naturally become part of the oyster bed. A program such as this one became necessary for the continuing health of local oyster communities. This is an environmentally sustainable program because oyster beds rely on a constant supply of oyster shells to support new oysters and currently is at a state where humans need to start intervening and minimize their own impact. Oyster beds need shells because new larvae is constantly attaching itself to existing shells. Without the presence of these existing shells, new larvae lose places to attach themselves and consequently leads to a decreasing number of oysters. Oysters are extremely important organisms because of their impressive water filtering abilities and their important role in the local Charleston marsh ecosystem. Without oysters we would certainly see several possibly irreversible consequences to this intricate ecosystem. Losing oysters would devastate these existing oyster beds and lead to the deaths of the organisms who rely on these beds for nutrients and shelter.

The step of the program that I took part in was preparing crates of post-human consumption oyster shells to be added to current natural oyster beds. This process involved shoveling a large pile of shells and distributing it among many crates. A mesh cover was zip tied to the top of each filled crate. I ended up doing much of the shoveling and experienced first hand one of the worst smells I’ve ever smelt and broke quite a sweat. Non-the-less this volunteer experience had valuable and positive affects on the local environment and myself as a person. This was just one step of this program. The next step involves taking these crate via boat and adding these shells to oyster beds in need of shells. The step before the crate filling involves collecting the used oyster shells from around Charleston. This is possibly one of the hardest steps due to public education and simply spreading the word. Most restaurants that go though high quantities of oysters are aware of this program and know who to contact for it to be picked up. Most everyone else though are unaware of this program and instead throw out their oyster shells, and essentially rob local oyster beds of necessary shells. This is why spreading words about programs like this is very important and partly up to us citizens and not just the local and federal government. I will be certainly looking forward to future volunteer opportunities focused on helping any of the precious local ecosystems. I believe that anything that people could do to directly help the environment is worth their time because everything in our currently lives goes back to the environment and that is something that will never change.


“Bag It: is your life too plastic?”

Wednesday, November 16th, I attended the documentary and panel about plastic usage and waste. The colleges, Alliance for Planet Earth, held the event. The panel included, Mayor of the City of Folly Beach, Tim Goodwin, Director of Global Partnerships & Community Engagement with 5 Gyres, Lia Colabello, and Program Director of Air, Water, & Public Health at Coastal Conservation League, Katie Zimmerman. And the documentary that followed was, “Bag It: is your life too plastic?”.

I chose to attend this event out of curiosity and to hear Mayor Goodwin speak on the recent ban on plastic out at Folly Beach. I have tried my best recently to stay informed on plastic use in my own life and how our communities near and far are considering their plastic use and waste. After attending this event, the statistics and thoughts shared throughout have reconfirmed the frightening knowledge I already knew, and yet was still able to illustrate a promising future if certain steps are implemented.

Firstly, each panel member spoke and gave their thoughts on where the world is today in terms of plastic consumption and waste. Compelling facts and statistics were shared by each member, certain ones that I found to be very memorable are: 8 million metric tons of non biodegradable plastic enters the ocean annually, 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic are floating ON TOP of the ocean, 1 trillion plastic bags are used a year, and in the United States it takes 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture a plastic bag. And to bring it close to home, there are currently 700,000 tons of microplastics in the Charleston Harbor. After hearing these statistics it almost seems crazy not to have a ban on them everywhere!

This leads to the next topic mentioned, bans and their efficacy. When talking about putting a ban on one of the most prevalent materials used today, one must think how influential will this new policy truly be for our communities and environment? Some answers were provided based off the 54% of areas in the world that are currently under plastic bag free zones. In Ireland, there has been a 95% reduction rate in waste due to plastic. In San Jose, due to the 90% reduction rate in plastic bags they have seen a positive impact on storm drain blockage. When heavy rains would come, violent floods would result due to blockage in the storm drains by plastic waste.

The statistics shared, the impacts noted, and lastly Mayor Goodwin’s words on the recent ban at Folly were the most notable parts of the event for me. I was curious to know how the Folly Beach community responded to the ban, was there any backlash, and how he was moved to make this decision? Luckily, most of these questions were answered! Mayor Goodwin stated that there was 4,784 respondents to the call to action on plastic, all saying that something should be done. With this kind of positive feedback it was easy to fuel the movement towards banning plastic. Mayor Goodwin did mention that there was a small window of backlash towards the ban however. He noted that small ‘mom and pop’ shops were worried that they would not be able facilitate paper bags and that would impede on storage. But Mayor Goodwin responded by saying that plastic has not always been around, and if stores in the past were able to make do, then we can very much make it happen now as well.   

Overall, I found the panel members and documentary to be very enlightening. The documentary was able to open my eyes to the fierce impact of plastic all over the world, and the panel members were able to express ways that this impact can be altered. Mayor Goodwin shared that he used to work for conglomerate, DuPont, and now he is the Mayor of the City of Folly Beach where the first ban on plastic in the state of South Carolina has been passed. Additionally, the panel members have urged students to stay involved in the issue and stay abreast on the politics surrounding the issue. If we are informed and educated we can use our knowledge to influence others, furthering our chances to make big changes.

Also, the event was a Zero Waste event and the food was provided by Grow Food Carolina!!


Volunteering at the MUSC Urban Garden

Last Saturday, I went to the urban farm at MUSC and volunteered. It was such an amazing surprise to arrive and find a diverse, thriving garden unlike any I had ever seen on the Charleston peninsula. Many types of greens, tubers, veggies, herbs, and even succulents filled this green oasis. I entered the garden and saw that others had already arrived and had begun helping with various tasks. Everyone seemed to be very enthusiastic and happy to be spending their morning contributing to the prosperity of such a beautiful space filled with nature. To get involved, I talked to Carmen who helped give me instructions. Carmen works at the garden. She was very friendly and taught me how to do certain tasks and why they were important. First, she showed me a great way to prepare the soil for new plants. I began by taking a broadfork and pressing it completely into the soil. When I leaned back the broadfork would lift the soil upwards. This process helps to aerate the soil without causing damage to the beneficial life systems that take place within. At the MUSC Urban garden, plants are grown in large raised beds. Aerating with a broadfork is used to aerate the soil instead of an alternative such as vermiculite. Carmen taught me that this is because it would take a vast amount of vermiculite to stimulate aeration in sic a large a raised bed compared to using broadfork. I took turns with other volunteers completing this task and removing the weeds from the surrounding area with a garden hoe. Eventually, we had aerated four separate parallel rows that were 15 feet long. Once these were completed, we planted young bok choy sprouts one hand’s-width apart on the four rows. After we had planted the bok choy, I learned how to grow and plant sugar cane. I took a 3 ft. section of sugar cane, dug a horizontal trench six inches deep, placed the sugar cane within, and buried it. Now, in several months, there will be stalks of sweet sugar cane to enjoy! By the time I finished planting the sugarcane, the volunteer period was coming to an end. We were told that since we had helped, we were allowed to take some food from the garden. I collected sweet potato, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and many different types of greens/herbs. After I harvested these organic, fresh plants, I returned home excited to cook up a delicious lunch. To begin, I cooked the sweet potato, radish, carrots, and mustard greens together to create a root vegetable medley. Next, I crisped tempeh with garlic confit. Once it was finished, I added in some kale and broccoli greens. In the end, I created a very tasty meal using the veggies I had earned volunteering. It’s a very special experience to harvest plants straight out of the ground and convert them into a nutrition-packed vegetarian meal.

Overall, I had a very fulfilling, educational experience at the MUSC Urban Farm. I learned different techniques to sustainably produce organic food and discovered a wonderful place to volunteer outdoors with others. I definitely plan to return to this urban sanctuary to volunteer and grow my knowledge of sustainable agriculture.

Herbalism Workshop

On October 26, I attended the College of Charleston’s Office for Alternative Agriculture, herbalism workshop. During this workshop, a presentation on herbal medicine was given. The speaker gave a general overview of what herbalism is, explained different doctrines, medical implications, resources, forms and uses. I will be summarizing the information I learned from the presentation in this post. For those who are unaware, herbalism is the practice of using natural herbs as healing aliments as opposed to using westernized medicine, such as prescription pills and other chemically developed medicines. There are different ways to practice herbalism. Some choose to consume herbs as a way to prevent and suppress symptoms of illness. While other individuals may treat themselves with herbs once they notice they are not feeling up to par. The traditional method of herbalism however, is to consume a variety of herbs daily to prevent feeling ill in the first place. There are several ways herbs can be consumed. They can be dried out and pressed into powders, which can be mixed into food or drinks. Or grinded up and placed in capsules. Tinctures are another method of consumption, which converts herbs into a liquid form by placing them in ethanol or vinegar. Once fermented, the leaves are strained and users consume the liquid at small doses at a time. Combinations of dried herbs can be placed in bags for tea. Herbs can also be mixed into soaps, vaporizers and candles for aromatherapy. There is no right or wrong way to consume herbs however just with anything, too much of one thing can be harmful. Most medical conditions can be treated by herbalism, with exceptions of course. The speaker focused on mental health issues that can be aided with the help herbs. Using the following herbs for example, can relieve anxiety: passionflower, holy basil, kava kava, lavender, chamomile and jasmine to name a few. Alertness can be increased by ginseng, maca, gingko, rosemary and matcha. Generally users do not experience side effects while taking herbal medicine. Addiction and dependence are also not associated with herbal remedies. The same cannot be said for pharmaceutical medicine. A large range of problems can arise from long-term prescription pill use. This especially occurs when people on controlled substances such as depressants, painkillers and stimulants. One does not need to get a prescription for herbal remedies, though it may be advisable to talk to a doctor of naturopathic medicine or herbalist before buying multiple herbal tonics. This will ensure that the client does not over consume supplements.

At the end of the presentation, students were allowed to go up to a table and make their own herbal teas and incense. We were presented with flowerpots of freshly grown rosemary, lavender, spearmint, lemon balm and sage. I had no idea how easy it is to make tea. All one needs to do is separate the desired herbs from the stem, place them into an empty tea bag which can be purchased at any food store, and tie the bag shut. Overall I enjoyed my experience at this workshop and hope that more will occur in the future. I hope to professionally practice herbalism as part of my career in health.Herbs from workshop

MUSC Urban Farm and Dixie Plantation

I’ve been working at Dixie Plantation and volunteering at the MUSC Urban Farm since freshman year. I absolutely love the work that community members/college students and I get to do out there. Members of Cofc’s Farm and Garden Club get awesome hands-on opportunities to go out to Dixie Plantation to plant vegetables and learn about sustainable farming. This semester we were building beds and planting broccoli, radish, kale, and more! With each season, students learn about which food to grow and the different techniques to garden. We also prepped the land for spring semester because we are putting up a pollinator garden as soon as we get the chance. With that we do hope to install beehives on the property in the near future. Dixie plantation is 800 acres and a lot of it isn’t used for farming yet. After a few hours of working on the farm students are able to hike around the plantation and learn about the different water systems on land and the history of the plantation.

MUSC Urban Farm is another great place to learn about sustainable farming and gardening. While working there I also learned about many different ways to farm with however much space one may have. The farm members want to educate people on growing their own food and how beneficial it is. In order to educate community members even further the urban farm has a beehive, compost piles, and recycling/compost bins for trash. Visiting the beehive will make you want to start your very own and Carmen, farm director, can teach you how to start one up. The urban farm is a great place to learn about the many different ways people can have a sustainable life with the stuff they already have.

On both farms the main goal is to educate community members on how to live a sustainable life and how to grow your own food. When working on these farms, workers are given a free grocery trip afterwards! You can take home veggies that you pick. The rest of the harvested food is donated to neighborhood homes that are in need of natural foods so that nothing goes to waste.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

The documentary Cowspiracy is about the the assertion that livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the transportation sector’s emissions. When it comes down to the earth warming, there is more to climate change than just fossil fuels. Livestock produce more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, boats, and planes combined. Cows produce a substantial amount of methane gas from their digestive system. Methane gas from livestock is 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide from vehicles. Livestock plays a major role in global warming, it is also the leading cause of resource consumption in environmental degradation that is destroying our planet today. Both co-producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn argue that our institutional and individual attention to selected environmental issues will not make a collective difference unless we also confront the realities of animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture’s environmental effects are so pervasive that apparent progress elsewhere cannot counter its destructive and growing impact. The film suggests that protecting expanded areas of the oceans will not protect oceans or ocean animals. This goes the same for growing food organically. If we start growing food organically, even on a commercial scale, this will still not protect the land from what has already been done to it. The same also goes for cutting down trees. Keeping lumber operations out of the Amazon will not save the rainforest. No matter what we do or how hard we try to come up with alternative ways to save our planet we have already put us in a deep enough hole that we may not be able to get out of. When looking at statistics, over 100 billion gallons of water is used in the United States but when compared to animal agriculture they consume more than 34 trillion gallons of water. They found that one hamburger is equivalent to 660 gallons of water. That one hamburger is equivalent to showering two entire months! Talk about a waste. We focus so much of our attention on the domestic use of water in American homes which comes down to only 5%. However, when you look at the amount of water animal agriculture uses, they use almost 55% of the water in the United States. That is 2,500 gallons of water for just 1 pound of beef. One thousand gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk. That is insane to me. This causes growing water shortages which makes animal agriculture unsustainable. Seventy billion animals are raised annually worldwide. Everyday over 144 million animals are killed for food. The U.S. farm alone produces 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. That is a lot of cow poop.
When looking at the amount of meat an average American consumes, we consume over 209 pounds of meat each year. Everyday, a person that eats a plant-bladed diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, all equivalent of just 20 pounds of CO2 and one animal’s life. In order to stop this we need to think about when we eat meat, dairy and eggs, we feed this growing catastrophe. Change will happen as quickly as we convince each other to change what we  eat.



Cowspiracy is a documentary exposing the horrors of the agriculture industry. It talks about how large-scale animal farming has huge negative effects on our environment. I think it is a great documentary to introduce people into one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. I really enjoyed this documentary because it helped me easily understand how our actions impact our environment and the big role that politics, media, and technology have on our society and the environment.

Cowspiracy talks about the major environmental issues being caused by the agriculture industry that are being ignored. This issue is not being talked about in our media or discussed by our politicians because of their financial incentives. Animal agriculture uses more than ten times the amount of water we use domestically and it produces over fifty percent of our greenhouse gages yet we continue to do nothing about it. Animal agriculture is unsustainable and we need to make a big change in our food industry before it’s too late.

This is a great documentary to introduce people to one our biggest environmental issues of our time. It makes it easy to understand the facts of how much we are consuming and what the effects of our consumption are. Most people do not know where their food is really coming from. This film makes it easy to track where our food is coming from and the big environmental impacts we make simply by our food choices. These documentary exposes key features of our food industry that are impossible to ignore once they are presented. This documentary makes the viewer want to further investigate our food industries and our political system.

Cowspiracy also helps to develop critical thinking skills about our human relationship with the environment. As humans, we fail to realize that without the environment we would be nothing. We get everything we need from our environment. Our earth provides us with food, shelter, and money. We cannot keep taking from the environment and giving nothing back. Our planet does not have an infinite amount of resources and we are driving them to depletion. This documentary helped me think about how important my connection with the earth is and how my every day choices can make a huge difference. Although one person is not enough to save the planet, this film is a great start to getting people to be aware of our current reality. This documentary does a really good job at sharing critical information and showing us that we need to think more deeply when making our every day choices.

Cowspiracy also shows how much of an impact politics, the economy, and the media play in our everyday lives. One of our main political parties including our presidential candidate, do not even believe that climate change is real. This shows how disconnected we have become from our planet and from our core values. Politics, the media, and the economy are the reasons why animal agriculture continues to be one of the biggest industries and why we continue to deplete our planet of its resources. It also shows how financial incentives can also get industries to make a switch to more sustainable products. We need people to become aware and to bring exposure to these systems and begin to question the role they play in our lives.

The environmental effects from animal agriculture are massive. As we see in the documentary Cowspiracy, industries will not switch to sustainable products unless they are financially motivated. Our entire food industry is destroying the planet and bringing animals that have been around for centuries to extinction. Animal agriculture is destroying our land, our rainforests, and our oceans. There is no possible way that the earth can continue to sustain our demands for animal products. We need to completely change our food consumption habits and switch to sustainable food. It is our responsibility to put our environment first and start making changes in our food industry, the political system, and the media. This film fortified my beliefs and personal choices to follow a mainly vegan diet and I think it would make other people consider their personal choices too.

Bag It Event

On Wednesday evening I attended “Bag It” presented by the Alliance for Planet Earth. The presentation was about plastic bags and included a panel of speakers as well as a screening of a documentary. The panel included Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin, Lia Colabello of 5 Gyres, and Katie Zimmerman of Coastal Conservation League. It was also a zero waste event, meaning all of the food that was served with compostable plates and silverware. Overall, I really enjoyed this event and I feel like I learned a lot from it.

First, the panel spoke about plastic bags and the threat they pose to both our local environment and the planet as a whole. Charleston is particularly sensitive to plastic bags because we live in a coastal environment. When plastic bags get discarded they often end up in the ocean, where they pose a serious threat to wildlife, especially turtles. Folly Beach in particular is home to many loggerhead turtles, so they’re especially concerned with plastic use. I also learned that although plastic doesn’t degrade, it does get broken into smaller and smaller pieces which never disappear and are incredibly hard to clean up, and when in the ocean they attract other chemicals creating a threat for both wildlife and human health. When we eat fish, we may also be ingesting chemicals that the fish had in its system as a result of pollution. A lot of health complications from this bio magnification are still unknown.

A second main point discussed by the panel was policy. Each person on the panel believed that policy was the best way to combat the consequences of plastic pollution. In this past election cycle Folly Beach was the first community in the greater Charleston areas to ban not only plastic bags, but also all Styrofoam containers. This is a huge step forward in protecting our coastline and oceans. Now that Folly Beach has passed this legislation, it will pave the way for places like Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island to take similar steps. However, these policies generally come with a fair amount of opposition, especially from the plastic industry. Some places in the US have passed “preemptive legislation” which essentially makes it impossible to ban plastic bags like Folly Beach recently did. This type of legislation was attempted in Charleston, but fortunately did not pass. I thought the discussion on policy was really informative, and inspiring that places like Charleston are beginning to make real change.

Finally, we watched “Bag it: is your life too plastic”, a documentary about the effects of plastic pollution worldwide. The film followed Jeb Berrier, an average American who attempts to learn more about our dependence on plastics and how it is harming the environment.  Although the documentary was very interesting and informative, I feel the panel was my favorite part of the event. I learned about how plastic impacts me and where I live and how policy can help change that. It was great to hear from real local officials on what we could do to help protect our environment.


By Lea Wright

MUSC: Urban Farm

Earlier this year in an attempt to prevent the Zika virus from having a strong foothold in South Carolina, a county in South Carolina sprayed pesticide. This resulted in the massacre of millions of honeybees. One of the bee farms affected by this massacre was a farm in Summerville, South Carolina. In this farm, a total of 46 hives were destroyed, and 2.5 million bees were murdered. Last month my sorority sisters and I volunteered at MUSC: Urban Farms. While on the farm, I got the opportunity to learn about the huge impact bee have not only on our agriculture, but our society as well. Honeybees are considered nature’s best pollinators. They are responsible for pollinating some of South Carolina’s best crops such as, almonds, blueberries, apples, asparagus, and broccoli. With recent mass decline of honeybees, it is projected that South Carolina will experience a drop in fresh agriculture production in those products. Also while volunteering at the Urban Farm, I learned why bee preservation is so important for our environment. Honeybees are responsible for the estimated cross-pollination of 30% of the world’s food crops and 90% of wild plant growth. While at MUSC Urban Farms they also spoke to us about the recent disappearance of honeybees before the pesticide spraying. They mention that in 2006 the bee population started to decline due to different disturbances in their environment. Those disturbance include, honeybees losing their food sources due to the cultivation of land, honeybees not being able to fight diseases and poisons well due to their genes, and the impact of global warming causing flowers to bloom earlier or later in the season, which doesn’t coincide with the bees coming out of hibernation. Volunteering at MUSC Urban Farm gave me the opportunity to do my part to help the honey bee community. While volunteering I helped build honey bee pollinators out of bamboo and twine for the local honey bees on the farm since the bee population is now declining. Thanks to the donation of a beehive from The Bee Cause Project, the Urban Farm at MUSC is able to continue their mission of building a healthier community and inspiring people in the community to eat local, nutritious and delicious foods. With the new hives, MUSC hope to change people’s perspective of bees as helpful creature which are needed to help pollinate most fruits and vegetables instead of the negative perception bees received as being terrorizer that can sting you. MUSC Urban Farm hopes that with forming this new perception of honeybees, people will think twice before choosing to spray pesticides. After volunteering with MUSC Urban Farm not only has my perception for honeybees change, but I also have the desire to support more locally grown fruits and vegetables vendors.Overall I had a great time volunteering at MUSC: Urban Farm, and I hope to continue to volunteer at MUSC Urban Farm and learn more about what I can do to help the declining bee population and influence more people to eat locally grown organic vegetables and produce.