Homemade Soaps (Extra Credit #4)

I have always had horrible allergies my whole life. My skin is very responsive to harsh, synthetic chemicals.  The skin is easiest way to let in harmful chemicals and toxins inside the body. Many common harmful chemicals inside soaps include Triclosan (which is a toxic pesticide that has antibacterial fighting properties), Parabens, and preservatives. I have shopped at stores such as lush and Earthfare to by products with less chemicals. Instead this time I attempted to make my own soap. A few weeks ago I went over to my friend’s house and we made soap.

I love lavender so I wanted to incorporate that into my soap.We used a cold process to make our soap. We followed a recipe online that consists of :

  • ⅔ cup coconut oil
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ⅔ cup other liquid oil – (we used almond oil)
  • ¼ cup lye
  • ¾ cup cool water- (we used tap water)
  • 50 drops of lavender essential oil (any essential oil can be used)

When making the soap, I thought I would be able to take the soap home the next day, however I found out that making soap takes a lot more time. Once we cut our big loaf of soap into small bars it then took four more weeks for the soap to cure while being exposed to air.

Honestly, it was not cheap making this soap because essential oils can become expensive, however we both were able to provide many of our family members and friends with soap because of the pan we used. The pan was so large that we were able to cut ten bars from it. When using my bar of soap, I felt healthy knowing that I was using all safe, natural products. I will never go back to buying brands of soap with toxic chemicals. My skin feels more refreshed and healthier already.

Deforestation (Extra Credit #3)

An estimated 18 million acres of forests are lost each year due to deforestation. Deforestation is the removal of a substantial amount of trees in which case the land is used for something other than non-forest usage. Deforestation is a common effect of humans trying to attempt to make space for the growing population. I have lived in Summerville and the surrounding areas my whole life. The Lowcountry is not able to handle the effects of a growing population. When I was younger, much of Summerville was considered “country”. Now, Summerville has grown so large that many forests and tress have been removed to build neighborhoods or even tacky strip malls.

The environment faces many different effects of deforestation such as a reduction of biodiversity. This happens because many animals loose their homes and in this way are not able to thrive, survive or even reproduce. Biodiversity is limited because of the loss of various species. If there is not biodiversity, different species may die out and become in risk of becoming extinct. In general trees provide us with many different benefits. Some benefits of trees include oxygen production, conservation of energy, helps to save water, provide wood, provide food, increase property values, help to aid in prevention of water pollution, trap dust and aid in the prevention of ultra-violent rays because of their shading properties.

Some solutions to deforestation include taking many different political stands. If large corporations and manufactures should have the power to destroy large forests, they should also have the power to preserve them. More policies need to be inforced and set into place for preserving valuable land before the Lowcountry is no longer viewed as what it really is. Another solution to deforestation includes improving already developed lands. Even something as small as planting little trees around these already developed lands aids in combating total deforestation.



Air Pollution (Extra Credit #2)

According to a WHO report, air pollution has killed about 7 million people in 2012. Because the population is increasing, these numbers will only continue to increase. Some major sources of air pollution are caused by burnings of fossil fuels, fuels from automobiles, smoke, and high portions of undesirable gases that are being admitted into the atmosphere. Air pollution has major negative effects on the environment and human health.

Some symptoms that are shown to be effects of air pollution are increased risks of cancers, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular illnesses, fatigue, skin irritations,  dizziness, birth defects, and nervous system damage. Because of the growing population, we will only have a stronger effect on the world and ourselves. Because of human’s unwise choices we have left our mark on ourselves, which has implications on our DNA for futures to come.

As for the environment some effects air pollution has caused is global warming also known as climate change, ozone depletion, haze, acid rain, and major effects on wildlife. Animals tend to have many of the same symptoms and effects of air pollution that humans have such as respiratory functioning if exposed to sufficient amount of pollution over  an extended period of time.

Some ways as humans we can reduce high amounts of air pollution include carpooling/ taking public transportation/ walking/ biking, recycling, use less energy/ example- opening windows to allow light and air inside, use ozone-friendly products, choose an energy efficient car to drive, and planting more trees.

Humans do not understand the effect that we have put on the earth, we may never be able to totally reverse the effects. However, we are able to limit these effects by starting now! If we never start, there is little hope for a thriving future for the human race and the planet, Earth. Save our earth, save our people!

Gardening Tips (Extra Credit #1)

Throughout the whole semester we have talking in great detail about organic foods. Since I was younger my family has always had a garden where we grow fruit, vegetables and herbs without using any synthetic products to aid in production. Gardening requires a lot of patients and effort. When first starting your garden it is always beneficial to so some background research on what you are planning on planting. It is important to look into which seasons these plants should be grown, as well as how much water the plants should be getting, levels of sunlight exposure, and levels of humidity. You will also want to make sure the soil is healthy wherever you are planning on starting your garden. One sign that you have healthy soil is to see if worms are living within the soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants that are better able to fight off various pests and diseases.

When you first start your garden, you may get excited and feel that you may need to water the plants much more than they actually should be watered. Make sure to note that over-watering plants in many cases is worse than under watering them. It can be very challenging to revive over watered, drowned roots. Make sure to leave a lot of space between various types of herbs/ fruit/ vegetables. One type of using effective space is by planing in blocks. Planting in blocks allows for eliminating any unnecessary plant pathways.

Gardening provides one with stress relief, exercise, increased immunity because of direct exposure to dirt and plants, and an overall improved, healthier diet. With gardening, there is no middle man which helps in eliminating the carbon footprint. Gardening also allows for you to know what you are eating because you are producing your own food, not getting food from unknown sources. I think everyone should have a garden at some point in their life! Get creative and try different herbs!



Corporate Sustainability

I have found the projects in our class on sustainable practices in different businesses to be extremely interesting. In a time where there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the future of the environmental movement, it is both exciting and hopeful to see both big and small companies making strides in the right direction.

In particular I have loved hearing about bigger companies, that may not have always embraced sustainable practices, changing their tone. I believe this is strongly to do with the consumer, and what the consumer wants. This goes to prove again what we have discussed in class, that the consumer holds a great deal of power. Companies pay a great deal of money to understand what we, as the consumer, want from their products.

For many right now the environmental movement is “in style”, and while this may not be the ideal in why one should believe in the environmental movement, at least it isn’t pushing against it. Due to this being in style companies are marketing to the point of view, the millennials that are looking to save the world. And with the new marketing platforms on social media, companies are able to sell even when you’re not looking for it. We as the consumer need to hold on to this control, and keep these large companies moving toward a more sustainable future.

Clean Regatta Volunteer Work

Something that I have been involved with this year is helping to prepare from Charleston Race Week with Clean Regattas. Clean Regattas is an organization that encourages regattas to practice sustainability to protect our oceans. You can register a regatta and form a green team on the Clean Regattas website. I sail for the college, and am a Sustainable Urbanism major with a Sustainability minor, so this event was interesting to me in many ways.

Charleston Race Week is the biggest keelboat regatta in America, hosted here in Charleston, and is sponsored by Sperry. Charleston Race Week is now in its 21st year (the regatta was established in 1996). In 2006, Charleston Race Week drew entries from as far away as England, Canada, Michigan, and California, with more than 70 percent of the competitors arriving from out of town. The story was much the same in 2007 and 2008, with increased numbers of participants each year. The event has grown by an average of 15 percent in recent years and evolved to become the largest keelboat regatta in the Western Hemisphere.

startingline1996 2

Clean regattas is the world’s only sustainability certification for water-based events.
Over 1,000 regattas, gams, rallies and cruises have registered as Clean Regattas. One part education, two parts activation, the program unites and mobilizes sailors by offering support and resources to help conserve and protect the ocean.

Working with Clean Regattas, you are part of a green team that is dedicated to sustainability. You assess, begin, and follow through on clean regatta initiatives. You then document these initiatives. Some initiatives include:

  1. Paperless regattas- going paperless for your regatta registrations and Notice of Race, and prioritizing paper communications.
  2. Reduce plastic water bottles- provide or encourage the use of reusable water bottles (On average, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour and many of them end up in the landfill, or worse, your local waterway.)
  3. Responsible dinnerware- most regattas will provide a mean for their participants, and clean regattas encourages regattas to utilize responsible dinnerware that can be composted or recycled.
  4. More responsible awards- Regatta trophies can be very energy-intensive to create and often end up sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere, so regattas are encouraged to find alternative trophy options.
  5. Good Waste Management- Well-labeled bins and volunteers to help point people in the right direction are paramount to an event having good waste management.
  6. Toxic-free Cleaning- You can request all participants limit their impact on local water quality by using “water only washdowns” (“WOW!”) at the end of racing. After most sailboat racing, competitors will wash salty water or other substances off of their boats (its bad for the boat if you leave it on there) and use harsh chemicals that usually run into the water. Hull scrubbing can lead to the build up of toxic chemicals in your local waters as well as the potential introduction of invasive species.
  7. Efficient Power Boats- You can request that regattas utilize lightweight, fuel-efficient rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). These boats use carbon fiber and weigh a third of the weight of a normal RIB, while using only 20 percent of the fuel.
  8. Trash cleanup- you also can go through the regatta site and clean up trash after the event.


Sailors for the Sea is the world’s leading conservation organization that engages, educates, inspires and activates the sailing and boating community toward healing the ocean. Their global affiliates help expand this mission across the globe. They work in places from Japan, to Portugal, to the US.

Climate Change in My Home State

Being from West Virginia, we typically expect a harsh winter filled with snow. However, this year my home state was experiencing high temperatures through the winter months. Could this be from climate change? Growing up, winter was a time that had a lot of snow and cold temperatures. This year, I believe it only snowed in my hometown two times. One of those times was a pretty decent snow storm that lasted for only a couple of hours. The other time was a very light snow. There were days this past winter in West Virginia where the temperature would reach the high 60’s and low 70’s. With that in mind, I would say that the effects of global warming and climate change are becoming more clear. It is irregular for my home state to have a warm winter. Unfortunately, most people are not looking at this as an issue. People are happy about not having to deal with the cold weather and snow for a change. We were faced with warm winter days and this summer I am sure we will be faced with unbearable heat. Looking at the bigger picture, this will be bad for West Virginia.

The warmer temperatures will cause many environmental problems. Deer breed when the weather is warm, so the warm weather will allow the deer to reproduce even more. This could turn into a huge problem since deer are already so over populated in the state. You cannot drive anywhere without seeing a deer or two. In my neighborhood, it is not uncommon to see around five deer on your drive home. Another species that would be greatly effected is the state fish, the brook trout. The brook trout lives in cooler waters and if the temperature keeps rising, the water levels in the streams will decline and increase in temperature. This would lead for the brook trout to no longer be supported by the stream anymore. Droughts will increase along with flooding.

I did not start to see the effects of global warming in my home state until these past couple of years. I believe that this issue is only getting worse and our past winter is a great example of that.




Reusable Bag Greenwashing

Many stores want to do their part in reducing plastic waste and reducing their carbon footprint. It has become a popular practice for businesses such as Target, T.J. Maxx, and many grocery stores like Ingles to sell reusable bags in order to reduce the amount of plastic bags used in store. Unfortunately, many of these bags are a prime example of greenwashing due to the fact that they are often made of plastic rather than natural, eco-friendly fabrics. Consumers are told they are making the “green” choice by buying these reusable bags, which I guess in a sense they are because they are not using the regular plastic bags, but marketing for these bags are misleading.

In class we discussed Target’s sustainability initiatives and we discussed the issues around the use of their reusable bags. I had never thought about the fact that the reusable bags were still made of plastics! I think stores could spend a little bit more money to produce bags made from recycled materials rather than plastics and it could be a win-win situation for the company and the environment in the long run.

I think it would be a great idea for companies to use recycled materials and fabrics to create reusable bags, but since they would be using all different types of materials it would be cool to have the bags reflect the variations. For example, if a company used recycled denim to create a bag, the bag would be denim or if recycled canvas was used to create the bag, the bag would be canvas. This would allow consumers to see that all the bags are different meaning they really came from recycled materials. This would also promote the popular trend of up-cycling to consumers.

MUSC Urban Farm

I have never considered myself as the person who has a green thumb. At home I would always get nervous when I was in charge of watering the flowers because I felt like they would always die when I just looked at them. That is why when my friend asked me if I wanted to come with her and check out the MUSC Urban Farm, I king of dragged my feet. Gardening and I were never friends. However, I thought back to everything I learned in this class and remembered thinking how sad it was that people do not know where their food comes from, so how could I not go and check it out?

We drove over to the half-acre garden out on Bee St. and I was amazed. In the middle of a concrete lot, there were rows and rows of plants. We got to work on planting…do not ask what kind. All I remember was basil. All the other names have already left my head. I’ll work on that, I promise. We weeded around some plots, saw some beautiful butterflies, and my highlight was the furry caterpillar that I became friends with.

After going and helping out, I became curious as to what the farm does to help out the community. After some research, I found out that their mission statement is, “The mission of the MUSC Urban Farm is to build a healthier community by growing crops and social connections while educating and inspiring people with local, nutritious, and delicious food.” I found it really cool how they create a real hands on environment where people can become inspired to learn about what they are eating and how to incorporate more vegetables into their every day lives. They offer workshops, seminars, and host school field trips to spread their message as far as they can. I think this hands on approach to education is the key to getting people involved and interested. I know it at least got me interested in attempting to take care of at least one plant over the summer as a summer project. Baby steps.

Board of Zoning Appeals (City of Charleston)

I attended a Charleston City Board of Zoning Appeals meeting recently. It was held in the public meeting room at the Gaillard Center Municipal Building. There were four board members (Leonard Krawcheck, Michael Robinson, Margaret Smith, John Lester) and three staff members (Lee Batchelder, Pennye Ashby, and Vanessa Ellington) present. The audience consisted of roughly thirty people, a larger meeting than I anticipated it to be. . The agenda consisted on only one point of business concerning a property within the west side of Charleston on 721 King Street. Those applying for the appeal wanted to convert the ground floor of their office building into a restaurant with 1,750sf for inside patron use and 400sf of outside use, without providing required off-street parking spaces.

Discussion of this site took well over an hour. It began with an employee of the applicant business, Urbs LLC, giving a presentation of their plan for the restaurant addition underneath the existing office. In order to conduct this reconstruction, a special exception under Sec. 54-511 would have to be granted. Charleston is full of atypical structures that do not fit the normal standards, and this employee was trying to persuade the council that 721 King was just another case. He brought well thought out presentation boards and wore a nice suit, but his theoretical land use initiative was missing one factor- input from the locals.

This was a major contrast to what came next. After his presentation, community members were asked if they had any comments to add. At least seven people from the audience stood up and voiced their unsupportive opinion of the restaurant addition. The first man, a resident of 1 Race Street, complained that it would negatively impact his community because of the limited parking. A pregnant woman from 9A Race Street also said that this would put a strain on the area. She claimed that she already had to park blocks away from her house due to the congestion in automobile circulation. When carrying groceries and small children home after a long day of work, the last thing anyone wants to do is make a long trek home. The woman talked about her elderly neighbor who rarely leaves her house since she is afraid to have to park her car on a street that isn’t her own. She expressed love for her neighborhood, saying that her family is proud of the build up of businesses and restaurants she has seen over the past five years. There are just practical issues of residents that need to be factored into this now booming area.

The neighborhood association president spoke next, and passionately discussed his interest to preserve the block. He hoped that residents would not lose the sense of contentment and intimacy they feel towards their neighborhood because of Charleston’s obvious gentrification up King Street. It is detrimental to have residents and patrons of these businesses fighting over their claim of the space. Traffic not only blocks in residents, but also the bus stops nearby.

The zoning board members discussed the parking issue amongst themselves. One by one they agreed to disapprove the motion. What stood out to me the most about this meeting was community involvement that comes with projects like this. Businesses want to come in and strictly make money. I mean in our capitalist society, isn’t that all people live for? It is when individual’s lives are negatively altered and inconvenienced that issues arise. This area is not just a developmental gold mine for urban planners; it is where dads teach their kids to ride bikes and the aging live out their last peaceful years. Space has meaning attached to it, and urban planning should heavily involve the people it affects in order to maintain positive social sustainability.