Homelessness and Environmental Innovations

Homelessness has gradually decreased in the past years, but it is still very prevalent in America. Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is due to the high cost of housing and unemployment. Our society mainly recognize homeless people standing in front of stores begging for money wearing worn down clothing, but experiencing homelessness can be from sleeping outside of a tent or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. There are many perceptions on the homeless. Nonetheless, homelessness affects us, from the environment we live in from sustainability to our economy. Homelessness is a social issue that connects us with the physical and natural environment. There are some arguments that environmental degradation is correlated or the same as social equity, this could be the result of large corporation greed. For example, large corporations who are producing harmful chemicals in the environment near a poverty-stricken area, where homelessness is more prevalent.

Every Saturday, I volunteer with the Low Country Herald. The Low Country Herald is a nonprofit organization that produces print publications that the homeless sell to the people, and they get to keep the profits to generate an income for them get out of poverty. Paul Gangarosa is the founder of this nonprofit organization and a professor at the College of Charleston.

Professor Gangarosa is trying to create a Shower truck for the homeless in Charleston, SC. This would provide the homeless to have a suitable area for them to shower and provide hygiene products. This is also, an environmental effort by having a portable shower truck: conservation of water (having timed showers), low consumption of energy, portability (meaning not having a permanent area, less space is used), and cost-effective. This project is still in the works. His other projects include building tiny houses for the homeless this would incorporate green building practices into public houses. This would be both sustainable, cost-effective, and a way to get people off the streets.

Every Saturday, volunteers and I usually set up a couple tent, tables, and chairs on a vacant lot. And then we usually bring food trays that contain various amounts of foods that are all voluntarily brought. So I usually serve food for the homeless and wrap up their foods if they are on the go. We also, provide hygiene bags that contain travel sized soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, women’s hygiene products, shampoo, conditioner, and many more. Every second Saturday, a health clinic comes and people who are certified to check the homeless body conditions. This includes measurement of blood pressure, glucose levels, temperature, and giving them advice to keep up their health.

We also ask questions to the individuals who come on Saturdays, we ask for their name, age, if they are experiencing homelessness, and if they had a job or not. By asking these questions, this helps us become more aware on how prevalent the homeless community is in the area and what we could do about it. We hand out flyers for the homeless that has a number on it, if they need a job.

All in all, I think we should create more sustainable innovative ways for the community to go green. This would not only help our environment overall, but also the homeless.



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.


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.

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.