On October 24th, Georgia College hosted its annual Campus Sustainability and Food Day. Held in congruence with National Food Day and AASHE’s (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) Campus Sustainability Month, this event sought to promote the sustainability efforts of local businesses and campus organizations, as well as local farmers and agriculture. Participants in the event included the Office of Sustainability, Salamander Springs, Comfort Farms, the Oconee River Greenway, the local wastewater treatment plant, the Earth Action Team, the Environmental and Gardening Clubs, and Non-Human Animal Rights advocates. Local restaurant Kirk’s Jerk Kitchen provided food samples. In addition, the campus presented John Wathen, a Hurricane Creekkeeper and environmental activist, who discussed the environmental impacts of several business practices in our region.
At the forefront of the on-campus efforts was the Office of Sustainability. The Office operates and oversees the major green efforts on Georgia College, including recycling and tracking the use of resources such as water and electricity. In addition, representatives from the Georgia College Sustainability Council were on hand at the event. The council is dedicated to reviewing and implementing initiatives on campus to promote sustainability. The major program of the council is the “Green Initiative,” which serves to incorporate and disseminate principles of environmental protection to the university and the surrounding community.
Additionally, the new Earth Action Team engaged in the event. The Earth Action Team functions through the GIVE center on campus and allows students to take a hands-on role in the upkeep of our ecosystems. The Earth Action Team is working with the composting project on campus, which takes post-consumer food waste from the Max Dining Hall and transforms it into usable compost. The environmental science-based organization is also now working to partner with the Campus Kitchens initiative, which is a national organization devoted to hunger-relief efforts. The team is constantly looking for new volunteers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in order to preserve the integrity of our environment.
Along with the other on-campus organization, the Gardening Club showed its support in this event. The Gardening Club grows organic produce, such as basil, grapes, peppers, and tomatoes. The club manages efficiency in its multiple plots by placing cardboard underneath the mulch in the garden in order to help retain soil moisture as well as suppress the growth of weeds. Recently, the organization has taken over management of the West Campus Garden; and the club is beginning to utilize compost from the campus compost project, despite the project still being in its infancy.
Salamander Springs arrived at the event to showcase what it calls “sustainability at its finest.” The farmhouse is just outside of Milledgeville and is a fully off-grid, self-sustaining homestead. It uses mainly solar energy to power its utilities as well as self-composting toilets, and the entire homestead is constructed out of recyclable materials. The farmhouse is committed to the growth of organic crops and produce, such as vegetables, culinary herbs, and medicinal herbs. The homestead offers its produce for sale frequently at the Mulberry Street Market in Macon and the Greenway Farmer’s Market in Milledgeville.
Furthermore, the campus saw advocates for Non-Human Animal Rights. These activists showcased their sustainability efforts in the form of recyclable containers as well as ongoing endeavors to help preserve endangered species.
Comfort Farms attended the event as well. Comfort Farms in Milledgeville is an agricultural therapy farm to help veterans afflicted with PTSD. The farm allows veterans to raise crops and animals in order to empower veterans and enable them to lead stable and successful lives. The farm grants veterans short-term accommodations, and works to enable participants to prepare for everyday life and a successful future through sustainable agriculture.
Furthermore, The Oconee River Greenway displayed its dedication to a sustainable future at the event. The Greenway Park and Riverwalk offers residents of Milledgeville and Baldwin County with a beautiful area to experience the outdoors. Filled with the soothing sounds of the Oconee River, the Greenway is a place to walk, bike, run, and relax in the full immersion of nature. In addition to the walking areas, the Greenway offers a multitude of stations for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. The Greenway is ultimately dedicated to the full preservation of the Oconee River for future generations.
Local Restaurant Kirk’s Jerk Kitchen provided food for the event. Owned by a Jamaican family, Kirk’s Jerk Kitchen provides Milledgeville with the taste of authentic Jamaican Cuisine. Opened just last year, the family-owned business provides a wide variety of Jamaican and southern dining choices and can be found right along North Wayne Street.
Finally, the event held a representative from the local wastewater plant. The plant participated in the event to raise awareness for waste improperly disposed of through household and corporate water drains. These items included grease, garbage, rags, and even tires. The company also works with restaurants in order to help ensure that waste is being disposed of properly. The plant informed attendees about how the improper disposal of waste through the sewer system not only has environmental ramifications, but is also much more expensive for the plant to clean out as well as for people to have their drains cleaned and repaired from abuse.
Beyond the organizations that participated in the Campus Sustainability and Food Day, the college held a talk from John Wathen to discuss the environmental issues that he has observed in his time as an activist and photojournalist. Wathen began his career by working in the coal industry, and the constant exposure to the harmful elements involved in the job has permanently affected his health, one of these elements being coal ash. Wathen explored the extreme environmental consequences of coal ash and the mismanagement of the toxin. He explored how large amounts had entered into the Emory River on account of the unwillingness of corporations to dispose of the substance properly. This, in turn, contaminated the river and decimated the aquatic wildlife. Wathen urged listeners to stand up to these kinds of environmental injustices and work to hold firms accountable for their actions.
The Campus Sustainability and Food Day allowed Georgia College students a chance to interact with organizations devoted to sustainability efforts, as well as encouraging them to take part in the efforts to keep our world green.