Help Georgia College Celebrate Campus Sustainability Month!

Held every October, Campus Sustainability Month is an international celebration of sustainability in higher education. Throughout the month, colleges and universities organize events on campus and elsewhere to engage and inspire incoming students and other campus stakeholders to become sustainability change agents. These events include teach-ins, sustainability pledge drives, zero-energy concerts, waste audits, green sporting events, letter-writing campaigns, service projects and much more!

Each week during the month of October will have a different theme, each focusing on one aspect of sustainability:

October 5-11: Energy Efficiency Week

  • Topics will include water and air quality, pollution, fossil fuels, and energy efficiency
  • Featured Events: 
    • Energy Efficiency Virtual Roundtable (Register for FREE here!)

October 12-18: Food Systems Week

  • Topics will include agriculture, food waste, and food insecurity
  • Featured Events:
    • October 16: World Food Day
    • Virtual tour of GC’s Community Garden and Compost Facility
    • Swipe Out Hunger Meeting

October 19-25: Global Climate Change Week

  • Topics will include carbon emissions, renewable energy, and green infrastructure
  • Featured Events:
    • Virtual screening of The Human Element
    • Showcase of Luma, the Solar Flower

October 26-31: Zero Waste Week

  • Topics will include recycling, upcycling, compost, and sustainable shopping
  • Featured Events:
    • Hard to Recycle Items Collection Drive
    • Virtual Zero Waste Workshop

***All dates for events can be found on the calendar below.

October at a Glance:

If you are interested in participating in any of these events or learning more about the topic of sustainability, please fill out the form below and let us know which events you are interested in and the Office of Sustainability will follow up with more detailed information about each event you select!

Campus Sustainability Month Interest Form

Do Your Share for Cleaner Air!

The consequences of poor air quality over long periods of time, for both humans and the rest of the natural environment, are appearing all across the globe. In fact, the effects of poor air quality are so intense in certain areas, the WHO estimates, “… air pollution causes about 2 million premature deaths worldwide per year”. Global warming, photochemical smog, acid rain, and depletion of the ozone layer are only a handful of the side-effects of our globe’s deteriorating air quality. Even in the United States where, for over 5 decades, we have had legislation specifically designed to tackle this issue, the adverse impacts of air pollution are undeniable. 

For instance, the Pacific Northwest region of the United States has had consistently bad air quality for decades. On any given day, this area (including Washington, Oregon, and Northern California), will be ranked “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” due to the high levels of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide: the five major air pollutants measured by the EPA to gauge an area’s air quality. Current air quality dangers in the Pacific Northwest are fueled by annual wildfires. The smoke from these fires contains copious amounts of gases and fine particles that remain in the air and in the environment long after the fires have been put out. However, natural emitters of these substances are only responsible for a fraction of the pollution in our air. Anthropogenic sources in the United States, and worldwide, are the largest contributing factor to poor air quality.

It is no secret that industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change; the production of beef in the United States alone accounts for 3.3 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, not including any other form of agriculture or the resources it takes to distribute these goods. Significant amounts of pollutants are constantly being released from CAFOs, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and pesticides, into the surrounding areas. Due to the concentration of these chemicals, farmers and other individuals living in close proximity to agricultural sites are particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of poor air quality. 

Air Quality Bathroom Fan
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality with Items You Already Own

Although major improvements in air quality will take the cooperation of many big businesses, organizations, and politicians, there are actions we can take on an individual level to improve the quality of our air at home!

Number 1: Make Your Home a No-Smoking Zone!  Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals that have been proven to cause or worsen certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and certain cancers. Health experts suggest that eliminating second-hand cigarette smoke is the single most important aspect of keeping the air quality of your home clean.

Number 2: Skip Aerosols and Air-Fresheners Altogether! Using natural essential oils and plant extracts rather than synthetic air fresheners can reduce the amount of chemicals being put into your air. Here is a recipe for a natural air freshener:

“A common way to use essential oils as a way to freshen the air in your home is by following this recipe.

Mix your ingredients together in a spritzer bottle, shake well, then spray away!”

Check out the full article here!

Number 3: Pot a Few Plants! Along with being an aesthetically pleasing part of your home decor, certain plants such as aloe vera, ferns, or spider plants act as living air purifiers by absorbing chemical pollutants put out by synthetic materials many of us use at home. However, if you are a parent or pet-owner, some of these plants may be poisonous if ingested. It is important to do your research to find the plant that is best for your home.

Number 4: Open Your Windows Regularly! Opening your windows and doors every so often will release the stale air that has built up in your home outside, while allowing fresh air in. This can be a great tool for regulating the humidity in your home, which can reduce your chances of getting dust mites and mold build-up.

Number 5: Go Fragrance-Free! Opting for fragrance free or naturally scented products such as perfumes, deodorants, laundry detergents, dish soaps, air fresheners, etc. will reduce the amount of harsh chemicals being put into your home’s air system.

50 Years of the EPA

For five decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked diligently to ensure that America’s natural landscapes and resources are handled with the utmost care. Since their inception in 1970, the organization has enforced significant regulations, implemented National Compliance Initiatives, and passed more than 50 laws and executive orders in an effort to create a cleaner and healthier America. 

Quickly following the publishing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, there was a growing concern among citizens about environmental issues that, up until that point, had gone almost entirely unnoticed. However, when public spaces such as beaches and rivers that were once used as vacation spots for many families started to become overrun with pollutants, there seemed to be a newfound understanding of how directly the health of the environment affects human life. This heightened concern from the public placed pressure on the Nixon administration to take action against the degradation of our natural resources. In his presentation to the House and Senate regarding environmental protection, Nixon proposed stricter air quality standards and guidelines, increased taxes and legislation on the use of polluting chemicals, launching federally-funded research, and a four billion dollar budget for the improvement of water-treatment facilities alone. To tackle these projects (among others), Nixon’s environmental council recommended that all environmental efforts be concentrated under the responsibility of one agency, thus the EPA was born. 

In their relatively short time as an agency, the EPA has made major strides in the fields of environmental health, natural land conservation, resource use, and environmental education. Many of the EPA’s most significant impacts were made during their first few years, including the Clean Air Act (1970), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), Clean Water Act (1972), and the Ocean Dumping Act (1972). Due to the quick action taken by the EPA, American citizens have largely been able to avoid the damaging health effects of environmental degradation such as cardiac illness, waterborne disease, and lower-respiratory infections that remain prevalent in many other parts of the world. 

Protesters shortly before the passing of the Clean Air Act (1970).

The progress of the EPA has not come without backlash, however. Despite their efforts to improve environmental conditions for everyone, over the years they have received harsh criticism and pushback from opposing political groups. Nevertheless, the EPA has continued to push forward with projects and legislation that act in the best interest of our people and our planet.


Sustainability Fee Program

According to Section Two of the Sustainability Council’s bylaws, its purpose is to, “…identify and promote actions and initiatives that will enhance sustainability on campus” and to, “…incorporate the practices of sustainability and environmental planning into the short and long-term activities of the university…”. One of the ways the Sustainability Council aims to accomplish these goals is with the advent of the Sustainability Fee Program (SFP), a subset of the Sustainability Council at Georgia College. It consists of four student members, a Director and three Assistant Directors, who focus primarily on determining how the funds collected from each students’ Sustainability Fee will be used to make Georgia College a more sustainable campus by reviewing the grant proposals that are presented throughout the school year. At least once per semester, the Chair of the Sustainability Council will request grant proposal submissions from classes, student organizations on campus, or directly from individual students. Applications for grant proposals may be submitted to Once applications have been submitted, they are then reviewed by the Director of the SFP for completion and accuracy and given suggestions for improvements that could be made before the final submission. 

Academic Year 2020-2021 Student Members:

Director: Meagan Sullivan: I am a senior Geography major with a minor in Global Health and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). As well as being a member of the Sustainability Council, I was also recently hired as the Office of Sustainability’s Community Outreach Intern. I have a special interest in environmental health and how it impacts human health; I believe that moving toward a more environmentally sustainable society is an imperative part of repairing and maintaining the health of our planet and all things that inhabit it. 

Assistant Directors:

Jessica Eleazer: I have a major in psychology, a minor in environmental science, and am pursuing the sustainability certificate. Sustainability can have a great beneficial impact on the world, and can hopefully allow the world to thrive for many more years to come. I volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Good Hope, GA. This has helped me understand the impact animal agriculture has on the world, and how precious all beings’ lives are.

Ally Esmond: Hello!  My name is Ally Esmond.  I am a sophomore Environmental Science major with a minor in Geology and a certificate in Geographic Information Science.  Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing guitar, hanging with friends, and long walks in the rain.  Sustainability to me means finding creative methods to preserve our resources and environment.

Savannah Taylor: I’m a World Languages and Cultures, and Economics double major- my concentration is in Spanish and I love to help tutor students in the language lab. I am also a part of the GCSU Leadership Certificate Program and am pursuing another certificate in Sustainability. I love sustainability because I think it’s something anyone can participate in as it stretches across all disciplines. I work for the Office of Sustainability as the Garden Manager so I’m usually covered in dirt, but I’m always looking to teach students the gardening basics and look forward to getting even more people involved in our campus garden this year! 

How to Practice Sustainability at Home: An 8-Week Transformation Guide

Sustainable habits should last a lifetime, not for just a few days or weeks. With the number of coronavirus cases increasing each day, government officials are strongly advising citizens to stay in their homes which leaves many of us with extra time on our hands. We’ve decided to use that extra time to practice living a more sustainable lifestyle. Do you want to try it too? Lucky for you, we’ve created an 8-week transformational guide that allows you to gradually transition to a more sustainable lifestyle! 

*Do not feel obligated to follow these steps strictly. These are only suggestions for those who are seeking to live more sustainably.

Week 1: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Donate

Take the first week to evaluate your cabinets for food and supplies and make a pile of items you can donate. We decided to create three categories: reusable items, single-use items, and trash, to help you take inventory. Later, you could replace and substitute items like paper towels, styrofoam, and plastic ware with more sustainable products such as washable towels, glassware, or bamboo products. Be sure to keep on the recycle grind while working from home. If you live in Milledgeville, save your glass bottles and recycle them using GC’s glass crusher at the beginning of next semester! (Just drop them by Miller Court Room 310!)

Week 2: Reduce Your Meat Consumption

This is arguably the hardest step, which is why we placed it early on in the process so your body has time to adjust. If you are a heavy meat eater, it might be best to reduce the amount of meat you eat each week. Strive to reject meat two or three days a week and replace it with plant substitutes. Protein consumption remains one of the most common concerns associated with plant-based diets. Check out this NBC article chock full of recipes and information to help you eat more plant protein! 

In the meantime, you’re helping animals, too! The Power of Plant-Based Eating by Dr. Joanne Kong, a short documentary discussing the impact of your diet, is available on YouTube. 

Week 3: Start Your Own Garden

Fresh produce can be great for your body and mind, especially after being cooped up inside all day getting down and dirty can be a great way to relax. Summer is just around the corner, so get to planting for your at-home produce to spring up in time to land on your dinner table! Check out this blog by Simply Quinoa that has a list of summer produce options so you’ll know what to plant, further helping you to transition into step 2! 

Week 4: Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle

Take advantage of a reusable water bottle. Most of the plastic water bottles we use end up in landfills. This Washington Post article explains that each year, an American sends about 100 water bottles to the landfill. If you’re at home, there’s no need to be drinking from single-use water bottles. So, keep those extra water bottles from entering the landfill altogether. After all, drinking all that water will keep your skin healthy and fresh!

Week 5: Go Tree Free

Reduce and replace the number of paper products in your home. Try cutting out paper towels and using washable towels. Reduce the amount of toilet paper you use and opt for a tubeless brand. We promise that three-four squares of single ply won’t hurt you. Also, single-ply toilet paper degrades more quickly in water making it more eco-friendly than its cushy competitors. Instead of tissues, try a washable handkerchief. 

Check out this Yale article on the impact of the logging industry. Your contribution may be small, but it does matter! 

Week 6: Switch to LED Lighting

Making the switch to LED bulbs can put money back in your pocket and reduce energy consumption. According to the United States Department of Energy’s article on LED Lighting, making the switch from traditional bulbs saves 75% more energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs also last much longer saving you replacement money in the long run!

Week 7: Adopt Tote Bags

Single-use plastic bags litter our waterways, parks, and other natural habitats. In fact, New York City has banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags due to the obscene amount of plastic waste created annually. Check out this NYT article with more information on the new law passed to ban plastic bags in NYC. To decrease your waste production, ditch plastic bags and carry a tote bag or keep some in your car for shopping trips. 

Week 8: Switch to Bamboo Straws and Toothbrushes

To conclude your 8-week transformation, switch out single-use plastic items like toothbrushes and straws for reusable metal, or our favorite, bamboo materials. Pencils, cutlery, and even floorboards can be replaced or created with these materials to reduce waste. Check out this blog post to help you replace plastic items with bamboo! 

We wish you the best of luck with your sustainability transformation. Remember, it’s okay to mess up, but try to stay mindful during your endeavors! 

GC Sustainability Enlightens Early College

GC Sustainability members presenting to Early College Friday, April 6th.

Anyone who supports the well being of the planet knows we must support the education of the youth in order to foster environmental change. Ultimately, “the youth is our future” and their actions can either positively or negatively impact our planet. To help enlighten young people in the Milledgeville community and encourage them to practice green initiatives, members of the Georgia College (GC) Office of Sustainability partnered with Early College to educate students on issues related to environmental justice. 

The students were able to watch two videos. The first video describes the state of our planet and how much destruction we have done during our short time on Earth. According to the video, if the existence of the planet was condensed to a 24 hour period, humans have dwelled on it for approximately 3 seconds.

The second video visually demonstrates privilege through the metaphor of a race to win $100. The Early College students learned that even though some people deal with hardships everyone still must go through the process of life. This video addresses the idea that the effects of privilege on success are real and should not be ignored. 

If students come from low-income families or deal with other hardships, it may be more difficult to focus solely on their education. Check out this article published by the U.S. Department of Education that explains more. 

Many urban areas also tend to increase the number of trees to decrease air pollution but give less attention to lower-income neighborhoods or industrialized areas in the same city that need better air quality as well. By explaining these principles to students, we were able to rally their support, open their eyes, and inspire them to fight for environmental and social justice.

Ava Leone

Mardi Gras Beads v. Environment

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. Whatever you call this feasting holiday, you’re probably familiar with the decorations, the large number of beads, and all of the parades and celebrations. These beads, whose bright colors represent justice, faith, and power, are thrown from parade floats to parade attendees, but where are these beads actually ending up after the parties are over? 

According to an article published by National Geographic, approximately 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads were found in the streets of New Orleans after 75 rounds of parades cycled through the city. On average, the U.S. orders up to 25 million tons of beads in total to celebrate the event. These beads add to the festive atmosphere but usually end up polluting our neighborhood streets and waterways. Usually, the bead necklaces will make their way to landfills where they take hundreds of years to decompose. The beads are also classified as single-use plastics therefore, they cannot be recycled. 

Street sweepers follow parade floats for attendees to toss their beads back so they can be reused at future events. This act of returning and reusing plastic helps reduce the amount of waste shipped off to landfills. Citizens are also encouraged to keep the beads as momentos or to incorporate them into craft projects instead of tossing them in the trash or leaving them in the streets. Check out HGTV’s list of 10 creative solutions on how to reuse your Mardi Gras beads!

To help reduce the amount of plastic waste generated, scientists created biodegradable paper beads as an alternative to the plastic. These beads are environmentally friendly and will allow party-goers to continue their traditions without causing harm to the environment. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be the same without beads, but next year, opt for the paper equivalent! 

Georgia College Students Visit Southface Institute in Atlanta

Ava Leone 

GC students learn about sustainable architecture at Southface tour Friday, Feb. 21st.
Photograph by Ava Leone

On Friday, February 21st, the Georgia College Office of Sustainability offered a free tour to Southface Institute in Atlanta. Southface is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that strives to “promote sustainable homes, workplaces, and communities through education, research, advocacy, and technical assistance” in the City of Atlanta and surrounding areas. The tour helped open students’ eyes to cutting-edge technologies and innovative methods for integrating sustainable architectural design into building structures. From compostable toilets to green roofs, the building designers rethought the use of traditional fixtures to help reduce the carbon footprint of the building and maximize the use of natural resources. 

Southface Institute is named after the placement of the building’s windows – 94% of them are located on the south side of the building in order to passively absorb the sun’s heat. Check out this article published by Utah State University that goes more in-depth! 

Southface Institute diverts approximately 88% of its waste and showcases sustainable design features such as light shelves, view dynamic glass, duct socks, mill hop carpet, compostable toilets, horsetail runoff water filters and more. Although some of these features are not the cheapest, they act as an investment and pay for themselves in savings over time.

Students posing with horsetail runoff filters.
Photograph by Ava Leone

Installations like the light shelves increase the natural lighting in a room by providing a platform for light to bounce off of while features like the view dynamic glass filter light by changing tint according to the amount of light exposure outside. The duct socks serve as an alternative to metal heating and cooling tubes. These socks are machine-washable and are sometimes threaded vertically through the building instead of the ceiling. Many features were made of reclaimed materials, such as the mill hop carpet and some benches. The compostable toilet collects human waste to use in flower beds and uses only .6 oz of water to flush while traditional toilets use up to 2-3 gallons of water per flush. Outside the building, small horsetail forests are used to help filter rainwater before it permeates into the ground. All of these units work in conjunction with one another to help reduce Southface’s environmental impact.  

Southface works with businesses in Atlanta and many other areas in order to help them build sustainable buildings and help develop their green initiatives. We hope to return in the future after such an inspirational tour! 

Oak Tree Down at old Wilkinson/Montgomery Parking Lot

The Georgia College campus community raised concerns regarding the removal of the large oak tree that shaded the former commuter/resident parking lot at the intersection of Wilkinson and Montgomery. Although the school, neighborhood, and environment lost a valuable addition to the local ecosystem, the reasons for removing the tree are more than what it seems.

At first glance, the tree seemed to have been removed in order to create space for the new Integrated Science Complex (ISC), but after talking with some officials, other factors, including rot deterioration and life expectancy of the tree played a role in making the decision to cut it. 

White rot in Oak tree after being cut down.

Lori Strawder, Chief Sustainability Officer for Georgia College, confirmed that an arborist came to evaluate the tree before it was removed. The arborist determined that the tree only had approximately 5 years left to live, therefore, it was decided that removal would occur before the construction was well underway. Salvageable parts of the tree will hopefully be incorporated into the interior design of the all-new ISC in commemoration of the great oak tree.

The tree’s interior consisted of white and black deteriorated wood rot which is commonly found in urban-dwelling trees. Most trees in urban areas have limbs that need to be trimmed or removed if they pose a risk to citizens or get tangled in power lines. After these limbs are removed, a wound forms in place of the missing limb, similar to a wound on a human. Open wounds are vulnerable to diseases and this is when most trees acquire black and white rot.

Black and white rot in oak tree interior

White rot refers to fungi that absorb nutrients from the tree and leave behind a wooden husk, which turns white from lack of nutrients. Black rot also refers to fungal decay of the tree itself, usually from the inside out, but leaves behind a dark color.

In addition, Shea Groebner, Assistant Director of Facilities Management for Environmental Health & Safety, stated that the asphalt and concrete that once was the parking lot will be recycled during construction. Although construction is not always environmentally-friendly, we are glad to know that steps are being taken in an effort to minimize the environmental impact of the construction for the ISC!

5 Sustainable Outlets in Milledgeville

Take advantage of the recycling spots Milledgeville has to offer! From Georgia College’s campus to local hot spots, here are 5 places you can count on for all your recycling needs. 

  1. Georgia College Office of Sustainability : Located at Miller Court, 302 N Wayne St., Room 310 

Help us promote a healthy and green campus by recycling on Georgia College’s campus. If you’re a part of the campus community, be sure to toss your clean plastics (grades #1 and #2), aluminum cans, cardboard, and paper in the bins inside of the buildings. You can drop off your e-waste, including batteries and ink cartridges, at the Office of Sustainability. Remember, if contaminated materials enter the recycling bin, like food or liquids, the whole batch becomes contaminated. So, when in doubt, toss it out! 

  1. Recycling & Convenience Center

If you’re living off-campus, request your own recycling bin from the Recycling & Convenience Center by Advanced Disposal. These 18-gallon bins are perfect for city residents looking for curbside pickup. They accept materials like newspapers, magazines, glass, chairs, and sofas. With such an easy system, there’s no reason you should wait to get your free bin! There is a small monthly fee involved, but it is no more than $15 a month to keep our neighborhoods cleaner. Call (478)-453-4435 for more information. 

  1. ECO ATM 

Hoarding that cracked phone from 2007 in your office drawer or at home? Take it to the ECO ATM at the Walmart in Milledgeville. This kiosk will appraise your old and unusable cell phones, then give you cash for your green donation. There’s no reason to hold onto your old technology, but make sure to dispose of it properly! 

  1. Campus Closet, Goodwill, & Salvation Army 

Clothing can take up to 40 years to decompose in landfills. Keep clothing out of the trash and donate it to someone in need at one of these three handy locations. Donate clothing to Campus Closet, where Georgia College students can take an item in exchange for an item. This is a new on-campus initiative located in Magnolia near the SGA office! Goodwill and Salvation Army are also great second-hand shops to donate to if you are out in the neighborhood. 

  1. Kroger & Walmart Plastic Bag Recycling 

Recycle all of those plastic grocery bags underneath your kitchen sink! Next time you’re at the grocery store, bring them along so that you can recycle them at Kroger or Walmart in Milledgeville. Both stores offer in-store plastic film recycling stations. Plastic bags are classified as single-use plastics and pollute ecosystems and natural habitats. Help keep Georgia College’s campus and the Milledgeville-Baldwin environment a little bit cleaner by properly disposing of these harmful plastics!