A Better Farm Experience

Most farm animals live a dejected life with the inevitable fate of being sent to the slaughter house to become food and protein for humans. Some of the conditions these animals live in are brutal, such as small enclosures or overpopulated farms. However, improving living conditions, health and happiness of farms animals has become increasingly important to animal-rights activists as well as everyday consumers. With more attention being brought to the caring of farm animals, farmers must change their ways to avoid losing profits. Government regulations have already been set in place to ensure more humane practices. For example, a California law enacted in 2015 requires that “all chickens, veal crates, and sow gestation crates give animals enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs.” Farmers would have to spend more money to improve the welfare of their animals, however, the effects of changing their ways could have more benefits than once believed.

Some experts believe that improving the lives of farm animals could be an important step toward feeding and protecting the planet. Around 65 billion cows, pigs, and chickens are slaughtered each year to be used as food for humans. This demand for meat is estimated to jump 70 percent by 2050 according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The amount of farm animals that are slaughtered each year already puts a considerable environmental strain on the planet; if this number continues to increase it could become unsustainable. Stress and disease slow the growth of animals, so, simply giving them the chance to live happy and healthy lives could cause them to put on more weight with the same amount of feed. According to Daniel Berckmans, a bioscience engineer at the University of Lueven in Belgium, livestock producers could take a big step toward meeting global demand by avoiding the act of cramming extensive amounts of animals into already crowded facilities and instead, simply treating their animals better.

So how can this be done? Advances in technology could help farmers improve their farms and the lives of the animals it contains. Berckmans and his colleagues have been working on precision livestock farming systems that ‘monitor large numbers of farm animals and provide real-time warnings about infections, injuries, and other breakdowns, giving the farmers a chance to act quickly to prevent a crisis.’ To save farmers time and money, camera systems can be used to track the movement of thousands of chickens in a single barn. Berckmans is also working on utilizing wearable stress montiors, typically used by athletes, to be used for cows. These monitors will help make the system of farming more efficient because farmers will be able to tell when a cow is in distress. Many other techniques have been thought up by different scientists and researchers that are worth giving a try to help not only the farm animals, but the state of the environment as well.

A cow on Billings Farm in Vermont, a farm that prides themselves in the care of their animals.

As more interest in the welfare of farm animals and the issues they face increases, now is the perfect time to make the necessary changes. No farmer, or any business owner for that matter, wants their customers to think that the way they run their facility is against their values. Yes, the cost will be higher, but if we as consumers make it a point that we want better lives for these animals then farms will have no choice but to change their ways to avoid the breakdown of their company. Humans have certain duties to animals and it is time welfare is improved to a level they deserve.

Cleaner Air, Happier Life

Waking up in the morning and getting a glimpse of the warm sunlight beaming through your bedroom window is almost always a perfect way to start your day. Similarly, if it’s a rainy, dreary atmosphere, you may be hesitant to get out of bed, much less find the motivation to finish your to-do list. Well, according to researchers, who reported their findings in Nature Human Behaviour, there may be scientific evidence that proves air pollution, as well as the weather, can take a psychological toll on humans.

China is ranked number one in the world’s top three most polluted countries, with the United States following in second place and India ranked as third. Researchers wanted to see if there was a link between pollution and the mental state of citizens in China by analyzing social media posts. According to an analysis of 210 million posts on the Chinese social media site, Sina Weibo, comparable to Twitter in the United States, people tend to be less happy when the air is polluted. The researchers gathered data on daily pollution levels in each city and decided to plug this information into equations in order to show how pollution affects the day-to-day lives as well as the level of happiness of inhabitants of China. The researchers analyzed Weibo posts daily along with the city’s overall air quality index (AQI) and a variety of other individual pollutants; focusing specifically on PM2.5, a fine particulate matter that can harm lung health, because it was the primary pollutant during the nine-month study period. The results found that when overall pollution related to AQI declined by one standard deviation, the happiness index increased by 0.046. When there was a one standard deviation decrease in PM2.5 concentrations, there was a 0.043 standard deviation increase of happiness according to the avid users of Weibo. The results of the study showed that the correlation is small but significant.

Logo for Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging social media platform popular in China

Weather seemed to be a big factor as well. Air pollution affected the happiness of these individuals more on cloudy days than on clear days, and more on too hot or too cold days as opposed to a more comfortable temperature. Although elderly people were not considered as much in the study, due to their lack of social media usage, the Chinese government considers the social media users to be important because they tend to be a younger and higher educated group. If there is a possibility that air pollution correlates with their mental health, the government may be inclined to enforce more environmental regulations; a win for the environment!

Therefore, thanks to these innovative researchers, the next time you are unhappy, anxious, content, cheerful, or feeling any other emotion, take a look outside and see what the weather is like or try to go online and check air pollution levels in your area. Because there may be a previously unforeseen reason for your current emotional state.

Common Houseplant with Special Duties

Everyone loves to display a plant at home or in their office to add a touch of decor. What if that decorative plant could do more for you than just increase the aesthetics of a room? Well, thanks to researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, that is now possible.

These researchers have been able to successfully genetically modify a common houseplant referred to as pothos ivy. Pothos ivy is a strong, healthy houseplant that does well in low-maintenance conditions, so it is a common selection among indoor plant buyers. The task of this genetically modified plant is to remove chloroform and benzene from the air; two molecules that are too small to be trapped by air filters. Exposure to chloroform and benzene can occur when we shower or boil water as well as when we have garages attached to our homes that contain cars or lawn mowers. The primary exposure pathway is breathing in air that contains these compounds; this can happen at work, in the general environment, or even via burning candles. It may not seem to be a huge issue, however, both chloroform and benzene have been linked to cancer.

Chemical structures of chloroform (left) and benzene (right)

So, how exactly does this houseplant remove these harmful chemicals? Well, pothos ivy has been modified to exhibit a protein called cytochrome p450 2e1 (or simply 2e1 for short). When this protein is introduced to the modified plant, it then transforms these potentially carcinogenic compounds into molecules that pothos ivy can use to assist in its own growth and development.

In order to test the effectiveness of the genetically modified houseplant, the researchers made comparisons to the unmodified pothos ivy. After placing both modified and unmodified subjects in separate glass containers, and adding pollutants (chloroform and benzene) over a span of 11 days, the results were astounding. The unmodified pothos ivy did not change the concentration of either pollutant. However, the genetically modified pothos ivy decreased the concentration of chloroform by 82 percent in just three days. By day six, it was almost undetectable. Similarly, by day 8, the concentration of benzene had dropped by 75 percent.

In the human body, the protein 2e1 transforms benzene into a chemical called phenol, and chloroform into carbon dioxide and chloride ions. However, because 2e1 is located in the human liver, and is only activated when we consume alcoholic products, it cannot be used to process pollutants in the air around us. Therefore, the researchers attempted to solve this problem by using pothos ivy as a gateway so that humans can actually benefit from 2e1.


“We want to offer this to the public as a way to reduce a proven, real health threat”

Stuart Strand of the University of Washington in Seattle

The power of a plant is incredible, and it is amazing to see what researchers and scientists can do to further the use of different plants without causing them harm, but instead, creating benefits for the health of the environment and humans alike. Generating this genetically modified plant took more than two years, but the researchers at the university are dedicated to expanding their research to help break down other harmful molecules in the air. Thanks to studies such as this one conducted at the University of Washington, the decorative plants in your home or office may have a greater purpose than just being a centerpiece in the near future.

Living Off-the-Grid

blog_off the grid homesLiving in a house “off-the-grid” sounds a bit like Henry David Thoreau’s Life in the Woods. In this ever-increasing age of digital interconnectedness, the thought of not being connected to a central electrical grid is bizarre, and for some, downright impossible to comprehend. However, green homes are not without electricity, nor are they too far removed from the rest of society. Green homes, as defined by JD Lara on offthegridnews.com, are “dwellings that use resources from the earth in such a way that if you put them back into the surroundings, they wouldn’t cause any harm. Green building is often associated with sustainable architecture, which seeks to minimize the negative impact of buildings on the environment by maximizing energy, space and material efficiency, while minimizing their use so that the needs of future generations won’t be compromised” (https://www.offthegridnews.com/how-to-2/how-to-build-a-dirt-cheap-off-grid-house/).

blog_off the grid2

Green homes do not look that much different from regular homes, except for maybe the obvious photovoltaic (PV) cells on the roof, and many are actually beautiful in a natural, sophisticated way. These homes have multiple features that qualify them as green homes. They use either solar, wind or geothermal power, and they are designed in such a way to take advantage of passive heating and cooling.  According to home-builder and Ecohomes.net editor Mike Reynolds, “a house with 60 percent of its windows facing south (passive solar) may have its heating requirements reduced by as much as 25 percent for virtually no cost” (https://www.offthegridnews.com/how-to-2/how-to-build-a-dirt-cheap-off-grid-house/).

Another feature of green homes is their economical use of water. Greywater, or wastewater from bathing, washing dishes, bathroom sinks, and washing machines, can be used to flush toilets, wash cars, or after being treated, to water plants. Collecting rain water from roofs and gutters is also a good way to make a home green (https://www.offthegridnews.com/how-to-2/how-to-build-a-dirt-cheap-off-grid-house/). Using graywater or collected rain water reduces the demand for fresh clean water for carrying out tasks that don’t necessarily need it.  One can also use drought-tolerant, indigenous plants for landscaping to reduce the impact on the natural environment surrounding one’s home.

blog_off the grid 3

Off-the-grid homeowners have a much stricter energy budget than owners of homes connected to the central electrical grid. Off-grid electricity is more expensive —about $0.50 to $1.00 per kWh (https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/how-to-design-an-off-grid-house). Although the photovoltaic modules are relatively cheap themselves, batteries and gas-powered generators (or propane-fired generators) are expensive. Those who live off the grid need batteries and generators for when the sun isn’t shining.

blog_off the grid4

However, during certain sunnier seasons, off-grid homeowners are likely to have an energy surplus. For example, in Vermont, “a 1-kW PV system that produces 48 kWh of electricity in the month of December will produce three times as much electricity (145 kWh) in the month of May. If weather forecasters predict three days of sunny weather in May or June, you can plug in extra hairdryers, do several loads of laundry, and vacuum the house, but during a snowstorm in the middle of December you’ve got to be careful about energy use. That’s when you will be using your broom instead of your vacuum cleaner” (https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/how-to-design-an-off-grid-house). Alternatives to a PV system include a micro-hydro system or a wind turbine, but by far the most common way to generate off-grid electricity is with a PV system.

 

For more information:

Find green homes for sale across the US.

For sustainable building materials to build your own green home: https://www.offthegridnews.com/how-to-2/how-to-build-a-dirt-cheap-off-grid-house/

To see more sustainable homes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QwsTe0OLfc

Stressed Out Coral Reefs

coral reefsJust like college students, coral reefs can get stressed out too. When coral gets stressed out, it loses its color, a process called coral bleaching.

Healthy coral has a symbiotic relationship with single-celled, microscopic algae called zooxanthellae that live in the coral’s tissue. The algae are their primary source of food and are what give coral its color. If coral get stressed due to environmental factors, the algae leave the coral’s tissue. Without its major source of food, the coral turns white or very pale and is susceptible to disease.

Several environmental factors can be a source of stress for coral including: agricultural runoff and pollution, overexposure to sunlight due to rising global temperatures, and exposure to the air during extremely low tides. However, the leading cause of coral bleaching is changing ocean temperatures due to climate change.

Coral bleaching does not mean the coral is dead. Corals can recover if the bleaching is not severe and can survive if water temperatures return to normal quickly, but if the algae loss is prolonged and the stress continues, the coral will eventually die.

“In 2005, the United States lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined” (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Coral bleaching not only has negative effects on the coral itself, but also on the coral reef ecosystems and the organisms that depend on the coral, including humans. Both fish and invertebrates rely on alive and healthy coral for food and shelter. In cases where coral bleaching leads to coral mortality, there can be large shifts in fish populations as a result. These shifts can translate into reduced catches for fishermen going after reef fish species, which in turn leads to impacts on food supply and economic activity in fishing communities who rely on the fish to support their livelihood. Damaged reefs without their vibrant colors and bustling fish schools underpin the reef’s aesthetic appeal necessary for the tourism industry. The resulting loss of revenue from reduced tourist activity can threaten the livelihoods of local communities dependent on the tourism industry. Finally, coral reefs are a valuable source of pharmaceutical compounds. Degraded and dead reefs are less likely to serve as a source for important medicinal resources such as drugs to treat heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.

Coral bleaching is a serious side effect of climate change that has multiple adverse effects on larger communities. From the Time article linked below, “If you think of corals as canaries [in a coal mine], they’re chirping really loudly right now…the ones that are still alive, that is.”

 

References

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html

https://www.reefresilience.org/coral-reefs/stressors/bleaching/bleaching-impacts/

Additional Reading

http://time.com/coral/

 

 

 

Mountaintop Removal

Even with new technologies in alternative fuels becoming increasingly available, efficient, and cost-effective, the world’s citizens are more reliable on fossil fuels than ever before. A new form of strip mining has emerged in the Appalachia region of the United States with devastating effects on the surrounding landscape and its people; it is called mountaintop removal.

What it is: “Mountaintop removal is any method of surface coal mining that destroys a mountaintop or ridgeline, whether or not the mined area will be returned to what is legally described as the ‘approximate original contour.’ Methods of mountaintop removal coal mining include, but are not limited to: cross-ridge mining, box-cut method mining, steep slope mining, area mining or mountaintop mining” (http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/mtr101/). Mountaintop removal takes place mainly in eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and eastern Tennessee.

mountaintop

Image from http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/mtr101/

How it’s done: The first step in mountaintop removal mining is clearing trees, vegetation, and topsoil. Oftentimes, coal companies are working fast to stay within a profitable time frame of coal prices, and so the tress are not used for commercial use, but are set ablaze or illegally dumped in valleys. Next, deep holes are dug for explosives. Accessing these Appalachian coal seams can require the removal of 600 feet or more of the mountainside. Blowing up this much mountain is accomplished by using millions of pounds of explosives. Huge machines called draglines, which stand 22 stories high, push the blown apart rock and dirt into nearby streams and valleys. Waterways are contaminated and sometimes buried altogether.

mountaintopblog

Image from https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/what-is-mountaintop-removal-mining

In the past few decades, over 2,000 miles of streams and headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans have been permanently buried and destroyed. Residents of the areas affected by mountaintop removal will often turn their faucets on and find dirty brown water coming out.

Local communities routinely face devastating floods and adverse health effects. The floods are caused by the level landscape. Where trees and rocks once absorbed and diverted rainwater, now flat lands rush the waters downhill towards residential areas. There is also ample evidence of harmful health effects on the people near these coal mines. “Since 2007, peer-reviewed studies by researchers from more than a dozen universities have concluded that mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to significantly higher rates of birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases among individuals living in the region where it occurs” (http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/health-impacts/). Additionally in 2014, “researchers demonstrated that toxic dust from mountaintop removal promotes the growth of lung cancer cells in people living nearby”. This is the first time a direct link has been established rather than a correlation.

mtbogImage from http://appvoices.org/2012/08/08/buried-blackwater-revealing-coals-dirty-secret/

The naturally biodiverse habitats in some the country’s oldest forests have been laid to waste due to this practice. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency impact statement on mountaintop removal in Appalachia, “it may take hundreds of years for a forest to re-establish on the mine site.” Many bird species native to Appalachia will no longer be able to inhabit the region due to the lack of mature forests. The fish, which serve as living indicators of water quality, have experienced “habitat degradation, declining populations, and increasing cases of developmental abnormalities in waters downstream of mountaintop removal sites” (http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/ecology/). What was once a lush and moist environment ideal for native salamander populations has now been turned into a dry environment uninhabitable by amphibians (who need clean water to survive). The native salamander populations have been found either completely absent or significantly reduced in number, sometimes even replaced by reptiles on reclaimed mine sites who can survive in these drier areas.

Although reclamation efforts of these areas are required by federal law, coal companies often receive waivers from state agencies under the guise that economic development will occur on the newly flattened land. However, most sites receive little more than a spraying of exotic grass seed, and less than 3% of reclaimed mountaintop removal sites are used for economic development.

For several years, the organization Appalachian Voices and their partners pushed for passage of the Clean Water Protection Act, which would have provided a solution to the harmful effects of mountaintop removal. More than 200 congressional allies supported the effort, but it was ultimately unsuccessful due to industry lobbying. Numerous agencies and advocacy groups continue to work in the federal courts to bring the protections of the Clean Water Act to the people, ecological communities, and waters of Appalachia.

 

References:

https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/what-is-mountaintop-removal-mining

http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/mtr101/

http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/health-impacts/

http://appvoices.org/2012/08/08/buried-blackwater-revealing-coals-dirty-secret/

http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/ecology/

For more information:

NPR Podcast: “You Just Don’t Touch That Tap Water Unless Absolutely Necessary” https://www.npr.org/2018/10/03/649850498/you-just-don-t-touch-that-tap-water-unless-absolutely-necessary

PBS News Hour: How mountaintop mining affects life and landscape in West Virginia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkDQ_UbqbG4

 

 

Earth Week 2018

 

The week of April 16th, The Office of Sustainability partnered with various other organizations around campus to celebrate Earth Week. Earth Week offered a variety of events, including Campus Garden and compost tours, and workshop and symposium featuring guest artist John Sabraw, and a day-long Earthfest celebration on April 20th, all surrounding the slogan, “Refuse the Straw.”  

On Monday, the Office of Sustainability sold raffle tickets for a chance to win the dress “Halimeda,” which is Greek for “Thinking of the sea.” The dress was made for Earth Week’s Shades of Green/Sustainability at GCSU; and it was made primarily of repurposed plastics, shells, netting, fabric, and driftwood. The dress represents the outstanding pollution of the ocean with plastic and other trash and how that destroys aquatic life and ecosystems. Additionally, Monday through Wednesday, the Office of Sustainability offered tours of the Campus Garden and the compost sites. The composting initiative is relatively new to campus, and takes post-consumer food waste from the MAX and transforms it into usable compost, much of which goes to the Campus Garden. Mostly operated by the Gardening Club, the Campus Garden grows a variety of produce for faculty, students, and staff to enjoy.

On Thursday, The Sustainability Fee Program and Shades of Green hosted environmentalist and artist John Sabraw from Ohio State University. Sabraw is known for his unique work of cleaning acid mine drainage from streams and using the iron oxide found in the drainage to create pigments. Sabraw works to bridge the gap between artists and scientists in what he calls the “Synergy of Curiosity.” Working together, Sabraw shows how collaboration can help towards making our world a sustainable one. During the afternoon, students were able to learn how the pigment is created and had the opportunity to work on a collaborative mural where they could add to the piece in whichever way they chose to. Afterward, Sabraw held a symposium detailing his life’s journey, how he ended up working with the industry that he does, how his industry operates, and what potential it has for the future.

To wrap up Earth Week, the Office of Sustainability, Physics Club, WGUR, Shelter Buddies, Creative Arts Alliance, Student Museum Association, Salamander Springs, GA Power, Gardening Club, and Environmental Science Club all came together to host Earthfest on April 20th. Earlier on in the morning and afternoon, Earthfest offered arts and crafts, such as tie-dye and bracelet-making. Followed by yoga with Hannah Onians, and a full line-up of live music, including Colin Pennington, Ron Harris, Jammin’ Jimmy James, Madi Nunley, and Habersham Sounds.

Earth Week was a huge success, and we hope that this event will inspire the faculty, staff, and students to be more sustainable in their daily lives and help save our Earth.

RecycleMania Wrap Up

     The eight-week period of RecycleMania has finally come to a close. Schools from all over the nation are tallying their recycling totals and comparing their ranks on the RecycleMania leaderboard. Here’s how Georgia College stacked up:

Total Diversion: 18.826%, rank 138/170

Diversion in 2017: 7.816%, rank 186/194

 

Per Capita Recycling: 6.046 pounds per capita, rank 164/228

Per Capita Recycling in 2017: 4.304 pounds per person, rank 214/248

 

Total Recycling: 50,574 pounds, rank 165/229

Total Recycling in 2017: 32,554 pounds, rank 177/215

 

Waste Minimization: 34.862 pounds per capita, rank 57/179

Waste Minimization in 2017: N/A

    All in all, Georgia College has increased its total diversion rate by 11.01%, and increased its total recycling by 18,020 pounds. The campus has seen a significant improvement over the results of last year; and we would like to thank all students, staff, and faculty who participated in this event! Georgia College is working continuously to promote green efforts around campus and encourage a more sustainable way of living, and RecycleMania has provided an engine with which to involve the entire campus in green efforts. We hope to see recycling efforts and campus involvement continue to grow in the future with the momentum gained through this year’s RecycleMania.

     As RecycleMania comes to a close, the Office of Sustainability prepares to kick off the 2018 Georgia College Earth Week beginning April 16th. This week will feature a myriad of events designed to incorporate students with sustainability efforts. Activities include garden and compost tours, the Symposium, and Earthfest. The Office of Sustainability would like to encourage all members of the Georgia College community to participate in these events and get involved with the sustainability efforts on campus now!

Halfway Through RecycleMania

     Four weeks in, RecycleMania rages on; and we are halfway through the season. Each competing college continues to vie for the top spot and contribute to a healthier Earth in the process. We have tracked our recycling rates from the beginning of the event alongside 141 other schools, and Georgia College began its first week in the season boasting a diversion rate of 34.12% and a recycling rate of 33.3%. These numbers have diminished over the course of the event to where they currently stand at 20.07% and 11.8%, respectively. While these numbers may not seem that impressive, by this time just last year, Georgia College had a recycling rate of only 7.5%. In addition, this year, Georgia College is recording and reporting the amount of food waste which is composted, which helps increase our total diversion rate. Georgia College currently stands at rank 110 out of 141 for our total diversion efforts.

     Georgia College has recycled a grand total of 28,245 pounds of material and composted 3,089 pounds of food waste by this point in the competition and stands at 3.67 pounds of material per person on the campus. At this time last year, the campus had only recycled 17,820 pounds of material: a difference of 10,425 pounds between this season and the last!

     Currently, Georgia College also claims a waste minimization ratio of 20.26 pounds per person. This statistic makes its debut for Georgia College in the 2018 season and will serve as a benchmark for the rest of the season as well as for future events.

     While these statistics may just seem like random numbers and percentages, the official RecycleMania report uses the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) to transpose these figures into more commonplace measurements, such as total carbon dioxide (in metric tons), amount of energy consumed by a household, and amount of carbon emissions from automobiles. By this point, the diversion efforts of Georgia College are equivalent to the removal of forty metric tons of carbon dioxide, eight cars off the road, or the energy consumption of three households.

     By the end of RecycleMania last season, Georgia College ranked 186 out of 190 with a final recycling rate of 7.816%. We are already soaring above that previous percentage, and this season promises the opportunity to build momentum in the community and send Georgia College well on its way to becoming an ever-greener campus.

Profiles in Sustainability – Julia Steele

     Born and raised in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Ms. Steele works as the Events Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability and has done so for nine months. Her mother hails from South Korea, and she initially taught Ms. Steele about the importance of sustainability. Ms. Steele comments, “From a young age, I learned to never waste food and would often salvage items from my neighbor’s trash on Tuesdays before the trash man would come for pickup.” Living in a war-torn environment, Ms. Steele’s mother could not afford to waste resources and inspired the same sentiment in her daughter. Ms. Steele originally declared her major in nursing, but after being dissuaded by the hospital environment, she decided to change it to environmental science with a minor in public health to help serve the environment and people’s health.

     Ms. Steele states, in regards to her position, that, “My main goal is to primarily educate students about the office’s initiatives through activities, games and guest speakers.” She works to organize events at Georgia College such as Campus Sustainability and Food Day, America’s Recycling Day, and the annual Sustainability Fee Program Symposium. Ms. Steele discusses how she most enjoys the outreach and collaboration she is able to take part in with other departments. Additionally, she states, “I enjoy teaching students about sustainability and learning how to translate scientific information into a diction that non-STEM majors can understand.” However, due to a lack of resources and amenities, the Office of Sustainability is restricted in its ability to fully facilitate composting or recycling. “Asking students to change their habits can be challenging,” Ms. Steele remarks, “[i]t’s difficult to show student the direct impact they have on the environment.” Still, the Office of Sustainability consists of a dedicated team willing to make all the impact that it can. Ms. Steele considers herself very fortunate to be working among such tenacious, hardworking individuals, “I am so grateful to surround myself with dedicated people in OoS [the Office of Sustainability]. Lori Strawder and Kristen Hitchcock are the two people I truly admire, . . . I also love working with motivated colleagues. Kierra Brown, Elizabeth Carroll, Toria Middleton, Lauren Barber, Ryan Agnew, and Jake Dietch are all so eager to make change and willing to help one another around the office.” With such a devoted group, Ms. Steele hopes that the office can see more student involvement as well as sustainability implemented in classroom projects in the future.

     Currently, Ms. Steele believes that the composting initiative is one of the most successful projects that Georgia College has seen. The project has built up steam under manager Jake Dietch, and the project continues to grow while educating students on the importance of recovering waste and replenishing soil with nutrients. Ms. Steele comments that, “We are producing so much compost, and I’d love to see Georgia College giving the compost to local farmers!” She believes this will strengthen ties between the campus and farmers within the area. She also explains how recycling rates at Georgia College continue to rise each year.

     Ms. Steele defines sustainability as, “[being] [M]indful of the human impact on ecosystems, fostering healthy living and acting locally in order to preserve our resources and maintain the integrity of the environment.” She is excited for the implementation of a Campus Kitchen at Georgia College, and she states, “I believe this will have a profound impact, since this is a collaborative project that includes sustainability, dining and the community.”  Ms. Steele also plans to incorporate more collaborative and interdisciplinary programs in order to reach a wider audience of students. For instance, Ms. Steele is currently working with the Art Department to host John Sabraw, a nationally acclaimed artist and environmentalist, at the Sustainability Fee Program symposium. Backed by an ever-growing network of interns and student volunteers, Ms. Steele is poised and ready to advance sustainability efforts at Georgia College and contribute to a global mindfulness of our impact on our world, “My family and friends can all be witnesses of my passion about the health of our environment and determination for future generations to have equal opportunities.”