Tag Archives: green

“Green” Alternatives to Lone Mountain Lawn

Picture water 10 feet deep over the entire expanse of the next lawn you see. That is how much water that lawn will drink in the time of one year. If we add up all the lawns in the city, we’ve got a lake, and each year we decide not to change our lawns we take that lake and just throw it mindlessly on the ground.

Water is a hot commodity around the world and in California. A report by The Bay Area Economic Forum titled “Hetch Hetchy Water and the Bay Area Economy” states that our largest water reserve can supply 239 mgd (million gallons a day) yet it “currently operates 21 mgd above the assured supply capacity.” That is a whole lot of water that we don’t need when you consider that the average California residence uses more than half of its water on landscaping.

San Francisco is full of forward-thinking people, many of whom see the vast Lone Mountain lawn from the windows of the 31 bus each day and cringe just as I do to think of the wasted water. So why does USF showcase such an atrocity all around its front stoop?

“Think about how many years people have gone to school here, and this sort of expectation that the lawn will still be here,” considers Professor Melinda Stone. “When they reminisce they can still see it. What we’re starting to learn in the environmental movement is that people know what’s good, but to get them to shift their daily practices is really hard to do.”

If not lawn, then what? The bright side of the tragic lawn issue is that it’s an easy fix. Simply by eliminating the lawn, the problem disappears. If we replace the lawn with a garden full of flowers and fruit trees water can be saved. Any living landscape requires some water, but not nearly as much as a blanket of grass.

If grass is still the preference, then why not try out a local bluegrass instead. It’d be aesthetically the same, softer to the touch and would require virtually no added water because it is adapted to California’s climate.

Brittany Rowles, recent USF graduate, wrote her senior thesis with a proposal to change the space from the unused lawn into a vibrant and living place for learning and student engagement.

Rowles begins: “First we would take out the lawn, then we would divide the space into quadrants which would be given to different classes that are interested in the space. The garden classes could get a quadrant on which to plant fruit trees while an engineering class could get a quadrant on which to build temporary structures or models…The basic premise is to transform what is now just grass that no one uses, and make it into a space that students can engage in and make their own.”

Wouldn’t you feel much more involved in USF if you had even just a small section of the publicly visible campus which you could truly make your own?

My biggest complaint is that all of the change I see at USF is under the influence of a business motive which asks, “How can we expand, get more students, and make more money?”. I want to see change for the we-need-to-save-our-world motive which asks, “How can we use less and help more?”

Currently USF is going through the process of proposing a whole new development. The aim is to build one more dormitory on Lone Mountain. What will be done, will be done. I would just like to suggest that we can save a lot of water with just a little effort toward change. What do you think USF, are you with me?

Students Sustaining Students: Campus Farm Stand Brings Organic Produce to the People

Planted in the middle of Harney Plaza, a table surrounded by students and professors with the smell of fresh food wafting through the air drew the attention of curious passersby. “It’s the ultimate university, where students are feeding students real food,” said Professor David Silver, professor of media studies and co-adviser to the Garden Project’s Living Learning Community. He was speaking of the USF farm stand. New this year, the farm stand has started to make a name for itself each Thursday in Harney Plaza. It is staffed by members of the Garden Project, USF’s living learning community focused on cultivating the organic garden and learning how to live a sustainable lifestyle.

The farm stand provides fresh vegetables as well as baked goods and cooked meals, something they added this semester. All foods are provided in return for a suggested donation. “The farm stand is really about making students more aware of where their food comes from. When I would go to the grocery store, I would see just tons and tons of food and it all looked so perfect,” said freshman Garden Project member Carlen Handley. “It just didn’t seem right, which is why I wanted to get involved in the Garden Project and the farm stand. It’s about providing real food.”

Students in the Garden Project live on the same floor and attend classes together on Fridays. The classes teach them how to grow food in an urban environment and how to spread this knowledge. Class time is also spent tending to the garden, located behind the School of Education.

The farm stand was created as a means to spread word about sustainable living and also as an outlet for the excess produce from the garden. Last semester, the stand mainly provided different kinds of vegetables and herbs such as kale and chard, but found a lack of success due to the fact that many students living in dorms don’t have the resources or time to cook their own meals from scratch. To remedy this, the farm stand began serving prepared foods this semester, which they found gained a greater response from students.

Thursday, Feb. 18, found the farm stand dishing out potato-vegetable soup, created by freshman Kristin Castillo, as well as an ‘un-beet-able’ chocolate-beet cake, both made largely with ingredients from the garden. “I like to mainly use things we grow and then just add a few cheap store-bought things,” Castillo said. “The main thing is that I know everything that’s going in there. It’s not like buying a candy bar where you have no idea what most of the ingredients are.”

The garden project and farm stand seek to increase student awareness of the source of their sustenance, and hope that by giving just a little, students will gain a lot and see the benefit of working towards a greener future.

Students can check out the USF farm stand in Harney Plaza on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Or if you are interested in helping in the garden, stop by on Tuesdays from 1:00-5:00 p.m. for a chance to exercise that green thumb.

Indifference, Ignorance Hinder Recyclemania Success

A USF student contributes–if inadvertently–to the University of San Francisco’s effort to recycle more than other colleges participating in the Recyclemania competion. Photo Illustration by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

It’s that time of year again. Until the March 27 deadline, USF will rake thousands of pounds in recyclables, particularly food service organics, before the conclusion of the national Recyclemania competition. Despite the number of students involved, both voluntarily and by default, attitude about the competition is inconsistent around campus. Though USF amassed over 140,000 lbs in recyclables last year, according to the Recyclemania website, many students believe that recycling is merely a baby step up a massive staircase.

For people like Andrea Parnell, an environmental studies student living in the Loyola Village dorms, the recently concluded E=MC2 competition gave students more impetus to live greener lifestyles. “The recyclemania competition is great and I am partaking in it, but I think schools should make individual efforts like E=MC2 to be more green,” she said.

Another group of students contributing to the Recyclemania discord at USF are the unaware.

“Recyclemania? What is that?” undeclared freshman Karen Foo asked as she tossed her empty Sobe bottle in the recycling bin at Market Café. “There isn’t enough advertising about it, none of my friends have ever mentioned it, nor have any of my professors,” she said.

In the 2010 competition, USF currently holds fifth place in the category of largest amount of recycled food service organics per person, but is not top ranked in any other category. Photo Illustration by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

She wasn’t the only one who had a similar argument for being oblivious to the competition. A group of students in Market Café also blamed their lack of knowledge on inadequate advertising despite the Recyclemania placard that sat dead-smack in the center of their table. “No one reads these things,” said Jake Salamy, a junior at USF. “Had I known we were competing with other schools, I would have recycled all those Red Bull cans I’ve been tossing in the garbage can for the last three years.”

This is the very thing that upsets students like Jana Hendricks, an African American Studies major at USF, furthering the discrepancy of views on the competition.  “It’s unfortunate that competition between universities is the driving force propelling ‘recyclemaniacs’ to take a step towards saving the earth,” she said.  In spite of that, Hendricks admitted that it’s still a sign of progress that participating schools across the country are gathering their recyclables for the 10-week-long journey to win.  “But what happens when the ten weeks are over?” she asked. Do students merely relapse to their old, insensitive ways of dumping compostable and recyclable items?

In the opinion of Gary Flint, a sophomore environmental studies major at USF, the answer is “not really.” While some students don’t decipher between the big blue recycle bins and other waste bins, he said, “Many students here are conscious of the differences between the two and their impact on the environment year-round.”

While there is a massive number of Dons who haven’t a clue that USF is involved in a national recycling competition, many students who support the movement claim that it is a giant leap for universities and will drastically better the earth. Other students beg to differ.

“The environmental issues that the world faces right now are so far beyond recycling,” said Michael Stitinovich, a senior accounting student. “We’re talking billions of tons of carbon emissions yearly. There are so many students here that drive gas-guzzling cars and smoke packs of cigarettes daily. All I’m saying is, we can do more than recycle soda cans.”

BART Prices Increase, Environment Suffers

BART raised their prices recently, making it more expensive for the thousands of San Franciscan commuters to get around the Bay Area.  BART is a vital mode of transportation, and its importance was most evident last week when the Bay Bridge was closed. BART was supposed to be an easier and cheaper way to get home from various locations for people trying to stay environmentally conscious by keeping their cars off the road.

However, prices of BART tickets are continuing to increase, which gives less incentive for commuters to leave their car at home when gas costs just about the same as a BART ticket.

In August I took the BART from the station on Mission Street to the San Francisco International Airport and paid $10.70 for a round trip ticket.

I recently looked up the prices now to get to the airport from the same station and it is $16.10. It has only been three months and already the price has increased. Thankfully my roommate informed me of the Super Shuttle, which only costs $20 including tip. The Super Shuttle picks you up at your home, helps you with your bags, and drops you off at your designated terminal at the airport in a timely manner.

The problem with BART, besides its price increase, is that you have to take different buses or a cab to get to the BART station if you live near USF.

If you are going to the airport with luggage, this is a huge hassle. Super Shuttle will come to you and you don’t have to spend money on Muni to get to the BART station.

I do not understand why the city is increasing the price of public transportation, like BART and Muni, if they want us to be “greener” by not using cars as frequently. The previous prices were more reasonable and encouraged people to take BART or Muni instead of their cars. Now it costs $2 instead of $1.50 for an adult to take Muni, and $6 more for people to get to the SFO from downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco has better public transportation than other cities. It is clean and available almost 24 hours a day. But the transportation was also a cheaper way to get around San Francisco. That aspect is changing.

San Francisco is a environmentally conscious city and its public transportation should not make it more expensive for people to help the emissions of greenhouse gases. Something needs to be done and fares need to stop increasing.

It is quickly becoming more economically efficient to drive around the city and pay for gas instead of continually paying for bus fares and BART tickets that increase every time you hop on board. Bay Area public transportation agencies need to keep fares low in order to encourage commuters to ride transit and help the earth.

Students Lighten Carbon Footprint, Meet Local Farmers


A student talks with a representative from Zuckerman Farms about asparagus. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

Local food growers displayed fresh produce for sale and offered samples of juices and nuts to buy. Curious fingers tentatively picked through barrels of leafy greens and herbs from a local farmer, and bagged up handfuls to take home. Plates filled with epicurean treats like cheese-less pizza and turkey burgers topped with fresh salsa. Mouths were flowing with excited conversation about fresh, locally grown foods and the environment. Or as one student put it, “Why is the caf so weird today?”

It was Low Carbon Diet Day in the Market Café at USF, and for one lunch period, students ate nothing but locally grown and earth-friendly meals.

According to Holly Winslow, general manager for Bon Appetit at USF, Low Carbon Diet Day is Bon Appetit’s annual program to bring awareness of the connection between climate change and food service. Winslow said, “We try to create unique and beautiful foods that make a lower carbon impact on the world.”

A diet is “low carbon” if it makes a low impact on the environment. Some strategies for eating low carbon are eating seasonally and locally grown foods, minimizing food waste, cutting back on beef and cheese, and eating locally raised meat and fish.

Bon Appetit, an on site restaurant company that provides cafeteria food service for corporations and universities, has become one of the leading forces in the low-carbon diet movement. The company runs a web site called EatLowCarbon.org and sets high environmental standards for all of its kitchens.

At USF, Winslow said all of the produce she orders is as local as possible, ordering everything from within a 150 mile radius, except in cases where those foods are not seasonally grown here. In fact, at the Market Café, every day is relatively low carbon. The Low Carbon Diet Day was a chance to bring in new and interesting foods and gave students the opportunity to meet some of the farmers who grow the food they regularly consume.

One such farmer was Grant Brians, owner of Heirloom Organics Farms. Brians sat proudly in the middle of the cafeteria surrounded with his unusual fresh greens and root vegetables. “I’m what you call a ‘specialty vegetable grower,’” he said, pointing out his prized wild stinging nettles and watermelon radishes. “I’m trying to cultivate a purple carrot so dark it’s almost black.”

Brians said that among the USF crowd, he had been selling a lot of Asian greens and a salty, mineral-rich leafy green called orach. Students got to interact with Brians, a farmer who grows some of the foods they eat regularly at the cafeteria, as he offered them samples and talked to them about his array of vegetables.

Many students reacted very positively to the event and the opportunity to try new flavors that are not always offered in a school cafeteria. Sophomore Hayley Zuercher, whose plate was loaded with beets, asparagus and a slice of cheese-less pizza topped with raisins and olives, said “This is the best day of my life!” Zuercher said she thinks about the environment regularly when making her food choices, shopping at farmers markets and cutting back on meat consumption.

The awareness day served as an educational tool for Taylor Wood, a student who said he often thinks about food in terms of it being healthy or organic, but not in terms of being low carbon.
“I think this is really cool,” sophomore Franny Sung said. “Think about the impact this would make if more schools did this.”

Sung said eating low carbon is something she thinks about but can’t always prioritize. “I try to eat locally grown, but it’s hard to think about it all the time when you have such a busy schedule,” she said.
With Bon Appetit regularly dishing out locally grown foods, even busy students can lighten their carbon footprint as they dine. Winslow said, “You guys think [Low Carbon Diet Day] is special, but it’s not. It’s like this every day.”