The following is taken from a letter my environmentally minded mom wrote to 'Living on Earth,' the program that comes on our local public radio on Sunday afternoons. She said: "In looking over the offerings of this week's show, I thought how extremely depressing almost all environmental news is and has been in recent years. Any topic you look at, is depressing. Those of us who are trying to do something lose heart and those who feel they can't do anything significant anyway, don't even bother to try. We seem doomed either way."

They sent me an email saying they'd been musing over this letter and wanted to read it on the air and have me reply to it, which, in fact, happened. In the time since I'd written the letter, however, I'd been to our denomination's conference center in Montreat, NC, to an environmental conference, where I had visited Warren-Wilson College and become so excited about what they're doing there, I had written a letter to Michelle Obama asking her to visit and spread the word. I told her about the new "eco" dorm they had built, including an article from the New York Times:

"Next fall, [2002] Warren Wilson College will open an 'EcoDorm' on its Asheville, N.C., campus. The residence hall is built almost entirely with reusable and recycled materials, such as wooden farm fences that were turned into siding. Solar fuel cells will convert sunlight into electricity and heat. Runoff from the roof, funneled through a converted 10,000-gallon railroad tank car, will provide water to the building and grounds. The dorm will also feature composting toilets and waterless urinals. Best of all for students hit with sudden hunger pangs, all the property's shrubs and other plants will be edible."

Additionally, we visited their gardens which include a gigantic composter, purchased second hand from a local penitentiary. (Seems the officials at the pen decided they would compost their scrap food to cut down on trips by inmates outside their gates.) Warren Wilson composts all the food from its dining hall. We saw it steaming away as it did its work. The compost then is moved to a large pile where it is finished, and then is spread on gardens all over the grounds. Healthy soil makes healthy plants which are better able to protect themselves from predators. Those who work in the gardens also practice companion planting, crop rotation, double dug beds, and use computers to plan their gardens for optimal production.

For years I have thought how terrible the food waste is from our schools, hospitals, retirement homes and other establishments in this country. If we could only go the compost route, it could be sold or distributed to local gardens instead of going to landfills.

One more point made by one of our speakers was to look at the website [StoryofStuff.com]. For some weird reason the writer visits landfills all over this country and others. She notes that "...we (Americans) are humongous waste makers...Nationally, we generate over 250 million tons of garbage each year, and that is only the municipal waste - or garbage - which doesn't even include the much larger amounts of waste from industries, mining, and construction. We make enough garbage each year in the U. S. to fill a convoy of 10-ton trucks long enough to wrap around the earth six times!"
It's too depressing to think about more than the one piece we can do. Try not to be discouraged, just do what we can.

Pat Churchman

*Pics are of EcoDorms at Warren-Wilson College.
The little cutie eating a tomato is one I added because I believe children greatly benefit from being part of the family garden.

Post Contributed by Beth Trissel, an avid gardener as well as a writer. I come from a long line of gardeners.

11 comments

  1. Nightingale // July 30, 2009 at 3:47 PM  
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  2. Nightingale // July 30, 2009 at 3:48 PM  

    Loved the photos. I'm not much of a gardener (have the proverbial black thumb) but I admire those who are so gifted. Asheville in the mountains of NC is one of my favorite places and is a mecca for new age and new ways of thinking. Great post, Beth.

  3. Beth Trissel // July 30, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

    Thanks Linda. I love Asheville too.

  4. Mary Marvella // July 30, 2009 at 5:52 PM  

    Eye-opening post, Beth. Thanks for the photo of the cutie!

    I'm not a gardener but Mama was.

  5. Mary Ricksen // July 30, 2009 at 7:00 PM  

    I miss gardening. It's too weird in Florida, but up north I had a huge one, and I loved it. I did my own compost pile too.
    Asheville is what made me want to move to NC. I love it too. There is the best farmers market ever there.
    Do you know the cutie?

  6. Beth Trissel // July 30, 2009 at 7:16 PM  

    Thanks Mary and Mary. I know many cuties but this particular little guy is not one of them. I came across his pic at i-stock and thought it was perfect.

    Mary R., maybe you should move to Ashville, NC.

  7. Scarlet Pumpernickel // July 31, 2009 at 2:11 AM  

    Beth, thanks for sharing this informative blog. I did not realize there was such a thing as an ecodorm! It sounds like a great earth-friendly idea. Other colleges should take this idea and run with it. Did you hear from Mrs. Obama? She is very much into this sort of thing, I would think it would be right up her alley.

  8. Beth Trissel // July 31, 2009 at 9:10 AM  

    Thanks and I agree. No word yet from Mrs. Obama but mom hopes to hear back.

  9. Pamela Varnado // July 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM  

    Hi Beth,
    I'm in the middle of planning a garden I want to start and found your post very encouraging. It'll be interesting to see how much of a green thumb I have since I've only cared for a few houseplants.

    I loved your pictures. Lots of color, which is a must have for me.

  10. Wendy // July 31, 2009 at 2:56 PM  

    Fascinating story about the ecodorm. I was just watching a news story recently about computer-related waste going to africa and how it was hurting the children scavenging it.

    I've watch the Story of Stuff before. It's hard not to get discouraged by it all.

  11. Dayana // August 2, 2009 at 8:41 AM  

    I am a gardener as well though I've been a slacker recently. Love to get out there and play in the dirt. It seems there are not enough hours in the day to do all I want to do!

    Great information and gets your brain going on ways to help our environment, Beth. I don't buy much new anymore and haven't for years. I love antiques, pieces with history attached to them, such as old furniture and knick knacks, pictures,etc. I also shop the shrift stores. Geez, you can find items with the store tags still on them! What is wrong with people? They are a wasteful species.

    Anyway, loved the post.

    Dayana~