Environmental Special Issue — The Plainsman

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environmental published by The Auburn Plainsman

BROOKE FUCITO | PHOTO EDITOR


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The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

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The Plainsman EDITORIAL BOARD EVAN MEALINS Editor-in-Chief

ABIGAIL MURPHY Operations Editor FILE PHOTO

TABLE OF CONTENTS CLIMATE CHANGE

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Why an environmental edition? Heat stress one of many challenges for local farmer Assessing AU’s progress toward its zero-emissions goal COLUMN | Childhood films prepared us to fight climate change

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Forget trash cans, try composting instead Fast fashion: The garment industry’s biggest black mark COLUMN | Mindfulness can decrease your carbon footprint This is how auburn is staying sustainable Where does your waste go?

SUSTAINABILITY

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Auburn celebrates 52 years of Earth day COLUMN | Repurposing your leftovers Cross-lamination changes future of timber

Multimedia Editor

DESTINI AMBUS Content/Opinion Editor

MY LY News Editor

CAROLINE CRAIG Assistant News Editor

ABIGAIL WOODS Culture Editor

SABINA CRISITELLO Assistant Culture Editor

CALEB JONES Sports Editor

HENRY ZIMMER Assistant Sports Editor

Let the March Madness begin

BROOKE FUCITO Photo Editor

Students raise money to make clean water accessible

ABBY CUNNINGHAM

Auburn leads state in recycling

CONNOR GAFFNEY

CONSERVATION

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TRICE BROWN

The Society for Natural Resources volunteers for a cause Auburn takes steps to protect its biodiversity Speaking for the trees Panel selects professor to track climate change

Social Media Editor

Video Editor

KRISTEN CARR Podcast Editor

CALEB EASON Editorial Cartoonist

CONTACT US Opinion opinion@theplainsman.com

Editor

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CALEB EASON | EDITORIAL CARTOONIST

It’s very easy to feel apathetic about the state of the Earth, however, that mentality usually hurts more than it helps.

EDITORIAL | Why an environmental edition? By EDITORIAL BOARD Spring 2022

The world seemed to stop when the coronavirus began to spread across the globe. Now that this crisis seems to be slipping away, another global crisis that seems to have slipped the minds of many has arisen with a new vengeance — climate change. Ironically enough, The Plainsman Editorial Board was planning to do an environmental edition a couple months before the pandemic hit. Now that we have lived through one global crisis we realized waiting another day could be a mistake. According to NASA’s “Climate Change: How Do We Know?”, trends of global warming have been documented

since the 1940s. While there have been movements around environmentalism since, this crisis continues to be something we collectively tune out. Climate change is a big scary issue and the purpose of this edition isn’t to scare people into action. It’s to call to light this issue we ignore and to showcase how people are helping and how we as individuals can be a part of the solution. So as you read through this edition we would like to encourage you to take a risk. Read these stories and let them affect you. As students, we have a habit of coping by being apathetic. There is already so much we need to worry about, so much that demands our attention at all times. The Earth is already here, it

already takes care of us. So, having to muster up the energy to care for the Earth can feel like another chore — just another thing on our list to worry about. However, we need to feel those notso-pretty emotions and use them as fuel. While it is easier to distance our emotions so that we can focus on solving the problem, what this problem needs is for people to sit with it and feel the effects. From there, the drive we need to keep going with true action can be guided from care. We understand we cannot always open ourselves up to empathy around global issues. There is always so much happening, and all at once. However, we can cultivate our feelings and direct it to the

right place. We can focus on the one big thing we can do, instead of the things we can’t do. And in that same vein, we can also respect the things that others can do, because we all have different abilities, resources and access when it comes to how we can contribute to caring for the Earth. We can’t, or shouldn’t, shame people for not being able to make environmentally-conscious changes in their lives. So there are three things we hope our readers will take away from this edition: care for yourself, care for others and care for the environment. We hope this will inspire you to be part of the change for a healthier planet. A brighter, cleaner, healthier future can be ours — we just have to leave our bad habits behind.


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LANEY MAYFIELD | NEWS WRITER

Garrette Dixon is a sixth-generation farmer.

Heat stress one of many challenges for local farmer By LANEY MAYFIELD News Writer

It’s dawn, and the farmer unloads his tools and seeds from his pickup truck. After walking through the fields, he pulls out his notebook to review his list of duties for the day. This is a more than a task, for this man, its lifestyle that almost seemed predestined. Garrette Dixon, 30, is a sixth-generation farmer at “Dixon Farms” in Salem, Alabama. As a child, he wanted to work in the agriculture industry. Now, the Auburn University alumni manages a 700-acre farm consisting of beef cattle, cotton and peanuts six days a week. A Salem native, Dixon said farming is in his blood. His love for it began when he was a boy working closely with his grandfather, Robert E. Gullatte Sr., a Vietnam War veteran who was a well-respected farmer in the Salem community. He said his grandfather made an impact on his life. “Paw Paw was my biggest influence,” Dixon said. “He introduced me to farming. We rode around the fields together, looked at crops, rode tractors and cotton pick-

ers, and take the cotton to the gin. It was just a one-ofa-kind experience; he was like my best friend.” After Dixon’s grandfather passed away when he was 10 years old, he said he did not lose his zeal for farming. He knew it was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Dixon attended Auburn University and majored in animal science. He said Auburn was “the only way to go” because of his many family members that attended the University and its “rich agricultural history.” While at Auburn, he owned six cattle, was a parttime farmer and pharmacy technician at Our Home Pharmacy, but he wanted to dedicate himself to his passion even more. In his senior year, he returned to the family farm in Salem and began working as a full-time farmer while being a full-time time student. “Balancing a school schedule and farm life was hectic, but I loved every moment of it,” Dixon said. “When it got too overwhelming, I had help from my family members, but I was just happy that I was able to be out in the fields more doing what I love.” Amid his “busy schedule,” Dixon always made time

for his then-girlfriend, Robin. “We were always together,” Robin said. “We went to football games together, studied together and just hung out with each other.” The two met in a science class and bonded over their love for agriculture. The couple got married in 2018. Robin is currently an agricultural education teacher in Phenix City, Alabama, and the two welcomed a daughter, Chandler Jane Dixon, this month. But on the other hand, Dixon said being a farmer can present a series of hardships. Dixon said the most challenging thing is dealing with issues “beyond his control,” such as the supply chain crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation. Dixon also said the impact of global climate change is also one of those difficulties. Global climate change is the changes in the earth’s temperature and weather pattern. According to the article entitled “World of Change: Global Temperatures” on NASA’s Earth Observatory website, the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since the mid-1800s. Tayler Schillerberg, doctoral student and researcher


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CLIMATE CHANGE in the College of Agriculture, said global climate change could make heat stress, extreme temperatures for agricultural activity, even more common. She said similar to the human body, heat stress can lead to adverse outcomes for crops. “When humans get too hot, the body reacts negatively. Plants are the same way,” Schillerberg said. “When plants overheat, they can experience symptoms of decreased rates of photosynthesis, increase water demand, affecting the starches and proteins in the crop, which can lead to decreases in yield quality and quantity. It can be really detrimental to crops.” Dixon said although every farmer is different, he has a go-to solution that will reduce the heat stress for his crops. One of his methods is planting cover crops, which preserves and enriches the soil. After Dixon gathers his harvest in the fall, he plants rye, a cereal grain often used to cover crops. The rye assists with moisture retention, weed control and erosion control in the fields. The following spring, as temperatures increase and peanuts and cotton seeds are planted, the rye helps conserve moisture, improves soil structures, suppresses weeds and helps the overall health of the crop. Another challenge is controlling Palmer amaranth,

also known as pigweed on the farm. The weed has been regarded as the “most troublesome weed in the USA,” by the Weed Science Society of America. It has an immense root structure that produces substantial seeds that can harm crops. It has a growth rate of two to three inches per day. Schillerberg said due to changes in the global climate conditions are more favorable for weed growth. “It’s not like most weeds, it can be extremely hard to kill and can take over a field,” Schillerberg said. “Weeds can take away nutrients from crops and because Palmer amaranth’s seed quantity and growth are more than other weeds, it can be very harmful to crops if it’s not taken care of.” Dixon said though he has encountered the weed on his farm, he is taking proactive measures to combat its presence. He hired a scout to check his farm weekly for any toxic elements in his field, including pests and weeds. Dixon said he understands the importance of the global climate crisis, but he does not have any thoughts on the matter. He said there are ever-evolving solutions to help him get through the global climate crisis. There is something that Dixon does have thought about, farmers not being valued by some people in the

world. “Sometimes I feel that farmers are overlooked,” Dixon said. “I don’t think that farmers are necessarily looking for recognition, but I feel like we are not appreciated. It can be something as small as people becoming upset at us for driving a tractor down the street to stereotyping us when we tell them that we are farmers. Without farmers, there will be no food or clothes. I want people to realize that every farmer is doing the best they can.” Dixon said he is content with his farmland and does not plan to expand his farm or sell any additional products, but he intends to pass his knowledge of the farm industry to his daughter. “I want to teach her all there is to know about agriculture,” Dixon said. “If she wants to take another career path then I did, I am fine with that, but I would love to show her the ropes of farming. It would be nice to keep our legacy going.” In the meantime, Dixon is glad that he is living out his dream as an agriculturalist. “I remember those days, saying to myself, ‘Man, I can’t wait to be a real farmer someday like Paw Paw and the rest of them,’” Dixon said. “Now in here, I finally made it, and I’m blessed to be here.”

LANEY MAYFIELD | NEWS WRITER

Dixon Farms is located in Salem, Alabama.


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PAYTON DAVIS | PHOTOGRAPHER

Assessing AU’s progress toward its zero-emissions goal By MY LY News Editor

Students file into a Tiger Transit bus on the way to class. The light switch is flipped on in a classroom, and the washers in the dorms buzz as students’ clothes are being cleaned. All these scenes are examples of small efforts towards a bigger change. From student transit to campus appliances, the Office of Sustainability is making changes to reduce the University’s overall carbon emissions. Auburn’s Office of Sustainability released an updated version of the climate action plan in May 2019, updated from the November 2010 version. In the 2019 plan, the office established new goals for the upcoming years including establishing efforts to tackle “other campus emissions.” The plan’s goal is to reach carbon neutrality, pledging to “reduce Auburn’s core campus greenhouse gas emissions 100% from 2008 levels, by 2050.” In 2008, Jay Gogue, then president of Auburn University, signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which committed Auburn to carbon neutrality.

Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability, said while there has been progress in completing the plan, it’s already time for another action plan. “To get to the next level of specificity and accountability about what we’re doing in the near term. The utility and energy department in Facilities Management has been working very aggressively to improve Auburn’s energy efficiency,” he said. Auburn used the emission levels in 2008 as the baseline levels for which the goals are compared to. The plan’s near-term goals include a 20% reduction of emissions by 2024. This is a stepping stone to meet the greater goal of 100% carbon neutrality. Other short-term goals the office is working toward include reducing electricity emissions, travel emissions and purchasing more environmentally friendly appliances. “It’s going slow so far,” Kensler said. “What we would really like to see is the University purchase utility-scale solar energy for the campus. We’ve been working on that, but there are a lot of constraints in the state of Alabama that make that difficult, so we have not yet been able to take advantage of the benefits of solar. That’s, I think, the single biggest next step we can do.” In terms of purchasing, Kensler discussed further challeng-

es behind state constraints. There’s an Energy Star certification, which allows individuals to know the product is the most efficient product. However, originally, the University did not have any direct purchasing guidelines for those products. Since then, the Office of Sustainability has released sustainable purchasing guidelines to overcome this barrier and aid in achieving their purchasing goals. According to Kensler, the most significant portions of the plan are transportation and electricity. “Tiger Transit looked at making a large-scale move to electric buses, but we don’t have the infrastructure in place yet to be able to do that,” Kensler said. “So with this last bus purchase, they did buy a few electric buses, I think a few hybrid-electric buses, and more energy-efficient buses with less emissions. So they’re moving in that direction, but there’s much more we need to do and I think we can move at a quicker pace to make the transition.” By 2030, the Office of Sustainability is aiming to extend their goal by reducing Auburn University’s total emissions by 40% from the 2008 baseline. “The bottom line is, we have a plan,” Kensler said. “We have the commitment. I think we’re the only college university in the state to have one.”


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Our childhood films prepared us for fighting climate change By ABIGAIL MURPHY Operations Editor

A sprout in a boot, a river who lost his name and a speaker of trees. These are the stories of our childhood: “Wall-E,” “Spirited Away” and “The Lorax.” Gen Z and Millennials are some of the first generations to grow up with an environmental consciousness. A mindset where we think about the environmental impact of our daily lives. Maybe that has made some of us worried about the future. But really, it has made us more prepared than we may have realized to battle climate change. We just need to remember the lessons of our childhood. Sprout in a boot While we haven’t gotten to the point where we need motorized chairs because we are so attached to our screens, we have distanced ourselves from nature. As the internet has become easier to access and smartphones allow for instant entertainment, we have become more reliant on the digital world. However, technology, like solar panels and hybrid cars, can aid us in reversing the effects of cli-

mate change. But “Wall-E” reminds us we are still part of nature regardless of technological innovation. The futuristic humans of “Wall-E” are so detached from Earth they aren’t even on it anymore — surrounded instead by metal. However, Wall-E’s devotion to the sprout in the boot shows us that humans and the Earth rely on each other. We are part of an ecosystem, and we need to maintain a balance between technology and nature. This cautionary tale shows we cannot let technology consume us to the point we believe we are above Mother Nature. A river who lost his name “The river was called the Kohaku River. Your real name is… Kohaku,” said the protagonist of “Spirited Away,” Chihiro Ogino. Up until then, Kohaku was nameless, under control of the greedy bathhouse owner, Yubaba. Yubaba was said to be able to take away one’s name in order to control them. However, as a river spirit whose river was filled in to build apartment complexes, Kohaku lost both his identity and his home. Hayao Miyazaki, the director

of “Spirited Away,” often highlights environmental themes in his works. “Spirited Away” tackles many other issues, but one of the main environmental issues brought up is urban development through the character of Kohaku. According to a research article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if population density continues, by 2030 it is estimated there will be an increase of 1.2 million kilometers to urban areas. It is also no coincidence the main villain of the movie is greed. “Spirited Away” touches on themes of overconsumption from resources to material goods. We can even think of urban development as consuming the natural world around us. “Spirited Away” gives us the lesson to respect nature and reminds us to use its resources in moderation. A speaker of trees A circular pile of rocks, one word remaining: “Unless.” These ominous words reminds us readers the future will be worse, unless we start to care and take actions. The Lorax was originally written by Dr. Seuss in the 1970s and was made into an animated film in the 2010s. However, both

works put an emphasis on the dangers of capitalism. Unlike movies, in real life there is no bad guy. We are all players in this. We do good acts and bad ones, which is why we must hold ourselves, loved ones and institutions accountable. There is power in the consumer, as the multipurpose Thneed shows us. But we are meant to use that power, collectively, to demand companies be more eco-friendly in their practice. We are all speakers through our consumerism, and we are all meant to be speakers of the trees. However, the lessons all these films hold is hope: “Wall-E” with the planting of farms, “Spirited Away” with Chihiro saying “I think I can handle it” and with The Lorax with the message of “Unless.” We, students, are already living through one global crisis, and we know better than anyone that acting now and working together are key. We already have the answers. While we have a long way to go, we are heading in the right direction. We just need to approach this with a little bit of hope and through our inner child’s eyes.

COLUMN:


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Forget trash cans, try composting instead Auburn environmental science professor weighs in on how to decrease food waste

By SABINA CRISITELLO Assistant Culture Editor

Earth day is quickly approaching, but there is always an opportunity to give back to the environment. Kirk Iversen, professor in crop, soil and environmental sciences at Auburn, is here to lend his suggestions for how to reduce food waste and make the most of recycling. One of the easiest ways to discard food waste is through a process called “food composting.” “Food composting is a natural process of recycling food scraps into organic fertilizer that can enrich plants and soil,” Iversen said. “You can compost your food by making a simple compost bin or pile and putting all of your food and yard waste into it.” Food composting has many environmental benefits, including decreasing the waste that is generated in landfills and reducing methane emissions. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, composting food can also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and encourage the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create a more nutrient rich matter. Iversen said while choosing to air-out the food will help to speed up the decomposition process, it isn’t necessary for the process. According to plantnatural.com, in order to aerate, it is recommended to create holes that are 3-6 inches apart and reach all the way through the pile, which will help to oxygenate the compost. If using a bin, you can easily drill holes between 1-2 inches in rows around the can.

It is also important to use bulky items in the bottom of the pile in order to allow the maximum amount of air to circulate through the compost. “I have backyard chickens, so I just throw most of my food and yard waste into the chicken coop and they do a great job of breaking it all down into smaller materials and aerating it.” Of course, if you don’t have chickens at your disposal a stick will suffice. Iversen said that the easiest way to make a compost pile would be to use a corner in a yard or to recruit friends and housemates to help share the task. It is no secret that college students live busy lives, which are often accompanied by eating out and making easy, microwaveable meals. As easy as those options might be, they tend to create a lot of food waste. “Students tend to eat out a lot, and that comes with a lot of food waste as well as packaging waste. It is a good idea to bring reusable mugs, straws and utensils to minimize packaging waste,” Iversen said. “You can also bring packaging to take leftovers home to reduce food waste and packaging.” If you do choose to go out to eat at a restaurant, there are several easy modifications that can make you and Mother Nature smile. Iversen recommends asking the restaurant for less packaging or bringing your own reusable package to take leftovers home. “For example, if you have one slice of pizza left over, a restaurant will normally give you a pizza box to take it home in, but you can request a piece of aluminum foil to use instead,” Iversen said. Food composting is a way to give back to the earth and lower your carbon footprint in the process.

BROOKE FUCITO | PHOTO EDITOR


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Fast Fashion: The garment industry’s biggest black mark By SABINA CRISITELLO Assistant Culture Editor

The price tags don’t lie. Fast fashion is cheap. According to New York Magazine, the average product at H&M retails for $18. That final price includes raw material cost, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, operating costs and labor, all topped off with a company markup. With only $18 to work with, how do companies stretch the budget? Who pays for the overflow? The answer is both humanitarian and environmental. According to experts and activists alike, fast fashion runs off of two involuntary benefactors: underpaid laborers and the environment. Defined as inexpensive clothing mass produced to satisfy the regenerative trend cycle, fast fashion has become a major player in the modern shopping experience. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average consumer will wear an item seven times throughout the duration of it’s lifespan. After the seventh wear, the garment will join the 21 billion tons of textiles that end up in landfills each year, according to Vogue. As trend turnover continues to speed up, experts predict this number will only increase. Sara Kunkel, junior in apparel merchandising and managing editor for SWATCH, believes that technology

plays a large role in the decreased lifespan of modern trends. “We were given the tools, through technology, to overconsume,” Kunkel said. Now, knee deep in the digital age, services like overnight shipping have conditioned society to expect instant gratification. In order to keep up, online retailers like Fashion Nova release up to 900 new styles every week, according to CEO Richard Saghian. While consumers can view, save and quickly click “add to cart” from the comfort of their homes, the physical implications of their purchases are being felt thousands of miles away. The garment industry is notorious for poor labor practices, particularly regarding the use of child labor. According to UNICEF, an estimated 170 million children are employed under conditions that breach child labor laws. Many of these children work in the garment industry, supplying fast fashion retailers with new styles to fuel a worldwide audience. Experts believe the same technology that normalized overconsumption will be society’s savior from it. Dr. Young-A-Lee, professor and graduate program officer in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences at Auburn University, is one of those experts.

Lee realized her passion for sustainability in the garment industry during the 1990s, while spending time in South Korea and surrounding nations. “Living in the United States, we don’t actually see the factory, how it’s running and the impact it’s giving to the environment. It took me seeing the dark side of the apparel manufacturing industry,” she said. Since then, Lee has devoted her life’s work to reshaping the garment industry. In 2017, Lee and her team challenged the way society views textiles by creating a leather substitute made from fermented green tea. The product offers a glimpse into a possible solution for dwindling natural resources. “It’s repurposing the existing byproduct to create a new material,” Lee said. Short term, Lee said the future of sustainability lies in the integration of technology into the buying process. This movement is already underway, with many brands employing virtual try-on options and creating modular designed clothing, otherwise known as garments, that can be deconstructed for multiple purposes. Lee believes garment personalization will encourage consumers to forgo short-lived trends in favor of personal style. “As consumers, we hold the power. Until we realize that fast fashion isn’t going away,” Kunkel said.

HANJIAXI QIN | PHOTOGRAPHER


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column | reducing your output with mindfulness By SAMI GRACE DONNELLY Columnist

Sustainability is one of the least understood complications of our time. I had trouble giving it attention because it was too overwhelming to comprehend, and I felt like there was nothing I could do about it. After all, how can one college student stop climate change? I visited Auburn’s Office of Sustainability one afternoon, and I left with a plethora of facts, resources and ways to make a positive impact. The practice of sustainability encompasses far more than I had previously thought. Sustainable habits are not a “fix.” They are a way of living more respectfully in the world to ensure the well-being of all living things — now and into the future. “The Sustainability Compass” is a foundation for understanding, and it serves as a guide. The fields of nature, economy, society and well-being make up the compass rose. Each of these aspects requires nurturing, and the healthy upkeep of all four constitutes the practice of sustainability. Nature is probably the one we most closely associate with the word “sustainability.” “Little things tend to add up. Try not to let the overarching feeling of climate anxiety bog you down because your one recycled bottle is still one more thing being recycled,” said Grace Reilein, one of the student staff in Auburn’s Office of Sustainability. One of the biggest things you can do in the nature category is educate yourself. The Office of Sustainability hosts sev eral events, and held a Climate Teach-In on March 22 to expound on the topics of climate change, public health, environmental justice and movement building. Think about the realm of economy in systemic terms.

“It’s supply and demand,” aid Jennifer Morse, outreach and communications manager for the Office of Sustainability. “One of the most important things you can do is think about what you value and then have your purchases align with those values.” Voting with your dollar means using your money to live more sustainably; your purchasing behavior has an impact. This doesn’t always mean buying organic food — although that helps. Sometimes it looks like renting, thrifting, borrowing, making or not buying something if you don’t really need it. Businesses will notice if customers boycott their styrofoam goods in exchange for reusable plates and cutlery. Supporting local businesses also goes a long way, which ties in with the compass’ idea of society. Things like volunteering and meeting new people help sustain a community. Auburn University is its own community. Thousands of students doing “small things” can have a tremendous impact on a city and even state. Don’t sell yourself short, because your actions have influence and impact. Well-being is personal sustainability. This looks like eating healthy food, getting exercise and maintaining mental health. Being a college student gives you countless new experiences, so it is important to have an anchor and way to replenish yourself — so you can live the rest of your life. “I used to think this was some huge thing that was so far above me that there was really nothing I could do to help, but there’s really a lot that you can do,” said David Morgan, the Office of Sustainability’s communications specialist. One person’s actions have influence. Their actions can improve their own behavior, have a positive impact on their community, influence their economy or make a small change that positively affects the world. Sustainability starts small.


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HOW AUBURN IS STAYING SUSTAINABLE By HARLEE MEYDRECH Culture Writer

The Auburn University Office of Sustainability was officially adopted in 2011. Since then, it has worked to reduce waste, increase recycling and save energy on Auburn’s campus. Jennifer Morse, outreach and communications manager of the Office of Sustainability, explained how the Office of Sustainability makes Auburn University a better place. “We do outreach and engagement, which is getting students and employees more involved,” she said. “We do the sustainability reporting for campus. This includes The Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System and Greenhouse Gas reporting. We work very closely with the Waste Reduction and Recycling Department.” Joan Hicken is the waste reduction and recycling coordinator at Auburn University. Hicken discussed how this department works to keep Auburn sustainable. The department oversees a dizzying amount of equipment and machines: 130 solid waste front end loaders, 75 cardboard recycling front end loaders, 13 trash compactors, two recycling compactors, more than 400 hand-pick bins, 30 Big Belly units, 200 ninety-five-gallon mixed paper recycling bins, six cardboard balers and many others across campus. Both the Office of Sustainability and the waste reduction and recycling department, aim to promote sustainability, which is why they work closely together. Hicken explained how the Waste Reduction and Recycling Department creates change in Auburn. “We use integrated solid waste management techniques to manage our solid wastes,” Hicken said. “This

is a strategic approach to sustainable waste management including activities like waste reduction, recycling and landfilling. Our materials and waste priorities are to reduce waste in the first place, and then, if waste is generated, recycle it before landfilling.”

reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill,” she said. They had 87 student volunteers contribute a total of 80 volunteer hours handing out 2,020 recycling bags to tailgaters to collect plastic bottles and aluminum cans for recycling during

CONTRIBUTED BY JOAN HICKEN

The department of waste reduction and recycling also has a number of ways students can get involved. “The waste reduction and recycling department teams up with student volunteers to distribute recycling bags to tailgaters at home football games to increase recycling and

the 2021 football season. Through service, students practice skills like leadership, problem-solving and time management and contribute to Auburn’s sustainability effors. Another way the waste reduction and recycling department increases

student involvement is through its Sustainability Picnics. The Sustainability Picnic is a nowaste event which takes place at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum each year. “The Sustainability Picnic is an opportunity for students to discover the breadth of sustainability at Auburn University,” Hicken said. Students can connect with academic and university departments and explore how to get involved. Students can also meet representatives of event sponsors: Tiger Dining, Arboretum, waste reduction and recycling repartment, academic sustainability programs, College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and Office of Sustainability.” While the Office of Sustainability and department of waste reduction and recycling are great ways for students to get involved in improving sustainability, there are many other ways for students to get plugged into helping the environment. Hicken provided many helpful recycling resources for students and faculty alike: In order to make recycling convenient for those who do not have access to the proper bins at their condos, homes or apartment complexes, their department has set up a recycling drop-off center that is open to all members of the Auburn community. The drop-off site is located on West Thach Avenue at the back of the West Campus Parking Lot. “In 2021, we recycled 396 tons of cardboard, 174 tons of paper, 46 tons of scrap metal and 29 tons of mixed containers” she said. Recycling, according to Hicken, is a great way to conserve natural resources, save energy, prevent pollution and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.


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Where does your waste go? By EVAN MEALINS Editor-in-Chief

Those who recycle in Auburn have a pretty simple task. Trash goes in the green cart. Recyclable items go in the blue cart. To properly do the job, the recycler needs a basic understanding of what can be recycled, although you can rely on signs on items to figure out if most recycling plants can handle it. Look at the bottom of that water bottle and you’ll see the recycling logo, a triangle made of arrows. The water bottle goes in the blue cart. The carts go to the street. After that, the resident’s job is done, and they pass the baton to the government to handle everything else. But what happens next? The City of Auburn collects its residents’ waste in five primary ways: with garbage trucks going to homes and a few businesses, recycling trucks going to most homes and a few businesses, trucks picking up yard waste and bulky items, the RecycleAuburn Drop Off Center at 365-A N. Donahue Drive and on the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Days. After collection, the waste goes to a different place depending on where it was picked up from. Catrina Cook, environmental services director for the City of Auburn, sat down with The Plainsman to explain the ins and outs of the trash business. Garbage On a fully staffed day, seven-to-eight garbage collectors hit the road. They’ll collect from about 1,000 houses each. As of early March, the City has 17,437 residential customers and 160 commercial customers for curbside pickup. Collectors pick up trash from as many that have their cart out on their scheduled day and time. If you forget to place your trash on the street, Cook said most of the time, they’ll come by to pick it up later if you give them a call. After they’ve picked up trash from all the houses, the collectors drive the trucks to a drop off location in Opelika managed by GFL Environmental, a Toronto-based environmental services company. From there, GFL transfers the trash to a landfill in Tallassee, Alabama. The City pays GFL $27.46 per ton of garbage, which came out to a total of $468,440 in 2021, based on data from Cook. Curbside Recycling Of the 17,437 houses that the City picks up garbage from, 84.7% use the City’s single-stream recycling program. Single-stream allows the City to pick up all different recyclable materials from one bin, which makes the process easier for both customers and collectors. “Everyone can toss everything in one container without source separating at the curb, so it’s … easier for the homeowner, it’s easier on our side being able to collect the material,” Cook said. “Before, we were having to use a few different trucks to collect the material, and now instead of four or five trucks coming around to your house you only get three.” When recycling collectors pick up a recycling bin, they do a visual inspection of the bin’s contents to make sure there isn’t any

contamination. Using the lever arm to pick up the bin, they peer inside with the six different cameras on the truck. Once the recycling is picked up, the collectors drive it to Pratt Industries in Atlanta that same day. In 2021, the City delivered 2,804 tons of recycling to the company, which specializes in making recycled corrugated packaging. The City has a contract with Pratt which allows them to deliver their recyclables for free because most loads are free from contamination, Cook said. Also, don’t put plastic bags in your recycling, Cook said.

MARY ELIZABETH LANE | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Bottles lay in the RecycleAuburn Drop Off Center.

Green Waste Division — Bulky and yard waste When you cut down a tree or need to get rid of a mattress, both items are picked up by the City’s green waste division. The green waste division collects limbs, leaves, grass clippings, furniture, large electrical goods and other related material. After these items are picked up, they’re taken to Sand Hill Recycling in Opelika. According to an environmental services informational presentation, 70% of material handled by the green waste division is recycled or reduced in volume. Much of the waste, once broken down, is used as landfill cover, which is laid on top of trash at landfills to control the emission of harsh odors, deter pests and prevent runoff. During the City’s annual trash amnesty period, collectors will pick up anything that is left curbside free of charge. In 2022, trash amnesty runs from March 14-April 9. RecycleAuburn Drop Off Center Located at 365 N. Donahue Drive, the RecycleAuburn Drop Off Center is available for residents who aren’t customers of the City’s curbside recycling service. The drop off center also accepts glass recyclables, cooking grease and other waste products which

are not accepted with curbside recycling. The waste at the drop off center is sent to a different location than curbside recycling. The City sends these recyclables to Waste Recycling Inc. in Opelika and are paid by the ton since the items are separated by material, cutting down on the work required of Waste Recycling. Household Hazardous Waste Days The environmental services department hosts several household hazardous waste days each year, when residents can bring materials they can’t otherwise dispose of — things like used motor oil, antifreeze, swimming pool chemicals, pesticides and paint, as well as electronics. Because of the dangers handling hazardous materials, the City brings a team of chemists from MXI Environmental Services, which is based out of Abingdon, Virginia, to ensure nothing harmful happens. Once, the daughter of a chemist brought her father’s materials after he died, Cook recalled. Among the materials was picric acid, which can become a powerful explosive when dry. When the chemists discovered the danger, everyone had to evacuate and a bomb squad from Fort Benning came to handle the chemicals. “We try to make sure that our employees have every opportunity to see exactly what they’re picking up, and we do all the things that we do to educate the public in what goes where so that we don’t come into that situation so that everyone is safe,” Cook said. The City’s next household hazardous waste day is scheduled for March 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Other Waste The City also uses a 600-gallon underground tank for downtown bars and restaurants to dump used cooking oil into. Restaurants dump used oil from a five-gallon bucket provided to them into the tank, which is emptied once every two weeks and taken to GEO Biofuel in Newnan, Georgia. There, the oil is recycled and turned into anything from dog food to make up. Cook advised that electronics be taken to the environmental services building at 356 N. Donahue Drive, which are then sent to processors throughout the Southeast for recycling. For other types of waste that you aren’t sure how to dispose of, the City has an app called “What Goes Where?” on its website which allows users to search for items and shows them where it should be taken. In the future, Cook said she hopes to see a lot of things change. Several years from here, they should have a new materials recovery facility where they can aggregate all of the waste before hauling it off. Ideally, only one 18-wheeler has to carry recycling to Atlanta, rather than five trucks a day. For now, though, the environmental services department is busy, and Cook said they could use more people, because the the trash doesn’t stop. “That’s one thing that doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “You know recycling’s not going anywhere. You’re waiting on us. Garbage’s not going anywhere, and yard and bulky debris isn’t going anywhere.”


Spring 2022

The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

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SUSTAINABILITY

Auburn celebrates 52 years of Earth Day By VIRGINIA SHEA Culture Writer

People have been celebrating Earth Day for more than five decades. In Auburn, the Office of Sustainability has been making efforts to celebrate the event since its inception in 2011. “At the time, in 1970, Earth Day was the largest demonstration in American history,” said Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability. “There were 20 million people just in the United States. Its role is to help people improve the natural world and our community. “It was to help people understand the issues and then take action, and we’ve come to understand that so many things are interconnected,” Kensler said. Something that aided this demonstration was the first lunar trip, as it helped people contextualize the world they live in. “No one had ever seen anything like this, and no one had any idea what the Earth looked like, and after seeing what it looked like from this lunar trip, they thought, ‘Wow, it is so beautiful and precious, yet incredibly small and vulnerable,’” Kensler said.

In 2020, the Office of Sustainability had a number of events planned for the celebration of the 50th year of Earth Day, but COVID-19 forced them to cancel their plans. However, this year the office is able to put on its Earth Day Extravaganza, where students can interact with sustainable living habits through the activities, education and food featured at the event. Earth Day Extravaganza will be hosted by The Waste Reduction and Recycling Department, the Office of Sustainability, The Department of Geosciences and UPC. There will be crafts, puzzles, succulents and a drone at the event. This event will be held on campus, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22. The event aims to help students have the knowledge and tools to live sustainably. “We can create a flourishing world if we can summon the world to do it,” Kensler said. One tool the Office of Sustainability uses is the Compass of Sustainability. The compass was created in the 2000s and is used across the world. It is divided into four systems that each represent a

system conditioned for sustainability. The four systems of the compass include nature, economy, society and well being. “In these points, you can ask yourself, ‘What’s the state of the natural world for which we all depend?’, ‘Do we have a healthy economy that includes everybody?’, ‘Do we have healthy communities and a thriving society?’ and ‘Do we have individual well being?’” Kensler said. The Office of Sustainability works with faculty, students, student groups and Student Affairs to educate them on these things. “If you think about the last line of the Auburn Creed, what’s that look like in practice?” Kensler said. The last line of the creed reads, “I believe in Auburn and love it.” With this in mind, the office is partnering with the University architect, the campus planner and faculty experts to see how people can intentionally design the future in a way that’s more people-

friendly. “It’s really inspiring and sobering at the same time, and if we can keep that perspective in mind, I think we will behave much differently toward each other and the planet we live on,” Kensler said. The office also offers a monthly newsletter that they send out in order to spread awareness. They hold at least one event a month with some events including expert speakers. “As an office, as far as we’re concerned, every day is Earth Day,” Kensler said.

FILE PHOTO


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SUSTAINABILITY

column | repurpose your leftover groceries By MALLORIE MCCOY Columnist

After a week of not going to the grocery store, we have all opened our fridge to half empty jars and containers. I am sure the question comes to mind, “What will I do with a spoonful of jam or my leftover dinner from a few days ago?” When there is hardly any substance left in bottles and containers, we automatically want to throw them away. However, we rarely think how these fragments of food can be put to good use. Surprisingly, it does not take a great deal of work to be sustainable in the kitchen. As most households tend to push all deserted and forgotten foods to the back of the fridge, why not utilize them to our environment’s advantage? We can start this change by creatively re-

purposing our leftover foods. Say you cook almost every night and have built up a plethora of reusable meals. Instead of having to start from scratch like usual, you can piece together different foods of past meals to create a brand-new recipe. This is as simple as heating up the food in the microwave and maybe adding a few of your favorite sauces and spices. There are various ways to preserve your contrasting categories of food. Starting with condiments, one can mix jams with vinegar and oil to create salad dressings. These dressings could have thinner consistencies for salads or thicker consistencies for sandwiches. Furthermore, salsas, ketchup and barbecue sauces can all be added to soup or broths to make a more unique taste. Also, you can create yummy sauce toppings to mix up your avocado toast breakfast.

Another great food source that can be reconstructed is vegetables. Leftover vegetables that have already been cooked and roasted once before can be turned into delicious puree soups, or even can be used as salad toppings. If vegetables are in your everyday diet, you can reheat your vegetables to be put on a sandwich along with your favorite sauce. Additionally, vegetables from last night’s dinner can be added to your breakfast in an omelet or frittata if that is more your speed. However, there are ways to repurpose your leftovers even if you are the pickiest of eaters. Bread and rice can be pureed and used as thickeners in soups. Bread can be made into homemade croutons for a yummy salad. Furthermore, an easy way to spice up your morning breakfast is to make bread crumbs, toast them in butter, and sprinkle

the finished product over scrambled eggs to add a little crunch. Although it is uncommonly thought, even meats can be recycled for another meal. Bacon can be pinched into bits, sauteed in a pan with vinegar and oil, then poured over greens to add some flavor. Moreover, pieces of leftover meats such as chicken or pork, can be added in stews and soups. For protein, meats can be shredded into salads. Meats can create a myriad of meals such as tacos or cool wraps. Add your preferred veggies and condiments to whatever meat, and your repurposed dinner is served. Repurposing dinners is an easy, efficient way to limit food waste and create a cleaner environment with less pollution. If we all opt to be a little more inventive in the kitchen, as opposed to cluttering our refrigerators, we can make a change.

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SUSTAINABILITY

DANIEL SCHMIDT | PHOTOGRAPHER

Researchers in the College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences are studying ways to use cross-laminated timber.

Cross-lamination changes future of timber By EMMA HALL News Writer

With over 71% of the geographical area in Alabama covered in timber, it is no wonder that Alabama is a leader in the forest industry. It may come as a surprise, however, that new ways of using timber are still being discovered. Cross-laminated timber, or CLT, entered the conversation of forestry in the South in 2017. Since then CLT has grown in value, relevancy and has had ramifications in industries, such as forestry, architecture, engineering, construction and design. CLT is constructed with overlapping wooden panels. This design is beneficial for the industries previously mentioned because the prefabrication of the wooden panels allows for flexibility in how it is shaped. With CLT, the timber can be cut to precision beforehand and simply put together when it arrives on a construction

site. First discovered across the Pacific Ocean, the process of CLT has made its way from Europe to Canada to the Southeast of the United States in the past few years. CLT made its opening debut in the Southeast in Dothan, Alabama, in 2017 where a manufacturing plant was established and soon became fully operational in the following two years. The manufacturing of CLT has only grown in the Southeast since then. In a conversation with Adam Maggard, assistant professor and extension specialist at the Auburn University College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, he explained that there are many advantages that come with using CLT. First, CLT is economically efficient. “CLT is not dollar for dollar cheaper, but it is lighter on the construction site and easier to use because it is prefabricated. Other materials like concrete and steel start from ground zero so CLT makes up in

labor hours from an economic standpoint,” Maggard said. He said it is much easier and quicker on a construction site to piece together wooden panels “like Legos” rather than shape and construct heavier materials like steel and concrete on site. Second, CLT is environmentally conscious. “It is energy efficient as wood products have a lower carbon footprint and are more sustainable than steel or concrete. There is also minimal waste production and less carbon dioxide with CLT,” Maggard said. Next, CLT is precisely designed. Because of the way CLT is produced, it provides flexibility for architects and designers. The wooden panels can be carefully tailored to precise measurements and can be increased in thickness to certain specifications. Maggard said the CLT can act as an “inner skeleton” of a building for design because of its prefabrication and can easily be constructed to a specific aesthetic, as well as

provide notably strong acoustics. Lastly, CLT is fire protective. The secret to CLT’s fire protection is in its lattice design. Because of the thickness that comes with wooden panels overlying each other, CLT chars much slower than other materials would. This inner “insulation” from flames from outside the building contributes to its fire prevention. This new way of using timber is not only being discussed but is also being applied to construction on Auburn University’s campus. Upcoming and ongoing construction projects on campus, such as the Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory on West Samford Avenue, the Hey Day Market for the Culinary Science Center and the Nature Preschool for the College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, have already begun to incorporate CLT into their construction and design processes. According to Maggard, “We will see CLT more and more as we go forward.”


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SPORTS

Let the March Madness begin By CALEB JONES Sports Editor

It’s offically March, which means one thing: the NCAA Tournament and March Madness has officially returned. Not only has the tournament returned to all its glory, but so have the Auburn Tigers. After a one-year postseason ban and a 13-14 record that left the Tigers out of the tournament last season, Auburn is back in the Big Dance with its highest seeding since 1999. Auburn earned an at-large bid as the 2-seed in the Midwest Region of the tournament after finishing the season with an overall record of 27-5 and an SEC regular-season championship. The Tigers started their season 3-0 before dropping their first game to UConn in a double-overtime shootout where both teams combined for 224 points. It was the last time that Au-

burn lost a game for over a two-month span, where the Tigers went on a 19-game win streak. During the win streak, the program reached a new height, excelling to a mark it’s never reached before — the No. 1 overall ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll. The ranking came the week after the Tigers defeated then-ranked No. 12 Kentucky at home 80-71. A few games later, Auburn completed the regular-season sweep over Alabama by dropping 100 points over the Crimson Tide in a 19-point win. Auburn lasted four games as the No. 1 team in the nation before losing its second game of the season on Feb. 8 to Arkansas, another overtime battle that didn’t go the Tigers’ way. It was the first of three straight road losses for Auburn, but the Tigers finished the regular season 16-0 at Auburn Arena — renamed Neville Arena toward the end of the season. The trip to Tampa for the SEC Tournament was short-lived for the No. 1-seed Tigers.They were upset by Texas A&M in the quarterfinals and left Tampa after one game. Selection Sunday revealed the Tigers were set to face Jacksonville State in the Round of 64 to open the tournament. Within the Midwest Region, there are nine conference champions, both regular-season and tournament champions. Auburn’s journey begins in Greenville, South Carolina, as the Tigers try to work their way to New Orleans for their second-ever Final Four appearance.

Kansas Texas Southern San Diego St. Creighton

ASHTON SCOTT | PHOTOGRAPHER

e h t o t d our a o R nal F Fi

Iowa Richmond Providence Midwest Region

S. Dakota St. LSU Iowa State Wisconsin Colgate

LARRY ROBINSON | PHOTOGRAPHER

Fill in the bracket as the NCAA Tournament progresses

USC Miami (FL) Auburn Jacksonville St.


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The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

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SUSTAINABILITY

Students raise money to make clean water accessible By TUCKER MASSEY News Writer

Since becoming active in 2013, Students for Clean Water has raised awareness about the global water crisis and raised money to help mitigate its effects. The water crisis refers to widespread lack of access to clean drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 deaths each year from diarrhea. After former Miss Auburn Tara Jones chose the water crisis issue as her main campaign platform in 2013, she and her team raised awareness and money for the cause. After a week, the group donated all the proceeds to a nonprofit to purchase bio-sand water filters for those in need. Once the money was donated, Jones went on to create the organization Students for Clean Water. And since the group’s original donation, they have raised nearly $92,000 for water filters to give to communities in need. Molly Kilpatrick, senior in biosystems engineering, is currently the president of Students for Clean Water. She said the group is passionate about serving global projects and raising awareness about a wide-reaching issue. “We seek to humbly lead our campus and community towards the goal of eradicating the worldwide water crisis and inspire others to join us in living out the Auburn Creed,” Kilpatrick said. The organization partnered with Neverthirst, a Birmingham, Alabama based nonprofit, which helps fund the making and distribution of bio-sand filters to areas that lack access to clean water. Kilpatrick said Students for Clean Water holds two main events throughout the year to raise money for these filters. In the fall, the group hosts the Carry the Jerry 5K, in which the runner must finish the race holding a jerry can of water across the finish line. In the spring, it hosts a bowling tournament called H2Bowl at GoodTimes Bowling. Aside from these events, Kilpatrick said the group hosts Water Week in the spring. During this week, members of the organization promote their cause on the Haley concourse. It also hold several smaller fundraising activities throughout the year. “This organization provides students with the opportunity to become knowledgeable about world issues and make friends from different backgrounds who are passionate about the same topics,” Kilpatrick said. Students for Clean Water is made up of four committees: marketing, special events, campus relations and outreach. Members are free to choose which committee they want to work on. This allows members to work where they have strengths, or work through their weaknesses. Kilpatrick noted some of the work done by the campus relations committee. This committee participates in chapter visits to share information about the water crisis and discuss the chapter’s upcoming events. Kilpatrick was optimistic about the future of the orga-

CONTRIBUTED BY MOLLY KILPATRICK

Members of Students for Clean Water pose with Aubie during the Carry the Jerry 5K.

nization and was confident in the work it had done in recent times. The group will continue its community-based events and plans on meeting its fundraising goals. The group plans on working with Neverthirst in the future and even hopes to expand its reach to a more global campaign once travel restrictions are lifted. “We plan on starting trips abroad to distribute water filters once the COVID-19 pandemic allows for travel to certain areas,” Kilpatrick said. She said that group members took a trip abroad in summer 2019. They traveled to Costa Rica to give water filters to those in need. “Access to clean water is considered to be a human right,” Kilpatrick said. “But still over 700 million people world-

wide lack access to clean, potable water.” Kilpatrick said that because of the dangers of consuming dirty water, the water crisis is also a health crisis. Having clean water means having a healthier community. “Providing clean water to those who do not have it provides good health and allows for communities to prosper,” Kilpatrick said. “Clean water changes everything for those who have not had access to it.” When communities have access to clean water, they are able to do work they need to do, attend school and live with lower risks of disease. “We plan to continue spreading awareness about the water crisis,” Kilpatrick said. “And we hope to get others involved in this issue that we are so passionate about.”


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SUSTAINABILITY

Best in the state: How Auburn is leading Alabama in recycling By EVAN MEALINS Editor-in-Chief

Per capita, more residents in Auburn use their city’s curbside recycling program than any other city in Alabama. 34% of residents nationally participate in curbside recycling, compared to under 20% in Alabama. In Auburn, 84.7% do. What led to Auburn’s success in its recycling efforts? The formula, according to Catrina Cook, director of environmental services for the City of Auburn, is a combination of a few things: money, education, convenience and good people. The City of Auburn first rolled out its curbside recycling program in 1987, making it the first city in Alabama to do so. For the program’s first 30 years, residents who participated in curbside recycling had to sort their recycling into different bins marked for each material. The program worked, but citizens were becoming dissatisfied with having to separate their recyclables into different containers. Auburn’s annual citizen survey showed a 4% decline in satisfaction with the curbside recycling service from 2006 to 2016. To combat dissatisfaction and increase the recycling rate, the City introduced single-stream recycling on Dec. 4, 2017, with the help of a $288,000 grant. Single-stream recycling allows residents to place all recyclables into one container — the blue cart most households have now. Single-stream recycling is easier because it takes less work for people to throw all their recycling in one bin, and as a result, many more people joined the City’s recycling program. “The single-stream process made it very convenient,” Cook said. “Prior to that we probably had a 35-40% [recycling participation rate], and we have doubled that.” In 2018, the City recycled over 900 tons more than it did in 2017, a 69% increase. That year, the total weight of garbage taken to landfills also decreased, from 15,553 tons to 15,534 tons. The City has several outreach programs

in place to inform residents about environmental issues and teach them how to start recycling, including visiting local schools to encourage children to take responsibility for recycling at their homes. “We use kids as a segue to push adults to do it because I know a lot of them are busy,” Cook said. “Sometimes it’s easier to just throw things away for a lot of people, but it’s just as easy to recycle, and that’s something that we pushed and tried to make people understand.” When Cook began with the environmental services department 23 years ago, first as an intern and then as an assistant, she was in charge of visiting schools, which she said

was one of her favorite parts of the job. She’d teach students about recycling, composting and taking care of the earth. Then she’d make her pitch for kids to get their families to recycle. “Who has a blue cart?” Cook said she’d ask the students. “Now who wants a blue cart?” Today, Cook no longer takes her normal trips to local schools, as the department’s public relations specialist does that, and environmental services has found new ways to engage with students both inside and outside the classroom. Cook said the department is planning for an Earth Day event where students will visit a local park and learn about different aspects of environmentalism, in-

HANJIAXI QIN | PHOTOGRAPHER

Auburn introduced single-stream recycling in 2017, rolling out the blue carts ubiquitous on the city’s residential streets.

cluding recycling. A couple of years ago, the City created an app to let residents search where different waste materials go — in the garbage can, recycling cart, the drop off center, as bulky yard waste to be picked up by request or to one of the City’s hazardous household waste events. There’s also a game that Cook said they like to play with students that quizzes players on where to put different waste items. Daniel Chesser, public relations coordinator for Auburn City Schools, said that students are exposed to other positive examples of recycling while at school and have even started student-led recycling projects, but many of them have been put on hold during the pandemic. “When our students see the blue recycling bins in our schools, they have the background knowledge from their surrounding community through seeing the blue cans that line the roads each week next to the green cans,” Chesser said. “Our importance in the efforts to recycle has merely been to be another visible place in our community in which recycling efforts are made.” While the City’s recycling participation rate is high, the vast majority of waste collected still goes to landfills. In 2021, recycling accounted for just 8.6% of total waste collected by weight, and Cook said she is working to get that number higher. “What I would like to see is for our garbage carts to get smaller and our recycling carts to get bigger,” Cook said. “Or for garbage carts to go away and for our recycling carts to be there for everything that everybody is doing is to recycle.” The sheer amount of waste entering landfills is scary, she said, but it’s encouraging to her to see how many people want to do their part. “The one thing that’s promising here in Auburn is that we have 85% of people recycling, and it’s not mandated,” she said. “This is something they choose to do, so it lets me know that we all think about this and it’s something that we’re all trying to do better and do more of.”


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CONSERVATION

The Society for Natural Resources volunteers for a cause By ABIGAIL WOODS Culture Editor

The Society for Natural Resources was established in 2014 when the natural resource management degree was created. Eight years later, the group has grown in membership and prominence, according to club president, Avy Elmore, junior in natural resource management. The club began as a resource for career development and has developed into an organization that aims to share the importance and conservation of natural resources. The club has a goal to share that knowledge with students across campus. Elmore said the club encourages students of all majors to join to not only learn about a career in natural resources, but to also become educated on the importance of preservation and conservation. There are a number of ways in which the group works together, one of which takes shape in the form of volunteering. “We’re planning in April to go down to Louisiana and help out with either cleaning up debris or building homes to offset the negative effects of Hurricane Ida from last August,” Elmore said. The group also volunteers through creek clean-ups

and invasive plant removal days, both of which are coordinated by the club advisor and other professors in the College of Forestry and Wildlife. Additionally, members of the club have done water quality testing for the community. Taking a look inside the club, Elmore said every spring there are resume meetings to help students prepare for the job search post graduation. “A big thing that we do is we invite alumni to come back and Zoom so that we can get an idea of the career that they’ve started and the prospects for grad school or different ways that you can get higher up through management in the field,” Elmore said. Careers in the field of natural resources can take on many different forms according to Elmore. Many alumni go into watershed research, ecology and management of parks and recreation. “So there’s the people side and then the science side,” she said. “A lot of what I say to people when they ask me is park ranger because I’m a nature based recreation minor.” As president of the club, Elmore makes PowerPoint presentations each week, which involves inputting volunteer information, and lately, plans for their upcoming Louisiana trip. Elmore came to hold her position as president

CONTRIBUTED BY AVY ELMORE

Two members eat lunch on a recreational trip to Lake Martin.

through her experience as vice president the semester before, a spot in which she said she really enjoyed her time. Elmore said that during her time as president, she hopes to establish a tradition of both service and collaboration. By doing service through the community and to the community, Elmore said she would like to team up with the horticulture club and the organic gardening club to give back to local gardeners who need assistance managing their gardens. “I think the collaboration would really help because we could do it on our own, but we don’t have the same gardening skills that we could learn from the organic gardening people or the horticulture people,” Elmore said. Christopher Whatley, secretary of the Society for Natural Resources and a second year master’s student, said his role requires him to assist in the organization and scheduling of meetings, as well as keep the line of communication open to members in order to communicate with them about upcoming events and activities. “We pride ourselves on welcoming everyone no matter their course of study, and I would say our casual and social atmosphere helps invite anyone interested in learning more about conserving our environment to join our organization,” Whatley said.

CONTRIBUTED BY AVY ELMORE

SNR table where officers encourage involvement to new and returning students at a Welcome Week event hosted by the College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.


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CONSERVATION

Auburn takes steps to By ABIGAIL MURPHY Operations Editor

During a drive down South College Street, one can spot the branches of the nearby trees reach out toward the cemented road, and not far off of the roadside bees buzzing around nearby flowering bushes. Auburn is home to a variety of native species with Alabama commonly ranked as the fourth-highest biodiverse state. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System, Alabama is number three with the most endangered or threatened species listed. Additionally, Lee County holds about 37 species that are imperiled, or at risk, according to the Alabama Natural Heritage Program database. However, members of Auburn University and the City of Auburn are working to protect the biodiversity in the area. Part of Auburn’s campus, Donald E. Davis Arboretum, is a collection of native plant species with its outreach and programs related to conservation efforts.

Morgan Pendergrass, director of the arboretum, said the arboretum is part of a larger network through the Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance where they work with gardens in other locations like Atlanta and Huntsville to further the conservation effort. “It’s a lot of work that happens here, but then a lot of work happens out across the state with folks that are willing to go out and do it and be the boots on the ground that are taking care of trying to protect the species before they blink out,” Pendergrass said. One of the arboretum’s functions through APCA is safeguarding, which is the holding of endangered plants to then propagate later on. They also are involved with species monitoring, which is hand-counting native plants in a particular area. When it comes to the campus’ landscaping, Pendergrass said she believes the University does its best to make use of native species in the places it can. For instance, Pendergrass said outside of the Mell classrooms the University uses native grasses and, along with the rocks, and that section acts as a part of stormwater management, which can help reduce runoff pollution.

ABIGAIL MURPHY | OPERATIONS EDITOR

The arboretum showcases plants from different parts of Alabama from a variety of ecosystems.

Another resource on campus is the Auburn University Museum of Natural History with part of its mission statement saying, it aims to “conduct biodiversity research, preserve and document our planet’s biodiversity,” per se their website. Jonathan Armbruster, director of AUMNH, said every species is part of a service to the ecosystem and having high biodiversity is what keeps the ecosystem functioning. “If you were interested in fishing, it’s not just the bass that are in the stream that are important,” he said. “It’s all things that they eat. And so you got to make sure that biodiversity remains high so that there’s a community there for the things that you’re interested in to survive.” However, Armbruster said people can help protect aquatic species by decreasing water usage and being respectful of their habits by not leaving waste or trash behind. He said endangered species aren’t always in some far off place. For example, he said there’s an endangered mussel that lives in Chewacla State Park. Armbruster said good land practices also help with biodiversity as “development and biodiversity don’t have to be antagonistic towards each other.”


Spring 2022

The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

CONSERVATION

protect its biodiversity

ABIGAIL MURPHY | OPERATIONS EDITOR

The Auburn Public Library is one of the urban green spaces the City of Auburn has been working on to culivate more biodiveristy. The “Wildflowers at Work” signage are posted across other parts of the city in alignment with this effort.

Christopher Lepczyk, professor of wildlife biology and conservation, said some good land practices could be what people do with their lawns. Having fewer barriers between lawns can help vegetation grow more consistently. Also individuals not raking leaves in the fall can help put nutrients in the soil, and the decaying leaves will provide shelter for insects in the winter. It’s little practices by a group of people that can have an impact, he said. “If we could imagine in a city block, you have 10 houses that are next to each other. If they all stop putting a lot of pesticides on their property and stop worrying about green lawns and all collectively decided to engage in positive activities for wildlife, that would have a really big effect on local biodiversity,” he said. Lepczyk said as more people live in urban areas, people tend to associate with less biodiversity. However, green spaces, like parks and cemeteries, can provide patches of biodiversity. The larger the area is and the more closely knit the areas are, the more likely higher biodiversity will occur, he said. “The ability to tap those spaces on campus or across campus to the city is really important,” Lepczyk said. “So having the ability for organisms to move between locations, really promotes biodiversity. Rather than having isolated green spaces that are surrounded by urban developments with no greenery just makes it more difficult for plants and animals to move across the landscape to have gene flow to have their populations operate.”

Anne Randle, Urban Forestry Specialist at the City of Auburn, said Auburn’s canopy coverage is about 55%, which is fairly high with national averages being around 40 to 45%. Randle said this means the City has a focus on maintaining coverage. As Auburn continues to develop, one of the ways this is done is through zone ordinances that require a certain amount of trees on a property. If the trees are already there and are able to be preserved throughout the construction process, that’s preferred, but if not, a certain amount of new trees will be planted in its place, Randle said. Another part is favoring native species over invasive species. The City offers volunteer workdays that focus on removing invasive species in city parks and along bike trails. “It’s really more of an education and outreach thing to get community members involved in taking ownership over our green space and taking ownership over the greater community ecosystem outside of their own backyards,” she said. Randle said the City also does invasive species removal on

their own city property as well. However, there is also an emphasis on planting native species where they can. In 2018, they partnered with the Alabama Forestry Commission to document a heat map, which shows them where there is a high density of shade versus where there is not. Within the past year of 2021, the City has planned 235 native trees. When it comes to planting native trees, Randle said a few factors need to be taken into account such as whether or not the tree can handle urban pollution, the heat that comes off of the city sidewalks during the summer and also the placement of powerlines and waterlines. “We are not removed from the ecosystems we live in,” Randle said. “We are a part of it just as much as the fish and the birds and the trees and the soil, fungi and all those other parts. We like to think that we are removed from it, but we’re not. I think that it’s part of every person the community’s job to preserve that healthy ecosystem, to be active in it and to be responsible for it.”

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The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

Spring 2022

Speaking for the trees

CONSERVATION

How the 2011 poisoning of the Toomer’s oaks brought attention to campus horticulture By CALLIE STANFORD Sports Reporter

Years ago on Jan. 27, 2011, a phone call into the “Paul Finebaum Show” set in motion a chain of events that no one could have expected, ultimately causing Auburn University to set a high priority on conservation and ecological diversity. That phone call came from Harvey Updyke Jr., who claimed that he had poisoned the Toomer’s oaks on the weekend following Auburn’s 28-27 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Finebaum responded by asking Updyke if the trees had died. “They’re not dead yet but they definitely will die,” Updyke said in his 2011 phone call.

It brought Auburn’s Department of Horticulture to the forefront of breaking news. Gary Seever was called in to address the public on the matter, providing regular updates as the situation developed and new information came to light. Seever’s career began at the University of South Carolina, where he dropped in and out of school before visiting a friend at Clemson University, where he discovered the field of horticulture. Following his graduation there, he earned his Master’s and Ph.D. at Cornell University before moving to Auburn to accept their position in the Department of Horticulture in the spring of 1982.

After hearing Updyke’s call to The Finebaum Show, a concerned fan reached out to the Auburn Police Department, which then reached out to the landscaping services branch of Facilities Management. Because Seever worked closely with them, someone ultimately reached out to him. The soil that Updyke was convicted of poisoning ultimately tested positive for tebuthiuron (commonly known as Spike 80DF). This led to years of effort to rehabilitate and replace the trees as their health waned, a process that Seever was heavily involved in. But in other areas of the University, he had less public, but more important, roles. “I want to say it was probably somewhere around 2006-07 that

FILE PHOTO


Spring 2022

The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

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CONSERVATION

LARRY ROBINSON | PHOTOGRAPHER

Toomer’s Corner’s trees on March 17, 2022.

our department wanted to get us to develop a stronger relationship with facilities and landscape services, the branches facilities that manages the outdoor landscape spaces,” Seever said. “They worked something out so that I would be a consultant with them. I worked closely with the superintendent of landscape services.” The partnership between landscaping and the horticulture department tied together two important parties: the people responsible for maintaining a beautiful campus and those who knew about biodiversity, native species and every other aspect of the plants being chosen. “When that particular opportunity arose, I mean it was exciting for me, because you know it was like taking the theory from teaching landscape design to applying it,” Seever said. “So here, the things that I talked about, I got to apply and campus was the palette that I used. And at that time Auburn was going through tremendous growth, with new buildings being built constantly.” As a lifelong educator, working with facilities allowed Keever to practice what he was preaching in the classroom. He could continue his work educating students, while also having a hands-on role improving the campus he worked at. “It was a very rewarding period for me, to be involved in the number of trees that we planned, the aesthetic values of the campus, the green spaces and so forth,” Seever said. “I think that campus made a huge leap forward during that period, just because of the commitment of landscape services and facilities and the University as a whole to the appearance.” A primary goal of Auburn University is to remain a walking campus, but universities also prioritize growth and construction over almost anything else, so Keever took on an essential role in advising construction around campus. Specifically, he helped a committee decide which was the higher priority: maintaining the existing trees or replanting them. “Invariably, there are environmental impacts to coming in after the fact and putting a building in a developed landscape,” Seev-

er said. “One of the things that we were able to do as a tree preservation committee was to get facilities to agree to add money to the project, or to landscape services’ budget, to replace any trees removed during construction.” Although the University’s focus is expansion and renovation, it did not choose to abandon its facilities department. Resources would simply be reallocated should the University choose to move ahead with construction.

“They actually assessed and evaluated trees that were likely to be removed during construction and then allowed facilities to use that money for either maintaining existing trees on campus or planting new trees that may or may not have been part of that project.” With Seever’s work in the public eye and the close ties between his department and facilities, a role had been carved out. Upon his retirement in 2017, Auburn created a position for a university arborist, a job that had been created many years ago but never filled. “It was after the poisoning that Charlie Crawford wrote a job description for University arborist position,” Keever said. “And nothing happened with that until after he retired. After the trees were poisoned, there was push again to hire an arborist. Alex Hedgepath was a graduate of the school of forestry and we interviewed him and several others.” Having seen the importance of an arborist’s knowledge with the poisoning, as well as the history that had been protected, Auburn needed someone who understood them. Bringing in someone from Auburn made the most sense. “The decision was made to hire him … He was a go getter, and he brought a lot of skills to the table. I think that he’s been very good for the University. As a land grant institution, we needed a university arborist. If you value your trees, you need somebody completely responsible for those trees on campus and I think that he’s done very well in that role during his time here.” Although Keever left Auburn University five years ago, the broad scope of his career set a variety of precedents that impact campus to this day. He saved the Toomer’s oaks while also helping set a standard for conservation that others continue to follow to this day. Keever was at the forefront of committees and movements that help Auburn retain biodiversity and conserve resources, while still allowing for growth and development that the University needs.

LARRY ROBINSON | PHOTOGRAPHER

Toomer’s Corner’s trees on March 17, 2022.


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The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

Spring 2022


Spring 2022

The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

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CONSERVATION

Panel selects professor to track climate change By TUCKER MASSEY News Writer

Sanjiv Kumar was recently selected as a member of the Predictability, Predictions and Applications Interface, or PPAI. This panel is a branch of the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Program, or CLIVAR. Kumar will be serving a four-year term on the panel because of his work in climatology. Kumar is an assistant professor at Auburn’s College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. He has been at Auburn since May 2017. PPAI is made up of 12 members, each of which are experts in a subfield of climatology. Kumar was selected to provide a land focus on climate forecasts. “It was great,” Kumar said when asked how he felt about being selected for the PPAI. “This was wonderful for me and the work that I am doing is being recognized.” Kumar said while most of his fellow panelists are bringing water and ocean focuses to the panel, his perspective will provide climate predictions from the land side of climatology. “Most of the current panelists from either the ocean side or water application side, and I’m bringing a perspective from the land and things like vegetation,” Kumar said. “This can help us to improve predictability going forward.” The goal of PPAI is to use climate forecasts more efficiently and accurately. Through Kumar’s work, he is helping the U.S. make more accurate predictions about the climate in the future.

“We hold monthly webinars where we invite an expert to see where our current research stands,” Kumar said. “We come up with a recommendation on what should be the next step in our research.” Aside from his monthly webinars, Kumar is also occasionally called to Washington D.C. for in-person panel meetings. Kumar said the PPAI is largely centered around eliminating uncertainty in the progression of climate change. By making climate forecasts effective, people who rely on the work of groups like the PPAI will no longer be left guessing on what the weather will look like in the future. “When it comes to the application of our work, there is a lot of uncertainty in climate predictions today,” Kumar said. “By fixing our forecasts, it will allow people to plan accordingly based on these forecasts.” The work done by Kumar and his colleagues will help guide the future of climate research. Based on this group’s findings, a proper emphasis can be placed on certain fields of climatology, and areas of climatology that have been ignored in the past can be utilized more effectively as needed. “We set the direction for climate research,” Kumar said. “We answer questions like, ‘What research is needed?’ or, ‘What processes will be most effective?’” The PPAI works with other panels with different focuses. All these panels meet from time to time and discuss their respective research and collaborate on future research. “There are two other panels that meet with us that we will meet with in D.C.,” Kumar said. The other two panels are the Phenomena, Observa-

CONTRIBUTED BY SANJIV KUMAR

Kumar’s work is helping make more accurate predictions about the climate in the future.

tions and Synthesis Panel and the Process Study and Improvement Panel. The former is focused on variations in climate over time, as well as finding critical parameters while improving the state of the climate. The latter deals mostly with the effectiveness of climate forecasts and processes.

VIA NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION


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The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

Spring 2022


Spring 2022

The Auburn Plainsman: Environmental Edition

What items does the city recycle?

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What clubs at Auburn promote environmental consciousness?

Through single-stream recycling, the City of Auburn accepts plastics #1-7 (no plastic bags or plastic straws), aluminum cans, steel/tin can, newspaper, cardboard, magazines and mixed office paper. Glass is accepted at the RecycleAuburn Drop Off Center at 365A N. Donahue Drive.

There are several. The Society for Natural Resources, Students for Clean Water, Auburn for Clean Air, Plant Based Plainsman, the Wildlife Society and For the Bees are just a few.

How can I request a recycling cart?

What environmental events are happening on campus? The Office of Sustainability offers events throughout the month.

Right now, only customers that receive residential garbage service from the City are eligible for curbside recycling. Visit www.auburnalabama.org/ recycle/opt-in or call Environmental Services at (334) 501-3080 to opt in to the program.

How can I learn more about AU’s Climate Action Plan? Auburn has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2050. Read the entire plan by scanning the QR code below.


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