Duke University Researchers Use GPS to Help Save Forest Elephants

How can you protect an endangered elephant if you don’t know where it is or where it’s likely to go next?

That’s the quandary conservationists and wildlife rangers in the Central African nation of Gabon face in their battle to keep their remaining population of critically endangered forest elephants safe from poachers, who hunt and kill the animals for their ivory, and other threats. Now they’re getting help from researchers at Duke University, a Sullivan Foundation partner school.

The vast size and dense vegetation of the pachyderms’ range, coupled with many elephants’ idiosyncratic movement patterns, can limit conservationists’ ability to track an animal’s whereabouts and gauge when it is most likely to cross paths with danger.

Related: Furman University Alum Educates Public About the Plight of Elephants

A new GPS-enabled study led by Duke scientists could change that. It provides the first landscape-scale documentation of elephant movements across and between seven national parks in Gabon and helps answer not only the questions of where and when the animals move, but also why.

Analysis of hourly location data collected over two years from 96 forest elephants wearing collars equipped with satellite GPS yielded some interesting data. It reveals that their movements are driven by a complex interplay of intrinsic factors—primarily the elephant’s sex—and external variables, chiefly rainfall, temperature, seasonality and proximity to human activity.

Individuality, a common trait among many elephants, also figures in.

“Male elephants, as a whole, tend to move farther, have larger home ranges and exhibit more nocturnal activity than females. Females tend to be less inhibited by human proximity. But, individually, there can be big differences within each sex,” said John Poulsen, an associate professor of tropical ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Photo by Brenda Timmermans of Pexels

Knowing all this will help government agencies configure parks and wildlife corridors so protected lands contain the year-round resources elephants need and are big enough to keep them a safe distance from human settlements and infrastructure, Poulsen said.

It will also help wildlife rangers and conservationists identify where and when the risks of poaching are greatest so they can marshal their resources accordingly. For example, the new data show that, during times of plentiful rainfall, elephants tend to roam farther than during dry seasons, when they need to stick close to lakes, rivers or other permanent sources of water. Armed with this insight, rangers may be able to effectively target more of their surveillance to areas around watering holes during the dry season and expand their geographic focus during the wet season.

Related: Duke University researcher tracks down cute mouse-like creature in the Horn of Africa

“Gabon’s national park agency does a remarkable job of monitoring these critically endangered animals and keeping them as safe as possible,” said Christopher Beirne, who led the study as a postdoctoral research associate in Poulsen’s lab. “But the vast size and remote nature of the territory they have to cover can stretch resources and create openings for poachers. Hopefully, our findings will help rangers close those gaps.”

It’s estimated that poachers have killed more than 80,000 forest elephants in Central Africa since 2001.

These killings, combined with deaths precipitated by forest degradation and habitat loss as farming, road building and other human activities encroach deeper into unprotected parts of the elephants’ range, have reduced the species’ population by 60 to 80 percent.

This rapid decline poses dire consequences not only for the species itself, but also for the region’s forests.

“Without intervention, as much as 96% of Central Africa’s forests will undergo major changes in tree-species composition and structure as local populations of elephants are extirpated and surviving populations are crowded into ever-smaller forest remnants,” said Poulsen.

These changes will occur because elephants are ecological engineers that help create and maintain forest habitat by dispersing seeds, recycling and spreading nutrients, and clearing understories, he explained.

The researchers published their peer-reviewed study on June 16 in Scientific Reports.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Duke University website.

Converse College Artist’s Striking Sculpture Illustrates Threat of Ocean Pollution

Charlotte “Lottie” Hutson, an art education major at Sullivan Foundation partner school Converse College, has created a striking sculpture that illustrates the growing threat of ocean pollution.

The John F. Green Spartanburg Science Center hired Hutson, a member of Converse’s Class of 2023, to create a sculpture raising awareness for sea life and the dangers from waste being thrown into our oceans.

Charlotte’s sculpture depicts an eight-foot long Northern Atlantic Right whale. She sculpted it entirely from recycled materials, including plastic bottles, wrappers, cans, bottle caps, newspaper, tile, mirrors, and broken ceramics. The skeleton of the whale was created with recycled chicken wire.

Related: Duke University student turns trash into stunning sustainable art

The sculpture was placed on display at the Spartanburg Science Center and featured in May’s Spartanburg ArtWalk.

Located in Spartanburg, S.C., the John F. Green Spartanburg Science Center provides science education and enhancement for the Spartanburg County community through interactive scholastic programs, hands-on exhibits and community outreach.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Converse College website.

Closing the Loop: Burger King Goes Green(er) in 2021

Burger King is going green—or greener, anyway—in 2021, starting today with 51 restaurants in Miami that will test new sustainable packaging, including straws, forks, spoons, knives, drink lids, Frypods (cup holder-friendly French fry packaging), Whopper wrappers and napkins.

The burger chain also plans to test reusable packaging created in a partnership with New Jersey-based TerraCycle, a company that works with the retail sector on solutions to eliminate plastic waste.

Related: Shake Shack starts testing sustainable, biodegradable straws and cutlery

Customers have to opt in to try the green packaging. If the pilot program is successful, the company has said it’s aiming to roll out its sustainable packaging nationwide in 2022.

According to Food & Wine, Burger King has begun testing green cutlery made from a plant-based plastic called cPLA. The napkins will be made with 100-percent recycled fiber. The Frypods consist of renewable, unbleached virgin paperboard.

The fast-food chain will also try out several alternatives to plastic straws, including paper-based and plant-based straws, as well as strawless lids. The company said it hopes to “eliminate up to 500 million single-use plastic straws annually from participating U.S. Burger King restaurants. This action alone would translate to the removal of 910 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.”

Additionally, they’ll try out two types of sustainable Whopper wrappers—one with a 13 percent reduction in paper and another with a 34 percent reduction in paper.

At some point later this year, Burger King plans to test washable, reusable Whopper containers and cups. These cups can be returned by the customer through Loop, a circular package service and a division of TerraCycle. The containers will be sanitized by Loop and sent back to the restaurants for reuse, thus reducing the production of single-use packaging.

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

This closed-loop, zero-waste solution will be tested in New York City, Portland, Tokyo, Paris and London. As with the pilot program in Miami, customers must opt in to try out the new packaging. They will have to pay a deposit at the time of purchase; once they return the packaging to Loop, they will receive a refund.

Burger King is trying out its greener and reusable packaging through pilot programs in order to test the products’ performance and gauge customers’ reaction. “By piloting solutions in restaurants, the brand is able to get direct feedback from guests on how the packages perform, make iterative changes with its supplier and build an implementation road map for the system,” according to a press release.

“The pilot will help advance Burger King restaurants’ sustainability strategy, building on existing commitments to reduce its environmental footprint and protect the planet for the long-term,” the press release states. “To support the sustainable production of packaging materials, 100% of guest packaging will be sourced from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025. While working towards reducing the use of virgin materials and single-use packaging, the brand is also tackling the challenge of improved waste diversion, with a commitment to recycle guest packaging in 100% of restaurants in Canada and the U.S. by 2025.”

Ole Miss Journalism Students Investigate Climate Change in Mississippi

By LaReeca Rucker

Nationally and globally, much of the conversation about climate change has been territorial and political. In Mississippi, state leaders have spoken of it rarely, if ever. However, the state’s science, industrial, agricultural and energy sectors have been working to address change and devise strategies.

A desire to explore the issue more in-depth led University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professors and students to study the topic within the state. The result is the project Climate Change in Mississippi that focuses on “what is,” not “what if.” In other words, practices, not policy.

Charlie Mitchell, a journalist and associate professor of journalism who helped lead the project, said the premise was that too many people have formed opinions about climate change without seeing how it relates to their daily lives. The project aims to report this relevance as a factual resource among political chatter.

Related: Ole Miss freshman Tatiana Davis advocates for minority students everywhere she goes

“Climate change is a super-broad topic, and much reporting is along political lines or appeals to emotion,” Mitchell said. “The students worked to identify front-line people in Mississippi dealing with change directly or indirectly and tell their stories about what’s happening, what’s being researched and what’s expected.

“The point was to deal with fact, not speculation or opinion.”

Jared Poland, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Chattanooga, Tennessee, plans to work after graduation in public relations at an agency, nonprofit or for a political action committee.

“I saw this class as an opportunity to use my public relations skills to shed light on the effects of climate change felt by everyday Mississippians,” he said. “The depth reporting class gave me the opportunity to spend time creating a series of stories that describe at length the 2019 floods in the Mississippi Delta and how the backwater flooding related to climate change and affected individuals.”

University of Mississippi journalism student Jared Poland takes photos while working on the Climate Change in Mississippi project. Submitted photo

Poland said he immersed himself in the issue, traveling to the Delta twice and speaking with community leaders, locals, a climatologist and other knowledgeable individuals about the floods and the pumps.

“I was able to see firsthand the hardships they had faced due to the flooding and was able to speak with them about the proposed pump project that almost everyone believed was the solution to the floods,” he said. “I also learned about their lives, their families, their passions and their hardships caused by the floods.”

Students honed their research, interviewing and writing skills and worked to become better at identifying relevant facts and sources, then weaved the information into an understandable and compelling narrative.

UM’s journalism school has a history of producing relevant depth reports on national and international topics ranging from the emerging economy in post-war Sri Lanka to the intersection of good food and poor health in the Mississippi Delta, Mitchell said.

“Former Dean Norton identified this topic as crucial, and it was decided students here and students at the University of Nebraska would tackle the topic simultaneously,” he said.

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Besides Poland, the UM student reporting team included Danielle Angelo, Anne Florence Brown, Lydia Cates, Will Corley, Abbey Edmondson, Cody Farris, Jacob Meyers, Eliza Noe, William Schuerman, Tamara Tyes and Lauren Wilson.

Team advisers included faculty members John Baker, Michael Fagans, Mitchell, Norton and Darren Sanefski, and graphic designer Hannah Vines.

This issue has affected Delta residents since the early 1900s, Poland said. “The project that is believed to be the solution to the floods was originally proposed in 1941,” he said. “I was able to speak with individuals who have spent their entire life dealing with floods and fighting for solutions to prevent them.”

“As someone deeply interested in politics, I was fascinated by the pumps project and the political discourse and conflicts that have unfolded surrounding it, including the EPA’s veto of the project in 2008. It has been a heavily contested political issue and remains one today,” he added.

Poland said others who take the course should use it as an opportunity to deeply explore the topic. “It was the first project of this size I have ever taken on, but with the help of my instructors, it truly was one of my favorite experiences during my time at Ole Miss,” he said.

William Schuerman

Schuerman is a senior journalism major from Houston, Texas, with a print emphasis and an environmental studies minor. “I enrolled in the class because, after I heard about the project, I knew there would be an opportunity to produce content about a subject I am very passionate about,” he said.

Schuerman, who hopes to work as a photojournalist and be published in National Geographic someday, said the class was different from others he’s taken. He traveled across the state helping other students create multimedia.

“Projects like this are where I have learned the most in my time at the University of Mississippi, so it was a logical step forward for me,” he said. “I feel that I always learn more when working in the field than purely sitting in the classroom.”

Fagans, an assistant professor of journalism, said he tried to ask questions to get students thinking about how to better cover their story area and how to tell it with infographics, photos or illustrations. “As with many of our ‘outside the classroom’ reporting opportunities, students learn valuable lessons when they get out into Mississippi and meet, interview and tell the stories of our residents,” he said.

Edmonson, a senior journalism major from Tupelo with minors in English and creative writing and an emphasis in social media, said she was curious about the effects of climate change in the state. Her focus was on saltwater aquaculture on the Gulf Coast, where she traveled with Fagans and Schuerman.

Abbey Edmonson

“Throughout the trip, we interviewed several people who are involved in the commercial fishing industry, specifically the oyster industry,” she said. “We toured the last oyster-shucking house in Mississippi, watched how oysters are bred and rode a boat out to an oyster farm. That trip is something I’ll hold onto forever because we got to interact firsthand with people who are experiencing real issues as a direct result of climate change.”

Students also interviewed people about possible solutions in the works, which “added a bright spot to an otherwise disheartening situation,” she said.

“I hope that, because of this project, people recognize that climate change is real and it is causing real repercussions, even in Mississippi,” Edmonson added. “Mississippi is rural and not nearly as populated as other areas of the country that are experiencing major effects of climate change. So, I feel like it often gets overlooked in the big picture of climate change.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

Shake Shack Starts Testing Sustainable, Biodegradable Straws and Cutlery

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, popular burger chain Shake Shack has begun testing biodegradable straws and cutlery at six locations in California, New York and Florida.

The company has teamed up with Restore Foodware, headquartered in Huntington Beach, Calif., on the pilot program. Launched in 2020, Restore describes itself as the world’s first natural and regenerative foodware brand “on a mission to help end the flow of plastic into the ocean.”

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Restore’s sustainable straws and cutlery are an alternative to single-use plastics, the scourge of the planet’s oceans and waterways. Restore replaces plastic with ocean-friendly AirCarbon, a natural, carbon-negative material that feels like plastic but degrades naturally if it ends up in the environment, according to a press release from Shake Shack.

AirCarbon contains no synthetic plastics, PLA or synthetic glues. It requires no food crops for production and is home-compostable, soil-degradable and marine-degradable.

As Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) reports, AirCarbon is also called PHB). It’s a molecule manufactured by nearly all living organisms. It melts like plastic but will break down in the environment like leaves and stems. PHB is obtained from oceanic microorganisms and cultivated in a stainless steel tank, then filtered, powdered and turned into pellets that can be melted and shaped into foodware utensils. These utensils will degrade naturally, unlike plastic utensils and straws, which have a much longer lifespan.

this is a photo of a biodegradable straw from Restore Foodware, a sustainable alternative to plastic straws

Restore Foodware’s biodegradable straws offer a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic.

The new sustainable, ocean-friendly straws and cutlery are being tested at Shake Shack locations in West Hollywood and Long Beach, Calif.; Madison Square Park and West Village in New York; and Miami Beach, Fla. Another Shake Shack restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., will begin testing the biodegradable utensils in the spring.

Related: Is your used pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out.

“As of now, we’re focused on the pilot,” Jeffrey Amoscato, Shake Shack’s senior vice president for supply chain and menu innovation, told NRN. “We look forward to hearing guest response and feedback.”

Shake Shack has also announced plans to start using recyclable aluminum bottles instead of plastic bottles at select locations on the West Coast starting in April.

The AirCarbon pilot program is part of Shake Shack’s “Stand for Something Good” initiative that focuses on responsible sourcing of ingredients and community outreach and give-back.

For the Love of Elephants: Furman University Alum Educates Public About Plight of Pachyderms

By Tina Underwood

Joy Owens says her career at The Elephant Sanctuary came about through a combination of serendipity and luck. A 2014 sustainability science graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, Owens also credits her three internships for shaping her future in informal education, the role she holds as education manager at the sanctuary, located in the unlikely and humble town of Hohenwald, Tenn., population 3,687 (not including the 11 Asian and African elephants who live in the sprawling sanctuary).

“I was job searching on the internet one day, and when I saw the job listing for an education manager at an elephant sanctuary, I was like, ‘Is this real? Am I being pranked right now?’” Owens recalled.

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient Neely Griggs keeps puppy tails wagging for pet rescue organization

Joy Owens

After confirming the sanctuary was a legitimate, licensed organization, Owens applied for the post. “Luckily, I got the job,” says Owens, now marking four years at the sanctuary, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020.

The 2,700-acre sanctuary offers a second lease on life to elephants who have spent years in captivity in zoos, the entertainment industry or in traveling circuses.

Specifically, it provides captive elephants with individualized care, the companionship of a herd and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their wellbeing, according to the sanctuary’s website.

It’s the second part of the sanctuary’s mission—to raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants in captivity and the crisis facing elephants in the wild—where Owens comes in.

As part of a “small but mighty team” of three in education and outreach, Owens develops curriculum and implements and analyzes programming to ensure the sanctuary’s educational objectives are being met.

A true sanctuary, the facility is not open to the public. But through distance learning, strategically placed EleCams and The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, the public has access to a trove of information about Earth’s largest land dwellers—a trove Owens is happy to dispense.

Owens’ calling in informal education in the nonprofit space first became clear while she served a post-graduation internship at the Carl Sandberg Home in Flatrock, N.C., near her hometown of Mills River.

“They (informal education settings) really allow me to connect with audiences and talk about topics I’m passionate about, whether that’s the environment, food, sustainable agriculture or animals and conservation,” said Owens, who also helped manage the Furman Farm and served a research internship through Furman’s Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, where she studied community gardens.

Related: University of Virginia employee runs Feel Better Farm for rescue animals in Charlottesville area

As an educator, Owens does not interact with the elephants. That’s the role of 18 full-time caregivers at the sanctuary, who have built individual relationships with the pachyderms over the course of years.

“My job is to talk to people, get them excited about our mission, our work, and excited about conserving elephants,” Owens said. “We Skype, Zoom and Google Meet with people all over the world.” Last year, the team spoke to more than 15,000 people across 20 countries and 44 states.

this photo shows an elephant in a field of wild flowers at the Elephant Sanctuary located in Hohenwald, Tennessee

Flora enjoys a lumbering stroll in a field of flowers at The Elephant Sanctuary.

As veteran online educators, Owens and staff didn’t need to scramble to get up to speed when COVID-19 hit. “We’ve been doing distance learning for eight years, long before the pandemic necessitated it,” said Owens, whose diverse clientele spans a range of ages and geography. “My day could start with kindergartners in Massachusetts and end with fifth-graders in Greece,” she said.

But, with the onset of COVID-19, the types of clients have changed to include corporate offices, such as Google, and other adult groups like Rotary Club and women’s clubs that are now meeting online versus in person.

No matter the audience, Owens wants to drive one message home.

“I want people to know that elephants are extremely complex animals—very intelligent and very emotionally intelligent with complex needs,” she said. “I really like to point that out because elephants are still kept in captivity and used in entertainment.”

Related: Mississippi “hotel for dogs” lets guests foster or adopt stray pups

It’s true. Some are isolated in makeshift roadside zoos, and some travel in smaller circus operations, as there are no federal laws regulating the use of elephants in performance, Owens said.

A few states and cities have passed restrictions.

“I always challenge people to critically think, ‘Is that the best life for elephants?’ I think if people knew just how intelligent these animals are, how deeply bonded they can be with their herd and how vast their health needs are, they would be a lot more hesitant to engage with elephants in captivity the way we currently do,” said Owens.

this photo shows an educational session at the Elephant Sanctuary

Joy Owens leads an educational session at the Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Under fire from animal rights groups and local governments, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus discontinued the use of elephants in 2016. But there remain elephants who aren’t getting the care they need.

For Owens, it’s the younger audiences who really inspire her as she works to educate the public.

“The most satisfying part of my job, especially in the past year, is seeing the excitement in kids to talk about elephants,” she said. “Some of the kids were going to school online, full-time, spending hours per day on Zoom or Google Meet. That can get exhausting and mundane. But, whenever we would join a call, these kids would be amped—so pumped to talk to us about elephants.”

Being pelted with dozens of questions by school-age kids is a job hazard Owens gladly accepts. “Getting to have those interactions and just getting to be the person that excites them in their day or maybe adds some fun to their day is really rewarding,” she said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Furman University website. All photos are courtesy of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee. Visit www.elephants.com to learn more.

Warren Wilson Recognized as a Top Sustainable College

Sullivan Foundation partner school Warren Wilson College has been recognized as a top sustainable college in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index.

A publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing sustainable colleges and universities across the country for sustainable practices. The publication ranks the colleges overall and in 17 impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

Related: How Warren Wilson College remained COVID-free in the Fall 2020 semester

Warren Wilson College ranked third place overall among baccalaureate institutions. It also ranked third place in the area of investment and finance. It was especially recognized for its civic identity framework, a framework that prioritizes civic responsibility and sustainability as the core ethos for each student.

“Sustainability is foundational to who we are—it’s wrapped into our mission and into everything we do,” said Warren Wilson College President Lynn Morton. “We are proud to be recognized as one of the top sustainable campuses in the country by AASHE. It reflects the depth of our commitment to sustainable practices.”

Click here to view Warren Wilson College’s Sustainable Practices Guide.

In 2015, Warren Wilson became one of roughly 25 colleges and universities to pledge to divest totally from fossil fuels. As of this year, it is 99 percent divested. The college also follows a Zero Waste Initiative. Currently it diverts two-thirds of its waste from the landfill and has plans to divert 90 percent of all waste from the landfill by 2032.

this photo depicts a pastoral view of a barn at Warren Wilson College, one of the country's top sustainable colleges

The central campus has been named a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, a North Carolina Native Plant Sanctuary, a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation through Monarch Watch and a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Warren Wilson achieved top performer status by earning a gold rating in STARS, a system that measures more than 1,000 individual data points—from diversity, equity and inclusion to environmental stewardship, social justice and economic practices.

Related: Warren Wilson College delves into industrial hemp research

The STARS report also recognized Warren Wilson for its commitment to community engagement, shared governance structure, sustainable dining, practices of conducting species inventories on campus, the number of academic courses that include sustainability content, and the recently completed project that restored campus streams back to their original meanders and natural courses.

“Congratulations to Warren Wilson College for their incredible work in creating a more sustainable world,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Through the leadership and action of change agents within Warren Wilson College, I’m encouraged and hopeful that a just and equitable society will soon be realized.”

Warren Wilson College’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website:

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Warren Wilson College website.

This Sustainable Restaurant Will Top Its Pizzas With Rejected Veggies to Combat Food Waste

A soon-to-open pizza shop in San Francisco has food waste on the menu—and on top of all of its pies.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Shuggie’s Trash Pie & Natural Wine will offer wood-fired neo-Neapolitan-style pizzas and grandma pizzas featuring ingredients and toppings that ordinarily end up in a dumpster—and, ultimately, a landfill.

Scheduled to open in Spring 2021, Shuggie’s will buy produce that local farms would otherwise toss out as well as discarded bits and pieces of ingredients, such as cauliflower greens and snap pea ends. According to the Chronicle, Shuggie’s ricotta is made from a local farmer’s excess milk, and okara flour, which is a byproduct of tofu, will be used in their pizza dough. They will also use blemished but perfectly tasty food-waste tomatoes in their pizza sauce.

Shuggie’s pizzas will be paired with natural wines, which are typically made from grapes that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. The grapes are handpicked instead of harvested with machines, and no additives, such as fake oak flavor, sugar or acid, are used in the winemaking process.

this photo shows Kayla Abe and David Murphy, founders of a sustainable restaurant using food waste as its main ingredients

Kayla Abe and David Murphy are committed to sustainable practices in their new restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Ugly Pickle Co.)

Shuggie’s cofounders, Kayla Abe and David Murphy, also own Ugly Pickle Co. in San Francisco. Ugly Pickle uses “cosmetically challenged” produce to make private-labeled condiments like Bread N’ Buttah and Spicy Bread ‘N Buttah sandwich spreads as well as Carrot Top Chimi, Hawt Fry Ketchup, Dilly Carrots and Roasted Root Hummus. As the company’s name suggests, Ugly Pickle also offers Burger Party Dills, described as “that onion-y, stinky dill everyone seems to adore.”

Their produce “doesn’t sparkle like grocery store produce, and it probably isn’t sexy enough for your next Instagram post,” Ugly Pickle’s website explains. “What it is, though, is the three-legged carrot, the overgrown squash, the curved cucumber. Slightly misshapen, cosmetically blemished—perfectly edible, but imperfect enough to pass over.” All of these foods would most likely get tossed by farmers since they would be unappealing to consumers.

Abe and Murphy met at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and that’s where their Ugly Pickle products are currently sold. They have also hosted food-waste pop-ups around the city.

In Ugly Pickle’s first year, the company diverted 20,000 pounds of “unloved produce” from the country’s waste stream, according to a Kickstarter page for Shuggie’s.

this photo shows a variety of colorful dishes, made with food waste and surplus vegetables, to be offered at Shuggie's Trash Pies and Natural Wine in San Francisco.

Shuggie’s will offer a wide variety of pizzas and other dishes made with food that would otherwise go to waste in landfills. (Photo courtesy of Shuggie’s Trash Pies and Natural Wine)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says about 30 percent to 40 percent of the country’s food supply goes to waste. That’s food that could have gone to feed families in need. It’s also a bad use of land, water, labor and energy, the USDA notes. In 2015, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined together to set a goal to reduce the country’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

“We want to make it easy for people to take climate action through their food,” Abe told the Chronicle. “And we can do that by making it affordable and fun and really friggin’ tasty.”

This story has been edited from the original version featured on PMQ Pizza Magazine’s website and reposted with permission.

Furman University Announces New Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities

By Sarita Chourey, Furman University

We can have both—a healthy, thriving planet and a basic quality of life for all of humanity—and in fact, we must.

That belief drives the new Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University. The Shi Institute is a regionally centered, community-focused institute that promotes sustainable human flourishing through its centers for sustainability education, research and leadership.

The shift to a more broadly reaching institute culminates 11 years of progress and national renown as Furman’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability. On Oct. 27, Furman announced the new institute—an education, applied research and leadership resource truly unique to the Southeast.

Related: Is your pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out.

“It is our imperative to preserve the Earth’s limited natural resources for current populations, to achieve a just and equitable society for all, and to leave future generations with a planet capable of sustaining life and community,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “The Shi Institute brings a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to our most pressing sustainability and community challenges while providing our students with formative learning experiences through our programs and partnerships within the region.”

Faculty and students, environmental scientists and economists, urban planners and policy experts, sustainability leaders and elected officials will collaboratively pursue sustainable communities at the Shi Institute, which operates in a net zero, sustainable showcase home in the heart of Furman’s campus.

“The Shi Institute fills a critical regional need and will serve as a conduit and crossroads for providing innovative ways to think and learn about sustainability, applying sustainability systems research to contemporary problems, and convening, connecting and educating the next generation of campus and community sustainability leaders,” said Wes Dripps, the institute’s executive director and a professor of earth, environmental and sustainability sciences.

this photo shows a group of students weeding under the solar panels at Furman University's solar farm.

Furman’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity weed under the solar panels at the university’s solar farm.

“The future of sustainable societies requires that we find ways to move forward in a collaborative, holistic way that views societal sustainability through the interaction of various systems—environmental, social and economic,” Dripps added. “This approach requires institutions with interdisciplinary expertise, conceptual imagination and local partnerships like we have.”

Related: Auburn University professor’s research aims to make more efficient use of solar energy.

The Shi Institute will house three centers: The Center for Sustainability Education, The Center for Applied Sustainability Research, and The Center for Sustainability Leadership.

The Center for Sustainability Education will offer novel sustainability education programs designed to provide new ways of thinking, collaborating, and problem-solving as well as the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The center already provides a vast array of high-impact student learning experiences, including working on the Furman Farm, living in the Greenbelt Sustainable Living Community, and participating in Furman’s flagship Student Fellows Program, which engages students in real world, campus and community sustainability fellowships. To date the Institute has hosted over 325 student fellows.

The Center for Applied Sustainability Research will be the preeminent place for individuals, groups, corporations, government agencies, nonprofits and universities to find leading sustainability research and assessments. The center will support applied community-based research with faculty, students and community partners aimed at creative solutions for developing communities that are socially just and equitable, environmentally sound and resilient, and economically viable.

The Center for Sustainability Leadership will convene, educate, develop and sustain a strong network of diverse regional educators, leaders and practitioners in the state of South Carolina. The center will support visionary, solution- and action-oriented leadership programs, workshops and events designed to empower this statewide network to advance the sustainability of our communities.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

Two Sullivan Foundation Partner Schools Ranked Among Top 50 Green Colleges

Two Sullivan Foundation partner schools—Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. and Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.—have been ranked in the Princeton Review’s 2020 list of the Top 50 Green Colleges in the U.S.

As a group, the top 50 schools have compelling statistics with respect to their commitment to sustainability, the Princeton Review explained on its website. All totaled, 21 percent of their total food purchases come from local sources and/or are organic, while 49 percent of their waste is diverted from incinerators or solid-waste landfills.

Additionally, 98 percent of the schools on the list offer a sustainability-focused undergraduate major or degree and 100 percent have a sustainability officer.

In roundup articles about why each school made the list, The Princeton Review quoted the students themselves. Catawba College’s students praised their school for its commitment to environmental sustainability. They also noted its 189-acre Fred Stanback Jr. Ecological Preserve, which serves as an outdoor classroom for professors and a relaxing place for getting back to nature.

Students said Guilford College was famous for its “accepting culture” and is “a place where you can express yourself free from judgment.”

“The Quaker college is known for being green (to put it mildly),” the Guilford report continued, “and the administration works to raise ‘student and individual awareness of the environment and everyday life through education and service learning.’”

The Princeton Review, headquartered in New York City, offers tutoring, test preparation and college admission services. It published its 11th annual Guide to Green Colleges in October, which was celebrated worldwide as Campus Sustainability Month.