Food for Thought

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Sustainable Initiatives Blossom on Campus

From installing a new fruit and vegetable garden to opening a seed library and a clothing repair and alteration shop, Georgia Southern University is promoting a variety of sustainability projects on campus.

Take a walk near the Williams Center and Herty Building and you may notice the greenhouse and garden with several raised beds. The garden, less than a year old, is the result of a partnership between the Center for Sustainability, Department of Facilities Services and Eagle Dining Services.

“This is a great educational opportunity as it demonstrates how to grow food sustainably in a central and highly visible location,” said Lissa Leege, director of the University’s Center for Sustainability. “Students will play a critical role in the development and maintenance of the garden and will have a chance to learn by doing.”

Since establishing the garden, students and other volunteers have planted cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, snap beans, Swiss chard, watermelon and basil. “Much of what we grow will go directly to catering events and dining services so that students and other members of the University community will be able to enjoy fresh produce grown right here on campus,” said Scott Blair, a graduate assistant with the Center. “The campus garden produce used in the dining halls and catering events will be labeled as such so consumers will know that is what they are eating.”

“We often hear about the benefits of local food: low transportation cost and consequently reduced fuel use and emissions and knowing how the food is grown,” added Leege. “We can’t get more local than growing food on our campus.”

The garden also provides another unique aspect to the University’s sustainability efforts. Food waste in the dining halls is collected, composted on campus and returned to the garden to grow food that will go back to the dining hall. “It is a nice example of a closed loop system that reduces our impact on the earth and benefits campus diners with healthy, locally grown food,” Leege said.

Seeds Join Reads and DVDs at Henderson Library

SPRING16food-for-thought-2The Zach S. Henderson Library has found another way to contribute to the local food movement. It recently opened a seed library, which operates much like you’d imagine. Students, faculty, staff and anyone in the community may check out vegetable, fruit and flower seeds to plant in their garden. After harvesting their produce, library borrowers are encouraged to leave a few plants in the ground to go to seed and donate some of it to the Library for others to use.

The seeds being offered are considered “heirloom” seeds or seeds that are old and somewhat rare. “It’s something that public libraries across the country are doing, and we thought it would be a good idea to do this as well,” said Head of Access Services Fred Smith. “The point of it is to help keep older varieties of plants viable, and the heirloom seeds fit in with the campus sustainability initiative.”

The Library is distributing seeds that thrive in hot and humid climates. Tomato, turnips and turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli, basil, poppies, watermelon and milkweed are among the selections being offered. Smith added the pollinator-friendly milkweed to the seed bank to support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national campaign to save the monarch butterfly. “Their numbers have gone down drastically in the last decade and they must have the milkweed habitat to thrive,” he said, “and milkweed grows very well in backyard gardens.”

The seeds are ordered from a company that specializes in heirloom varieties; however, the campus garden has provided basil and watermelon seeds. Henderson Library is hoping more people will take advantage of the seed-sharing program and it is providing additional resources for patrons who may need help developing their “green thumb.” The Georgia Southern Center for Sustainability, the Botanic Garden and the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers Market are helping promote the seed exchange.

Free Clothing Repair and Alterations offered

SPRING16food-for-thought-3Last fall, the Center for Sustainability helped the School of Human Ecology open a clothing alterations shop on campus. To read more about the free service, see Around the Circle college news. — Sandra Bennett

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