Students make impact in spirit of No Impact Man
Carolina Welcome Week came to a poignant conclusion at this year’s first Service Saturday.
After a week of events meant to entertain students, around 150 Gamecocks woke up early that day to repay their new community.
Service Saturdays began about six years ago as a way to provide service experiences for University 101 students, said Kim McMahon, director of Campus Life and the Russell House University Union.
“Now, it involves those students but also members from student organizations and individuals who want to serve the Columbia community and meet other students,” McMahon said. “We average anywhere from 120 to 200 on a Saturday.”
In the spirit of the First-Year Reading Experience book “No Impact Man,” each of the six sites students visited Saturday had a sustainability aspect. Students helped clean up trails at Harbison State Forest, a “green space” within city limits. They kayaked down the Saluda River, picking up trash along the way. They composted at Transitions’ homeless facility, prepared the community garden at West (Green) Quad and helped organize donated, or recycled, items at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Another group pulled weeds and cleaned chicken coops at City Roots, an urban sustainable farm that sprouted in Columbia in 2009. City Roots grows vegetables, herbs and mushrooms and raises chickens and bees.
It also raises tilapia and grows greens through an environmentally friendly aquaponics system. The excrement-filled water from a tank containing 1,500 tilapia is pumped into rows of plants and rocks that act as a filter. The nutrient-rich water feeds the plants while the plants and rocks clean it enough to allow it to return to the tank, meaning that no water is wasted.
“When you put urban and farm in the same sentence people, think it’s an oxymoron, but it can be done,” said Robbie McClam, owner of City Roots.
One of City Roots’ benefits is that it brings food production into the city, thus reducing transportation costs.
“I’m a big believer in the importance of the local economy, and it’s more fun dealing with locals,” McClam said.
Forrest Ayers, a first-year international business student who helped out at City Roots, took time out after uprooting a weed taller than some students to talk about why he was lending a hand.
“I wanted to get involved and make a difference right off the bat, especially after reading ‘No Impact Man,’” Ayers said. “This world is going to be in pretty bad shape if we don’t do something soon.”
Each of the six sites were led by members of the Carolina Service Council, a student organization dedicated to educating Gamecocks about Columbia’s problems and organizing projects to combat them. Christina Galardi, president of Carolina Service Council, said Service Saturdays are meant to instill a sense of civic responsibility in students.
“Hopefully, they’d like to come back or do another Service Saturday, or they’ll hear about the Carolina Service Council and join us for a regular commitment throughout the semester,” Galardi, a fourth-year public relations student, said. “But, no matter how great or small, we definitely appreciate their service.”