New York City is the most populated city in the United States. During the Progressive Era, and the rise of technology, New York City faced “environmental problems relating to public health, sanitation, water supply, sewerage, air quality, and noise pollution motivated reformers to strengthen the role of state and municipal government to pursue remedies, tempering the dominance of the free market and turning increasingly to experts in such fields as engineering, architecture, public health, and administration” (Stine). New York City today is estimated as the most energy efficient city in the United States, for there is a high use of public transportation as compared to the use of automobiles. “Its greenhouse gas emissions are 7.1 metric tons per person compared with the national average of 24.5.” The city has tried to reduce is environmental impact even further by introducing hybrid taxis and clean diesel vehicles. New York City has over 28,00 acres of parkland. Central Park, the most visited park in the city, contains 883 acres of land, consisting of ponds, lakes, ponds, a zoo, and a garden. Fordham University’s campus used to range over 300 acres but it sold most of its campus to New York City to create the New York Botanical Gardens. Fordham student and faculty now have unlimited acres to the gardens. Fordham has always appreciated its natural environment and worked to preserve it through the creation of the botanical gardens. Originally, the Bronx River ran through the Rose Hill farm, students, faculty, and workers took advantage of its assets through activities of “farming, quarrying, hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, study, prayer and remembrance” (fordham.edu). Fordham University also operates the Louis Calder Center, which is a biological field station. It contains 114 acres of forest and 10 acres of lake.
Today, many students at Fordham, as part of the Sustainability Plan, are working to preserve the Bronx River for the local community through the Bronx River Alliance, the New York City Botanical Garden, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Through Fordham’s Sustainability Plan the University “recognizes the value of minimizing its environmental impact and endeavors to pursue best practices throughout all aspects of its operations” (fordham.edu). Fordham plans to use alternative forms of technology to reduce energy use, and will also work to recycle all waste as well as promote the purchase of renewable products. The design of new buildings is ensured to be environmentally conscious. The use of public transportation will also be heavily advocated. Through all of these steps, Fordham strives to reduce its carbon footprint by thirty percent and present academic programs in order to provide a greater understanding of environmental issues.
Just as New York City and Fordham University have tried to reduce their impact, so have I. For my practicum, I decided to work in St. Rose’s garden, once a week for two hours. During my time working at St. Rose’s Garden I helped weed the beds of vegetables, plant additional seeds, water the beds, turn over soil, and spruce up the flowers, wrap twine around taller vegetables, and install a drip irrigation system. Pictured below are the radish seeds I planted. It was rewarding to see their progress week after week. I was also excited to see that something I planted successfully grew! I was very impressed with St. Rose’s compost station that I took home a sealed container and started one of my own in my kitchen. My roommates and I now compost all our fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, flowers, seeds and other food that is allowed within the compost. Instead of wasting all of these valuable scraps, they are now being used to help create rich soil for the garden. I’m truly able to see now how much of our food gets wasted by simply being thrown along with all the other garbage. With other members of St. Rose’s garden, we held a pickling party. We pickled leftover cucumbers and zucchini from the CSA. Everyone took part in cutting up the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and other vegetables and together we were able to make quite a feast. We created a fig jam and a grape jam, as well as salsa verde and pico de gallo. Everything was delicious, fresh, and organic and it was comforting to know where all the produce came from directly. Additionally for my practicum, I volunteered to help work at the Environmental Career Panel. The panel consisted of five people now working in various environmental positions. It was interesting to hear how each person came upon working in an environmental field, but the degrees of environmental work varied. For example, one panelist described himself as working for the “man,” for he works as General Electric. He explained that they are now trying to hold more environmental standards but are still very geared toward making money. A panelist of the complete opposite position works for Green Mountain Energy, which is a company committed to delivering 100% renewable energy to companies, households, etc. The career panel provided with students with advice about what careers they could potentially get involved in after they graduate having received a major or minor in environmental policy. Yet, not all students who attended were majoring or minoring in environmental policy. One particular girl was a Biology major, but she said that she would like to use her major to pursue a career in environmental research. The third activity I participated in for my practicum was the Student’s For Environmental Awareness and Justice’s Clothes Swap. Instead of being consuming for the clothing industry, this event enabled us to recycle our old clothes out for new pieces. The remaining clothing after the drive would then be donated, resulting in zero waste and providing for a good cause.
I believe that my practicum and learning experience through hands on, yet small-scale work, relates to the environmental theory presented by Anthony Weston and the discipline of environmental politics. Weston believes in environmental pragmatism and that we should do whatever works involving practices and policies. For my practicum, I did not necessarily have to be an environmental policy major or be environmentally literate. Rather, anyone for that matter could have participated in these activities and areas and still would have contributed to environmental awareness and action. For example, my use of a compost bin in my kitchen can virtually be introduced to any kitchen. It did not require any money but at the save time created so many benefits. If every kitchen in the United States adapted to composting, we would significantly reduce food waste and contribute to recycling of this food for the soil used for future produce. Another example is the clothes swap I included in my practicum. If disadvantaged families and even more well to do families participated in a clothes swap, they would be able to dispose of old clothes and gain new clothes without contributing to our consumerist society.