The Crimson White: Environmental Edition, April 2022

The Crimson White’s first Environment Edition explores Tuscaloosa’s environmental challenges and sustainability efforts.

The Crimson White’s first Environment Edition explores Tuscaloosa’s environmental challenges and sustainability efforts.


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CW / Autumn Williams

How Bama Dining fights for food sustainability



In the push toward greater food

sustainability, Bama Dining has

led many of the food sustainability

efforts on campus.

According to the United Nations,

Sustainability is the idea that

something (e.g., agriculture, fishing

or even preparation of food) is done

in a way that is not wasteful of natural

resources and can be continued into

the future without being detrimental

to our environment or health.

Often, the idea of food

sustainability conjures up mental

images of leafy greens, vegan

restaurants or miles of farmland in

the Midwest. While those images are

part of food sustainability, in reality,

food sustainability is so much more

than that. Composting, recycling,

energy efficiency and nutrition each

play a critical role in the overall

production of food sustainability.

Bama Dining has steadily

increased sustainability efforts,

starting with recycling initiatives

in 2006, where they began recycling

plastic and metal as well as

eliminating plastic trays from the

eateries in the UA Student Center’s

food court and dining halls.

In 2009, Bama Dining launched

its pre-consumer composting

program. In this program, pre-

consumer matter such as vegetable

and fruit peels, or green matter, is

delivered directly to the University

of Alabama Arboretum, where it

is mixed with the leaves, or brown

matter, to produce rich compost.

Through the pre-consumer

composting program, Bama Dining

has reduced the impact to the local

landfill, Eagle Bluff Landfill, by over

4,000 pounds per week, which is the

number of pounds picked up from

various dining locations.

However, the COVID-19

pandemic impacted how the

University approached sustainability.

Because of the pandemic, students

were required to take their meals

to go, which necessitated the move

to disposables.

Kristina Patridge, the director

of University dining services,

and Bruce McVeagh, the district

manager of the Bama Dining

administration, said the pandemic

was a major obstacle in the efforts

toward food sustainability. The

initiatives surrounding food

sustainability on campus were put

in the back seat, but not forgotten,

as the administration tried to feed

thousands of students.

As time has passed, Bama Dining’s

efforts toward food sustainability

have experienced steady progress.

The University of Alabama

releases annual recycling statistics

reports, which break down the types

and amounts of materials that UA

Recycling processes.

In those reports, Bama Dining’s

recycling profile is divided into

pounds of compost and pounds of

grease. In the 2015 to 2016 recycling

report, 1,555 pounds of compost

were delivered to the Arboretum,

while there were 87,476 pounds of

grease used.

Fast forward to the 2020 to 2021

annual recycling report: 17,930

pounds of compost were delivered to

the Arboretum and 25,869 pounds

of grease were used.

In essence, more fruits and

vegetables were consumed, and less

grease was used for cooking.

“Bama Dining guests have

requested more fruits and vegetables,

and Bama Dining has responded

to those requests,” Patridge said.

There were also more venues

constructed that do not include

fried foods.”

The issue of food sustainability

also includes how sustainably those

foods are prepared in terms of

energy system usage. Bama Dining

has directed efforts toward the study

of sustainable energy usage in the

dining options on campus.

Bama Dining has spearheaded

the installation of the ultra-efficient

kitchen hood systems manufactured

by Melink. These kitchen hoods

possess the highest energy

efficiency and filter air and smoke

to ultimately create a cleaner and

safer environment that promotes

healthier cooking practices.

In addition to this, they’ve

introduced energy-efficient oven

systems. On-campus dining places

such as the Fresh Food Company,

Panda Express and Chick-fil-A

have started utilizing these energyefficient

cooking systems.

The benefits of these systems are

twofold: The environment benefits

due to less gaseous pollutants and

less energy waste, and the consumer

benefits with healthier and

safer food.

Bama Dining is interested in

the shift toward more vegetarian

and vegan options on campus. At

Lakeside Dining Hall, there are stirfry

options and grilled vegetable

options daily, as well as pho and

other bowls offered at Glutinvs

Minimvs. At Fresh Food Company,

there is a dedicated vegetarian

station with various grain bowls,

hummus, crudités and a vegetable

soup option daily.

McVeagh said that in the past,

most of the options for on-campus

dining were limited in terms of

vegetarian and vegan selections.

Now, it is becoming increasingly

more common to see vegetarian

and vegan meat alternatives such

as burgers, sausages and more

as the efforts continue to reduce

meat consumption.






Bug Fest

spotlights the


of insects



Meet the campus


advocating for the



Now Open!

Visit sheltonstate.edu to apply and register!

It is the policy of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees and Shelton State Community College, a postsecondary institution under its control, that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin,

religion, marital status, disability, gender, age, or any other protected class as defined by federal and state law, be excluded from participation, denied benefits, or subjected to discrimination under any program, activity, or employment.



Environmental justice

is for everyone, and it

cannot be ignoredw



April 21, 2022



managing editor

engagement editor

chief copy editor

opinions editor

news editor

assistant news editor

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sports editor

assistant sports editor

chief page editor

chief graphics editor

photo editor

multimedia editor

Keely Brewer


Bhavana Ravala


Garrett Kennedy


Jack Maurer

Ava Fisher


Zach Johnson


Isabel Hope

Jeffrey Kelly


Annabelle Blomeley

Ashlee Woods


Robert Cortez

Pearl Langley

Autumn Williams

Lexi Hall

Alex Miller


creative services Alyssa Sons

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Al’s Pals


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May 2nd - 6th


Spring 2022


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Together, we’ve collected 8,000 books for

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Questions? Contact Sally Brown 205-348-8344 or uced@ua.edu


April 21, 2022


CW File

OUR VIEW: Sustainability isn’t simple


All those in the conversation



sustainability are familiar with a

common phrase: “Everyone can do

their part!” From taking shorter

showers to carpooling to work to

reducing the use of single-use plastics,

there is no shortage of advice on

how individuals can, and must, stop

contributing to climate change.

This kind of advice, while wellintentioned,

places the responsibility

of saving the world on overworked and

busy individuals that are attempting to

manage both their finances and their

time. For college students, this burden

of environmental responsibility

represents just one more thing on

their busy schedules. Between classes

and extracurriculars, they are tasked

with preventing ecological disasters.

Environmental sustainability isn’t

a simple achievement or a few boxes

to check off and disregard. Rather, it

is an evolving attitude that one must

embody. There is no definitive way

to be “environmentally sustainable.”

Instead, college students and citizens

alike must examine every aspect

of their lives and surroundings.

In adopting a comprehensive view

of sustainability, we may one day

enact change.

Individual decisions

College students make countless

decisions every day that either

contribute to or harm the cause

of environmental sustainability.

Regardless of our awareness of our

impact, we are actively shaping the

earth for the next generation. Through

simply increasing our knowledge

about these decisions, we may begin

to ensure they advance the cause of

environmental sustainability, one

move at a time.


College students may find it difficult

to navigate dining halls while on a

specialized diet. While dining halls

may boast some vegan- and vegetarianfriendly

options, these options are

often rather limited compared to their

nonvegan counterparts.

Take, for example, Ithaca college,

who boasts an A-plus rating for

vegan dining hall options. Despite

the recognition, options are severely

limited, repetitive and lower quality.

While the most recognized institutions

fall behind the curve, the rest struggle

to implement basic menu choices.

This leaves most vegan students in a

double bind: they can either search

for sustainable alternatives or eat

repetitive, unhealthy vegan options

that do not satisfy basic dietary needs.

Then there’s our campus.

Despite efforts to include vegan

accommodations, marginalized

dietary needs often remain outside

the scope. Student interviews last

year exposed dining hall options to

be severely limiting for students with

religious or moral dietary restrictions.

In addition to most vegan options being

processed and sodium-filled, students

find themselves “hodgepodging a few

sides together” to make a meal. While

most students in these situations turn

to mobile ordering or other means,

it remains difficult to find accessible

limited diet options at dining halls.


In addition to sustainable eating,

college students are faced with

another environmental challenge:

sustainable fashion.

College students are especially

prone to engage in fast fashion, or

rapidly produced clothing to follow

evolving trends. In the age of social

media and market trends, fashion

represents social capital. When this is

the case, it is understandable that the

average college student may navigate

toward Shein for their next date party.

Doing so is a quick and inexpensive

way to ensure that students feel

confident and comfortable on their

night out.

However, college students must

examine their own consumption

habits if society is to see an end

to the environmental degradation

and human rights abuses inflicted

by fast fashion, an industry that

accounts for one-tenth of the water

used by industries that produce and

clean products.

This is easier said than done. Truly

sustainable fashion presents a higher

cost of clothing due to its value of

labor, sourcing and transparency.

Students can instead seek to be more

sustainable in their clothing choices

by simply becoming more mindful

of them. This may look like reducing

consumption itself: Next time you’re

buying a dress for that one formal,

ask yourself if you already have one

that would suffice. Go thrifting

with a new friend and turn it into a

day out. Support local businesses

around Tuscaloosa.

Though these choices may appear

insignificant, we must recognize the

value of our “dollar”. Corporations will

continue to pollute our environment

as long as we let them. It’s time to

show them that their consumers value

ethical practices.


Though individual decisions are

undoubtedly meaningful to the cause

of environmental sustainability,

they cannot exist in isolation. They

must be coupled with systemic and

lasting change.

If one goes to a campus Starbucks,

this kind of change is evident. Due to

a decision in April 2019, all Starbucks

are phasing out plastic straws and

navigating toward paper and wooden

utensils. This action represents

just one in the “anti-plastic straw”

trend that is sweeping the globe.

However, this trend reflects a flaw in

placing the burden of environmental

sustainability choices. National

Geographic has revealed that plastic

straws make up just 0.025% of the

plastic found in oceans every year.

When consumers are told they’re

morally reprehensible for using straws

by the same companies responsible

for ecological disasters, it is easy to

become jaded. A 2017 report by CDP

revealed that just 100 companies are

responsible for over 70% of carbon

emissions. How can the average

college student compete with figures

such as these?

The feelings of fear and despair that

often result from this helplessness in

the face of ecological destruction are

known as climate anxiety, and they

are plaguing young people at alarming

rates. In the face of climate anxiety,

college students have a powerful

tool: activism.

As young people, our voice carries

weight. We have the opportunity to

influence the world our children will

grow up in, the world of the next

generation. One needs only to look at

examples such as Greta Thunberg or

Vic Barrett or countless other youth

activists to understand that we have

the power to change our surroundings.

With the Clean Water Act under

threat by the Supreme Court,

environmental concerns are more

relevant than ever. It’s time for

college students to act. Do the

research. Educate yourselves on

local environmental concerns. Find

an environmental bill you support

and call your representative about it.

Though these actions may not seem

monumental now, they surely will in

the future.

Here at home

While environmental sustainability

may be an elusive goal, it is a goal

worth pursuing. We don’t have to wait

to enter the “real world” to advocate

for a healthier world. We can start

now, in our own communities.

To support environmental

sustainability on campus, college

students simply need to start

conversations on the environmental

impact around them. In doing so,

students will surely find that every

aspect of campus could be improved

toward the cause of environmental

sustainability. From our dining hall

practices to the water used to maintain

the Quad, environmental impact is all

around us. It’s up to us to pay attention

to it.

If you have a concern about

environmental sustainability

on campus, address it! Consult

organizations such as the

Environmental Council. Arrange

meetings with administration. While

you may not see immediate results,

but you will change this campus

simply by bringing attention to

overlooked issues.

Instead of demonizing someone

else’s consumption choices or giving

up in the face of a complex world, view

environmental sustainability as a life’s

endeavor. We simply cannot make

every ethical and mindful decision all

the time. Together, however, we can

start a revolution.

The Crimson White Editorial Board is composed of Editorin-Chief

Keely Brewer, Managing Editor Bhavana Ravala,

Engagement Editor Garrett Kennedy, Chief Copy Editor Jack

Maurer and Opinions Editor Ava Fisher.



April 21, 2022


As Bama Dining continues its

efforts to reduce meat consumption

and increase vegetarian and vegan

options, the administration has

sought to purchase products locally

in the name of sustainability. As

stated on the Bama Dining website,

all Bama Dining managers are

required to purchase locally grown

and produced products whenever


Bama Dining receives its locally

sourced produce from FreshPoint.

Bread is purchased from the local

Flowers Bakery in Tuscaloosa, and

milk is purchased from the local

Dairy Fresh distributor.

In addition to the local food

purchasing, Bama Dining also

provides fair trade coffee. Fair trade

coffee must meet strict international

criteria, provide credit to farmers and

give technical assistance to farmers.

“Regulations and the high

demand for resources make it nearly

impossible to partner with a local

farm, but produce does come from

local producers,” McVeagh said.

Due to the high volume of students

at The University of Alabama, a local

farm would not be able to sustain the

food needs on campus. As a result,

locally sourced produce is received

from FreshPoint, which is North

America’s largest wholly owned

produce distributor.

While it remains to be seen

whether a local farm partnership is

in Bama Dining’s future, for now, the

administration plans to continue its

efforts to purchase local.

The principal obstacle that

Bama Dining faces in its food

sustainability efforts is the funds

that are needed to be


Patridge and

McVeagh said

that due to the size

of Alabama’s campus,

it takes a significant

amount of resources to

be sustainable. With a

campus of nearly 40,000

students, Bama Dining has the

responsibility of feeding a small

city, so to speak. Environmentally

sustainable resources and products

are generally more expensive than

their unsustainable counterparts.

McVeagh and Patridge said

another obstacle is students’ lack

of engagement in reducing food

waste. Food sustainability is just as

much about proper disposal as it is

production and consumption.

They said the first step toward

furthering the cause of food

sustainability on campus begins with


The efforts ideally need to be

student-led, such as with student

ambassadors. The students are the

force behind The University of

Alabama’s campus, and the fight for

food sustainability is no exception.

Being mindful of recycling and

putting trash in the correct place

are small things that ultimately can

make a difference.

The University of Alabama

Environmental Council understands

how difficult it is

to live

CW / Autumn Williams

sustainably on campus, especially

as a freshman living in the dorms.

However, students can still actively

participate in sustainable practices

despite challenging circumstances.

“We are actively working to

improve the sustainability on

campus, whether it be through

recycling practices, working with

Bama Dining to reduce the amount

of plastic in the dining halls, and,

hopefully, to start a community

garden on campus. If you are truly

passionate for sustainability, it’s the

place to be,” said Megan Neville,

the co-director of social media for

the organization and a freshman

majoring in hospitality management.

In addition, the Environmental

Council provides other ways in which

students can become

involved in the efforts

towards sustainability.

“Other ways students

can engage in sustainable

practices on

campus is to

bring their

own reusable

utensils to the

dining halls,

use reusable

bags at the

grocery stores,

ditch plastic water

bottles for a reusable

one, carpool or utilize

the Crimson Ride buses,

and consider reducing

their meat and animal

product consumption. It may

seem silly to suggest such small,

simple things, but once you start

doing a few of them, your impact

truly adds up,” Neville said.

McVeagh brought up the shopping

cart model that the grocery store

Aldi utilizes and how it represents,

in his view, the ideal model of food

sustainability. In this model, Aldi

shoppers pay 25 cents to use carts,

and then, when they return the cart,

they receive their deposit back.

Such a model represents how

consumers should treat the

environment with respect, and

this idea is the foundation for food

sustainability. Without a healthy

environment, food sustainability

cannot thrive.

Economic and environmental health are compatible



Charles Scribner, the executive

director of the Black Warrior

Riverkeeper, a local chapter of the

national Waterkeeper movement, said

politicians should not make it seem as

if economic health is incompatible with

environmental health.

Nearly 67% of adults in the United

States believe the government is not

doing enough to control climate change

according to a 2019 Pew Research

Center study.

In a recent press release, the United

Nations Intergovernmental Panel

on Climate Change warned that

inaction regarding the environment

and climate will pave the way for

future disaster.

“To avoid mounting loss of life,

biodiversity and infrastructure,

ambitious, accelerated action is

required to adapt to climate change, at

the same time as making rapid, deep

cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” the

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change wrote.

While the report said the

infrastructure and tools necessary to

combat climate change are presently

available, and the world could halve

emissions by the year 2030, emissions

must peak by the year 2025 to keep

global warming under 1.5 degrees

Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a

threshold for continuing on with a

comfortable life.

CW / Shelby West

"When politicians say or imply

that folks must choose between the

environment and the economy, that is a

false choice,” Scribner said. “According

to the Outdoor Industry Association,

outdoor recreation is a multibilliondollar

industry for Alabama every

year. Degrading Alabama's beautiful

waterways and land will diminish public

participation in recreation, harming our

environment and economy together."

In 2020, the Bureau of Economic

Analysis reported that outdoor

recreation makes up 1.8% of the United

States gross domestic product, at a little

over $370 billion.

In 2020, the Outdoor Industry

Association reported that income

from outdoor recreation in Alabama

is similar to that of the national level,

coming in at around 1.9% of the states

gross domestic product, hovering just

below $4 billion.

Ellen Griffith Spears, a New College

associate professor with a specialty in

environmental history, said the state

could be doing more in terms of the

environment, especially in comparison

with its history.

"In the early 1970s, Alabama passed

one of the tougher environmental

laws in the southern states. ... It

added more significant fines for

violations than many of its neighbors,"

Spears said.

According to the Encyclopedia of

Alabama, the laws covered solid waste

disposal, air and water pollution, safe

water and surface mining reclamation,

and hazardous waste legislation.

"It's possible, and there's a lot more

leadership that could be shown at the

state level, both legislatively from

the executive branch, and from

the regulatory agency that

handles it," Spears said.

According to an

article by the American

Bar Association,

in Uniontown,

Alabama, residents

have been

fighting against


injustice for

decades. The

town, which

is 93% Black

and has 40% of

its population

living under

the poverty line,

fought and lost

a 2007 battle

against a landfill

permit allowing

33 states to bring

toxic pollution and

coal ash into the

area. Since then, the

Arrowhead Landfill

continues to alter

the health and lives of

the residents.

According to the article,

Uniontown is considered a victim

of environmental injustice and still

“urgently needs attention at local, state

and federal levels.” In other parts of

Alabama, some local officials have been

taking note of the current environmental

crises and their effects.

Selected as a welcome speaker for the

American Water Resources Association

2022 Spring Conference, Maddox has

been nationally recognized due to his

response to the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado,

which killed 53 people and injured

1,200 more.

Extreme weather events like

tornadoes are set only to increase in

both magnitude and occurrence if the

climate is not put under control.

When politicians say or

imply that folks must

choose between the

environment and the

economy that is a

false choice.



Maddox has committed himself and

the city of Tuscaloosa to environmental

stewardship; after the 2011 tornado, the

city doubled down on recycling.

Under Maddox’s lead, Tuscaloosa

has worked to protect lakes Nicol

and Harris, created an environmental

coordinator position to make sure

the city follows the law and improved

its stormwater management system,

winning the city an award from

the Water Environment Federation

in 2015.

In 2007, Maddox signed the U.S.

Conference of Mayors’ Climate

Protection Agreement, which vows to

reduce carbon emissions along with

other climate protective measures.

While at the time Tuscaloosa was

making strides in using cleaner energy

sources for vehicles and more efficient

lighting, it is unclear if the city has kept

up these efforts to fight climate change,

although Tuscaloosa still remains on the

agreements’ 2019 list of signatories.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has shown

skepticism when it comes to the

bureaucratic nature of government

aid for the environment. In 2017,

she disbanded the Alabama Water

Agencies Working Group, which

was established in 2012 to create a

water plan for the state of Alabama

and was supported by nearly 80% of

Alabama voters.

Although dictated by state code, the

Alabama Department of Environmental

Management is managed by a small,

independent board, leading many

environmentalists inside the state to

believe there should be more state


With this oversight by the state,

environmental stewardship once again

falls into the hands of concerned

citizens. This is the type of work

Waterkeeper organizations across the

country do, including the local branch,

Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

Scribner said this year is the 50th

Anniversary of the Clean Water Act,

a federal statute that Black Warrior

Riverkeeper uses frequently to hold

polluters accountable in the Black

Warrior River watershed.

“When Congress passed the Clean

Water Act in 1972, they wisely included

citizen enforcement provisions because

they realized that local, state or federal

government agencies may not always be

as interested or effective as citizen-based

organizations, such as Waterkeepers, in

addressing Clean Water Act violations,”

Scribner said.

The Black Warrior Riverkeeper

website has resources available for

concerned citizens to reach out to

elected officials and find environmental

agencies and events.

“Additionally, elected officials are

often swayed by receiving multiple

messages from citizens requesting

various forms of environmental action,”

Scribner said.

Spears said taking environmental

action and weighing the truth of

politicians’ promises and claims are

important steps for citizens interested

in making change.

The environmental movement has

been active with groups like the League

of Conservation Voters and making

sure that people understand where

various candidates might lie in terms of

their perspective on the issues. And so

making sure that we have full access to

voting is really an environmental issue,

because we want to make sure that

popular opinions about conservation do

get reflected in governance,” Spears said.

This sort of activism is not blindly

encouraged; Spears said results have

been achieved through this sort of

participation, and in Alabama no less.

Amber Buck, the co-leader of the

Tuscaloosa Chapter of the Citizens

Climate Lobby, said the organization

strides toward education in

these fields.

They [Citizens Climate Lobby]

train folks on how to lobby members

of Congress as citizens and how to use

various tools to convince members of

Congress that this is a particular issue

that constituents are concerned for ...

and then also trying to raise awareness

around people in terms of climate

change issues,” Buck said.

Spears and Buck both mentioned

the importance of voting with the

environment in mind, as marginalized

and poor communities both generate

less of a response from environmental

agencies and will deal with the effects

of environmental issues more than

their wealthier counterparts. By

voting in local and national elections,

Americans can make change for

the environment.


April 21, 2022



Now Open!

Visit sheltonstate.edu to apply and register!

It is the policy of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees and Shelton State Community College, a postsecondary institution under its control, that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion,

marital status, disability, gender, age, or any other protected class as defined by federal and state law, be excluded from participation, denied benefits, or subjected to discrimination under any program, activity, or employment.



April 21, 2022


April 21, 2022


highlights the importance of insects


A student volunteer cradles a praying mantis, one of the many bugs available for

observation at the Bama Bug Fest. CW / Natalie Teat

The 2022 Bama Bug Fest was held inside of the Alabama Museum of Natural

History, located next to Gorgas Library on campus. CW / Natalie Teat



The Alabama Museum of Natural

History might best be known for its

60-foot ancient whale skeleton, a

wooly mammoth skull and the Hodges

meteorite. But on April 9, the museum

hosted a festival of dinosauric

proportions in the celebration of some

not-so-dinosaur-sized creatures.

Bama Bug Fest celebrates the insects

and bugs that shape our environment

and make big impacts despite their

size. With thousands of attendees

in the span of just four hours, Bama

Bug Fest filled all three floors of the

Alabama Museum of Natural History.

Volunteers on the first floor handed

out maps and flyers while ushering

attendees up the grand staircase.

On the second floor, Flow

Tuscaloosa had a lantern-making

space with insect cutouts and markers

for attendees to decorate their own

lanterns, which will be lit during a

parade at the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk

on May 21. Across the way, The

University of Alabama Fashion

Archive had a display about insects

in fashion, particularly focusing on

silkworms and cochineals.

The vast majority of

insects have nothing to

do with us, other than

[that] the planet that

we live on would not

survive if there weren’t

insects in the way that

we know it.


The third floor had insect artists,

worms, bees and microscopes for

attendees to get up close and personal.

Bama Bug Fest had a little something

for everyone. The University of

Alabama Department of Theatre

and Dance projected bug drawings

onto the wall and the West Alabama

Beekeepers Association showed off a

live beehive. A booth on entomophagy

taught people how to cook food

with bugs.

“Everyone has a fascination with

insects,” said Kendra Abbott, the

research and outreach coordinator

for the Alabama Museum of Natural

History and an ecologist. “It may

not always be a positive fascination

or an appreciation. It might be more

that they’re scared or intrigued, but

everyone has a fascination with them.

And more often than not, people

really want to learn about them.”

John Abbott, the chief curator and

director of research and collections

at the Alabama Museum of Natural

History, became interested in insects

after his father, who was also a

scientist, exposed him to them at a

young age.

Kendra and John Abbott, who

are married, are no strangers to

celebrating bugs. Before they entered

their positions at the University,

they started an “insect siesta” at

their previous jobs at the University

of Texas. After moving to Alabama,

they wanted to bring their love for

bugs and insects to the Capstone and

greater Alabama area.

“At its crux, we just love to share

our passion for insects, and that’s what

it boils down to,” John Abbott said.

“We can’t take credit for the idea of

an insect festival. There are a number

of these all around the country, and

some of them are substantial. The

North Carolina Museum of Nature

and Science brings in something like

40,000 people in one day for their

insect festival. Purdue has the Purdue

Bug Bowl, where they bring in more

people than to a football game. ...

There’s not one in Alabama, and we

just see it as an opportunity and a

niche that we could fill.”

Bama Bug Fest started in 2019 with

more than 1,500 people celebrating

the insects. With the 2020 and 2021

Bug Fests held online due to the

COVID-19 pandemic, the Abbotts

hoped that their in-person return

for 2022 would yield big results, and

it did.

Bama Bug Fest has grown in

more than just attendance; more UA

students than ever before have been

helping with the preparations, from

manning bug art stations to taking

care of the bugs during the semester.

Emily Otter, a sophomore majoring

in geology, signed up to work with

UA Museums at Get On Board Day

and has since worked in the “bug

room” in the Alabama Museum of

Natural History.

While the bugs typically stay in

their room during the year unless a

researcher moves them, Bama Bug Fest

gives them the unique opportunity to

be celebrities for a day.

“I think Bug Fest is important just

overall for the University, so we can get

people outside of the college involved

in the science that we’re doing here

and the research that we’re doing here,

and just show what students are doing

and what is happening on campus,

especially for the museum,” Otter said.

Cockroaches, particularly

Madagascar hissing cockroaches,

ruled the day with two events. On the

third floor, volunteers dipped them in

paint and let them walk across a piece

of paper to create bug art for guests.

Here, Otter volunteered to help the

cockroaches paint across the page and

make their artistic mark.

In a second-floor lecture hall, the

cockroaches raced across a miniature

raceway lugging tiny tractors while

four children chosen out of the crowd

tickled them with feathers to get them

to move.

Otter hasn’t always been so keen

to work with bugs though. Before

volunteering at the museum, she said,

she was terrified of them, and she

isn’t alone.

In Chapman University’s Survey

on American Fears, it was found that

nearly 25% of respondents are afraid

of insects or spiders, which is more

than the percentages of people scared

of violent crimes and germs.

Bama Bug Fest

hopes to change

minds just as the

museum changed Otter’s. By getting

up close and personal with the insects

and learning about their diversity, the

Abbotts want to change the way we

interact with bugs.

Kendra Abbott said 75% of the

animals on earth are bugs, with over

5 million species around the world.

Despite the magnitude of insects, only

around 1 million species have been

described and studied.

The No. 1 thing that I would love

people to walk away with is that they

don’t need to kill every bug they see.

Not every bug is a pest,” Kendra Abbott

said. “They’re beneficial, and they do

so many things for us. Take a second

look at that mantid or cockroach that

you see and say, ‘You know what? I’m

okay, I’m good.’”

Kendra Abbott said the biggest

misconception about bugs is that

they're dirty, when they’re actually

constantly cleaning themselves.

The only reason a roach might be

dirty walking across your counters is

if you’ve got dirt on your counters,”

Kendra Abbott said. “They’re only

dirty if you’re dirty.”

To help demonstrate the difference

between good bugs and bad bugs, the

2022 Bama Bug Fest was sponsored

by Burnum-Hahn Exterminators,

a Tuscaloosa-based, family-owned

business that’s been serving the West

Alabama community since 1946.

Clay Hahn, a vice president and the

third generation at Burnum-Hahn,

said the company joined Bama Bug

Fest to get more involved with the

community and to help the Alabama

Museum of Natural History educate

people about insects.

“We think that everybody should

learn about insects and become aware

of the good and the bad about insects,”

Hahn said. “It’s a time where you can

celebrate insects that are beautiful to

look at, like caterpillars that turn into

butterflies and insects like that, but it’s

also important to be aware of insects

like roaches, mosquitoes and fire ants

that could bring harm to you or any of

your loved ones.”

The number one thing

that I would love

people to walk away

with is that they don’t

need to kill every bug

they see. Not every bug

is a pest.



While some bugs can cause harm,

such as venomous spiders and viruscarrying

mosquitoes, the majority of

bugs stay out of the way.

The vast majority of insects have

nothing to do with us, other than

[that] the planet that we live on would

not survive if there weren’t insects

in the way that we know it. Now if

all of mankind was to disappear, the

planet might, in my opinion, be a

better place. If all of the insects would

disappear, mankind would disappear,”

John Abbott said.

John Abbott said that without bugs,

the economy would suffer too because

bugs save humans $57 billion per year.

From helping leaf litter decompose

and eating dead things to pollinating

plants around the world — which

is done by beetles and butterflies as

well as bees — the world would be

drastically different without insects,

and humans would have a hard time

finding food and generally surviving.

It’s a time where you

can celebrate insects

that are beautiful to

look at, like caterpillars

that turn into butterflies

and insects like that,

but it’s also important

to be aware of insects

like roahes, mosquitoes

and fire ants that could

bring harm to you.


There’s lots of reasons why insects

are declining: pesticides, climate

change, light pollution,” Kendra

Abbott said. “But there is evidence

to suggest that there is a huge decline

in the abundance of the biomass of

insects globally. ... Again, that’s a

really bad thing.”

Despite bugs suffering from climate

change and environmental problems,

the Abbotts said there are many ways

to help the bug populations.

John Abbott said ditching

monoculture and manicured grass

lawns and instead allowing the

natural flora to prosper is a great

way to help insects in your own yard.

Many homeowner associations have

a minimum amount of space that has

to be made of grass in yards, but by

planting native plants, people can

enable the pollinators to work better

and more effectively.

“It’s a rethinking of ‘What is pretty

or attractive?’” John Abbott said.

“For some people at golf courses, a

homogenous grass line that they cut

is pretty, but that is not very good

for insects. But a meadow of flowers

growing and a bush rolling lawn can

be very attractive in so many different

ways. So it’s just kind of thinking

about it differently that way.”

Whether attendees walked away

from Bama Bug Fest with new

ways to save the endangered insect

populations or with a little less fear of

bugs than they had before, Bama Bug

Fest is happy to give insects their own

special day of celebration.

There is something there for

everybody of all ages: the enamored,

the curious, the fearful, everybody,”

John Abbott said.

CW / Pearl Langley



April 21, 2022

Landscaping and grounds staff impact

UA’s natural environment



Year-round, The University of

Alabama’s facilities and grounds

employees work to create and maintain

the Capstone’s lush landscape.

From the beds of blooming flowers

that surround various building

entrances to the vibrant green grass

and picturesque trees that cover the

Quad, the scenery around campus

draws in tourists and students

alike. Southern Living highlighted

it as one of “The South’s Most

Beautiful Colleges.”

The University of Alabama was

named Tree Campus USA for the

seventh consecutive year.

The facilities and grounds

department has been ranked the

No. 1 grounds department among

100 universities across the nation

and even received an award for

effective and innovative practices

from the Association of Physical

Plant Administrators.

“We have over 12,000 trees, so it’s a

big deal to take care of our trees and

be recognized for that year in and

year out,” said Bryant Anderson, the

director of the grounds department.

With over 50 species of trees, the

University is home to some that have

been here for over 100 years. Oaks

and magnolias are most prevalent,

while the Chinese pistache trees are

the rarest, gifted by the Queen of

England in the mid-1800s.

We put so much work

in the campus, and it

doesn’t take but one

football game for you

to see where it has

been beaten up.



According to the Arbor Day

Foundation, having a campus

that is dedicated to cultivating an

environment with many trees, flowers

and plants can help absorb carbon

dioxide in the atmosphere, reduce

amounts of energy used on campus,

provide mental health benefits to

students and staff, and encourage

The trees on the Quad are part of the collection of over 12,000 trees on the

campus that earned UA the title of Tree Campus USA for the seventh consecutive

year.CW / David Gray

physical activity.

Josie Gillette is a freshman

majoring in Spanish and economics

who previously worked at a state

park and currently volunteers at local

parks near Tuscaloosa. She said the

green space and outdoor areas drew

her in when she considered attending

Alabama. As a runner, she loves that

the University has a large campus.

“I have heard so much from other

students about how the constantly

green grass makes them feel happy

on a rough day, it definitely rings true

for me too,” Gillette said.

In a 2019 study, researchers from the

American Psychological Association

found that contact with nature is

connected to increased happiness

and well-being and decreased mental

distress. Additionally, it was shown to

promote positive social interactions

and a sense of meaning and purpose

in life.

Anderson has been working for the

University for 11 years. As director of

the grounds department, he oversees

over 100 grounds personnel, ranging

from managers, groundskeepers,

irrigation technicians, and garbage

truck and street sweeper operators,

to tree trimmers and landscapers.

The department has grown

some as the campus expands, but

Anderson said the largest challenge

his team faces is taking care of such

a large area of land. There are only 70

groundskeepers in charge of taking

care of about 1,500 acres.

During the spring and summer, the

campus rapidly grows and changes;

whether it’s weeds that need to be

removed or the upkeep of flowers,

there is always work to be done.

While it may look less lively

during the winter as the trees lose

their leaves and the flowers wilt, the

campus comes to life as the season

transitions to spring.

Alabama has a humid, hot climate

that creates issues when it comes to

keeping the grass green, keeping

flowers alive and keeping the large

trees sufficiently watered. It can

be difficult for the groundskeepers

to give attention to all areas in the

summer with so much land to cover.

The biggest challenge is to keep it

looking the same week to week and

month to month,” Anderson said.

The employees work from 6 a.m.

to 2:30 p.m. During football season,

they may work for up to a month

straight because game days require

intensive cleanup on Saturdays

and Sundays.

“We put so much work in the

campus, and it doesn't take but one

football game for you to see where it

has been beaten up,” Anderson said.

“It all goes back to that bigger picture.

It is for the good of the University,

for the good of Tuscaloosa, just for

the people to be able to come and

enjoy themselves.”

There is a landscape strategic

plan in place for the department to

ensure a standard for the style of the

landscaping and groundwork.

“We created a standard that is kind

of like Nick Saban football,” Anderson

said. “All our leadership expects

the campus to look this way all the

time. There is a little bit of added

pressure on us to make sure we keep

that standard.”

One hundred and four

people are dedicated

to take care of the

campus and make it

safe and beautiful for

you all.



Anderson said his job requires trust

between him and his employees.

“One hundred and four people are

dedicated to take care of the campus

and make it safe and beautiful for you

all,” Anderson said. “[Students] are the

reason we’re here. It’s all about making

the campus look good for students,

family, faculty and staff.”

Hannah Shedd, a freshman

majoring in environmental science,

said the large outdoor space and

overall feel of the campus caught her

attention and was important to her

college decision.

“UA stood out to me because it

didn’t feel urban, and I believe that

it’s due to the many outdoor spaces on

campus,” Shedd said.

Kim Byram, the associate manager

of the grounds department, has seen

the campus grow and change in his 11

years at the University. He is in charge

of six individuals who are responsible

for turf installation, planting trees and

assisting with the flowers, fertilization

and use of herbicides.

Byram encourages students to

appreciate his department’s hard work

seen by this department as they walk

to class.

“Enjoy it while you're here. You get

caught up doing the things that you

want to do and you miss the forest

for the trees per se,” Byram said. “And

that's pun intended.”

At a landscaping conference he

attended, Byram learned how other

schools better manage their organic

waste, which he hopes to see soon at

The University of Alabama.

When it comes to being

environmentally friendly, Byram said

there is always more they can do.

“I would hope to use less water. We

can cut back on water usage, but that

might mean the landscape at periods

may not look as nice, so there's a catch

there,” Byram said.

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April 21, 2022

‘We deserve better’:

Campus organizations push for a greener future



With over 300 members, the UA

Environmental Council is the largest

environmental student organization

on campus.

The organizations

Rilyn Todd, a sophomore in the

New College program, is a member

of the Environmental Council. Todd

got involved with the organization at

the beginning of the fall 2021 semester

because she was interested in activism.

Environmental justice is a priority

for her following her selection as the

organization’s vice president for the

upcoming academic year.

There are a lot of people who I talk to

in the organization, like in meetings and

through other events, that are interested

in the same kind of thing,” she said. “A lot

of people, including myself, are frustrated

that environmentalism, especially in the

South, is perceived as just recycling and

using metal straws and stuff like that. We

really want to get involved in actually

pushing for legislation.”

Last semester the Environmental

Council began petitioning the City

Council of Tuscaloosa to declare a

climate emergency or create a plan

to combat climate change and limit

carbon emissions.

Delanie Williams, a junior majoring

in environmental engineering, is the

incoming president of the Environmental

Council. Williams has served as treasurer

of the organization for a year and has

“loved every second of it.” She raised over

$500 for the Black Warrior Riverkeepers

and wants to increase outreach.

“I wanted to run for president for

the 2022-2023 year to help expand

our membership and club outreach

efforts,” Williams said. “I think everyone

nowadays is aware of the climate crisis,

and they just need the opportunity to

get involved and organized to make

a change.”

Williams wants the organization’s

efforts to be more “member-led.” She

highlighted the danger of eco-anxiety,

the fear around climate catastrophe in the

present and future.

“To help combat eco-anxiety, I think

it is extremely important for members of

our community to feel they are helping

to address the climate crisis,” she said.

“This involves grassroots organizing and

Campus Development, the University of

Alabama department that plans, manages

and delivers infrastructure services across

the Capstone, is looking to strike a balance

between style and sustainability.

University Lands, which reports to

Campus Development and is part of

the University’s Division of Finance

and Operations, provides long-range

campus planning, entrepreneurial

development and management of the

University property.

The University’s land management

has been expanding since the school

was founded in 1831. Most significantly,

in April 1884, Congress voted to grant

the University 46,080 acres of public

lands to increase the

University’s endowment

and strengthen the

institution’s total

academic program.

Tim Leopard, the

senior associate vice

CW / Anna Butts

support from our executive team.”

Thomas Franzem is the outgoing

president of another environmental

organization on campus: Conservation

Biology Society. The organization

discusses conservation literature,

organizes litter cleanups and more.

Franzem said he initially wanted to get

involved with the organization because

he likes “getting outside and seeing cool

plants and animals.”

“That’s been a thing throughout my

whole life,” he said. “As I've gotten older

and more educated, I’ve realized that

we're actually doing a lot of harmful

things to nature, which gives so much

to us. I guess my motivating thing is just

trying to advocate for the stuff that can’t

advocate for itself and just try to effect

change as far as society's relationship to

nature and to the environment.”

Franzem said his goal for the two year

old Conservation Biology Society is to

have it exist 10 or 20 years from now.

He said it makes him feel optimistic that

new people will be taking the reins this

academic year.

The University’s efforts

Todd said the “extent” of environmental

efforts on campus is the University’s

recycling center and bins placed in

classroom buildings.

“That's about it,” she said. “Recycling is

better than nothing, but it's not even that

great in terms of sustainability. So things

that the University could do first and

foremost, they need to divest their assets

from fossil fuels. I think it's irresponsible

of them to be funding fossil fuel

companies with their endowments when

they claim to be educating their students

for the future. If they're preparing us for

a future that they're actively destroying,

it just doesn't fit very well. It's kind

of hypocritical.”

Franzem said the University could

help by treating land in a way that benefits

the environment and surrounding

ecosystems. Franzem said he would

suggest incorporating native landscaping

into the University’s work and utilizing

wildflower gardens.

Franzem argued that the University’s

use of much of its land for lawns

is detrimental to the environment,

particularly for insects, birds, and other

organisms who would benefit more from

more natural environments.

There's a little patch of wildflower

gardens past Marr’s Spring, but it's maybe

15 feet long, and they need to do more to

really make a difference,” he said.


The UA Conservation Biology Society recorded hundreds of observations across the span of

two days during “bioblitz” on October 9, 2021. Courtesy of UA Conversation Biology Society

Williams said the Environmental

Council is currently working with Bama

Dining to reduce waste and the use of

single-use plastics, but she believes UA

leaders could always be doing more.

“I think UA also needs to investigate

food waste programs, develop a glass

recycling program in the dorms and

encourage native species biodiversity on

campus,” she said.

Todd said the Environmental Council’s

wants the University to localize food

production. The organization is currently

trying to implement a community garden

at the University to help achieve this goal.

The Student Government Association

has an Executive Cabinet member

designated as director of environmental

affairs. The outgoing director is Heisman

Olszewski. The incoming director has not

been announced yet, and will be selected

by SGA President Madeline Martin.

Todd said she feels disappointed

by a lack of effort from the SGA

on environmentalism.

They have no contact with us,” she

said. “No collaboration whatsoever. The

extent of their work this year was when

he [Olszewski] proposed a project to

make a place where people could hang

their hammocks. It's not great. We

deserve better.”

Olszewski did not respond to multiple

requests for comment, and SGA press

secretary Olivia Davis declined multiple

interview requests.

The future

Todd said she would encourage

students to join the Environmental

Council if they want to get involved.

“Organizing and finding like-minded

people is going to be really good for your

mental health if you're anxious about

environmental stuff,” she said. “Second

of all, it is a great way to get things done.

If we have more people working on these

projects that I've already mentioned,

they're going to get done faster and

they're going to be way more effective. Put

pressure on the people in these positions

that are failing you right now. What is

important to you, and what should they

be doing?”

Franzem pointed out the mission of the

Conservation Biology Society in relation

to making positive change on campus.

“To address all the crises that humanity

is facing, we need big changes at high

levels, but you have some power to effect

positive change,” Franzem said. “I think

that's an important message that really

needs to get out there more. We can help

nature. We can help the environment just

by doing things in our everyday lives.”

Williams said students dealing with

anxiety over climate change can make

a difference.

“Climate anxiety is very prevalent

currently, and I think a lot of people

feel like they can’t make an impact, but

I promise you can,” she said. “Small

changes build up, and one less singleuse

plastic is better than nothing.

I also highly encourage joining a

group to try and make a collective

difference. It’s empowering and makes

a bigger impact. Might I suggest the

Environmental Council?”

UA seeks balance between style and sustainability



president for Campus Development,

said that investment in the University’s

appearance and structural layout has

contributed directly to the growing

student body.

There’s a lot of proof over time that

the look of a campus has a tremendous

impact on recruiting and retaining

students,” Leopard said. “We feel that

if the University can get a student to

campus [before enrollment], we have a

90-plus-percent chance of getting them.

A lot of that is based on what they see

on campus — the look, the feel, the

people, the programs — so we think that

what Campus Development does is very

important to that.”

Leopard said that this attraction is based

on the way prospective students see people

interact with the campus when they come

to tour.

“When you walk on


a n d

y o u

see that collegial feel, with a quad and

green space and trees, and see people on

scooters and bikes and walking around,

it makes a dynamic and vibrant place,”

Leopard said. “It makes you want to

come here for what you think of as a

college experience.”

Along with his team, Leopard has

added 5,000 beds to campus residence

halls and overseen the construction of

Shelby Quad. Currently, the Campus

Development team is restoring the Bryce

Hospital campus, which includes a new

welcome and performing arts center.

The Building Bama webpage outlines

the University of Alabama’s ongoing and

upcoming capital projects. This includes

access to dates for bidding on campus

projects, the capital projects portal and any

impacts to campus activity.

The portal currently lists 31 active

campus projects, including the new

Tutwiler Residence Hall, an Athletics

Competition Area, the Peter Bryce

renovation, a performing arts academic

center and more.

With projects always underway,

Leopard strives to minimize the impact

of construction on campus by working

hardest when students are away.

“We work each year over Christmas,

over spring break and over the summer to

do a tremendous amount of work just to

minimize that impact,” Leopard said.

When it comes to the environmental

impact of construction on campus,

Leopard and his team work to balance

the economic feasibility of a project with

its sustainability. When buildings are torn

down, parts are often saved to apply to the

next project.

Brick and wood flooring from the

original Bryce Hospital has been set aside

to use in the ongoing remodeling.

“Resiliency and long-lasting things are

very important for sustainability, and so

we work really hard to create a beautiful

campus,” Leopard said.

While the team looks to reduce its

contribution to ongoing climate issues, the

cost of greener options sometimes holds

it back.

“Carbon and greenhouse gases are

tremendously important, but it all has to

make financial sense,” Leopard said. “If

there were a better mousetrap out there

that was more efficient and effective, I

promise you we'll be using it. I mean, why

wouldn't we?”

There’s a lot of proof

over time that the look

of a campus has a

tremendous impact on

recruiting and retaining



Currently underway, Leopard said,

is a $28 million project dedicated to

enhancing the energy efficiency and

comfort of several campus buildings. The

Campus Energy Delivery Optimization

and Efficiency Project is an initiative to

enhance the effectiveness and efficiency

of the system that provides reliable heating

and cooling to many buildings on campus.

The financial benefit and return were

considered, along with the performance of

the system throughout its life cycle.

The Campus Development team also

recruits UA students to join them in their

efforts at the Capstone. These positions

range from engineer to analyst.

“It is tremendously humbling to have

been doing something that matters for so

many people,” Leopard said. “You have

the opportunity to support people doing

incredible things.”



April 21, 2022

The intersection of economics, environment and equity



The basic economics of the

environment, such as resource

management and conservation

policy, have far-reaching impacts.

Polluting a waterway with

carcinogenic chemicals will lead

to increased health care costs

for nearby residents. Declining

property values can lead to a lack

of external investment in a city.

Destroying ecosystems in Indigenous

communities can further harm

already disenfranchised populations.

U.S. gross domestic product

increased from $1.051 trillion in the

first fiscal quarter of 1970 to $24

trillion in the fourth fiscal quarter of

2021 — the highest GDP in history.

While the wealth of nations is

generally increasing, the wealth gap

between the economic elite and the

working class is widening. According

to a Pew Research study, as of 2016,

upper-income families had 7.4 times

as much wealth as middle-income

families and 75 times as much wealth

as lower-income families.

According to the Swiss Re Institute,

this gap is only going to become more

pronounced with climate change,

which threatens to “wipe up to 18%

of GDP off the worldwide economy

by 2050 if global temperatures rise

by 3.2°C.”

The United Nations’ High

Commissioner for Refugees found

that since 2010, weather emergencies

and environment-related disasters

have “forced more than 21.5 million

people per year to move, on average”

and concluded that weather-related

crises have “triggered more than

twice as much displacement as

conflict and violence in the last


Ellen Griffith Spears is a professor

in the New College and the

Department of American Studies

who specializes in environmental

history and ethics. Her research has

focused heavily on environmental

justice, including the book “Baptized

in PCBs,” which examines a fight for

climate justice in Anniston, Alabama,

a town about two hours away

from Tuscaloosa.

Students have been

involved in terrific

ways in community

gardens and supporting





“[Anniston] is one of two places

where the Monsanto chemical

company manufactured PCBs,”

Spears said. “They knew from the

1930s, and the world knew beginning

in 1966, that they were quite

hazardous to human health, but the

people who lived there did not find

out about that until the 1990s.”

Aside from the numerous health

impacts of PCBs, or polychlorinated

biphenyls, which include impacts

on the immune and reproductive

systems, the long-term economic

impact of contamination can be just

as severe.

Spears said the Environmental

Protection Agency estimates more

than 45 miles of waterways south of

Anniston have been contaminated

by PCBs, impacting thousands of

residents and habitats surrounding

the area.

In Anniston, the waterways

contaminated hogs, chickens and

other animals since it was used as

livestock drinking water. PCBs'

main form of contamination is

through consumption.

“Owning their own homes is,

for most people, the main way of

accumulating value and passing it on.

So [contamination] greatly reduces

home value and in some cases makes

it impossible to sell,” Spears said. “But

there are much larger questions, such

as the tax burden of maintaining the

water system. Environmental justice

is deeply connected, and is not only

placed in communities of color

but then damages their long-term

economic prospects.”

The Environmental Protection

Agency defines environmental

justice as “the fair treatment and

meaningful involvement of all

people regardless of race, color,

national origin, or income, with

respect to the development,

implementation, and

enforcement of environmental

laws, regulations, and


Though her research hasn’t

focused specifically on the

University, Spears said she would

like to see the University address

its relationship to environmental

justice. Spears recommended

a sustainability survey to take

stock of what is being done across

different departments.

“One is what buildings and

maintenance is doing on the recycling

front. Two is what kinds of student

activities exist so that people could

know where to plug in. The other is

the breadth of research, an overview,”

Spears said.

A common argument levied

against climate policies is their

immediate economic impact. Critics

argue that the multitrillion-dollar

price tag of plans like the Green New

Deal would destroy the economy

and cost millions of people jobs. The

Green New Deal aims to shift the

United States’ economic resources

into building mass sustainable

infrastructure to combat climate

change, including social safety nets

like guaranteed housing, universal

healthcare and tuition-free public

education. However, research from

Scientific American shows that the

negative effect of inaction would be

far greater in the long run.

The kind of investment we can

make now is extraordinarily costsaving

in the future,” Spears said.

“Interestingly enough, it’s not just

the environmental movement now

that’s talking about it, but certain

corporate entities have realized that

switch in a very short time frame.”

The focus then becomes policy.

Spears said that sometimes, it needs

to start from the basics.

“I think it's really good that The

University of Alabama is focusing a

lot of attention on water,” Spears said.

“Food is another big area. Students

have been involved in terrific ways in

community gardens and supporting

community-based agriculture.”

Michael Price is the Dwight

Harrigan Endowed Faculty Fellow

in Natural Resource Economics in

the Culverhouse College of Business.

As a trained behavioral economist,

Price specializes in researching ways

that conservation efforts can be

effectively marketed and promoted

to consumers.

Price said treating sustainability

efforts as a competition

would have economic and

environmental benefits.

“I think competitions are nice on

a lot of dimensions because they give

potential benefits and you’re not

necessarily relying just upon people’s

intrinsic motivations ... so you can

engage a broader set of people,”

Price said.

Sustainability competitions could

include comparing residence halls’

energy use against one another,

with the most energy-efficient

residence hall winning a prize. The

University used to operate an energy

dashboard called the Crimson

Energy Connection that “uses smart

meters to track electric, natural gas,

chilled water and hot water data in

real time.”

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, 2019,

Crimson Energy Connection hosted

the “Battle of the Halls,” in which

residence halls were pitted against

one another to see who could save the

most energy within the allotted time

frame. The winning residence hall

received a “special prize provided by

the Residence Hall Association.”

In total, 890 million British

thermal units and $12,142.06 were

saved from the competition. Crimson

Energy Connection’s website reports

that the University spends over $20

million annually on energy resources.

Price said the pandemic also

played a role in energy efficiency and

environmental change.

“In Germany, people adopted

more strategies and behaviors in the

home that would save energy during

the pandemic and reported that

they engage in these behaviors more

frequently during the pandemic

than they had beforehand,” Price

said. “There have been articles

that have come out in Science and

Nature showing that the skies over

Beijing are clear and that there are

reductions in air pollution. Now,

part of that was an artifact of less

industrial production, but if some of

it is coming through the consumers,

or even the businesses ... people

became more cognizant.”

If you can engage

a large number of

students in small

changes, they add up,

and over time, you [...]

you develop habits…

and you learn that

change isn’t as painful

as you think.



Sustainability is about individual

incentives, but it’s also about

the sustainability practices of

corporations, businesses and public

entities like universities. From an

economic perspective, it’s imperative

to consider the interests of a

conglomerate: money.

“What are they trying to optimize?”

Price asked. “For a university, it’s

attracting better students, it’s longrun

engagement, it’s faculty. ... Is

it something that will change the

demand for seats at the university?

Is it something that alums or outside

groups would come in, and will it be

a new source of financing for them?”

Price suggested integrating

environmentalism and sustainability

into the undergraduate

research experience.

Environmentalism encapsulates

all fields of study, from economics

and business to technology,

engineering and design. Not only

could research-driven sustainability

practices improve the local and

statewide environment; they

could also raise the demand for a

spot at the University. With more

demand comes more opportunity to

raise funds.

CW / Autumn Williams

“If you can engage a large number

of students in small changes, they

add up, and over time, you hope that

you develop habits … and you learn

that change isn’t as painful as you

think,” Price said.

Price said history has proven

humans to be creatures of habit.

Creating new and meaningful habits

must begin on an individual level,

because change comes in aggregate.

Sophomores Rilyn Todd, a

sustainability and environmental

engineering major, and Jacob

Hegelson, a marine sciences and

biology major, are vice presidentelect

and secretary-elect, respectively,

of the UA Environmental Council, a

campus environmental advocacy and

awareness organization.

Todd and Hegelson have bold

visions for what a sustainable campus

could look like.

There’s a long way to go, but [a

sustainable campus] would look like

net zero emissions — not meaning

net zero as in the promise of net zero,

where we rely on future technologies,

but net zero as in we don’t produce

carbon,” Todd said.

To accomplish this, Todd listed

several steps the University could

take, ranging from cleaner public

transport, localized food systems,

permaculture gardens, all the way to

divesting University assets from fossil

fuels and reinvesting in renewable

energy initiatives.

Todd and Hegelson believe that

current economic practices will

ultimately fail in the face of the

climate crisis but could be revitalized

through innovative approaches to

sustainability and equity.

“I honestly think switching

to sustainable conditions would

ultimately, in the much longer term,

increase the stability of economics,”

Hegelson said.

Todd and Hegelson have said that,

for the longest time, sustainability

has been interpreted as a compromise

between wealth and Earth, but it

doesn’t have to be this way.

“It goes back to the idea, or the

fact, that our economic system

doesn’t make sense for the real world,

and it doesn’t apply to the planet that

we live on, because it assumes that

natural resources are infinite, and

that’s not true,” Hegelson said. “It

also makes a lot of assumptions about

human nature that are also not true,

so we just can’t continue with this

extractive capitalist system in which

we just take whatever we want.”


April 21, 2022






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Everyone deserves

environmental justice



injustice refers to

environmental practices disproportionately

affecting minorities, people of color and

low-income communities. This often looks

like pollutants being diverted to minority

communities and inequity in access to

sustainable options.

This can have devastating impacts. As

with most social justice issues, minority

and low-income communities are most

impacted. From air and water pollution

to unequal access to quality outdoor

recreational spaces, environmental injustice

is pervasive, and it cannot be ignored.

The environmental justice


The environmental justice movement

had a tragic beginning. This movement

took off in 1982, in the impoverished

areas of Warren County, North Carolina.

The state government brazenly dumped

6,000 truckloads of soil containing toxic

chemicals for the purpose of creating a

waste landfill.

Residents of Warren County detested

the introduction of chemicals into their

community and united against the landfill.

The protests included acts of defiance such

as marches and lying in the pathways of

trucks to impede their movement. These

actions resulted in over 500 arrests, the first

time in United States history that arrests

were made over the sitting of a landfill.

Unfortunately, the government of

Warren County prevailed. Toxic waste

overtook these innocent residents’

community. However, the battle was

not completely lost: It drew national

media attention, which jump-started the

environmental justice movement.

Low-income and

minority communities

It can be difficult for individuals to grasp

the damage that is inflicted by landfills,

incinerators and other environmental

health risks impacting low-income areas.

The average person does not calculate every

outcome of their carbon footprint when

they toss their waste in the garbage can, but

odds are it’s contributing to the health issues

of impoverished residents.

How does garbage contribute to diabetes,

lung cancer, strokes, heart diseases and

other detrimental diseases in minority and

low-income areas? To answer this question,

we must look at the journey of waste

in America.

Let’s say you just finished a nice, cold

bottle of soda. You toss the empty bottle

in the nearest trash can and continue with

your day. Now, a garbage truck will pick up

all of the waste in that garbage can and send

the bottle on its journey. After a network of

transfer trucks, the soda bottle eventually

arrives at one of three places: a recycling

center, a landfill or an incinerator.

Hopefully it would end up at a recycling

center since it’s a recyclable; however,

more often than not, it will end up in an

incinerator or a landfill. These landfills and

incinerators are most likely housed in lowincome,

minority communities.

Landfills and incinerators contribute

to a catastrophic amount of air and water

pollution. Through targeting minority, lowincome

communities with landfills, the

government is contaminating the drinking

water of these communities.

Not only are these communities' water

supplies threatened, but their air quality

is also negatively impacted through

the proximity of landfills. Landfills

exude dangerous toxins into the air of

communities close to landfills. These toxins

have been linked to a variety of health

conditions, including birth defects. Beyond

h e a l t h


CW / Autumn Williams

these residents’ quality of life is drastically

impacted. Through living near a landfill,

residents face noxious odors that make it

difficult and unpleasant to breathe.

Through the burning of waste, pollutants

like mercury, lead, arsenic and carbon

monoxide are released into the surrounding

air. These communities are now at risk of

a variety of health conditions, including

cancers and respiratory diseases. The ash

created through burning waste is also toxic

to the environment and further exacerbates

health conditions in targeted communities.

Environmental injustice in the

Black Belt

Often, when considering social justice

issues, we think of these issues as distant

threats. However, the environmental justice

crisis is affecting areas in close proximity to

The University of Alabama.

It is not shocking to discover that

Alabama’s Black Belt is heavily targeted

regarding environmental injustices.

Originally named for the dark, fertile

soil of the region, the Black Belt has been

historically marginalized and still struggles

with high poverty rates.

To truly understand the environmental

struggles that Alabama’s Black Belt is

facing, one must examine an especially

environmentally targeted town:

Uniontown, Alabama. In late 2008, millions

of tons of coal ash were transported from a

predominantly white area in Tennessee

to a landfill in Uniontown. Uniontown’s

population is 84% Black, with 49% of

residents living below the poverty line.

Throughout a two-year period, this

coal ash was dumped as close as 100 feet

from some residents’ front porches. Some

chemicals that this coal ash released into

the air of the community include arsenic,

lead and other radioactive elements.

In turn, residents started experiencing

respiratory problems, severe headaches,

nausea and dizziness, among other health

issues. Additionally, residents were forced

to endure pungent odors and extreme

dust, which contaminated all aspects of

their lives.

Residents of Uniontown banded

together and filed a civil rights complaint to

Alabama’s Department of Environmental

Management. However, the Environmental

Protection Agency denied the complaint on

the basis of “insufficient evidence.”

The denial of this complaint has only

exacerbated the situation in Uniontown. As

of 2018, the landfill is owned by developers

based in New York and New Jersey. This

change of ownership has caused this landfill

to receive around a million tons of out-ofstate

waste. The recent effects of this landfill

have been detrimental to the community,

causing residents to either give up their

homes and relocate or face potential health

risks and extreme odors.

Outdoors for all


Historically, environmental justice has

pertained mainly to waste management.

However, a new issue has arisen regarding

environmental injustice: the lack of quality

outdoor recreational spaces in minority and

impoverished areas.

A bill titled the “Outdoors for All Act”

has recently been introduced in the Senate.

This bill would create funding for the

Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership,

which supports projects involving outdoor

recreation opportunities in low-income

areas and works toward closing the gap in

environmental injustices.

Environmental injustice issues are

unacceptable and are getting exceedingly

worse everyday, but there are ways that we

can combat this issue.

First and foremost, recycling can

c u t down on the amount of

waste sent to landfills

and incinerators.

Through cutting down

on this waste, we can

lessen the chance

of impoverished

communities facing

extreme health risks.

Recycling not only

benefits the environment but

also benefits vulnerable communities.

Keep that in mind the next time you toss

a plastic bottle into a trash can instead of a

recycling bin.

We must raise awareness and amplify the

voices of these vulnerable communities.

However, there is only so much we

can do without the government’s help in

settling these issues. While we must wait on

the government to make positive changes

regarding these issues, we do not have to

wait silently.



April 21, 2022

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