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Zero Impact Gardening with the Chi Chapter at the University of North Florida

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

The UNF Chi Chapter thoroughly enjoyed participating in the 2021 KAO Carbon Footprint Challenge. Over the span of 60 days, participants were able to track their carbon footprints in relation to various lifestyle choices. The variables included meals consumed, type and distance of transportation, and clothing purchasing habits.

Below are some testimonies from participants who reported that the challenge was helpful at lowering their carbon footprints.

“I like how the (Footprint App) has mini challenges where you can earn leaves (that help improve your overall environmental impact) if a challenge is completed. It opened my eyes to ways we can lower our carbon footprint that I had been doing and was not aware of, like turning off lights when not in the room, not letting the water run while brushing my teeth, using reusable bags at the grocery store, etc. Seeing these examples of ways to lower my carbon footprint motivates me to continue my current practices and spread the word to others.” - Faith Kruis

“One of the things I really liked about the challenge was how conscious it made me of my carbon footprint. It allowed me to see how much of a difference can be made by taking part in activities that are so small yet make a big difference. I can see myself leading a more environmentally conscious lifestyle in the future by making a habit of these small activities as well as introducing bigger ones.” - Mahelet Dalke

“Doing the carbon footprint challenge helped me really reevaluate many aspects of my life. I focused on eating more vegan meals, buying less “fast fashion”, and thrifting more clothes when I wanted to go shopping. Not only did having a more plant-based diet help me feel better and battle some health problems, but I was able to help our earth along the way. I was also able to find my own sense of style through thrifting, and of course, donating clothes. It made me see how easy it is to make small changes that ultimately make a huge impact.”

- Morgan DeCaro

Our chapter also participated in a chapter-specific challenge which involved volunteering at our on-campus organic produce garden. We first worked in the compost department, observing how the garden processes its organic waste and recycles it back into usable compost. Our members were tasked with turning the weeds, a process that helps to expedite the drying process before the weeds can be composted. We also weeded the cabbage and cucumber beds. Overall it was really amazing to witness the gardening process first hand. The garden operates with a “zero waste” mindset, every scrap is used, water is conserved whenever possible, and discarded items are repurposed. This perspective stands in such a stark contrast from the waste culture we are accustomed to. Personally, after seeing the effort that goes into gardening, I have a deeper appreciation for the produce that I consume. Moving forward, I personally will be making more of an effort to support farmers who value sustainable gardening practices.

So, why was participating in the KAO Carbon Footprint Challenge so important? It is important for several reasons. The first is that it helps individuals to recognize the factors that contribute to their carbon footprint. The idea of a carbon footprint is something that is mentioned frequently in environmental sustainability circles, but many times, it is difficult to visualize what this looks like in real life. The footprint challenge gives participants practical insight into the impact that seemingly small choices, such as transportation choices, can make on their overall footprint. The challenge also helps individuals to form mindful habits through the practice of logging daily activities. It encourages participants to remain in the habit of choosing environmentally friendly alternatives such as, consuming less meat, pursuing alternate forms of transportation, and purchasing used clothing.

The Chi Chapter learned so much from this challenge and it has given us the tools we need to make more carbon footprint friendly choices long after the challenge ends!

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