*This writer went on the Winter Term trip under discussion*
Students flew to Costa Rica, where they lived on a self-sustainable Yoga Farm and learned about sustainability and permaculture. Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Chaplain Doug McMahon leads this annual Winter Term trip and focuses on bringing awareness to the importance of sustainable living.
It is important for students to understand what sustainable living is and how it works. This Winter Term trip is a great way for them to live completely sustainability and implement it in their lifestyle choices.
While in Costa Rica, the students stay at the Yoga Farm that McMahon’s daughter in law, Christie Carr, manages. The Yoga farm uses only solar power and builds with natural materials. Rain water is collected and used for showers and sinks, as well as spring water.
Students on the trip work in the garden where they source most of their food. They plants seeds, mulch the beds, and anything else the garden and fruit trees need and then live off of that land. They learn hands on how to be sustainable with what you have around you.
“I like the Native American definition which is that you’re planning for seven generations out, so whatever your actions are now they are to make things better and you’re planning on what’s going to happen seven generations of humans down the line in the way you act today,” Carr said.
Sustainability requires you to look at the big picture, like where your food comes from. Living off of the land and gardens you maintain leaves less of a carbon footprint than buying from a chain grocery store.
Riding a bike and recycling can be easily integrated into our lives, yet only 34.3 percent of our waste is recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. We see the people around us wasting water or food or energy, but we have to constantly remind ourselves why it is important to live sustainably.
“What really motivates me is realizing that everything else in the world is trying just as hard as I am. Everything wants the world to continue to be healthy and good and being able to realize that that is a support network and that keeps me going,” Carr said.
On the trip, students had an exercise where they took an aspect of Eckerd and made it more sustainable. Students focused on how to use rain water that collects and floods campus in beneficial ways or controlling the sprinkler system. The ideas were inspiring, but they are not the reality, at least not yet.
While living on the Yoga Farm daily habits like composting and limiting power and water use was easy to do. Students come back wanting to continue this sustainable lifestyle, but it is not integrated into St. Petersburg and it is harder to keep up with.
“If you’re a student in school, focus on making sustainable consumer choices. While you’re learning you won’t be acting on the world as much but you are still participating in the economy,” Carr said.
The world depends on everyone working actively to live sustainably. It keeps our resources abundant and if only some people are trying and the rest are simply taking, the resources will still diminish.
“We can make changes in our own personal life choices by not wasting water or energy but it also helps us to begin to think of how we can make systemic change in our society related to sustainability,” McMahon said. “ We need to consider systemic issues related to building construction, farming and food in order to move in the right direction.”
With climate change barreling at us, sustainability is more important now than ever.
“As humans this is our golden opportunity to come together and solve a problem that is affecting all of us equally as we need to learn to put our differences aside and do what's right for the future and right for ourselves,” Carr said.