Jan 072013

Today I headed out to the Broadwell Learning Center with Alyse. The first thing I learned about the center was that it was completely off the grid. While I had learned about such buildings in theory, I had never had the opportunity to visit one personally. When we pulled up to the house, it seemed normal enough, but upon entry, I soon realized that this building was an environmentalist’s dream. Powered by solar energy, equipped with compost toilets, upcycled materials, and reused appliances, this structure was certainly sustainable. Alyse gave me a brief tour and I began to realize that every aspect of the building was closely tied to nature, as all available environmental resources were utilized. The worm composting and compost toilet in the bottom floor of the building provided the land with rich, fertile soil, and the pond near the house proved to be a useful water source. The solar panels were tilted in a perfect angle to the sun, and the rays reflected off of the ice in the pond to allow maximum solar exposure. Garlic, among many other things, was grown near the building, and was used in many of Constantine’s dishes. The building was well insulated and warm, and I soon noticed the wood-burning stove in the corner of the room. After the tour, I was both impressed and extremely intrigued.


By the time Alyse and I returned, Constantine was working on setting up a grinder that was powered by a bicycle. We sat around and discussed Athens’ Own in more depth. I helped myself to some coffee. We spoke about the changing generations, individuals’ thirst for capital and the changing work ethic in America, among other things. After drinking our cups of coffee, Alyse and I sat down and began intern training. She had me compile a list of problems that I felt existed currently and related to sustainability. We then compared my list to the list she had already created. Surprisingly, we had similar ideas, but one major difference presented itself. I forgot to add public health preparedness to my list, which is a major problem in the world today and pertains to the mission of Athens’ Own. Interestingly enough, my public health courses at Tulane focused on public health preparedness on the professional scale, but Alyse pointed out that the public themselves also lack the adequate training and tools needed to deal with disasters. This, of course, relates back to a resilient and sustainable society. Both Constantine and Alyse brought up on multiple occasions that we should think of society now as being in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Were power lines to fail and people quarantined in homes, how would they survive? One look at the Broadwell Learning Center, and one could easily tell that Constantine himself would be able to, but others may be less fortunate. The problem essentially stems from society’s inability to look ahead and prepare for any type of disaster. Constantine lamented society’s inability to perform basic household and community tasks on its own. Contrastingly, Constantine can fix a stove, won’t suffer if power failures occur, and won’t starve when the zombies (or a hurricane, tornado, or other disaster) come.


The zombie apocalypse concept was a hard one to grasp when I first learned about it, but Alyse had more tools to help me understand. We turned our attention to holistic management, another overarching value deeply imbedded in the history of Athens’ Own, and one that individuals, companies, organizations, and families alike can use. Holistic management helps us look forward (and thus is a useful tool when understanding sustainability) but does so in such a way that we have a sound framework to address our future needs. It is based primarily on looking at the bigger picture and understanding long-term ramifications. Holistic management closely ties in with FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS), another set of concepts that addresses public health preparedness. ICS lays out a standardized and concise disaster management plan that provides jurisdictions, agencies, personnel, and individuals with an organizational structure should disaster strike. In order to fully understand this procedure and its importance to the community, Athens’ Own interns become certified in ICS 100. Though it was daunting at first, I soon realized that the certification program was both informational and interesting.


As our long day drew to an end, Alyse had me count money in preparation for the upcoming Farmer’s Market. I learned an incredible amount of information while at the Broadwell Learning Center and look forward to expanding my knowledge base tomorrow.


– Emma Buchanan, Athens’ Own Intern

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