Final ENR Scholars Reflection

The highlight of my ENR Scholars experience was definitely having the opportunity to meet so many like-minded individuals who are passionate about the environment. I can’t imagine my college experience without this support system and am confident that being part of ENR Scholars has positively impacted my first two years at OSU.

As a member of ENR Scholars I gained a better understanding of the multi-faceted nature of environmental problems. I really only had a background in the hard science of environmental problems, but scholars exposed me to the social implications and problems that arise within environmental issues.

I have made a few changes to my habits as a result of being in ENR Scholars. While I am not fully vegetarian, I make an effort to only eat meat once a few. I never knew how unsustainable large-scale meat production could be until being in scholars which is why I try to eat less meat to lower my carbon footprint. Living off campus I want to make an effort to eat less processed foods in order to minimize the amount of packaging waste I produce as well as to eat more locally grown produce.

My biggest piece of advice to incoming ENR scholars is to really take advantage of your peers and advisors as a support system. The first few years of school, especially the first semester, are extremely difficult. Academically and socially I felt like a fish out of water, but having the ability to talk with the advisors as well as the other scholars really made me feel comfortable and at home when I otherwise wasn’t feeling the greatest. I also would suggest that new members really make an effort to get to know the older scholar students. I think my biggest regret is that I didn’t become close with any of the older ENR Scholars. Ultimately, I am so thankful that I decided to take part in such an amazing group here on campus. While I officially will be done with ENR Scholars requirements, I will always consider myself part of the community.

Year In Review

This image was taken on the ENR Scholars camping trip to Hocking Hills State Park. This trip was an amazing way to connect with my new friends as well as explore the natural landscape. I believe that this experience helped me to really become ingrained in the Environment and Natural Resource Scholars and ultimately helped me make the decision to become an ENR  Scholars mentor in the fall.    

Being a part of the ENR Scholars group has allowed me to have so many amazing opportunities. One such opportunity led me to Waterman Farm on West Campus. We helped pick apples for a food bank and also got to go on a tour of the dairy farm portion. The most amazing part of the excursion was when we saw this calf stand for the very first time. This experience as well as others has made me consider my impact on our environment in regards to my food consumption. I have been trying to make changes in my life to consume less meat products in order to have a better footprint.

One of our assignments as ENR Scholars was called Columbus-To-Do-List. This entailed us going out into the city to explore a specific topic or location. Some other scholars and I went to German Village and went to iconic shops such as the Book Loft and Schmidt’s. I really enjoyed this assignment because It allowed me to get comfortable travelling in and around the city. It also helped me to get inspired and excited about getting out and seeing all that Columbus has to offer.

My future roommate, Adrianna, and I stopped and took this photo on the way back from Kottman Hall to Morrill Tower and I think this picture sums up my first year as a buckeye. Living in Morrill Tower was very convenient when walking to and from Ag Campus (which I did a lot of this year!) but it also helped me grow closer with my scholars group. Morrill Tower gets a lot of flack, but I think having everyone from ENR Scholars living on one floor made everyone grow very close. I am so grateful for having the chance to meet so many amazing people and I cannot wait to live in Morrill Tower with ENR Scholars for another year!

Mid-Action Plan Check In

My first action was fairly simple to complete. I made a simple post for facebook, tumblr, and instagram regarding the animal and human rights violations which occur through the palm oil industry. I also attempted to highlight the fact that palm oil is an important commodity that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs globally and that it can be made sustainable through smallholder farming techniques. My second action was very eye-opening. Almost every granola bar that I buy at the C-Store on campus contained palm oil and one of my favorite cookies, the fig newton, had palm oil as well. Also Nutella, a famous spread, also contains the oil. Surprisingly, none of my beauty/hair products contained the oil. I think this action showed me that the campus is not very concerned with the issue of palm oil. A majority of the foods offered at the C-Store do contain the oil and I think it stems from a lack of knowledge regarding the issue.

I am considering changing my final action from writing letters to various companies which use palm oil to writing letters to different food-based clubs on campus to get their input on the C-Store selling so many products with palm oil in them. I think that changing this action would have a larger impact on my life at OSU which is why I want to pursue it.

I have learned that I, and many other individual members of our society, do not truly know what are in our products. As I was going through my groceries there were some other concerning chemical ingredients in my foods. This has made me want to become more aware of what I am actually putting in my body in regards to processed foods.

I think that the biggest challenge in the next few weeks will be convincing others to allow me to go through their products with them. I think a lot of people’s mentalities in regards to the source of their food is that ignorance is bliss. I definitely used to fall into this category but I am now working on investigating the origins of as much of my food as possible.

Earth Month Action Plan

In week one of my Earth Month Action Plan I am going to make Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram posts about the palm oil crisis in order to introduce others to the issue. I am going to focus on the environmental effects as well as the importance of small holders in the process of making the industry sustainable. I will also highlight prominent companies that sustainably source their palm oil and those that do not. I do not think this task will be very difficult, thus I am doing it during week one. I will use the social enterprises and nonprofits I researched for the lens assignment to collect accurate data on the problem of palm oil.

I will be investigating my food and beauty products during week two of my Earth Month Action Plan in order to see which contain palm oil and for those that do contain the oil I will research to see if it is sustainably sourced. I think the most difficult part of this task will be actually finding out if the products that contain the oil are sustainably sourced. It will also be difficult because it will be difficult to know if the food from the dining halls contain palm oil. I will mainly be utilizing product websites in order to figure out the source of the palm oil within my products.

Similar to week two of my Earth Month Action Plan, I will once again be utilizing websites in order to find the source of the palm oil within products. However, in week three of my plan I have the goal of helping at least 5 of my floor-mates review their products to see if they contain palm oil. I will also implore those 5 people to go out and help one more do the same, therefore hopefully setting of a small chain reaction. The most difficult portion of this task will be finding people who are willing to take time out of their schedule to go through and explore their products. It is also difficult because there is no way of forcing those five people to go out and help one more individual to review his or her products.

In the final week of my Earth Month Action Plan I am going to contact 5 companies that do not source their palm oil sustainably and implore them as to why do not. I will use the information garnered throughout my previous weeks to create clear message regarding the issues of the palm industry as well as to highlight the utmost importance of smallholders to industry. This will be difficult because big companies most likely will not care that one person is upset about their sourcing. My main concern with this portion of my plan is that I will get no responses from the companies I contact. The resource I will use for the final week will be all of the information I have learned from my lens assignments as well as the past weeks of my action plan. I am looking forward to next month and I am excited to see what changes I can make in my own lifestyle as well as my peers!

Non-Profit: Reflection

Prior to listening to the guest speakers, Max Slater and Tara Dhungana, I hadn’t considered how reliant non-profits are on the current political atmosphere. It has made me aware that many nonprofits depend on government funding and without it many organizations have had to cut essential programs. In regards to the issue of palm oil I now am considering the impact of the current political atmosphere in countries producing palm oil on the industry as a whole. Listening to Max and Tara speak about their nonprofits has made me understand that often times nonprofits walk the line with social enterprises. My biggest takeaway from this session was the fact that there are so many wonderful nonprofits doing work so close to home. I am planning on contacting Max Slater in order to possibly volunteer at St. Stephens because I love the idea motivating the work done at the farm for the community of Linden. One way I would like to take action via the “28 Day Palm Oil Challenge” put forth by the nonprofit group Say No To Palm Oil. I believe that this challenge would be a good way for me to become aware of where the palm oil in the products I use daily is sourced from. It would also give me alternative products and recipes which use sustainably farmed palm oil or no palm oil at all. I still am struggling to see how I can reach beyond the first two levels of citizenship and truly make a change in the industry. I am going to put more effort in finding a way to make effective change over the next few days as I further develop my earth month action plan.

Palm Oil Nonprofits

One non-profit organization, Say No To Palm Oil, is centered around providing consumers with the knowledge of the negative impacts that the unsustainable palm oil industry has on people and the environment. They acknowledge that the industry is key to the economic survival of certain regions, but challenge consumers to cut back on their palm oil use as well as only using products which contain sustainable palm oil. They have created a plan known as the “28 Day Palm Oil Challenge” which urges individuals to research what products they use have sustainable palm oil and prompts them to reconsider using products which contain unsustainable oil. The non-profit known as the Rainforest Action Network has a section of their organization called the Palm Oil Action Team. This team focuses on organizing local communities, taking action online, and participating in national tactics in order to elicit change in the palm oil industry.   

Overall, most other organizations and individuals are centered around educating the public and targeting corporations to create change in the industry.

The best way to get involved with a non-profit regarding palm oil is to either participate in their challenges, such as the “28 Day Palm Oil Challenge”, or volunteer your time or money for their cause. Another way to tackle the issue of unsustainable palm oil through non-profits is by educating yourself or others on the issue in order to truly understand the multifarious components of the problem.

The biggest challenge is actually taking part in finding a real solution to the issue of palm oil. Most non-profits only address the aspects of palm oil that directly affect the populations in more developed nations such as being educated on the issue or cutting out palm oil from one’s daily life. Many organizations do not address how to make smaller farming productions more sustainable or how to prevent habitat or bodily harm of animals.

It is important to realize that there are ways to be involved in a non-profit that go beyond simply writing a check and receiving a keychain or bumper sticker in the mail.  

On the Personally Responsible Citizen level of organization individuals can take the “28 Day Palm Oil Challenge” in order to learn about their daily oil consumption as well as take the steps to cut the product out of certain aspects of their routine. A Participatory Citizen may encourage others to do likewise and organize a community information session on common products or companies which use unsustainable palm oil. Individuals at the Social-Justice Oriented Citizen level using nonprofits to create change in the palm oil industry ask the questions of how to go beyond simply changing the way consumers view the industry in order to explore ways to create more sustainable production and sound economics for smaller palm oil farmers.  

I watched a video produced the the World Wildlife Fund entitled “Sustainable Palm oil production.” The video stressed the importance for smallholders within the industry to gain the sustainable palm oil certification because without it most consumers will not want to purchase their products. The WWF works as a partner with social enterprises in educating and aiding smallholders during the process of becoming certified sustainable. My main takeaway is the interconnectedness of all of the ways of becoming socially involved. Politics, community organizing, social enterprises, and nonprofits are all connected and involved in any problem. The issue of palm oil has opened my eyes to the need for individuals in all four categories to be working together toward a common goal in order to truly elicit change.

Social Enterprise-Reflection

After listening to Mr. Sipes I realized that anyone has the capacity to elicit change through social entrepreneurship. Before hearing him speak I assumed one would need a background in business, marketing, or entrepreneurship in order to have success as the owner of a social enterprise. Kenny made it clear that as long as you have the motivation, you can gain skills needed to run your business along the way.

 I think one additional thing I need to think about when exploring my issue is how to actually get involved in a meaningful way. I have some ideas of what to do for my earth month action plan but I am not 100 percent satisfied with what I have come up with. I am struggling to think of ways to get involved in the issue of palm oil and have the same impact as some of the speakers due to the fact that I am very far removed from the root of the problem and I do not have the means or time to dedicate which is really needed to make true change.

My biggest takeaway is that there is a lot of risk involved with social enterprise. Kenny Sipes was inspired by his trips to economically developing nations and one day up-and-quit his job as a youth pastor in order to begin a social enterprise centered around the issues or water quality, hunger, and human trafficking. This meeting made it clear that in order to start up a social enterprise you must truly be inspired and be willing to put your own financial security on the line in order to help others.

I am going to visit the website of the organization Kenny mentioned, The Center of Social Enterprise and Development, in order to see if there are any programs in Ohio regarding the palm oil industry. I think it would be an amazing thing if I were able to start a social enterprise revolving around the human rights violations and environmental impacts of palm oil, but at this stage in my life and career I do not have the means or time to dedicate to such an endeavor. My current goals for the action plan are as follows: as a personally responsible citizen I am going to go through the beauty products and food I eat and cut out all products containing palm oil that do not have the certification of sustainability, as a participatory citizen I am going to go to other members of my dorm floor and urge theme to consider doing the same process of finding out which personal products contain unsustainable palm oil and then cutting them from one’s life, and as a justice oriented citizen I want to explore the question of what can be done to help bolster the business of small palm oil farmers in order to improve sustainability.   

Palm Oil-Social Enterprise

A social enterprise is best described as a company or organization which maximizes human and environmental well-being through the use of commercial strategies.

There are a number of organizations currently implementing social enterprise in order to elicit change within the palm oil industry, with even more companies taking effort to begin implementing commercial strategies to better the industry. One company making strides in the palm oil industry using social enterprise is the TELIOS Trading Company. This startup company is headed by Nigerian businessmen who hope to intervene in the palm oil value chain to create shared value through the establishment of a multiple community enterprise. They hope to avoid monoculture plantations by tapping into the productivity of smaller farmers which make up over 80 percent of palm oil output from Nigeria. Their program has three main goals: to create a multiple community mill chain for producing the oil, a company based around the coordination of trade, and finally an association focused on the financial education, aid, and technical support for the smaller farmers.  While this organization is not fully up and running, their mission to change the palm oil industry in Nigeria is a compelling look into the need for social enterprises to take root in the industry.

Another organization which is currently employing social enterprises in the palm oil markets within Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, PNG, The Solomon Islands, Cameroon, and Ghana is Wild Asia. Their mission statement includes the following goals: promote sustainability in the palm oil industry, conducting biodiversity, social, and supply chain assessments, and providing training. Wild Asia has implemented a plan known as the Wild Asia Group Scheme which focuses on supporting, organizing, and marketing smallholders, all while improving on the sustainability of the farmers. They support the strengthening of relationships between smallholders, mills, corporations, and traders by aiding smallholders in the process of complying with certification and accessing the international market.

You can become more involved in the sustainable palm oil industry by supporting up-and-coming social enterprises such as the TELIOS Trading Company. Many startups have webpages dedicated to investing and donating to said organization. Another way to support social enterprises is by only purchasing items with the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Certification, due to the fact that social enterprises require their smallholders be educated and comply with the RSPO certification outline.

It is challenging to get involved with the industry through social enterprise because not everyone has extra money to donate to or invest in new companies. Also, oftentimes individuals cannot afford to strictly purchase items with the RSPO certification due to the fact that items harvested sustainably often are more expensive than those produced outside of limitations and without rules.  

The most important thing to focus on when viewing the issue of the palm oil industry through the lens of social enterprise is the long term sustainability of the industry for all those involved in the process. While some might assume the buying products with the RSPO certification does not make a big difference in the industry, the truth of the matter is that without public support for smallholders within social enterprises, larger corporations who do not comply with the rules outlined by the roundtable will become the sole provider of palm oil. This will lead to the further exploitation of resources and violations of human rights.

At the level of “Personally Responsible Citizen”, individuals can choose to buy products from social enterprises with the RSPO certification. A “Participatory Citizen” is one who is investing or donating to new social enterprising startups within the palm oil industry. Someone who has reached the “Social-Justice Oriented Citizen” level would perhaps be exploring the questions of how to make smallholders’ products more accessible to the global market or how to properly educate the public market on the various social enterprises attempting to change the face and mission of the palm oil industry.

The RSPO Roundtable produced a video titled, “The Environmental Benefits of Smallholders Farming Sustainably.” The video starts by interviewing Reza Azmi, the executive director of Wild Asia, who stresses the importance of the biodiversity within Malaysia, especially due to the large populations of elephants and orangutans. Habibah Binti Ketui and Azmey bin Sakong, RSPO certified farmers, not that since becoming certified with the RSPO they have reduced their use of pesticides and fertilizers, and have even seen small iincreases in profits. The reduced use of chemicals has prevented runoff pollution in waterways which has also benefited fishermen. Some RSPO certified farmers have even noted a 30 percent decrease in chemical costs. The final major takeaway from the video is that through education from Wild Asia, farmers have been able to keep careful records which has enabled them to understand their annual yield and profit.

Issue Exploration and Choice

I have decided to explore the topics of dam construction on the Mekong River, the palm oil industry, and the positive and negative effects of tourism in Bali. The Mekong River is an essential habitat for freshwater fish in the world and it also holds immense economic and political potential in the form of electrical energy. The issue of the Mekong region is significant for society because it offers a glimpse into how government will handle wicked problems involving society, environment, and economics. The palm oil industry is gripping the Indonesian landscape, economics, and society. With this bustling business comes various problems ranging from deforestation to human rights violations. This is a significant societal issue because all around the globe nations utilize palm oil which is in a variety of products and often times the oil is coming from very unsustainable locations. The negative effects of tourism in Bali are significant to society as a whole because similar problems arise in any area that experiences an influx of tourists. By examining how Bali has handled some of the issues, another nation can better handle their own tourism practices.

Along the Mekong River in Laos, multiple dams are being built for electric, and in turn, economic power which is proving to be detrimental to the river fish population due to blockage of migratory routes and lowered sediment flow to the Mekong delta. There are two dams under construction, with a total of nine planned, which experts predict will cut out over a third of the basin’s annual river fish haul. The social aspect of this issue come into play due to the fact that the region’s 60 million people rely on the annual fish harvest for a source of food and also income. The multifarious dams and dwindling fish supply leaves Laos on the brink of a food security and economic crisis. The governmental officials from Laos state, “[they] aspire to become the battery of Southeast Asia,” by creating the dams. Through the creation of the dams the government would get large economic gains because they would be powering much of Southeast Asia. The environment of the region is teeming with biodiversity, having eight of the biggest freshwater fishes found in the world-including three endangered migratory fish the Mekong giant catfish, dog-eating catfish, and the giant Siamese carp. These fish rely on the Mekong river as a passage to their spawning grounds.  The human components interact with the natural components in multiple ways. The humans rely on the fish for a majority of their food. They also use the fishery as a source of income. The fish population is controlled through the annual harvest which helps to sustain the balance of biodiversity in the region. In order to keep the Mekong River sustainable in regards to society, economics, and the environment decisions need to be made in a timely manner because with every nut and bolt built on the dams the region creeps closer and closer to disarray.

Palm oil is used in a variety of products including baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents, and toothpaste. The industry has been criticized for a number of grievances ranging from deforestation, indigenous rights abuses, and animal cruelty. The social aspects of the palm oil industry are that the industry does employ a large population in Southeast Asia and the loss of jobs would be staggering. Still many companies violate human rights law including child labor laws and overworking employees. The land traditionally belonging to the indigenous people of Indonesia, known as the masyarakat adat, is given away to development projects due to a loophole in the Forestry Law and Basic Agrarian Law of the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia. In terms of economics, the region relies heavily on money brought in from the immense palm oil industry. Palm oil also brings the region political power amongst larger countries in the world. The environment is desecrated by the palm oil industry in Southeast Asia. Due to habitat loss and other factors a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered. Over 90 percent of the Orangutan habitat has been destroyed in Borneo and Sumatra, and an estimated 1000 to 5000 are killed every year due to development. The issues within the Palm oil industry are currently not sustainable at all because of the numerous social, economic, and environmental problems it causes. In order to become sustainable, the socio-environmental, eco-economy, and socio-economic factors need to be closely examined to find a more viable solution to the various problems facing the region.

Tourism in Bali, Indonesia, has had both positive and negative effects on the region in the categories of society, economics, and environment. Socially tourism has caused Bali to become the province of Indonesia with the highest standard of living and one of the lowest unemployment rates. Negatively, tourism has brought about a shift from the traditional market to one of hotels, villas, and restaurants. Socially the island has become extremely crowed making the amount of land one is able to own very miniscule. Kuta, a center for nightlife, has become a center of drug trafficking and prostitution shifting the values of the region. Economically Bali is doing very well due to the increased tax revenues which has
allowed the government to support infrastructure economics. Environmentally the regions historic rice fields. Many ended up being sold to foreign investors who built luxury resorts and villas. Native wetlands have been buried by malls and shopping complexes. Subak (the irrigation system for the paddy fields of Bali developed in the 9th century) has been increasingly threatened by developers. While tourism seems to be a largely positive practice, upon closer examination one can see the more negative effects that it can have. In order for the practice in Bali to become sustainable, steps need to be taken to combat the increasingly large criminal ring as well as steps to protect the centuries old irrigation systems and ecosystems.

I plan to further explore the topic of the palm oil industry. I chose this topic over the other two because I have studied the Mekong River for another course at Ohio State and would enjoy learning about a new topic for this project. I did not choose the topic of tourism in Bali because I felt less connected to it than the issue of palm oil because I use palm oil every day in various products. I intend to explore the topic of palm oil by using the different types of citizenship starting first with the personally responsible citizenship by learning what products I use contain palm oil, followed by participatory citizenship in which I will try and cut down my personal palm oil usage, and ending with justice oriented citizenship where I will try and imagine ways to more sustainably harvest palm oil and also explore palm oil alternatives. I think that the personally responsible and participatory stages will not be extremely difficult, but I think the justice oriented stage will be difficult for me. Dealing with such a wicked problem will make me become aware of my own set of values regarding society, economics, and the environment which can be daunting at times but I am excited to future explore this issue in the oncoming weeks.


Nancy’s Diner is a small restaurant on High Street. On the day that Serena, Michelle, and myself went to Clintonville, we ate at Nancy’s for breakfast. Upon entering the restaurant, one instantly notices how much img_3884of a mom and pop restaurant Nancy’s is. With only a few booths and a counter, the restaurant is very small but is quite nostalgic. For breakfast I ordered toast, eggs, hash browns, and sausage and it was all extremely good. Michelle had a problem with her order and the staff was very accommodating about the problem and img_3878Serena’s food was taking longer than ours so they gave her free soup to eat while she waited. I would definitely go back to Nancy’s because it was nice to eat at a small business where the owner’s clearly care about the experience of their patrons. Despite my good experience, I would not recommend Nancy’s to a friend who is vegan or vegetarian because they do not have many options for someone with that sort of dietary restriction. I also would be wary to recommend it to someone who is claustrophobic because it was a small eating area. For anyone else I would not only recommend it, but also ask if I could come along!

The Park of Roses was a small park located behind a neighborhood. I could see how finding the park might be confusing because it is in a very residential area off of High Street. Since we came later in the year the roses were not in full bloom, but despite this fact the park was still very pretty. Being on campus it isimg_3914 sometimes overwhelming to be away from nature, so it is nice to have access to a quiet and peaceful area which is just a bus ride away. While we were at the park we sat under the trellis and just talked for a while. It was a very relaxing experience especially because it was a lovely day outside. I would go back as well as recommend a friend because it was a cute park to visit and it was not very busy.

We did not eat at Whole World Natural Restaurant and Bakery, we simply picked up desert after eating breakfast. The restaurant is right on High Street and has a img_4112relaxed atmosphere. Their menu has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options which all seemed pretty tasty and prices were not too expensive. I purchased a hot chocolate vegan cookie which was flavored like Mayan hot chocolate with cayenne pepper and it was amazing. There was no wait at all to get the baked good and the woman at the counter was very sweet and helpful. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys eating clean, healthy food. I would go back to get the baked goods again and I am interested in going back to get food as well.

Lucky’s Market is a grocery store that carries a lot of healthy and organic foods. They had a large img_3903produce section and a lot of seasonal food options. The prices are a little more than an average store simply because they are providing cleaner options. My favorite part about Lucky’s is that there is a sample station for fruit smoothies which are really great. There was nothing confusing about this experience and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a healthy lifestyle and is willing to pay a little more for quality items. Personally I do not think I will be going back because I don’t have anywhere to cook and as a college student I do not have the funds to pay for extra groceries.

My favorite experience from this project has to be Nancy’s Diner because it was such a personal experience that I got to experience with two really great friends. Plus, the food was amazing! I learned that Columbus has a lot more to offer than just Ohio State football. It is a location rich with history that caters to many different lifestyles. This has led me to want to explore more about the history of Columbus. I am a huge history nerd so getting to know more about the past of where I live is very exciting for me. I would recommend someone endeavoring to complete the same activities that I have spoken about to simply go with the flow as they walk about Clintonville. There are so many hidden gems we experienced while there that I didn’t talk about, such as the Magical Druid shop which has all sorts of metaphysical supplies. There’s so much to see that taking multiple trips to the area would definitely pay off!