Insta Inspirations: The Donald E. Davis Arboretum

Patrick Thompson and Morgan Beadles at Sustainability Picnic
Patrick Thompson and Morgan Beadles at Sustainability Picnic

Contributed by Taylor Kraabel, Office of Sustainability Intern

Although the idea of working in an arboretum never occurred to Morgan Beadles, today she could not imagine working anywhere else. Before becoming the Director of Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Morgan worked for the university as a student and graduated with her masters in Landscape Architecture in 2007. She was then employed in the private sector until 2016 when she returned to Auburn and accepted the arboretum position. During that time, professors encouraged her to consider a career with the arboretum and she credits them for her involvement. This summer, Beadles will mark her third year as director.

As its namesake suggests, Donald E. Davis had the vision for Auburn’s arboretum. He planned to have the land acquired for conservation use and by 1963, his dream was a reality. Around that same time, the Universities of Alabama and Tennessee also acquired their own arboretums. Because of this, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, as well as these other arboreta, are some of the oldest in the SEC. 

Native Azalea in Arboretum
Native Azalea in Arboretum

For those that have never been to an arboretum, Beadles says one should expect of course, trees, but also a myriad of other natural elements. Beadles says the arboretum contains a diverse collection of native plants including cultivars of native plants which can be more conducive to a manicured home landscape. The arboretum also provides multiple self-guided tours, such as the stormwater management tour.

The Donald E. Davis Arboretum emphasizes environmental conservation and is the home of the Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance, an organization whose goal is to conserve rare and endangered regional plant species. The arboretum also encourages the presence of natural pollinators to further enhance the environment. The stormwater system demonstrates how to clean up stream areas and promote wildlife such as native fishes and crayfish. Beadles says they also place great emphasis on educating the public on their local environment. 

When asked to identify the most sustainable aspect of the Arboretum, Beadle could not pinpoint any one thing. The Arboretum itself is a demonstration of sustainability. There is water harvesting, native plants, stormwater maintenance, pervious pavements, and much more. The area also provides habitats for native animals.

Sustainability Picnic in Arboretum
Annual Sustainability Picnic during Welcome Week

For anyone who wishes to get involved with the arboretum, Beadles says simply come by. She says she and her staff are always looking for volunteers. People can also become a Friend of the Arboretum by donating to keep the arboretum beautiful.

Beadles says she believes the arboretum to be one of the most utilized resources on campus, second only to the library. It’s visited by a diversity of university classes, community educational groups, and students looking for a quiet respite. Whether for an event, such as the annual Sustainability Picnic, or simply to enjoy the peace and quiet, the arboretum welcomes you to experience this beautiful resource right in the heart of campus. Visit the Donald E. Davis Arboretum on Instagram for inspiration! 

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Green Game 2019 Needs Volunteers

Post adapted from post contributed by Matthew Preisser, Former Office of Sustainability Intern

The annual Green Game at Auburn University is set to kick off on September 14th as the Auburn Tigers prepare to face off against Kent State. The Green Game is an opportunity to celebrate the sustainability-related initiatives of the Athletics department, while encouraging fans to also participate in making Gamedays greener.

During the 2018 season, tailgaters recycled around 27 tons of material. However, our all-time high was achieved in 2013 with 41 tons being recycled. Numerous collaborators around campus, including Auburn’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Department and the Office of Sustainability, hope that with your help this season we can beat that record! Let’s make Auburn the #1 recycler in the SEC!!

By recycling cardboard, plastic, and aluminum cans, fans can do their part to conserve resources and help keep the Loveliest Village on The Plains clean. Volunteers pass out recycling bags each week before the game, along with the hundreds of additional recycling locations set up in and outside of the stadium, so Tiger fans can easily recycle while on campus.

This upcoming Green Game will feature the “Trash Talkers” for the third year. Trained and dedicated Trash Talkers will be located at numerous recycling stations just outside and within the stadium during the first half of the game to inform guests on what and where items can be recycled.

Fans can eliminate waste and support Auburn Athletics, the Waste Reduction and Recycling Department, and the Office of Sustainability’s effort to make Gamedays more sustainable through a few simple actions:

  • Swap disposable tailgate supplies for items that can be reused, such as tableware, cloth napkins, and tablecloths.
  • Choose plastic and aluminum over glass and Styrofoam.
  • Recycle all plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
  • Bring a clear, reusable water bottle to the game and use the water refill stations to fill it up.
  • Clean up tailgate areas after the game.

Green Game Sign Up
Sign Up to be a “Trash Talker” at this year’s Green Game!

Currently, we are accepting volunteers to be Trash Talkers for the Green Game. The Office of Sustainability will provide T-Shirts, food before the game, entrance into the stadium, and a chance to win a Gus Malzahn signed football. Volunteers will be trained and expected to work through halftime. To sign up, please register by completing our Green Game Volunteer Form by Sunday, September 8th at 11:59 PM.

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An Eye-Opening Experience Abroad

Post contributed by Ethan Heard, Sophomore at Auburn University

Over the past month and a half, I have been all over the world. My journey started when I landed in Dunedin, New Zealand, and it ended in Nadi, Fiji. Now I know what you are wondering how that could be an “eye-opening experience” when it sounds like the vacation trip of a lifetime. In some ways you would be right, as it was in many ways. However, I learned so much from the places I visited, the differences in culture, and the friends I made. My name is Ethan, and I am a rising sophomore this year at Auburn University. I went on this trip to learn about sustainability and get credit for my sustainability minor, but I got so much more. It changed my world view, and now it is my turn to hopefully share a piece of that with you, the students of Auburn University who might also be interested in going on such an adventure.

I began my odyssey in the Nashville International Airport where I said goodbye to my parents and my grandmother and stepped onto a plane. At first, I really questioned whether or not what I was doing was really real at all. It all felt so surreal. I was honestly dumbfounded and all I could think was “I am going to New Zealand.” By the time I had landed I was still in a state of disbelief. I could not believe I was in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Instantly upon arriving I could tell I was not in Kansas (Alabama) anymore. Everything was so different; it did not matter that New Zealand is a westernized country. Cars were on the wrong side of the road, and everyone had an accent or rather I had an accent. I did not even know what kind of coffee to order because I had never heard of them before. Luckily, the locals were nice and smiled and helped me out. One of the things I immediately noticed in New Zealand was that invasive species and foreign bacteria are something they take very very seriously. In customs in the airport they had signs everywhere declaring that if you have any fruit, food, or any organic matter you need to dispose of it now or you could possibly be fined or even detained. There were all sorts of questions on the customs form like have you been in an outdoors environment anywhere recently, have you been camping or hiking recently, and are you carrying any outdoor equipment with you. Being the ever-outdoorsy person, I was really nervous because I had to answer yes to all of these questions. When I finally got to the lady in charge of my line I was double checking myself to make sure I had honestly answered all the questions on the form and that I had not lied about anything. In the end it was fine, as she asked me a few more questions and then I was on my way to New Zealand.

Photo of Student in New ZealandThe focus of our trip was to learn about sustainability through eco-tourism, cultural tourism, and simply visiting New Zealand and Fiji. Afterwards we are to be asked how we can share what we learned abroad and relate it back to Auburn to see how we could possibly improve our university for ourselves, our fellow students, and our environment. Our first educational activity was eco-tourism in New Zealand. One of the major problems in New Zealand is the invasive species that were brought over by first the Maori and later the Europeans. As you may know, New Zealand is particularly known for its wide variety of indigenous birds. We have all heard of the kiwi bird after all. But a big threat to the kiwi and other birds are invasive mammals since there are no mammals indigenous to New Zealand other than the whale and the dolphin. When Europeans arrived, they wanted a game animal to hunt for its fur like they would do back home in England. So, they brought over rabbits from England and possums from Australia. What they did not know, was that without any natural predators the populations of these animals would rise uncontrollably. This would eventually lead to problems with their main export at the time, wool. Because of the overpopulating of possums and rabbits there was no food or grass left over for their herds to eat; to counter this problem they introduced yet another species to the island, the stoat. A stoat is a weasel-like animal similar to the mongoose that will essentially kill any other animal it can. As you can probably guess, this didn’t work. The stoat killed the rabbits and possums, but it did not stop there. They also went after the indigenous birds of New Zealand. They managed to drive forty-five percent of New Zealand’s bird species to extinction. What we can learn from this is that the introduction of invasive species can be very damaging. If you are from Alabama you know what kudzu is and how much of it has taken over our trees. In Auburn we could make a conscious effort to avoid planting unnaturally occurring species on our campus and be more aware that our actions have consequences on the environment.

My adventure continued in Fiji on the tiny uncharted island of Vorovoro. It was here that my world view and my outlook on life were utterly shattered and altered. I did not know what to expect when they said we would be living on a remote island with a tribe, and what I imagined was nowhere close to my actual experience. It was very refreshing. The way we lived was clean and sustainable for the most part. We used only solar power and collected rain water for drinking and bathing. This was the furthest from modern western culture that I have ever experienced. Next to nothing was wasted on the island. As Tui Mali once explained “to be good is to be like the coconut tree. Be good like the coconut tree. All parts of the coconut tree are used from its coconuts, to its leaves, and to its trunk.” Not even our waste was wasted. We used composting toilets that would repurpose human waste into a nutrient rich manure. Showers were rationed to two a week. We did not eat to excess; we ate exactly what our bodies needed and we ate healthy too. What Auburn could learn from our experience is that we do not always need more. We need only use what we already have. We have untapped power coming from our sun that can be converted into electricity. We should not take more than we are going to use whether it be food or something we can all relate to as students, such as paper.

On Vorovoro we could see the excess flowing from the nearby city of Labasa in the form of the trash that litters the island’s beaches. Most obviously we could use less plastic and invest in reusable water bottles. Auburn has already made great strides in that. Offices from around campus have worked with Facilities Management to bring recycling bins into every nook and cranny on campus as well as installing the “Weagle Water” filtered water stations that you see on campus as well. As college students we have the power to make these changes. We have the power to lessen the amount of waste we generate. If it were not for us there would not be an Auburn University, so why not exercise that power?

Studying abroad opened my eyes to the amount of waste we as Americans and as Auburn students generate. I have seen firsthand how our actions affect our environment, mainly in the form of climate change like in New Zealand. It has made me open my eyes to see that there are things we can do as students to make our university a better place for everyone and the environment. So, no, studying abroad in New Zealand and Fiji is not just a vacation of a lifetime; it is a life-changing and mind-opening experience that will change your outlook on the world for the better and for as long as you live.

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Applications Open for Sustainability in the Curriculum

Post contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Academic Sustainability Programs, Director

Is this the year for you?

An invitation to the Summer 2019 Fall Line Project and Faculty Awards

“Green Curriculum, Green Campus, Green City”

Photo of Faculty on Forest ExerciseFaculty are invited to enhance your teaching and engagement with environmental and social issues by participating in the 9th year of the Fall Line Project, May 7-8, 2019. The Fall Line Project is modeled after a program that has drawn national attention for its innovative approach to curricular change, and it has been an intellectually stimulating and collegial experience for Auburn faculty from diverse academic units across campus. To date, over 120 faculty from 30 departments on campus have participated in this workshop.

Skeptics, environmentalists, and those in between have found their various perspectives welcomed and enriched by the dialogue and the project activities.

Are you thinking about developing a new course or new modules in an existing course? How about incorporating environmental or social sustainability issues?

This workshop will explore how we can meaningfully integrate sustainability – broadly defined – into our classrooms. Though we start by taking a close look at Auburn and the larger Eastern Alabama region, we invite participants to engage in local/global comparisons. Alumni from previous workshops will facilitate and catalyze discussion of a green curriculum and its integration and role in the broader community.

Participants will receive an award of $500 upon successful completion of a new or revised syllabus, and will join in a fieldtrip and discussions that will offer opportunities to extend research and teaching horizons across disciplines, and create new networks with fellow colleagues. For further information and examples of past syllabi, see the Fall Line Project workshop website.

Preference for participation will be given to instructors who plan to revise or develop a course that will be taught during the 2019-2020 academic year. The sustainability content of the revised course must be such that it is potentially eligible for inclusion as an elective for the Minor in Sustainability Studies.

Photo of Faculty at WorkshopFall Line Project participants agree to:

(1) Read some materials prior to the workshop

(2) Participate in the 2-day workshop, May 7-8, 2019

(3) Prepare a revised or new course syllabus and submit it in August

(4) Report back to the group during follow-up in the 2019-2020 academic year

To apply, fill in the workshop application and send completed application forms to: Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs.

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Director’s Corner: The Winter Solstice

“The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight…. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you.”

From The Circle of Life by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr.


For at least 12,000 years humans have watched for and commemorated the winter solstice.  It has pragmatic significance because it notes the start of the depth of winter and begins the countdown to spring and the timing for planting crops.  It is a time of darkness and stillness and rest in the natural world.  It is also the moment when light and the promise of new life start to return.

The life and death significance of the winter solstice led people to imbue this time of the year with cultural and spiritual meaning, too.  It is observed as a time of rest and reflection; a time of promise and renewal.  It symbolizes the rebirth of an inner light.  It has traditionally been a time of celebration and gatherings, a time of convening for families.

A Winter Sunset in Auburn, Alabama
A Winter Sunset in Auburn, Alabama

Those of us living in electrified societies have lost some of our connections to the winter solstice, its consequences and meanings.  Lights burning through the night mitigate the darkness, a complex food system keeps (most of) us well fed, and conditioned spaces shield us from the harshness of the season.

In many ways that’s a good thing, for sure.  No one wants to freeze or starve during the winter, and it’s nice to do something other than go to sleep when it gets dark.  Thanks to lights and food and heat, we do a good job keeping the celebration and holiday and gathering part of the solstice season alive and thriving.

But perhaps these buffers have cost us something, too.  Without the constantly in-our-face darkness of the season we lose conditions conducive to stillness and rest, closeness and reflection.  It is too easy to be busy and get caught up in the hubbub of the holiday season.  The “spirit of the season” gets crowded out with noise and distraction.  When we notice this, it is natural to miss it and regret it.  If we are fortunate or persistent we may carve out for ourselves and our loved ones time for quietude, closeness, and reflection; a practice that has served human souls for millennia.

For the sake of personal and family wellbeing, I think it worthwhile to be mindful of the natural, cultural, and spiritual significance of this time of year and the lessons it teaches.  We can create conditions where darkness and stillness generate insights that emerge from within.  We can reflect on the promise of the coming of light and the promise of rebirth and new life in the perpetual cycle of seasons.

Creating space in our lives for moments of stillness, insight, and reflection at this time of year nurtures a mental and emotional state that allows us to fully embrace the meaning of the season.  I like the way British poet Edith Sitwell describes it: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

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I Love Trash

Post contributed by Joan Hicken, Coordinator, Waste Reduction & Recycling Department

Auburn University’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Department (WRRD) is working to increase the university’s efforts to be more sustainable. WRRD manages all waste contracts on campus and provides waste and recycling services to the university community. The recycling program was established in 2005.

Photo of Oscar the GrouchWe use Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) techniques to manage our solid wastes. This is a strategic approach to sustainable waste management including activities like waste reduction, recycling and landfilling. Our materials and waste priorities are to reduce waste in the first place, and then, if waste is generated, recycle it before landfilling.

Waste reduction, as the name implies, is reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place. It can take different forms, including avoiding single-use, single-serve and disposable items, and reusing or donating items.

Recycling converts wastes into reusable materials. After you put your paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum and steel cans into the appropriate recycling bin, it is collected, sent to recycling facilities and marketed to manufacturers; new products are created from recycled goods. When you purchase products made from recycled materials you are “closing the loop”.

The benefits of waste reduction and recycling include conserving natural resources, saving energy, preventing pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Landfills are still a common final disposal site for wastes. While modern landfills are engineered facilities designed, operated and monitored to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, they do not provide for the best practices regarding waste management.

You Can Make a Difference! You may not be able to completely eliminate the garbage you produce, but there are things you can do to lessen your impacts. Check out these tips to simplify, share, reduce and conserve.

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Sustainability in Action: Charlene LeBleu

Picture of Charlene LeBleuContributed by Alicia Valenti, Office of Sustainability Intern

Throughout the nation and here on Auburn’s campus, developers are beginning to focus more on creating buildings and landscapes that are both beautiful and sustainable. Charlene LeBleu, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, is one of the people working towards turning this idea into reality.

Growing up in Saint Augustine, Florida, Charlene developed an interest in horticulture early before going on to win 4-H competitions in that category at the state and national level. Her interest later turned to ecology and conservation ethics, leading her to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources and Conservation from the University of Florida.

Charlene’s interest in sustainability was piqued when, while working as a conservationist in Lee County, Georgia, she designed and installed one of the first agricultural stormwater wetlands to provide water quality protection to a local stream. In 1986, she established her own horticulture based design-build firm, collaborating with landscape architects, architects, and engineers throughout the country to restore and maintain landscapes.

After completing a major flood restoration project in Albany, Georgia, Charlene’s colleagues encouraged her to pursue professional degrees in landscape architecture and planning. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Auburn in 2003 with a Master of Landscape Architecture and a Master of Community Planning.

As a student, she earned several awards for her designs and writing. Upon graduation she agreed to stay and teach for a year, and never left. Now, Charlene’s classes provide her students with service-learning opportunities using real-world projects, and over the past decade she and her students have assisted more than fifteen underserved Alabama communities through their work in planning, design, and grant assistance.

Charlene is a lifetime member and the current national president of Sigma Lambda Alpha, the international landscape architecture honor society. In this position she works to promote excellence of scholarship and service to students studying the profession. She is committed to teaching her students to value the health, safety, and welfare of humanity, and to understand that their work can make the world a better place.

Additionally, she has advanced the public’s knowledge of landscape architecture through her work. With the help of her partners, Charlene has provided scientific information for use in research in subject areas such as rain gardens, permeable concrete, constructed wetlands, stream restoration, and green roofs. For her efforts, Charlene was awarded the national designation of Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and also received an Auburn University Spirit of Sustainability Award.

What Charlene enjoys most is watching her students become competent professionals who value sustainable design and embrace the ethic of making the world a better place. For her, the most important thing for students to learn is that, although just one sustainable element in a design is an achievement, a chain of these elements creates a system with benefits extending far beyond that one project.

Many people think that innovative, more sustainable designs are more costly and time-consuming than conventional ones, but this is not the case. When they’re planned for from the inception of a project, they actually have lower costs and require no more or even less time to complete.

To counteract these common misconceptions, Charlene suggests creating educational programs for decision-makers that focus on planning, design, cost, and implementation of sustainable design projects. Once decision-makers understand the environmental aesthetic, and financial benefits of sustainable design, their decision about what kind of a project to build becomes easy.

For anyone interested in green design or any other aspect of sustainability, Charlene recommends joining an organization that values sustainability, or volunteering with a group that’s working toward related goals either on campus or in the greater community.

Charlene reminds us that the way we do things makes a big difference in what kind of impact we have on people and the planet, positive or negative. Informed, sustainable approaches enable us to tread more lightly on the Earth, creating more positive conditions for the generations to come.

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Office of Sustainability Interns 2014-2015

Come Work With Us: Now Taking Applications for 2015-16 Interns

The Auburn University Office of Sustainability is offering unpaid student internship opportunities for the 2015-16 school year beginning with the Fall semester in August.

Students interested in or passionate about sustainability who want to make a difference by applying their talents, training, and skills in ways that will support Auburn University in its move toward sustainability are encouraged to apply.

Interns will be involved in a variety of individual and team projects, and are expected to work 10 hours per week when classes are in session.

Specifically, we are looking for interns who can help us in one or more of the following three areas:

• Content creation: graphic design and/or writing
• Communications and Public Relations: social media, student engagement, event planning, and promotion
• Policy and Research: assisting the Office in the further development of Auburn’s Climate Action Plan, Sustainability Strategic Plan, and other office initiatives

In applying specific skills interns will:

• be part of the team in the Office to help cultivate and spread an ethic and practice of sustainability at Auburn University
• take a leadership role in sustainability projects on campus
• serve as a liaison for the Office of Sustainability and publicize activities
• help with some office support duties
• attend a weekly intern meeting
• have opportunities to attend sustainability conferences and other events

Internships are open to students who will have sophomore, junior, or senior standing. Candidates must be self-motivated, team-oriented, collaborative, and capable of independent work.

If you’re interested, please apply by sending electronic copies of the following to

1. transcript (unofficial copy is fine)
2. resumé, including name and contact info for one on-campus reference person
3. a brief statement of interest and description of your relevant experience
4. evidence of skills and proficiency in at least one of the areas of need identified above

Application deadline is 5:00 pm, Friday, April 3rd

For questions, please feel free to contact our office.

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Hungry? Got Bugs?

Photo of Cam Brantley-RiosContributed by Hallie Nelson, Office of Sustainability Intern

Auburn student, Cam Brantley-Rios, has challenged himself to incorporate bugs into his diet for 30 days. Why would he do this? How does this relate to living sustainably? We interviewed Cam to see what he has to say about his 30 Days of Bugs project.

Q: What was your original motivation for creating your 30 Days of Bugs challenge?

A: It was very last minute; there was not one moment where I decided to do this challenge. I originally wanted to make a website, but then I thought, “No one will read a website where I’m talking about eating bugs.” I needed to get people’s attention and lead by example. So I tweeted and posted on Facebook “I’m going to be eating bugs for 30 days. I’ll explain later. Follow this twitter account.”

Q: Could you explain how eating bugs relates to sustainability?

A: Simply put, bugs don’t require many resources. The great thing about bugs in particular is that they can be farmed anywhere unlike other proteins. Farming insects conserves land and you don’t lose out on any protein per gram. They use 1000x less water. You can give cows 10 pounds of feed and only get 1 pound of meat, where with bugs you can get 9 pounds of bugs for 10 pounds of feed.

Q: What is your favorite meal that you have prepared so far?

A: It’s too soon to say. I can tell you my least favorite. The other day, me and my friend Sam got some silkworm pupae that smelled like sewage. We got it from an Asian market in Auburn. It definitely wasn’t fresh.

Q: What is the most valuable thing you have learned so far from this challenge?

A: The biggest thing is it’s so easy. I thought it was going to be a long month, but halfway through its gone by pretty fast. Eating bugs isn’t hard. They taste good and cooking them only takes a few minutes.

Q: How do people normally react when they see you eating bugs?

A: Usually, not that weird. I don’t think I have surprised many of my friends. I get a little bit more of a reaction from strangers. I think since I have been talking about it for months, my friends are used to the idea.

Q: Are you going to continue to eat bugs after the 30 days are over?

A: For life. And I feel like as time goes on more people will start to eat bugs. I think it will snowball from here and more companies will tap into this and it won’t lose popularity. I think it will be easier to do in the future. I’m not going to stop with the 30 days. I am very health conscious and this is a healthy way to get protein without the cholesterol and fat. I may not be eating bugs as much as I am right now, but this is a life choice.

You can read even more about Cam’s journey and the benefits of eating bugs at

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