Hydroponics is not only going to save the world by literally preserving our natural environment, but also by fighting food insecurity.
A little background on myself: I finally graduated with my B.S. in Public Health at Cal State L.A. roughly 2 weeks ago. I feel amazing now that I have real time to work towards my many goals for Green PLUR. Since graduation, I have been working hard to resume all of my projects. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to create a 3-Mason Jar Fish Garden/Aquaponics system that incorporates an air stone to deliver more air to the plant roots than my current system
My new system essentially speeds up the growth process, and the plants will be able to utilize nitrates in the water more quickly, ultimately leaving the water cleaner for the fish. I have also been working on a multi-jar hydroponic system that does not utilize fish waste, but utilizes simple hydroponic solutions instead. I am learning that in regards to hydroponic systems, more air = faster growing plants = more food.
I also want to talk about my experiences at Cal State L.A. and how it has shaped me into the person I am today. It involves learning about food security and hydroponics: During my time at my university, I discovered that I love to teaching students about hydroponics. I also discovered that people genuinely love learning about it as well. I want hydroponics to change the way our society perceives food.
I had some experience working directly with students as a student representative, the Environmental Affairs Commissioner (EAC), A.S.I., in student governance for one academic year. It not only equipped me with leadership opportunities, but gave me insight on how serious our food security problem is on our campus.
All of the programs that I created as the EAC revolved around environmental sustainability and food health. Given the opportunity that the EAC had the responsibility of chairing the Environmental Policy Committee, I knew I had the tools to possibly make drastic changes. I learned that a vast population of the students on our campus was food insecure
, meaning these students lacked consistent access to affordable, nutritious food
. Many of our students went to bed hungry, so one of our committee’s goals, the Environmental Policy Committee, was to create a living food pantry on our campus.
The pantry portion of the Living Food Pantry would consist of canned and dried goods that students who were food insecure could pick out from a point system based on needs (for example, perhaps students with children would have more points to spend than students without children). Our committee was dedicated to modeling after CSU Chico’s Food Pantry program
with a spin. We wanted to also incorporate a living food pantry in the form of hydroponically-grown fresh produce. Our committee worked with Engineers for a Sustainable World
(ESW), a campus organization, to create a vertical hydroponic garden prototype.
First draft of Vertical Hydroponic Towers – Efficient use of space and water
We planned for vertical systems because there just never seems to be enough space in Los Angeles, especially on our crowded campus, so it would be very space-efficient. Our committee applied for the Greenovation Fund from the California State Student Association (CSSA) and got approved for $2,000 to get this hydroponic garden set up.
Unfortunately, after many obstacles, we were not able to get a Living Food Pantry at Cal State L.A. for several reasons. We could not find a space on our campus to hold the food pantry. Our campus administration did not want to approve the tried and true system from CSU Chico’s Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry program, for various reasons. We had problems coming up with a flawless vertical hydroponic system. Ultimately, the grant funding was untouched and was returned to CSSA. Despite these shortcomings, my desire to combat food insecurity using hydroponics has not diminished.
Why hydroponics? Simply because of space-efficiency, water-efficiency and the speed of growth – all factors extremely important in trying to consistently feed a vast population of people.
How Hydroponics Will Literally Save the World
Food health is knowledge, knowledge is power, and an empowering society is unstoppable.
Although the Environmental Policy Committee and I were not able to successfully implement a Living Food Pantry program, we did throw several successful events. These events consisted of grow-your-own-organic-food and gardening, food health, and hydroponic education, among other topics. Our biggest event, Earth Day Extravaganza was amazing as each of our committee members chose a different topic to showcase: animal testing, vegan lifestyle, outdoor lifestyle, organic gardening and more. We also successfully launched a Cal State L.A. Farmer’s Market program that previously did not exist. Overall, I am happy that I got the opportunity to work with my campus so closely and all of the experiences that I learned during my time as a student representative.
Our first ever farmer’s market promo ad 🙂
Hydroponics and social justice has always been important for me. When I found out that I could incorporate the two, I was ecstatic, and I am still ecstatic.
Although my current kits
do not do much to fight food insecurity, I’m using my time to get more experience with hydroponics and also try to sustain myself in the process. I am currently working with a previous EPC committee member, who is also the same engineer that I worked with to create the vertical hydroponic tower prototype, to make a different kind of vertical hydroponic tower. Once this system runs efficiently, I have two plans for utilization: sell to restaurants/ home owners/ average folks to showcase aesthetically-appealing gardens, and to also incorporate a less aesthetically-appealing system (to maximize efficiency and cost) into some sort of non-profit company that helps communities that are food insecure. There are several organizations doing things like these already and it seems like the trend of kindness is growing 🙂 I am juggling a handful of different projects, all tied around hydroponics and growing food, and I have never been more excited.
As you may already be aware of, activism and social justice are underutilized and overlooked. It seems like the average person simply has no clue as to what’s going on, or simply doesn’t care – I would like to believe the former.
Being a student is extremely privileging and full of resources. Roughly a quarter of the knowledge that I gained from my degree was achieved from sitting in a classroom – The rest came from my experiences in extracurricular activities and community involvement. I truly wish everyone would take a minute out of their busy lives to help others.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know shall never sit in” -Greek proverb
This quote perfectly sums up how I feel about social justice and environmental sustainability.
Interested in doing something about it?
For students who are attending a California State University (CSU) and would like to implement sustainability-related programs on their campuses, check out CSSA’s Greenovation Fund
. Also, check out your campus’s Associated Students’ separate funding request process, as there are funds always available to help out campus organizations with campus-related matters.
For more direction on sustainability activism, check out:
Get Involved, Change the World: The Ultimate How-To Guide for Students
Child Nutrition Grant Opportunities
For those who are not students, doing a simple Google search is a great way to learn how to get involved with your community.
Learn about hydroponics. Learn about food. Learn about nutrition – the possibilities are endless!
Keep fighting on, my fellow sustainabuddies and social justice warriors!
– Mel from Green PLUR