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This year’s fall break trips were carbon neutral

BOONE—This year’s alternative Fall Break trips for 40 Appalachian State University students helped provide disaster relief in Alabama, repaired a lighthouse facility in South Carolina, worked at an Asheville food bank and served a rural community in West Virginia.

Students also took steps to offset the carbon emissions generated through their trips by planting 130 trees at Elk Knob State Park.  It is part of a new commitment to make all alternative break trips carbon neutral.

Beginning in 2008 with a trip to New Zealand, Appalachian’s Outdoor Programs began calculating the amount of carbon they used to travel and do every-day activities.  In 2010, Outdoor Programs led a service-learning trip to Wales during which participants performed environmentally based projects.  The participants of this trip also planted trees at Elk Knob State Park to offset their carbon emissions during the trip.  The leaders of Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT), the program that hosts Alternative Break trips, were inspired by these trips to encourage carbon neutrality in trips closer to home.

Peer leaders for this year’s alternative break program planted the trees at Elk Knob State Park to offset the carbon emissions of last year’s trips during their fall retreat Sept. 30-Oct. 2.  This cycle will continue next year, as peer leaders for the 2012-2013 trips will plant trees to offset this year’s trips during their fall 2012 retreat.

“As we strive to model how students can go and learn about different communities in respectful ways, we also want to model that they need to treat the environment with respect and care,” said Selena Hilemon, ACT assistant director of community service and Alternative Break coordinator.

ACT trains the leaders of the Alternative Break trips in how to effectively use a carbon calculator created by Appalachian’s Office of Sustainability in order to get the most accurate numbers possible.  Throughout each trip, students are encouraged to make more environmentally friendly choices, such as eating a vegetarian diet and packing lightly.

“Students have been very responsive to the efforts and enjoy making sure that our programs are sustainable,” said Hilemon.  “They challenge our patterns, striving for new levels of green habits and have wonderful ideas for change.”

This year’s Fall Break was Oct. 13-16.  The trips were:

The JOBS Project in Williamson, W. Va.—Students served this community in Central Appalachia by increasing opportunities for local ownership, employment and education in the renewable energy sector.

Cape Romain in Awendaw, S.C.—Students worked to preserve the unique costal environment of Bulls Island and to prepare the Lighthouse Island facilities for spring and summer tours.

Disaster Relief in Moulton, Ala.—Students worked with a farmer to tear down and rebuild a shed and help to build a small room for a local family.

Hunger and Homelessness in Asheville, N.C.—Students volunteered with various organizations and learned more about social issues in Asheville and around the state.  Students also picked apples for a local food bank and served lunch at a homeless shelter, among other activities.

Planning has already begun for the 2012 Alternative Spring Break.  The lottery to sign up for the trips will be held in late January.  For more information about the Alternative Breaks program, contact Hilemon at