charleston, i love you | 011: cyrus buffum09/14/12


Cyrus Buffum really loves Charleston. After reading The Riverkeepers by John Cronen and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Cyrus had an idea and he made it happen; at 28, he’s the founder and director of Charleston Waterkeeper, a non-profit protecting Charleston’s right to fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.


What brought you to Charleston?
I came to Charleston in 2002 to study astrophysics at the College of Charleston. Having grown up on Cape Cod, Charleston seemed like another world: the Spanish moss, architecture, weather, palmetto tree lined streets, and the reminder of history around every corner. Moving here was truly a culture shock, and I've loved every moment of it.

What do you love most about Charleston?
There's something special happening here, and though it's difficult to describe, I absolutely love what it is. There's so much opportunity, energy, creativity, and hustle in this city, and that combination is incredibly powerful. I love feeling as though I'm playing a role in shaping the direction of this city, this region, and even a significant moment in our time. Charleston provides that opportunity right now--to impact the direction of things. To be a part of this moving wave. It's all very exciting.

What's your favorite spot in Charleston?
Anywhere on the water. But since that's a pretty ambiguous answer, I'll also say my house. My buddy and I just finished building a really cool place on the westside of town. It's still pretty bare, but it's a great spot to work, cook, relax, read, think, write, and sleep. We installed an awesome garage-style door in the living room that opens up onto an outdoor balcony. It's kind of bad ass. 

What's your favorite restaurant in Charleston?
It's so hard to choose just one, and my list is always changing, but currently, depending on the time of day, these would have to be my picks. Coffee at Kudu, breakfast at Caviar and Bananas, lunch at Ted's Butcherblock, dinner at FIG or Fish, drinks at Belmont or Closed for Business, late night at Butcher and Bee.

How did Charleston Waterkeeper begin?
I was fortunate to grow up on the water, and I was fortunate to attend a school surrounded by water. In a way, I feel as though 

Charleston Waterkeeper was inevitable. In 2006, after travelling to Zimbabwe with the Elias Fund, an educational-based nonprofit, I returned to the states with a goal of pursuing a path that combined my passions for water, science, and people. A year later, after reading The Riverkeepers, a book about the birth of the Waterkeeper movement, a flame was ignited. I was inspired to establish a Waterkeeper organization in Charleston that would work to protect the public's right to clean water. Four years after the vision for Charleston Waterkeeper was constructively called "ambitious," I'm proud to say that we've made it happen.

What's a typical day like for you?
I don't think I've had one of those in years!

How does Charleston influence your work?
I am constantly inspired by its rich history. To be reminded of the astounding people and events that came before us is a humbling perspective to apply to one's work. Knowing that we all have a chance to play a part in this city's great story influences me to work even harder to make a lasting impact.

A standout Charleston memory?
One of my favorite things to do in Charleston is ride my bike downtown, exploring its beauty at a relaxing pace. I've learned from someone very special to me the importance of enjoying and fully appreciating one's time and immediate surroundings. Though balance can be a bit difficult for me, I've learned to stop and smell the roses a bit more often, and there's no better way to do that than with a bike ride through Charleston's streets with no destination or timeline in mind.

Describe Charleston in three words.
Making shit happen.

Leave a Comment


  1. Interesting. Somewhat different perspective than some of the others. I like it.

  2. You go Cyrus! What an awesome organization you’ve created with for such a meaningful cause! I’m really diggin’ that living room.

  3. Oopsies about my writing blunder! I got too excited. :)

  4. Another great Charleston spotlight. Well done, Olivia! Your posts always give me an itch to hop in the car and drive to this beautiful coast.

  5. lovin’ this boy’s living room as well as the hair = that’s some seriously good hair!

    P.S. the interview and photos are great too. ;)

  6. I just love love love this “i love Charleston” series that you do. My family lives in Charlotte now, so I feel like I get to see a little piece of home in each post. Your photography is simply stunning. What a talent!

  7. Loving these little interviews. He’s got good hair.

  8. He’s got that Kennedy look, don’t u think? :-)

  9. That garage style door to the balcony IS badass! Love it.

  10. great interview, such an interesting project and i absolutely loved your photos!!! that light and warmth are magical!

  11. this was a fabulous interview. another reminder to get back to this amazing city for a visit.

  12. In conversation over bloggers my niece and I said in unison…”Yah that Charleston one!” makes me want to move there!! Love your Blog’s, Photo’s and interviews -Waterkeeper sound’s like something I must read…cos I am a lover of the water also…it brings life..and it’s the meaning of my middle name “Lynn” :)) Cyrus you are a hero in your own right!