Sustainable You

Sustainability and the Built Environment

The What and Why of Buying Organic Foods

Here is a great article on what and why to buy certain products organic.  For most people, there is no need to eat fully organic, in fact, I think that would be impossible!  However, there is evidence that it there are a handful of fruits and veggies, meats and dairy that we should eat organic.   And that babies and adults with compromised immune systems should pay extra attention to making organic selections.

Here is how I see it — if you have young kids/or pregnant, or you have an adult that is sick (like major disease, not a head cold) then it is good to go the organic route.  For children it is important to limit their exposure to pesticides and animal growth hormones for various reasons such as early onset puberty.

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FDA Misses Mark on BPA – Yikes, what about the babies?

Anyone with kids or knows kids it is really important to understand BPA.  This is also important for anyone at any age that eats food out of plastic – especially, plastics that are warmed.

Here is the Huff Post version of the story.

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Useful Plastics Handout

I find this handout about Plastics really helpful in my everyday life.

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Helpful Grocery List

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4900/6900: Wk 15 Sustainable Communities

Response due at the beginning of class on 4/26.

Weekly 5pt question topic:

We will spend the last class of the semester talking about Sustainable Communities.

Tucson, Arizona is the city that I consider home since I grew up there and all my family is there. It is in my blood even if I dont live there now. Photo by gdrosky

The concept behind Sustainable Communities is a holistic approach to developing cities around sustainable development principles. Ultimately, if you took all the individual topics we have covered this semester we have created a majority of the topics needed to develop a sustainable community or a comprehensive picture of what is sustainability in our built environment. This week’s post should include a comprehensive inclusion of a variety of topics we have discussed over the semester.

1. Visit the Minnesota website for Next Step Sustainable Communities in Minnesota (Next Step website)

2. Visit the SustainLane’s 2008 US Cities Rankings for Sustainable Cities

3. Using the resources above and the course discussion list all the diverse areas that are needed in order to have a sustainable community. Next Step website does a nice job laying out the “Topic Areas” of a sustainable community. However, Next Step is missing some important areas that are either on the Sustain Lane site or discussed in class (Hint: has to do with social sustainability and equality).

4) Pick either the city that you consider HOME (usually,HOME is where our family is, where we grew up, or the place we know we want to settle to create our new family)

4a. ) Write about what your city would look like if it was a sustainable community. For some cities this may include both fact and fiction. Use the links above and class discussion topics to develop the multi-faceted areas that involve a sustainable community. This will include envisioning your city from a broad scope including water, air, transportation to social equity, jobs, affordable housing, etc….


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Study Finds Sperm Counts Lower due to Toxins

In line with health and the built environment, this Finnish Study has found that sperm counts are down for males born after 1980 and that testicular cancer rates have increased. The scientists suggests environmental toxins as the researchers explains: “The fact that sperm counts have dropped so quickly, and mirrors the increase in the incidence of testicular cancer in Finland, suggests that the effect is probably environmental. He added: “The best working theory we have to explain why sperm counts may be declining is that chemicals from food or the environment are affecting the development of testicles of boys in the womb or in their early years of life. “However, the effect on their sperm production only becomes apparent when they pass through puberty and eventually try to become fathers. “This inter-generational effect makes it difficult to study but it is clear that more research is needed to identify dangerous chemicals so that we can try remove them from the environment and protect future generations.”

It is research such as this that makes me BEG you to please begin or continue paying attention to the possible toxins around you in your built environment.

Study Finds Sperm Counts Lower due to Toxins

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Wk 14: WATER (drip drop)

Response due at the beginning of class 04/19.

My relationship with water isn't just about water for bathing, swimming, drinking. Water is also iconic and powerful imagery. Image links to video: Come as you are.

Yup, I want you this week to think about water and then write fairly detailed explanations of your diverse relationship with water. Here is the deal, we know water is precious, however, we often do not realize how important water has been in our life in more ways than sustaining us physically. Once we start to see how water is part of our social life, family vacations and more, we begin to realize how integral this resource is to humans in more than just drinking.

(1) Tell us about your history (relationship) with water? In other words, tell us about your relationship to water over the years. Some questions to consider when thinking about this question could be:

a. What was the drinking water like where you grew up? Did you parents teach you about drinking water? Were you on community water, well-water?

b. What was the recreational water sources like where you grew up/vacationed/traveled?

c. Where does your drinking water come from (the natural source)? If you don’t know the source of your drinking water, does that bother you that you don’t know?

d. Tell us any stories you have related to water in your life (i.e. gross water at your grandmother’s house (my grandma had soft water and it was gross, but what I didn’t realize when I was child was that her community water was treated through reverse osmosis.)

e. I would expect that this question about your history with water is rather extensive if you spend some time actually thinking about the role of water in your life over the past 20+ years. Please spend some thinking about this question and don’t just throw down a quick last minute answer.

(2) Tell us about your current relationship with water? Some questions to consider when answering this:

a. What water do you drink in Athens? Is it different than where you grew up?

b. Do you use bottled water as your main water source. Heck, do you even drink water (considering all those people that don’t really drink water because they drink juice, soda, sport drinks, etc..)?

c. Do you consume lots of water in a day where you live? Do your housemates consume lots of water in day? Does your bathing water use concern you?

d. As an independent adult have you changed your water habits recently? If so, how and why?


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Wk 13: IAQ and Cleaning Products

Response due at the beginning of class 4/12.

In continuing to deal with our Indoor Air Quality, let’s each look at the ingredients in our cleaning products. As seen in the Greenwashing report, cleaning products are one of the 3 main products we are greenwashed on as consumers.

(1) Please visit Household Products.nlm.nih.gov website and locate a minimum of (2) two Inside the Home products you use and examine them more closely.  Look at the MSDS documents and report what you find out about your products.

(2) What are the Pros, if any, of using this website to gain information about your cleaning products? You will need to formulate your opinion based on some additional research to answer this.

(3) What are the Cons, if any,  of using this website to gain information about your cleaning products?  You will need to formulate your opinion based on some additional research to answer this.

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Plants for healthy IAQ

Excellent NASA article on research on plants for IAQ. See article here

Another great link to healthy indoor plants is here. And the following TED Talks from Kamal Meattle on How to Grow Healthy Indoor Air is great.

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4900/6900: Wk 12 IAQ and Cosmetics

Response due at the beginning of class 04/05.

For this week, I thought we could all look at some of our cosmetics (e.g. shampoo, lotion, soap, make-up, fragrances, etc..) to learn more about our personal products. Please visit this site, Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. Once you’ve entered the site there is a section in the middle that allows you to “Search for a product, ingredient or company.” Please use the search feature to find hazard information on a minimum of three (3) products that you use.

1 a.b.c) After reading about your product please share the following:

  • Product
  • Hazard score
  • Were you expecting a higher or lower score?
  • Did anything surprise you that you learned?
  • In your opinion, do you feel the product you were using had any greenwashing aspect?
  • Do you think you will continue to use the product?

Also, for this week, please write about the following 2 questions in relation to the sustainability of cosmetics:

(2) Please look more in-depth into the “Environmental Working Group” that is the organization behind the Skin Deep website. I would like for you to report on your investigative findings about this company. Are they a third-part organization? Is it for profit or non-profit? Anything else you can find on the EWG please report it. Most importantly, after you look into them tell us if you think they are an organization you trust, please explain why.

And for those of you who haven’t seen Doll Face, this is sort of unrelated to our post this week, but this is a great statement regarding cosmetics and beauty in general.

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