Sustainable You

Sustainability and the Built Environment

4900/6900 Wk 11: What is going on?

Response due at the beginning of class 3/29.

Weekly 5pt post topic

In the words of Marvin Gaye, this week we are looking at “What’s going On” for this weekly assignment. Of course, Marvin Gaye’s song was in the early 1970 when Civil Rights and the Vietnam War were the main issues, but he used his voice to bring awareness.

We saw a few years ago 30 Seconds to Mars did a “What’s going on” type of song/video for A Beautiful Lie that focused on Global Warming as an issue.

We had the Ryan Gosling (Actor) post a while back that showed his advocacy of green consumption awareness, and last year a bunch of younger celebrities did MTV’s Summit on the Summit to promote global water issues. If you are open to seeing messages you will see people asking to raise awareness on all types of issues regarding Sustainability and the Built Environment.

Your 5pts this week will follow the instructions below:

1) It is time to be creative and show us what reasons brought sustainability to your awareness. Using popular media, news, trend articles, music, film, etc… give us one in-depth example of something that spoke to you regarding sustainability. Each week, I’ve been very focused on getting you to think about topics of my choice, this week I want you to tell us what is important and what we should be looking at and thinking about. For example, I’ve been interested in Al Gore’s message; I’ve been interested in the choices of President’s appointments for major EPA positions; I have opinions on if Iraq War was about oil; I have opinions about celebrities endorsing different sustainability issues/causes/products; I have issues about greenwashing baby products; I have thoughts about environmental related movies like The Happening; I have a list of documentaries or news shows I’ve seen on sustainable topics; and I could go on about sustainability and topics that have hit me because of mainstream exposure.

2) Please visit the Huffington Post Green News and Opinion website. Read through the variety of opinion posts, factual stories, watch the videos. I enjoy the diversity of the info on this page and look forward to downtime when I read through and enjoy the “green news and opinion” offered.

2a) Find an article, video or opinion article that is of interest to you either professionally or personally.

2b) Write a post this week that either:

(2b.1) Agrees with the media story you are covering and you add new and in-depth information to the article. You continue to investigate the topic discussed in your selected media piece. Use facts and resources to defend your perspective.

(2b.2) Disagrees with the media story you are covering and you show the counter argument to why the article is spun in a direction you do not agree with. Use facts and resources to defend your perspective.

My goal for you on this article is two-fold (1) I want you to start noticing how robust sustainable topics are in our daily media, and (2) For you to start showing your own opinions and voice regarding what the media is telling you. Remember, my big thing with this class is that you must find your opinions in sustainability based on your knowledge, you can not be swayed due to lack of information or political spinning.


Filed under: Sustainable Design

4900/6900 Wk 10: Energy

Response due at the beginning of class on 3/22.

This week you will be focusing on learning about your individual energy and money saving habits in your home/daily life. Having this information will be invaluable throughout your life. Of all the websites and resources I’ve visited regarding energy/money savings, I have been consistently impressed with the quality of the Georgia Power website on money and saving tips. It is just so well done, informative and super easy to use. For your 5pt post on the website this week, please:

1 Visit the Georgia Power Save Money and Energy Links and search through the website (it is a sea of information).

2. Please find a minimum of 3 useful pieces of information you’ve learned from this website. Discuss what you learned and why it is useful to you personally or your future career.

3. Do the virtual tour for each room in the home and read about all the various areas of the home in which you can save money and energy.

4. After you’ve done the virtual tour please consider your current house, or your permanent residence, while you are doing the virtual. Discuss all the ways your home could benefit from the tips given from the virtual tour.

5.  Energy Vampires —

Take a glance at this  media article and video PSA regarding the fact and fictions of energy consumption in terms of everyday energy vampires.  Combined, our daily use of “energy vampires” make-up 1% of the carbon dioxide emission (greenhouse gas).

The author, Lori Bongiorno, does a good job breaking down “Energy Vampires: Fact versus Fiction.” I found the information really helpful because I often hear things about what I should be doing, but I don’t really know why I should be doing it, or what is the real benefit, if any. Articles like this make it easier for me to tackle the fact vs. fiction aspect of energy consumption issues.

After reading the article and watching the video, please ponder and share your thoughts with us regarding the following questions:

5a.. What types of standby power products from the list made by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) did you see that when compared in the ON/OFF status made you want to consider turning them off when not in use

Filed under: Sustainable Design

4900/6900: Wk 9 Spring Break

No Response Required by March 8. Both students in 4900 & 6900 will automatically receive 5pts in honor of the upcoming Spring Break. In other words, you have no post for Wk 9, but you will receive points – wow, neat, neato!

REMINDER:  Thursday, March 8th class will meet at Ecology Auditorium.

Here is the information on the event we will attend on March 8th instead of coming to class. Please meet me at the location, I will be out front of the auditorium between 3:10-3:25 so you can submit your Final Project Progress Report.

About the Talk:  Climate and Society and Oceans and Human Health Lecture Dr. Kris Ebi will give a lecture on March 8 at 3:30 in the Ecology Auditorium. Dr. Ebi is the Executive Director of the IPCC Working Group II technical support unit (WG II deals with impacts and adaptation to climate change). She is a leader in assessing climate change impacts on health and resources and has had a career evaluating climate change adaptation and their co-benefits.

Filed under: Sustainable Design

March 8th Talk We Will Attend

Here is the information on the event we will attend on March 8th instead of coming to class. Please meet me at the location, I will be out front of the auditorium before and after the talk so you can submit your Final Project Progress Report.

Climate and Society and Oceans and Human Health Lecture Dr. Kris Ebi will give a lecture on March 8 at 3:30 in the Ecology Auditorium. Dr. Ebi is the Executive Director of the IPCC Working Group II technical support unit (WG II deals with impacts and adaptation to climate change). She is a leader in assessing climate change impacts on health and resources and has had a career evaluating climate change adaptation and their co-benefits.

Filed under: Sustainable Design

4900/6900 Wk 8: The Big 3

Response due at the beginning of class March 1.


Alright, for us to begin looking at built environment issues, we must address a couple “hot” (hahaha, that is me being punny about global warming) terms in the sustainability discussion these include climate change, greenhouse gases, and global warming. My sense is that there is a lot of misinformation on these topics so this class will try to make sense objectively of these topics since they really are at the core of many issues relating to sustainability in the built environment. Step one is to look at climate change:

1) Read through the EPA’s Climate Change website for KIDS. I personally prefer sites like this for kids because I find them easier to understand than the EPA Climate Change when I’m first looking at a new topic. Although, once you look through the kids site, you may find the adult EPA site ultimately more informative.

1a) Do you think you should question whether info from the EPA is objective and the best source for this type of info? Or do you think the EPA has ulterior motives for transferring information to the American public?

3) In your own words explain the difference between the three concepts: (a) Greenhouse Effect, (b) Climate Change, and (c) Global Warming.

4) What has happened in your personal experience that relates to climate change and/or global warming, if any?  Make sure on this question that you try to critically apply if your experience in your perception is climate change or global warming.  For example, I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and we used to average 11 inches of rain a year, not much rain in general but it used to be enough to sustain the desert. Now Tucson gets about 3″ of rain per year and this is really affecting the wildlife, plant life and human inhabitants consistently for a number of years – the lack of water over this long period of time is problematic.  I know this is part of a cyclical weather pattern related to climate change, but I have a sense it might be global warming that is causing some of the changes since they are so extreme and damaging the natural habit (as in concerns about animal extinction, etc…). I also think it might be partially global warming related  because I personally believe that some of these drastic weather pattern changes may be caused by human activities that influence climate change (which is the basic definition of global warming).

5) How will your field/discipline have an impact on climate change in the next 20 years? Both positive and negative aspects are welcome.

Filed under: Sustainable Design

Wk 7: What’s the 411 on Eco-Labels and certifications?

Response due at the beginning of class on 2/23 (you have until 11:59pm to complete Wk 7 since it may take you a little longer).  *Reminder that only those students taking the LEED GA exam (or interested in learning more about LEED) are expected to attend class on 2/23, Option 2 (creative option) are not expected to attend, but welcome!

Now that you have greenwashing on your mind, you may be feeling like you know products may be greenwashed, but what can you do about it personally?  Well, this part of living sustainably is both challenging and rather empowering.  The trick to identifying greenwashing, is the ability to (1) Identify legitimate eco-labels or certifications, and (2) to distinguish misleading claims (e.g., “all natural fruit juice” – think of arsenic, it is all natural, but that does not mean that all natural = good for you.)

This week, I want you to spend some good time on, this website run by Consumer Reports is currently the leading and most trusted resource for accessing comprehensive information regarding product information for the 3 main areas of self-care Food, Household Cleaners and Personal Care.    There are many websites such as, but I personally try to find one website/resource I use to simply not complicated the matter.  I find it is overwhelming enough to try to learn more about my products (to be concerned both with the products potential impact to the environment, and the products potential impact on my health), that using one resource helps me stay productive on finding information since I keep it simple.  All of the follwoing labels will have “label report cards” on GreenerChoices that you can references.

Area 1 – General Eco-Labels. Please research the following general product eco-labels: 

1a.  EcoLogo (most common).  Write a short synopsis on what type of product EcoLogo certifies?  Tell us if you are familiar with the label? Are any of your household products Eco-Label certified?

1b. GreenSeal (one of my favorites).  Write a short synopsis on what type of product GreenSeal certifies?  Tell us if you are familiar with the label? Are any of your products in your house GreenSeal certified?

Area 2 – Food Label(s).  Please research the following general product eco-labels:

2a. USDA Organic.  What products does USDA Organic label certify? And do all the products need to meet the same standards?

2b. Quality Assurance International.  People are often shocked when they realize this logo is on a LOT of their everyday food products.  Visit the website and tell us a general overview of this organization and what they certify?  Why is this certification so important for consumers of organic foods (in other words, what does it do that USDA Organic can not do to protect the consumer?)

Area 3 – Personal Care.  Please research the following general product eco-labels:

3a. Leaping Bunny.  I will go ahead and assume we’ve all seen this logo since it is about 15 years old and pretty common.  Tell me what does the logo represent?  Can you tell me what is one of the biggest criticisms of the leaping bunny logo, some people think it is misleading? What about it could possibly be misleading? 

3b.  Fair Trade. What is Fair Trade Certified?  List all products that can be Fair Trade Certified?

3c.  Eco-Cert(I use this one for buying my daughter’s organic cottons in her mattress, sheets, pajamas, and those key items close to her body and breathing when she is just out of the tub and her pores are open to absorb more toxins and such). If I had a family member that was sick with say cancer and going through treatment and have a lower immune system, I would try to put them in more organic clothing and I would look for the eco-cert label before paying a premium on a cotton product. Eco-Cert is focused on Sustainable Development and looks heavily at healthy global agricultural practices. It does a lot to maintain the land and the workers, but as you can see I am looking at it from a micro-level of my family’s health.  Whereas, some of you in Fashion Merchandising might have a different perspective and you might trust them as a global agricultural watchdog of organic textile supply chain. 

#3c. Tell me what other areas other than Organic Textiles does Eco-Cert certify.  Also, tell me briefly but informed about the company?

Area 4 – Household Cleaners. Please research the following general product eco-labels:

4a.  US EPA Design for the Environment.  “There are many ‘eco-labels’ in the marketplace — how is Design for the Environment’s labeling program different?” – please tell me!?   Personally, I find it hard to understand all the chemicals on cleaning products, so this label is helpful for me when I am trying to understand a product, and/or I just want to buy something quickly but I want some assurance it might be better for my health than the non-label product.

Area 5 – Building and Construction Items. Please research the following indoor air quality of building and construction items:
#5. Obviously, GreenSeal is the leader in Building and Construction Items, but there are others such as GreenGuard that certify a low-emission building materials for healthy indoor air quality (e.g. paints, stains, adhesives,.  Explain to me what this means to have low-emission building materials to have healthy indoor air quality (this page will help you answer this question)?   As an interior designer and mom, I adore the GreenGuard certification, they have done such an excellent job helping us great healthier indoor air quality.

Filed under: Sustainable Design

400 shades of lipstick contain lead, FDA findings

How much of your lipstick do you ingest during the wearing process? Let us hope not too much because the FDA has released a list of 400 lipsticks that contain trace amounts of lead. Lead is a known toxic chemical to humans. See the list of lipsticks and to read the findings here.

Filed under: Sustainable Design

4900/6900: SY #6 Are Americans Falling Short?

Response due at the beginning of seminar on 2/16.

We will keep the dialogue open about Cradle to Cradle, but one of the main questions most people ask is the feasibility of introducing C2C in an industrialized country versus countries in the process of industrializing. To begin a sense of how to look at these issues, please follow the steps below:

1. Please read the report Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment – A Worldwide Tracking Survey.

2. Please identify from the article the four main areas of consumption behavior the survey examined.

3. Identify where Americans are on the “Overall Rankings” from the survey.

4. Why do you think Americans have this position on the “Overall Rankings” ? Please explain what reasons you think Americans might fall low on the list of sustainable consumption?

5. Why do you think there has been a slight increase in Americans sustainable consumption since 2008?

6. Do you think the current economic recession will increase or decrease Americans awareness of sustainable consumption? Please explain and show critical thought.

7. What factors did the survey identify as the reasons consumers are “discouraged” from changing their behaviors?

Side article: An article related to consumption but not sustainability came my way this morning and seemed appropriate to share with you if you are interested. As a Mom of a 20 month I often consider what Lane will be asking for because it has been marketed to her: Article – The Next Great American Consumer. What scares me about this article is that Laney can identify DORA. She sees a picture and it is Dora, Dora, Dora. The worse part is that she has only seen Dora’s show a couple times, but now that she has shown such interest in Dora, we buy Dora books (anything to keep her interest in a book), we have a Dora toothbrush, we just bought Dora big girl underwear since she is potty training and tonight we bought a toddler toilet with Dora on it. Ironically, till I wrote this out in this post, I hadn’t thought about how much Dora has already been consumed in her little life. This is interesting to me because I remember wanting things/toys so badly when I was a child, I presume I saw many of the things I wanted on commercials. I’m trying to think if I became a life long consumer of any products that were introduced to me as a child, hmmmm…….

Filed under: Sustainable Design

5 yr and Brand Identification Video

Filed under: Sustainable Design

4900/6900: Wk 5 Greenwashing

Response due at the beginning of class on 2/09.

Weekly post response: From experience I have found that when people are learning about sustainability greenwashing is one topic people find extremely interesting. So, I think you should enjoy your post/readings for this week.

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a major issue in product labeling. Many companies are using false claims of sustainability to sell their product. This week for your 5 pt sustainable you post you are asked to visit the The Seven Sins of Greenwashing. Read through the site, it is very easy reading. Plus, read through the 2010 Report on Greenwashing to learn more about how prevalent greenwashing really is. The report on greenwashing is easy to read and VERY interesting, it will tell you about trends in sustainable products and most greenwashed products, etc….

After reading the site and the 2010 Report on Greenwashing:

1) Take the “Play Name that Sin” Game on this page Play Name That Sin

2) Tell us what “grade” you got on the quiz.

3) Do you trust the website as a trusted third party organization? Or do you think they have ulterior motives or do you think they are a good watch-dog for the people. In other words, asses through your own research skills if you think the company/organization behind this website is legit and for the good of the people, or do you think they have ulterior motives?

4) Do you think greenwashing is present in your future career? Explain with examples.

5) Please locate a minimum of 3 products in your home that you believe are “sustainable” in some way based on the package label.

6) For each item selected, now you must investigate that products packaging and identify if it has greenwashing in the label. Tell us, how many of the 7 sins it has committed, and how do you know it has committed these sins?

6a) Also, for this assignment you are only expected to examine the “greenwashing” aspect of your products, but if you feel so inclined to dig deeper in the product you can do further research by calling the manufacturer and asking questions, visiting sites like the EWG Skin Deep, etc..

7) How do you feel about this product now that you’ve explored it under the eye of greenwashing?

8) For our Tuesday, Feb 14 (the day of love) class bring 1 of the 3 products you examine to class – Yup, like Show-n-Tell. And we’ll talk about your products in class. This is one of the best ways to get started understanding labeling, greenwashing, legit product info, etc….

Filed under: Sustainable Design