Yet another easy one! Also another water solution.
As stated in a previous tip, about 45% of water use occurs in the bathroom. An easy way to cut down on this use is to shorten your showers, like our mother was always telling us to do. Especially if you were me, living in Colorado in the middle of a decade long drought, as a teenage girl with a lot of hair to wash. (it’s not like washing mattered, I could have washed it with peanut butter and it would have looked better than the god-awful styles I was putting it in.)
But I digress.
Shortening showers is not always easy. Sometimes you just got back from working out, sometimes you need to shave, sometimes you it’s really cold and you’re really tired and the water is just so heavenly that it’s nearly impossible to get out, and sometimes you’re a teenage girl preparing to style her hair in yet another horrible way.
But most shower heads use about 2 gallons of water per minute of showering, and some older ones (once again, like the ancient houses we live in as college students) use up to 5 gallons of water a minute. An easy (and cheap in the long run) solution is the water saving shower head!
They can come as cheap as $5 or have a massaging spray, or even come with an apparatus to control the flow. They typically range between 10 and 15 dollars and can shave a few dollars off your water bill a month, eventually paying for itself.
They tend to be easy to install, only needing the removal of one screw.
So for tip #3, save some money and save some water with a water saving low-flow shower head!
Did you know you can do that with food waste, too?
No, you can’t exactly make crafts out of food scraps –– or, at least, we don’t endorse it. But you can start a compost heap, which is still pretty cool (we’d venture to say it’s cooler. But who knows, maybe your eggshell jewelry collection is really taking off).
Now, what exactly is compost?
In essence, it’s a mixture of decomposed organic materials that can be used in organic agriculture as a fertilizer and soil conditioner. It can help control erosion and even as a natural pesticide for soil.
Compost has four main components: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. The carbon and nitrogen come from things like leaves, food scraps, branches and coffee grounds. When you add water to this mixture and expose it to oxygen (that’s more or less a fancy way of saying “leave it outside”), the water and oxygen break down the contents of your pile and create compost. This creates humus (no, not hummus. Different thing. We’re fans of both), which can help retain moisture in soil and improve the soil so it can be reused.
Sometimes, fun things like earthworms and urine and human waste are added to the mix. If that sounds gross, just picture a landfill overflowing with food waste that could’ve been used to make more organic food –– yeah. Not a great alternative.
Now, why should you care about fermented food scraps?
Picture that landfill again. Pretty nasty, huh? Well, every time we throw things in the garbage that we could’ve recycled (or upcycled) (or composted), we’re adding to that pile of trash and increasing our carbon and methane emissions.
Composting helps to reduce that pile by finding a higher purpose for your food and yard trash. Instead of sending those leaves you so painstakingly raked to go sit in a landfill, why not add them to your compost heap? Add in the inedible pieces of the sustainably and organically grown fruits and veggies you used to cook dinner. With a little water, oxygen, and patience (and maybe even some cool additions, like cockroaches or larvae), you’ll have your very own compost pile.
Look at you, shrinking your carbon footprint and reducing methane emissions from landfills! Now you have some cool compost you can use to grow more things. You go, Footprint Mag reader!
Picture this: a shopper, traversing the aisles of her local grocery store with every intention of purchasing organic food –- how hard can it be? Everything’s labelled so nicely…
But after a few minutes, our plucky shopper’s head is swimming, inundated by “USDA Certified Organic”s, “100% All-Natural”s, “Safeway O Organic”s, and a plethora of other labels. What does it all mean? Which ones are real, what means what, why is buying organic so. hard.?!?
Never fear, Sustainability 101 is here. Go grab some popcorn, kids –– we’re gonna be here for a while.
First off, just what is “organic food?”
According to the US Department of Agriculture, “organic crops” are processed without “irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, [or] genetically modified organisms,” and “organic livestock” is livestock raised in a manner that “met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.”
Now, in the words of Morrissey, “What difference does it make?”
First, there’s the obvious: it’s grown without harmful chemicals and hasn’t been made into a teenage mutant ninja vegetable –– trust us, you don’t need that in your system. Stick to getting super powers from eating sustainably farmed nutritious foods.
Also, from an environmental standpoint, when we buy foods farmed organically, we’re supporting sustainable agricultural practices. The pesticides used in non-organic agriculture contaminate the soil and water supply, and they can even cause crops to become disease-resistant –– gross, huh?
(We think so, too).
“Okay, Sustainable Godmother, that’s great, but how do I know the foods I’m buy are really organic?”
Foods that meet these criteria feature a green “USDA Certified Organic” logo on their labels:
Now, what about brands with enticingly organic-sounding names like “Safeway O Organic” and Giant’s “Nature’s Promise?” Rule of thumb: guilty until proven innocent. Often, these brands aren’t really organic; brands often use words like “all-natural” to cash in on consumers’ increasing desire for organic food, even when their products aren’t organic in the slightest. Check for the green label to see whether or not they’re legit.
Now that you know the benefits of organic food –– and how to outsmart clever marketing ploys –– go forth and veg(gie) out.
Personal water bottles should be a no-brainer! Personal water bottles are not only durable and customizable, they are also eco-friendly (and cheaper!) , especially compared to their mean cousin, The Disposable Water Bottle.
Not pretty is it? Buying a bottle of water a day, or every other day, or even every two, still adds up to a serious amount of waste, literally and monetarily. You could be spending $120, $200, or even upwards of $300 a year on bottled water. Imagine all the things that could be done with that money instead: music festivals, plane tickets, clothing, football games; the possibilities are endless!
New water fountains around campus make filling up easier too.
And companies like Fiji, which really do ship water from across the world, are simply exploiting a poor nation of it’s most important resource at almost three times the price of other bottled waters. Not only that, but shipping your water, across oceans, to get to you, is no sustainable way to live.
Buy a personal water bottle. It doesn’t make sense to do anything else!
At some point in our lives, we have all heard the “if it’s yellow leave it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down,” phrase and subsequently wrinkled our nose in disgust. We know we should but, bottom line, not flushing is gross to many of us.
Also bottom line: toilet flushing wastes a serious amount of water.
45% of water use in the average American home happens in the bathroom, and 27% just by toilets. New toilets can only use 1.6 gallons per flush, but older toilets (think: old houses that college students live in…) can flush 3, 5, even up to 7 gallons of water per flush.
Now, in your head, set out 3-5 gallons of water on a table. That is likely used each time you flush. Not only is that wasteful in terms of water, but also in terms of money.
But alas, we have a super simple tip for you: the home-remedy for hard flushing toilets, and you don’t even need to leave your house. You save a ton of money (and the Earth!) by simply putting heavy jars in your toilet tank.
Step one: obtain a few old jars or tupperware.
Step two: fill old jars with rocks or sand or paper weights or coins.
Step three: place jars in toilet tank.
And viola! Now you can save half a gallon per flush.This doesn’t seem like much, until you multiply it by the amount of people in your household and how often each of you use the toilet a day. If you have 2 roommates, and each of you use the home toilet 3 times a day, that’s 810 gallons a month that you can cut down to 675. The New York Times says that you can save 350 gallons of water a month for a household of 5.
The reason this works is this: every time you flush, your toilet tank is emptied into the bowl, then the tank is refilled until the stopper closes and the water becomes stagnant. If you put something with volume in the tank, the water fills up to the same height in the tank, the stopper closes at the same time, but there is less volume to fill up, and thus less water to flush with.
So there’ s your very first sustainable tip from Footprint!
It’s so easy, and you save money, so why wouldn’t you want to?
Okay, so we’re going to go out on a limb and assume that you have a basic understanding of what recycling is. But what about its cooler cousin, upcycling, and its ugly stepsister, downcycling?
Upcycling is a form of recycling in which the recycled materials are used to make something new. Instead of being broken down into less valuable materials, upcycled objects are repurposed as other, more practical things.
For instance: let’s say you have a two-liter bottle lying around. You could put it in the recycling bin, where it’ll go to a recycling plant and get broken down into its base materials and made into a lesser-quality product –– in other words, you could downcycle it. Or, you could upcycle it by converting your empty Coke bottle into a bird feeder, a planter, or even a toilet water saver contraption!
We think so, too.
Now, about this “downcycling” stuff:
When things get downcycled, they’re broken down and made into new things –– for instance, plastics are made into other plastics. Sounds great, right? In the short run, it’s great: you’re keeping materials out of landfills. But in the long run, the resulting recycled materials are of lesser quality. Things can only be downcycled so many times before they can’t be downcycled any more, and they become useless and end up in –– you guessed it –– the dump.
Downcycling also requires more resources than upcycling –– think about all the energy it takes to break down those materials. Kind of defeats the purpose, huh?
Don’t get all down in the dumps (haha) yet, though. Here are some simple ways to become an upcycling pro:
Ultimately, the goal of upcycling –– or any type of recycling, for that matter –– is to lessen our impact on the environment to preserve our limited natural resources. The more we reduce, reuse and (up)cycle, the better care we can take of the planet.
So give cast-off materials new life and help save the Earth in the process –– new, handmade things today for a more sustainable tomorrow.
Join Missouri River Relief (MRR) and The Blue Note when they host the fourth annual Wild and Scenic Traveling Film Festival in Columbia on Sunday, February 9. It’s an afternoon benefit of inspiring and eye-opening documentaries. Doors open at 1 p.m. and select films will be screened from 2 to 5 p.m., followed by a silent auction and raffle. Local musicians David Dearnley and Sam Shin will be playing before and after the films.
The W&S film fest will feature environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty, the challenges facing our planet, and the work communities are doing to protect the environment. This year’s selections focus on the connection between humans and the world we live in.
The Film Lineupincludes Fighting For the Futaleufu, Dying Green, The Last Ice Merchant, Backyard, Of Souls + Water and a number of creative and inspiring shorts. “Backyard” is one of the most challenging films, focusing on the effects of fracking on the Missouri River watershed. A special treat will be a short film by Romanian MU grad student Roxi Pop about MRR called “Pelican Island Adventure”
“This keeps growing every year,” said Missouri River Relief program manager Steve Schnarr. “People love the opportunity to get together in the winter and spend a few hours being transported to beautiful places while learning about important and powerful environmental issues. This year’s focus on rivers and water is a perfect fit for our work on the Missouri River.”
A lot of the work and ideas for the festival come from the River Relief’s volunteer crew. “These folks love working together, for the community and for the river,” Schnarr said. “By the time February comes around they’re ready to get to work. Everyone has a lot of fun with this.”
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Tour allows organizations across the country to select award winning films that speak to their region, their audience and their issues. Hosting the Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a natural extension of Missouri River Relief’s work to inspire people to act on behalf of their environment, as their mission has been to connect people to the Missouri River through hands-on river clean-ups and education.
The organization emerged organically in 2001 from a small group of people in mid-Missouri with a love for the Missouri River who simultaneously recognized the need for engaged stewardship and the desire of citizens to take part in watershed solutions. In just ten years, Missouri River Relief has made a visible & lasting difference in over 20 communities, bringing together more than 16,000 volunteers to haul more than 1 million pounds of trash (676 tons to be exact) from the banks and floodplain of the Missouri River.
“Films featured at Wild & Scenic give people a sense of place,” said Tour Manager, Susie Sutphin. “In our busy lives, it’s easy to get disconnected from our role in the global ecosystem. When we realize that the change we need in this world begins with us we can start making a difference. Come watch and see!”
The Columbia screening of the festival is supported locally by The Blue Note with a special grant from Patagonia. The festival’s alliance of National Partners helps make the traveling tour possible thanks to Patagonia, Clif Bar, Osprey Packs, Kanteen Klean, Grist.org, Tom’s of Maine and Sierra Nevada Brewing.
Tickets are $10 and all proceeds will benefit Missouri River Relief! Students are $6 and kids 8 and under are free. For more info. about the festival & films go to www.riverrelief.org or simply reserve your tickets by calling the Blue Note at 573-874-1944.
Together we can take action for the health and beauty of our river!
Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 9
Doors open at 1 p.m. Films run from 2 to 5 p.m. followed by silent auction. Local musicians David Dearnley and Sam Shin will be performing before and after the films.
Location: The Blue Note, 17 N. 9th Street, Columbia MO
Tickets: $10. Students are $6 with an ID. Kids 8 and under free.
Tickets can be purchased through the Blue Note’s box office (573) 874-1944
Hazardous Materials Services is a branch of MU Environmental Health and Safety. This story is the first of a two-part series profiling EHS employees that contribute to on-campus sustainability, however mostly under the radar.
Fifty-eight years old, follicly challenged, and having spent nearly half his life in the same workplace, an objective account of Roger J. Giles renders him about as interesting as an investment bank’s Twitter feed.
Such a depiction, though, would be starkly inaccurate.
Just sitting Giles’ office, it’s hard to believe the man is almost three times the age of most undergraduates at MU. Upbeat indie music seeps from a Pandora station while Giles navigates his Facebook (he’s more adept at it than most his age, I should add), searching for profile-worthy photos.
But while his demeanor is youthful, the back wall of Giles’ office testifies to his years of experiences — covered with dozens of framed photographs, certificates, and some awards.
“When I do things, I tend to get really passionate,” said Giles, reminiscing on past hobbies like ultimate Frisbee™ — which he stuck with for over 30 years, founding Columbia’s club program — and paleontology, which led him on expeditions in Europe and the American West for more than a decade.
On campus, Giles serves as Manager for Hazardous Materials Services, a branch of MU Environmental Health and Safety. He oversees all of HMS’ activities, which include:
Preforming the majority of lab inspections on campus;
Collecting all hazardous waste and preparing it for outside shipping;
Providing oversight for any handling of hazardous materials.
“Research chemicals, diagnostic specimens, genetically modified organisms — approval for those types of shipments comes from [HMS],” he said.
Although they don’t function hand-in-hand with student sustainability, Giles and his department nonetheless play a critical role within EHS: “We protect the environment from the university,” Giles told me, “I say that somewhat flippantly, but it’s true!”
A notable example of this was in June 2010, when a biochemistry laboratory in Schweitzer Hall exploded due to a mismanaged chemical reaction involving hydrogen. The cooperation of EHS, among other MU departments, was crucial for handling the emergency safely and efficiently.
“[Emergency response] involves us coming in at odd hours sometimes… but we’re doing bleeding edge research here — sometimes things can get a little… energetic,” Giles said with a smirk.
But how exactly does Giles’ department play into sustainability? Well, HMS is a direct component of one Sustain Mizzou project in particular: E-waste drives.
Since electronic waste is a hazardous material, and recycling is regulated under state and national law, HMS typically sends staff to the E-waste drives twice per day to make sure everything meets regulatory guidelines. Also, when it comes to choosing a vendor to sell the waste to, HMS does the vetting.
“It was a local business…they’re good people,” Giles said of this year’s vendor, Mid-Mo Recycling.
Also with regard to sustainability, Giles said he’s seen a robust increase in environmental stewardship during his time at EHS, which he attributes to Vice Chancellor Jackie Jones’ consistent funding of the department.
“Jackie is an advocate for sure…” Giles said, adding that when he first started working for HMS, the department was essentially “a one-man show.” Today though, as a result of Vice Chancellor Jones’ steady funding, there are about a dozen people employed by HMS
As a manager, he admits to being more on the bureaucratic end of things now, but that doesn’t thwart Giles’ enthusiasm toward his work. The satisfaction of providing a safe work environment to MU students and faculty, the knowledge that he’s making researchers jobs’ easier, and the general freedom that comes with being manager of his own department, are what Giles deems the most rewarding aspects of his job.
When it comes to the stressful parts, Giles says inspections by regulatory agencies (EPA, DOT, NRC, among others) naturally produce taut nerves and that meeting deadlines is always a concern, but that HMS is “no different than the library in that respect.”
Probably helpful in alleviating any stress from the job, Giles and his wife focus their attention nowadays mainly on boating. Specifically, they are the proud owners of a sternwheeler on the Missouri River, where they give free tours to the community and host fundraisers for environmental organizations.
“Most of my personal non-work environmental interests are associated with the river… I do a lot of my recreation on the river,” Giles said.
(In fact, this charitable and progressive attitude toward their sternwheeler is what led the Columbia Missourian to publish a short story on the Giles’ and their boat last month.)
But that’s not all the Giles’ have been up to these days. Remember his aforementioned office wall, decorated with memorabilia? Tacked up among the archives, perhaps most noteworthy, is a Burning Man-themed calendar.
“Of late, [my wife and I] have kind of become part of the burner community,” Giles said, scrolling through a myriad of assorted photos from over the years.
As he further combed through his digital photo collection, I couldn’t help but see the resemblance of a young boy, rummaging through his toy chest. But while Roger Giles remains young at heart and in mind, protecting the MU community and environment from hazardous materials is a duty juxtaposed to such virtues — conferring responsibilities that only a seasoned veteran in the field can effectively uphold.
In this sense, and so many others, Roger Giles fits the a build. With the knowledge that Roger Giles oversees hazardous materials at MU, we should all feel a little bit safer.
Missouri’s 2012 National Geographic Bee champion, Jack Langen, gives a tour of his home town of Columbia for the NatGeo YouTube channel. Double-fisting Sparky’s ice cream? Walking on the MKT? The kid couldn’t be more spot on.
Jack will be competing against the other state champions in Washington, D.C., on May 22-24. The Bee finals hosted by Alex Trebek air Thursday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m. (Central Time) on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD.