A Message from MEAC

We, the members of Mizzou Energy Action Coalition (MEAC), have been leading a campaign for fossil fuel divestment at the University of Missouri for more than three years. In that time, we have gathered support from thousands of students and faculty, passed a divestment resolution through every Mizzou student government, and made our Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment in numerous meetings with the UM System Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer, and President Mun Choi. Our request is simple: UM System administration should rid our 1.4 billion dollar UM System Endowment of its $10 million in fossil fuel assets.

Let’s be clear. We are not requesting our budget-crunched University remove 10 million dollars from its Endowment to spend on green projects or infrastructure. We are asking administration to move the 10 million invested in some of the most polluting, carbon intensive companies to ever exist, to virtually any of the other profitable investment options on the market. We, like most major banks on Wall Street, think this is reasonable.

Unfortunately, University administration doesn’t agree. This past July we received a rejection letter from UM System President Choi stating that the UM System will not divest, despite the overwhelming scientific, economic, and moral evidence that contradicts this decision. In short, the administration’s refusal to divest from fossil fuel companies rests on four points, each of which we must reject as compatible with a truly sustainable future, and likewise as contradictory to our University’s alleged values.

Fossil fuels have contributed to rising living standards worldwide

Well, sure. Combustion engines were built and roads paved before any of us were born. But we would put our University education to shame if we weren’t able to think critically about the impacts of these luxuries. We know, from peer-reviewed research, that once combusted, the same fossil fuels that increased global standards of living yesterday will drown out millions of people, cities, and island states tomorrow. We know there are places, like Houston, Miami, and San Juan, that are feeling the devastating effects of fossil fuel use right now. To dismiss these harsh realities for convenience sake is not rising up to the standards of excellence we hold ourselves to here at Mizzou.

Only a few universities have divested so far

Let us not forget who we are, Mizzou. We were the first college West of the Mississippi, the home of the first School of Journalism, and host of the first ever homecoming. More recently, our University became nationally recognized for its installation of biomass boilers at our world-class combined heat and power plant. Why should our University decide now to relinquish its leadership position in the face of the global climate crisis?

Divestment is symbolic, has no real impact

It’s true, $10 million is a drop in the bucket to the fossil fuel industry. Thankfully, our University is not alone in the global fossil fuel divestment movement. More than 799 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over $5.2 trillion in assets have cleansed their portfolios of fossil fuel investments. Just in the last few months, Ireland’s parliament passed legislation to become the first country to divest its sovereign wealth from fossil fuels. Will UM add its small but important voice to the rising chorus? We have before. When the UM System divested its 75 million in assets from institutions supporting South African Apartheid in 1989, former UM President C. Peter Magrath said, “we should not do so because we arrogantly believe that what we do here can affect the course of events in the continuing tragedy in South Africa… We should do so because we believe… It is the right step and the correct signal for the University of Missouri to give in fulfilling our highest values and ideals.”

Fiduciary responsibility to invest in fossil fuels

The amount currently invested in fossil fuel industries represents less than one percent of our total UM System Endowment. So in true Missouri fashion, we say to President Choi, show us the numbers. Show us the fiscal sense in betting on the carbon bubble. Show us that those administering the endowment are doing right by holding on to these toxic assets. Show us how the University couldn’t possibly move this money to any of thousands of other companies available on the market. Show us that literally no other investment options exist that are as allegedly profitable as dirty carbon stocks. Or show us that, you too, feel bound by our collective principles of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence and that no funds of ours should be used to prop-up companies whose mission is so contradictory to our own.

What we are asking for is simple. UM System administration should commit to move investments from fossil fuel companies, whose business model is set on permanently altering the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, to companies that can make a profit without climate catastrophe. After all, if the administration fails to divest, can it truly say that our University “advances the health, cultural, and social interests of the people of Missouri, the nation, and the world”?

You can our read our heavily researched Case for Divestment, the administration’s full response letter and our full critique of that response on our website at muenergyaction.com.

Michael Borucke, Frankie Hawkins, Sean Donovan and Madeline Niemann are members of the Mizzou Energy Action Coalition.

***The Mizzou Energy Action Coalition is not a part of Sustain Mizzou and does not necessarily reflect our non-bipartisan views–however, we support other environmental groups and their fight for change.

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Eight Terms on Sustainability

Written by: Jessica Yates

When speaking about environmental sustainability, a lot of terms get thrown around, and it’s not always entirely clear what those terms mean. Here are eight terms you might have come across and a little explanation to bring them into focus.

It’s almost always best to start at the beginning, so first, what is sustainability? (Excellent question! Cue the history lesson!) Early forms of the environmental movement accompanied the industrialization of Europe and can be seen in the work of Romantic artists like William Wordsworth as well as many Enlightenment philosophers. The strength and spread of this movement grew over time, but truly gained prominence in the late twentieth century. It was during this time period (1983, precisely) that the United Nations formed a committee called the World Commission on Environment and Development (or WCED). In 1987, the WCED provided a now widely accepted definition for sustainability: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This comes in three facets: economic, social, and environmental. Economic sustainability refers to the efficient and responsible use of resources to maintain the desired level of economic production. Social sustainability refers to a social organization’s (i.e. a country) ability to maintain social well-being. So what about environmental sustainability?

One of the first things to consider is environmental impact. This is a reflection of “any change to the environment, good or bad, that wholly or partially results from industrial/manufacturing activities, products or services” (Dupont). Similar to impact is footprint, which measures the absorption of raw materials or industrial by-products into the environment. The goal is to have as little a footprint as possible. (I’d hate to be Sasquatch in this day and age).

Another important consideration for sustainability is seen when we talk about food. How is it grown? Where does it come from? Where are the brussel sprouts? (That last question doesn’t really have much to do with sustainability… I just like brussel sprouts).

A prominent topic right now in the food industry is the merit of organic foods. By the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, organic certification guarantees no pesticides, no synthetic growth hormones, no petroleum-based fertilizers, and no cloning in both growth and processing of the food. Food producers that are certified organic must first be audited, accredited by a USDA-approved certifying agent, and reaccredited every five years (USDA source). This is required for any level of organic production and labelling. There are three ways you might have seen the organic label:

“100% Organic,” which means the product is (you guessed it) made with 100 percent organic ingredients,

“Organic,” which means the product is made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients

or “Made with Organic,” which means the product is at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

Companies can also list individual ingredients as organic.

A notable benefit of organic agriculture is the absence of pesticides. This prevents water pollution, which affects the entirety of an ecosystem. The use of natural in place of synthetic fertilizers in addition to other soil-building practices promotes better soil nutrition and biodiversity.

Organic certification is markedly different from the natural label, which is not regulated by the USDA. “Natural” only suggests the aforementioned organic guidelines, and there is no guarantee those guidelines have been met.

Organic certification also indicates the complete absence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The name is essentially self-explanatory. GMOs are organisms in which the DNA sequence has been modified through non-natural methods. This is done to promote desirable qualities in the organism, such as faster growth or reproduction and resistance to insects or herbicide. The genetic resistance to insects actually reduces the use of pesticide on GMOs, which helps lessen the amount of pesticide that remains in the land and natural water sources. At the same time, resistance to herbicides may increase the amount of herbicide that is used, since the GMO is no longer under as much threat from that usage. The debate over GMOs goes much further, but long-term effects are unknown at the current time (Woah, this is heavy).

Another popular term related to food concerns where the food is grown. Locally grown means that the food is (surprise!) grown in a local area. However, there isn’t a definite numeric range for what distances constitute “local.” The interpretation varies. The point, however, is that the food you buy and eat is not coming from the global industrial food system, which has a negative environmental impact. Some of this impact comes from air and water pollution (from transportation as well as agricultural methods), more packaging, and overconsumption of fossil fuels.

Finally, we have a term I came across when making some hot tea recently. If you pick up a Lipton (decaffeinated) tea bag, you might notice the following line on the individual package: “This product is packed in a zero-landfill facility.” Of course, the idea isn’t that complex, but I was curious. Does this really mean zero? Maybe it’s more like 90 percent?

Western Michigan University defines zero waste-to-landfill as “the ability to avoid diverting any excess material resources in a landfill or other non-reclamation waste center.” It’s a somewhat wordy definition, but after further research, it was determined that zero actually means zero, albeit only in concern to the waste actually sent to landfills. Such facilities have a generous emphasis on recycling as well as composting. Remaining “waste” materials are sometimes incinerated, but reuse is also highly encouraged.

There are many different ways sustainability can be addressed and here are only a few of them. Every individual can find their own way to celebrate awareness of our environment. You don’t have to decide to only buy organic foods or only support zero-landfill facilities – it can be as simple as turning off the lights.

Earth to table: Is biodynamic the upcoming food movement?

Dig garden

Written by: Megan Tyminski

Local. Organic. Fair trade. Humane. Non-GMO. More and more, people are equating food quality with its growing process. Ethical concerns related to social issues and the environment have materialized into consumer trends, and farming philosophy has made its way to the dinner table. So what’s the next philosophy that could start showing up on plates? Biodynamic farming.

In Columbia, Missouri, Sarah Cyr, restaurant co-owner of Wine Cellar & Bistro has been using biodynamic practices that steward the earth and its people.

The Cyr biodynamic farm grows a variety of vegetables that Craig Cyr “enjoys cooking with later” at the restaurant. Sarah also sources biodynamic wines for the menu, including a lengthy list of biodynamic and organic wines featured prominently on the first page.

As a sommelier, Sarah Cyr can taste the “cleaner, brighter, tastier” flavor profiles in biodynamic wines. It also helps that she feels healthier knowing what is going into the production, and the philosophy.

So what is biodynamic? Essentially, the practice looks at farming as an ecosystem, and integrates organic approaches that are taken “even further to the whole health of the land and the moon cycles,” said Cyr.

Biodynamic farming uses scientific reasoning, and manages soil health as the most important practice. Cyr uses compost preparations from cow horns, fish from their pond and oak bark to provide nutrients and prevent disease.

Tim Reinbott, a researcher at MU Bradford Farm concerned with soil science, said that there is definitely some truth in these principles.

“Soil health in general is a change in philosophy,” he said. “Soil is not just a growing medium. It’s alive.”

According to Cyr, biodynamic farming can be “hard for people to wrap their brains around,” and may seem a little hokey, but in reality, it’s “egotistical of us to think that nature can’t do it better.”

If this philosophy grows, that taste of nature may be in your next meal.

Citizen Science: How YOU can help the environment

17079728492_d1e2b90b3b_z.jpgWritten by: Vidya Balasubramanyam

Did you know that you too can be a scientist? It doesn’t matter if you are a business student, art major, or interested citizen; there is a lot that you can do for science. In fact, scientists are actively seeking your unique skills to help them answer complex questions about the amazing planet that we live in.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. With proposed federal budget cuts threatening environmental and climate science, your involvement is needed more than ever for a brighter future. Here are some simple, fun ways you can contribute and advocate for science and the environment:

Did you see change?

climate-change-2063240_640.jpgHave you noticed that the winters are getting warmer, or that a tree in your backyard bloomed earlier than usual? Your simple observations are valuable to scientists! Head over to iSeeChange to document your observations. You can choose from several investigation themes—from birds to extreme weather events to your everyday life. The changes that you see around you are important to the narrative of planet Earth. Each post you make will be accompanied by a bigger picture visualization using satellites or other data.

Cloudy with a chance of… science?

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgEver been accused of always having your head in the clouds? NASA wants YOU! The Globe Observer is an interactive project meant to help scientists record sky observations through cloud photographs that you take. This information will be used to enhance their understanding of global climate change. All you have to do is download the app (available on the iOS App Store and Google Play), look through some training resources, and lose yourself in the clouds!

It’s time to get dirty!

soil-1795902_640We have food to eat because of soil. To maintain and improve soil quality, scientists need to have a better understanding of soil health. This is where you come in. The MO Dirt project is looking for volunteers (working as individuals or teams) to conduct soil health surveys in a study site of your choice. Several resources are available to get you started; the first step would be to create an account on their website.

A similar project is seeking to develop new life-saving drugs by learning about diverse genetic information in soil bacteria. They’re interested in samples from the Midwest, and you can even earn an Amazon gift card in return for your help! Fill out this form to request a soil sampling kit, and head over here to read more.

Take a selfie!

SaracaStreamThis one is really easy. Next time you’re out hiking, or you come across a stream during a scenic drive, stop and take a selfie with it! It’s that simple. Your selfie will help in creating a national map of streams that need to be monitored because there is currently a lack of information about water quality. This is especially important because the Clean Water Act is currently being reconsidered through an executive order, which could eliminate protection for our water bodies. This handy infographic should help you take and upload your selfie in support of clean water.

Are you ready for an renewable future?

Renewable_energyWhy not spend some time working in an energy lab? Our fossil fuel resources are dwindling out, and scientists need your help in designing a renewable future. Head over to NOVA Labs, and take the challenge. You’ll be given all the data you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of energy sources, and you’ll eventually end up designing a renewable energy system for an entire city!

None of the above?

If none of these appeal to you, worry not! There is a vast repository of citizen science projects on SciStarter. You can use their customized filters to find the one that is perfect for you. They have more than 1600 formal and informal projects so you can easily find one tailored to your interests.

Want to do more? How about marching for science?

On Earth Day (April 22, 2017), scientists and science enthusiasts are coming together to March for Science. The goal of the march is to affirm science as a democratic value, support scientists, and advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science. The march takes place in Washington, D.C. but if you can’t make it all the way to D.C., no worries, we’ve got one right here in Missouri! The rally starts at 2 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater and goes down 8th street to the columns, ending with a science festival at Peace Park. So invite your friends, confirm your attendance on their Facebook page, and last but not least #StandUpForScience in any way you can!

Sustainable Threads: Innovations in the Industry

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The textile industry is–let’s face it–not the most sustainable. However, there are lots of companies out there trying to figure out ways to fix that problem. In this article, we’ll look at how the textile industry is making ecological innovations. First, let’s learn a little bit about textiles.

“Textiles” and “fabrics” are pretty much used interchangeably. They can be made from both natural and synthetic materials (called fibers). Most synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, meaning they’re made from non-renewable sources and require a lot of energy to make.

However, a fabric made from natural fibers is not necessarily a sustainable choice either. For example, cotton is a widely known and used natural fiber, but because the production process normally uses pesticides and extensive amounts of water, it is a much less sustainable choice.

So, when is a textile considered sustainable? It might help to think of the three Rs of environmental friendliness:

  • Reduce: Does the manufacturing company attempt to reduce the water, chemical, and air pollution that normally occurs during the manufacturing process?
  • Reuse: Is the textile in good enough condition to be used several times or even be made into something else during its use?
  • Recycle: Has it been made with recycled materials, or can it be recycled/biodegraded?

With these factors in mind, let’s delve into innovative ways the textile industry has developed to try and help solve its sustainability problem.

The company WeAreSpinDye is hoping to revolutionize the way synthetic fibers are produced by dyeing them early in the process (before they become yarns or fabric). This will reduce the negative environmental effects of the chemical dyes used for textiles.

A brand of hemp called Hardy Organic Hemp has innovated the production process by creating a fiber that is produced using zero pesticides, water, or chemicals, and is organically dyed.

Though we don’t usually think of carpet backing when we think of textiles, a company called Milliken revolutionized the backing on carpet tiles by finding a way to make them stick to your floor without the need for harmful glues and adhesives.

Climatex, an ecologically responsible German textile company, created the first 100% biodegradable fabric made of synthetic materials, all while maintaining extraordinary energy, water, and dye standards.

Another fabric called Sensuede is the first high-end microfiber suede fabric that is made completely from recycled polyester and is not produced using harmful solvents like many other synthetic suede fabrics.

One of the most interesting innovations being made in the textile industry is Crabyon fibers. These are made from “chitosan” (or “chitin”), a material actually derived from crab shells. These fibers produce textiles that are completely biodegradable, while also recycling waste from crab processing factories.

Did you know that when you clean an item made from a synthetic fiber (especially fleece) in a washing machine, it sheds a small amount of microfibers that end up in the water and pollute it? G-Star, a denim brand, recognized this issue and took action with their RAW for the Oceans denim line, the first to be made from recycled plastic found in the ocean.

Patagonia, a leader in producing apparel with recycled materials, is the first brand in the US to incorporate into their products an innovative TENCEL (lyocell) fiber that is made of waste from cotton fabrics.

Though there is still lots of work left to do in the industry, you can see that the work of these textile and apparel companies creates new, sustainable ways to make fibers which not only reduce negative environmental effects, but cause positive ones. Check out the links and learn more; get involved with sustainable clothing! When consumers are excited to have eco-friendly clothes, apparel companies will pay attention, and this could be the start of some big changes in this field. The textile industry is always learning how to become a more eco-friendly industry, one that is fit for our changing world.

Mizzou students report on key issues (and turtles) in Costa Rica

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Written by: Erica Overfelt

The University of Missouri way of learning is summed up in one saying: “we learn by doing.” By bringing eight Mizzou journalism students to Costa Rica this past winter break, Professor Bill Allen truly created a learning experience that goes perfectly along with this saying, and it just happens to be in the tropics.

This field reporting trip was started by Allen in 2011 with help from project co-ordinator Fern Perkins. Throughout most of Allen’s career, he did a lot of reporting in Costa Rica, which led to the inspiration for the trip.

“I thought we should get some students down there,” Bill said, “Part of the problem is that we don’t have enough U.S. journalists covering stories outside capital cities or war zones. Important issues are coming out in the rural areas like climate change, water issues, or energy. This is all happening outside the realm of politicians and we’ve got to go get them.”

Allen believes that the students who attend come out as different people by the end of the two-week trip. Some students gain confidence in reporting, while others gain new perspectives on many sustainability and/or environmental issues.

“The trip changed my passion for environmental issues and sustainability,” said Holly Enowski, the only freshman to attend the trip. “It allowed me to see that the issues are all over, not just limited to within our country’s borders. Costa Rica is a very environmentally conscious country and it was interesting to interact with locals and gauge their views on healthy eating and environmental protection.”

Almost all Costa Rican natives believe in sustainability, Allen mentions. A key lesson students learn on this trip is that other countries have different stances on sustainability than the United States. Allen explains that most countries believe the U.S. is off-balance sustainability wise.

“In terms of balancing, it is the need to protect our environment so we can live,” Allen said, “as opposed to continuing to abuse it as if it is an infinite resource. That abuse reigns in the United States because of our culture; however, Costa Ricans understand the need for balance.”

During this past winter’s trip, the students observed the sustainable harvesting of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. This species of marine turtles nests along the coasts of Costa Rica. However, numbers are dwindling. National Geographic states, “Though the olive ridley is widely considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, by all estimates, it is in trouble. Rough estimates put the worldwide population of nesting females at about 800,000, but its numbers–particularly in the western Atlantic–have declined precipitously.” The main cause of this declining population is poaching.

Sustainable harvesting was permitted by the government of Ostional making it the only place in the world where it is legal. Basically, the government allows locals to come to the beaches where the turtles’ nest. The locals are only allowed to take a small percentage of the eggs (less than one percent) and they are allowed to do whatever they want with the eggs they harvest. At first, many conservationists reacted angrily to this idea, but surprisingly, this act actually helped increase turtle population.

“It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to watch and see thousands of turtles come out of the ocean to lay their eggs during the arribada,” Enowski said. “What I loved most was the social, cultural, historical, political, economic and personal importance it had on [Ostional] and the people who live there.”

The eight Mizzou students were able to see sustainability in a different country first hand throughout the entirety of the trip. Although the definition of sustainability is different in every country, when we learn about what it means to be sustainable in different countries than our own, it helps the world unify as one and furthers the fight to get to a brighter future.

Avoiding a Giant Asteroid: The President-Elect and Climate Change

Written by: Nick Corder

Throughout Earth’s history, scientists acknowledge 5 different mass extinctions. These catastrophes have been caused by events like volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids. Today, however, we could possibly be living in the sixth extinction, and it is not the result of an outside force. For the first time ever, one of Earth’s own species is killing off much of the planet’s biodiversity, and that species is us.

Recent predictions by NASA scientists show that the average temperature of the Earth will increase by 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit over the next 100 years. This prediction has disastrous implications for the environment. By the year 2110, sea levels have the potential to rise by 10 feet, an event that would cause significant problems for island and coastal communities. A rising ocean also means stronger tropical storms and changing precipitation patterns, both of which have significant impacts on ecological systems. The solution to the problem of climate change is not simple, but one small action could vastly alleviate the effects: stop using fossil fuels as fast as possible.

However, there are certain individuals, namely the president-elect, Donald Trump, that do not plan on reducing carbon emissions. In fact, he proposes reviving the dying coal industry in order to create new jobs, a decision that is simply outdated. In addition to his thoughts on coal, Trump has expressed discontent with US involvement in the Paris Agreement. At one point, he even suggested that he would “cancel” US affiliation. This agreement, which brought together 195 countries from around the world, constitutes a promise that each country lower fossil fuel emissions, and even though it is not everything that is needed, the Paris Agreement is the first major step towards international cooperation in regard to climate change.

The president-elect’s stance on this issue is understandable when one considers that Trump and the new head of his EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, are both notorious climate change deniers. As a result of this belief, Trump plans to redirect “billions in climate change spending,” a plan that would affect the American people for generations to come. For instance, one of the ways Trump plans to cut down spending is the gradual dissolution of the EPA. China, a country where an organization like the EPA is not sponsored by government, deals with “tens of thousands of additional deaths” every year at the hands of air contamination.

In an open letter to Trump, more than 800 earth science and energy experts have come together to petition the 45th president. They argue that climate change “threatens America’s economy, national security, and public safety.” They list six necessary steps to avoid “disaster”:

  1. Make America a clean energy leader.
  2. Reduce carbon pollution and America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Enhance America’s climate preparedness and resilience.
  4. Publicly acknowledge that climate change is real, human caused, and an urgent threat.
  5. Protect scientific integrity in policymaking.
  6. Uphold America’s commitment to the Paris agreement.

With Trump admitting that there is “some connectivity” between human action and climate change, many are feeling hopeful about our environmental future under Trump. Do not let his words prevent you from action. This is the same man that wants to “scrap” the Clean Power Plan and permit the Keystone XL oil pipeline. As citizens, we must ensure that each and every step on this list is carried out, but it is the power of the citizenry, not that which is invested in the executive branch, that is going to get this done. A few years ago, the asteroid was on the horizon, but now he’s in the White House. We must act now.

https://350.org

http://www.sierraclub.org

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/

http://www.ucsusa.org

Sustainable Threads: A Look into Going Green with Clothing

Written by: Mary Diekmeier

When most of us think of sustainability, the first thing that probably comes to mind is recycling, volunteering, etc., but there are actually many different ways of being sustainable that you might not have thought of before! In this article, we’re focusing on how to be sustainable right in our own closets by achieving sustainability through clothing. You can do it by considering a few factors.

The fashion/textile industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. Not so surprising, considering textiles don’t really biodegrade. It’s our job to do our part and be less wasteful in our own lives to sustain the earth for years to come. So let’s focus on how we can change our shopping habits. Can you think of a garment you’ve bought that was pretty inexpensive, bought on a whim, and ended up falling apart a few washes in? When that happens, the first thought is usually to just throw it away. Consider a few alternatives when shopping.

  • Ask yourself how often you see yourself wearing whatever you’re considering buying. Does it serve a function in your closet? Do you really love it?  If the answer’s no, consider saving your money for something else.
  • Invest in good clothing. Try to reduce how much you buy and how often you shop. Not only does this affect your clothing’s sustainability, it benefits your economic sustainability. Save up money for garments you really want that will last you a long time, and keep those garments for as long as they are useful to you. Shopping less = more sustainable!

If you already have clothes that you no longer want, there are several options to take beyond just throwing it away. Want the garment out of your closet, but it has no obvious signs of wear like major fading or rips/holes? Consider donating it. Whether it’s to Goodwill, a local charity, or even to a friend, try and make sure the product is reused. Another route is repurposing. Go on Pinterest, find a fun DIY, and turn an unwanted garment into something new for yourself or a friend!

Think twice about where you shop. Some stores are popular for being easy on the budget, but really consider the quality of the clothes that come from the stores you buy from. Avoid fast fashion. If you’re like me and love online shopping, there are lots of sustainable clothing retailers online. For example, if you’re looking for basic, staple items, the company Pact has a good selection, all made of 100% cotton. Also, don’t overlook secondhand clothing! Check out places like ThredUP or Poshmark, where regular people sell their lightly used clothing so it can gain more use through someone else.

There are lots of ways to shop sustainably right here in Columbia, MO. If you live on or near campus, the downtown area is just a short walk/bike ride away (which is also totally sustainable). A retailer downtown I would recommend is Route. It’s an apparel-based, non-profit and fair trade brick-and-mortar shop on 9th street. Also, a great idea if you’re trying to shop sustainably is to stop by the Peace Nook. A fighting power for sustainability here in Columbia, Peace Nook is another non-profit that sells books, various health food items, etc. as well as clothing! At any rate, buying locally is sustainable in and of itself, so next time you have a weekend free, visit the small businesses wherever you live and see if you can find the next addition to your closet!

https://wearpact.com/

https://www.thredup.com/

https://poshmark.com/

http://www.shoproute.org/

http://blog.midmopeaceworks.org/p/peace-nook.html

Tip #14: Don’t waste food

Food is arguably one of the most frivolously wasted resources on earth, especially here in the United States. According to the USDA, in 2010 31% of food sold in retail went uneaten. And that’s just the food that actually made it to retail, not losses of food on the farm. In store, about 10% of food went uneaten, and the remaining 20% is food that we consumers disposed of at home. That’s 90 billion pounds of food that we as consumers threw away in one year, in one country. The USDA also says that the majority of this food was meat, poultry, fish.

Considering the amount of resources that it takes to raise cows, chickens, or pools of fish, it’s especially egregious that these are the foods we waste the most in America. And a lot of the time, wasting food in the home just comes down to bad planning. And thank your lucky stars that you have the internet, because now you can google solutions to all your life’s problems.

Here’s a few of the best ways to avoid wasting such a wonderful, delicious resource:

  1.  Under buy, don’t over buy: This is probably number one for me. Unless it’s some insane sale food item that you can freeze and eat forever (like Lucky’s chicken for .$88/lb last week) don’t buy the entire deal they try to sell you. Most of the time, if a store says “10 for $10” you don’t actually have to buy 10 lbs of potatoes in order to save money. And even if you did, you might only eat 5 before they bruise and soften, and then you didn’t really save any money at all. Buying a lot more for less money is still spending money.
  2. Properly store your food: as a college student, this is the easiest rule to break. It’s so easy to forget to put the milk in the fridge, or the ribs in the freezer. Or improperly store your fresh fruits and vegetables in lesser known ways, such as:
    1. always store your fruits and vegetables separately: it not only is more orderly, but vegetables will actually age much slower when they aren’t exposed to the ethylene that fruits give off when aging (which causes them to age faster)
    2. wash and trim your vegetables before putting them in the fridge: take the rubber band off of them as well.
    3. store your leafy greens in ziploc’s with paper towels: this is a trick I learned from my grandmother, things like lettuce will stay for sometimes a week longer before wilting, I think because it helps keep the moisture in the food.
    4. don’t put banana’s in the fridge: I didn’t know that people did this, but it dries them out very fast.
  3. Buy a food processor or blender: Food processors and blenders are probably the way I save the most food from it’s garbage destiny. Fresh vegetables and fruits that look wilted, deteriorated, bruised, etc. have no physical appearance when you tear them up in a blender and put them in a smoothie. Or rip up the sad celery, the browned cauliflower, the weird broccoli in a food processor and put it in a hash, a stir fry or a soup. A lot of the reason that we throw these foods away is because they look weird, and we’re used to our food being pristine, our apples being robust and smooth, our bananas being a perfect golden yellow. If you tear them to shreds with a blade, you and your roommates will be none the wiser.

You’d be surprised how much of a difference these 3 practices alone make. These bullet points, like all of the Baby Steps we give on this site, are really just part of a larger consciousness that we hope to instill in our readers. Reduction of food waste is just a small portion of a potentially huge impact a single person can have on the environment around them. Even just being aware of how much food is being wasted currently is already a step in the right direction.

Tip #13: Find a low-energy summer hobby

My favorite thing about summer is that you finally get to catch up on all those fun things you never get to do going to school full time. I can finally sew, paint and run again!

So, this tip is going to be pretty short and sweet: find a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of electricity or resources. We spend so much of our day staring a screens- television, computer, phone- that it’s worth it to occasionally unplug our devices, turn off the lights, go outside and participate in something tangible.

I have a few favorite hobbies that require minimal electricity and are still fun and productive (goodness, I sound nerdy):

– Beading. My stepdad taught me to bead when I was 8 years old and I haven’t stopped since. I love bead work because it’s so beautiful, intricate and creative. Also, beading is something that you can see real progress when working. All you really need is fishing wire, a needle and a pack of beads.

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(http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/2011/02/10/latest-south-african-beadwork-raises-money-for-hivaids-infected-women/)

Come on, aren’t these just the coolest things ever? And when you get into it, beadwork can look insanely cool. It’s not actually that hard to do! This is a page which has a few cool starting stitches.

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(http://www.pbase.com/image/125189520)

– Running. Until this semester where I had almost no time to myself, I had no clue how much I love running. I always feel incredibly clear headed and happy when I run, and I usually end up accidentally working out all of my problems when my mind wanders. It’s uses zero resources, I can experience the great outdoors, and I can eat a substantially larger amount of chocolate during the day without feeling disgusting.

– Painting. The paint itself isn’t really “low-resource” per se, but we can’t be 100% sustainable all the time, that’s the whole point of these posts anyway. Go outside and paint something you see, it will get you closer to nature and further from the television screens.

Of course, there are millions of others. Sewing, hiking, gardening, reading, whatever! Just try to sit outside in the sun for a bit and enjoy the sunshine.