Recycling for the “Randos”

Sign at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. From Wikimedia Commons by user John Hill.

By Sheridan Brown

Recycling is the last thing on college student’s minds.  Trying to juggle class, extra curricular activities, work and a social life is usually overwhelming in itself. What most people do not realize is that recycling takes no time at all.  So for those individuals who are not as concerned about the environment as others, you can still do your part and have plenty of time for other activities.

Remember coming home at 3 a.m. last weekend and reaching straight for the box of oreo’s, mac and cheese, or even a box of left over’s from the night before?  How about this morning when you finished off the rest of the cereal?  It takes the same amount of time to throw those empty boxes in a recycling bin rather than a trashcan.  How about beer or soda cans?  We all know how quickly those build up!  Set out a box or trash bag and have your guests throw all their cans in it.  Plastics, however, can be a bit trickier.  Unfortunately, Columbia only accepts 1 and 2 plastics.  However, that still allows us to recycle shampoo bottles, milk jugs, detergent containers and plenty of more items that take up a lot of room in the trashcan anyway! The City of Columbia Public Works Department and other city recycling programs pick up recyclables on the curb once a week. Places such as Target and Hyvee subtract money from your total if you bring in your own bags.  This can be a way of “self-recycling”.  Cloth bags usually hold more than the cheap plastic sacks-which helps if you live on the fourth floor of your building!

Want to know more on what and where to recycle? Check out the Columbia Recycling homepage!

Sustain Mizzou founder Jared Cole poses with his students holding special-ordered Sustain Mizzou notebooks.

Luckily, Sustain Mizzou offers a fun and easy way to get rid of the boxes for you through a recycled notebook project.  They gladly accept boxes and paper donations and make fun, crafty notebooks out of them! Interested in taking part in this?  Check out our link!

And here’s an odd one: mercury. Working with fire departments and county health offices throughout the state, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is providing mercury drop-off locations in communities statewide. Any private citizen or nonprofit agency can leave mercury-containing instruments, such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, thermostats or switches, at any of these sites. The nearest site is at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, 2710 W. Main St., Jefferson City.

Even if you are not a recycling guru, you can still help benefit the environment by recycling. ‘Rando’ or not, your participation matters!

Guest post: child labor standards and agriculture

This article comes from the local blog as part of a 3-part series on issues related to the Department of Labor’s proposed child labor rules. We offer it up simply for information and discussion, and the views of the article do not necessarily reflect the views of Sustain Mizzou or its members. You can read Part Two here. It is co-authored by Jake Davis and Bryce Oates. Jake and Bryce are both farmers and are co-owners of the Root Cellar Grocery in Downtown Columbia, MO. They are also co-founders of the Missouri Bounty Box, a weekly produce subscription program that links Missouri farmers with local folks seeking good food.

Wynne Oates, son of one of the co-authors of this post, feeding milk to baby meat goats on the family farm in West Missouri. Despite fiery rhetoric to the contrary, this type of activity is 100% legal and allowable under proposed updates to the Child Labor Laws governing agriculture.

As farmers and local food entrepreneurs who have launched this blog to tell stories about our interesting lives in building local food systems in Missouri, we wanted to spend some time explaining our general disgust at Big Agriculture and the institutions that prop it up. We’re talking about you Farm Bureau. You too Commodity Groups (National Cattlemens Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, etc.). Even you, Land Grant University System. And, yes, you too Farm Press. While there are exceptions to the rule within each group, the take-home lessons of their message, policies and politics have gotten us into this mess of a food system that:

  • Produces cheap food with low nutritional content and quality causing huge problems with diabetes, obesity and heart disease
  • Enriches a small handful of farmers and food processors (the Big Ag Elite) while dismantling opportunities and the safety net of support for low-income and middle class rural people
  • Does serious damage to the water, air and soil of rural environments while being a major source of global greenhouse gas pollution and wildlife habitat destruction.

Through constant and disciplined messaging, this fairly small club has accomplished much of its goals in life and is generally having its way with respect to policies, regulations and market power. They have not rested on their laurels, though. They are willing to drag out the bloody carcass of the straw man any time they have a beef with the progressive responses to their lens (be it from President Obama, Congressional Democrats or anyone else standing in the way of their circular logic narrative).

Take the recent scuffle over the Department of Labor’s proposed rules to change child labor standards in agriculture. The proposed standards make a few very small changes to current law and contain exemptions you could drive a gigantic combine through to get around even those changes. But you would never know the truth about these child labor laws if you read the Farm Press and political hay that is being made.Instead, you’d find a a steady stream of ads, talk radio shows, sign-on letters, social media forwards, etc. that discuss these proposed rules as “the end of rural culture.” To hear their (false) version of the rules, 4H and FFA programs will be shut down. Farm kids won’t be allowed to help with the chores. Farm country will be de-populated by an armed group of thuggish cops that put farmers behind bars for having their children collect eggs in the henhouse like they have for generations.

And while we fully expect to hear the constant drumbeat of this “regulation is just killing agriculture” narrative from the Big Ag Elite (despite the fact that the act of farming itself is virtually regulation-free), we are continually surprised about the fury and venom with which this same message comes out of many within the local food world. Joel Salatin is often put out there in the spotlight as a champion of all things local and natural. But Salatin himself continually speaks and writes that regulation and big government are his greatest enemy (he even wrote a book called, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.) The so-called “Food Freedom” movement is aghast at the Food and Drug Administration for trying regulate raw and cultured food products.

These folks are the Tea Party of the agriculture scene, many of them writing glowing endorsements of Ron Paul in his bid for the Presidency. And also like the Tea Party, their notions about politics and policies are informed more by sentiment than fact. They cast their lot with mostly failed individualism as a solution to broad-based social challenges rather than attempting to address the root of the problem (increasing concentration of wealth and power, money-based politics and a lack of adequate safety nets and resources to improve quality-of-life for all people).

This is the context as we see it for the great battle being drawn over child labor standards and agriculture in this election year. We are exploring why many farmers and rural people should re-think their knee-jerk response to the proposed rules (We definitely support the rules). Our next post in the series will explain the realities of the proposed changes and explore the 4H and FFA implications of the rules, as well as documenting many of the facts about the real dangers facing farmers and farmworkers. The final post will contain additional political analysis of the issue from our Progressive Small Town perspective.

Keep the conversation going at

A Review of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run”

Reporter Christopher McDougall’s 2009 book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen chronicles the delicately interwoven tales of a variety of runners. The book has given way to a new philosophy on running that is emerging as the healthier way to run and live. In his book, McDougall explores how people get into ultra-running, the nutritional benefits of veganism, possible reasons why humans are thought to be designed for running, and most importantly; why barefoot or “minimalist” running form is a superior form.

McDougall starts off the book discussing his own issues with running and how doctors kept prescribing orthotics and telling him that at six foot four inches and 238 pounds, he should just accept that he wasn’t meant for running. As a contributing editor for Men’s Health who’s participated in a variety of extreme sports over the years he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He set out to find “Caballo Blanco” a former boxer who McDougall had a read about who now lived in Mexico and ran with the Tarahumara, an elite tribe of ultra-runners in Mexico’s Copper Canyons.

McDougall finds Caballo and gives us the full story on how the Tarahumara can run races hundreds of miles long while most of us can only run a few short miles at a time and manage to frequently injure ourselves. Together, McDougall and Caballo plan a race in the Copper Canyons that brings some of the world’s best ultra-runners together with the Tarahumara to celebrate a mutual love of running.

The book jumps around a lot from runner to runner as we get each character’s background stories. Intermixed with those stories are some informative chapters over several interesting elements of running and its history. McDougall focuses primarily on the running man theory as the cornerstone for the book. It hypothesizes that humans evolved as a species that chased animals as a large group until the animals became exhausted and the humans could catch and eat them. This tied into the topic of veganism, which the book says is the type of diet the running man followed since humans evolved as hunter-gatherers, gathering plant sources of food and hunting the very occasional animal for growing children and pregnant women in their group to eat. McDougall’s book supports the modern application of this theory by detailing the accomplishments of the record breaking vegan ultra-runner, Scott Jurek, whose own book, Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey To Ultramarathon Greatness, on vegan ultra running should be on shelves this June.

Obviously the running man couldn’t pop into the store for a fresh pair of Nikes, nor do the Tarahumara. This leads us to the part of the book that has really altered running culture since it’s publication, the idea that we are designed to run barefoot. McDougall accuses Nike of creating a shoe industry where thick padded shoes cause people to land on their heels with their knees locked and legs stretched out in front of them, forcing their joints and backs to bear the brunt of running. The barefoot running style, on the other hand, includes bending at the hips, knees, and ankles with your back straight, allowing your muscles to absorb all of the forces of running.

There are parts of the book that feel slightly drawn out but it does include a lot of interesting stories and information. In the end, it’s a book full of useful information that you are welcome to embrace or regard with skepticism. Either way, McDougall has helped bring about a change in running culture that includes the development of many new minimalistic running shoes. It has also helped provided more evidence of the nutritional value of a vegan diet, something that more people are embracing today. It will be interesting to see this change develop as more research is conducted, and more books are written, on the topics McDougall covers.

From dustbin to Mexico: a True/False sustainability story

The bin near the True/False office has many cardboard boxes that could be reused.

By Echo Zhang

The day after the legendary True/False film festival, I stood in front of the recycle bin and found my treasure: cardboard boxes for shipping the documentary files to another festival in Mexico. It was my big mission volunteering as Errand Runner that day to help T/F shipping go green!  The idea came from charge staff Sarah Haas and Steve Witzig: instead of ordering new shipping boxes, they decided to use old ones. By receiving these reused packages, the recipients also get to be exposed to the sustainable recycling idea, which then will build up the entire green circle.

Besides this tiny but smart green effort, the 2012 True/False festival undertook a broad strategy to maintain sustainability.

“The major sustain efforts were to encourage bike usage during the Fest and to provide filmmakers and other guests with carpooling transportation options,” Sarah says.

One transportation volunteer told me that she was so excited to see some film directors and musicians, once she even got a “generous tip” for her late night pick up. Besides being an anecdote, I also read it as a token to show the friendly, casual atmosphere the fest had set up resulting from green trial.

Volunteers setting up Forrest theater, putting up curtains made from reused material.

Moreover, being the fest’s creative and stylish part, the art design and stage sets were greatly made of reused material, for instance, the trees and curtains in the new venue Forrest theater. So is the “influencing machine”.

In the future, Sarah suggests more recycling containers at every venue and clearly marking them for things such as paper coffee cups. Most importantly, True/False will always welcome creative sustainers to contribute more advice to make the festival more sustainable and delightful.

You are not a bear: 8 outdoor safety tips for Spring Break

Rule #1: We don’t demand that you hold hands while crossing the street (nor are we opposed to it), but the buddy system is tried and true. Whether you’re camping, hiking or kayaking, carving the mountains or carving the waves, the outdoors are way more fun with friends (and dolphins). Keep in mind that, no matter how tame your adventures may seem, accidents do happen; having a buddy helps keep them from becoming disasters.

Rule #2: GO WITH A BUDDY. No exceptions.

American Black Bear. Part of the Illinois Urban Landscapes Project:

Rule #3: The water may look clear, but remember that amoebas are really, really tiny. Before you eat or drink anything out in the wild, make sure you know where it came from, and what risks may be present by consuming it. You can boil your water, or chemically sterilize it, but more often you’re just better off bringing enough from home. Additionally, if you feel inclined to eat anything, make sure you know exactly what it is. Or better yet, if you find it on the ground, just leave it there. You are not a bear.

Rule #4: It’s highly unlikely that you will encounter a shark over Spring Break. Or ever. And despite what you may hear, it’s actually really difficult to hold yourself still in a little ball while a 20-foot apex predator evaluates you for marbling and tenderness. There are many (by now, cliché) defensive strategies you can resort to if you encounter hostile marine life – curling up in the aforementioned ball, or punching wildly at its gills, nose and eyes. But bear in mind that it’s not only sharks you have to be cautious of, and the safest way to enjoy the ocean is usually by staying where everyone else is. Your goal may be to avoid the crowds, but sharks and jellyfish feel the same way.

Rule #5: terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and chap stick should keep the elements at bay.

Geïmproviseerd zonnescherm / improvised sun screen from Nationaal Archief.

Rule #6: It rubs the sunscreen on its skin or else it gets the melanoma again – among the top ten cancer types in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute. Sunburns aren’t just annoying; they can be really painful, become infected, blister, and even leave scars. And by Spring Break your skin is primed for them – after hiding underneath layers of clothing all winter, your skin isn’t as ready as you are to deal with the sudden, intense exposure associated with frolicking joyfully on the beach. And just realize this: it’s much more fashionable to massage sunscreen into someones shoulders than to slather aloe vera all over their dry, sun-beaten back.

Bonfires Are Permitted on the Camping Ground of Long Key State Park, Midway between Key Largo and Key West. From Project DOCUMERICA

Rule #7: 10/10 doctors, teachers and Supreme Court justices agree that campfires are fun. But they can also go awry very quickly, and without you necessarily noticing. If you’re building a fire, make sure you follow some of the basic rules, like setting it in a pit (some campsites have them prepared for you) and clearing the area around it of all loose debris. Make sure the wind isn’t going to send your tent or anything else up in flames. And even when the embers look like they’ve finally cooled down, they haven’t. This is especially true with charcoal, which can remain hot for hours. Nothing can ruin your day like a surprise coal-walk.

Rule #8: If you go anywhere, particularly by car, it’s always handy to have a bag of snacks and supplies. Inevitably, somebody this Spring Break is going to get stuck on the road, in the middle of nowhere, waiting and wondering why, oh why did they not at least pack some Gatorade or bring the bag of Gummy Bears they left on the counter. Keeping some basic tools, a small first aid kit and some non-perishable snackage in the trunk at all times is an easy, one-time way to give yourself a little insurance against that one tack in the road. Also, toilet paper is like the evolutionary cousin of duct tape: it does one thing really well, but has endless possible uses at the same time. Pack a roll.

By Cade Cleavelin and Tina Casagrand

Spring abounds at Pinnacles Youth Park

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This past weekend I was lucky enough to visit Pinnacles Youth Park, located about 12 miles north of MU’s campus off U.S. 63, on two separate occasions.

As a recent immigrant from Texas, I’m enamored with the concept of spring. This season, and any other besides stifling summer, is a phenomenon that is largely absent from all parts of the Lone Star State, and something I’ve never encountered.

In Missouri, the trees bloom. The flowers shoot through the ground and blanket flowerbeds with vibrant blossoms seemingly overnight, enveloping the air with their fragrance. The sun peaks through the clouds in the morning and it rains in the afternoon, never reaching much higher than a mild 75 degrees.

In Texas, there are two colors and two temperatures throughout the year — green and warm if you’re lucky, and brown and boiling if you aren’t.

As someone who moved to the Midwest after the summer of one of the worst drought’s in Texas’ history, I can’t believe that flowers that are planted here in October can survive to bloom in March.

Pinnacles Youth Park only furthered my admiration for Mother Nature’s most recent debut.

Friday afternoon afforded me the opportunity to hike with friends up the trail and across the park’s various rock faces and cliffs. We spotted the first signs of budding trees rebounding from winter, and saw flowers blossoming on Dogwoods.

Saturday morning gave me the chance to see the sunrise from atop one of the peaks at Pinnacles— an opportunity not to be missed, and without a doubt one of the highlights of this Texan’s first spring here in Columbia.

One Week of Trash in Pictures

While people are told not to litter, a lot of people still end up doing it.  Still, there are people who are good Samaritans who pick up trash and put it in a trashcan. But how much trash would add up if it were collected over the course of a week? While the end product probably would not even make a dent in amount of trash in Columbia, it is still a large enough amount.

In the end the amount of trash that was collected over a week was about on medium size trash bag’s worth. And the amount that was recycled filled up two plastic shopping bags. If you want to learn more about recycling and waste at Mizzou, then look at the Solid Waste Management and Recycling webpage and also the Sustainability Office’s Recycling webpage.

Green is more than a color in MU Art department

Associate professor of painting William Hawk has been working at the University of Missouri for almost fourteen years, and his continued efforts to create a more sustainable department have made a significant impact on the practices of his students and colleagues.

Wiliam Hawk, associate professor of painting, promotes the sustainable use and disposal of art supplies in MU's Art department.

Since his arrival at MU, Hawk has noticed issues of sustainability rise to the forefront in the art department and the art community in general.

“I think the campus is a lot more conscious about recycling and managing waste than it was when I first got here,” Hawk said. “When I first got here, I set up recycling for our bottles in laundry hampers. Now, throughout the department, you’re seeing other professors doing similar things. For example, in the paint room, we’ve added a recycling solvent system so we aren’t just going through solvent like we used to.”

The solvent system in the paintroom is essentially a simple filtering system that separates environmentally-harmful solvent from water used to wash paintbrushes. The paint and solvent settles to the bottom of the tank, allowing the comparatively cleaner water to rise the top and be extracted. The department leaves the toxic chemicals to be disposed of properly by MU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

In addition to filtering toxins out of waste, Hawk said the art department is making sustainable choices when selecting materials.

“We’re also using chemicals that are a lot less harmful to the environm-

The solvent sink pictured here allows for the disposal of leftover paint in an environmentally-conscious way. Students are instructed on how best to handle potentially toxic materials.

ent. We’ve shifted the pigments we use away from the more toxic chemicals to more benign ones.”

The Environmental Protective Agency puts paint on its top-five list of environmental hazards, a ranking that resonates deeply with many artists. Hawk says he has seen a developing trend among painters to decrease their toxic footprint while continuing to create art.

“There are a lot of art schools that are really taking [sustainability] seriously,” Hawk said. “Of course, there are artists that make work specifically about these issues. That’s their cause and the meaning of their work. Instead of buying new paint, they’ll use the medium of collage more. They’re really making environmentally-conscious choices about the materials they use.”

Story and photos by Batul Hassan

A quick guide to the Missouri night sky

One of the most under appreciated benefits of warmer weather in the spring is how bearable the outdoors become after sundown. With the absence of the sun’s direct radiation, winter nights have little going for them – nobody wants to be dark and uncomfortable. But for those of us without aversions to late nights, spring means the amount of reasonable outdoor time has just doubled, giving us the benefits of clear days, warm evenings and a very different kind of sky at night.

Stargazing is one of those iconic, all-American pass times we get really excited about when we go camping, or after watching the movie October Sky. But its origins go back as far as Old Babylon, when ancient philosophers-turned-stargazers attempted to explain the presence of these flickering ethereal points of light, deciding that some sets seemed to outline the rough contours of bears, scorpions and winged horses.

“See, that could be a horse. Kinda. Come on, doesn’t that look like a horse? I think it looks like a horse. It’s probably Pegasus.”

A view of the southern sky from central Missouri this time of year. As the season progresses these features will move gradually westward (to the right, in the image). | John Walker, Fourmilab.

And so, arbitrary as they were, the constellations became relevant. Today we understand that they’re made up almost entirely of dissociated stars, and it’s only our perspective on earth that makes them appear grouped.  But they’ve long served as markers and helpful guides, and to date there’s no better system of mapping the night sky.

If you would like better bearings on your orientation in the cosmos, there are several significant features you can immediately identify. A good place to start is figuring out roughly where the brightest objects, the planets, should be this time of year. Venus and Jupiter are the second and third brightest objects in the night sky (surpassed only by the moon’s intensity), and if you look to the west for the next few nights you can see them falling out of alignment. The brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, lies to the lower left of the constellation Orion.

The moon is our ever-present companion, and as such is often taken for granted. But with just a basic telescope or a nice pair of binoculars, its cratered surface is highly observable. With some longer lenses and a tripod, you can even snap impressive pictures from right where you stand (or better yet, you can attach your camera to a telescope with a camera adapter).

A waxing half moon | Dark Sky Astronomy

To get the best sense of the moon’s dimensionality, though, don’t hold out for a full moon, but rather just as it waxes and wanes. The angle of the sun’s light with respect to our vantage point on earth throws the moon’s craters into sharper relief than when the moon is fully lit.

Anyone who has spent any serious time looking at the stars will tell you, there’s nothing to make you feel small like looking at the entire galaxy. If you ever get a chance to see the Milky Way, it’s a fascinating and serene image. It’s maybe even a little intimidating to think that you’re looking straight into the core of everything visible in our galaxy.

Disappointingly, though, any serious stargazing for mid-Missourians is going to require a commute. Columbia is at the nucleus of a wide network of light pollution, breaking only briefly with that of Kansas City, and not at all on the way to St. Louis. It’s one of the hidden costs of being only 2 hours away from major metropolitan areas to the east and west.

Urban sprawl and scattered townships along I-70 produce a lot of light pollution in central Missouri. Light Pollution Map Layer by P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), and C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder). Copyright Royal Astronomical Society.

Light pollution can be thought of as smog. But unlike carbon-based pollution, light pollution is composed of photons. Light from buildings and street lamps reflects off of moisture in the atmosphere and is directed back towards the ground, creating a luminous haze that obstructs a clear view of the sky behind it. It’s the last barrier light has to overcome after at least a 16 year voyage through space and an entire atmosphere. Additionally, Columbia lies only a few hundred feet above sea level, so there’s more atmosphere on average getting between us and the constellations – not quite ideal.

However, if you can find a spot of open sky, you can still easily make out the major features of our solar system and constellations. In fact, huge swaths of open sky are nice, but having buildings and landmarks around you to serve as familiar reference points (when measuring the azimuth) is not a bad idea.

You can also visit the Laws Observatory atop the MU Physics building on Wednesdays from 8:00 p.m. to around 10:00 p.m. (weather permitting, of course).

So, if you find yourself in want of quiet stimulation on a warm, clear evening, there’s nothing like the entire galaxy to make one feel truly, cosmically insignificant. Grab some friends, or go alone (but know how to be safe!), and spend an evening outdoors appreciating the greater cosmos.