Inciting local businesses to change: Carrot Mob at Shakespeare’s

In a boycott, everyone loses. In a Carrot Mob, everyone WINS! That’s the basic premise of today’s Carrot Mob at Shakespeare’s, part of Sustain Mizzou’s Sustainability Week.

Sustain Mizzou is challenging YOU to join the Carrot Mob campaign TODAY.

Print this flier, take it to Shake's, and 15% of their sales will go back into energy efficiency updates. Since commercial buildings use a significant amount of total U.S. energy, this is a small step toward a HUGE collective impact.

It’s a party, not a protest! On April 26th join us at the yummiest event of MU’s Sustainability Week to chow down and save the planet, all in one bite (or gulp). Here’s the deal: you buy pizza or beer, then Shakespeare’s will take 15% of the money from your purchase and re-invest it in an energy audit and energy efficiency retrofits at the store. Here’s the catch: for your money to count you’ll need a super-secret code from Sustain Mizzou. You’ll be able to find us at Earth Day, on Lowry Mall during Sustainability Week (April 23-27), on Facebook, and prancing around Columbia in carrot costumes.

Traditionally mobs have formed to protest businesses with bad practices, but this Carrotmob campaign will be the opposite of a boycott: we’ll party at Shake’s to bring more customers to a local company with good practices!

So grab some friends, track us down, and join the Carrotmob! You’ll have never felt so good about stuffing your face.

Impress your friends with Ichthyology!

In honor of an Ichthyology exam I probably failed today, I thought I’d share what such an exam entails:

30-40 dead fish, which our TA must sprinkle with alcohol every half-hour to keep them “fresh.” During the test, we hop from one seat to the next, identifying each specimen by its Latin name. It involves counting scales and recalling which minnow has a dorsal fin in front of its pelvic fin. Sometimes this process is spiced up by a question such as, “what does this fish eat?” Thrilling.

Ok, so really this part is tedious. But the process of learning about fish diversity, especially in our own backyards, is really fun! I have a couple of new favorite fish, and I can impress all my friends at parties by explaining fin functions at parties. And now, with this personal gallery of 59 pictures of preserved fish specimens, you can, too! But really, if you’re interested, check out The Fishes of Missouri by William L Pflieger. The book is no longer in print, but the University Bookstore custom prints them for the spring class. Happy fishing!

Photos all taken from Ichthyology lab specimens at the University of Missouri.

Ground Level Ozone: Stop Ignoring and Start Loving Vapor Recovery Nozzles

Normally when your tank fills up you just replace the nozzle, but unfortunately that often causes some gasoline to, uh, dribble out accidentally. This is bad, and the gas vapor and spilled gasoline will contribute to ground level ozone. (More about why it’s bad later) In a large metro area like St. Louis, gas nozzles come with vapor recovery hoods. Although stickers with instructions are printed and display, I’ve never seen anyone actually read or use them. So today I’m going to tell you how to use them in 3 steps.

  1. Don’t replace the nozzle right after filling up. Wait 3 seconds.
  2. After waiting, insert the nozzle deeper into your gas tank, so that the rubber hood becomes all scrunched up. I will refrain from making any inappropriate sexual comments despite how obvious it all seems.
  3. After a second or two, feel free to replace the nozzle. There should be no spilled gas nor shall gasoline vapor end up.

To give you an example of how this should look, I have included two images. The first one shows the recovery nozzle in it’s natural, unperturbed form. The second shows what it should look like when you push it in all the way, bro.

Smog is Bad
Kills your lungs

So there you go, you’re now an instant expert not only on ground level ozone but also how to properly fill up your tank in St. Louis.

Now,  why this is important and why you should feel bad if you aren’t doing this already:

For asthmatics, the elderly, and those who’ve smoked a pack of American Spirits daily for years, summer can suck (as well as other seasons, depending on what bothers your lungs). Not only is hot and humid air just objectively harder to breathe, but summer also brings the relentless sunshine and heat that encourages ground level ozone formation.

But wait, Ozone is good right? Yes, Ozone is fantastic and prevents our skin from melting off like the Nazi Doctor guy who opened the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Just kidding. It’s protective ability is not that dramatic, but it does prevent a lot of harmful ultraviolet radiation from cooking your skin cells and mutating their DNA into unfriendly, cancerous skin DNA.

However, Ozone (O3, that’s right, it’s not 2 but 3 oxygen molecules) does that in the upper atmosphere best. At ground level it can totally ruin your day. Scientists now believe there is a strong association between exposure to ground level ozone and premature death, According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cutting ground level ozone emissions by a third nationwide would save 4,000 lives annually.

So, how is ground level ozone formed? In large part, due to almost everything in modern life, man.  Ground level ozone forms from the leftovers of the various nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and classes of compounds known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) spewed into the air by modern, western society. To give you a scope of how much precursor material put out that can form ground level ozone, consider how we power our homes to our cars. Most of us (Midwesterners more) use a lot of fossil fuels. These fuels are organic in nature, and once out in the open air they release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Sunshine and heat (it’s fucking hot and sunny in summer in a lot of places here, if you haven’t figured it out yet) conspire to break up these chemically volatile and fragile molecules. When broken up, some of the attached oxygen molecules in these compounds peace the hell out and attach themselves to floating, regular O2 molecules. The ones that people like to breathe, unfortunately. Keep in mind, I mentioned fossil fuels, but VOCs can be found anywhere, including windshield wiper fluid, perfume, and even oil based paint (I’m looking at you here, Tina). Add that all up, and you can how the problem can snowball out of control.

I’m going to throw this right out here: there is not going to be a quick fix. Many of the chemicals that are precursors are also extremely necessary in modern life. So we can all do our part to use less of them. However, I have advertised one neat feature that is featured on gas pumps in large cities with smog issues. They are called vapor recovery nozzles.

Edible Columbia Tour on May 6

Fresh romaine lettuce. Photo by Kat Seal.

The Center for Sustainable Living will take a caravan tour of the urban gardens of Columbia to learn about edible landscapes, urban farming, herb gardening, rain gardens, raised beds and much more! The tour will run from 2 to 5 p.m. The final stop of the tour is Comedor Popular, the new eatery opened by Centro Latino, where we will feast on a local, organic, vegan meal.

Tickets are available at the Peace Nook, 804C E. Broadway. Price includes dinner after the tour.

  • $10-20 donation per ticket
  • $7.50 for students/low income
  • $5 for children 6-12 (kids under 6 are free!)

Advanced ticket required. Limited seating available!

Brought to you by Peaceworks Center for Sustainable Living with support from Centro Latino, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Community Garden Coalition, Rubicon Farm, Saint Francis Catholic Worker Community and Terra Nova Community.  Please call 573-875-0539 for more info.

Dumpster Diving, Oral History and Food Insecurity

During Sustainability Week, join Sustain Mizzou on Thursday, April 26 at 6 p.m. in Strickland 204 to hear a keynote talk by Rachel Vaughn, an expert on food insecurity and oral history.

Rachel Vaughn holds a PhD in American Studies, and graduate certificate in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from the University of Kansas. She is currently the 2011-2012 Visiting Fellow in the Oklahoma State University Gender & Women’s Studies Program, where she teaches courses in Gender Studies, Foodways and Transnational Women’s Studies. She is the author of the essay, “‘Pretty Little Rags and Bones’: Popular Representations of Dumpster Diners and a Politics of Clean”—part of a forthcoming collection, American Dirt.

In light of current trends to address the question of real food and what to eat—for instance, the work of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Carlo Petrini, Jaimie Oliver, and Alice Waters—comes a broader question of the politics of such constructions of food as it revolutionizes contemporary food discourses. Situating my oral history research with dumpster divers of varying food security levels, I explore how the space of the dumpster and the act of diving work as alternative forms of cultural knowledge about food, albeit marginalized, socially unacceptable forms; necessitating an expansion in thinking of what might be considered commons public spaces, and what/where gets currently constructed as real food or real food sources. Ultimately, I ask how the labels ‘real,’ or by default ‘un-real’, ‘edible’ or ‘inedible’ might effect people of varying food in/securities, given the current food systems we eat within in the US.

As the UN suggests, if we fundamentally see food as a human right not a privilege based on access to special resources, popular US food movements need to continue reaching out to broader, economically limited actors to effect necessary large-scale paradigm shifts. I do not intend to offer ‘counter’ prescriptions by way of the dumpster; however, I maintain it is crucial to pay attention to the complex ways in which people of varying food securities arrive at, resist, or otherwise address questions of food accessibility and security. This is particularly of import in a historical moment of intensified international concern over food systems, increasing emergency food dependence, and intensified systemic food waste ‘re-discovery,’ such as the work of Jonathan Bloom or Tristram Stuart.

A Beginner’s Guide to Running in The Barefoot Style

Ultra-runner Micah True running in a pair of sandals.
Luis Escobar/Reflections Photography

Whether you are already a runner or want to become one, “barefoot” or minimalist running is a great and healthy way to run. Agree or disagree with that statement all you want, but if you want to know how to go about running in the “barefoot” style, this is a guide for you. (And don’t worry if you want to keep your feet covered. While it is called “barefoot running” you do not actually need to run shoeless to use this technique.)

Step One: A Rule to Remember

The most important thing anyone can ever tell you about running, regardless of your running style, is what the recently deceased eccentric ultra-runner, Caballo Blanco (a.k.a Micah True), told writer Christopher McDougall when he was writing his 2006 book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless… When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

In reality, you just need to remember “Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast”, in that order, to be a successful runner.

Step Two: Take Your Shoes Off and Become Aware

Take your shoes off. (Calm down, you can put them back on in a minute!) Go to a track. An indoor track might be kinder on your newly shoeless feet. Put in some headphones and listen to an audio book or a podcast of the BBC News, you don’t need music getting you all wound up and ready to run at full speed.

Pay attention ONLY to what you are listening to, not to what your body is doing, and run a slow lap (or part of one) around the track. A good rule of thumb for running slowly is to run at such a pace that you can manage to breath using only your nose. If you are new to running you may have to breath through your mouth, but that is okay.

Now, without stopping, run another lap (or part of one) while paying attention to what your body is doing. Don’t try to change what your body is doing, just become aware of it.

You should also notice that instead of your feet landing out in front of you they are landing below you. Also, you are not on your heels, but either on the balls of your feet or on your midfoot, with your feet flat like a pancake, with the weight being distributed evenly between your heels and the balls of your feet.

Either of these is great. It is also what you should try to do when you have your shoes on. Avoid landing on your toes (in front of the balls of your feet) as this can stress the foot in a manner which it is not meant to be stressed.

Step Three: Finding Perfect Form

Go stand in front of a mirror. Stand up straight! Face the mirror, with your feet hips width apart, your arms at your sides. Imagine there is a string attached to the back of your neck and it is pulling you straight up. Bring your shoulders down, back, and slightly together, so that they are straight and not hunched over.

Now that you are standing up straight bend slightly at the knees. Your hips will naturally bend a little bit as well. Remain standing up straight from the waist up.

Now turn to the side and look in the mirror. Your hips and your feet should be lined up vertically. In other words, your feet are directly below your hips when you are standing with your knees and hips slightly bent.

To maintain proper form, this is how you should look when you land on your feet. Landing with your legs extended out in front of you with your knees locked torques your hips in a manner that can damage them and puts unnecessary force on your knees that can severely harm them as well. Landing with your knees bent and your feet and hips lined up, or “stacked” on top of each, other allows your muscles to do their job of absorbing the impact forces of running.

Step Four: Put It All Together

Now that you know the various components, try them out. Go for another lap around the track focusing on maintaining good form.

Go through a mental check list:

-Land on your midfoot or the balls of your feet

-Land with your knees bent and your hips stacked above your feet

-Keep your back straight

-Keep your shoulders pulled back, down, and relaxed

The key here is to be aware.

To move forward you don’t even really want to push forward. You just lift your feet, one at a time, back behind you and then let them fall. Running is not pushing forward, but leaning your entire body (not just the top half) ever so slightly forward and taking next step is what keeps you from falling over completely. The leaning should be as though you were walking up a hill. Be sure to take shorter strides to insure that you are keeping your feet and hips stacked.

Your arms should be at your sides, bent to roughly 90 degree angles at the elbows, with your hands in front of you. Swing them forward and backward. Do not twist from your hips to the right or left as you swing your arms, keep your torso pointed straight ahead at all times.

All of this should be done in a relaxed manner without any muscles being tensed up. As I said, it is as though you were falling forward and catching yourself with each step. And as Caballo Blanco said, it should be easy.

Step Five: Increase Your “Barefoot” Mileage 

If you are switching from “traditional” running shoes with fancy arch supports and thick heels you want to transition slowly to barefoot or minimalist shoes. Switching over too quickly could result in injury or just unnecessary pain.

You want to follow the same “10% rule” that you use when increasing your mileage. In other words, the fist week of running “barefoot”, the actual “barefoot” part should only account for 10% of your running. From then on out, increase the amount you run “barefoot” by 10% each week until you feel comfortable doing all of your running barefoot. You should also avoid running “barefoot” two days in a row during this transition phase.

For those of you who are new to running go for a short run, no more than a mile, maybe two miles if you are already physically active and just haven’t done running as a standalone sport before. You could do this maybe two or three times the first week. From then on out you will want to increase your mileage each week by 10% of the previous week’s mileage. So if you run 10 miles one week, you would run 11 miles the next week. And in reality, you might find the 10% can be the 20% or 30% rule until you get up to 10 miles per week. The key to running safely is to listen to your body and do what you are physically comfortable with.

Step Six: Find Some Good Minimalist Footwear (If you don’t want to be barefoot.)

You will want to go to your local running store that specializes in “barefoot” footwear and try on a few pairs of minimalist shoes. If you live here, in Columbia, Missouri, Starting Block is a great place to go.

Before you go to a store read a few reviews on minimalist shoes so you know what you are talking about and what is available. You could easily walk into a store that does not have a wide variety of minimalist shoes and find yourself unnecessarily limited in choices. The website for the most comprehensive set of minimalist footwear reviews is

You will likely jump on the bandwagon and go with a pair of FiveFingers from the minimalist shoe market leader, Vibram, who also makes soles for many of the other minimalist shoe brands. But be sure to try on other minimalist shoes. They do not necessarily need to be thin soled, they can be cushioned if you want. The main idea is to get a pair of shoes that has a small “heel to toe drop”. Meaning that the difference in height between your heel and your toes is as small as possible in those shoes.

Once you have read up on the topic go try on a few pairs. If you go to a store, such as Starting Block, that specializes in “barefoot” running and even gives lessons on how to run in this style, it is a good idea to buy your first pair of minimalist shoes from that store and even take a class. Buying the shoes on the internet may be cheaper, but when starting out the advice of a good intentioned shoe store with well informed employees can be quite valuable and worth the extra money. It can also help you discover the local running community.

Step Seven: Go Running!

Now that you know how to run with proper “barefoot” form, get out there and do it!

If you are just starting running for general health reasons, or for weight loss, a good rule of thumb is to go for longer runs at a slower pace. Go for runs like these at a pace that allows you to breath easily through your nose, especially when starting out. Though as stated earlier, breath through your mouth if you need to.

Once running in this manner becomes easy and routine to the point that you can do it without concentrating, you can focus on making it light. That is to say be sure you do not to hammer into the ground, but land softly as though you were nearly weightless. As the quote from the Tao Te Ching says on the opening page of McDougall’s Born To Run, “The best runner leaves no tracks”.

Once you have achieved lightness aim to be smooth as though you are gliding along in a continuous motion like a train rolling down a railroad. For a good example look at some YouTube videos of Kenyan runners or an Olympic Champion like Haile Gebrselassie.

Once you have succeeded at these things and you are running a few times a week you can increase your speed. One of your runs each week can even be dedicated to running a few sprints of shorter distances at high speed.

If you just remember to maintain proper form, listen to your body, and enjoy yourself, you will do just fine!

Happy Running!

Those wanting to read more guides to barefoot running are highly encouraged to check out this one by Vibram.

Those wanting to know more about running in general should check out McDougall’s book, a review of which can be found here.

A Saturday at the Columbia Farmer’s Market

This past weekend was the second Saturday of the Columbia Farmer’s Market season.  Even though a lot of the time it was either raining or threatening to rain, there were still a lot of people who braved the elements to get their local produce.  Walking down the lane there was a large variety of produce for sale, but there were also other stands that sold items such as meat, fish, baked goods, plants and cupcakes.

This year the Columbia Farmer’s Market received a grant from the USDA, according to Columbia Transportation’s website, for a bus to run to transport people to and from the Columbia Farmer’s Market. If you visit Columbia Transportation’s website there is a map of the bus route and also the times that the bus runs.

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Going to the farmers market is a lot of fun. There is plentiful produce and other food items to be bought. You get to see people you know, or you can cultivate friendships with the stall owners. All in all, going to Columbia Farmer’s Market is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

Click below for some recipes for the different vegetables in the slideshow.

Radishes, beets, white turnips, leeks and green onions.

Is your life too plastic? “Bag It” film screening next week.

Missouri River Relief, Sustain Mizzou and the Missouri River Communities Network will host a free screening of the award winning film “Bag It” on Monday, April 23rd at 7 p.m. in Strickland 204 on the MU Campus.

Try going a day without plastic.  Plastic is everywhere and infiltrates our lives in unimaginable and frightening ways.  Most of what we eat and drink, and the products we purchase, are packaged and wrapped in petroleum plastic – a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that most people use once and throw away.

In this touching and often funny film, we follow “everyman” Jeb Berrier, who is admittedly not a tree hugger, as he embarks on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world. What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic as it relates to our throw-away mentality, our culture of convenience, our over-consumption of unnecessary, disposable products and packaging – things that we use one time and then, without another thought, throw away.

But where is away? Away is overflowing landfills, clogged rivers, islands of trash in our oceans and even our very own toxic bodies. We see how our “crazy-for-plastic” world has finally caught up to us and what we can do about it.

The average American uses about 500 plastic bags each year, for about 12 minutes each. This single-use mentality for plastics has contributed to the formation of a floating island of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean. The North Pacific Gyre is an area roughly twice the size of Texas, some say as big as the United States.

Featuring interviews with scientists and experts from around the world, Bag It is a first-person documentary in the style of Michael Moore, asking how we can incorporate healthy, more environmentally friendly practices into our lives, our cultures, and our communities.

“I didn’t expect a movie about plastic bags to change my life in such a deep and profound way.  Gripping, funny, intelligent, and sure to change your life.”

–  Louie Psihoyos, Director of The Cove

This free and open to the public screening is brought to you by Missouri River Relief, Sustain Mizzou & Missouri River Communities Network.  Please join us on Monday, April 23 at 7 p.m. to learn more about how plastic affects our world and what we can do about it as we kick-off Sustainability Week.  If you don’t do anything else on Earth Day this April, come see this film and bring a friend.

Fore more information about plastic in our environment and its effects, check out Melanie Cheney’s blog, Plastic Soup News.

Spring Flowers: Falling by the Minute

During my spring break my family and I went to Dallas Blooms. It was this fantastic display of all different kinds of spring flowers at the Dallas Arboretum. While we were there we got to see all different kinds of tulips, azaleas, daffodils, snapdragons, with other flowers, but it was mostly tulips. Getting to see all the different flowers in bloom was wonderful, but back home in Missouri our spring flowers were marching on without us to enjoy them.

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The early spring was noted by Pat Guinan, that State Climatologist. There is an interesting article on the Missouri Climate Center website on our extremely warm March. According to Guinan, there were more than 7,700 daily temperature records broken in March. Also, in Guinan’s article the Midwestern Climate Center listed Missouri as one of nine Midwestern states that had its warmest March on record.

People are not the only things affected by the abnormal temperatures. On campus, saucer magnolias had already bloomed before spring break even started. Saucer magnolias are the ones that are the trees that have the whitish- pinkish blooms all over the tree. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, in their Missouri Urban Tree guide, the saucer magnolia is supposed to bloom in the early springtime. But never in my time at Mizzou have I seen it bloom so early.

And this heat wave that Missouri has experienced is going to be problematic for reasons other than just pure aesthetic value of the flowers. There are multiple places across Missouri that have flower festivals. Unfortunately for these festivals there will be few, if any, flowers that the festival is being held for.

In the bootheel of Missouri there is a dogwood and azalea festival. Charleston’s Dogwood and Azalea festival will be very bereft when both the dogwood and azaleas have already bloomed before the scheduled weekend of the 19th of April.

Enjoy the spring flowers that are still left, because they are going to go quickly with summer fast approaching.

For more information about plants at Mizzou go to the Mizzou Botanic Garden website.

Get to know your bike: now through April 30

Attend a crash course on bicycle safety, maintenance, and mechanics! 4 sessions for $15 or individual classes for $5.
  • Week 1: Anti-Road Rage – Learn how not to infuriate drivers! Use the rules of the road to stay safe (April 9).
  • Week 2: Mechanical Lore – Learn the mechanical mysteries of your bike (April 16).
  • Week 3: Don’t be a tool… – Learn how to use them! Use tools to repair any bicycle mishap (April 23).
  • Week 4: Outdoor Bike-venture – Apply your new found know-how in an outdoor group ride around Columbia! (April 30).
When: Mondays in April (April 9, 16, 23, and 30) from 6 – 7 p.m.
Where: Middlebush 132
How: Register at the MSA/GPC Box Office (Student charge available!)
You can also find this event on Facebook! (although you’ll still need to register!)

We are committed to ensuring that our programs are accessible to all.  If you have a disability and anticipate barriers to your participation, please contact Ben Datema at or 573-882-8207.Sponsored by Student Sustainability in the Department of Student Life and taught by PedNet.