Tag Archives: sustainability

Tip #12: Pot a native Missouri plant!

Yes, just one. If every person planted one native Missouri plant, we’d be out of trouble in no time!

A huge problem facing us today is “invasive species.” They are species of plants and animals which outgrow other plants or animals around them, and take over the landscape. Invasive species are hard to get rid of once they’ve become rooted in an ecosystem, so one of the best ways to combat them is by manually planting native plants and hoping that they’ll balance out.

Planting native plants has a lot of other benefits, as well, though. First of all, they are pretty, which is a huge plus.

Second, plants store CO2, and the more of them there are, the more CO2 is stored somewhere other than the atmosphere. Have you ever noticed walking on a sidewalk, when you pass a large wooded area, the air is colder? It’s because comparatively, plants cool the earth more than concrete and buildings. This is why a lot of people advocate rooftop gardens because they cool whole cities just by existing, which is very cool.

I’ll suggest to you planting the Butterfly Milkweed. This is a plant which is so nicknamed because the Monarch Butterfly uses it to live.



Invasive species and pesticides have been killing Milkweeds, and this has been killing the Monarch Butterfly. Many people have pointed to the weed killer, Round Up, as the biggest culprit in the decline of Milkweed. The maker of Round Up is Monsanto, the same Monsanto which Monsanto Auditorium at Mizzou is named after.

It’s something to think about, you can get Milkweed’s at a local flower shop. Wilson’s Garden Center on Business Loop would be a great place to start!



Tip #5: Buy Local Eggs

Being a sustainable shopper is a hard task, especially as a college student. $100, or even $150, a month doesn’t go as far as you might think, and buying that $3 head of organic broccoli seems like such a waste when there is a $1.50 head right next to it, and they look exactly the same! Plus, sometimes an organic head of broccoli can have just as much of a negative impact on the earth as non-organic, depending on how far it’s traveled and where it’s being grown.

That’s why my fifth Baby Step to Sustainability is buying local eggs.

I eat at least 3 eggs a day, mostly because a hardboiled egg is the only healthy food I know of that leaves me with no dishes to wash. Eggs are filled with nutrients and protein, are low carb, incredibly versatile and insanely cheap. A dozen can cost less than $2 (or, less than 17 cents an egg), and last almost a week.

This is why I suggest that there is no reason that anyone able to spend at least $100 a month on groceries can not shell out an extra $2 (or, an extra 14 cents an egg) on a dozen eggs. Even the most expensive of dozen boxes won’t even amount to 50 cents per egg. Often, if you eat 3 eggs in a morning, you will spend less than $1 for breakfast! That is less than a coffee, and has way more nutrients.

Now on to why it’s sustainable. I’m going to stick to a single point to keep it concise, though there are many reasons that local eggs are better for the environment.

As you may know, Sustain Mizzou -and many other organizations- generally defines sustainability as using resources today in a way that does not sacrifice the resources and comforts of our children and Earth in the future.

Reduction of the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels is generally one of the most sustainable things we can do in this day, in our first world country. (If you’ve forgotten why, our own MacKenzie Reagan explained this in What the Frack is Fracking) last year. Thus buying food which requires minimal transportation is very sustainable- and often a lot cheaper! – than buying food from states and states away.

Luckily, here in the state of Missouri, we have a plethora of farmers who raise chickens. Even the Columbia Center For Urban Agriculture, which is only about a mile north of the University campus, has chickens which produce eggs! Also, at every store in Columbia, there are a variety of local eggs, most notably from the Stanton Brothers who are located in Centralia.

Stanton Bros. Eggs

Yes, those young boys really are the Stanton Brothers. And they really do run a farm of ~12,000 free range chickens. That amazing fact in itself is a post for another day.

I’ve found, (unsurprisingly) that Lucky’s Market is the best place to buy local eggs, with Gerbes coming in for a close second. Most days, Lucky’s has a variety of eight or more different brands of local eggs. These local eggs also often are free range, antibiotic and hormone free and grain fed, all things which you are free to look up on your own, but that we will also be covering in the future under Sustainability 101.


But, if only for the reason that it reduces fossil fuel emissions, please pick local eggs the next time you shop! Even if you buy eggs four times a month, and only do it once, it will be an improvement.

There are many other factors which play into the sustainability of local eggs, but we’ll post about that in the future when we talk more about factory farming and nutrient pollution.

For now, I appreciate all three of you making it to the end of this post (hi mom) and have a great True/False weekend!


What the frack is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing – the technical term for fracking – is a method of getting gas and oil from shale rock, that is, a sedimentary rock made of mud and minerals. First, a hole, called a “wellbore”  is drilled into the rock. Next, a high-pressure liquid –– usually a mix of water, sand and chemicals –– is injected into the wellbore to help the natural gas escape.

Okay, cool –– natural gas. That’s good, right?

Not quite.

Remember when we said the pressured liquid was a mix of water, sand and chemicals? According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates, each fracking session can require anywhere from 2.4 to 7.8 million gallons of water. That’s 2,400,000 to 7,800,000 gallons.

Second, those chemicals required to frack? Yeah, not great for the environment (and, by extension, you). The chemicals used vary (fracking was protected under regulations imposed by Congress in the 2005 Safe Water Drinking Act). Those chemicals can easily flow into potable water –– i.e., the water that you consume –– and ultimately, into your body.

Since, again, the specific chemicals aren’t regulated, frackers are technically allowed to use chemicals like methanol (also found in: antifreeze, vehicle fuel), formaldehyde (a carcinogen, once widely used to preserve specimens in laboratories), lead (another carcinogen that can also cause neurological disorders) and naphthalene (yet another carcinogen, most commonly found in mothballs).

But…it’s safer than coal, right?

Again, not quite.

While burning coal isn’t great for the environment, burning natural gas –– that is, the product of fracking –– releases other gases like methane. So while it’s true, burning coal gives off twice as many carbon dioxide emissions as natural gas, methane traps heat more than 100 times better than an equal amount of carbon dioxide. So ultimately, these methane emissions negate any benefits you’d reap from producing and using natural gas.

Oh, and all that drilling required? Surprisingly, not great for the rocks. Fracking has been credited with creating earthquakes, including a 4.0 quake in Youngstown, Ohio on New Year’s Eve 2011.

In short, dear reader, hydraulic fracturing is a bad frackin’ idea.


  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/scary-chemicals-used-in-hydraulic-fracking-2012-3?op=1
  2. http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/home
  3. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/11/us-ohio-fracking-earthquakes-idUSBREA3A1J620140411
  4. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqinthenews/2011/usc0007f7s/

Sneak Peak: Sustainability Week

It’s been one heck of a year. How is Sustain Mizzou celebrating?

In April, we’re dedicating an entire week to topics and issues surrounding sustainability on campus and in Columbia.

The themes are Waste, Energy, Transportation, Local Food + Local Business, and No Impact

Featured events include an E-Waste Drive, Transportation Fair + Bike Decorating, a benefit concert for the Local Food Drive, Carrot Mob, a keynote presentation on Food Security + Dumpster Diving by Rachel Vaughn, and an Environmental Resource Fair.

Check out our homemade calendar of events and keep a look out for more information!

Solar Dok offers sustainability, convenience

A new picnic table has taken up residence on the south walkway near the Plaza 900 dining hall.

The table, called a Solar Dok, is a solar-powered station produced by EnerFusion for charging cellphones, laptops and other devices.

The Solar Dok was installed on Feb. 20 and allows students to charge devices while enjoying the outdoors.

Solar energy is collected through photovoltaic panels on top of the table and stored in the base to be used to power students’ gadgets.

The number of students using the table has been limited since its installation. Reviews among students are mixed since the table is still relatively new to campus.

“The location of the table seems a bit odd since it’s right along a walkway and everyone eating at Plaza 900 can look at you while you attempt to study. It definitely doesn’t seem like a study spot, more of a spot to socialize,” freshman Sam Rourke said.

However, many students are enticed by the new opportunity to utilize renewable energy.

“I think that the table is a great way for students to learn about sustainability and become aware of ways that they can benefit from alternative sources of energy,” freshman Erin Burris said.

Solar Doks produce an entirely self-sustaining, renewable source of energy, and are made from recycled materials.  The Dok stores electrical energy in batteries and can be used when the sun is shining, as well as during the evening.

The Solar Dok was funded by a grant from the Student Fee Capital Improvement Committee and is sponsored by MU’s Campus Facilities, Sustainability Office and Campus Dining Services.

The table is another step in the University’s efforts to make the campus more sustainable and increase student awareness of green energy.

“Most of the things we’re doing with sustainability are hard to see. We want to get the word out to people about renewable energy, so the table is a demonstration project. It’s off the grid and something people can see right there in front of them and understand that we can produce electricity without using a power plant,” said Steve Burdic, Sustainability Office coordinator.

Depending on the reception of the Solar Dok among students, the Sustainability Office may install additional tables. Students can send comments and opinions about the table to Steve Burdic at burdics@missouri.edu.

Photo by Meghan Eldridge 

Review: the Belkin “Conserve Insight”

Photo from Belkin's Conserve Insight webpage.

By Wilson McNeary

Christmas morning, I opened my gifts, only to find that my family had given me a small device used to monitor energy consumption of electronic appliances: the Belkin “Conserve Insight”.  To most my age, I assume this would be a rather strange gift to pull out of the box; one of those things that the slightly off-kilter great aunt would get you as an alternative to her yearly tube sock bestowal.  However, I was quite excited about this gift.  I had been eager to evaluate how much energy is consumed by the devices I use on a daily basis, and this little guy was going to let me do just that.

The Conserve Insight consists of a small screen connected to a plug/outlet unit.  In order to use it, you simply plug the Insight into a wall outlet, and then plug the device you want to measure into the outlet side of the Insight.  The screen will automatically turn on, giving you a reading on how many Watts of power your device is consuming in its current state.  Underneath the screen there are 3 buttons that let you toggle between measurements the Insight takes: power usage, operating cost over time, and carbon dioxide emissions over time.  The operating cost is calculated using your utility company’s cost per Kilowatt-hour and the wattage your device is consuming at the time of the measurement.  The CO2 released over time is calculated in a similar manner, only a “preset CO2 conversion factor based on averages for your geographic region” (sounds a little vague, eh?) is used by the Insight.  Both the operating cost and CO2 estimations can be given on the basis of a month (30 days) or a year (365 days).

If only had his gift before Christmas, we could have measured the energy use of Columbia's Magic Tree.

I decided that the best device to evaluate the Conserve Insight on first would be my laptop, since it is probably the electronic that I use most.  Upon connecting everything, I let the device go to work.  The Insight will give an initial reading for each of its categories; however, I decided to hold off on recording the measurements for a bit.  After 45 minutes, the Insight goes into “Average Mode,” which gives a more accurate reading for its time-dependent measurements, since it accounts for the device being powered off or in sleep mode.  I waited a few hours (using the computer intermittently and keeping it in sleep mode the rest of the time), and then checked to see what the Insight could tell me.

  • Wattage: 20.1 W
  • Monthly/Yearly operating cost: $1.18/$14.44
  • Monthly/Yearly CO2 emissions: 12.3 lb/150 lb

I attempted to find accepted power consumption values for my specific laptop on the Internet so I could have something to compare the Insight’s numbers to; unfortunately, such information doesn’t seem to be readily available.  Regardless, the Conserve Insight is probably as accurate a power monitoring device one could expect for the price ($22.98 on Amazon).  Even though its CO2 estimation technique seems a bit sketchy, I assume that this Belkin product can measure wattage with some reliability since it doesn’t take particularly advanced technology to make such a measurement.  The operating cost estimation merely involves it doing the math for you based on the wattage, so the accuracy of the power measurement should follow through.  All in all, I feel that this will be a convenient tool to have around so that I can get a general idea of how much power my electronic devices consume, and I would recommend it to anyone else who has a similar interest.

Incorporating Sustainability and Environmental Education in Residential Life

Student Staff meeting in South Hall circa 2010. Photo by Jacob Carah.

Today I get the opportunity to present sustainability ideas to the MU Department of Residential Life student staffers. For two years I worked as a community advisor and treasurer in South Hall, and I lived in Mark Twain Hall as a freshman, so I know what residents enjoy in a dorm experience, what mentality many of them have, and also the funds, challenges and opportunities available to staff when planning events, decorating bulletin boards, etc. I’ve identified roughly three levels of commitment that student staff members can aim for in their dorm or residence hall. They’re all reasonable and simple, but some require more time than others. Others save you time! And sometimes money! And since our biggest goal at the university is to educate our students and prepare them for the real world, any extra sustainability effort is contributing to that. So let’s jump in:

Level 1: The Basics

  • “Bring your own cups/bowls/plates/whatever.” Don’t waste money buying plastic or styrofoam kitchenwares that go to the trash after one event. Residents live down the hall. They can grab their own. They might whine at first, but they’ll get used to it because hunger usually conquers laziness. Even better, start this habit early. Freshmen don’t know what to expect from college, so if you start your first day event by telling them to bring their own stuff, they’ll just think that’s what big kids do. Incorporate this into your community plans. Meanwhile, you can use the money you saved on buying more delicious food.
  • Push drying racks. RHA is getting at least one for every residence hall, so if you don’t have one now, you will soon. Read this article to learn about their benefits.
  • Borrow supplies. Just because each hall has enough money to get their own karaoke machine/hot water kettle (South had two)/grill/name any big item you’ll use a couple times a year, doesn’t mean that’s a wise purchase. Lots of resources go into producing that item, and that money could be used for something else. Ask around to see if RAP or another hall has the item you need.
  • Reuse your bulletin board material. This was my favorite trick as a staff member. I kept an Earlybird textbook box under my bed, full of used paper, cut-out letters and some other material. I rarely changed the back butcher board paper. Some months I never had to go to RAP to update my bulletin boards, and it was all in the name of conservation! The result is a punk rock (or, erm, maybe “hobo”) feel to your bulletin boards, which catches more attention than the uniform cutouts anyway.
  • To towel or not to towel.Change from folded napkins to rolled towels. Use unbleached paper, because chlorine can pollute.
  • Promote Mizzou Dashboard. Even if your hall doesn’t have this energy monitoring system, encourage reduced electricity usage around your hall.
  • Be a good example. As a staff member, you’re a role model. You can’t expect residents to change their behavior if you aren’t doing it yourself.

Level 2: Vote with your dollar

Have you heard of the Local Multiplier Effect?  YES! Magazine gives a pretty good overview here. Basically, every time you buy for an event, you have options: Domino’s or Shakespeare’s or Red and Moe or Broadway Brewery. Buffalo Wild Wings or Addison’s. Jimmy John’s or Main Squeeze. Some options give you cheap food. Others give you delicious, locally grown, distinctively “Columbia” meals. I’m no economist, but the chart above seems suited to something like Shakespeare’s. I bet if you bought pizza from the 100% locally sourced Red and Moe, that dollar could get circulated to a farmer who buys from a local hardware store, to pay employees better prices, etc. Clue your residents into Nachos Bianca from Addison’s or the lavendar lemonade from Main Squeeze, and they can wow their friends with their local culinary expertise.

For non-food supplies, try Peace Nook. They have way more than you’d imagine, including paper towels and snack food. The more you spend locally, the bigger impact you have:

I can’t speak for every hall, but the end of each semester, South would have hundreds of dollars left over. Sometimes we blew it on study buck raffle items from WalMart. Ridic. That could have contributed to the local economy!

Level 3: Educational Interactions with the environment in mind

My most memorable EI in Mark Twain was the field trip we took to the MU Power Plant across the street. I learned so much about how they power the campus and what they’re doing to be leaders in energy technology. Hey, do that! Who said an EI always means inviting a professor to come speak in the hall? If you’re fortunate enough to have an adventurous hall, why not tour the power plant, Bradford Farm and its new composting site, MU Campus Dining Services with a talk from chef Eric Cartwright on local produce and nutrition, or even Hudson Hall, which has a ton of LEED-savvy features like repurposed countertops and energy efficient lighting?

You could even take short hikes to local trails!  In less than half a mile, or approximately 7 minutes, Rollins and Bingham area residence can be in Clyde Wilson Memorial Park. Dobbs area residents could be on the MKT trail. Invite a professor or local expert to go on the hike with you to talk about invasive species, stormwater runoff issues or biodiversity. Mike Heimos, the city stormwater educator would love to help your residents with a stream cleanup!  You can contact him at mjheimos[at]gocolumbiamo.com. Spring would be a great time to schedule one of these events.

For the less mobile crowd, invite Mizzou’s Sustainability Peer Outreach (SPROUT) to give a presentation. Former programs have covered energy conservation, local and sustainable food, environmental justice, water rights, and general sustainability tips. To request a program, contact mizzousprout[at]gmail.com.

Map: where to recycle at MU in Columbia, Mo.

Are you living off campus* and without a regular recycling spot? Sustain Mizzou is here to help. Former MU geography major Todd Wever built us this map based off information from the MU Sustainability Office. It shows the locations of 50-gallon beverage container recycling trash cans on the University of Missouri campus.

For more information on recycling in Columbia, Mo., you can spend hours scrolling through the City of Columbia’s pages and pages on recycling.

A common question the resource fair tablers got today from freshmen was, “where can I recycle on campus?” That’s a lot easier–every ResHall trash room should have paper and container recycling. Ask your Community Advisor or Peer Advisor about this!

Summer: great for eating and reading about food

Dr. Roth also teaches American folklore and film studies, with an emphasis on food's role in culture.

This list of summer sustainability recommendations comes from Dr. LuAnne Roth, who serves as the education coordinator for Mizzou Advantage, which has sustainability initiatives including one called “Food for the Future.”  She says she has been gathering book recommendations in hopes of someday having a Mizzou Advantage component of Mizzou Reads. Of course, it’s not too early to start in on some of these food and community-centered titles.

Eight books, one novel and a brand new class: science journalist Bill Allen’s summer reading list

This month we asked some environmentally minded stars at Mizzou what they suggest for a little summer reading.

Science writer Bill Allen gazes into the Cloud Forest treetops during a January 2011 MU study abroad trip to Costa Rica. Photo by Jessica Barnett.

MU journalism professor Bill Allen, knows his environmental writing. In fact, he wrote a book on tropical dry forest restoration in Costa Rica called Green Phoenix. While we wait for the author’s 10-year update on Green Phoenix to wrap up, try something from his list of other science, climate and agriculture books he enjoys.

1. Richard Preston, The Wild Trees
2. John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid
3. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
4. Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
5. Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma
6. Duff Wilson, Fateful Harvest
7. Michael Pollan, Botany of Desire
8. John McPhee, Basin and Range

He adds, “for a great novel with lots of environment-agriculture themes (and kinda steamy), see Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer.”

If you need added incentive to put some books under your belt, you can take Professor Allen’s “Readings in Science Journalism: Four Great Books on the Environment” class, where he will teach the first four books listed. “Ag Journalism 3385” is a five-week, 1 credit hour class in the fall. For more information, download the flier or e-mail allenwi@missouri.edu.