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Monthly Archives: November 2009

The College Sustainability Report Card is the only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In contrast to the academic focus on sustainability in research and teaching, the Report Card examines colleges and universities, as institutions, through the lens of sustainability.



Sustainability signifies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Are these considerations guiding how resources are managed in campus operations and endowment practices? TheReport Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability. The aim is to provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other’s experiences and establish more effective sustainability policies.


Just as the grading system serves as an incentive in the classroom, the Report Card’s grading system seeks to encourage sustainability as a priority in college operations and endowment investment practices by offering independent yearly assessments of progress. The focus is on policies and practices in nine main categories:






The Natural Resources Defense Council and two residents of Dickson, Tennessee have filed a lawsuit against the Dickson County and city governments. They allege that trichloroethylene, TCE, an industrial chemical disposed at the Dickson Landfill that has been linked to neurological and developmental harm and cancer, poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment. Dickson, a town of some 12,000 people is located about 35 miles west of Nashville. The Dickson County Landfill, 74 acres off Eno Road, sits within 500 to 2,000 feet of approximately 40 homes, most owned by blacks. While the suit goes on the families are coping with sickness and death, and need help to tell their stories and continue the research.



California has its share of problems these days; the state carries billions of dollars in debt, drug cartels have made their way in from Mexico and the wild fire season came and went with great force. As if the governor didn’t have enough on his plate, California is also in the midst of one of the biggest water crises this nation has ever seen. Farmers and fishing communities, businesses and a growing population are locked in a battle over water rights—scrambling for what has become a dwindling resource. To stop the problem, a task force has studied the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta for two years and came up with dozens of proposals to alleviate the water crisis. Here are six of the most prescient proposed items—problems and solutions that may be coming to a local assembly (or a courthouse) near you.

Even though I’m from the Motor City I’m really big on public transportation (like Jack White in the video). I’m so used to riding buses that not much phases me anymore; not patience-trying commute times, not my overly-chatty riding companions…I just sit with my headphones and watch the city. But this past week on my regular commute I saw something that did surprise me.

I hopped off at my stop and turned to watch the bus drive away but it didn’t. It just kind-of lurched along. When I looked closer I realized that a huge pile of fall leaves was wedged around the tire, locking up the wheel. The bus kept scooting along and picking up more leaves. It was pretty funny at first, but then I looked around and realized that my whole neighborhood was covered in leaves.

Just a few days after the bus incident I heard Robert Krulwich say on All Things Considered that leaves don’t actually fall but the trees throw them off as they prepare for winter hibernation. Apparently there are cells between the leaf and the steam that slowly separate the two parts. When the cells start pushing the leaves away, the leaves become more vulnerable to wind and rain and then they come down. For the sake of traffic and my reliance on buses, I hope the trees finish throwing their leaves off before more damage ensues.

P.S. Another mysterious fall leaf action – red leaves as tree sunscreen.

Photo Credit: jennifer buehrer

A collaborative animation by Blu and David Ellis.

Laboratory tests have detected bisphenol A (BPA) for the first time in the umbilical cord blood of U.S. newborns. The tests identified the plastics chemical in 9 of 10 cord blood samples from babies of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent.

Commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Rachel’s Network, the findings provide hard evidence that U.S. infants are contaminated with BPA beginning in the womb. Additional tests conducted by five laboratories in the U.S., Canada and Europe found up to 232 toxic chemicals in the 10 cord blood samples.

Besides BPA, substances detected for the first time in U.S. newborns included a toxic flame retardant chemical called tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) that permeates computer circuit boards, synthetic fragrances (Galaxolide and Tonalide) used in common cosmetics and detergents, and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the notorious Teflon chemical family used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.

 Read the EWG’s full report here.

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health. But new research shows that it may be worse for smokers with dark skin. Dr. Gary King at the Penn State University has discovered a binding between nicotine and melanin. pH’s Ike Sriskandarajah reports. Also blogger Amal Marjani gives us a double feature. Check the previews below. The Age of Stupid:


PILOT 2 3.10.10.mp3 9.2 MB

Hip-Hop and environmental action. Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta combine both, so listen up. And also; using trees for music. We owe a lot of our music to wood: the bodies of guitars and violins, the keys of a marimba, drumsticks and, of course, those clarinets and other woodwinds. Sound designer Diego Stocco decided to go straight to the source and play a tree itself, for his project, aptly titled, “Music from a Tree.” All the sounds that you’ll hear come from an old olive tree behind his house in Burbank, California.

Diego Stocco is at it again, shrinking his technique to fit “Music from a Bansai”

Diego Stocco – Music From A Bonsai –

PILOT TREE 3.10.mp3 28.1 MB

For the past three decades, researchers from the University of Cincinnati have been following 240 people from predominately African American neighborhoods of Cincinnati with high lead contamination. With each passing year, more is revealed about how lead in the environment affects health and behavior. Now, new research reveals that, even at low levels, lead exposure in early development shrinks key areas of the brain, and is linked with violent crime. Planet Harmony's Austyn Mayfield brings us this story.
Cincinnati_Lead_Podcast.mp3 7.4 MB