October 2010

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #107 This Way to Sustainability

Posted by on 12 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Uncategorized


Tonight we’ll be talking about the upcoming “This Way to Sustainability Conference” to be held on the Chico State and Butte Community College campuses on November 4th, 5th, and 6th. We’ll talk with two students who coordinators of the conference– Ciara  Meanes from Chico State and Lisa Dayoan from Butte College. And we’ll talk about the whole concept of sustainability.

Listen to the show.

Background: The Sustainability Concept

We want to start by looking at some perspectives on sustainability and at the history of the concept. “The Sustainability Report”–which is affiliated with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability in Canada—provides a brief history of “sustainable development.”  Their definition of sustainability

 sees human activities as part of and dependent upon the natural world. . . . [T]he human ecosystem, including the communities we build, is a subset of the larger ecosystem of the Earth. . . . Most definitions stress that sustainability requires making decisions that recognize the connections between actions and effects in the environment, economy and society.”

Here’s the history “The Sustainability Report” provides:

“The sustainability idea as we know it emerged in a series of meetings and reports during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment marked the first great international meeting on how human activities were harming the environment and putting humans at risk.

[We want to note editorially that the first Earth Day also occurred in 1972, so there is even more evidence of global awakening.] 

The “Sustainability Report” continues:

The 1980 World Conservation Strategy, prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature along with the UN Environment Program and the World Wildlife Fund, promoted the idea of environmental protection in the self-interest of the human species.

In 1987, the UN-sponsored Brundtland Commission released Our Common Future, a report that captured widespread concerns about the environment and poverty in many parts of the world.

The Brundtland report said that economic development cannot stop, but it must change course to fit within the planet’s ecological limits. It also popularized the term sustainable development, which it defined as development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

World attention on sustainability peaked at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro. It brought together the heads or senior officials of 179 governments, and included the Earth Summit, the largest-ever meeting of world leaders. Rio produced two international agreements, two statements of principles and a major action agenda on worldwide sustainable development.

 The “Sustainability Report” notes that:

The interest in sustainability that flourished during that period was spurred by a series of incidents and discoveries, including the leak of poisonous gas from a chemical plant at Bhopal, India, the explosion and radioactive release from Chernobyl, Ukraine, the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer, leaking toxic chemical dumps, such as Love Canal, general fears about chemical contamination and conflicts over decreasing natural resources such as forests and fisheries.

 “The Brundtland report”—sponsored by the UN in 1987—“captured many of those concerns when it said:”

 Major, unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters, among plants and animals. Nature is bountiful but it is also fragile and finely balanced. There are thresholds that cannot be crossed without endangering the basic integrity of the system. Today we are close to many of those thresholds.

 Again, that from the Sustainability Report, from the Canadian Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability: http://www.sustreport.org/background/history.html

 In planning and developing communities, the issue of sustainability is very complex indeed. Trying to weigh everything that must be considered to make a community/a town/a city sustainable requires understanding many interdependent factors. “Sustainable Measures,” a private consulting firm in Connecticut dedicated to promoting sustainable communities describes what has to be taken into consideration when working toward a sustainable community. They note:

[T]he economy exists entirely within society, because all parts of the human economy require interaction among people. However, society is much more than just the economy. Friends and families, music and art, religion and ethics are important elements of society, but are not primarily based on exchanging goods and services.

Society, in turn, exists entirely within the environment. Our basic requirements — air, food and water — come from the environment, as do the energy and raw materials for housing, transportation and the products we depend on.

 Finally, the environment surrounds society. At an earlier point in human history, the environment largely determined the shape of society. Today the opposite is true: human activity is reshaping the environment at an ever-increasing rate. The parts of the environment unaffected by human activity are getting smaller all the time. However, because people need food, water and air to survive, society can never be larger than the environment.

Sustainability requires managing all households — individual, community, national, and global — in ways that ensure that our economy and society can continue to exist without destroying the natural environment on which we all depend. Sustainable communities acknowledge that there are limits to the natural, social and built systems upon which we depend. Key questions asked in a sustainable community include: ‘Are we using this resource faster than it can be renewed’ and ‘Are we enhancing the social and human capital upon which our community depends?

That description from the Sustainable Measures consulting firm in Connecticut.

The City of Chico is working on this whole complex issue through the Sustainability Task Force, a committee of the Chico City Council. Initiated in 2007, the purpose of the Task Force was to develop “initiatives to implement the US Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously meeting environmental, economic, and community needs now and in the future.”  Part of the work has involved creating a Climate Action Plan that includes—among other things–water and air quality. The Task Force has also worked on sustainability measures to be included the City’s General Plan Update. This has involved developing measurable sustainability indicators. Those indicators include things like Land Use, Community Design, Transportation, Economic Development, Noise, Parks and Open Space.

We plan to devote an entire show to the Sustainability Task Force in the near future. Meanwhile, to learn more about its work you can go to the Sustainability Task Force’s website on the City Council site.


Our Discussion with Ciara Meanes and Lisa Dayoan

With us now in the studio are Ciara Meanes from Chico State and Lisa Dayoan from Butte College, student coordinators of “This Way to Sustainability, “ a conference sponsored by Chico State and Butte College.

1.   What is the purpose of “This Way to Sustainability Conference” coming up on November 4-6.

2.  How did Chico State and Butte College begin this collaboration? How long have you been doing this and how has it developed over the years?

3.  There are events going on at both the Butte College campus and the CSU campus. Can you explain those arrangements?

4.  Tell us about some of the major speakers who will be presenting.

5.  Who do you hope will come to the conference?

6. One thing we really like about the conference is the various strands of the conference directed to different communities. Can you tell us something about that?

[Some notes from the web site: The theme for this year’s conference is Connecting Communities and we are taking that theme deep into the structure of the conference. In the past we have established “tracks” and invited some people to make presentations, and invited other people to come listen. This year we are establishing five communities – learning, building, business, biotic, and advocacy- and we are asking people involved or interested in those sectors of our larger, global community to come together to propose a set of presentations and other interactions that they, and thus others, would want to attend. While the communities will develop organically, we do have a few thoughts on each:

Learning Community ~ Education is the engine of change. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators need to work together to incorporate sustainability into all levels of the educational system.

Building/Facilities Community ~ Even in Northern California, we are an urban people. All of us live, study, and work in buildings, and we all have an interest in building a more sustainable community.

Business Community ~ Many of our most fundamental relationships are also business transactions and no sector of society has a greater reach in spreading sustainability in production, employment and consumption.

Living Community ~ Humans share the earth with many beings and we express that connection in many ways; in our ethics and our art, in our inspirations and our meditations.

Advocacy Community ~ Sustainability is about envisioning a better world, and then acquiring and employing the tools of change needed to make the vision a reality.

Community Center Expo ~ This year’s sustainability conference will include a Community Center Expo! This expo will provide space for vendors and exhibitors to display sustainable products and ideas in the main Auditorium of the Bell Memorial Union Thursday and/or Friday during the conference. The Community Center Expo will allow for exhibitor display areas in addition to a demonstration stage and workshop are.]

7.  Tell us how you went about organizing such a big event? What got your involved in this effort?

8.  The conference itself also makes a real effort to be “green.” What are some of the efforts to create a small footprint for the event?

9.  What other aspects of the conference would you like to highlight? What are you most looking forward to or excited about?

10. Could you again give us the details of the conference? When and where is it? How can people register?

 Playlist for Eco #107: Sustainability Now

1. Will There Be Enough Water?        6:20     The Dead Weather     Horehound     

2. Clear Blue Skies (LP Version)        3:07     Crosby, Still, Nash & Young   American Dream       

3. Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)      5:11     Neil Young      Ragged Glory

4. Supernova  4:42     Liquid Blue      Supernova     

5. Nature’s Way          2:40     Spirit    Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus   

6. Weave Me the Sunshine    4:28     Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary        

7. Teach Your Children           3:02     Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Four Way Street [Disc 1] [Live]         

8. Worldwide Connected        5:06     The Herbaliser            Something Wicked This Way Comes           

9. In A Future Age       2:57     Wilco   Summerteeth  Country

Ecotopia #106 Green Baby

Posted by on 05 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

5 October 2010

Tonight our show is called “Green Baby,” and we’ll be talking about raising babies sustainably. Our guest is Cyndi Pereira, Manager of The Green Baby Expo, being held on October 16 at the Redding Convention Center.   www.GreenBabyExpo.com

Background: Gettin’ Down and Dirty

 We’ll start with a little exploration into one of the controversial topics in green baby world. The diaper. First, let’s start with a little history

 According to HubPages:

 ‘Those old diapers worn in ancient times weren’t all that bad! Cattails, when they ripen puff out with some very soft fibers that would be quite absorbent. Also used were mounds of moss and leaves in those first fancy diapers of old!

Other than the warmer climates where infants and children were usually kept naked, the diaper has been in existence for thousands of years.

 The first fancy diapers were moss or leaves wrapped in animal skins.”

 Rabbit is said to be particularly soft. 


 According to the Diaper Jungle, “Elizabethan times allowed for a cloth type of diaper, however, it was changed so infrequently that several days worth of waste accumulated.”

 “[But] The history of diapers began a major evolution in the early 1800s. At this time cloth diapers were used, however they were rarely washed but just dried before reapplying. However, individuals started to realize the importance of diapers in protecting furniture, and more importantly, their baby’s skin. Soon, cloth diapers began improving somewhat, as well as the hygiene.”


 According to Wikipedia,  “Cloth diapers were first mass produced in 1887 by Maria Allen in the United States.” These diapers were held in place by a safety pin. Then:

“In the 20th century, the disposable diaper gradually evolved through the inventions of several different people. In 1942, a Swedish paper company known as Pauliström created the first disposable diaper using sheets of tissue placed inside rubber pants. Four years later Marion Donovan, an American housewife from Westport, Connecticut, developed a waterproof diaper cover known as the “Boater” using a sheet of plastic from a shower curtain; she was granted four patents for her invention, including the use of plastic snaps as opposed to safety pins.”


In the 1950’s, there was another big change in the diaper. Mrs. Hellerman – owner of a diaper service in Milwaukee – went to the Kendall Company, which made Curity’s  brand diapers, with a new invention. It was a fold that put extra cotton layers in the center of the diaper and made it the right size for most babies. The fold was sewn shut, and the prefolded diaper was born.”


However, it was the disposable diaper that created the big revolution in diapering:

In 1947, a man named George M. Schroder invented the first diaper with disposable nonwoven fabric. Disposable diapers were introduced to the US in 1949 by Johnson & Johnson. . . . During the 1950s, companies such as Kendall, Parke-Davis, Playtex, and Molnlycke entered the disposable diaper market.” In the 1960s and the 1970s, the disposable diaper market really began to heat up.


 Today, there are even more permutations of the cloth/disposable diaper, and any choice a parent makes is controversial.  We went to WebMD to get one medical opinion on which is better—in terms of both the environment and baby’s comfort and health.

 Here’s what WebMD says about environmental impact:

“Research has suggested that both disposable and cloth diapers affect the environment negatively — just in different ways. For example, disposable diapers require more raw materials to manufacture. And they generate more landfill solid waste that can take an extremely long time to degrade. But cloth diapers use up large amounts of electricity and water for washing and drying. Plus, commercial diaper service delivery trucks consume fuel and create air pollution.

Nebraska pediatrician Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP, agrees that there’s no clear winner in the diaper debate. She researched the controversy while co-writing the American Academy of Pediatrics book, Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

“When we were writing the book, we tried to get to the bottom of [the debate]. And — with a sort of pun intended — it kind of came out a wash,” Jana says. “More power to parents who are trying to do the right thing,” she adds. “But I’m not convinced from an environmental standpoint that there’s a huge benefit to cloth diapers.”

Ultimately, parents are left to make their own personal choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes no position on cloth vs. disposable diapers.

Nor does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While proponents of cloth diapers worry that germs in disposable diapers might leach from landfills to contaminate ground water, an EPA spokesperson told WebMD in an email that the agency didn’t consider them a hazard: “Disposable diapers fall under the category of municipal solid waste, which means the material is safe to be disposed of in a U.S. municipal solid waste landfill. In the U.S., modern landfills are well-engineered facilities that are located, designed, operated, and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations which aim to protect the environment from contaminants which may be present in the solid waste stream.”

Despite the lack of consensus, parents can still go green. Some buy a flushable hybrid diaper. The soiled, biodegradable liner is flushed down the toilet into the sewage system, rather than sending yet another diaper to the landfill. Then parents insert a new liner into the reusable cloth pants.

 Others parents prefer chlorine-free disposable diapers, which cut down on toxic dioxin. Dioxin is the result of using chlorine to bleach disposables white. Parents can also buy organic cotton diapers. Organic cotton uses no pesticides during growing.

Another concern is whether the chemicals in disposable diapers pose a health risk. WebMD reports that there is no conclusive evidence of harm. They claim:

    “* Sodium polyacrylate crystals, the superabsorbent ingredient in disposables, were linked to toxic shock among tampon users about three decades ago. But tampons enter the body, while diapers remain outside. According to the Green Guide Institute, a later study suggested that tampon habits, rather than materials, caused toxic shock.

    * A 2000 German study of 48 boys found that those who wore disposable diapers had higher scrotum temperatures than those in cloth diapers. That raised a theoretical risk of lower sperm count. But a 2002 study found scrotal temperatures to be the same, regardless of whether boys wore disposables or cotton diapers with covers.

It’s important to pay attention to research that points out potential harm, [Pediatritian Laura] Jana says. . . .

A third concern is which diaper best presents diaper rash. WebMD says that

“Diaper rash can stem from several causes: friction, moisture, urine, and feces. Sometimes, the culprit is infection from yeast, such as Candida albicans.

Again, there’s no consensus on whether disposable or cloth diapers are best for reducing risk of diaper rash. But according to Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, FAAP, “Most pediatricians do feel that disposable diapers prevent irritation diaper rashes. That’s because they keep the baby’s bottom drier

 Altmann, editor-in-chief of The American Academy of Pediatric book, The Wonder Years, tells WebMD that parents that . . . “If you’re good about changing your baby’s diaper very frequently, as we recommend that parents do, you can prevent diaper rash with both types of diapers.

A 2005 study published in Pediatrics found that some babies can develop rash as an allergic reaction to dyes in colorful diapers. Parents can switch to dye-free diapers to remedy the problem.


 Our Coversation with Cyndi Pereira

In th studio with is now is Cyndi Pereira. She is the Manager of the Green Baby Expo: Sustaining their Future.


1. First of all, can you tell us when and where the Green Baby Expo will be held?

2. What is the purpose of the Green Baby Expo?

3. Tell us a little about the history of the Green Baby Expo.

4. What sorts of events will be going on at the Expo?

5. Will there be some speakers at the Expo? Who will be speaking?

6. Are there some special activities that you would like to highlight?

7. Who will some of the exhibitors be?

8. Are there products or services that are new in the world of eco-friendly child rearing that you’re especially excited about?

9. What do you think people can gain or learn by coming to the Green Baby Expo?

10. Again, can you remind us again when and where the Expo will be held?

Additional Resources

New parents might wish for some help in looking for resources for babies that are both green and economical, and the Green Baby Guide—both the website and the book—is a bit help. Edited and written by Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelly, mothers who began their collaboration when they wanted their questions about green baby care answered, the website’s three-year archive offers help on everything from baby food to laundry to holidays to organic gardening and much more. In addition, the editors seem to make a real effort to make sure claims of greenness can be backed up.


PlanetGreen.com also offers information on products and services aimed at the green baby market. They highlight organic, nontoxic, and sustainably produced clothes, toys, furniture and care products on their website.


GreenMuze.Com provides a number of resources for raising a healthy baby in a toxic environment. They provide sources focusing on air quality for babies, pesticides, plastics, and toxins, in addition to the usual advice on a green nursery and green diapers. We’ve posted a few of their links on our website.

Better Air For Baby: http://betterairforbaby.com/

Beyond Pesticides: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/

Clean Earth, Happy Baby: http://www.cleanearthhappybaby.org/

Life Without Plastic: http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com

Toxic Free Legacy Coalition: http://www.toxicfreelegacy.org/


Of course, everyone wants to get on the Green bandwagon these days, so we want to be a little cautious when we’re making green baby choices. We’ve talked about Greenwashing on Ecotopia in the past, and not surprisingly, baby care items are among the products that make claims about their greenness without full disclosure about what that “greenness” consists of. A report from TerraChoice Environmental Marketing asserts that 98% of the products that claim to be sustainable are not being entirely honest, leading to TerraChoices listing of the 7 Sins of Greenwashing. 11% of those products are baby care products (the top “sinners” are Health and Beauty, Office, Home, and Cleaning Products).

These are the 7 Sins of Greenwashing:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: If a product claims to be green in one sense, but ignores other significant impacts, the marketers sin. According to TerraChoice: “Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest. Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, including energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and water and air pollution, may be equally or more significant.”

2. Sin of No Proof: If you can’t prove it with reputable third-party verification, you can’t claim it, according to TerraChoice: “Common examples are facial or toilet tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any evidence.”

3. Sin of Vagueness: Terms such as “all-natural,” “environmentally friendly” and other vague or unregulated descriptors can mislead consumers. TerraChoice points out: “Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.”

4. The (new) Sin of Worshiping False Labels: Often, a product has an official-looking seal, but the seal is meaningless because it is dreamed up by the product marketers themselves, without any application of third-party standards’

5. Sin of Irrelevance: If a claim is true, but doesn’t distinguish the product in any meaningful way, marketers have sinned. According to TerraChoice: “‘CFC-free’ is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs (that’s chlorofluorocarbons — the chemical that depletes the ozone layer) are banned by law.”

6. Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils: Even if a green marketing claim is true — the cigarette is organic, or the SUV has a hybrid engine — it fails this TerraChoice test if the claim fails to recognize the overall harm caused by the product. The SUV may get better mileage than others in its class, but still achieve dismal fuel economy when compared to other vehicles; the cigarette, however organic, still causes lung cancer.

7. Sin of Fibbing: Simple. It’s a lie. Some companies will go as far as claiming to be certified organic or Energy Star-certified, but cannot back up the certification.

To help you make better green choices, TerraChoice provides a list of 11 eco-labels you can trust to give an accurate account of a product’s sustainability.

# Forest Stewardship Council

# Green Guard

# Green Seal

# Sustainable Forestry Initiative

# EPA’s Design for Environment

# Ecocert

# Energy Star


# USDA Organic

# EPA’s WaterSense

# EcoLogo