Archive for October, 2013

Concerns Over Essential Oils  features an “Earth Talk” column which answers questions about the environment. A Sustainable LIFE will occasionally share some of these Q&A’s with you.

Dear EarthTalk: What’s the skinny on essential oils? I love them, but a friend told me they are no good for the environment?

Essential oils are more popular than ever for medicinal and therapeutic purposes as well as in fragrances and flavorings for food and drinks. Typically produced by harvesting and distilling large amounts of various types of plant matter, essential oils are in many cases all-natural and can take the place of synthetic chemicals in many consumer applications. But some wonder whether our fascination with essential oils is so good for the planet, now that their popularity has turned them into big business.

“It often takes hundreds of pounds of plant material to make one pound of essential oil,” reports aromatherapist and author Mindy Green of She adds that it takes 50-60 pounds of eucalyptus to produce one pound of eucalyptus oil, 200-250 pounds of lavender for one pound of lavender oil, 2,000 pounds of cypress for a pound of cypress oil and as many as 10,000 pounds of rose blossoms for one pound of rose oil. Production of these source crops takes place all over the world and is often organized by large multinational corporations with little regard for local economies or ecosystems.

“As global citizens we have not learned how to equitably distribute vital resources like food, and water resources are trending toward a crisis of the future,” adds Green, “so there are deep ethical concerns about devoting croplands to essential oils destined for use in candles, bath oils, perfumes, or lavish massage and spa purposes.” Green also warns that many essential oils are not produced from sustainable sources. “Some species are at risk, particularly those occupying marginal habitats such as dwindling tropical forests,” she reports, adding that the poverty-stricken in developing countries will harvest and sell whatever they can, in order to put food on their own tables.

Wordless Wednesday

Source: Clear Skies

Meatless Monday

9 Foods You “Assumed” to be Vegetarian

Some of these entries really surprised me…..

1. Refried beans – Many of the “traditional” or “original” canned refried beans are made with hydrogenated lard — or pig fat. Make sure you’re looking for the “vegetarian” label if you’re avoiding animal-based ingredients.

2.  Tropicana Heart Healthy Orange Juice: contains tilapia, sardine and anchovy for those omega 3s. Vegetarians will probably want to stick to plant-based alternatives to get their dose of heart-healthy fats.

3.  Parmigiano-Reggiano –  is made with calf rennet (which comes from the cow’s stomach lining), according to the strict specifications and regulations that allow a cheese to be sold as Parmesan. Cheese that does not use animal rennet may or may not include “vegetable rennet” on the label.

4.  Marshmallows – contains gelatin — a protein made of skin and bones from pig or cow. Gelatin is used in a variety of foods including gummy bears, Skittles, some yogurts and smoothies.

5.  Potato Chips – Nutrition labels often don’t differentiate between animal and plant-based enzymes. Many companies use enzymes from pork to develop the cheese in some of their cheese seasonings.

6.  Worcestershire sauce  – is relatively well-known for containing anchovies. Look for an anchovy-free brand if you are avoiding animal based products.

7.  Bagels – Some bagels are made with the amino acid L-cysteine, which comes from either human hair or poultry feathers. Lender’s lists the ingredient clearly on their labels while other companies, don’t even know which source their ingredient is from.

8.  Altoids – Gelatin again! Because it’s used as a thickening agent, gelatin gives gummies and yogurt that jelly-like consistency. However, it also is used as a stabilizing agent in products such as Altoids.

9.  Beer – It’s a fairly well-known fact that Guinness beer uses isinglass, or fish bladder, as a fining agent, meaning it removes unwanted leftovers from the brewing process. Not all beers use isinglass, although others may use gelatin for the same purpose.

Source: Huffington Post

Wordless Wednesday

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Is the EPA essential?

Because the government shutdown has directly affected my family I have kept a close watch on its development. As the author of this blog I try to stay neutral, educational and non-partisan. This statement however caused my sustainability antennae to stand at attention. A member of the House of Representatives recently posted this tweet “There is some good news out of the shutdown, the EPA can’t issue new regulations.”

Here are the facts…..Only federal employees classified as “essential” can work during a government shutdown. At EPA, that means just 6.6 percent of its workforce. Of the agency’s 16,205 employees, only 1,069 will work through the shutdown. Does that mean that taxpayers employ 15,136 people at the EPA who are unnecessary?”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken one of the biggest hits of any federal agency during this shutdown, operating with under 7 percent of its employees, according to guidance issued by the agency.

My question to you…do you think that the work of the Environmental Protection Agency is essential? Necessary?


Moving on Up!

Today the Office of Sustainability (i.e. me) will be giving a presentation at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education National Conference in Nashville, TN. This is a huge honor for me and for LIFE University. It means that we’re on the right track. Last year I was here as an attendee, soaking up all the knowledge I could.  This year my peers want to hear about what we’re doing and possibly use what we’ve done in their programs.  I’m so excited, wish me luck!