Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors in First-Year Students

Author: Evelyn Lane

Stay Away from BPA!

What is BPA?

As the “bisphenol” part of the name suggests, bisphenol A is made up of two phenol groups, which come off the center carbon of a propane, which is made up of three total carbons. BPA is a non-polar molecule, because its -OH groups “balance” each others’ charges out, giving it little net electron-pull (Salehpour et al., 2021).

Russian chemist Aleksandr P. Dianin first discovered BPA. His method, although first used in 1891, is still used today for the commercial synthesis of BPA (Yaln & Akbulut, 2014).

Following its synthesis, BPA is reacted to produce polycarbonate, a strong, clear, hard resin that has many uses, both in the past and present (Hansen et al., 2021). Uses for polycarbonates include:

  • thermal paper receipts (absorbed through skin!)
  • plastic water bottles (ingested!)
  • baby feeding bottles (ingested!)

BPA-containing epoxies are also used in the lining of metal cans for food and drink preservation. BPA kept metal cans from corroding in extreme temperatures and pressures (Yaln & Akbulut, 2014). Up until April 2019, LaCroix was still producing its cans with BPA-lined walls (Peterson, 2019).

What’s So Bad about BPA?

Estrogen is a sex hormone responsible for regulating the female reproductive system. BPA is classified as an environmental estrogen  – it is a synthetically produced chemical that can bind to and function via estrogen receptors in the body (Yaln & Akbulut, 2014). BPA will mimic estrogen. It is known as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, or EDC. EDCs like BPA can weaken the body’s immune response against pathogens and cancer cells, thus increasing the risk for cancers, especially breast cancer (Lapensee et al., 2009) (Salehpour et al., 2021).

BPA is still being produced today, and a projection from 2016 showed that BPA production will reach 10.6 million metric tons by the year 2022. That’s NEXT YEAR. The continuing production of BPA is fueled by a growing demand for these polycarbonate products from developing countries (Leung et al., 2020).

In the studies I looked at, BPA has been found in the urine of 90-95% of the general United States population. These concentrations could be extremely small, but any concentration can cause concern (Hansen et al., 2021) (Bucher, 2009).

Plastic Pollution

Humans aren’t the only ones impacted by BPA. But BPA does not occur naturally – so how does it get into the environment? One way is airborne – through epoxy resin spray, used in machine plants (Hanaoka, 2002).

BPA contamination also occurs through landfill-based pollution, with wastewater runoff playing a major role. Many landfills rest on or near waterways, and plastic is added to them every single day (Jafari et al., 2021).

Once it gets into the environment, BPA has a slow degradation – taking more than 90 years to biodegrade (and that’s not even thinking about what it degrades into!) (Jafari et al., 2021). With BPA being one of the most prevalent chemicals produced worldwide, the concentrations are bound to persist in aquatic organisms. Fish studies have suggested that aquatic animals face reproductive and developmental difficulties due to BPA (Faheem et al., 2017).

Anatomy of a Landfill | Roll Off Dumpsters & Containers

Plastic Policy

Canada prohibited the use of BPA in food packaging for infants and newborns in 2008 (“Canada Bans Bisphenol A in Baby Products”, 2008). The European Union stopped using BPA in baby bottle production in 2011, and daily limits were cut from 50 to 5 μg/kg body weight/day due to uncertainty about BPA’s toxicity (“Bisphenol A Ban”, 2010) (“Bisphenol A Limits”, 2014).

In August 2008, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ruled BPA safe, not altering its label to “some concern” in 2010 (“Bisphenol A”, 2010). The FDA has adapted the lowest observed effect level for BPA as 50 μg/kg body weight/day. Now, it’s banned for anything really dealing with infants or children (baby bottles, packaging for liquid formula, etc) (Leung et al., 2020) (Jafari et al., 2021).

With these regulations on BPA, something needs to replace it. However, a study looking at common replacements showed that replacements had similar impacts (Mesnage et al., 2017). So yes, BPA replacements are also bad.

BPA is a reproductive and immunity-lowering chemical used in plastics. Look for BPA-free to ensure you’re staying away from this endocrine-disrupting chemical. To really keep your body safe, stay away from any plastics, as some BPA replacements may be just as bad.


Bisphenol A. Nature. 2010. 463(7279), 274.

Bisphenol A Ban. Nature. 2010. 468(7324), 605.

Bisphenol A Limits. Nature. 2014. 505(7484), 458.

Bucher, J. R. Bisphenol A: Where to Now? Environ. Health Perspectives. 2009. 117(3), A96+.

Canada Bans Bisphenol A in Baby Products. Nature. 2008, 455(7216), 1020.

Faheem, M.; Khaliq, S.; Lone, K. P. Short Communication – Non-Monotonic Endocrine-Disrupting Effects of Bisphenol-A on Vitellogenin Expression in Juvenile Freshwater Cyprinid, Catla catla. Pakistan J. Zoology. 2017, 49(4), 1531.

Hanaoka, T.; Kawamura, N.; Hara, K.; Tsugane, S. Urinary Bisphenol A and Plasma Hormone Concentrations in Male Workers Exposed to Bisphenol A Diglycidyl Ether and Mixed Organic Solvents. Occ. and Environ. Medicine. 2002, 59(9), 625+.

Hansen, J. B.; Bilenberg, N.; Timmermann, C. A. G.; Jensen, R. C.; Frederiksen, H.; Andersson, A.-M.; Kyhl, H. B.; Jensen, T. K. Prenatal Exposure to Bisphenol A and Autistic- and ADHD-Related Symptoms in Children Aged 2 and 5 Years from the Odense Child Cohort. Environ. Health: A Global Access Science Source. 2021, 20.

Jafari, A. J.; Kalantary, R. R.; Esrafili, A.; Moslemzadeh, M. Photo-catalytic Degradation of Bisphenol-A from Aqueous Solutions using GF/Fe-TiO2-CQD Hybrid Composite. J. Environ. Health Sci. and Engineering. 2021.

Lapensee, E. W.; Tuttle, T. R.; Fox, S. R.; Ben-Jonathan, N. Environmental Health Perspect: Bisphenol A at Low Nanomolar Doses Confers Chemoresistance in Estrogen Receptor-Alpha-Positive and -Negative Breast Cancer Cells. Alternative Medicine Review. 2009, 14(2), 113.

Leung, Y.-K.; Biesiada, J.; Govindarajah, V.; Ying, J.; Kendler, A.; Medvedovic, M.; Ho, S.-M. Low-Dose Bisphenol A in a Rat Model of Endometrial Cancer: A CLARITY-BPA Study. Environ. Health Perspectives. 2020, 128(12), 127005.

Mesnage, R.; Phedonos, A.; Arno, M.; Balu, S.; Corton, J. C.; Antoniou, M. N. Editor’s Highlight: Transcriptome Profiling Reveals Bisphenol A Alternatives Activate Estrogen Receptor Alpha in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Toxicological Sciences. 2017, 158(2), 431–443.

Peterson, L. LaCroix Went BPA-free in April, but Some Stores May Still be Selling Older Cans that Contain the Chemical. Insider. 2019. [Accessed Online.]

Salehpour, A.; Shidfar, F.; Hedayati, M.; Farshad, A. A.; Tehrani, A. N.; Mohammadi, S. Molecular Mechanisms of Vitamin D Plus Bisphenol A Effects on Adipogenesis in Human Adipose-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. 2021, 13(1).

Yaln, N. D.; Akbulut, C. Histological Changes in Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Ovaries Following Administration of Bisphenol A. Pakistan J. Zoology. 2014, 46(4).

Virtues of Veganism

These days, many people are going vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle choice in which vegans seek “to promote health and peace while reducing the suffering of both people and animals,” (Dupler, 2018) by not consuming any animal products through food, clothing, cosmetics, and virtually every other aspect of consumption.


  • 8 million adults in the United States are vegetarian (as of 2016)
  • 3.4 million of these are vegans (Frey, 2019)


  • Pythagoras (582-507 BCE)
    • Followers practiced the self-disciplinary lifestyle of a vegan diet and no animal bloodshed, including sacrifices to Greek gods (Frey, 2019)
  • Jain religion in India followed, and still follows, a vegan diet, where followers cannot eat the roots of plants because ingesting the roots kills the plant.
  • England – founding of the Vegan Society (1944)
    • Coincided with the end of World War II
    • Founders dreamed of a better world, one that started with a reconstruction of the food system so as to not promote the death of any living beings (Dupler, 2018)
    • They chose the term “vegan” to start with the same letters as “vegetarian” and end with the last two, because they were starting with vegetarian ideas and taking them to their logical, more impactful conclusion (Dupler, 2018)
    • Vegan is also derived from the Latin word vegetus, meaning “full of life,” which founders hoped would be true of the movement.


  • Environmental
    • Environmental problems caused by livestock production include “topsoil loss, water shortages and contamination, deforestation, toxic waste, and air pollution,” and methane gas is released by cows in huge amounts, contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions (Dupler, 2018).
  • Ethics
    • There are estimates that the grain which goes into livestock feed in the United States is equivalent to six and a half times that which could be consumed by the American population, which could feed 1.3 billion people (Dupler, 2018). If that grain were to go directly into pantries, there would be a positive impact on the fight against world hunger.
  • Health benefits
    • Decreases your ingestion of pesticides and synthetic chemicals. Avoiding the top of the food chain reduces bioaccumulation, or the exponential increase in toxins as they work their way up the food chain. 
    • Hugely reduces cholesterol intake, because cholesterol is only found in animal products (Dupler, 2018).
  • “Social Justice of the 21st Century”
    • Veganism fights speciesism, which “is rooted in the same ideology that perpetuates hierarchical treatment of human animals,” and cultural customs in regards to food consumption thus need to change (Leonard, 2019).

Veganism is a movement demonstrating the interconnections of living beings, aimed at demonstrating just how outdated the food system is in terms of animal welfare and environmental impact.


Dupler, Douglas, MA. “Veganism.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, edited by Jacqueline L. Longe, 4th ed., vol. 7, Gale, 2018, pp. 3686-3689. Gale Health and Wellness.

Frey, J., PhD. “Veganism.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets, edited by Deirdre S. Hiam, 3rd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2019, pp. 1263-1269. Gale Health and Wellness.

Leonard, Suzy Fleming. “Here’s Why I … Am a Vegan.” Florida Today, 18 May 2019. “Key Facts.” The Vegan Society

Online Shopping- How does it compare to Brick-and-Mortar?

Does Online Shopping = No More Shopping Trips?

The short answer: no.

Online shopping has actually been found to lead to increases in shopping trips. However, shopping trends also show that shopping trips tend to reduce online shopping (Zhou & Wang, 2014).

Essentially, ↑ online shopping leads to ↑ shopping trips

BUT ↑ shopping trips leads to ↓ online shopping

Increased online shopping often means that consumers want to go to brick-and-mortar stores to try on the products and experience the commodities. Several factors are responsible for shopping trends including socioeconomic status, internet use, location (urban/not urban), age, gender, education level, gas price, and travel time to brick-and-mortar stores (Zhou & Wang, 2014)

How Different is the CO2 Impact?

Sweet Cecily! An awesome store to spend hours browsing in!

Under most conditions, online shopping causes lower CO2 emissions than brick-and-mortar shopping. However, when travel distance is small, brick-and-mortar shopping produces less CO2 emissions than online shopping and shipping (Wiese et al., 2012, p. 2). This is especially true when travel occurs in a more sustainable way, like biking or walking!

YUM! Vermont’s Own is the perfect place to shop for little Vermont gifts!

So…Where Do I Shop in Middlebury?

Middlebury has some awesome brick-and-mortar shopping locations within walking/biking distance! Visit go/bikemap to see a Midd student’s awesome map with bikeable/walkable destinations in town! 

Plus! Shopping local supports Middlebury and Addison County while ensuring that you can know where your products come from!

One of this author’s favorite school-supplies stores!

Zhou, Y., & Wang, X. (Cara). (2014). Explore the Relationship Between Online Shopping and Shopping Trips: An Analysis with the 2009 NHTS Data. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 70, 1–9.

Wiese, A., Toporowski, W., & Zielke, S. (2012). Transport-related CO2 effects of online and brick-and-mortar shopping: A comparison and sensitivity analysis of clothing retailing. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 17(6), 473–477. Scopus.

Water-Conscious Laundry

Top-Loading Machines vs. Front-Loading Machines

  • Front loading machines, like the ones here at Middlebury, use less energy and water.
  • About 85% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating the water, so switching to cold water saves more energy!
  • Wash agitators in top-loading machines require more energy and induce more wear and tear on clothing, while also providing less room for larger items like rugs and comforters.


  • Emissions from washers and dryers include components have been shown to classify as hazardous air pollutants and known/probably carcinogens.
    • In a 2011 study, investigators identified 29 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the dryer-vent emissions.
    • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies seven of the VOCs found in dryer-vent emissions–acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, m/p-xylene, o-xylene, and toluene–as hazardous air pollutants.
  • One laundry detergent brands’ acetaldehyde annual emissions is 1,660lb. Automobile emissions of the same chemical are approximately 56,000lb/year. Looking at the top 5 laundry detergents, emissions of acetaldehyde represent 6% of automobile emissions.
  • Mice exposed to emissions from fabric-softener products experienced trouble breathing and other irritation.

What You Can Do

  • Do fewer laundry loads!
    • This will use less water and less energy.
  • Switch to cold water (save energy!).
  • Continue using front-loading washers.
  • Stop using fabric softeners, or switch to more environmentally-conscious brands.
  • Stay away from laundry products packaged in plastic.

Boronow, K.E., Brody, J.G., Schaider, L.A. et al. Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 29, 206–217 (2019).

Kessler, Rebecca. “Dryer vents: an overlooked source of pollution?” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 119, no. 11, 2011, p. A 474+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Lamarre, Leslie. “The new line on laundry.” EPRI Journal, vol. 22, no. 6, 1997, p. 14+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Steinemann, A.C., Gallagher, L.G., Davis, A.L. et al. Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 6, 151–156 (2013). 

Low-Waste Middlebury and What You Can Do

Humans are depleting Earth’s resources faster than it can replenish them. If everyone lived like the average American, we would need about 5 planets to replenish the resources and absorb the waste generated in one year. You can calculate your Ecological Footprint here.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste aims to transform our linear economic practices to a cyclic system, where nothing is wasted and every resource is reused, repurposed, and recycled.

Zero Waste Home outlines the process:

  • Refuse what you do not need
  • Reduce what you do need
  • Reuse what you consume
  • Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse
  • Rot (Compost) the rest. 

Middlebury’s Efforts to Reduce Waste

At Middlebury College, the dining halls compost 99% of pre-consumer food waste totaling at 300 tons of food waste every year. Middlebury dining also uses reusable to-go containers and has a 100% recycled paper policy.

How You Can Help

One billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year. Switching to degradable toothbrushes or saving toothbrushes for cleaning can make a big impact. Find out more in this toothbrush infographic

The next time you’re in the dining hall, think about reducing your plastic use and food waste. And the next time you use go/papercut, remember the trees being impacted and don’t forget to recycle.


Addison County Recycles – Zero Waste 

List of Some Zero Waste Swaps 


10 Ways to Reduce Waste

Eco-Friendly Tips for Students

It’s not a bird! It’s not a plane! It’s an air plant!

Written By Monique Santoso 

This week’s activity is air plants! We are so excited to have you participate in an air plant making activity with us!

What are some benefits to air plants? We are so glad you asked! 

  1. Stress Reduction

With midterms behind you and finals ahead of you, we are all slightly on edge. Surrounding yourself with some greenery in your room can really help combat this stress! Psychological research on attention restoration has shown that plants help you focus, which might be exactly what you need! Plus, they make you feel happier, calmer, and more optimistic. This study shows how hospital patients with green spaces and plants were found to recover faster. 

  1. Air Purification

Although we live in Vermont far, far away from the city, one could always have better air quality and lucky for you, air plants help do the job. This study shows how air plants help absorb mercury in the air. No wonder people keep snake plants, spider plants and pothos! 

  1. Easy to Take Care Of! 

Air plants don’t need much or any soil to grow, which means that you are mess free! They are epiphytes, which means that they can grow without soil, so long as you provide it with the support structure it needs! Cue wires! 

  1. Very Cute! 

Although the aesthetic purposes may not be what you are looking for, you cannot deny how cute they look! (See pictures below). They give you, the designer, a chance to get creative and play around with them! 

Amazing Benefits of Air Plants
  1. Dorm-Friendly Size! 

With our dorms being ever so large, we need to save space and look for creative alternatives. Air plants are a great choice! They are soil-free and container free! 

All the benefits here are from, and we cite, the Balcon Garden Web, and you can read their article here.

The Benefits of Eco-Art

What’s art’s connection to mental health?

Art-making allows you to express emotions without words, process feelings, and reduce stress and anxiety. Creating art also boosts self-esteem, promotes inner emotional discoveries, and stimulates the release of dopamine, making you feel happier. 

Why eco-art?

Eco Artists draw attention to environmental concerns through creative expression. Painting environmental scenes can relieve stress caused by environmental concerns while highlighting the beauty of the natural world. 

Check out some of Middlebury’s environmentally-conscious art on your next walk!

Deborah Fisher’s Solid State Change is at the Hillcrest Environmental Center. Her work was inspired by the geology and topography of Middlebury but constructed from recycled tires and electrical insulation. Fun fact: it was once mistaken for garbage and sent away and the college had to retrieve it from the trash! 

Michael Singer’s Garden of the Seasons acts as a spot for study, reflection and refreshment of the senses next to the Davis Family Library.

Find out more about Middlebury’s public art.


Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy 

What is Eco-Art?

Nepal to Turn Everest Trash into Art to Highlight How Much Trash There is on Everest

Caring for Your Succulent!

Let’s plant that succulent!

  1. Fill your pot almost to the top

Add most of the succulent soil, leaving a little bit of room at the top. Make sure not to pack too tightly (to leave room for roots to grow).

  1. Position your succulent

Place your succulent on top of the soil, nestling its roots into the soil a bit.

  1. Top off the pot

Finish filling the pot with the remaining soil. To prevent rotting, the leaves of the succulent (if you have them) should be completely above the soil. You may be able to add a little more soil after the first watering too. 

For more tips, check out How to Plant Succulents.

Keeping your succulent alive!

Succulents should be watered only when totally dried out. Water the soil until it is completely soaked, then wait until it’s totally dried before watering again. The amount of watering needed will depend on the succulent, but typically they should be watered at most once a week.

To find out more about watering, this beginner’s guide can be helpful: How to Water Succulents: Complete Beginner’s Guide

Propagate the leaves!!

  1. Cut your leaf

Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut a leaf from right above the stem. 

  1. Leave your cutting alone for 1-3 days

Let your cut leaf scab over and dry out.

  1. Water your cutting

Once your leaf starts to shrivel, place it on top of some soil and water it anytime the soil dries out. 

  1. Wait it out

After a few weeks of watering, your cutting should start to grow roots.

For more information on propagating, take a look at How to Propagate Succulents from Leaves and Cuttings!

Need Help? 

We love hearing from you about how you liked the activity. Please send us pictures of your succulents in their new home or any questions you have. Does it have a name?  If your succulent looks a little sad, shrively or dead, don’t worry! It’s super easy to nurse it back to health. Don’t give up, just be patient.

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