Alum Diana Ramirez (BA ’17) Publishes Article on Burnham Wildlife Corridor

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

Diana Ramirez, who graduated from RU in May 2017 as the university’s first double-major in Sociology and Sustainability Studies, has just published an article in the Chicago news publication, South Side Weekly. Her October 10th essay, “Scavenging the South Lakefront,” explains “how data is informing the development of the Burnham Wildlife Corridor” along the city’s southern lakefront. As Diana notes in her article’s introduction:

[A] series of art installations has transformed open park space into gathering spaces. Through this initiative, Roots and Routes (R&R)—a network of major institutions and South Side community organizations working to break down barriers and connect people, especially communities of color, to local green spaces—hope to open up an opportunity for residents to explore a new form of urban green space.

Along with community organizations in Bronzeville, Chinatown, and Pilsen, the Chicago Park District and the Field Museum worked with…

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Microplastic Pollution: from Your Drain to the Ocean

by Margaret Allen for SUST 240

How do our individual daily choices affect the world we live in? Are we possibly doing something wrong? As one example, think about the things we might accidently wash down the bathroom drain every day. What happens next? Do they disappear into the abyss? Where do the microbeads in your facewash/bodywash or those contacts that slip go?

These plastic materials do not simply disappear, even though we can’t see them anymore. And to be quite blunt, they also happen to be the most harmful plastic in our ocean. These small plastic pieces are not visible on the surface of the ocean, but they are floating rampantly within the currents. Alongside other, larger pieces of plastics of course; but are also around precious marine life: studies have found these microplastics in the bellies of fish!

Source: Tanaka and Takada (2016)

For example, in the article “Microplastic fragments and microbeads in digestive tracts of planktivorous fish from urban coastal waters,” Tanaka and Takada (2016) found that “Plastic was detected in 49 out of 64 fish (77%), with 2.3 pieces on average and up to 15 pieces per individual” in an experiment conducted in Tokyo Bay in 2016 (p. 1). While it may not seem like a significant average amount of microbead pieces, the fact that they even have 1 illustrates our devastating impact on vulnerable marine life.

Source: Withgott and Laposata (2017)

We need not only to protect the ocean’s biodiversity, but also recognize that the ocean is the largest carbon sink and has the largest net productivity out of all ecosystems in our environment, followed by tropical rainforests — the two environments we are depleting at unprecedented rates. Once we push it too far and continue to deforest the tropical rainforest, we will no longer have the air we need to breathe or a habitable planet.

And here’s the thing: there is no Planet B.


Tanaka, K. and Takada, H. (2016). Microplastic fragments and microbeads in digestive tracts of planktivorous fish from urban coastal waters. Scientific Reports, 6, 34351. doi: 10.1038/srep34351.

Whittaker, R.H. (1975). Communities and ecosystems, 2nd ed. NY: Macmillan.

Withgott, J. and Laposata, M. (2017). Environment: the science behind the stories, 6th edition. NY: Pearson.

Margaret Allen is a student in the Fall 2018 class SUST 240 Waste at Roosevelt University. This fall, students in the course will be posting essays about a variety of topics relating to the course themes of waste, recycling, pollution, and environmental justice.

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A Toxic Tour of East Chicago: tomorrow Oct. 17th at 4pm @RooseveltU

Check out this environmental justice event today at RU’s Chicago Campus!

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

Please join the Roosevelt community for “A Toxic Tour of East Chicago,” a conversation with Thomas Frank, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17 in Roosevelt’s 2nd floor Sullivan Room.

In the wake of his community’s successful efforts to stop profligate petcoke stockpiling in the Koch Brothers’ KCBX terminals, and the still-unfolding lead crisis in West Chicago, Mr. Frank will discuss new environmental and quality of life challenges threatening the Southeast Side and other frontline environmental justice communities, and the way the region’s political processes perpetuates these threats.

Thomas Frank is an Artist / Organizer working for environmental and climate justice in the Calumet and Great Lakes regions. Thomas is a lead organizer with the Community Strategy Group in East Chicago, a board member of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, founder of 350 Indiana and the Dunelands Environmental Justice Alliance, and a…

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Film Screening of “After the Spill” this Wednesday, 10/10, @RooseveltU

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

Join the Sustainability Studies Program & the RU Green student organization for a screening of the film After the Spill on Wednesday, October 10th, 4:30-6:30 p.m., in the Sullivan Room (2nd floor of the Auditorium Building) at RU’s Chicago Campus. A discussion will follow the film screening. Open to all members of the Roosevelt community.

October is Campus Sustainability Month and October 8th is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The 2015 documentary After the Spill documents the aftermath of the largest oil spill in U.S. history: the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Indigenous groups all over the world are leading the fight against fossil fuel projects such as the Dakota Access pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline and the Bayou Bridge Pipeline which represent loss of land, water, and safety in their communities.

Questions? Contact SUST Prof. Graham Pickren at

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Reducing Food Waste through “Imperfect Produce”

by Carissa Carson for SUST 350

Eating a healthy balanced diet is a vital component of any healthy life. Thanks to advances in science and agriculture over the years we now have the ability, just in the US alone, to grow millions of tons of food every year. However, with fossil fuel use on the rise, and the effects of climate change increasing, this may not be possible to continue forever due to several aspects of the agriculture industry. A big contributor to this is the loss of forests due to clearing, which has put the agriculture industry in a tough spot as it continues to grow. Fewer carbon sinks and increases in pollutants such as methane gas from cattle emissions and other GHG emissions from the transportation of produce will accelerate climate change.

Although the path to reducing climate change will be slow, there is another solution that anyone can help to accomplish: that solution is reducing food waste. In the US alone, it is estimated that around 60 million tons of food worth over $100 billion are wasted every year. If the demand for food were reduced to the amount actually consumed, not thrown away, farmers could adjust the quantity they produce, drastically cutting down on emissions and usage of resources.

A rapidly growing company called Imperfect Produce has decided to fight one big contributor to the staggering amount of food waste. As the name suggests, they supply people with the “imperfect produce” that farms normally would’ve just thrown away. These items of produce still taste fine, they generally just have minor surface imperfections or odd shapes that grocery stores usually wouldn’t want to sell.

Box of produce from a CSA (photo:

Although this is not a new system, hopefully in the era of technology this easily accessible produce box delivery service will inspire both local farmers and people to join in. Small farmers have been offering this to locals for years; however, you often must purchase a yearly share rather than a box at your chosen frequency. Local farmers allowing citizens to purchase boxes similar to the Imperfect box, but locally, could allow a more direct connection to the market. Farmers can receive direct feedback from the consumers about how much of different types of produce is needed and ideally work towards producing around that amount.

The transition to locally grown produce with a stronger focus on community needs could help to address another problem as well: economic inequality and food deserts. Food deserts are referring to urban areas in which the citizens do not have ready access to affordable or quality healthy foods, and in today’s society we still face historic levels of economic inequality. Chicago is a prime example of the existence of food deserts throughout many of its South and West Side neighborhoods.

The city has taken notice of this and one solution it’s promoted is grocery stores such as a Whole Foods in Englewood and a Mariano’s in Bronzeville. While it would seem like an easy solution to the problem to provide a grocery store, this article takes a deeper look into why it isn’t that simple. Often food deserts exist in neighborhoods with mostly low-income households. When faced with the decision between cheap and easy fast food or “cheap” fresh produce that requires more preparation, often families are inclined to choose the fast food. With a focus on locally grown produce distributed to the communities, I think we could help remedy this. Often local produce can be sold to people cheaper due to the minimal transportation costs and no price increase for distributors such as grocery stores.

In conclusion, a push towards locally produced and waste conscious growing will help to solve a multitude of problems. Reduced amounts of produce grown will not only help to cut back on usage of land that was once natural habitat and forests, but it will also conserve our use of water resources. As more people engage with local farmers to purchase their produce, farmers will be able to listen to the communities’ needs and grow only what can feasibly be consumed, thus further reducing overall waste. When resources and waste are reduced, prices will ideally decline as well, allowing farmers and their produce to hopefully appeal to those living in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts.


Chandler, A. (2016, July 15). Why Americans Lead the World in Food Waste. Retrieved from

Imperfect: Ugly produce delivery for about 30% less! (n.d.). Retrieved from

Richard Florida @Richard_Florida Feed Richard Florida, CityLab, & University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management. (2018, January 22). Stop Blaming Food Deserts for the Nutrition Gap. Retrieved from

Trotter, G. (2018, August 25). As Imperfect Produce grows in Chicago, so do challenges for local farmers. Retrieved from

Carissa Carson is a student in the Fall 2018 class SUST 350 Service & Sustainability at Roosevelt University. This fall, students in the course will be posting essays about a variety of topics relating to the course themes of urban sustainability and community resilience.

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Voter Registration Drive – Monday October 8th from 11-3pm

RU students: if you’re not registered to vote yet, here’s an easy and fun way to do it! Voting matters this November!

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University


As part of Campus Sustainability Month, the Sustainability Studies Program is organizing a voter registration event on Monday, October 8th from 11-3pm. We’ll have a table set up in the Congress Lounge, Auditorium Building 2nd floor that will be staffed with qualified voter registrars.

If you are

  • At least 18 years of age by November 6th
  • A U.S. citizen
  • And have a valid Illinois Drivers License or State ID

You are eligible to vote in the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th.

October 9th is the last day to register in person, while online registration continues until October 21st. You can register to vote online here:

Remember that voting is probably the most important sustainability action you can take!

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Compost Collection @RooseveltU: Back in Action this Fall 2018!

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

We know . . . you’ve been waiting and wondering, sometimes breathlessly, for the big reveal. When will those irresistible green composting bins reappear in Roosevelt’s historic and ever-charming Auditorium Building, with clever signs exhorting you to deposit your snack or lunch food scraps? When will you again have a chance to indulge your daily urge to compost, thereby diverting biodegradable food waste from its ill-fated rendezvous with a landfill and instead guide it toward its optimal destiny: as rich, healthy soil?

We’re happy to tell you the wait is officially over! As of yesterday, Oct. 3rd, we’ve relaunched our all-volunteer student-run Compost Collection Project, sponsored by the Roosevelt Urban Sustainability Lab, the RU Green Student Organization, and this fall’s SUST 240 Waste class as part of many Campus Sustainability Month activities this October. After a thorough walk-through of the building and several ad hoc interviews with students and…

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