Insight News

Thursday
Oct 23rd

Health

Sustainable small homes

Sustainable small homesDear EarthTalk: I am looking for a small, modular home to put on a piece of vacation property. What’s available that could meet my needs and be easier on the environment than building a traditional house from scratch? -- Rob Sherman, Minneapolis, MN

First utilized by relief and aid missions around the world to house workers or refugees, self-contained modular homes that can be partially or even fully fabricated in advance are now all the rage among green architects and those committed to more sustainable living—and they’re beginning to pop all across North America and beyond, mostly for use as guest houses and vacation cabins. The benefits of such homes versus their larger traditional counterparts are many. In theory, prefabrication generates less waste, uses less energy, and provides more opportunities for the incorporation of greener construction methods and technologies. Most such buildings are also less demanding on the home site of choice.
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Wasted restaurant food.

Wasted restaurant food.Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need? -- Ryan Jones, Richland, WA

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”
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CDC study shows racial divide in teen pregnancy rates

Pregnancy among teen-age girls has been the subject of public concern for decades, and a new state-by-state report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights another factor; huge racial disparities in teen birth rates.

Minnesota ranks among the ten states with the lowest overall teen birth rate, but among the ten states with the highest teen birth rate for African American girls. Rates are also significantly above average for Minnesota's Hispanic or Latina girls.
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Rahshana Price-Isuk: Giving back her share

Rahshana Price-Isuk: Giving back her shareThings have come full circle for North Minneapolis native Rahshana Price-Isuk, M.D., who has recently returned to the neighborhood to stake her spot as the first African American female medical director at Neighborhood HealthSource (NHS), formerly Fremont Community Clinics. "This wonderful opportunity will allow me to serve the community I grew up in, fulfilling a goal I have always had giving back to those who gave to me," said Price-Isuk.

The graduate of Northeast Junior High School and North Community High School credits her own family doctor as an important fixture to her becoming a doctor. It was extremely motivating to her to know that her doctorial dreams could be within her reach as long has she worked hard and knew that being a doctor was what she wanted to do.
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Minneapolis Legislator of the Year Award

Minneapolis Legislator of the Year AwardThe National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota presented State Rep. Frank Hornstein-DFL- 60B with a Legislator of the Year Award at its Annual Conference, held in St. Paul on November 6. “This past legislative session the House health and human services finance bill contained over $50 million in cuts to the mental health system, cutting respite care, supportive housing, school-based mental health services, and crisis team funding,” said NAMI’s executive director Sue Abderholden. “Rep. Hornstein knew the devastation that this would cause, and thanks to his efforts on the floor of the House, all the funding was restored. His actions were applauded by families and individuals across the state affected by mental illness.

What on Earth is "global dimming?"

What on Earth is Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of global warming, of course, but what on Earth is “global dimming?” -- Max S., Seattle, WA

Global dimming is a less well-known but real phenomenon resulting from atmospheric pollution. The burning of fossil fuels by industry and internal combustion engines, in addition to releasing the carbon dioxide that collects and traps the sun’s heat within our atmosphere, causes the emission of so-called particulate pollution—composed primarily of sulphur dioxide, soot and ash. When these particulates enter the atmosphere they absorb solar energy and reflect sunlight otherwise bound for the Earth’s surface back into space. Particulate pollution also changes the properties of clouds—so-called “brown clouds” are more reflective and produce less rainfall than their more pristine counterparts. The reduction in heat reaching the Earth’s surface as a result of both of these processes is what researchers have dubbed global dimming.
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Meatless Mondays

Meatless MondaysDear EarthTalk: I know that some people abstain from meat on Fridays for religious reasons, but what’s the story behind “Meatless Mondays? -- Sasha Burger, Ronkonkoma, NY

Meatless Monday—the modern version of it, at least—was born in 2003 with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15 percent in the U.S. and beyond. The rationale? Livestock production accounts for one-fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and is also a major factor in global forest and habitat loss, freshwater depletion, pollution and human health problems. The average American eats some eight ounces of meat every day—45 percent more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended amount.

An outgrowth of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, the Meatless Monday project offers vegetarian recipes, interviews with experts, various resources for schools, organizations and municipalities that wish to promote the initiative—and regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. “Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” the group reports. “It can also help limit your carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
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