We use a variety of products every day including household cleaners, laundry detergents, cosmetics, and prescription drugs. These chemicals find their way into our wastewater through our sinks, toilets, and shower drains. Because of environmental protection laws, chemicals dangerous to humans are regulated, sampled, and removed at wastewater treatment plants. However, endocrine disrupting chemicals that can interfere with a person's hormones and can result in diseases and developmental disorders are far less regulated. They pass through treatment plants and exist at low levels in our water.
Why should we care? These endocrine disruptors may pose heightened risks to specific populations, such as pregnant women, fetuses, and immunocompromised patients. They also threaten fish, amphibious creatures, and other aquatic organisms. Endocrine disruptors affect the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity. The biodiversity of plants and animals helps to filter harmful toxins in our waterways, provide us with drugs, medicines, and food, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Dr. Heather Gall, assistant professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, set out in the summer of 2014 with a team of three undergraduate students to design a footprint calculator for the general public. Users input information about their household product use in several categories. The calculator estimates a footprint and identifies areas where individuals can reduce their consumption of endocrine disruptors.
"It's exciting not just because of the content but because it was done by undergraduate students," said Gall. "It's been really fun to watch this take off and to see my students faces light up, and to keep the inspiration going for this project."
Download the calculator below to see how you can better care for our waterways and health.

Thanks to the efforts of its Green Team, the HUB is piloting Tree-Free janitorial products this year. The idea was first presented by Adam Freedgood, a Penn State alum who now works with a sustainability consulting firm. Judy Albin, senior associate director of Union and Student Activities, and the HUB Green team saw this as an excellent opportunity to change their workplace, a building frequented by thousands of Penn State students and visitors every day.

Though the University's present janitorial supplies are FSC certified and contain recycled content fibers, this new product from Emerald Brand sources the leftover stalks of agricultural products such as bamboo, or eucalyptus, and sugar cane, and turns them into bathroom paper products. Not only does using this product solve a waste problem, it also reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because the agricultural byproducts are normally burned off the land. The manufacturing process uses less water than tree-sourced products and these products are cost neutral for Penn State. Feedback from the pilot (still ongoing) has been positive, and indications are that the product may be adopted more broadly across campus.

"As soon as we piloted the program, we immediately noticed a group of women coming out of the bathroom who were talking about how soft the toilet paper was," said Albin.

Founded in 2013, State of State is a student-run organization at Penn State, committed to facilitating a dialogue within the university community about important Penn State-related issues. This dialogue culminates every year in a spring conference at which they bring together student, faculty, administration, alumni, and community leaders to speak about a variety of Penn State and community topics, ranging from student life to mental health to town-and-gown relations. Our goal is to bring together passionate change-makers who can make our community stronger and more successful. Watch Erik Foley, director of Sustainability at the Smeal College of Business, speak about our role as the "bridge generation."

Penn State students will showcase their semester-long projects at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, April 24 at the State College Municipal Building. During the spring semester, these students partnered with local government and community organizations to research and propose sustainable solutions addressing various needs in the surrounding communities. Green Teams and other faculty and staff around the university are strongly encouraged to represent their own efforts toward sustainability. Posters submitted to Micah Houston by Monday, April 17 are eligible to win the poster competition. This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

The Student Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program invites faculty, staff, and students to purchase a share and receive a delicious weekly assortment of Student Farm produce. Sign ups for Maymester and Summer CSA shares are open NOW, and shares are limited. To find out more, and sign up, click here.
Upcoming Events

Lion Surplus
5-6 p.m.


Centre County
8 a.m.-12 p.m.


State College Borough Municipal Building
5-7 p.m.


Headhouse 2 (Across from the Creamery)
11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.


Washington, DC
All Day


Student Health Center
3 p.m.-5 p.m.


Lion Surplus
6:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Check out our calendar for more sustainability-related events.
Lydia Vandenbergh | Penn State's Sustainability Institute
108 Land and Water Building, University Park, PA 16802
 (814) 863-4893 | lydia@psu.edu