National Superhero Day! Are You an Earth Month Hero?

April 28th is National Superhero Day!

And what better way to be a Superhero than by doing your part to save our planet!?


Paper or Plastic?

Paper or plastic? Many communities are beginning to outlaw plastic shopping bags. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Plastic is, well, plastic and paper is made from trees. Ergo, paper is good and plastic is bad. Right? Right?

Actually, maybe not….

ALL disposable bags have an environmental cost. Paper bags are made of a renewable resource, can be recycled curbside, and break down in a landfill. But getting a paper bag to the grocery store is a long process – it takes lots and lots of trees. Trees are often logged by clear-cutting which results in habitat reduction and long-term ecological damage. The machinery used to cut the trees need roads, and use fossil fuel to operate. The trees then have to dry for 3 years, then the bark is stripped (more machinery), chipped into 1-inch squares which are ‘cooked,’ and then ‘digested’ with a chemical mixture of limestone and acid……. you get the idea!

Plastic bags are made from oil – a non-renewable resource. Plastic bag creation requires electricity, which mainly comes from coal-burning power plants… Plastic can be recycled, but it isn’t simple or easy, either. It involves re-melting the bags and re-casting the plastic…. And, those plastic bags often become litter – hanging on tree branches, caught in ditches, floating down the street…

There are biodegradable plastic bags. Sort of. They are completely biodegradable in a compost bin, but slowly – if at all – in a landfill…

Best choice? The reusable canvas bags….


Once you know how toxic paper and plastic are it is hard not to look around your living space and notice everything that is plastic or comes packaged in plastic…. look for items that come in recyclable packaging – and packaging that isn’t excessive.

Green cleaning:

We all want out homes to be clean and with so many products available, how does one choose? Check to see if the product has a “Danger,” Warning,” or “Caution,” designation. Danger = very hazardous, could explode if hot, could cause death if used incorrectly. Warning = less hazardous but easily catches on fire and can cause serious illness or injury. Caution = least hazardous, but can still cause illness and irritation. Green Goes With Everything : Simple Steps To A Healthier Life and Cleaner Planet  has a list of dangerous chemicals used in common household products. It also has a number of “recipes” for home-made, safe, green alternatives – for example, a window cleaner which is made of 3 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mix & spray! Simple!

Green Gardens and Green Eating:

Another way to become a ‘green’ superhero is looking at what you eat, where it comes from, and how it is grown.  Love those oranges, strawberries and other out-of-season fruit during the winter months? Think about how they end up in your market when they are, in fact, out-of-season. It is always in-season somewhere in the world, but getting those fruits and vegetables to your table takes a lot of energy – think of all the packing (and packaging), and fossil fuel it takes to get them to you. Not to mention the pesticides and chemicals used to make sure they are “fresh” when they arrive at your store.

In Living Green: a Practical Guide to Simple Sustainability author Greg Horn relates an incident when he visited a lettuce farm. The lettuce looked so healthy, but the workers were wearing long sleeves and rubber boots. Some were wearing masks. When he asked why they were dressed like that he was told it was because the lettuce was sprayed an average of 12 times with up to 50 different pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The workers needed to be protected from the chemicals we eat…

Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes With Everything : Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet, cites that in 2004, “…researchers in two different independent laboratories examined the umbilical cord blood of ten newborns from around the country. What they discovered was astonishing: There were 287 chemicals present in the blood these babies depended upon for nourishment and survival. There were 180 chemicals known to cause cancer in humans and animals. there were 217 toxic chemicals known to cause brain and nervous system damage. And there were 208 known to cause birth defects and abnormal development in tests on animals.”.

Solutions: if possible, plant your own garden. Then you have control over pesticides and other chemicals. If you do plant your own garden, plant only plants that are specifically suited to your climate. Trying to grow plants that come from different areas often requires the use of chemicals and other devices to help them flourish. Obviously, not everyone can have their own garden – so look for organic options whenever possible. If you have a farmer’s market nearby – you know you are getting fresh produce and you can personally talk to the grower and find out what has been used on the plants.

The organically grown fruits and veggies probably won’t look as “healthy.” They won’t be as full or lush as the mass produced items, but they won’t be sprayed and infused with chemicals intended to make them grow bigger. They also won’t be packaged in plastic containers to survive shipping. Look at the organic apple – it looks like an apple you would pick right off a tree, imperfections and all!


Glass globe in water. Photo from MyLocalNews.US


Water is finite. No new water is created, what we have is what we have. It may seem like we have an endless supply, after all, approximately 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water – 96.5% is oceans. Although water also exists in rivers, lakes, streams, icecaps, glaciers, water vapor, and underground in aquifers, 96.5% of the Earth’s water is salt water. And with the growing population comes an increased demand for water – for hygiene, sanitation, and potable water.

Fortunately, there are a lot of changes that individuals can make that will have a substantial impact on our water supply. First, look at the water that you use on a daily basis: showering and bathing, dishwashers, washing machines, toilets, cooking, lawn and gardens… The estimate in 1999 (the last time the American Water Works Association estimated) was that each person used somewhere between 60 and 70 gallons a day.

Did you know waiting only 30 seconds for the hot water to heat up in the shower can result in nearly 4 gallons of water going down the drain? A bath can use up to 70 gallons of water, while a quick shower (with a reduced-flow shower head) can use only 10 gallons.

There have been many advances since 1999 – tankless on-demand water heaters, low-flow toilets and shower heads, water-saving dishwashers and washing machines. And many communities provide incentives to encourage water savings.


Remember that each and every little thing you do does make a difference. Start small and choose one action, one small change you can make. Maybe just use the recipe for window cleaner to start and then go from there!

You can do it! You can be an Earth Month Superhero!



Barnett, Sloan. 2008. Green goes with everything : simple steps to a healthier life and a cleaner planet. New York : Atria Books. Engineering Library RA770 .B37 2008

Ryan, Eric. 2008. Squeaky green : the Method guide to detoxing your home. San Francisco : Chronicle Books. Engineering Library RA770.5 .R933 2008

Horn, Greg. 2006. Living green : a practical guide for simple sustainability. Topanga, CA : Freedom Press. Engineering Library RA776.5 .H67 2006

Haynes, Chip. 2009. Wearing smaller shoes : living light on the big blue marble. Gabriola Island BC : New Society Pub. Engineering Library GE196 .H39 2009

Ferguson, Rebecca. 2011. The role of the individual. Farmington Hills, MI : Greenhaven Press. Engineering Library GE195 .F47 2011

Dunn, Collin. July 9, 2008. Paper Bags or Plastic Bags? Everything You Need to Know. treehugger.

How much water is there on, in, and above the earth? Dec. 2, 2016. U.S. USGS. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

Gilbert Celebrates Earth Month With Water Saving Tips.My Local News – AZ April 11, 2017.

Other resources:

Local Johnson County, Iowa resource: Backyard  Abundance. 2017

WHO Report: A Quarter of Childhood Deaths are Due to Environmental Pollution. Futurism. Earth & Energy. Date accessed April, 5, 2017

Schiller, Kristan. April 5, 2017. Iconic Monuments You Didn’t Know Were Eco-Friendly : From the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal. AFAR Media .

McGrath, Jane. 2017. Which is more environmentally friendly: paper or plastic? How Stuff Works : Science .

A Company in Japan Just Broke the World Record for Solar Panel Efficiency. Futurism Date accessed April 3, 2017


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Librarian Eric Rumsey retires | 35 years of service @Hardin Library

photo of Eric Rumsey

photo of Eric RumseyEric Rumsey, one of Hardin Library’s most senior employees, retired on April 3, 2017.

As Web Services Librarian, Eric most recently worked on Hardin Libraries Twitter @hardinlib, and conducted research on searching PubMed and Embase for plant-based foods and other nutrition-related topics.  He also taught classes on library resources such as Embase and provided reference services.

Eric was an internet pioneer, building and maintaining Hardin Meta Directory (HardinMD), an early subject directory of quality health information that later included pictures. Hardin MD pictures were used for teaching, research and in many publications.  Hardin Meta Directory was one of the top 5 sites for consumer health information in the late 1990s.  Hardin MD will be retired on June 30, 2017 with Eric’s blessing.

Eric had degrees in botany from Earlham College and Indiana University, and a MLS from Indiana University.  His interest in botany led to his research and writing on plant-based nutrition and foods.

Eric is staying in Iowa City and will spend his retirement with his family, reading and gardening.  He and his wife Christine are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first grandchild in August.



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Spring + Earth Month + Gardening = Composting!

It’s spring and for many that means gardening!

Most of us have at least heard of compost, but we really may not know much about how it helps the soil, what should – and should not – go into compost and how to effectively use it once we have it!

So. What is compost? Put simply it is decayed – and decaying – organic matter which improves the soil structure and has other benefits for plants. Humus, on the other hand, is well-decomposed plant and animal matter that resembles dark coffee grounds. It is aromatic, lightweight, and spongy – allowing it to hold water. The terms ‘humus’ and ‘compost’ are sometimes used interchangeably.

Why is composting important? Compost does much to increase the health of the soil. It increases the number of microorganisms in the soil, which in turn boosts the number of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms which become food for predators. The soil microbes help protect your plants from pests and diseases. For detailed information on all the benefits composting provides check out How to Make and Use Compost : The Ultimate Guide.

Don’t have space for a compost bin? Make one sized for the kitchen!

Did you know there are different types of composting?

Heat (or thermophilic) composting uses the heat released by microorganisms as they break down organic matter. When the compost heats up sufficiently it will kill weed seeds and pathogens. Cool composting may take 6 to 12 months (or longer) to produce usable compost, but has the advantage of needing no maintenance. Even without turning and adding moisture the (cold-loving) microorganisms will continue to break down the refuse.

Then there is vermicompost – a compost pile where certain worm species are used to consume and convert the organic matter into useful organic fertilizer. Vermicomposting can even be done in a simple indoor, household worm bin (yes, really!). There is also sheet composting – simply spreading your organic matter on top of the soil in sheets, where it then decomposes right where you need it.

There are several ways to contain the compost. Building a box or fenced in area is a nice way – if you have the space.

You may purchase compost bins – including ones that are meant to be turned and rotated – to help keep the compost aerated. However, purchased bins can be expensive. Don’t despair! If you’d like to begin composting but don’t have much space or money, here’s an easy DIY for you! The video, below, shows an easy way to make a compost bin using a garbage can. It is recommended that you put your new compost bin on cement blocks to let the air circulate through the holes in the bottom. The gentleman presenting the video talks about a 50/50 ratio of brown to green. For more information about what that means check out the paragraph about what goes into a compost bin!

Want to try vermicomposting (that’s the one with worms, remember!) 50 Green Projects for the Evil Genius will walk you through setting up your very own worm compost bin!

Now. What goes into your compost pile or bin?

You may hear that there is a desired ratio of “browns and greens” when composting. But what does that mean? Better terminology would be “high nitrogen” (green) and “low nitrogen” (brown). The terms “brown” and “green” are helpful, however. Browns are plant material that are, well, brown. Fall leaves, wood products, straw… And greens are, well, green. Fresh grass clippings, freshly picked weeds, and most kitchen scraps (even if they aren’t green….).  For more complete information about the C:N ratio (carbon to nitrogen) check out Compost, Vermicompost, and Compost Tea : Feeding the Soil on the Organic Farm.

What Goes In the Compost Pile? Kern County Waste Management.

There are things that should not go into a compost pile – don’t add meat scraps and bones – they attract rodents, and no one wants that! Surprisingly, it is recommended you don’t add citrus peels or onions! Onions and citrus are both acidic and can kill the worms and microorganisms on which your compost pile relies.  You’ll also want to be wary of composting weeds – you don’t want to replant them when you use the compost! Lay them out in the sun (on a shed roof, a drying frame, etc.) and when they are brown, dry, and brittle – toss them in your compost bin!

There are so many things that can be composted – shredded paper bags, stale crackers and cereal, used paper plates (without a wax coating), wine corks and toothpicks, old cotton or wool clothing (cut into small pieces), newspapers …. For a lengthy list check out 100 Things You Can (and Should) Compost.

Okay. That’s a lot of info about composting. So, what do you DO with all the compost you’ve been diligently making?

Just as there are differing types of compost piles and bins, there are different types of gardening. There are conventionally dug gardens (gardens in which the soil is turned by fork, spade, rototiller…) and no-dig gardens (which are just that – gardens in which you do not turn the soil).

There are advantages to the no-dig garden – besides the fact it is less work! For one thing, you don’t disrupt the earthworm aeration tunnels, nor do you slice the worms in half! By digging your garden you increase the amount of oxygen in the soil which oxidizes more of the carbon which causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.

Don’t neglect your potted plants – add compost to them, too!


In both types of gardens you can use compost as mulch and top dressing around growing plants. You can also use mulch on plants in containers – including indoor houseplants! If you are interested in learning how to make your own potting mixes check out How to Make and Use Compost : The Ultimate Guide. There are also instructions for compost specifically for cuttings and seeds.



Now, go out and start that compost pile! Before you know it you’ll have great compost and a beautiful, lush garden!


Cromell, Cathy. 2010. Composting for dummies. Hoboken, NJ : Wiley ; Chichester : John Wiley, distributor.  Engineering Library S661 .C76 2010

Scott, Nicky. 2009. How to make compost : the ultimate guide. Totnes : Green Books. Engineering Library S661 .S3 2009

McKay, Kim, Jenny Bonnin. 2009. True green home : 100 inspirational ideas for creating a green environment at home. Washington, DC : National Geographic Society. Engineering Library TH4860 .M25 2009

Shariff, Jamil. 2009. 50 green projects for the evil genius. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library GE195 .S47 2009

Gershuny, Grace; Jocelyn Langer, illustrator. 2011. Compost, vermicompost, and compost tea : feeding the soil on the organic farm. White River Junction, VT : Chelsea Green Pub. Engineering Library S661 .G45 2011

Bloom, Jonathan. Sept. 15, 2011. Americans Waste enough Food to Fill a 90,000-seat Football Stadium Every Day – What Can We Do About It? Alternet : Food.

Pavlis, Robert. March 18, 2015. How to Compost: Browns & Greens.  Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening.

Gifford, Dawn. 100 Things You Can (And Should) Compost. Small Footprint Family : sustainability starts at home. Date Accessed: April 18, 2017

Gifford, Dawn. 10 Things You Should Not Put In Your Compost Pile.Small Footprint Family : sustainability starts at home. Date Accessed: April 18, 2017

Vanderlinden, Colleen. April 9, 2017. Composting Weeds : Dos, Don’ts, and Things to Watch Out For. The Spruce : Home Composting

Gonzalez, Ramon. May 7, 2012. The Do’s and Don’ts of Backyard Composting.  Treehugger : Sustainability with SASS.

Jabs, Matt. Kitchen Compost Bucket – DIY, Easy, and Frugal. DIYNatural. Date Accessed: April 19, 2017

Hayden, Scott. Oct. 5, 2013. Around the Home: #3 Trashcan Composter.

Recycling : Backyard Composting. 2017. Kern County Waste Management.

Other Resources:

Flowerdew, Bob. Composting. 2012. New York : Skyhorse Pub. Engineering Library S661 .F56 2012

Haynes, Chip. 2009. Wearing smaller shoes : living light on the big blue marble. Gabriola Island, BC : New Society Pub. Engineering Library GE 196 .H39 2009

Backyard Abundance. 2017. Johnson County, Iowa. Backyard Abundance.

Winter, Catherine. May 23, 2016.  DIY: turn an old garbage can into a backyard compost bin. inhabitat.

Pham, Diane. Jan. 15, 2013. How to Start an Odor-Free Freezer Compost Bin as a City or Small Space Dweller. inhabitat



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Got to measure scholarly impact? H-index, Impact factors, Eigenfactor | Workshop Tuesday, April 25, 1-2pm @Hardin Library

Xiaomei Gu, Clinical Education Library, Adjunct Professor, College of Pharmacy

This class will teach participants how to use tools such as Ulrich’s, Journal Citation Reports, Web of Science, and Scopus to determine the impact that journals, articles, and authors have had on a particular field.  Focus will be on health sciences, but techniques are relevant for many disciplines.  Topics such as impact factors, Eigenfactors, and H-indices will also be discussed.
For individual instruction on this topic, please contact your liaison librarian.

Tuesday, April 25th, 1:00pm-2:00pm (East Information Commons, 2nd Floor, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences)

Register online or by calling 319-335-9151.

 Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the Hardin Library Reference Desk in advance at or 319-335-9151.

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Jean Cruveilhier | April 2017 Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room @Hardin Library

JEAN CRUVEILHIER (1791-1874). Anatomie pathologique du corps humain. 2 vols. and atlas. Paris: J.-B. Baillière, 1829-1842.

Jean Cruveilhier

In the nineteenth century pathology came into its own, based on increasingly accurate knowledge of pathological anatomy. Cruveilhier was the first occupant of the newly established chair of pathology at the University of Paris. Cruveilhier was the first to give an adequate description of disseminated sclerosis and of progressive muscular atrophy, now known as multiple sclerosis. He also described and named, for the first time, hypertrophic pyloric stenosis and ulceration of the stomach due to hyperacidity. His system of pathology, which erroneously taught that “phlebitis dominates all pathology,” was permanently discredited by Virchow’s later work. This atlas contains some of the finest illustrations of gross pathology ever made. They are colored lithographs, done by the anatomical illustrator, Antoine Chazal.

You may view this book in the John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. Make a gift to the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences by donating online or setting up a recurring gift with The University of Iowa Foundation.

Diesease of the larynx by Antoine Chazal

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Special Collections News & Updates 4/20/2017

Newsfeed: Tom Brokaw’s ‘stuff’ in Iowa is a window into his life.  Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register.   Upcoming Events: Final Mellon Sawyer Lecture Friday, April 28. 8:30AM-2:30PM Marina Rustow “Fatimid State […]
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Special Collections News & Updates 4/20/2017

Newsfeed: Tom Brokaw’s ‘stuff’ in Iowa is a window into his life.  Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register.   Upcoming Events: Final Mellon Sawyer Lecture Friday, April 28. 8:30AM-2:30PM Marina Rustow “Fatimid State […]
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