Elizabeth Sawin

Elizabeth Sawin is a mother, biologist, and systems analyst. A member of Cobb Hill Cohousing, she lives on an organic farm in Hartland, Vt. She works at the Sustainability Institute, a think-do tank founded by Donella Meadows.

Community and sustainability go hand in hand

Some years ago, I was part of a group that set out to create a community where we could work toward living with less impact on the environment. One of the first steps we took …

What we don’t know about the toxic chemicals in our bodies

Scientists call the accumulation of chemical contaminants (such as PCBs, mercury, and pesticides) within a person’s body the “body burden.” Body burden is just a number, a concentration in parts per billion or micrograms per …

On staying sane in a mad world

A Czech friend of mine sent me an email during the recent NATO summit in Prague as American fighter jets stood by and riot police filled the streets. “Sometimes,” she wrote, “I feel as though …

It’s time to end the race to the bottom

Here’s a simple game that makes a not-so-simple point. Stand in a line, with several friends. Each of you hold your right index finger out in front of your body. Now place a long stick …

Altering the market to promote sustainable farming

The Aug. 16 issue of Science magazine features an ominous headline: “Dead Zone Grows.” To the right of the headline is a map of the Gulf of Mexico with an irregular green stripe hugging the …

A back-to-school lesson in consumption

Kindergarten is starting next week, and the worn-out old sneakers from last spring are pinching my daughter’s toes. No shoes fit at our favorite used-clothing store, and no neighbors have the right pair of outgrown …

Building a green community in the Green Mountain State

At 9:30 at night the phone rings. It is my neighbor Lorie, who asks me if I’d mind stepping out onto my porch for a minute. I think I know what this is about. Up …

A primer to help fight despair

Just now despair lives close to the surface in many people I know, and leaks out at surprising times. Taking a walk with my neighbor Phil, a bottle of milk in his arms, my daughter …

Thinking beyond the bottom link

My four-year-old daughter spent the afternoon at a local science museum the other day, exploring an exhibit on biodiversity. She returned home full of determination, found a pencil and paper, and composed a letter. Now …

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