Category Archives: Introductory Post

Wasted Water

The idea for this blog came to me when my friend and I were working out at Rec Hall. Before beginning cardio we stopped to refill our water bottles, mine a reusable water bottle and my friend’s a used plastic disposable water bottle. As we filled our water bottles we counted with the machine to see how many disposable plastic water bottles we saved and discovered that mine saved four and hers saved three. This confused me since the hydration station said that my friend saved three plastic disposable water bottles when she simply just filled up one used disposable bottle.


To solve this problem I decided to research plastic water bottles and water efficiency and conservation and concluded that this issue was to vast to be simply covered by one blog post. Therefore I will be using multiple blog posts to reveal my findings and calculations, the first
of which I will dedicate to the actual waste associated with the use of plastic water bottles.

To start this investigation off, I went online to Penn Sate’s sustainability website and discovered that it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water (Penn State). This explains why my friend’s water bottle saved three plastic bottles when she refilled it. On the same website I read that in 2006 Americans alone bought 30 billion plastic water bottles (Penn State). Using these findings, I calculated that in 2006 Americans wasted 60 billion liters of water by consuming 30 billion plastic water bottles:

\(3 \text{ liters of water used per bottle}\times 30 \text{ billion plastic water} = 90\text{ billion liters of water}\)

90 billion liters of water used to make plastic water bottles – 30 billion liters of water actually in the 30 billion plastic water bottles = 60 billion liters of wasted water due to the production of plastic bottles in 2006


These findings are repulsive since Americans waste double the amount of water to just bottle water that is less regulated than regular tap water. However, these numbers are even more disturbing when compared to the fact that one billion people world wide do not have access to clean drinking water, as supported by the same Penn State website.

To find out how many liters of water are necessary per day per person I found a report entitled, Water Requirements, Impinging Factors, and Recommended Intakes which said that the minimum water requirements per person per day are between 3 to 6 liters (Grandjean, World Health Organization). For this blog, I am going to use 3 liters since that is the bare minimum. So to calculate how many liters of water are needed for a billion of people to survive I did the following:

\[3 \text{ liters a day per person}\times 1 \text{ billion people} = 3 \text{ billion liters per day}\]

With the 60 billion liters of water wasted in America in 2006 to make plastic bottles, one billion people could have been supported for 20 days:

\[60 \text{ billion liters of water} / 3\text{ billion liters of water per one billion people per day} = 20 \text{ days}\]

Although this number may seem insignificant compared to the 365 days in one year, this figure was from 2006 and just included water bottles bought in America. Today the amount of plastic water bottle consumption has increased even more throughout the world. It is important that citizens take other people and countries into consideration when purchasing unnecessary disposable plastic water bottles. In my next blog I will discuss alternatives to bottled water to help conserve and manage water more efficiently,


Hey! My name is Rachel and I’m a sophomore from about 15 minutes south of Washington, DC, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Energy, Environmental, and Mineral Economics. I’m 0135b2c5b36f2711d3048ca81cb3e29aeb9871a17etaking this class, like most of you all, to satisfy a GQ, but also because the topic is genuinely something that I am interested in. When I was a sophomore in high school I was required to participate in my school’s science fair and when looking for a project idea, I stumbled on one relating to the resilience of certain ecosystems. Ever since then I’ve been overly interested in the environment and sustainability and it’s led me to various internship programs and even to a Youth Environmental Conference in Costa Rica where I was given the opportunity to give a presentation to Al Gore. What I understand of sustainability and resilience is that they are both a measure of strength. I think that resilience is a beautiful, naturally occurring process and sustainability is something that we can help attribute to.

I love watching TED talks and here is a pretty cool one on environmental folklore with regards to humans and their decisions and then what impact those decisions have.


Hello, my name is Richie Katzenback and I am currently a sophomore studying psychology (the business option).  I am taking this class primarily to fulfill my GN requirement but I also am interested to see the value of the course after going to the first class.  Sustainability will undoubtedly be an issue for our generation and if we can do something to help the world that would be incredible.  In terms of hobbies i like to be active, I play lacrosse, ski, and hike.  I have a house right by camelback mountain, here is their website, . In addition I like to read and hang out with friends.

This isn’t me

To me sustainability is the whole of the sum of many interconnected parts.  Everything we do has an effect on the environment.  The planet Earth has a certain level of resilience, which is the ability to bounce back.  There are unlimited wants of people and limited resources that the world has to offer.  Therefore we have to be careful not to push the planet past its breaking point, and plan so we never have to worry about it.


I’m Similoluwa Olusola-Ajayi (Simi OA) from Lagos, Nigeria. I’m a senior, double majoring in psychology and business administration with a minor in women studies. I’m taking this class to fulfill my GN requirement so we’ll see how that goes. For hobbies, I enjoy reading and shopping. I’m also a fashion blogger, you can check out my blog on

When I think of the word “resilience”, I think of an elastic band in terms of its ability to stretch out and then quickly return to its original form. I understand “sustainability” to be synonymous with maintenance. Attached is one of the pictures from a photo shoot for my fashion blog.


Introductory post


Hello my name is Zachary Ahner I’m in my sophomore year here at Penn state. I have just recently switched my major from Forensic Science/chemistry to Sociology, I know its a huge change! Originally I had joined the forensic science program in hopes of giving back something to the country that has given so much to me, however the more and more I followed the path I realized it wasn’t something that suited me (also the current justice system is too corrupt for me to do anything super beneficial for my country). I realized I could take this desire to help and apply it in a worldly sense, to help the people of all aspects of the world understand and get along with one another, even if that means changing one mind at a time. I am taking this class to learn more about real life applications in the math world (also calc 140 was realllyyyy boring).

Sustainability ( in my eyes is basically keeping the preexisting cycle of life we have here on the earth going. Many things we do have a small effect on the world around us, yet because they are so small most people think nothing of it. Sustainability is taking these small actions into account and forming better and more efficient ways to solve the problem and keep this small planet in its natural equilibrium for future generations. Resilience related to this topic goes hand in hand with sustainability, the earth has a certain strength to it and will bounce back from the small disturbances we create.
However there is a breaking point, at some moment there will be do many forces acting against the resilience of this small planet for it to handle and it will have a significant impact on life. however by using what we know to our advantage we can form more efficient and sustainable ideas to help preserve this big chunk of land and water we call home!


Hi everyone!

My name is Carina and I’m currently a sophomore here at Penn State. I’m from Warrington, PA which is about an hour outside of Philly and I’m a double major in World Languages Education and Spanish. I’m also doing an ESL certificate since I hope to work with students in the city and abroad who don’t speak English. I love German Shepherds, reading, binge watching Friends on Netflix, fishing, and cooking.

I’m taking this course because I really enjoyed Math 034 last year with David Zach and he recommended it since courses in the 30s are more application based and not like high school algebra or calculus. I think I have a limited understanding of sustainability and what it really means, but growing up in rural Bucks County and spending a lot of my life surrounded by farms and agriculture has taught me to appreciate the Earth and do as much as I can to protect it. Beyond living a more “sustainable” and green life, that’s all I really know about it.



Hi, everyone.  I’m John Roe, the professor who developed this course and who will be the lead instructor for it.  Your first week blogging assignment is to write a post introducing yourself (please follow this link for more specific details).  I thought I should start the ball rolling myself.   You can find more about me on my website.

North Dome, pitch 4I’ve been a math professor all my life, first in England and since 1998 at Penn State.  I’ve taught all kinds of students, helped invent a new field of math called coarse geometry, and been department head from 2006-2012.  It’s important to me that all students, not just those who will go on to be math and science majors, get a chance to appreciate the special kind of insight that comes from mathematics.  When I was head, this feeling led me to encourage the development of MATH 034 (Math of Money).  This new course (Math for Sustainability) is another step along that road.  The two courses complement each other: just as MATH 034 might help someone to “balance their (personal) budget”, I hope that this course helps you play your part in “balancing the budget” of the whole planet.

Because that’s one way of understanding sustainability – “balancing the budget”.  Not a budget of money, but a budget of resources like water or energy or food.  For instance, Southwestern desert cities like Phoenix, AZ have to manage their “water budget” as carefully as their regular budget.  A “water budget deficit” can be met for a while by pumping groundwater out of aquifers (just as you can spend more than you earn – for a while – if you draw down your savings).  But in neither case can you run  a deficit for ever.  It can’t last – or, to use another word, it is not sustainable.

I’m looking forward to working with you all on this course!