Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eco Fact

There are only two manmade structures on planet Earth which are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island New York.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Biggest Little Litter Problem in the World

If you were to stop and ask the average person on the street what the biggest litter problem in the world is you would probably receive the reply of "oh it would have to be plastic water bottles". That answer would be a good one because here in the USA we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour totaling about 38 billion each year, bottles which required 1.5 billion barrels of oil to produce. Although a recent and monumental problem, plastic waters bottles are not the biggest little litter problem.

Another answer you might receive is "soda cans". That would be another good guess, with sixty-five billion aluminum soda cans being used each year and no exact count as to how many are thrown away on beaches and highways. Only about 65% of aluminum cans are currently being recycled.

Other good answers would be: plastic bags, candy and bubble gum wrappers, beer bottles and car tires and the list could go on forever. While all of these are huge litter problems that need to be dealt with, they are still not the answer to the question.

So what IS the answer to what's the biggest little litter problem in the world? CIGARETTE BUTTS.

Worldwide, smokers toss over 4.5 TRILLION cigarette butts each year with about 30% ending up as litter. After the butts gets flicked onto the street, buried in the beach sand or dumped out of car ashtrays while drivers are sitting at red lights, wind, rain and waves carry them into the sewers and ocean. Once in the sewers and oceans, the approximately 4,000 toxic chemicals the cigarette filter was designed to trap leak into and poison our water supplies. While the actual tobacco and paper components decompose rather quickly, the plastic cellulose filters do not break down easily and are mistaken for food by birds and marine life who become poisoned and die by the concentration of toxic chemicals in them.

How can we help change this? Well for starters, where there are particular problem areas in your neighborhood, signs can be posted informing offenders of the effects tossed cigarettes have on the environment. If you personally see someone tossing, try to politely inform them and say something like, here, give it to me and I'll dispose of it safely for you, thanks.

If you use Altoids, instead of tossing the empty metal can, carry it in your pocket to use as your own personal ashtray and later empty into a proper trash receptacle or when you get home.

Check out these sites for personal portable ashtrays that fit right in your pocket or purse, you can buy these for yourself or give as holiday gifts :

ButtsOut Personal Ashtrays

The Swiss Tray

Or get organized in your own communities to purchase these inexpensive outdoor models to place at bus stops and busy corners:

The No Butts Bin Company (variety of styles for outdoor use)

With a little effort we can kick this problem in the sorry, but I HAD to say that, I simply couldn't resist! Please stop groaning......

Monday, October 5, 2009

Eco Fact

Most typical supermarket laundry and dishwashing detergents are made from petroleum.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fading Gardens

Well, it's that time of year again when the gardens are going to sleep for the winter. Because I live in a small home, with a postage stamp size yard, I belong to a community garden here in Philly and am waiting for the inevitable email informing me the garden will be closing for the season and that we all need to get together to do the final fall cleanup. This year hasn't been real good in the garden with all the rain we had for so long but now that things have finally dried up and the sun is getting through, the plants are giving one last effort to produce some fruits and veggies so I am hoping the fall cleanup email comes later rather than sooner.

The reason I joined the garden group was to plant and harvest 100% organically grown veggies. With the economy the way it's been and the high cost of buying organic, I thought I would give growing my own a try. In the past I've grown the typical patio tomatoes and string beans and green peppers in pots and crevices out back, but this year I went all out at the community garden with watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, red beets, brussels sprouts, mixed salad greens and more. One of my most surprising harvests was in late spring and early summer after I planted snow peas. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would reap almost 8 pounds of the little darlings! I mean, how many snow peas can 2 people eat? But I am grateful because the few times I have purchased non-organic snow peas at the supermarket, they cost anywhere between $4 and $6 per pound, basically green gold. So my $2 seed packet yielded over $32 worth of produce. I still have a watermelon waiting to be picked and a few cantaloupes and the last of the string beans but all the rest of the plants are done. Soon, I will be starting to plan what I'm going to plant next spring and definitely altering my choices for next year based on this years experiences.

So now is a good time to begin thinking about if YOU might like to try your hand at growing your own organic veggies next spring. I have often heard from people that say they wished they could eat less pesticide sprayed produce but that the high cost of organic was not in their budgets. Well for a $2 pack of seeds, you can have a dozen cantaloupe and for a $3 seedling tray, you can pick strings beans all summer and fall. It doesn't take a big yard or even a yard at all for that matter, many veggies can be grown in pots. Aside from the environmental and financial benefits, another reason to grow your own is it's just plain FUN. It's hard to describe how much pleasure can be derived from seeing seeds you planted sprout and turn into huge plants that bear vegetables you can pick and eat. And kids get an even bigger kick out of it. I let my granddaughter help me plant the carrot seeds on Mothers Day and even though she doesn't like most veggies, carrots included, she was nevertheless fascinated when she saw what she had planted pulled out of the ground, ready to be cooked and eaten.

Try it, I guarantee you'll like it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eco Fact

Washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes

Thought for the Day

If you want to know your past - look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future - look into your present actions.

— Chinese Proverb

Green October

19125 is turning green! Early this year an initiative was started to turn my zip code into the greenest in the city. It's gone from the talking stages to the planning stages to the implementation. Of course I am up to my eyeballs in it as I always am with anything I am passionate about.

October 1st is Green Guide Mobilization Day when we, the volunteer Green Guides, get our schwag bags filled with eco friendly tools such as Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and other yet to be disclosed goodies to pass out to our neighbors. My block is small and rather than just knocking at doors and handing out the freebies, I thought a better idea is to post a sign on the corner and invite all the neighbors to pick up their free green stuff at a table in front of my house. I am hoping that approach will stimulate conversation and involvement among the recipients, people that otherwise might not take an interest. There will be street tree planting applications as well and I have to begin to formulate my rebuttal to those that will argue that the trees will cause their sidewalks to break, that the stray cats and dogs will use the space as a litter box and what about the leaves to clean up and and and and.....

October 10th is the annual Fishtown Neighbors Association fall cleanup. In previous years it had specific clean up sites but this year it will encompass the entire 19125 zip code and of course, yours truly also volunteered for that too. It lasts from 9 to noon and is followed by a BBQ, hope there are some yummy vegetarian choices.

As if all that wasn't enough, I will be heading to Milwaukee on October 15 until the 18th attending a Community Leadership Seminar. Because I am so environmentally active I was one of 5 neighborhood residents selected to go on the all expenses paid trip. I'll be attending green workshops and a tour of Milwaukee on the final day. I heard through the grapevine that some of the previous years seminars were held in Miami and San Jose, just my luck to have been chosen for the Milwaukee trip! But hey, it's all paid for, the subject is right up my alley and I've never been to Milwaukee. I'll have to look into the vegetarian restaurant scene there and other points of interest to me.

All in all October is a pretty hectic green month for me but as you are all beginning to see...I never get tired of green!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eco Fact

It takes 16 pounds of grain and 5,214 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.

Thought for the Day

Nothing will ever be accomplished if all possible objections must be first overcome.

Samuel Johnson

10 Reasons to Become a Second Hand Rose (or Roger)

Buying second hand is a major way to reduce your carbon footprint on the earth. It is the REUSE in the green mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".

  1. Buying used merchandise helps to reduce waste in both the manufacture of new products and the disposal of old products. Any used and unwanted furniture, household items and clothing that is reused will not have to be manufactured and will stay out of landfills longer, toxic sites which contribute to global warming and green house gases.
  2. By shopping for second hand goods in charity, thrift, consignment, vintage and antique stores, you can help to support a charity or a small entrepreneurial business.
  3. Second hand costs less than new items. A find in a thrift store, charity shop or flea market costs only a fraction of it's original new price especially on high-end items.
  4. You can get much better quality items and pay low prices for used high-end designer items that you may never have been able to afford if purchased new.
  5. Shopping for second hand items is just plain fun. You never know what you'll find and the thrill of finding something amazing that costs next to nothing is much better than shopping for inferior quality new goods at the mega mall.
  6. There is a huge choice of second hand items available from a variety of venues including FreeCycle (PhillyFreeCycle for locals), Craigs List, flea markets, charity shops, vintage boutiques, antique shops and swap parties so there is no reason why you won't be able to find exactly what you want.
  7. Second hand household items and clothes are more original than the typical items that you buy in the mall, you are a lot less likely to see someone owning the same thing when you buy second hand.
  8. Buying second hand allows for buying larger quantities which you may not have been able to afford. You can come home with a huge bagful of back-to-school clothes from a thrift store for the same price as 2 new outfits from the children's boutique at mall.
  9. You often run across vintage hard to find items items in thrift stores that are no longer manufactured or available. I once found a wooden clothesline reel in a thrift store after searching half the city for one. The guys at the hardware stores said "they don't make them anymore, last time we carried one was about 5 years ago". Now I know to preserve and keep the one I found used because they are becoming scarce.
  10. You can very often find excellent one-of-a-kind original artwork at thrift stores done by students or professional artists for under $10 already framed. I once found an framed etching for $8 only to later discover it was by a well known Philadelphia artist and worth over $500!

Buying second hand is not only good for the environment, it is also good for your wallet and your eco-conscience , so it's a win-win situation any way you look at it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eco Fact

A recent study has found that the chemicals in the 4000-6000 tons of sunscreen washed off beach goers annually is killing coral reefs worldwide.

Thought for the Day

At long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitible to dispense it.

— Dick Cavett

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Story of Stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Copyright/Licensing Information From:

The Story of Stuff is available to watch and download free by following the link below. Please feel free to download, duplicate and share the film for non-commercial use as much as you would like.
Sharing the SOS: Yes, please share the Story of Stuff with friends, family, teachers, your communities and organizations. The Story of Stuff is protected under the Creative Commons licensing (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License). We ask that you not alter the presentation and that you do not show the film commercially.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thought for the Day

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible
— Voltaire

Eco Fact

Up to 80% of all car tires are underinflated. Underinflated tires waste approximately 5% of a car’s fuel, which equals out to be around two billion gallons of gasoline wordwide per year

Green Skeletons in Our Closets

What do our closets have to do with saving the planet you might ask? While at first glance what's in our clothes closets may seem to have a benign influence on our environment, a closer look reveals quite a different picture. Let's start with the ordinary wire hanger.

A famous line from the movie Mommy Dearest is "no wire hangers"! While Joan Crawford might have been justified in her distain of wire hangers for aesthetic reasons, our reckless disposal of them has become a major environmental issue. Steel is 100% recyclable yet most hangers get thrown away, leaving 3.5 billion hangers per year in landfills, weighing in at 195 million pounds, spanning 2.2 million miles if stretched out and wasting enough steel to make 60,000 new cars. Instead of tossing them, there are other options:
  • ask our dry cleaner if we can return the hangers for their reuse
  • donate them to thrift stores who always need hangers
  • find a recycling center that takes steel

All synthetic clothing (nylon, polyester, etc) is made from petroleum and most of us don't need to be educated on the political, social, economic and environmental impact of our use of and addiction to petroleum. Large amounts of crude oil are used in the manufacturing process of synthetic fibers, releasing deadly chemicals into the air, including hydrogen chlorine gas. Further adding insult to injury, these synthetic clothes, when discarded, will sit for hundreds of years in landfills. Cotton clothing, while constructed of a natural biodegradable material, has it's own downside with 50 million pounds of pesticides including cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin, all known cancer-causing chemicals being used each year to grow it. These pesticides run off into our waterways and cause genetic mutations and death to marine and animal life. So how can we lessen the environmental impact of the textiles we use?
  • Be gentle to the clothes we already own to make them last longer

  • Choose quality over quantity. A bargain blouse is not a bargain for the wallet
    or the environment if after 2 washings it falls apart and ends up in the trash
    due to inferior materials or workmanship

  • Buy from consignment and thrift shops

  • Opt for organic cotton and naturally grown plant based fabrics such as hemp, bamboo and linen or silk, wool or recycled materials

  • Donate usable clothing to charities or sell them at flea markets or consignment shops and give throw rugs, towels and blankets to animal shelters

  • Reuse tattered clothing for household cleaning, painting, car washing rags
Cashmere used to be a luxury fabric available only to the wealthy. Today, inexpensive cashmere is mass produced in China using huge numbers of goats that overgraze and devastate the pastures, rendering them dust bowls. Dust storms from the barren pastures blow through China causing air pollution and illness to the population while contributing to global climate change. We can help mitigate this situation by opting for the more expensive but sustainably produced cashmere. Once the demand for the cheaper cashmere has diminished, the producers will have no choice but to decrease production, it's a simple case of supply and demand. The alpaca, an animal that survives in many climates around the globe and has little impact on its environment is a good alternate source of cashmere. Look for cashmere made from alpaca instead of from goats raised in an unsustainable manner.

Athletic Shoes
How many pairs of old sneakers that are too gross to give to charity are piled on your closet floor? Sneakers that contain petroleum based PVC (polyvinylchloride) that would normally end up in a landfill? Nike will recycle any brand of athletic shoe through its Reuse-a-Shoe program Take your shoes to any Nike store, or mail them to the company's recycling center and Nike will process and recycle the footwear to make sports courts, running tracks and playgrounds. To date, over 24,123,411 pairs of athletic shoes
worldwide have been recycled through the program since 1990.

Moth Repellants
The two major ingredients in
mothballs, naphthalene and p-dichlorobenzene used individually or in
combination, are extremely toxic petroleum-based chemicals that can cause numerous short and long-term health effects, including cancer, blood, kidney, and liver problems and even death. Add to that the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of these poisons and its easy to see we need to try safer alternatives such as:

  • Store woolens in a cedar chest or cedar lined closet

  • Launder clothes before storing because moth larvae are attracted to perspiration, dandruff, hair, food
    and beverage stains

  • Store clothing in airtight chests or containers

  • Airing clothing occasionally in sunlight and wind will reduce larvae on fabrics

  • Avoid storing clothing in dark humid areas like attics

  • Store clothes with sachets of nontoxic herbs and woods such as cedar, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, sweet woodruff, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves

  • Pheromone traps are available for some species of moths. Place traps in closets and other areas where clothes
    are stored
So the next time you clean out your closet, take a little extra time to make it green.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thought for the Day

A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.
— George Carlin

Eco Fact

A new 1/3 ounce 18k gold ring creates about 20 tons of mine waste.

Green on the Airwaves

When I'm not out and about fighting the "green fight", I'm a couch potato watching and listening to some of the following quality green programming:

PLANET GREEN (channel 286) has:

Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff
Network anchor Bob Woodruff hosts this news magazine which deals 100% with environmental and sustainable living issues.

Living with Ed
Humorous eco-reality show with actor, environmentalist, electric car enthusiast Ed Begley Jr. and his glam wife Rachelle in their green (as mandated by Ed) Studio City, Calif home. Their neighbor, Bill Nye, "the science guy" vies with Ed to be "king of green" with Jay Leno making frequent appearances along with other Hollywood stars.

Stuff Happens
Hosted by Bill Nye "the science guy", a comedic approach which shows the global repercussions of our daily habits and purchases.

Renovation Nation
Hosted by former This Old House's Steve Thomas. Steve travels around the country featuring homes that are green and eco-friendly with ideas and resources on new green building products and techniques.

G Word
Green News Magazine
Being green is no longer just for granola-loving hippies. It's a lifestyle, an attitude, a state-of-mind, and it's shaking up the pop-culture landscape. Forget what you think you know about what being green means and get ready for G Word.

Saving over 40% on energy bills while also increasing property value by 25% sounds impossible, but Greenovate shows viewers just how to make this lofty dream a reality in their own households.

FIT TV (channel 261) has:
Get Fresh with Sara Snow
Sara Redmond Snow hosts an all around natural living program running the gamut of organic gardening, eco-fashion, sustainable fisheries, raising chickens in the city, Ayurvedic medicine, herbs etc.

All the following programs are on WHYY 91FM

You Bet Your Garden with Mark McGrath
Every Saturday morning at 11 am
Excellent radio program about organic gardening with Rodale Press editor Mark McGrath who answers all your organic gardening questions.

You Bet Your Garden offers a podcast feed of the current show.

Living on Earth

Every Saturday morning at 6 am
Sound Journalism for the Planet; hosted by Steve Curwood
Living on Earth offers a podcast feed of the current show.

Humankind: Voices of Hope and Humanity

Every Saturday morning at 5:30 am
Subjects: Protecting Our Planet; Simplifying Our Lives; Social Conscience; Taking Care of Yourself (w/herbs, relaxation etc); Young Voices; Meaningful Media and much, much more.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gloom and Doom?....NOT

If it seems like the articles I've been posting are filled with gloom and doom, keep in mind these were originally written to educate the public in a blue collar working class neighborhood of the urgency needed in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. Limited to 750 words, they had to be hard hitting and cut to the chase, shock, in fact. But once the scary education is over, the fun begins! Adopting a new green lifestyle can be quite an adventure as you will see when I begin to offer some of my non-toxic homemade cleaning "recipes". Oh and let's not forget about Vermiculture (worm composting) wigglers under the kitchen sink anyone?

Thought for the Day

"Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy."
— Albert Einstein

Eco Fact

A vehicle that idles for more than three minutes produces 66% more pollution than one that stops and restarts the engine. An idling school bus can consume a half-gallon of fuel per hour.

Chemical Soup

In a previous article, I addressed taking a fresh look at the disposable products and excess packaging we purchase and use, in an effort to keep those things out of our landfills and waterways. In this article I'll delve into the ingredients contained in the products we use and their repercussions on the environment and our bodies.

The next time you shop for personal care or household cleaning products, take a look at the ingredients labels. You will likely encounter a long list of chemicals, most of which which you even won't be able to pronounce. For example, on many shampoo bottles and cosmetics you will find the ingredient Quaternium-15, which is a Formaldehyde releasing preservative. For the uniformed, Formaldehyde is the major component in embalming fluid. It is also known as methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, oxymethylene and oxomethane as well as by a host of other different names. Since the skin is the largest organ of the human body and readily absorbs substances placed on it, it is quite a frightening thought that we are, without any hesitation, pouring formaldehyde on our scalps. I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally don't need to "pickle" my brain any more than it already is! We are additionally rubbing it into our skins in the form of moisturizers and cosmetics. That's not even mentioning sleeping on it and wearing it in the form of "Easy-Care", "No-Iron" "Permanent Press" sizing on our sheets and clothing. Other products in which formaldehyde is commonly found: over-the-counter medications, mouthwash, hair spray, cleaning products, perfumes, waxes, hair setting lotions, air fresheners, fungicides, fingernail polish, floor polishes, dry cleaning solvents, toothpaste, laundry spray starch, antiperspirants and many more.

Due to the indiscriminate usage of modern chemical brews, scientists have discovered that most of us have a toxic buildup of chemicals, including formaldehyde in our bodies. Modern day morticians have noted that twice as much formaldehyde was needed to embalm a person 20 years ago compared to today. They now can use less because we already have so much build-up of the chemical in our bodies.

While I have so far focused only on Formaldehyde the sad truth is it is not just formaldehyde that is the problem. We buy, use on our bodies and pour down our drains, myriad toxic combinations of chemicals that would make a chemist cringe. While the long-term effects of these toxins on the environment and ourselves are still being studied, it should be obvious to anyone that, as Martha might say "it's NOT a good thing".

There is an old adage that states "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The shampoo our grandmothers used wasn't broke. It consisted mainly of vegetable based soap as did their cleaning products and other household products. All of these old products were biodegradable and made from natural ingredients, causing little to no harm to ourselves or our environment. Since the chemicals we use on our bodies and in cleaning and repairing our homes all eventually end up in our waterways, water supply, soil and air and in our bloodstreams, if we truly wish to live a green and sustainable lifestyle, it's going to take more than just using rain barrels and recycling plastic bags. We have to remember that everything that gets flushed down our toilets, drains and sewers never really goes away, it merely moves to another place in our cities, states, nation, earth. It comes back again to my first article: daily conscious decision making. If the shampoo we choose to purchase contains toxins that causes endangered frogs to become hermaphrodites but makes our hair bouncy and shiny, we have to make a decision as to what our priorities are. In short, we have to put our money where our mouths are and begin to purchase and request our retailers to carry products that are responsibly manufactured with the environment and our health in mind. A general rule to follow is, if you can't pronounce it or would be afraid to ingest it, then it's not a good candidate to apply to the skin, use in the home or have go down our drains. Years ago in the 70's when I first started on my "green" journey, there were few options and products to choose from. Today there are numerous manufacturers and companies who create environmentally and personally healthy alternatives to the standard toxic brew. The following are just a very few to consider:

Burts Bee: Shampoo and body products 100% to 90% organic and biodegradable (available at natural food stores and Rite Aide and CVS)

Aubry Organics: Natural Cosmetics (available at natural food stores)

Seventh Generation: Natural household cleaners and paper products (available at natural food stores and Target)

Bon-Ami: Chlorine free cleanser (available at supermarkets and natural food stores)

Or if you are a real do-it-yourself adventurer, you can visit my website for tons of natural homemade cleaning recipes, homemade cosmetics and nox-toxic herbal remedies:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eco Fact

Every American wastes about 8 hours per year sorting through and disposing of junk mail.

Thought for the Day

"No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it”
— Albert Einstein

The Case for Going Organic

Several weeks ago while shopping in the new organic aisle in Thriftway, I overheard 2 women comment on the folly of organic food stating it "costs twice as much as regular food", "doesn't taste any different" and "isn't any healthier for you". I rushed to gather my thoughts to form a non-confrontational yet educational rebuttal but before I could get my lecture organized, the two has turned the corner of the aisle to the "regular" food.

My journey to organic living has been a long one which started in the early 1970's when I began studying nutrition. As I read and learned about the benefits of the food I was eating, I also began running across articles and books about the adverse effects on our bodies and our ecosystem of the pesticides, herbicides and chemical petroleum based fertilizers being used on our food supply and on the plants from which we manufacture our clothes and household textiles. The very first book I read on the subject was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson in which she argued that uncontrolled pesticide use was harming and killing not only animals and birds, but also humans. Its title suggested a future spring in which no bird songs would be heard, because they had all disappeared as a result of pesticide abuse. Since then, much more has come to light about the detrimental effects of non-organic farming methods. Insecticides work by attacking the central nervous system of the insect until it dies. Unfortunately, studies have shown that repeated exposure to pesticides by HUMANS has similar effects on OUR central nervous systems and on marine and wildlife who consume food and water that have been contaminated by runoff from the sprayed crops.

A scant sampling of some sobering statistics:
• DDT (now banned in the US) remains between 20 and 50 years in the fatty tissue of humans

• According to the EPA over 400 chemicals have been detected in human tissue; 48 were found in fatty tissue, 40 in breast milk, 73 in the liver and over 250 in the blood

• Over 600,000 tons of herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, fungicides, and other chemicals are used annually to produce cotton in the 6 largest cotton producing states

• 700 million pounds of agricultural pesticides were applied in the United States in 2001.

• The most acutely toxic pesticide registered by the E.P.A. is aldicarb. Aldicarb has been detected in the GROUNDWATER in 27 US states

• Children whose homes and gardens are treated with pesticides have 6.5 times greater risk of leukemia than children living in untreated environments

• Pesticide poisoning remains a daily reality among agricultural workers in developing countries, where up to 14% of all occupational injuries in the agricultural sector and 10% of all fatal injuries can be attributed to pesticides.

• In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields killed at least 240,000 fish in Alabama

It has been estimated that pesticides unintentionally kill at the very least 67 million birds in the U.S. each year

• Approximately 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year just in the United States

• In 1996, approximately 250 farm workers in California were accidentally sprayed with a mixture of highly toxic pesticides when a crop dusting plane applied the chemicals to a cotton field adjacent to a field where workers were harvesting grapes. Twenty-two workers were rushed to hospitals with symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning.

• We accidentally kill about 25,000 to 100,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year with pesticides and other toxic farm chemicals

Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin, swallowed, inhaled or ingested from sprayed foods. Washing sprayed foods has little effect on removing the pesticide because it is contained in the flesh of the food as well as the skins. During application, pesticides drift and settle on rivers, ponds, pools, cars and outdoor furniture. About 5% of sprayed pesticides run off into water or dissipate in the air with pesticide drift from farming ranging up to 14.5 miles.

While we can never totally avoid pesticides and other agricultural chemicals because they are in our air, rain, oceans, rivers, drinking water reservoirs and soil, we CAN avoid additional heavy exposure by not eating foods sprayed with these toxins. YES, organic food, clothing and textiles does indeed "cost" more, but if we examine the true cost of using and ingesting these toxins on our environment and on ourselves, sprayed foods and textile plants are no bargain.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thought for the Day

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored!"
— Aldous Huxley

My Amateur Adventures in Journalism

In case anyone's wondering, the following "The Non-Consumerism" and "Green Begins at Home" posts are the half page articles I wrote which appeared in my local neighborhood newspaper. Since they were written by me, pro bono on behalf of a neighborhood non-profit organization and printed as a courtesy by the paper for that organization, I am (fairly) certain they belong to me and I am allowed to publish them on my blog. However, if I suddenly disappear and there are no more posts from me for, say, oh a week, then PLEASE, friends, family, neighbors and dedicated groupies, band together to scrape together the bail money because I will probably have been hauled away by "the man" for copyright infringement.

Non-Consumerism: A Key Element To Green Living

America is the largest consumer of manufactured goods in the world and while we constitute only 5% of the world's population we consume a whopping 24% of the world's energy. In the United States, there are more cars on the road than there are licensed drivers. Cars and other forms of transportation account for nearly 30 percent of world energy use and 95 percent of global oil consumption.

Most of us have accumulated a mind boggling amount of STUFF. Rendered danger zones to enter at our own risk, our garages, basements, attics and closets are stuffed to the brim with camping equipment, grills, lawn mowers, old, broken and extra furniture, bikes, children's and adult's toys and games, gardening supplies, lumber, tools, broken items waiting to be repaired and boxes still unpacked from our last move (because we can’t find space to put the stuff). Items that at one point in time were considered luxuries such as televisions, cell phones, computers and air conditioning are now viewed as necessities or deserved rewards for all our hard work and all the stress we endure. The quantity of natural resources used in the production of our purchases and the resulting quantity of trash we throw away is staggering.

Some of us shop and purchase as a hobby, as a social event, out of boredom, to relieve depression, to escape bad situations at home, to keep up with our neighbors, friends and family's lifestyles and a host of other excuses. To finance these purchases, we are incurring debt, mostly through credit cards, and working longer hours to pay for our chosen consumer lifestyles, resulting in spending less time with our families and friends and at other worthwhile activities. Worldwatch has reported that worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics total $18 billion while the estimate for annual expenditures required to eliminate hunger and malnutrition is $19 billion. Hmmm, let’s see…makeup or eradicating world hunger, decisions, decisions.

We have been trained to think by Madison Avenue advertisers that we want and need that bigger, better, faster, newer product and those of us who don't own them are somehow out of touch. A case in point involves my own profession, graphic design. The MAC computer is the standard in the industry tool of the trade and no graphic artist worth their salt would own one that wasn't "maxed out" with the largest hard drive, memory and processing speed. As a result, a large number of us graphics professionals rush out to buy the newest MAC as soon as its release is announced by Apple, along with the corresponding updated software, to the tune of a minimum of $1,900 up to $3,500. It doesn't matter that we bought we our "old" computers less than 2 years earlier or that it is still in prime working order. It's just the thing to do, it’s a new toy and we need (WANT) it. This mentality spills over into all our lives. When TV stations recently went digital, many of us used that as an excuse to run out and buy that big flat screen we've been wanting, paying no mind to the fact our current TVs were still working perfectly and only needed a government supplemented converter box to function. Shortly after digital was implemented, a walk around the neighborhoods showed these discarded TVs sitting by the curbs destined for the landfill.

Ways in which we can reduce our consumption is to wait a year (or two or three) to upgrade our computers, wait until the TV breaks down before buying another one, repair items we already own instead of buying new, shop at and donate to thrift and consignment shops to give goods another chance before they end up in the landfill, buy vintage and antique clothing and furniture made of better quality fabrics and solid materials which have already stood the test of time, instead of buying that new particleboard or plastic treasure we’ve been eyeing, an item almost guaranteed never to remain intact long enough to be purchased by future generations at any antique or thrift store.

We need to change our way of thinking to view non-consumerism not so much as a sacrifice to be endured, but rather as a way to provide a more environmentally moral higher quality of life using the least amount of raw materials, natural resources, energy and waste possible, while at the same time dramatically altering the way we produce, consume and dispose of those goods we do use.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Green, Like Charity, Begins at Home

Many people today are concerned about our environment but mistakenly think their single efforts will have little impact on global sustainability. Fortunately, this notion is simply not true. No matter how busy we are or how little effort we are able to put in, little decisions we make on a daily basis in just running a home add up to big results. Small things we can do that require little effort at home and while shopping that can make a major difference. One impact we can make is in our choice of products we buy.

We have become a disposable society. We have chosen momentary convenience over the long-term health of our planet. Available to willing consumers are disposable razors, diapers, cameras, pens, utensils, plates, paper towels, even, believe it or not, clothing designed for travelers to "just wear it once and toss" to eliminate having to pack soiled clothing back into a suitcase. The list of disposables goes on. One might argue "but my one disposable razor won't hurt anything". True, but if you multiply that one razor by all the ones in your neighborhood and city and state, that's a lot of razors that end up in our landfills or worse yet, in our waterways affecting the animal inhabitants. As if the environmental impact of disposables wasn't enough, let's consider the personal economic costs. If we could go back in a time machine and suggest to our great grandparents that they go to a store and buy a camera that they could use only once and then just throw away and then have to pay again for another camera the next time they wanted to take photos, the expressions on their faces would tell the whole story. They would think we were insane to suggest they literally throw their money away. The solution to the madness? A few suggestions:

1) Buy an old fashioned refillable fountain pen, they're fun to use and add an elegant, artistic flair to your handwriting
2) Buy a new or vintage razor in which you just change the blades when needed
3) Use cloth diapers or join a diaperless baby group such as: Diaper Free Baby at
4) Buy a new or inexpensive thrift store set of lightweight dinnerware and utensils for use at picnics and barbeques. Wash as you would your regular dishes.
5) Instead of paper towels, start an old fashioned "rag bag". When a T-Shirt or other soft absorbent item of clothing is no longer wearable and not in good enough shape to donate to a thrift store, cut it up, toss it in a rag bag, and when there's a spill, simply use it to mop up the mess. Launder when dirty. We all have enough clothes we discard so as to never run out of a clean cloth to mop up with and we will never again have to pay for and then throw out a paper towel.
6) Our grandmothers used crumpled up newspaper to dry their windows. They swore the ink on the paper made the windows shine. Spray or wipe on cleaner with your rag bag cloth and then dry with old newspapers. No more wasted paper towels or money.
7) For trash disposal, buy tall heavy duty paper yard bags at any home center and use these instead of the ubiquitous green plastic ones that line our streets every trash day. The biodegradable paper ones can be used on clear dry days and the plastic ones reserved only for when rain is expected. Better yet, buy a trash can, don't line it with plastic and simply hose it out after the trash is collected.

Excess Packaging:
Excess and non-biodegradeable packaging is another assault to our environment. We have the power to reduce this unnecessary packaging waste. A few smarterer shopping choices:
1) When buying eggs, opt for the cardboard egg cartons over the Styrofoam ones. The cardboard ones decompose easily and can be recycled or used as seedling starter cups when gardening. The Styrofoam choice will sit forever in a landfill
2) When buying milk, opt for the waxed paper cartons over the plastic jugs
3) Get cheese and luncheon meats sliced at the deli section instead of buying "convenient" individually wrapped slices
4) Buy snack foods, such as yogurt, in larger containers and then divide into individual servings in smaller reusable containers. Anything labeled "individual servings" should be translated instead as "excess packaging".

The above ideas are just a very small sampling of ways to reduce our use of disposable and excessively packaged products. Let's look around with a fresh eye at the products we use that get thrown away and think of more environmentally and financially responsible alternatives.

An excellent web video that will further stimulate your imagination and resolve is the Story of Stuff, which exposes the connections between the stuff we use and a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.