Celebrate Earth Day 2018

03.15.2018

0600

Earth-Day

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

This year, in the celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d walk through my process of how to do a plastic audit in your home. But first, let’s take a look at the dangers of plastic and why it is not as recyclable as we are lead to believe.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON PLASTICS

  • What do you know about plastics? Although it is one of the most common packaging material used worldwide, it ends up in our landfill and our oceans. It eventually makes its way back to us through the foods we consume. There are also a lot of facts that are not widely known, here are some facts from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  • Although it was considered one of  the breakthrough materials discovered in 1907, only now are we realizing the damaging consequences of using this material so rapidly. How is it harmful?
  • There is a huge misconception that all plastics can be recycled, however, that is not the case. Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment. They come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems.Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue. Here is more information from the National Ocean Service, What are microplastics?
  • Why is recycling not effective? Learn about the different types of plastics

HOW TO TAKE ACTION TO REDUCE PLASTIC IN YOUR HOME

  • What plastics can you REDUCE or better yet, REFUSE in your home? Track the amount of plastic used in different rooms/areas of your home by using the  Daily And Monthly Plastic Pollution Chart (this chart is a template, feel free to customize it)
    • Keep track of items that are contained in plastic by going through areas such as your: (add or take out any items that are missing or not applicable in the chart)
      • Kitchen
      • Bathroom
      • Bedroom
      • Home interior
      • Home exterior
      • Home etc.
    • Slowly go through and keep track of each item on a daily basis or monthly basis
  • After charting each item, plan how to avoid  purchasing plastics by using the Plastic Pollution Audit Chart. What actions will you take to reduce the amount of plastic being brought into the home? Can you refuse the plastic packaged product by finding an alternative in a non-packaged form? Or would reducing the amount taken in be a better step for you? Maybe consider investing in a sustainable, resuseable product, so you eliminate the single use plastic product.
  • If you choose to keep track of your plastic use on a monthly basis, you can audit each month by recording how much plastic you use and compare your yearly results using the Plastic Pollution Tracker.

SOME OTHER ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY

  1. Around your home
    1. Change out all of your light bulbs to energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. The energy savings of cooler-burning bulbs, including CFL and LED, can have a significant impact on your utility bills and on making your home greener. An Energy Star light bulb replaces about six incandescent light bulbs because it lasts six times longer than the average light bulb.
    2. Change out your dangerous household cleaners with safer versions or make your own from vinegar/apple cider vinegar and water. Vinegar is a mild acid, which makes it a great multi-purpose cleaner for around the house. As a household cleaner, vinegar can be used to do anything from removing stains, to unclogging drains, to disinfecting, to deodorizing, and it can even be used to remove stickers. You can use it undiluted, combined with baking soda, or as an ingredient in a homemade household cleaner, and every room in your house can benefit from vinegar in some way. Check out 45 Uses For Vinegar.
    3. If you have the option of drinking tap water, switch to tap water or buy a attachment filter if needed.
    4. Stop catalogs and junk mail by signing up with Data and Marketing Association
    5. Opt out of credit card solicitations with Opt Out PreScreen
    6. Pack your car with reusable grocery bags so you won’t forget them on the next shopping trip
    7. Watch environmental documentaries to learn more about what has been researched and discovered through these films. Here is a list of some movies I found on Youtube in which you can watch for free.
      1. Home (2009 film)
      2. A Fragile World (Climate Change). Full Documentary
      3. Plastic: the Real Sea Monster (Full Environmental Documentary) I Spark
      4. China’s Wealth, Growth, and Environmental Nightmare (full Documentary) 
      5. Zero Waste in Business: Documentary on Business and Environmental Waste (Full Documentary) 
      6. A World Without Water (Environmental Catastrophe Documentary) 
      7. The World in 2050 [The Real Future of Earth] – Full BBC Documentary 2018
      8. The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning
      9. Years of Living Dangerously Premiere Full Episode 
      10. Plasticized – Feature Documentary Film 
  2. With your community
    1. Bike or take public transportation instead of driving. Instead of driving everywhere, try taking public transportation, biking or even walking to places.
    2. Schedule a visit your local recycling center and tour the facilities to understand where your trash goes and how it gets sorted. It sounds strange but every piece of trash we throw away has a different route towards recycling or on its way to the landfill.  Each county and each state has different recycling processes and so learning about your local recycling process is always helpful. You’ll be more informed and more aware of what REALLY happens when you recycle your trash.
    3. Join a local park, river or beach clean up.
    4. Plant a tree, herb garden, or even flowers!
    5. Check out your local city’s or county’s Earth Day activities

Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22, 2018 this year, so you still have over a month to decide what you want to do! Check out the Earth Day Network to find out more information. They have an extensive website that has a list of campaigns and activities for participants.

In the honor of Earth Day, check out some of these  blog posts from other fellow bloggers:

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The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

1

The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.