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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What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

2017-10-10

 

I wanted to calculate my carbon footprint because I haven’t ever done so. I know that I watch what I buy and how much energy I use so I was hoping it would be low. There are aspects of my life I could probably change to reduce my carbon footprint, but I wanted a base number to start with. There are a few different carbon print calculators available, but this is the one I used. Also, I’m located in the United States of America, so I used the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator, from the Nature Conservancy.

Because these calculators consist of a lot of smaller chunks of information, I thought I would at least list out the information needed for this calculator. I had to go searching for a large chunk of information to input, when I filled out my survey. So here is the the many pieces of information I needed, that you might need as well if you choose to use this carbon footprint calculator:

  1. Get Started: A QUICK CARBON FOOTPRINT ESTIMATE
    1. Zip Code
    2. City
    3. County
    4. State Country
    5. How many people live in your household?
    6. What is your approximate gross annual household income?
  2. Travel:  HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?
    1. Car(s): (Miles per gallon)
    2. Public Transit: (Miles per year)
    3. Air Travel: (Miles per year)
  3. Home: HOW MUCH DO YOU USE IN YOUR HOME?
    1. Electricity ($/year)
    2. Natural Gas ($/year)
    3. Heating oil & Other Fuels ($/year)
    4. Square ft. of living space
    5. Water useage ($/year)
  4. Food: HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSUME OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
    1. Simple Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Meat, fish, eggs
      2. Grains & baked goods
      3. Dairy
      4. Fruits & vegetables
      5. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    2. Advanced Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Beef, pork, lamb, veal
      2. Fish & seafood
      3. Other meat (processed, nuts, etc…)
      4. Poultry & eggs
      5. Grains & baked goods
      6. Dairy
      7. Fruits & Vegetables
      8. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    3. Shopping: HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
      1. Simple Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
        2. Services  ($/month)
      2. Advanced Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
          1. Furniture & appliances
          2. Clothing
          3. Entertainment
          4. Paper, office & reading
          5. Personal care & cleaning
          6. Auto Parts
          7. Medical
        2. Services  ($/month)
          1. Health Care
          2. Information & Comunication
          3. Medical
          4. Vehicle Services
          5. Personal business & Finance
          6. Household Maintenance & Repair
          7. Organizations & Charity
          8. Other Services

So my results stated that my Total Footprint is 20 tons CO2/year, which is 59% better than average person. This is a good standing to start from. I’m actually quite happy with it. I could try to adjust my daily decisions to see if I can reduce my footprint a re-take the survey, but it’s a good starting point.

The last section in the calculator allows you to sign a pledge to stand with Climate Action. There are a few different carbon footprint calculators. I encourage you all to take a look at how large or small your carbon footprint is. It’s amazing when you see it written down in a calculated measure of your daily decisions. Here are a few other websites that also have carbon footprint calculators that might be of god use as well:

  1. Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator
  3. EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator
  4. WWF Footprint Calculator 
  5. Carbonfund Calculate 

TheNatureConservancy- Household Footprint

 

 

Garbage Patches of Our Oceans

08.29.2017

0600

 

00- Gargabe patch North_Pacific_Gyre_World_Map

Our trash never goes away. What we produce, purchase and consume, never really goes away. Unless we truly understand the consequences of our actions, we won’t understand the trap we’ve set up for ourselves. Our relationship with plastic bags only started in 1950 and now it’s increased 620% since 1975.

There are five main ocean gyres on our earth. These gyres follow a circular path which converge ocean pollution. This isn’t a solid convergence being that plastics go through photodegradation and bits and pieces are strewn about around the patches. But there is an estimated size for each garbage ocean patch.

  • The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch and was discovered in 2010, is a gyre of marine litter suspended in the upper water column of the central Indian Ocean, specifically the Indian Ocean Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres.The patch does not appear as a continuous debris field. As with other patches in each of the five oceanic gyres, the plastics in it break down to even smaller particles, and to constituent polymers. As with the other patches, the field constitutes an elevated level of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris; primarily particles that are invisible to the naked eye.
  • North Atlantic Gyre, which contains the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, equal to the North Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972.The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometres across in size, with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The debris zone shifts by as much as 1,600 km (990 mi) north and south seasonally, and drifts even farther south during the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
  • North Pacific Gyre, which contains The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, which was discovered between 1985 and 1988. It is located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
    • The Great Pacific garbage patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulate suspended in the upper water column. As a result, it is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water. Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
    • The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Its low density (4 particles per cubic meter) prevents detection by satellite photography, or even by casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.
  • South Atlantic Gyre,  which  is the subtropical gyre in the south Atlantic Ocean. In the southern portion of the gyre, northwesterly (or southeastward-flowing) winds drive eastward-flowing currents that are difficult to distinguish from the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Like other oceanic gyres, it collects vast amounts of floating debris.
  • South Pacific Gyre, which is part of the Earth’s system of rotating ocean currents, bounded by the Equator to the north, Australia to the west, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the south, and South America to the east. The center of the South Pacific Gyre is the site on Earth farthest from any continents and productive ocean regions and is regarded as Earth’s largest oceanic desert.

Consequences

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are likely to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks.

Besides the particles’ danger to wildlife, on the microscopic level the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. Aside from toxic effects, when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by fish.

Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. While eating their normal sources of food, plastic ingestion can be unavoidable or the animal may mistake the plastic as a food source.

Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems. Research has shown that this plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide.

Research

Charles J. Moore is an oceanographer and racing boat captain known for articles that recently brought attention to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. He founded the Algalita Marine Research and Education and in 2008, the foundation organized the JUNK Raft project, to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean”, and specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, by sailing 2,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) raft made from an old Cessna 310 aircraft fuselage and six pontoons filled with 15,000 old plastic bottles.

The JUNK Raft Project was organized by Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal and Anna Cummins in Long Beach, California in 2008, to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The project was launched with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, after founder Charles J. Moore encountered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. Organizers hoped to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean,” specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre.

There are many more organizations set up doing research to solve the plastic pollution problem in our oceans, but the main solution starts at the top with the banning of plastics from large corporate companies. When you make a purchase, you are voting with your consumer goods. Corporations do listen, we just need to tell them what we will not tolerate and what we need from them.

Other  products are being tested on the market such as biodegradable plastics and even plastics made from food, so that when they enter back into nature, the animals won’t suffer when accidentally consuming them. I hope that this post helps in the understanding of why being consciously aware and responsible for our trash is a crucial role for the future of our planet. It can feel overwhelming and although a small change in your daily routine may not feel like an impact among the current issues we have, it does help. Make small changes first, then move towards bigger changes. It all adds up.

ocean-plastic-garbage-patch

 

Beach Clean Up Day

07.11.2017

0600

DSC_6371

Whenever I go and do a beach cleanup, it’s never really a formal event. I use large fabric bags that I had sewed awhile back and I gather what I can. I use old running gloves to pick up the items because I don’t own a pair of rubber gloves anymore. I can easily also toss these gloves into the laundry when I’m done. With fabric gloves, I’m still very cautious about what I pick up and how I pick items up.

Most of the time, I’ll find anything and everything discarded on the beach. I usually walk along the shoreline and carefully look through the seaweed and debris that gets washed up from the ocean. A lot of ocean trash gets tangled up in the seaweed which then gets washed up on the beach.

2017-06-24 09.19.44

I went to Roosevelt Beach this time for the beach clean up, and this beach looks fairly clean overall, but when you slow down and walk slowly, you can see little bits and pieces of trash everywhere like this:

DSC_6380DSC_6402

 

On the surface the beach looks clean, but once I examined and shoreline and walked further and further, I kept finding more and more trash. At one point, it felt overwhelming because I knew I probably missed a bunch of pieces of trash due to the angle I was standing at or maybe my eyes simply couldn’t see the trash clearly. The reason why I like to do beach cleanups is because of the amount of trash that now occupies our ocean. There are different garbage patches that exist in five different ocean gyres in the world. With the ocean currents and the trash that’s discarded into the ocean, the combination creates different garbage patches which subsequently, kills the ocean wildlife. Since I live alone the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is the closest garbage patch to me.

Here are the basic facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch;

  • 7 million tons of weight
  • Twice the size of Texas
  • Up to 9 feet deep
  • In the Great Pacific Ocean Gyre there is 6 times more plastic than plankton, which the main food for many  ocean animals
  • By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean
  • The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
  • According scientist it is the largest plastic dump on earth; so plastic patches are larger than waste dumps on land
  • Trash patches consist for 80 percent out of plastic
  • Scientific research from the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in California U.S. shows that 5 to 10% of the fish contain small pieces of plastic.

There are many reasons why I choose to live a zero waste life, or at least as close as I can to a completely zero waste life. Knowing that the trash we discard into the ocean is killing wildlife weighs on me. Although there are many concerns in the world that I do care about, this one hits close to home. We did this. Humans did this and are still doing this to wildlife.

There’s a program called Take 3 For the Sea, where they encourage that when you visit any location and pick up at least 3 pieces of trash, you too can help with reducing the amount of trash floating out in wildlife. This non-profit organization delivers education programs to inspire our global community to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations. You can pick up 3 pieces of trash wherever you go and that would make an impact on the environment.

I encourage you to do this. Please help clean up your local beaches. You can even download the app by Ocean Conservancy called Clean Swell. It’s a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use the app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.

2017-06-25 19.47.41

You can also find local beach clean up organizations near you. I have been a member of the Surfrider Foundation and they hold monthly beach clean ups.

2017-06-27

Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

0700

DSC_5488

On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

Adopted 16 Acres Of Wildlife Land

05.30.2017

0700

Who knew that when I joined TerraCycle, that I would end up adopting and protecting 16 acres of land. Let me start from the beginning…

I first joined TerraCycle in an attempt to recycle my beauty products, this included my makeup and bathroom product bottles. They offer programs that will collect certain kinds of trash and recycle them. They have free recycling programs, large scale recycling programs as well as zero waste boxes, which are not free.

There were about 28 free recycling programs when I first joined in 2015 and they now they have about 36 free recycling programs. The programs all have a different point reward system for how much trash you’re able to return to the program. They also offer a variety of contests and promotions for different programs at different times.

You can collect points and either receive a cash reward, collect point for a specific school or organization or donate the points to a good cause.  The organizations can provide resources such as clean drinking water, provide a meals, adopt wildlife land, reduce two pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, provide education or even help disaster victims.

As for me, I donated my points to adopting 1,800 square feet of wildlife land and I wanted to know more about the program so I visited National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program.

Here is the conflict:

Yellowstone is home to the most diverse assortment of wildlife found anywhere in North America. But once these iconic species leave the protected borders of the park—they are often at odds with neighboring ranchers who utilize public lands for livestock grazing. Grizzly bears and wolves are often killed or relocated when they attack livestock on National Forest lands where ranchers hold grazing privileges.

National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program addresses the conflicts between livestock and wildlife with a voluntary, market-based approach. We offer ranchers a fair price in exchange for their agreement to retire their public land grazing leases.

In most cases, livestock producers use our funds to relocate their livestock to areas without conflict. Wildlife has secure habitat, and rancher’s cattle can graze in an area with fewer problems.

It’s an interesting program and I really liked contributing to it. I initially donated my points to towards this program but then, decided to make a donation to cover more of how much I was helping protect the wildlife land.

This goes without saying, but there are many different organizations to donate to and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to participate in each. I wanted to share what the decision of joining a recycling program lead me to.  I never thought I’d adopt 16 acres of wildlife land. This has been an amazing journey and I’m so glad I took a chance to start with this organization.

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