In September, scientists found yet another way that our carefree habits of yesteryear have screwed us today. Snow from the top of mountains, which we use for our drinking water, has been positively tested for PCB’s. In other words, our water and the water of the animals who share the globe with us, is toxic and one the biggest causes IS BOTTLED WATER.
PCB’s or polychlorinated biphenyls, are pollutants that are found in paints, plastics, electrical equipment and carbonless copy paper. “Research in animals has shown exposure to PCBs can increase the likelihood of various health problems, including cancer, decreased immune responses, neurological problems, and offspring with low birth weights. Studies on humans further support the view that PCBs are dangerous.”*
So how did this happen? Melting glaciers, burning trash, polluting oceans, which eventually get absorbed by the sun and turned into precipitation. It’s our own fault and yet I have no doubt that another scientist will come up with a way to filter and purify the PCB’s out of local tap water so it’s safe for us humans to drink. But what about the bears, the wolves, the birds, and the deer who drink straight from the source?
Just a little reminder this Christmas season, do your part. Try to consume less. Instead of buying your groceries and using their bags, bring you own bags. Instead of purchasing bottled water, try getting a filter for your sink or a Brita for refrigerator and using a cute, reusable water bottle. Instead of buying plastic baggies and Saran Wrap at the store, wash-out and reuse the bags you have. Buy chemical-free detergent for your laundry and your dishes so that no pollutants go into the ocean from your house. Use recyclable garbage bags for your garbage so that it’s one less thing you’re sending to the landfill to sit there and spoil the earth for a hundred years. Every thing you buy that comes in a plastic container, reuse that plastic container. Switch your light bulbs out for more energy-efficient ones. And just try and think before you consume, use, and throw away.
Merry Christmas folks. May your biggest gift be to yourself; make small changes, help save the environment.
* Rachael Rettner, Staff Writer LiveScience.com
For some ideas on how to make changes at home and at work, check out EverydayActivist.com
Find programs near you; there should be lots of options.
- toner cartridges
- aluminum cans
- 2 liter plastic soda bottles
- milk jugs
- steel containers
- organic material/cuttings
- telephone books
- Stop Junk Mail — The junk mail Americans receive in just one day is not only a nuisance, but could produce enough energy to heat a quarter of a million homes! If you saved up all the unwanted junk mail for one year, you would have the equivalent to one and a half trees, which would add up to 100 million trees every year in just the United States. To help stop junk mail, write to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 11 West 42nd St., PO Box 3861, New York, NY 10163-3861. By writing to them, you can reduce junk mail by up to 75%. You can recycle the rest of the junk mail you receive.
- Add a Low-Flow Faucet Aerator — This is a simple device which you can attach to your water faucets at home. By attaching one of these devices, you can reduce water flow by 50%, and the water flow will seem stronger! If only 10,000 4-person households would install low-flow aerators, 33 million gallons of water would be saved yearly.
- Change your Kitchen Habits — Use reusable containers for food storage instead of wrapping food in foil or plastic wrap. You can also use unbleached coffee filters, which does not produce the deadly toxin dioxin in its manufacturing. Use rags to wipe up spills instead of paper towels, and use biodegradable wax paper and bags.
- Check your hot water heater — Did you know your hot water heater accounts for about 20% of all the energy used in your home? There are a few simple things you can do to save energy and save money. Turn your water heater down to 130 degrees, which is hot enough to kill deadly bacteria, and still save energy. Also, insulate your heater with a pre-fab ‘blanket,’ but be careful not to block off air vents on gas heaters. This can save you 7-8% of your energy usage. You can also drain 2 quarts (or 2 liters) of water from your hot water heater every 2 months from the valve at the bottom of the tank. This prevents accumulation of sediment and prolongs the life of your water heater.
- Be aware of your paint you use — Use latex paint instead of oil-based paint. Oil-based paint is highly toxic, and its manufacturing produces nasty pollutants. Dispose of paint as hazardous waste, or with latex paint you can let it evaporate outside for one year. Then, you can dispose of it with the rest of your trash. Don’t clean your paintbrushes outside, because this can contaminate groundwater; clean them in a sink. Instead of trashing excess paint, you can donate it to a school or to someone else who needs to use it.
- Tires — Every 2 weeks, Americans wear out nearly 50 million pounds of rubber off their tires. This is enough rubber to manufacture 3 and a quarter million new tires from scratch! To help prevent this, you can inflate your tires well. This preserves the life of the tires and saves gas, which ultimately saves money.
- Home Appliances — Did you know that America’s refrigerators consume 7% of the nation’s electricity, which is the equivalent to more than 50% of the power generated by nuclear plants. To allow your fridge to run more efficiently, you should clean the condenser coils annually. By raising the temperature in your refrigerator by 10 degrees, you can save 25% of your energy. With air conditioners, you should clean or replace filters each month. This will save electricity and money.
- Recharge Your Batteries — Batteries contain heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium, which have become a major source of contamination in dump sites. They either break apart and are released into the soil or are incinerated and the deadly heavy metals are released into the air. Did you know that the average annual use of mercury in batteries is over what the government limits in dump sites by four times. Here is what you can do to help: use batteries which are rechargeable. Recycle alkaline batteries if you can. They can extract the mercury and cadmium for reuse.
- Shopping Bags — Plastic bags are not biodegradable even if they say they are they do not decompose fully. Also the ink is made up of cadmium, and is highly toxic when it is released. Whereas paper bags are reusable and biodegradable. However supermarkets use paper that has never been recycled before and they always say “recyclable” not “recycled”. Here is what you can do: if your purchase is small don’t take any bag, this alone could save hundreds of millions of bags. Bring a cloth bag when you shop, or use string bags.
- Clean Up Your Beach — Our oceans provide the earth with most of our oxygen, moisture, and weather patterns. To keep our oceans clean we have to start with our beaches. Every year on September 23 there is a nationwide 3 hour clean up, sponsored by the Center for Marine Conservation. In 1987 around the nation over 2 million pounds of debris was picked up off our beaches. When you go to the beach you can help by bringing a trash bag and spend a little while picking up litter, or you can join a beach clean-up crew.
- Do Not Buy products from endangered animals — As little as ten years ago there were over 1.5 million elephants on the earth. Today there are only 750,000. By the year 2,000 they may become extinct. Over 80% of the ivory that is taken, is from elephants- Americans buy 30% of it. Over 6.5 million dolphins have been killed by tuna fisherman. Fisherman’s nets can reach 3/4 miles long and whatever gets trapped in them, dies. To help you can: not buy endangered animal products and substitute your purchase to; albacore and bonita. Or boycott products from endangered animals (Iceland gave up some of their whaling because consumers wouldn’t by it’s fish).
- Use Low Flush Toilets — In your household, 40% of the pure water is flushed down the toilet. You can use small plastic bottles, filled with water or stones to displace the amount of water in toilets. This will cause it to be a “low-flush toilet,” or you can use a displacement bag in your tank. Both save you 1-2 gallons per flush. You can also install toilet dams which causes part of the water in your tank not to run out with the flush. If you can, 2 dams can be installed. These alterations can save you one gallon per toilet dam. With a plastic bottle you will be saving 8-16 gallons of water every day (if you flush 8 times a day), 56-112 gallons per week, and 2,900-5,800 per year. If we had 100,000 families do this simple thing, we would save 290 million to 580 million gallons a year!
- Beware of Your Showers — If a four person family showers each day for 5-minutes, in one week they would use 700 gallons of water. This is enough water for a person to live off of for three years. You can buy either an aerated, or a nonaerated shower head which cuts your water output by 50%. The aerated is as if not more powerful than a regular shower head, it mixes air with the water. The nonaerated shower head pulses, but you get a good sprat and it can be called a “massage showerhead”. With a family of four taking 5-minute showers, with a low-flow showerhead you can save at least 14,000 gallons of water a year. So if 100,000 families installed low-flow shower heads we would save 1.4 billion gallons.
- Recycle Your Motor Oil — In the United States we use about a billion gallons of motor oil each year, and about 350 million of it ends up in the environment. About 2.1 million tons of oil are deposited up in our rivers and streams every year. Motor Oil can seep down into our ground water supply. One quart contaminates 250,000 gallons of water. If you get your oil changed at a gas station make sure they will recycle your oil. If you change the oil yourself, take it to a gas station or oil-changing outlet which recycles oil. They will take yours, but you will have to pay anywhere from a quarter to a dollar (the cost for having it picked up).
- Use Fluorescent Lighting — Lighting results in 1/5 of the electricity consumed by the U.S. By using electricity we are contributing to global problems by making power plants and industrial business generate more polluting emissions. Using a fluorescent light bulb, which doesn’t flicker or hum, is much more efficient than an incandescent bulb. They last longer and use 1/4 the amount of energy. A normal incandescent bulb lasts 750 hours but a fluorescent bulb will give off the same amount of light yet last for 7,500 to 10,000 hours with 1/3 of the wattage. Also within a fluorescent lightbulb’s life time it will stop 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere, if it is substituted for the traditional bulb. Even though fluorescent lights are initially more expenseive (around $15) it will take 13 traditional bulbs to last for the same amount of time (figure the savings on that!). Saving you even more money a fluorescent light will cost you $10 for electricity during its life time, whereas during the same period incandescents use up $40. However you might want to use fluorescent lights more where you are going to be using it for long periods of time. They don’t fit in some of the small lamps or covered fixtures. Here is an interesting fact. By installing a single fluorescent light bulb in 100 million households in America, you would save the energy equivalent of all of the energy that is generated by a nuclear power plant running full time, over the course of one year.
- Balloon Releases — You should never release helium ballons into the air. Balloons cause the death for countless numbers of sea turtles and whales. Balloons cause them to suffocate or starve to death (by blocking stomach or air valves). Also metallic balloons can cause power outages when they get caught in power lines.
- Diapers — Use cloth diapers when you put a diaper on your child. Americans trash over 18 billion disposable diapers a year, this amount can go to the moon and back seven times. Diapers take up 1% of America’s landfills and they take 500 years to decompose. Cotton diapers can be reused 100 times and decompose in 1 to 6 months. These disposable diapers consume 1,265,000 metric tons of wood pulp and 75,000 metric tons of plastic. After using disposable diapers we are supposed to wash them out, only 5% of us do. Meaning that millions of tons of dirty, possibly disease infected diapers wind up in our so called “sanitary” landfills. Infact three million tons of untreated feces and urine does not go through our sewage system but into our landfills. Over 100 different diseases are known to be excreted in human feces, and there is a chance (at least it has not happened yet) that they can seep into our groundwater. You can find cloth diapers if you look in the local Yellow Pages. Remember if you use cloth diapers you will need to use diaper covers so that the moisture can be held in. 100% wool felt seems to work as the best diaper cover.
- Did you know that just in 1995 alone, recycled toner cartridges kept over 21,000 tons of trash out of landfills? Believe it or not, now you can recycle your printer’s toner cartridges! Every year, Americans throw out enough printer cartridges to stretch from Los Angeles to New York City and back again. Toner cartridges can be recycled, having just as good a performance as an unrecycled cartridge. To recycle your toner cartridges, find a local business that does printer cartridge recycling, or contact the manufacturer of your current toner cartridge and ask about a cartridge recycling program.
- Not only should you recycle, but buy products that are recycled. By purchasing these products, you are helping to conserve natural resources, and to protect the environment.
- Do not dump oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints, cleaners, and other toxic household products down the storm drain. These drains, found in the gutters on the sidewalk, are not treated by the sewage treatment plant–they go straight into rivers, lakes, and maybe even the ocean! By putting these toxic chemicals down the drain, there is a great biological threat to marine life. It’s actually quite simple. If you don’t want to swim in it, don’t let it get in your storm drain!
- Use CFC free products. ChloroFluoroCarbons destroy the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful UV rays.
- Boycott products from companies that produce CFCs.
- Carpool or walk to reduce carbon dioxide pollution in the air.
- Do not use ivory or animal furs. Animals are killed to make these!
- Eat dolphin safe tuna, or don’t eat tuna at all.
- Buy in bulk–this saves not only on packaging that you would eventually have to dispose of, but reduces tremendously the amount of industrial waste generated to make the packaging.
- Shop for durable, long-lasting products. For example, use a metal razor instead of disposables, or a metal roasting pan instead of a disposable one.
- Reuse whatever you can, including aluminum pie tins, glassware, plastic cutlery and aluminum foil.
- Buy products with recycled contents.
- Precycle–make an effort to buy products with recyclable packaging.
- Leave the grass clippings on the lawn, and start a backyard composting bin for yard clippings.
- Instead of throwing away items such as furniture, appliances and clothing, look for a place to donate them.
- Make recycling easy by putting recycle bins in the rooms where you use the products. If you open the mail in your den, keep a box nearby where you can put junk mail. If you want to save vegetable and fruit clippings for a composting pile, keep them in a container under the sink.
- Replace paper cups, plates and napkins with washable, reusable cups and plates and cloth napkins.
- Keep used paper in a stack and use the flip side for scrap work.
- Try to buy items that are less toxic to the environment when produced. For example, use vinegar and water as a replacement to glass cleaner.
- Keep in mind that trash generation is not confined to the home. Remember the amount of packaging when choosing a restaurant for take-out food.
- Just because your community doesn’t pick up all recyclables on the curb, it doesn’t mean there are not viable alternatives nearby. Check with dry cleaners, supermarkets, manufacturers, your local public works department and civic organizations to find out where recycled goods can be dropped off, at a location near you.
- An easy way to cut the amount of paper that goes into the trash or recycle bin is to perfect all of your documents before you print them. Run grammar and spell check to eliminate careless mistakes, and then preview your document in print preview. This will reduce the amount of paper that you use, saving money and helping to save the environment!
- When you are out enjoying nature, no matter how tempting it may be, DO NOT FEED THE WILD ANIMALS! Feeding wild animals makes them dependent upon human food, which will ultimately lead them to starve when humans are not around (usually during winter).