Every year approximately 3.85 billion gallons of coffee is consumed in the US alone. That amount of coffee comes out to a total industry value of $48 billion dollars (62% of which goes to Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts). The United States alone imports more than 1.2 million tons of beans—over three times more than China, Russia and Australia combined. In the world market, coffee is the second most traded commodity on Earth, behind crude oil, and this trade shows no signs of slowing down. However, while coffee is wonderful for breakfast and for work, its production history is problematic.

 

Coffee was brought to the West in the 1600s after being discovered in Ethiopia the 11th Century and refined in Arabia a few years later. The popularity of coffee came at an unfortunate time, due to another thing being very popular in Europe at the time…colonialism. The rising demand for coffee led to an exponential increase in the number of coffee plantations all across the world, creating higher demand for slaves and more land, and resulting in the deforestation of much of southern Brazil and the human rights abuses that always accompany slavery.

 

While that was the scene of coffee production a few hundred years ago, the scene has changed less than you would think. Many problems with coffee production still exist today, including working conditions analogous to slavery, mass deforestation for farmland and even animal exploitation. Environmentally speaking, some forms of coffee production, such as sun-cultivation coffee, are very industrious but also rapidly strip the soil of nutrients and destroy local biodiversity when practiced.

 

Fortunately, steps can be taken to make sure that America’s most popular drink comes from a less cruel place…

 

  1. Check for “Fair Trade” Coffee Beans. While initially started to help coffee farmers in developing nations get ahead and make stable wages, Fair Trade coffee also helps the environment! In many developing nations, farmers are forced to use environmentally-destructive farming practices in order to sell their beans for a good price. By supporting Fair Trade coffee, you help reduce the incentives for reckless farming practices and help farmers in the developing world get access to education on the best agricultural practices!

  2. Tea Time! Tea can make a great alternative to coffee, and its production avoids many of the environmental problems of its mass-produced cousin. Tea can often be grown locally, even here in Texas, which means that long-distance transportation costs can be avoided with relative ease! Since locally-sourced tea has to spend less time getting shipped to its final destination, the tea leaves have much more time to retain nutrients and flourish, and all of this happens while helping local and often small-scale farmers maintain their land and businesses!

 

Hopefully, these tips have been informative, and have inspired you to try out a different morning drink!


Lead is a substance that requires little introduction. For chemists, it’s a dangerous substance that must be handled with proper protection and great caution. For many American consumers, it’s something we fear in our everyday products, from children’s toys to cosmetics. For Roman engineers, it was an invaluable material for building and maintaining the pipework of their massive cities.

Lead has a long history of use, stretching back as far as 3000 BC, where it was first mined in Greece and Spain. With a long history of use, there logically follows a long history of poisoning, and disturbingly, while today we focus on ensuring we don’t even breath the stuff, in ancient times it was the desired additive. It’s well known that the Romans famously used lead in their pipes, but they also claimed it had a “sweet taste” and intentionally added it to their wines. The United States also had a history with lead, with products such as Ethyl oil-additives, and the infamous lead-based paints of the early 20th century being just a few having caused many Americans to suffer unnecessarily throughout the 20th century.

The heavy metal doesn’t just harm humans. There is evidence that plants growing near lead-smelting areas become coated thinly with lead particles, slowly strangling and starving the plant for both air and light. Animals don’t fare much better. Some avian species, such as the American Bald Eagle, suffer from swallowing lead-poisoned species which survive lead-pellet bullets. In some cases, the poisoning in animals is so bad that tests are literally off the charts, or so heavily leaded that they cannot be tested by traditional means.

How can you protect yourself, your family and your environment from this metal menace? Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do, beginning with: do not do as the Romans do and add the stuff to your booze! Other suggestions include:

  1. Be aware of your containers. Today, many containers with lead have been phased out of the American market, but that does not mean all containers are lead-free. Old pots may still contain lead, but most leaded containers come from Mexico and Mesoamerica, where the metal can exist in everything from glass to candy-wrappers. Make sure to double check your food containers’ materials for lead, as there could be far worse things in your cookie jar than a sneaky hand.
  2. You are hereby told to avoid the old. When it comes to avoiding harm for your children, make sure they spend as little time as possible in homes built before 1978. While not all homes used lead paint prior to that year, if you don’t know what’s in the paint, it’s best not to leave it to chance.  Pregnant women should also avoid older homes, as unborn children may also be susceptible to old paint chemicals inhaled by their mother during pregnancy.
  3. Contact us! When it comes to something as dangerous as lead, you never want to leave things to chance. That’s why experts, or “super-experts” (a technical, Baer-specific term) like us exist! If you have any questions about lead in your property or otherwise, give us a call and let us figure out what measures you should take to keep your company, business, and self-safe, or let us refer you to a residential specialist to keep your home and family lead-free.

This Article was written by Cade Summers, with great privilege and special thanks to Joe Quirk.

 

Today I want to tell a story. It’s not a story you hear every day, but it’s one that needs to be told. It’s a story concerning many different variables and characters, as well as many different settings, problems, and solutions merged into one, great solution. It is a solution as miraculous, or (after you’ve read this story) as real, as walking on water.

The story doesn’t begin in a typical setting. It begins in the mind of a famous, noble, and genius man. The man is the great architect of Buckminster Fuller, and the time is the 1960s. The idea, or the spark of this story, is a city both never attempted, and considered impossible.

This city, should it have been built, would have been the first of its kind. Half a century ago, Fuller planned the first models of a city district that was designed not to stand on the ground, but to float on the ocean. The district, which was planned for the bay of Tokyo, would have sustained stores, apartments and even parks, and created thousands of homes in the middle of the most densely populated city on the planet.

The idea was visionary and even considered by the United States government for a time. However, as politics and government began to get involved in the project, the visionary solution began to hit a stagnating standstill. Buckminster Fuller enthusiastically continued to write about the project despite the stagnation, and he even included the idea his book Critical Path, published only 2 years before his death in 1983.

Second Birth

Fast forward half a century since this project’s conception. A writer and entrepreneur is relaxing and having a wonderful vacation on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. The food is great, the crew is happy, and the entertainment is abundant. This man, however, begins to consider something that would seem like a fantasy to most. He begins to wonder what it would be like to live on a cruise like the one he’s on.

Now, to the average person, the idea of living on a cruise ship would conjure images focused on an extreme excess of strawberry daiquiris. However, the man in question, who is now doing back-of-the-napkin calculations, is not thinking that. This man is Joe Quirk, and he has just struck upon a pretty, well, quirky idea.

All around him, a high standard of living is being enjoyed by himself, his fellow vacationers, and most importantly, the crew. “How possible would it be”, Joe began to ask, “for human beings to simply live on the ocean?” The calculations and the answer would have to wait, however. After all, Joe was on vacation, enjoying himself, while the first seeds of this fantasy implanted themselves in his mind.

From Seas to Sands to Seas

It was some time later that the idea of living on a cruise began to take shape and to become far more relevant. By some time later, I mean it was at a time when Joe Quirk had gone from the middle of the ocean to the middle of the desert. Whereas this idea had started on a cruise, it was kicked off at Burning Man.

If one thing should be clear, Joe knew how to have fun.

Joe was in the middle of the festival, talking with a friend, James Hogan. The conversation eventually landed on Joe’s idea of a cruise ship on which people could live permanently. James, who had heard a similar idea, immediately introduced Joe to a man he knew named Patri Friedman.

Patri had been famous in some circles for speculating about new forms of societies. His father was a well-known political theorist, and his grandfather was the great Nobel-Winning Economist Milton Friedman, who founded his own school of economics known as the Chicago School of Economics.

To describe their first meeting, Joe gave me a wonderful image. “I went to go see [Patri], and I want you to imagine a man on an upside-down canoe. This was Patri Friedman. Balancing like some sort of Guru in the middle of a desert at a Burning Man”.

Patri was, in many ways, this guru figure, and where Joe had done some initial calculations on whether or not living on a cruise ship was possible, Patri shifted the idea to that of living on man-made islands. Together they hatched a plan to write a book about the project, explaining how it was not only feasible to live on the ocean but ideal in many aspects.

The next step in this story lands in the present day. Although Buckminster Fuller first proposed that living on the oceans would be possible and created some models 50 years ago, the first book actively advocating for the idea of living on the ocean was published only in March of 2017. Similarly, although he first plans for seasteads started in the 1960’s, the first development of them is starting today.

Seasteading: A Brave New World

Today there are many solutions to reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. There are many solutions to restoring fish populations or replacing fossil fuels, and there are even a few about adapting to sea level change. There is only one solution, however, which addresses all four complex environmental problems: Seasteading.

Seasteading is a novel approach to fighting many of the world’s most difficult environmental and social problems. In short, seasteading is the practice of building cities no longer on land, but which instead float on the ocean. The idea might sound like science fiction, but the development of the very first seastead is happening right now inside the territories of French Polynesia. These cities are designed not only to be environmentally sustainable but also to purify and rejuvenate open ocean and harbor waters.

Since the inception of seasteading, the project has focused on resolving certain moral dilemmas. These goals persist in the project, and today there are eight moral imperatives the seasteading project focuses on. While I won’t focus on all of them in this piece, several of them concern the environment, and the solutions which the engineers, aqua-farmers, environmentalists, and clean-energy specialists have devised show great promise.

Moral Imperative #1- Clean the Atmosphere

The Industrial Revolution has introduced massive amounts of pollution into the atmosphere as a result of the massive growth in human population and general human wealth in the last three centuries. Today more CO2 than ever before exists in our skies, and its excess in our atmosphere poses an ever-present threat to our ever-growing population. But what if all that carbon in the atmosphere didn’t have to be a threat? What if all that carbon in the atmosphere…could be another resource?

When fossil fuels are formed, they are mostly deposits from prehistoric algae. Today, many kinds of algae excel at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, are edible,  and can be farmed in the open ocean. Additionally, algae can even pull agricultural pollutants out of the water, turning various forms of waste into either an edible and nutritious food source or an abundant source of biofuel.

By hosting algae farms, especially in areas where agricultural runoff is common, seasteads have a viable way to create food not only for their own populations but also for people everywhere on earth, all while reducing CO2 in the atmosphere and pollution in the water. By using these many different species of plant in ocean farms, seasteads can clean our atmosphere while creating a crop that is an ingredient in many day-to-day products.

Moral Imperative #2- Live in Balance with Nature

As previously mentioned, seasteads are designed to be very sustainable. This design goes far beyond algae. According to Rutger De Graff, an Engineer from the Dutch Engineering Company DeltaSync, housing on seasteads will be able to pull energy for heating and cooling directly from the water. In DelatSync’s calculations, the amount of energy needed to warm or cool these on-the-water structures will result in a CO2 reduction of 60% compared to structures on land.

Seasteads are also designed to have a symbiosis with modern cityscapes, harvesting waste and runoff from cities for farms, while providing food and energy back to the city. Instead of cities dumping massive amounts of pollutants and waste into the ocean, seasteads can become filters for cities, and transform harmful materials into constructive resources.

Moral Imperative #3- Power the World

While powering the world with biofuel from algae is a viable option for seasteads, there are even more ways for seasteads to produce energy. A form of energy harvesting known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or “OTEC” works similarly to Geothermal energy, but instead of harvesting heat energy from land, it harvests the energy within the ocean. Energy by OTEC is both clean and renewable, and a single OTEC station can generate enough power to replace 1.3 million barrels of oil.

There are already many variants of windmills on the open ocean, and offshore wind energy remains as a third viable form of clean, renewable and productive energy which seasteads can use. With options such as biofuel, wind, and ocean-thermal, seasteads are sitting or, rather, floating, on a practical gold mine.

Conclusion

Seasteading represents an excellent solution for many of humanity’s most difficult problems. With access to greater freedom on the open ocean and symbiosis with the waste of cities, seasteads offer an amazing step forward for humanity. They can create jobs, homes, and industries all from the sea.

If you’d like to learn more about the project, you can check out a speech by the president of the seasteading institute here, or you can support them with donations or merchandise here.

Thanks for reading, and stay green!


Candy.

It’s great. It’s sweet. It’s there for you on those days that you throw in the towel, then realize it’s not even noon (and I’ve had a lot of those).

Just around the corner is Halloween, one of the biggest days for American candy companies, and those candy companies will be there for you. Whether you want to pretend you’re not home while trick-or-treaters bang on your door, chew on some snickers with a scary movie, or steal a Reese’s cup out of a relative’s overflowing plastic pumpkin, candy will most likely be around.

But is candy, our beloved friend who makes so many of us ask, “is a gym membership reeeeeeally worth it?”, as good to the environment as it is to us?

 

Well to find out, let’s talk chocolate.

 

While chocolate is a fan-favorite to many, farming practices surrounding chocolate are not liked by anyone. Since cocoa beans are a slow-growing crop (sometimes taking up to a full year to harvest), farmers need lots of land to ensure they can make enough money to support themselves year round. When more land is necessary, many farmers simply chop down new forests rather than reuse old land, a practice which contributes to large-scale deforestation. It’s speculated that 70% of all of the deforestation in the Ivory Coast comes from cocoa production, and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon.

Deforestation isn’t the only problem caused by mass cocoa production. There are many farmers around the world who are unfamiliar with the best farming practices for cocoa and consequently misuse fertilizers or poorly organize their farms. These unfortunate mistakes can lead to water waste and contribute to agricultural pollution.

 

Knowing this about chocolate, you may find yourself leaning towards the fruit flavored candies. The question is, however, are Skittles really going to be better than M&M’s?

 

Short answer: No. Long answer: Noooooooooooooooo.

 

While chocolate has its vices, many fruit candies are laden with chemicals. Gum, which was once derived from tree sap, has today become highly synthetic. Carrying things such as petroleum-based waxes, or even industrial rubber, gums are far from environmentally friendly. While gums are not necessarily designed to be consumed, consumers should know that the gum you put in your mouth comes from the same substances in candles, shoe heels or even car tires.

Other fruit-flavored candies are hardly better. If you’re a fan of these candies and can’t bear to part with them, you may want to stop reading now.

So what about my fruity-favorite Skittles; are they safe? Titanium Dioxide, the same chemical which absorbs and refracts UV rays in sunlight is what you can expect to bite into here. Needless to say, it isn’t great for you, and when exposed to dirt the chemical naturally stunts the soil’s ability to retain nitrogen. Skittles aren’t the only villain though, with many so-called “fruit flavored” candies carrying dyes such as red #40, which is amongst other things is created from coal byproducts.

Now that you’ve heard the horror story of what you’re giving out for Halloween, you may find yourself considering giving out apples and health food bars. What if I told you those were bad too? Well, they’re fine, actually… I’m just trying to save you before you become “that guy” in your neighborhood.

That said, it may surprise you learn, after everything above, that not all candies are created equal. Giving out candy while knowing it’s secretly a sugared shoe heel can be hard, but handing out healthy, environmentally friendly apples can leave your house vulnerable to TP-ing later in the night. Fortunately, there’s a middle ground, containing good candies which aren’t secretly unused car-products. Here are a few you might want to check out for the upcoming Hallow’s Eve.

  1. If you’ve got a small neighborhood to feed this Halloween, you may want to check out Justin’s peanut butter cups. Justin’s is a natural food store that focuses on bringing the best kinds of foods to its customers, so in short, no rubber, just candy.
  2. Glee Gum Pops are another great option. Remember what I said about gum being originally derived from tree saps? With these pops, that’s still true, and they’re an affordable treat if you’ve got a lot of trick or treaters to serve.
  3. YumEarth Lollipops is another place to seek out eco-friendly candies. The company focuses on healthy lifestyles, and thus make their candies as natural as possible.

Finally, if you’d like to get involved helping the world’s candy become more sustainable and green, why not check out the World Cocoa Foundation, a foundation dedicated to spreading sustainability practices to cocoa farmers and raise awareness about the effects of deforestation because of farming malpractice.

Thanks for reading and have a great (and hopefully green) Halloween!


Last month, the Black-Sea-Native Zebra Mussels were spotted in Lake Travis, indicating that Lake Travis is home to a new, invasive species.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, an invasive species is defined as a species that is both non-native to an ecosystem and presents possible harm to the environment or human health. Through rapid colonization of their new homes, zebra mussels quickly push out rival species, damaging or threatening native life. Since they can quickly adapt and reproduce in non-native water, they rapidly expand into various places such as pipes, boats, and on-the-water machinery, causing damage or malfunction.

Zebra Mussels are not the only species to be wary of, and there are many worse cases around the world of a species taking a new habitat and then running amok. Australia, in particular, is well-known for accidentally providing a home to invasive species. While the blunders can seem comical at times, invasive species cause many problems for native people and wildlife.

Invasive species are usually spread by humans themselves, and everyone should be aware of activities that could harmfully spread species across the Earth.  Below are a few tips which you can employ to prevent the spread of invasive species.

  1. If you’re going on an exotic vacation, don’t sneak fruits, nuts, seeds, lumber or other plant life out of the country.  While it may seem tempting if you see a beautiful species of plant or an interesting looking fruit, vegetation may harbor bugs, fungus or other plants that would love to hitch a ride.

  2. When it comes to stopping mussels from invading our lakes and harming other wildlife, the best way to prevent their migration is to ensure you check your vehicles for places they might hide. If you’re an active boater, keep your vessel well tuned and cleaned, especially when you move your boat from one body of water to another. Remember, Clean, Drain, Dry!

  3. Don’t. Release. Pets. While it may seem like a good alternative if you can no longer take care of your pet, it’s a bad idea. In Teller Lake, Colorado, it is believed that someone dumped just a few goldfish into the lake. Today, the lake is “infested” with more than 4,000 goldfish who have no natural predators. While the owner may have thought that releasing the fish was a better alternative than maintaining them, the goldies quickly muscled out the other fish and monopolized the area.

If you want to get involved, sign this petition to remove and quarantine areas currently affected by zebra mussels here in Lake Travis.


Nuclear energy is the source of a huge debate when it comes to alternative energies. Many people see nuclear energy as a bountiful, affordable, and clean energy source, which can help power large areas with only a few resources. Alternatively, many view nuclear energy negatively due to the extreme risks it proposes or the toxic waste it produces. In this post, I’m going to discuss both a pro and a con argument to using nuclear energy, and through it hopefully, you can find out what you believe.

       An Argument For Using Nuclear Energy

On the pro side of the argument, many cite the energy produced from nuclear reactions is much cleaner than fossil fuels. Through the use of nuclear energy, humans have avoided producing 64 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions. While nuclear energy does produce waste, there are management options for that waste, with many nuclear plants even moving towards reprocessing to ensure maximum efficiency before any waste is produced.

While nuclear energy is perceived as being the most hazardous and lethal form of energy production due to the publicity of large scale accidents, many experts indicate it is in actuality the safest. While there have been catastrophes involving nuclear energy production, all but 7 of a total of 33 have been contained, and only 4 have ever caused significant radiation damages (Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and  Windscale). Conversely, the next safest form of energy—wind—has had 1,500 accidents in the last 5 years. As the status quo, fossil fuels have caused significantly more damage, with some estimates indicating more than 13,000 deaths can be attributed yearly to the energy source. “Nuclear meltdown” may make headlines, but it’s far from the most dangerous energy source that we are using.

       An Argument Against Using Nuclear Energy

With the above considered, there are many cons to nuclear energy, chief among them is the waste produced. Despite its volatile and toxic nature, nuclear waste can be managed; the predicament is that it needs to be managed for an extremely long time. Plutonium-239, an element commonly used in nuclear fission, is said to have a half-life of 24,000 years. For perspective, it would take the duration of 4 recorded human histories for any plutonium being buried right now to decay past the point of radiation. Notably, Pu-239 is one of the more quickly decaying substances, with materials such as Iodine-129 having a half-life of 15.7 million years.

Aside from the predicament of how long it needs to be managed, the problem also extends to whether or not it will be mismanaged. Between the years of 1946 and 1993, more than a dozen countries used ocean dumping as a measure to get rid of nuclear waste, causing the deaths of millions of sea-based animals in the Arctic alone. If aquatic mismanagement wasn’t enough, Germany has hundreds of cubic kilometers of radioactive waste simply lying around on the surface, as the government has not decided a permanent home for the substance in the more than 40 years the waste has been around. If these administrative blunders weren’t enough, the mismanagement of nuclear technology to create weaponry has devastating effects on any and all life on Earth.

The debate for nuclear energy has been around since its discovery and invention, and opinions on the practice are far-reaching. Hopefully, you can find greater insight on the argument in this post. Furthermore, if you are especially interested in the dispute, you can support the affirmative at nuclearmatters.com, help to refute it by supporting activism at greenpeace.org, or even go the middle route with creating and support better regulation and oversight.


The problem of elephant poaching requires little introduction. Across Africa and Asia, thousands of Elephants are killed for ivory each year, with some conservationists estimating that the deaths by hunting per year could be as high as 20,000. However, even those statistics are down from the 100,000 elephants reportedly killed between 2010 and 2012. With these extreme numbers, some people are left wondering whether or not there is a solution to the rampant poaching of these animals.

In the United States, state laws regulate when and under what circumstances you can hunt many game species, allowing for a natural repopulation of species in the area. While there are laws concerning hunting and especially ivory in Africa, due to high poverty and little oversight, bribery and corruption of officials are exceedingly common. With that in mind, many governments are left helpless to stop the poaching and illegal trade, as laws passed go virtually unacknowledged by both officials and the public.

There are potential solutions to poaching in Africa, which are not often implicated. While there are many controversial opinions on the issue of ending poaching, there may be more solutions than meets the eye.

  1. Increased Protection. While this one is a fairly basic solution, there are many different ways of implementing it. Some park protection agencies in Africa use drones to keep watch at night, while others have sought out military tactics in order to stop black market poachers. In any case, stepping up security is a popular choice amongst African governments in the fight against poaching.

  2. Communal Conservancies. Despite global trends, Namibia has done something extraordinary. Between the years of 2002 and 2013, the elephant population has grown from 9,600 to 16,000. How? The government of Namibia has policies in action where local communities can establish wildlife tourism, and where communities can keep vast amounts of the revenue made. In this way, many of Namibia’s rural residents are incentivized to make sure that the Elephant population is maintained and safe.

  3. Legalize Ivory Trade. No, you heard that one right. While it may seem counter-intuitive, many people believe that by legalizing the trade of tusks, many of the reckless crimes and actions committed by criminal hunters in the black market would come more effectively under regulation. While it’s a controversial opinion to many, it may open up the market to better oversight and a more responsible harvesting of ivory.

If this post has encouraged you to help the elephants, donations are a great way to get involved. The African Wildlife Foundation is a great group which funds programs to help stop the poaching of elephants and violation of African conservancies. While poaching and ivory harvest solutions are far from black and white, seeking out, implementing, and studying the effects of different solutions can forge a better future for our world.


With the rise of companies like Tesla and the emergence of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV’s), many people point to a future where many cars become vastly more environmentally friendly and produce substantially less pollution. Even freighting has begun to experiment with zero-emission models, seeking better boats and vehicles to avoid damaging the natural environment. This is an exciting time, with many industry-wide players progressing towards a “zero-emissions” standard. On a personal scale, how can we reduce the pollution we make in day-to-day life?

There are, fortunately, quite a few ways to reduce your emissions, and none of them need to be as expensive as buying a new zero-emissions car.

 

While it’s often difficult to get around Texas without the use of a vehicle, there are many ways you can reduce the negative effects of using a car. In general, try and make the journeys you take by car as efficient as possible, whether by taking a ride with someone else or maintaining your own ride properly. If you can, taking your bike or taking a walk instead of driving are great ways to get fresh air and keep air fresh.

Hopefully, these tips helped you to find things that will help you reduce your vehicle emissions where you can! 

 


Many Texans love hiking, and various Texas cities and parks have great trails for the enjoyment of visitors. However, while there are many aspects of Texas parks to enjoy, it is imperative to stay on the trail while hiking at these parks. For parks with drier habitats and soils, this becomes especially true. Why? One answer lies in the preservation of biocrusts.

What are biocrusts? Biocrusts are thin layers of organisms, usually in the form of lichens, mosses or cyanobacteria, that hold the top-most layers of soil together. While most species of plants and fungi avoid these conditions, biocrusts have adapted to thrive in them.

Biocrusts are composed of a range of organisms. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, because as a unit biocrusts have the important role of keeping nutrients intact within the soil. These organisms excel at fixing nitrogen and putting carbon back into soils, breaking down organic matter and protecting soils from erosion. By doing this, they provide key nutrients needed for the survival of many other plants and wildlife, forming an important foundation in arid to semi-arid ecosystems.

As many people are unfamiliar with biocrusts, they tend also to be unfamiliar with how they are damaging them. As a result, humans are often more likely to walk on biocrusts than they are to acknowledge their importance. The continuous damage done to biocrusts can debilitate the soil, and prevent the biocrusts making nutrients and water available for other species, in turn making it harder for other plants and wildlife to grow.

Biocrusts are often disturbed by humans who wander from trails. Hopefully, this post has shown that staying on the trail and not damaging biocrusts is important!


Today, many chemicals which were once not suitable for humans to come into contact with have been adapted for use in many items that seem integral to everyday life. Batteries made out of lithium, lead or mercury, exist in many varieties of laptops and cars, and toxic chemicals once found in plants that people dared not touch have been repurposed to make medicines for the sick. Although humans now benefit from these products, the environment can be exposed to harmful waste from the manufacture or disposal of such items.

Just how much chemical waste do humans produce? The answer: a lot. Some organizations estimate the global annual average to exceed 200 million tons. In 2016, The EPA also cited that each person in the United States on average produces around 4 pounds of household hazardous wastes, or waste in the form of various harmful chemicals. This is equivalent to 530,000 tons of waste produced by US households annually.

The numbers can be overwhelming, but thankfully there are a variety of things that you can do to help reduce chemical waste. Small actions can lead to big results!

  1. Always Recycle Batteries. This is a tip that cannot be stressed enough. Batteries are composed of chemicals toxic to flora and fauna, and some battery materials can be volatile when combined with otherwise common substances. For instance, Lithium and Water can react violently to release Lithium Hydroxide, a poisonous substance which can cause great irritation to the skin and eyes if exposed in either humans or animals. Although many Americans already recycle traditional alkaline batteries, be sure to try and repurpose or recycle your car or computer batteries.
  2. Be Aware Of What’s On Your Face. Much of the cosmetics e industry is not environmentally friendly.  As an example, microbeads can be mistaken by fish for zooplankton and swallowed, creating a toxic internal environment in the fish.  Unfortunately, these fish can become today’s catch and tomorrow’s dinner. Even though you never intended on swallowing those little plastic beads, by washing them down a drain you may end up doing just that.
  3. It May be Clean but is It Green? Cleaning products are potential marketing trap.  Harsh cleaning materials may kill undesirable bacteria, but they may also harm the health of people. Disinfectants are essentially pesticides and they can carry with them many damaging chemicals. Therefore, make sure you do the right research on the soaps, polishes or wipes to make sure they are truly environmentally-friendly. Fortunately, The EPA has this handy-dandy search tool where many greener products can be found!

In general, being aware of the impacts that the chemicals you are using can have is very important. Become aware of your local recycling codes or check out The Official Poison Control Website, so that you know which chemicals to avoid. Hopefully, these points have brought to your attention the threats of chemical pollution, as well as how you can resist contributing to it. Remember: small actions can lead to big results, and by being conscious of your environmental impact you can contribute to a better, greener world.