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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Water is pretty great, right? It’s able to carry people and goods long distances, can be cooling for many animals in hot areas, and it is a key element of life on Earth.
As nice as water is for human beings, we often take it for granted. The average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day doing various tasks. Some of these tasks can be surprisingly inconspicuous; taking a shower longer than 15 minutes, for instance, can use more than thirty gallons of water. However, those statistics are nothing compared to 3,000 gallons that can be lost annually due to a single leaky faucet or showerhead.
This can be certainly taxing for the natural environment, as even major lakes and rivers such as the Colorado River have dried up due to water mismanagement and overuse in the past. While Agriculture may be an especially hard hitter when it comes to water use, everyday tasks are also something to keep in mind when conserving water.
With that, a few more ways that you can help reduce your water use that are:
- Don’t wash small/half-full laundry loads – Along with cleaning fewer clothes, a modern-day load of laundry can demand up to 15 to 30 gallons of water, with older models sometimes using as much as 45 gallons!
- Switch to a “low flow” shower head – This choice is not only environmentally friendly but cheaper too! A low-flow showerhead can use up to 75% less water than a conventional shower head, conserving both water and costs!
- Avoid wasting food– A 2013 study by the World Resources Institute indicated that the wasting of 1.3 billion tons of food was equivalent to the wasting of 45 trillion gallons of water! It’s a shocking statistic, especially as the same institute believes it accounted for nearly ¼ of all agricultural water waste in the same year.
Hopefully, you can find ways to apply these tips in your own life– or if you’re already practicing these, you can comment below any more environmental tips you may want to share. Either way, stay mindful or water use, as too often it can stumble into water waste.
Around the world, many of our greatest forests are quickly disappearing. In Brazil, increases in agricultural demand caused the loss of nearly 27,700 square kilometers of forest in 2004 alone. While there are many reasons for forest loss, slash and burn agriculture is definitely one of them.
Slash and Burn Agriculture is a practice of clearing land for farming by rapidly cutting down and burning trees or forests. Farmers practicing this will often cut down a plot of trees, burn the recently slashed area, and once the land is clear they move to a new plot and begin the process again. This causes a very fast destruction of the natural environment, a rapid loss of soil fertility in the affected plots, and significant deforestation (the rapid clearing of a wooded or forest area) in the area.
Why is it a problem? While slash and burn clearing is often the most convenient way to clear a forest, it is far from the healthiest. The practice of Slash and Burn Agriculture is a major contributor to the agriculture industry producing 24% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions internationally.
However, there are some solutions to the problems that slash and burn agriculture causes. Some of these are the following:
- Inga Alley Cropping is a tactic of replanting a sturdy, nitrogen-fixing plant in deforested areas to revive the soil and provide a new generation of trees.
- Soil Relocation is also a unique solution to reviving these areas and bringing nutrients back to damaged land by relocating it from more fertile areas.
If you found this blog post interesting, you may want to check out this Global Giving wildlife conservation fund, or a project to help the previously mentioned Inga Alley Cropping internationally, via the INGA Foundation. Both are great ways to help recover from the damages done by slash and burn clearing, and great projects to help the greater environment!
Many people across the world are familiar with light pollution, the pollution that causes the night sky over urban areas to remain dark and starless. However, there’s a secret pollution that’s very similar to light pollution and that not many people know about. Light Pollution has a brother: Noise Pollution.
According to conserve-energy-future.com, “noise pollution takes place when there is either excessive amount of noise or an unpleasant sound that causes [a] temporary disruption in the natural balance”. For most human beings, noise pollution seems to be a feature of regular life; whether it’s people talking loudly into their cell phones, distant cars going by or children at play, it all just seems like a feature of the everyday. This feature, however, can be deeply damaging to the natural environment as well as our own health.
There are, fortunately, a few ways you can help reduce noise pollution:
- Avoid using loud machinery, especially at night. This one’s just a given unless you insist on being “that guy” in your local neighborhood. Alternatives to using a leaf blower, for example, include raking the leaves, which also provides more exercise for you.
- Plant a Tree! No kidding: trees or other leafy vegetation excel at absorbing noise, with leaves and branches acting the same way as soundproofing walls do in recording studios.
- Keep the windows closed. Whether you’re listening to music, watching a movie, or just making a lot of noise in general, make sure you keep the windows shut. The world might be just dying to hear your cleaning playlist from 2007, but unfortunately, it will only add to the noisy pollution in urban areas.
Additionally, if you’re looking to get more involved (as the upstanding-environmental superhero you know you are), Noise Pollution Clearinghouse is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and supporting any activism in the fight against noise damaging the greater environment.
All around the world, deserts seem to be doing something scary– growing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, experts are called in each year to help build greater environmental infrastructure, or help with educating of better farming practices to fight this slowly-increasing problem. In China, the Gobi Desert is slowly creeping Eastward, forcing the government to relocate tens of thousands of people as “ecological migrants”. In our own backyard, California faces serious struggles in the agricultural industry thanks to seemingly ever-scarcer water.
Conserve-Energy-Future.com defines desertification as “a process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas due to various factors including climatic variations and human activities”. It is a process which often debilitates soil and makes the land unsuitable for farming and growth for many years to come.
Since the growth of desertification threatens the use of arable land all across the world, many scientists are searching for ways to reduce desertification around the world. However, this is easier said than done. One Ecologist, Allan Savory, spent decades of his career trying to reduce overgrazing, only to realize later that he had been working against himself all along.
While desertification is challenging to eliminate, there are some ways that it can be reduced. Things you can do include:
One example is to practice leaving plant residue on drying lands to deteriorate naturally and restore nutrients to the soil. This is something everyone can do in their local garden.
Another way to stop desertification is ensuring that the food you are eating is farmed with healthy practices, and returns nutrients to the soil it’s grown in.
A neat project to check out is the African “Great Green Wall”, a project that aims to revive land that has been wounded by desertification by the replanting of trees and relocation of soil in the area of dying land.
If you’re looking for more ways to get involved, a project in Ethiopia aims to plant 10,000 trees strategically to fight desertification, and the link is here!
Summer is almost upon us, and for much of Texas, that means a dreaded dry season for our lawns and gardens. While much of the Southern US deals with an unfortunate dry period, many southerners don’t prepare their lawns or gardens for such a brutal season. How do you maintain a lawn or garden that can truly handle the summers here?
First, while many lawns in Texas use drought-resistant grasses, it’s important to note that not all grasses are created equal. For southern lawns, many professionals recommend grasses such as Bermuda grass, or Zoysia grass, both of which enjoy full sun and can take a lot of traffic.
Secondly, it’s wise to avoid putting your lawn under too much stress during a drought. During a drought, your lawn is likely already under a lot of pressure, and activities such as planting, mowing, or relocating your turf is only going to make your grass have a harder time surviving through a dry period.
Gardens have a different set of needs entirely. Many Texas gardeners know the stress and strain their flowers or other plants endure in summer, but here are a few tips to keep in mind for your garden to have the best chance of surviving and potentially flourishing. During summer it is important to do a good job of weeding your garden, since you don’t have any water to spare for the unwanted neighbors. Additionally, organic litter such as fallen leaves can be crushed and transformed into fertilizer for gardens, so compost those leaves!
While the tips above work well for a garden that has already been planted, planning your garden strategically from the beginning can best help your garden withstand a Texas-sized drought. With this in mind, place plants with similar watering needs together. Another wise decision is to plant using Mediterranean herbs and flowers, since these plants, including lavender and oregano, have grown accustomed to climates with the longer, drier summers in central Texas.
Hopefully these tips can be useful when maintaining a Texas garden or lawn. Happy planting!
Legally, what does ‘natural’ mean? Nothing. Some companies in the food industry will often claim “all natural” products, but since the FDA doesn’t define this term, many companies are injecting things like sodium or high fructose corn syrup into their foods. Additionally, cosmetics, as seen here, will often advertise having “natural” or “fresh” makeup components, but rarely do these words have any basis in facts, healthy wellbeing, or environmental impact.
Labeling an item as ‘natural’ is perhaps one of the most dangerous pitfalls for the consumer who desires to be environmentally responsible. Additionally, here are a few resources for the misleading claim: “American Shoppers mislead by greenwash”, The FDA on “What is the Meaning of Natural?” and NPR on “What is Natural Food?”
Did you know air pollution, particularly ground-level ozone, is at its worst between April and October? Air emissions from vehicle engines, electric generation units, industrial facilities, and many everyday activities contribute to the problem. In fact, on-road vehicles account for nearly 50% of ozone-forming emissions released in Central Texas. Elevated ozone levels can have a significant impact on human health. When ozone levels are high many individuals may experience increased respiratory ailments. Especially susceptible are children, older adults, and those with lung diseases like asthma.
Now is a good time to become air aware. Here are some steps you can take to learn about and reduce air pollution:
- Take action by reducing drive alone trips and conserving electricity
- Learn about the color coded air quality guide call the Air Quality Index (AQI) by going to www.airnow.gov
- Check the daily air quality forecast every day by watching the local weather forecasts, sign up for air quality forecast emails from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or download and use the AirNow app on your mobile device
For more information visit: www.aircentraltexas.org