I Hate Styrofoam

Styrofoam/polystyrene. It is breaking into small pieces and could last forever!

Imagine eating or drinking your coffee/tea or dinner out of a Styrofoam container. ICK! I can’t imagine, but many people do??? Styrofoam makes food taste terrible, and it is made from cancer causing material. Why would you eat/drink from it?
I am on a road trip through the southern part of the United States. Styrofoam is just the normal at many food establishments. Places I refuse to patronize.
Not only is Styrofoam unhealthy to eat on,

How can we do better than this? We need a sustainable alternative

it is awful for the environment. It breaks down into tiny pieces harmful to oceans/lakes, water animals and fish that think it is food.
Unfortunately, Styrofoam has powerful lobbying interests behind it, people who don’t care about your health or the health of our waterways.

Beth Terry, author of My Plastic-Free Life, wrote this terrific guide explaining how producing and using plastic pollutes the air. When it comes to the foamy Styrofoam in particular, here are some other objections to using it:

  • It does not biodegrade. It may break into small pieces, even minuscule pieces. But the smaller EPS gets, the harder it is to clean up.
  • It is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. Yes, they keep your coffee hot – but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.
  • Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake EPS for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
  • It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers.

Below is from 5gyres:

Evidence regarding the sustainability and toxicity of expanded Styrofoam/polystyrene (EPS) single-use containers supports replacing them with a more sustainable and safe material. EPS food and beverage containers are single-use, yet persistent and not economically feasible to recycle. Thus, millions of single-use EPS items are sent to a landfill each day, where they will remain for hundreds to thousands of years. Moreover, its lightweight makes it difficult to manage which is one reason EPS is one of the top litter items found on beaches and in the environment. Lastly, EPS containers may pose a hazard. Some studies have found they can leach chemicals into our food and others have demonstrated that their leachate is toxic to laboratory animals. Replacing EPS with a more sustainable material supports a healthy environment for both wildlife and people.

So what can you do?

I boycott places that use Styrofoam, but that might not be possible for you.     1.Bring your own container, or ask for a real plate, many places can provide that for you! 2. Tell establishments how awful their packaging is. 3. Work to get Styrofoam bans in your community 4. Pick up Styrofoam litter so it doesn’t end up in our waterways.

If everyone does a small part, it can add up to a lot! Speak out.

Try a Low Salt Diet

I am working on this neighborhood campaign.

It’s winter, and in the United States and Canada we are caught between the cold Arctic, and warmer Gulf moisture. All of this causing our snow, cold and winter thaws. This also produces icy sidewalks and icy roads. For many of us the ice is the hardest part of winter to deal with, but what are the best practices in dealing with winter ice?

Using salt on roads, sidewalks and driveways permanently pollutes our lakes and streams. With rain and snow melt his salt washes into our water, it never leaves, harming pets and wildlife. Once salt gets in our water bodies it’s there for good.

Control ice, but also protect our lakes and streams, best practices:

1. Shovel. Clearing walkways before snow turns to ice will reduce the need for salt.
2. Select the right product for the right temperature. Sodium chloride (salt)doesn’t melt snow below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, so use sand for traction in colder weather.  Many products are marketed as environmentally friendly, but read the label, they still contain chloride (salt).
3. Scatter. Use salt sparingly and only where it’s necessary, and use only on ice. Shovel instead of spreading salt!
4. Sweep up  leftover salt and sand to prevent it from running off into water bodies.                                                                                                                                                5. Rearrange downspouts so they don’t drain on to sidewalks causing sidewalk ice.

It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once salt is in the water, there is no way to remove it. Salt harms fish, plant life, and the over all quality of lakes and streams.

Be winter safe, but be a friend of our lakes and streams!

Life and Death on Lake Superior

August 2017

Many bees on the native plants.

I had just seen a hawk fly along Lake Superior, but was surprised when two large birds came crashing into a window where was sitting. This created a 45 minute ordeal below my window. The flicker cried, fought and cried some more, but the talons of the hawk had a firm grip. Blue jays and crows came to watch the commotion. The persistence of the hawk ruled and she was too strong and determined for the flicker. An unusual number of hawks in our neighborhood this August have changed the lives of chipmunks, squirrels, and the birds.

On a happier note, A a fresh bright monarch was drying her wings after emerging from her cocoon, and a monarch caterpillar was weaving herself into a cocoon and will hopefully evolve into a new monarch in two weeks.

The great south migration has started with groups of night-hawks and yellow-rump warblers migrating through, and in another week the hummingbirds will be gone, also.  Harbingers of fall.

Common Wood-nymph

The flowers are at their peak and the bees are crazy for bee balm and anise hyssop. The wood-nymph butterflies have been plentiul, but they too are at the end of their life cycle to be replaced by white admirals, cabbage whites, and fritillaries.

The Ugly Face of Plastic

Bring your own shopping bag

Plastic came into being about 1950. It is lightweight and easy to make into many things. Unfortunately, plastic is awful for our wildlife and waterways. Both are choking on this ubiquitous plastic pollution.
What are microplastics? They are tiny pieces of plastic that come from our clothes, plastic litter, and synthetic fibers. Read or listen to the entire story at MPR.
At the present these plastic particles are too small to be strained out of our water treatment plants so they end up polluting our waterways, lakes and oceans. There is a new laundry bag you can purchase (see below) that will filter the microfiber when you wash your clothes.

I love this list from MPR:

5 things you can do to reduce microplastic pollution

  1. Cut back on consuming single-use plastic products such as shopping bags, Starbucks cups and plastic utensils. Replace them with reusable items like travel mugs, silverware
    Microplastic in fleece is causing water pollution!

    and cloth bags.

  2. Buy only facial scrubs, toothpaste and other personal care products made with natural exfoliants, such as oatmeal and salt.
  3. Buy clothing made of organic or natural materials rather than synthetic fibers. Buy only what you need, and invest in higher-quality items so you don’t need to replace them as often.
  4. Don’t wash your clothes as often, especially items made from synthetic fabrics like fleece jackets.
  5. Invest in a mesh laundry bag, guppy friend, designed to capture shedding fibers during the washing cycle. Read about guppy friend here.

 

 

 

Lake Superior Day

Keep Lake Superior Beautiful!

Lake Superior is an amazing beautiful lake. It is the largest and coldest of the Great Lakes.

Today is a typical sunny summer Lake Superior Day with cool winds blowing across the lake from the Northeast.   I am celebrating Lake Superior Day by picking up trash along the roadside, not driving and loving the birds, plants and butterflies that are part of the big lake’s habitat. The eagles, sand-hill cranes, humming birds, red-starts, and white-throated sparrows are a total joy. This morning we saw lots of skippers, common wood-nymphs and white admirals.

The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, and the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!

I would add a few more:

  1. Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways.  Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
  2. Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
  3. Always pick up litter, and recycle it if possible.
NASA picture of Lake Superior

What causes all that algae?

The substances that turn our lakes and rivers green each summer come from our lawns and yards. We think of leaves as waste, but to a lake they are food. The algae in lakes love leaves and fertilizers, and when we feed lakes too many chemicals and leaves, algal blooms turn our lakes and rivers green and smelly. Protecting water is everyone’s job What can you do? Simple–remember the land/water connection! What we do to the land we do to the water. Reduce chemicals, clean your streets when the leaves fall from the trees, and when you mow the grass clean your streets and sidewalks. Keep our lakes and rivers clean.