Everything Is Connected

The Mississippi Watershed by Jon Platek This how trash can reach the ocean.

This morning while walking around the lake by my house, I was sad to see plastic bottles bobbing around in the lake. The amazing thing is that those plastic bottles from a lake in land-locked Minnesota could end up in the Gulf of Mexico. 80% of marine litter originates from land. The Minnehaha Creek drains this lake into the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Plastic in a Minneapolis lake, could float the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, these plastic bottles and bags are a dangerous threat to marine life, and they are unpleasant to water recreation.

I am sure you know most of the ways to avoid plastic, but you might learn something from this list on reducing plastic use. The excellent list below is from the NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/:

“Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. And we’re not just talking about people dumping their garbage overboard. Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.

So the best thing we can do to protect our waterways is trying to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place. The good news? There are many small ways you can have a big impact.

1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.

Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.

2. Stop buying water.

Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.

3. Boycott microbeads.

Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.

4. Cook more.

Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.

5. Purchase items secondhand.

New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.

6. Recycle (duh).

It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.

7. Support a bag tax or ban.

Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.

8. Buy in bulk.

Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.

9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.

Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)

10. Put pressure on manufacturers.

Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.” NRDC

I would add one thing to the list. Never use Styrofoam! Some stores package fruits and vegetables on Styrofoam trays! Awful.

Finally, current status of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities from Friends of the Mississippi.

Advertisements

Minneapolis Ban on Styrofoam Food Containers Begins

Styrofoam I pulled from Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. It is breaking into small pieces and could last forever!
Styrofoam I pulled from Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. It is breaking into small pieces and could last forever!

I am happy, it is Earth Day, and I am very happy that the city of Minneapolis took a bold stand on Styrofoam containers. Congratulations to Minneapolis for banning Styrofoam “To Go” containers. The ban begins on Earth Day, April 22, 2015.003
Minneapolis is a city of many lakes, many creeks, and the Mississippi River. Materials like plastic and Styrofoam break into tiny pieces and could exist for hundreds of years in these water bodies.

“It’s estimated that 10 million Styrofoam containers are thrown away in Minnesota each year. Styrofoam is not impossible to recycle, but is difficult to clean and far costlier to recycle than other, more sustainable containers. Styrofoam also contains potentially cancer-causing chemicals that leach into food, especially when heated.” City Pages
http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/05/styrofoam_officially_banned_in_minneapolis.php

http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/2014/05/23/minneapolis-approves-ban-on-styrofoam-cups-containers/9513939/

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/04/22/mpls-businesses-brace-for-styrofoam-container-ban/

618482main_earth1600_800-600

Prompt: Blogger In A Strange Land

#Blogging101 Prompt     I just had to say something!

Styrofoam I pulled out of  lakes breaking into small pieces
Styrofoam I pulled out of lakes breaking into small pieces

This past January when I was visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Caribbean, I observed litter that upset me. Yes, I am obsessed with litter and clean water.  Litter along waterways is unacceptable.  The shock was that some local restaurants only served their food in Styrofoam boxes. The Styrofoam boxes were littering the street gutters and shoreline.  I wanted no part of this Styrofoam disaster, and searched for food on real plates.  Often they had to wash plates just for us.

Trash in the Caribbean
Trash in the Caribbean

Why does this upset me? Styrofoam breaks into tiny pieces and no one knows how long it will last in our oceans, maybe forever.  Not good for sea life or ocean health. Styrofoam can be recycled, but it is very hard to find. Manufacturers of Styrofoam as well as Coca-Cola and plastic bottle industry should recycle the harmful products they produce, and we should all avoid Styrofoam and plastic bottles as much as possible.

984288_10152793391162861_8253989505499903119_n

The Oceans Belong To Us All!

The discouraging ocean pollution I saw this year in the Caribbeanwpid-wp-1422840038815.jpeg

Fifteen years ago when I was in the Dominican Republic and I was shocked by the piles of plastic waste standing on the streets. Since then I have been sorry to observe plastic waste in many other countries. It really bothers me when I see it in streams washing into the sea. In January 2015 my adventures took me to St. Kitts, Antigua, Dominica and St Luci in the Caribbean. The plastic bag waste seemed better, but the ubiquitous Styrofoam container use has become ridiculous . Instead of searching for good food it became, “Where can we eat on a real plate?” Most local food was served in Styrofoam boxes, even to sit down and eat inside a local restaurant. Styrofoam containers and plastic bottles fill the gutters and beaches. The Caribbean is without doubt one of the most beautiful places on our earth, but the waste and pollution they are sending into our oceans is unacceptable. An effort is made to pick up trash on tourist beaches and around cruise boat areas.  I assume the tourist boards do know this behavior of trashing is not acceptable.  Styrofoam breaks into tiny little pieces, it could survive for hundreds of years, and I can’t imagine the harm it does to sea life?wpid-wp-1422840064592.jpeg
How can the world community help them recycle, replace Styrofoam, and help protect our oceans? The World Bank? Rotary International? Coca-Cola? Plastic Bank? Ocean Conservancy?

Hope For the Future?

The Plastic Collected by The Plastic Bank, is Recycled into Social Plastic®. Please Ask Brands to Help Keep Plastic Out of the Oceans While Helping People in Need By Using Recycled Social Plastic®.   http://plasticbank.org/

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/02/12/npr-plastic-sea   This is a must listen to!

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-china-plastic-waste-oceans-20150211-story.html

Earth Positive Resolutions for 2015

Made from recycled materials
Made from recycled materials

I like these resolutions from the Sierra Club  Sierraclub.org to start the new year and thought they had a unique twist.  We can all do better and there are some good ideas here to get you started.

1. Keep the TV off.

2. Make dinner tonight. Why waste the gas and money to go out for dinner, when you can make a nice, hot meal right at home? Go with local, organic ingredients to step it up a notch. Not only will you be saving money, and help out the local economy, you’ll have leftovers for later.

3. Take a shorter shower.

4. Clean out your closet. It’s time to clean out all those clothes you never wear and put them to good use. Donate them to your local Salvation Army or upcycle them into something new. You’ll feel better for having cleared out some of the clutter, believe us.

5. Drop that paper towel. Sure it’s easy to just grab that roll of paper towels when there’s a spill or you need a napkin, but a regular kitchen towel does the same trick and reduces waste. It’s a hard habit to break.  Just reducing use makes a difference and always use recycled paper towels.

6. Cut back on driving. 

7. Sponsor a wild animal. Check out World Wildlife Fund WWF.org   I just wish they would reduce all their mailings.

8. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Everyone can do better on this one!

9. Turn down your thermostats. This will help lower your energy usage, and your bills. And yes, that was plural. We’re not just talking about your heater and AC units, think about your refrigerator settings as well.

10. Protect clean air. A fresh, new year requires fresh air. You can help ensure by educating yourself and pledging to take a stand against toxins caused by coal mining. Visit the Beyond Coal website and sign the petition, donate funds, or volunteer time to fight for clean air throughout the year.

11. Make a compost bin. In general, it’s best to cut down on food waste when you can. If you have a yard, look into setting up your own composting. If you’re living in a smaller space, there are a couple different options to keeping your waste to a minimum. Try out some of these simple compost ideas.

12. Invest in rechargeable batteries. It may sound like an odd resolution, but think about the number of times you replaced batteries last year. We go through them quicker than we’d like to think, and much of the time they don’t get disposed of properly.

13. Switch to reusable bags. New year, new mottos! And we say that plastic is out and reusable is in. One of the easiest ways to help reduce plastic waste is to ditch plastic bags when shopping. You can purchase reusable bags or make your own. Either way, make a mental note to always keep one handy, either in your purse, briefcase, or glove compartment.

14. Donate blood. 

15. Clean up your neighborhood. For today, start by taking a walk around the neighborhood and seeing how much trash you wind up with after a couple blocks. You’ll be surprised by what you find. It might inspire you to do more, whether you form your own clean up crew or join an outing near you.

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/14aa7ed245170922

16. And never never use Styrofoam.  Tell business that use Styrofaom to please work for a recyclable or compostable alternative.

Is this what we want our earth to look like?
Is this what we want our earth to look like?

Study Links Styrofoam to Cancer

I have been writing about the harm of Styrofoam on these pages for the past year.  Now there is new evidence:

Styrofoam pulled out of Minneapolis lakes
Styrofoam pulled out of Minneapolis lakes

NEVER take Styrofoam containers or cups

What products have styrene? or Styrofoam

This is from ecowatch.com

Styrene is used to make styrofoam and other plastics. Styrene is all over the place. It lines your refrigerator, it’s in building insulation, in your carpet, it’s in latex and rubber and other products. So okay, maybe you can’t afford to ditch the refrigerator and carpet today. What can you do? Start by avoiding:

  1. Foam cups for holding coffee and hot tea.
  2. Foam plates and bowls that could hold hot foods.
  3. Takeout containers made from foam.
  4. The number 6 on plastic products. They don’t look like foam but do have styrene.

Here’s some advice from Dr. Weil’s well known website:

Styrene isn’t known to leach out of hard plastics, but some evidence suggests that it can leach out of foam food containers and cups when food or drinks are hot–not when they’re cold. Based on what we now know, you’re probably safe using styrene foam cups for cold drinks, but I wouldn’t use them for hot coffee or tea, and I would avoid using plastic containers for hot foods.

Styrene Officially Linked to Cancer

http://ecowatch.com/2014/07/29/styrene-officially-linked-to-cancer/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=06e8c5f2aa-Top_News_7_30_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-06e8c5f2aa-85912169

Ban Styrofoam Cups and Containers

42nd day of my litter removal.  Lots of Styrofoam!
42nd day of my litter removal. Lots of Styrofoam!

I am encouraging Minneapolis and other city governments to ban Styrofoam.   The past 42 days I have done daily litter pick-ups on my walks in Minneapolis.  I was picking up Styrofoam along with wrappers, cans and plastic. Some of what was picked-up could be recycled, but Styrofoam, which is recyclable, is hard to find a place to recycle.  I think the Twin Cities area has one place to recycle Styrofoam which is miles from my home.

At an Earth Day pick up along the Minnehaha Creek .  I was surprised to notice how much the Styrofoam along the creek was breaking down into little pieces.  Pieces so small it was impossible to pick up.  Water and sun cause it to break up faster. The past few days I have been picking Styrofoam  out of Lake Harriet. It has broken into pieces that might never dissolve and survive in the lake for generations.  I wonder what harm this does to the birds and fish?

Banning restaurant containers is only a very small piece of this, but it is a start.  The best part of banning Styrofoam could be that it heightens awareness for individuals who never think about the consequences of Styrofoam.

Finally, I have never figured out why businesses that sell products that are so harmful to the environment are not held responsible for what they spew.  Why aren’t they at least required to offer recycling?

“People are already paying a price for allowing this packaging (styrofoam), noting the cost to remove the materials from the recycling stream, uncloging storm drains and picking up litter. You’re paying for it in so many different ways,”  Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson  http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/258989321.html