America Recycles Day: Santa Barbara Style

Santa Barbara already diverts over 70% of its waste from the landfill, but that still leaves over 170,000 tons going into it each year.  On Tuesday, November 13, just in time for America Recycles Day, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors gave the approval to begin the environmental review of the Resource Recovery Project.   The project looks at the 170,000 tons of waste as an opportunity. Its objective is to reclaim resources currently being buried, increase recycling, provide compost, generate energy, extend the life of the landfill and decrease the generation of greenhouse gas.  After extensive review of  proposals from four different companies, Mustang Renewable Power Ventures was initially chosen by the County to construct and operate a project that includes 3 facilities:

  •  Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) – this facility would sort the waste into three streams:  recyclables, organics and residue
  • Anaerobic Digestion Facility (ADF) – this facility would convert all organics recovered from the waste into digestate (compost) and biogas.
  •  Power Plant – this facility would use the biogas generated by the ADF for fuel to generate electricity.

Recently, local waste management company Marborg Industries asked that they be allowed to submit their own proposal for the Resource Recovery Project and, according to Nick Welsh’s piece for the SB Independent, “MarBorg’s proposal will be considered in the alternatives section of the environmental impact report for the Tajiguas extension plan.”   The battle for the garbage begins.

John Hill / Foter / CC BY-SA

                I say three cheers for Santa Barbara. Hip Hip Hooray!

In the words of Supervisor Salud Carbajal, “This is another case of our community being a leader in sustainability by recycling even more than we do now and getting even closer to zero waste. This is a financially responsible local solution to managing our communities’ waste that places us back into a leadership position in environmental action.”

 Here are 4 more ways that we can increase our recycling…beyond the bin:

1) Recycle or Donate Electronics – Doing so conserves many valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass.  It saves energy and avoids air and water pollution caused by the mining and manufacturing of virgin materials. For example:  For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

2) Recycle Clothes–   Every year Santa Barbara County throws away more than 11 million pounds of usable clothing and household textiles into its very limited local landfill space. Textile waste makes up approximately 8% of the total waste in California. The EPA estimates that about 97% of post-consumer textile waste is recyclable. Textile recycling requires less energy than any other type of recycling and does not create any new hazardous waste or harmful by-products. Compare that to growing conventional cotton which alone uses approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides. Most communities do not have systems in place to address the fabric component of the waste stream but Textile Waste Solutions in Santa Barbara County offers an environmentally and economically friendly alternative. They make regular pick ups from local thrift stores giving clothing, bedding, belts, shoes, and soft toys – virtually anything made from fabric – a second lease on life. So even if your old t-shirt is stained and ratty..drop it off at the thrift store. If it is unwearable, Textile Waste Solutions will recycle it.

3) Recycle Food–  Food waste when buried in a landfill creates potentially wastefull greenhouse gases. Alternatively when food waste is composted, it becomes a wonderful resource to build the soil and grow more food. Instead of tossing your food scraps into the trash, start composting. Don’t know how? Go to lessismore.org to learn about local workshops, discounted composter bins and more.
4) Close the Loop-  Don’t stop at the bin!  After materials are processed and back on the shelf as new items, it is up to you to buy them.  Look for products and packaging with the highest recycled content.
Finally, if you ever have wondered where you can take those used batteries, or what to do with the little bit of leftover paint, Santa Barbara County Recycling Resource Guide  is a fantastic and very thorough guide to help you reduce, reuse and recycle just about anything. Happy Recycling!!

 

photo credit: Pete Prodoehl via photopin cc

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7 tips to Green your Halloween

tinyfroglet / Free Photos

There is a lot to love about Halloween.  What other time of year do people open up their homes to strangers just to give something away?  The smell of roasting pumpkin seeds and images of fairy princesses and dinosaurs roaming the neighborhood are powerfully happy, but nowadays there is a mostly scary story behind the way we are celebrating. Our traditions have been largely stolen by big business who have some truly frightening skeletons in their closet. How to conjure up some real magic?  Reclaim the holiday and bring some of the happy back to Halloween. Here are some ways to do it:

  1. Buy organic pumpkins…even for your Jack-o-Lanterns.
  2. Give Fair-trade and organic candy,  home-made treats (gasp), or non-edible  treats…get creative
  3. Host a costume swap, Create a costume from finds at a local thrift or second-hand store, or use things you have around the house. If you must buy new, support a small ethical company
  4. Use non-toxic make-up
  5. Use decorations that can be re-used year to year, recycled, or composted. Use soy based or beeswax candles or LED lights.
  6. Have the kids carry a re-usable, washable, cloth bag or pillow-case to gather treats
  7. Use washable plates, cutlery and napkins for your parties. If you must use disposable, make it compostable and actually compost it.

                                                                                                        Why? and How?

Organic Pumpkins:

Twilight Greenaway wrote a funny piece for grist.com where she describes her inner dialogue about buying pumpkins:

“Voice of hedonism: Buying lots of pumpkins and cutting them up so they’ll eventually rot in front of your house is your right as an American. Plus, it’s fun!

Hotash / Free Photos

Voice of conscience: But they’re food. And you are really careful about food. All the winter squash in your kitchen came from local farmers. So why should you get a free pass just because you’re planning to waste these ones?

Voice of hedonism: Look, they have big ol’ giant ones, classy white ones, and teenie tiny ones. Clearly you need one of each!

Voice of conscience: You’re right. Is anybody looking?”

I have definitely been there…but here is the thing:  Pumpkins are big business and we are always voting with our dollars. Even if we are not going to eat them, those pumpkins grown conventionally used up a whole lot of toxic chemicals and when we buy them we support those practices.  When you buy organic you are voting for better health for farmers and farm workers, less polluted streams and rivers, healthier soil and cleaner air.  So buy organic and support the local farmers who are doing it right.

Handing out Happy treats

There is nothing good or happy about candy that is made for our American children off the scarred backs of  children overseas, but the awful truth is that almost every snack-size candy bar available in stores this Halloween is tainted with child slavery. The connection between the major candy bar manufacturers (which includes Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the U.S. division of Cadbury) and child slavery has been one of the world’s best-kept secrets until fairly recently.  So far government has not been able to do much. In 2001, after Congressman Eliot Engel (D) NY learned of these terrible practices, he slipped in an addendum to the FDA bill about to hit the Congressional floor requiring chocolate companies to mark their bars “No Slavery Here” if that was the case. When the candy lobby got wind of it, they hired George Mitchell and Bob Dole as their lobbying henchmen to thwart the bill before it went to the Senate.  They were successful. Instead of any new laws they got  The Harkin-Engel Protocol an unenforceable  promise from candy makers that they would voluntarily clean up the supply chain of the worst forms of child labor with remediation to be done by 2005.  How has that worked out?   Not so well.  According to Chris Bayer, a Tulane University researcher studying the problem, “We have seen very little implementation of the actual commitments. Industry did not live up to the Harkin-Engel Protocol.”  So if the politicians do not have the backbone to pass a law, we must once again vote with our dollars. In the past few years a few excellent documentaries including CNN’s “Chocolate’s Child Slaves” and “The Dark Side of Chocolate”  have helped to educate consumers about the issue. As a result, many consumers are being choosier about what they buy.  Perhaps this is why earlier this month Hershey pledged to end child slave labor in its cocoa production by 2020. ( 7 more years of child slaves is acceptable!?)  This is quite possibly another empty promise for the sake of marketing, but Hershey does seem to be feeling some market pressure.  Our voting dollars at work. So if you are not buying tiny Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups what can you get?   Quite a few local stores sell fair trade and organic Halloween candy now. Check the IV Co-op, Whole Foods and Lazy Acres. You can also buy them online here.

You could also just make some homemade treats.  I love Lenore Skenazy’s idea to “Occupy Halloween.”  She writes about the homemade treat phenomenon on her bog post:

“Start with the fact that there has NEVER been a case of children poisoned by a stranger’s candy on Halloween. That’s according to University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best, who has studied the urban myth since 1985. Nonetheless, the advice we ALWAYS hear is to “check your child’s candy for tampering,” and treat homemade goodies like radioactive waste. All of which is based on the belief that we are quite likely surrounded by psychopathic child killers  (who hold it in till Oct. 31st).

But that idea isn’t just wrong,  it’s corrosive. Start thinking of your nice neighbors as potential killers ONE day a year and how are you supposed to trust them the REST of the year?”

Going back to homemade treats is one small step to reclaim our communities and move away from the fearful society we have become.  I like the idea of including a little note explaining that your treat was made with wholesome ingredients (no high fructose corn syrup here) and a lot of love.

If you want to stay away from the sugar craze entirely, you can choose to get creative with non-edible treats. Here is a list of green treat ideas to get you started.

Costumes

woodleywonderworks / Free Photos

When you buy that cheap costume at the big box store you are supporting all kinds of bad…inorganic cotton that uses 25% of the worlds insecticides and 10% of its pesticides, petro-chemical fabrics that will never biodegrade, terrible conditions in polluting  factories…you get the picture. Here are some other options:  Join the  National Costume Swap or host your own.  Check out thrift stores like Alpha Thrift or one of the local children’s second-hand stores like Polar Bear or My Sweet Pineapple for costumes or clothing that can be made into a costume.  Get creative and use things from around your house.  You might just come up with a traffic stopping idea like this ;)  and recycle your cardboard while you are at it!  If you need to buy new, be sure to support a good company. Sarah’s Silks is a “Green America Approved Business” and a fun source for dress-ups.  Sites like ETSY also have a lot of eco-offerings.

Make-up

dnudson / Free Photos

Make-up can make your costume rock, but it can also be full of toxic chemicals. You clearly don’t want to be using lead filled lipstick,  especially if you using it on a child. It is always a good idea to check the ingredients of any cosmetics before you use them.  Environmental Working Group has a fantastic data base to check the safety of cosmetics. For the DIY types, here are some recipes for homemade Halloween make-up.

For decorations, parties, and moreGreen Halloween.org has lots of “eek-o-friendly” suggestions.

Holidays are a great time to reconnect to each other and our own core values.   We have to be brave enough to shine the light on those skeletons in the closet and then choose to cast our spell for love, creativity and a healthy planet for all. What’s in your spell book?

Are your cleaning products toxic?

jbcurio / Free Photos

When you look at the label on your jar of peanut butter or bag of chips, you will see all of the ingredients in the jar or bag listed. (You might not be able to tell if they used GMO corn in those corn chips, but you will see corn listed.)  You see it is mandatory to show all of the ingredients on labels in all food, cosmetics and drugs sold in the U.S.  That way,  you can choose to nix the face cream that is loaded with parabens and pass on the hydrogenated oil filled crackers.

Not so for the products you use everyday to clean your dishes, clothing, sheets and showers.

There are no requirements to label ingredients in cleaners.

Hence,  only 7 percent of companies adequately disclose the ingredients of their products and it is common to list just a few of the ingredients or describe them in vague terms such as “surfactant” and “solvent.” Well that “solvent”  might just be a known carcinogen. Once again, the Environmental Working Group has come to the rescue of the modern consumer.  They recently  created the first online guide that rates more than 2,000 household cleaners with grades A through F for safety of ingredients and disclosure of contents.

“Keeping your home clean shouldn’t put you and your family at risk, and with EWG’s new online guide you won’t have to,” EWG senior scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D, said. “Quite a few cleaning products that line store shelves are packed with toxic chemicals that can wreak havoc with your health, including many that harm the lungs. The good news is, there are plenty of cleaning products that will get the job done without exposing you to hazardous substances.”

EWG’s staff scientists spent 14 months researching and compiling the guide.  They found that even some “green” brands do not disclose ingredients adequately.

I decided to check the cleaners I use to see how well they fared. I do most of my cleaning with baking soda and vinegar (this inexpensive, simple disinfecting spray works better than most commercial cleaners)  but I do buy dishwasher detergent, dishwashing soap and laundry detergent.  I tend to buy whatever “green” brand is on sale..in fact  there was a great sale on Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel the other day so I  just bought five bottles.  Well, according to the EWG guide, those five bottles got a big fat F!  The funny thing is that Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Powder, Free and Clear got an A.  Looks like I will be doing an exchange!   Obviously it is important to look at the specific products that you are using and not just the brand.  So how did my other cleaners do?  The Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid  got a “D” and the Trader Joe’s laundry detergent I have been using received an “F”!                                        Time for some changes.

According to a post on the EWG site, the day after their guide came out they were contacted by many of the manufacturers of poorly rated products.The manufacturers said they had added new ingredient information to their product labels, changed the ingredients – or both.  They were eager to give the EWG their updated information and, hopefully, get a better score on their products.   (Speaks to the power of information and why some companies fight so hard to avoid transparency.)  Weak disclosure or potentially harmful ingredients were two of the big reasons why many well known product lines ended up with low grades.  EWG responded:

We’re happy to get the new information and will use it to update the Guide on a regular basis, but for the most part, the original scores will stay.

Why?

Unlike a tomato or a banana, cleaning products don’t go bad in a hurry. If you’re like most consumers, you probably have bottles of window or floor cleaner under your sink or in your cleaning closet that have been there for months – if not years. In stores, too, it can take a long time before old inventory sells out and gets replaced with the “new, improved” versions.

I took a look at the Seventh Generation website to see if they had anything to say about the guide, and found that they did. While they were very supportive of the EWG and the guide, they took exception with some of their findings.  EWG considered ingredients listed as “essentials oils” or “preservatives” as “incomplete disclosure” but Seventh Generation said that the exact ingredients were also listed. They had differing opinions on other ingredients such as methylisothiazolinone with Seventh Generation explaining, “There’s also the sticky wicket of methylisothiazolinone, a synthetic preservative used to maintain freshness in our plant-based products. (Natural microbes love to eat our natural plant-based ingredients!) EWG gives this ingredient a D, though it meets our rigorous safety and environmental standards.”    In any case the end result is that Seventh Generation promised to continue improving their products and hope to eventually get an “A” rating on all of them.

The guide, it seems, is already having a positive influence.  Consumers can better understand what might be in the cleaners they buy and manufacturers are feeling the pressure to improve the transparency of their products.

So take a look at what is in your cupboard. See how your favorite products fare.  Think about whether you really need them at all.  Check EWG for their recommended products. Then vote with your pocketbook next time you buy a cleaner. Support a company that is making safe products.

…  and don’t forget to vote on the ballot for the other “information to the people” initiative  California Proposition 37, Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food.

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Occupy Our Food Supply

Today an alliance of food justice groups, environmental organizations and the Occupy movement are calling for a Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply.  It is a call to resist corporate takeover of our food supply and to create and support a sustainable healthy food system for all.  A recent op-ed piece  by Willie Nelson and Anne Lappe highlights the importance of this issue:

 Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about food borne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farm worker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.

When our food is at risk we are all at risk.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one companyMonsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

 The wellbeing of much of our planet is now at the mercy of companies like Monsanto which created  DDT, Agent Orange, Roundup, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCB’s, just to name a few.  Not very reassuring!   We must take back control. It is going to take more than buying organic and going vegetarian. In his excellent piece “Big Food Must Go”  Christopher D. Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis,  writes “to truly ‘occupy the food system’ we will need nothing less than a fundamental restructuring of the economics and policies that currently enable our corporate food system.”  This would include “a radical overhaul….of how our tax dollars are spent on food”  and reforming anti-trust laws “so these companies can’t control entire food and seed markets.” So let’s get going. The time is now. This IS urgent.

TAKE ACTION

  • GO to the Occupy our Food site facilitated by the Rainforest Action Network and see the list of events and actions that they are promoting including Occupying Cargill
  • GET POLITICAL  Contact your  representatives. Here is a list of them. Let them know that this is a crucial issue and that you expect them to do everything they can to create policies to support and promote a healthy and sustainable food system. Call back frequently!
  • Use your purchasing power. Stay informed and only buy products from companies with sustainable practices. Boycott huge agribusiness.
  • Support your local farmers. Buy your food from the farmers market and/or join a CSA. Here in Santa Barbara we are very lucky  to have many wonderful organic farmers growing a huge variety of food. Enjoy It!
  • Plant organic edibles. Support biodiversity and buy and grow heirlooms seeds. Island Seed and Feed is a great resource. Save and Share your Seeds.
  • Look into the Occupy Movement.  Read some of their declarations.   As Eric Holt- Gomez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, writes recently in the Huffington Post,  “The food justice movement has no strategy to address the inter-institutional (i.e. structural) ways that inequity is produced in the food system. By openly protesting the excesses of capitalism, Occupy does address this structure. This is why the convergence of Occupy and the food justice movement is so potentially powerful — and why it is feared.”

There is a power in working together. We can take back our health.  In the words of Santa Barbara beloved farmer and educator Michael Ableman, “We need to focus on what we are for as much as what we are against; occupying our land, our soils with life and fertility, our communities with good food. We need to work to rebuild the real economy, the one based on seeds and sunlight and individuals and communities growing together.”

Photo found here

Say goodbye to styrofoam food containers…hopefully

I have pretty much trained myself to carry my beloved ceramic travel mug with me for the times when the desire for a latte is too strong to ignore, but  I still periodically succumb to the 7:00 pm,  there is no food in the fridge,  let’s get Thai take-out.  Much to my chagrin I usually fail to follow through on my best intentions to bring some sort of container from home to transport  those yummy Phad Thai noodles, which means they often end up  in some sort of styrofoam container.

Have a nice century...this could be polluting the planet for hundreds of years!

There may be help on the way!

A bill (SB 568) passed the California state Senate on Thursday which would prevent food vendors and restaurants from using containers made with polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam).

So what are the repercussions of  using these containers anyway?

Polystyrene foam is made from petroleum, a non-sustainable resource. It’s manufacture is heavily polluting. It uses benzene, a carcinogenic chemical in its production.  It’s main building block is styrene, a suspected neurotoxin and a substance which is classified as a possible human carcinogen  by the EPA. According to the Earth Resource Institute when we use it to contain our food, toxic chemicals leach into the food.  After its one time use,  it is either thrown away, or possibly recycled.  Styrofoam advocates tout this ability to be recycled as one of its great attributes, but the truth is that most styrofoam simply does not get recycled. The market for used styrofoam is very small mostly because its large volume per unit of weight makes it cost prohibitive to recycle.   This is especially true if it has been used for food packaging, which requires the added cost of cleaning in order to be recycled.  Here in Santa Barbara, recycling centers do not take styrofoam food containers.  So if it is not recycled it is thrown away. It either ends up in a landfill, or it becomes urban litter and marine debris.

 Polystyrene comprises 15% of storm drain litter  according to the CA Dept of Transportation and according to a study by So.CAl Coastal Water Quality research Project it is the 2nd most common type of beach debris.  Animals are commonly killed from choking on it or having their digestive tracks clogged after ingesting styrofoam.  Here is the big catch, Polystyrene foam does not biodegrade.  It can last thousands of years, if not longer, and we make a lot of it.   Approximately 166,135 tons were produced and sold in one year in California for packaging and food service according to the Ca Integrated Waste Management Board. While styrofoam does not biodegrade, it does break down. The smallest of these pieces are called styrene monomers. Research has indicated that styrene monomers are carcinogenic to mice.  Styrene monomers seem to be widespread in the worlds oceans.   Samples of ocean water taken in the Pacific by Nihon University contained styrene monomers along with other products of Styrofoam breakdown.   According to researchers from the University of California in Santa Cruz, styrofoam can pose a threat to marine life even at the molecular level.

Seems like  it is high time to get rid of it.

The California bill is headed to the assembly this month with a floor vote by the end of August.  Let’s hope it does not go the way of  the California plastic bag bill which had passed the assembly in 2010 and had the support of then Governor Schwarzenegger but ended up failing after heavy industry lobbying.  It might be helpful to let your representative know of your support for this bill before the final vote.

How to Green your Easter Basket

Day-glo plastic grass and candy laden with artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup? No Way!   Here are a few ideas to keep you Easter gorgeously green…

  • Skip the Plastic.      Natural baskets are beautiful, and can be used for storage during the rest of the year.  Thrift stores are a great place to find them.  Decorate them with flowers and re-usable fabric ribbon. Line the basket with straw, wheat grass, shredded paper, or a pretty napkin.  You can also get creative and create your own “basket”   decorate old  boxes, or make this one out of paper.
  • Use  local, organic free range eggs  and dye them naturally.  Onion Skins, Beets, coffee and turmeric can all be used to create beautiful festive eggs. Here is a great tutorial. 
  • Conscious Candy   Want that classic chocolate bunny?  Make it organic and free trade.  A huge percentage of the chocolate on the market in every price range comes from cacao that is produced using child slave labor.  Make sure the chocolate you buy comes from a company that does not support these practices. It might be a little more expensive but just eat a little less.  Everyone will be healthier and happier. Check out these local Santa Barbara chocolatiers, Chocolate Maya and Chocolats du CaliBressan, or this online store which has a great selection of organic and free trade candy.
  • Green Gifts   Add a few little gifts that keep on giving after the sweets have been enjoyed.    Packets of flower seeds or  veggie starts in eggshell planters, are a lot of fun for kids to plant and watch grow, and they look really pretty in the basket. 

How do you make your green Easter baskets special?  We would love to hear!

Enjoy!

Breathe a little Easier…with the help of these 12 plants

I recently tried a new workout that was really great. It was fun and went by quickly and I was the  perfect amount of sore the next day.  Much as I liked it, I can’t go back. You see it was a brand new studio, built with typical construction materials and new carpet. The “new room” smell was so strong,  it felt a bit like taking a toxic steam bath.  Every time the teacher reminded us to breathe deeply,  I sort of cringed.  The nasty effects of indoor air pollution are certainly cringe worthy.  Of course it is best to avoid toxic materials whenever you can, but indoor pollutants are introduced into our homes and workspaces in ways we don’t often recognize.  Common pollutants such as formaldehyde  are found in common items such as paper products, inks  and furnishings. Happily there may be some help in keeping our air clean and it is beautiful.

     While researching how to create breathable environments in space NASA began testing common houseplants as air cleaners.  In their study, various plants were put inside a sealed chamber into which chemical  toxins were injected.  After 24 hours, under these controlled conditions certain plants were found to remove up to 87% of the indoor air pollutants.
An increasing amount of corroborating research also indicates the benefit of live plants to improve indoor air quality.  In his own research,  Kamal Meattle used Areca Palms, Mother-in Law Tongue, an Money Plants in his office building. He found after adding the plants there was  a 34% reduction in respiratory problems, a 24% reduction in headaches and a 52% reduction in eye irritation amongst the employees who worked there. There was also a 15% drop in energy usage since the need for air conditioning equipment was reduced.   According to WebMD.com studies have shown that English Ivy placed in a container of moldy bread removed 60% of airborne mold in 6 hours and 78% was gone after 12 hours.

Here are a some of the top air cleaning houseplants:

1. Boston Fern
Boston Ferns are most effective at removing formaldehyde. Studies have also shown that they can remove heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic from the soil
2. Spider Plants
Removes carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide as well as formaldehyde
3.  Areca Palm
Removes formaldehyde and is a great air humidifier

4. Peace Lily

Very easy to grow with beautiful white blooms. Effective at removing benzene and trichloroethylene

5.  Philodendron

Excellent at removing formaldehyde

6. Snake Plants or Mother of Law Tongue

Removes benzene and  formaldehyde

7. Bamboo Palm

Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene

8.  Dracaena

Removes formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene

9. Rubber Plant

Provides moisture, suppresses air based organisms and removes voc’s

10. Gerbera Daisy

Removes benzene

11. Chrysanthemum

Removes benzene

12. English Ivy

Removes benzene and airbased mold and feces

For more information read B.C. Wolverton’s ” How to Grow Fresh Air, 50 houseplants the purify your home or office” Wolverton is a scientist who originally worked on the air cleaning research at NASA,  and has continued work on air and water quality through his own company.    

Santa Barbara Earth Day Celebration

This weekend there is a wonderful Earth Day Festival going at Alameda Park. The festival, sponsored by the Community Environmental Council, provides  a great opportunity to connect with a  variety of businesses and  non-profit organizations  doing work that in some way contributes to sustainable living.  There are all sorts of demonstrations and activities from worm composting to yoga class  going on throughout the day.  Take a look at the Earth Day schedule and guide on the CEC website before you go.  Be sure not to miss Mercury Press International’s inspiring  show “Eco-Portraits : Environmental Difference Makers”, a series of photographic profiles of environmental leaders by photographer Isaac Hernandez and journalists Nancy Black and Carlos Fresneda.

Eco Portraits at the Earth Day Festival

p.s.  that’s Harold Powell of Telios Environmental  in the photo on the right!

Heal the Ocean, and yourself

Heal the Ocean, is an incredible non-profit based here in Santa Barbara whose mission is to end ocean pollution. They have a very hands on approach, actually  funding their own scientific studies to find the sources of pollution and commissioning engineering studies and environmental assessments to determine the costs of clean up.  After five years of research, they  recently released the California Ocean Wastewater Discharge Report and Inventory. The report, which encompasses all the wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Pacific along the California coast, provides an unprecedented overview of the state of our wastewater system. When the study was started, the issue of bacteria in the water was the primary focus but as time went on, the problem of chemical pollutants took on an increased significance.  Apparently our wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to treat these pollutants, termed Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC’s).  As  more research was conducted, it became apparent that the source of many of these CEC’s was personal care products. Turns out that many products we use everyday,  (think  shampoo, lotions, toothpaste,  sunscreens, antibacterial soap, fabric, canned goods,  etc. ) are loaded with chemicals, and they are not only poisoning the ocean, but may be very harmful to us.  Katherine Engel, a research associate  with Heal the Ocean, has written an excellent paper  “Bad for the Ocean,  Bad for You” which details many of these  CEC’s and provides tips on how to avoid them. This is a must read as is  her companion essay, Personal Care Products- A Research Journey. The ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are not regulated in any meaningful way;  many of them include known toxins such as lead which has been found in many brands of lipstick.  Engel writes “consumers have NO idea they are bathing in toxins, smearing toxins on themselves, rubbing toxins into their hair,”  and when we are done with this toxic bath, the CEC’s “go down the drain from your house to a wastewater treatment plant, where for the most part they bypass the current treatment system and are discharged straight into the ocean.”  These chemicals also pose a threat to our drinking water . The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates 91 contaminants but it is estimated that there are over 60,000 chemicals used in the US.  While the wastewater treatment plants are not currently  treating these chemicals, it is possible that with higher levels of processing they might be able to effectively remove these contaminants. This would require an increase in funding, most likely through rate hikes on the sewer portion of our water bills.  I think that if people understood the problem they would support this. How much is safe, clean water  worth to you?   According to Hillary Hauser, the Executive Director of Heal the Ocean, ” A wastewater treatment plant is the most important environmental tool we have for the ocean, period.  And we have to help them.”   Heal the Ocean will be  hitting the road with their groundbreaking reports  and “will be talking to state water agencies, politicians, experts and regulators.”  Let’s help support them.  Obviously, if we can keep these chemicals out of the system to begin with we will helping to solve the problem and likely improving our health as well. These chemicals are ubiquitous in many of the products we buy, but they are not essential and often there are better alternatives available.

ACTIONS TO TAKE

what's in your shampoo?

 

  • READ THE LABELS of the products you have been buying and if they are loaded with these CEC’s write to the company to see if they can change their formulas. If not, find a better replacement.
  • SUPPORT THE WORK OF HEAL THE OCEAN
  • BUY WISELY Know what is in the products you buy and what went into making them. Support companies who are committed to the most  sustainable practices
  • VOICE YOUR CONCERN Let your representatives know that you care  about proper funding for our sewer systems

A big part of living a green lifestyle is being a conscious consumer.  Here is another chance to get it right.

The Good Green Life

Living a healthy, creative, adventurous life that enjoys and respects our incredible planet and each other is a passion here at Telios Environmental. We are starting this blog as a way to share some of our ideas, questions, adventures, and great green discoveries.  We hope you will share yours with us as well.  We can change the world for the better.

 

So come on let’s jump right in!  Everyday is another chance to get it right.