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Getting Ready For Spring Cleaning (Part 1)

To be honest I have never been more excited about the coming of spring then this year. For those of you lucky enough not to live in the NY/NJ Metro area, you have been missing out on inches of soot colored ice that makes everything look dreary and wreaks havoc on the roads.  Even though spring won’t officially start until March 20, I would do anything to start spring early and be able to take a walk along my favorite nature path, even start my spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to get rid of unwanted clutter and unwelcome grime.  I have divided this topic of “Green Spring Cleaning” into 2 parts running consecutive weeks. Today’s article will cover green actions and tasks relating to spring cleaning and the next article will talk about  natural cleaning formulas.

Go Through Unwanted Clothes and Items and Donate Them

If you didn’t wear it the last 2 years you probably won’t wear it this year either. Instead of throwing the clothes out give the clothes a second life and donate to an organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

 

Opt For Low VOC and VOC-Free Paints While Painting Your Walls

 

Paint products like Eco-Spec, by Benjamin Moore; Clarity, by Dutch Boy; Enviro-Pure, by MAB Paint; American Pride Paint; and BioShield Milk Paint are eco conscious alternatives.

 

Use Re-Useable Mops

 

Instead of buying a Swifter whose mop heads are disposable after only one use; instead use a old fashioned mop with a washable head.

 

Use Washable Cloths Instead of Disposable Paper Towels

 

Not only do dishrags absorb better then paper towels, using dishrags instead of paper towels also conserves trees.

 

Set Up a Clothesline to Dry Your Clothes

 

Though it might take a little longer than using a dryer, clotheslines are a great option for the spring and summer. Not only do you save electricity you would have used in operating a a dryer, clothes dried outside have a very clean yet nonchemical smell.

 

Use Natural Air Fresheners Instead of Synthetic Ones

 

Instead of having your home smell like an artificial cookie, use a plant. According to Studies by NASA, plants like the peace lily, spider plant, golden pothos, mother-in-law’s tongue, bamboo palm, ficus, pot mum, and gerbera daisy, have been shown to remove chemicals like benzene,  trichloroethylyne, and formaldyhyde from the air.

 

Don’t Forget To Recycle

 

Before you throw something out, check to see if it can be recycled.

 

Cleaning Supplies via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

10 Easy-to-Make Home Designs That Promote Sustainability

By Guest Contributor: Jona Jone

 

In a world where the environment becomes the capitalist of all human trade, a century-old debate continues to heat up – sustainability. Most of the resources we use at home are finite, and if we keep on using them; the future generations will have nothing left. That is why it is necessary for us to tap the other resources that nature provides in infinite amounts. Below are the 10 easy designs that you can use to gear your home toward sustainability. You do not just save energy but conserve energy in style.

1. Sustainable Landscaping

The quest for sustainability starts in our very home landscape. The easiest approach would be creating a compost pit to nourish our soil. Once the soil becomes healthy, we can start making vegetable patches where we can plant, grow, and harvest, fruits and vegetables of our own. Adding more trees will keep your home cool during the summer and will add more aesthetic value to our house is also a great plus.

2. Use Reclaimed Bricks

Bricks don’t just shrivel up and vanish. Most of them can last for decades and even centuries. So why use new ones if we can just gather old bricks from old homes and from already-demolished ones? Yes, there are old bricks gathered around town, and we can always have our local contractor piece the reclaimed bricks together to form house walls and apply artistic finish on its ancient surface.

3. Use Reclaimed Lumber

Trees that were uprooted and destroyed by storms and other natural disasters can still be treated and processed into a usable wood that can be applied to various home improvement projects. Wood from old chairs and other fixtures can also be reclaimed and refinished for newer purposes. That way, we can prevent the need for newer lumber, which also decreases our contributions in cutting trees down.

4. Employ Passive Design Approach to Cool or Warm Homes

Using a passive design approach in houses can significantly decrease the energy consumption for heating. It uses passive solar air to warm the entire house. According to various studies, buildings that use such design approach can mitigate their own energy consumption for a whopping 90 percent.

5. Build a Solar Water Heater

Building a solar-powered water heater of our own is one of the best things that anyone can do for sustainable living. It helps cut down energy costs, as it only relies on passive solar heat to keep water hot and well-insulated.

6. Use Low Flush Toilets

Unlike their ancient counterparts, the modern low flush toilets can save approximately four and a half gallons of water. This effectively saves a lot of money when it comes to water bills, and as far as I am concerned, saving money will always be something that I should do, on any circumstances!

7. Build a Rainwater Harvester

Rainwater can be used for bathing, cooking, and drinking. That is why it is important to save water by gathering rainwater for future use. Not only that it’s safe, it’s also free! Rainwater is also free from the contaminants that ground and surface water are always exposed to, and according to the Texas Water Development Board, rainwater can even exceed ground and surface water in terms of safety and quality.

8. Install Faucet Aerators

Faucet aerators add air to your faucet, thereby breaking the flow of water and turning it into droplets. This ingenious way of dispersing water allows to cover more surface area, which saves a considerable amount of water in any home. If you don’t believe me, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contends that installing faucet aerators is one of the best ways you can do to help conserve water.

9. Use a Higher Ceiling and awnings to improve ventilation

Hot air stays up. That is why it is necessary to keep our ceiling high so they can stay there during hot days. A window installed in the higher ceiling area will allow hot air to escape.  Installing an awning can be beneficial  too for giving protection both for rain and too much sunlight.  Such design will enable the free flow of air, which will decrease the need for relying in air conditioners. Ergo, lesser electric bills!

10. Use Greywater Storage Tanks

Greywater is what remains after potable water has been used for washing purposes. Though generally dirty, it can still be used to flush toilets and nourish the topsoil. Relying on greywater can also help reduce the need to extract more freshwater, which ultimately saves clean drinking water.

In this day and age, it is necessary for us to be aware of the things we could do to help make a difference. Remember, if everyone does their part, our collective efforts will accumulate to become a world-changing one.

House image via Shutterstock.

Jona Jone is a Washington Times Communities writer, strongly aiming to paint the world back in blue and green.

by Editor

As Entertaining as a Simulated Exploding Cow

I’m a big fan of Chipotle, but not for the reason you might think.  Many people love them for their beans and burritos, but I’m a bigger fan of their commercials which artistically question the sustainability of the industrial agriculture industry without resulting to shocking imagery like PETA. Chipotle’s ads have received a lot of positive coverage for both their message and their animation.

“Back to the Start” which came out in 2011 tells the tale of a farmer who starts who starts out as a small farmer but his farm eventually becomes industrialized (see below). “The Scarecrow”, which is also a promo for a app, came out last year and is about a “Scarecrow” who works in an industrial farm. The ads include haunting covers by Willie Nelson and Fiona Appel, respectively. Both commercials warn against industrialized farming and imply that Chipotle does better.

Though both commercials are meant to manipulate viewers into steering clear of unsustainable fast food giants like McDonalds and Burger King by instead choosing “small” businesses like Chipotle, the commercials also clearly send out the message that sustainability is needed in the farming industry. The commercials do not necessarily make the viewer want to go to Chipotle, but instead seem to encourage people to buy local from farmers markets. To some that might make the Chipotle Commercials unsuccessful, but as someone who has been watching animation since childhood I think the commercials are great.

The reason I am writing this article now is because last week while I was watching Hulu, I came across Chipotle’s new streaming television series, “Farmed and Dangerous”. Having some spare time, I decided to watch it. “Farmed and Dangerous” is a satire about the industrial farming industry focusing on the team responsible for protecting the industry’s image after a video is released online of a cow blowing up after being fed coal pellets.

Though the show is a farce, characters talk about real issues, like antibiotic use, land use, animal treatment, GMOs and the byproducts of industrial farming. The show is not Emmy winning quality but it’s entertaining and makes the viewer think.

Sustainability in farming is an important issue. Industrial farming not only forces animals to live in miserable living conditions but it also puts humans lives at risk. By keeping animals in overcrowded facilities “farmers” have to pump them with antibiotics, which put everyone at risk for antibiotic resistance. Chipotle has found a way to bring up this issue gracefully.

cow via shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

The Benefits of Owning an Electric Car

By: Guest Contributor, Hailey Robinson

With so many options for cars in the market, you might not understand the differences between hybrid and electric. However, electric cars a great option since they reduce your carbon footprint substantially.

No Pollution

Since electric cars don’t have an internal combustion engine, they don’t produce the same pollution that gas-powered vehicles do. The electricity used to charge the car does use fossil fuels, which produces some pollution. But according to a study performed by the Electric Vehicle Association of Canada, the carbon emission amount of an electric car is approximately half of a traditional car. If you live in an area with clean options, such as nuclear power or hydropower, that number can drop even lower.

Cost Savings

If your electric car runs solely on battery power, the cost to drive is approximately 75 percent less than a gas-powered vehicle. In comparison, it costs an average of $11.5 cents per mile for gasoline, at a fixed price of $3.50 per gallon. So if you drive 12,000 miles per year, you’ll spend $1400 on fuel that year. Battery-powered vehicles also don’t have transmissions, so you can save on repairs. And they also don’t require oil changes, fuel filters, or emissions testing. If your car is a hybrid, running partly on gas, there are still many ways to effectively drive to help save on gas costs.

Safety Features

Many electric vehicles contain much simpler systems, such as drive train and brake systems, so they require less maintenance. They don’t have as many parts that can malfunction, which increases the safety ratings and makes them more reliable. As experts continue to study and improve electric vehicle technology, they predict that these cars will become safer and more reliable over the next few years as well. They are also improving the battery life and function in the vehicles.

Tax Credits

In some states, the IRS currently offers a tax credit when you purchase an electric vehicle that can help offset the cost by a few thousand dollars. You can check with your accountant or the IRS website to learn more about what form to use, how to file, and whether this benefit is available where you live.

Environmental Impact

Most people choose an electric car because they understand how much it can reduce environmental damage. In the United States, more than half of the greenhouse gas produced comes from transportation, and more than half of that is from personal vehicles. According to another study, a gasoline vehicle would have to get 73 miles per gallon to compete with an electric vehicle. If your community has options for renewable energy sources, you can further lower your impact on the environment. If that isn’t available in your area, consider working with local authorities to request that option.

Quiet Engine

Since these vehicles don’t have combustion engines, they run with much less sound. This further helps the factory workers who help build your vehicle, since it reduces the need for medical care from hearing loss and other injuries.

Charge While You Sleep

If you work at night, you can simply plug in your car when you come home for the evening and allow it to charge while you sleep. Since many people across the nation will also be asleep during this time, it reduces the possibility for reaching charge capacity and you can head to work in the morning with a full charge on the battery. If you’re traveling over several days, many stores and gas stations across the country offer recharge stations.

As you consider the benefits of switching to an electric car, you can feel confident that you will have a reliable and safe car in which you can commute, drive family around, or take road trips with friends to see the sights of our beautiful country.

Electric car image via Shutterstock.

Hailey Robinson is a recent graduate with a degree in Journalism. Now that she isn’t face first in books she is trying to travel as much as she can. She writes in her free time between fixing up her new house and teaching people how to live a longer, healthier life.

by Editor

An End to Toilet Paper?

The convenience of toilet paper is a comfort many Americans can’t picture themselves living without.  America is the world largest market for toilet paper.  Americans per capita use 23.6 rolls per year, totaling about 7 billion rolls a year for the country. Unfortunately, using toilet paper is not the most sustainable practice.

The production of toilet paper results in the harvesting of millions of trees. An average eucalyptus tree makes 1,000 rolls of paper, which means that millions of trees must be harvested in order to satisfy the United States addiction to toilet paper alone.  Depending on the type of toilet paper effects what type of wood byproducts are used to make the toilet paper.  Toilet papers advertised as “quilted” and “fluffy” are made from old growth and virgin wood fibers.

The non sustained destruction of forests is not the only environmental problem with toilet paper. Dioxins are a byproduct of bleaching toilet paper.  Though direct usage of toilet paper with dioxins may not cause any health issues, when the toilet paper is flushed down the toilet into the sewage system the dioxins can find their way into the environment.

So as your reading this article you must be wondering what the alternative is to using toilet paper.  Below I have listed some of the more sustainable alternatives that you should at least consider before you buy your next roll.

Re Useable Wipes

You may have heard about reusable toilet paper on TLC’s show on the cheapest people. But using reusable wipes isn’t only cheaper than using toilet paper it is also more sustainable.  Instead of having a roll of toilet paper by the toilet, people who use reusable toilet paper keep a stack of homemade cloth wipes which can be made from cut up old sheets or t-shirts. After using the wipe, the wipe can be placed in a closed container lined with a laundry bag which can be washed in a washing machine once or twice a week.

Though reusable wipes need to be washed, which requires the use of energy and water, the creation of toilet paper in the mill also requires water and electricity, while also releasing chemicals to the environment. Using wipes made from cloth can be softer then the softest toilet paper.

It may feel like a large commitment switching from toilet paper to reusable wipes but many people are extremely happy about the environmental impact they make by switching.

Bidets

One of the reasons Americans use so much more toilet paper then our European counterparts is because in many parts of Europe bidets are extremely common.  A traditional bidet is separate from the toilet and is like a wash basin that shoots water for cleaning, but modern “attached bidets “can be connected to the toilet without having to install a separate bidet. Modern bidets also contain other features that make users less likely to use toilet paper, some of them blow air to help the user dry off while others are electricity.

Toilet Paper Made from Recycled Paper

If the option of using re useable wipes or getting a bidet seems too weird for you, at least try and  toilet paper made from recycled paper. According to the EPA  if everyone in the United States exchanged only one roll of regular toilet paper for a roll made from recycled paper it would save 470,000 trees. Imagine how many trees could be save.

 

Toilet Paper Roll via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Why Apples Are The Best Valentine Gifts

By Guest Contributor: Kimberly Grimms

Photo via Pinterest

You’ve probably heard it a lot before but I’ll say it anyway, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Cliché as it sounds, there is much truthfulness to this statement as this adage might be the best way to describe why apples are the best fruit. Now, that might inspire you to grow your own apple trees or simply take a walk down the nearest farmer’s market. But whatever your choice, it is sure to be a win-win situation. One thing to remember though: this oval- shaped, juicy and crunchy fruit is not as simple as it seems, it’s packed with a number of benefits and is masking beautiful complexities that make it the ideal Valentine gift.

 

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Red

As popularized by the Disney classic, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, shiny red apples symbolizes wicked and manipulative. Translating that in modern world is not as negative as you’d think. Today, a bunch of luscious red apples represent energy, passion and action; basically, terms associated with Valentine’s Day. It triggers the emotions and motivates us to do something. Red also exudes warmth and positivity, and is often used to denote love, that is why it’s the perfect color for the season of hearts.

 

Give More Love from a Healthier Heart

Out of a number of foods measured for their antioxidant, and out of a number of varieties of apple trees for sale, only 2 types went through: Red Delicious (12th) and Granny Smith (13th). Antioxidants or disease-fighting compounds present in these apples are believed to help prevent and repair oxidation damage that occurs during normal cell activity. Apples are also full of a soluble fiber known as pectin- 1 medium sized apple has about 4 grams. High intake of this fermentable and viscous fiber slows down the build-up of cholesterol in your arteries and is the key to blunting blood sugar swings.

 

Together with taking care of our heart, apples also:

  • Avoid Alzheimer’s
  • Provides protection against parkinsonism
  • Reduce risk of diabetes and all sorts of cancer
  • Prevent gallstones
  • Fight diarrhea and constipation
  • Neutralize irritable bowel syndrome
  • Control weight
  • Detoxify liver
  • Prevent cataracts
  • Boost the immune system

 

Get Sweeter and Brighter Smiles

Apart from numerous health benefits, apples have dental benefits as well. Their astringent quality makes them the food suitable for cleansing and brightening teeth. Although, its acidic nature alone is not enough to make your teeth white, it requires the help of the fiber-rich flesh of the apple. Munching and snacking on these crunchy delights also stave off hunger. It also helps scrub away stubborn coffee stains but that doesn’t mean you can leave out brushing your teeth.

 

Hug Mother Nature As Well

The moment you choose to gift a tree for Valentine’s Day could be one of the many chances you can give back to the environment. Planting a tree would make a big difference to our fast-paced and industrial world; we’ll have fresher air to breathe reducing the risk of inhaling polluted air. When it’s raining, trees absorbs the water which in turn, eliminates floods.

 

Giving a basket of scrumptious apples or choosing to gift a tree— It might not appeal to you as the most romantic thing to do during the Valentine season but it’s one of the best ways to let your loved ones know you truly care for them. It only happens once a year so let’s make St. Valentine proud; plans a romantic dinner, open a bottle of red and pack a bunch of apples or gift an apple tree. Not only do we watch over others’ health, we also change the environment— 1 apple tree at a time.

 

Kimberly Grimms is a futurist who spends most of her time monitoring social behavior in search for new consumer trends.

by Editor

Think Green While Drinking Red

With Valentine’s Day around the corner many people spend lots of time (and money) putting together a romantic evening. From choosing the perfect flowers and chocolates, to the perfect restaurant, there are a lot of “important” commercially fueled financial decisions to be made in the next week.

Many couples find sharing a bottle of wine a romantic, Valentines worthy, activity. Unfortunately, a conventionally produced bottle of wine can contain up to 250 types of chemicals. That’s not so romantic. Luckily there are a range of wine products that involve eco-friendly processes. Below I have compiled a list of eco-friendly wine classifications and their definitions; this will hopefully help you pick an appropriate wine. Enjoy!

Organic

Organic wines are made from 95% organic ingredients and processes, the remaining 5% of ingredients can’t be found organically. Organic wines come from vineyards that avoid the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic herbicides, and synthetic fungicides. There are no sulfites* added to organic wine and bottles of organic wine have a USDA Seal on the label. Organic wines from the United States are regulated by the USDA National Organic Program. Definitions of organic may vary by country.

100% Organic

100% organic wines contain 100% organically produced ingredients. Like with Organic wine, 100% organic wine contains no added sulfites, and bottles contain a USDA Seal on the label.

Made With Organic Grapes

Wines labeled “Made with Organic Grapes” contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Some sulfites are added during the process of wine making, but the grapes are grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals.

Made With Sustainably Grown Grapes

“Made with Sustainably Grown Grapes” means that the grapes were grown in a vineyard that uses sustainable practices.

 Biodynamic

Biodynamic wine is 100% organic. On top of being 100% organic, biodynamic wineries use practices that are attune to nature, like basing decisions off of natural  signals or making their own compost.

Vegan Wines

Some wineries use animal bi-products like gelatin, egg whites, and milk, in their wine filtration process. Vegan wines do not use animal bi-products.

*Sulfites, or sulfur dioxide,are an antimicrobial that naturally occurs in grape skins. Sulfites have been used in wine making for centuries. Sulfites are not necessary toxic but 0.4% of the population is highly allergic to them and many people suffer from sulfite sensitivity. Wines with greater than 10 ppm of sulfites must be labeled.

wine and winery via shutterstock

 

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Puppy Love

 

One of my new cousins!

This past month I was lucky enough to welcome 2 new members to my extended family. Norwood, a mutt, and Arwen, a Labrador/Sheppard mix. As a person with a history of volunteering at animal shelters, I was extremely pleased to find that my extended family had used shelters and sites like Petfinder to find my new cousins, instead of going to a pet shop or a breeder.

America Loves It’s Pets.

Pet ownership in the United States is increasing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in the 1970’s 67 million homes owned a pet. As of 2012, 164 million homes (62%) now own at least one pet.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans today own 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats. That’s a lot of animals. For more pet ownership statistics click here.

The Problem With Puppy Mills

Adopting from a shelter is a great option for anyone interested in getting a pet and is definitely a better option than buying a pet in a pet shop. Many dogs bought in pet shops come from ‘puppy mills’, which ASPCA defines as “large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs”. Puppy mills are inhumane. Dogs kept there are in too small cages with limited food and water. Puppies are taken from their mothers before they are ready so that their mothers can be bred again. It is estimated that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, producing 2.15 million puppies a year. Buying puppies from pet stores supports this cruel system.

Many breeders also breed their dogs in puppy mills. In order to avoid adopting a puppy from a puppy mill, check out these questions to ask a breeder.

The Pros (and Cons) of Shelters

Shelters are a great option for anyone interesting in adopting a new feline or canine family member.  Every year 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters. Unfortunately, 2.7 million shelter animals have to be euthanized because there is not enough space.

Just because an animal is in a shelter doesn’t mean it did anything wrong. Many animals are forced to live in a shelter because their owner had to move into a new home that doesn’t allow pets, allergic reactions to the animal, or an owner can’t afford the time or money to take care of them anymore. Because of this, many animals you find in a shelter are already house or obedience trained and would make great pets.

At a shelter, you can find animals in a range of breeds and ages. In fact, 25% of dogs in shelters are pure breeds. If you are interested in a particular breed, you can ask your local shelters to ‘keep an eye out’ or find a breed rescue group.

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

It is important to spay and neuter pets in order to prevent overpopulation (In a previous article I wrote about the damage to bird populations done by stray cats).  The good news is most shelters neuter/spay their pets prior to adoption so that new owners don’t have to worry about accidental litters/new shelter residents.

My Last Bark

Choosing to get a pet is an important decision.  A pet requires time, resources, and love. It is not fair to you or the animal to adopt without thinking long term.

On another note, dogs make excellent companions. I have never seen a greater joy then a person talking about their pet and look forward to meeting my new cousins.

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Marveling at Nature (Thats Right, We Made a Comic Book Pun!)

In the opening scene of last week’s “Simpson” episode, ‘Married to The Blob’,Bart’s favorite comic book hero, Radioactive Man, battles The Fossil Fuel Four.  The Fossil Fuel Four, Old King Coal, Petroleus Rex, French Femme Fatale Charcoal Briquette, and The Fracker are attempting to destroy the Nuclear Power Plant. Radioactive Man tries to stop them by telling them that Nuclear Energy is the cleanest form of energy but the The Fracker retorts by saying that studies show that fracking is the best option for America if it wants to have energy independence. To this Radioactive responds by calling the Fracker out by saying those studies were industry funded, and by calling for help from sidekicks Citizen Solar and Wind Lab. Unfortunately Citizen Solar and Wind Lab are unable to help because it is too cloudy and “people don’t like the noise”, and Radioactive Man is killed.

Though this scene is a farce it got me thinking about the relationship between comic superheroes and environmental issues. Whether it is the source of their origins, or their type of superpower, many superheroes have links to the environment.

Super Powers That Replicate Nature

Many superheroes have superpowers that derive from nature. In the X-Men, Storm has the ability to control weather, while Ice Man has the ability to turn water into ice. These powers indicate respect for nature while at the same time express humans’ ultimate fascination in controlling the world around them.

The villain Poison Ivy uses nature-based powers another way. She uses her plant-like abilities to protect nature, even if it harms humans.

Super Powers Replicating That of an Animal

There is something fascinating about animals and their natural super human abilities. That is why there are so many super heroes who’s abilities, whether acquired or man made, are modeled after animals. Super Hero’s like Batman, Catwoman, and Wolverine are modeled/model themselves after animals while others like The Beast did not choose to emulate animals

I find animal derived super powers the most interesting. If I could be a super hero modeled after any creature I would choose the cockroach. With speed, the ability to fly short distances, and heavy armor that cam still fit in small spaces I would be impossible to defeat.

Other super heroes have powers that are less species specific. The super hero named The Animal Man can morph into any species of animal, whether alive of extinct, while AquaMan has the ability to speak  to sea creatures.

Origins That Reflect Fears of Science and Technology

Superheroes like the Hulk, Spider-man, The Fantastic 4, and the Toxic Avenger gained their super powers accidentally. This type of origin reflects the readers/society’s technological fears at the time of the superhero’s conception. Many of the comics were conceptualized in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s  which is why radioactivity is a particularly common cause of powers. Spiderman is a particularly quintessential example of this concept, not only does his radioactive spider bite implicate the fear of radiation but it also implicates a fear of genetic engineering.

Two Words: Captain Planet (And the Planeteers)

When I was a child I was a big fan of watching Captain Planet protect earth from pollution and environmental destruction. With help from the Planteers, 5 Teens from different parts of the world with powers, Captain Planet showed young viewers of the different hardships facing the earth. I remember finding the show educational and entertaining and can still practically sing the theme song by heart.

Since the show started in the 1990’s the show has expanded into “The Captain Planet Foundation” which funds young environmental stewards create their own “Captain Planet” worthy projects.

If Superheros’ reflect American values, comic super heroes emphasize that nature and the environment are an integral part of our lives and without them we are powerless.

super child with earth via shutterstock

super child unleashed via shutterstock

 

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

“Naturally Melt Ice Away”

This past weekend the Northeast was hit by a snowstorm, making travel and transportation near impossible. Though the roads and sidewalks have since been cleared (mostly) travel is still dicey because of the risk of falling and sliding on ice. Luckily citizens and municipalities have a “natural” tool to protect us from accidents. But is road salt healthy for the environment?

Granulated sodium chloride was first used in New Hampshire as an experimental deicing agent in 1938. By World War II salt use had spread to highways nationwide. Now, 22 million tons of salt are used for de-icing a year and road salt equals 65% of salt sales in the country.

Many people assume that because road salt is natural (it is the same salt as you find on your dining room table) that it is healthy for the environment, but the addition of any outside substance to the environment can be unhealthy.

Pets and wildlife can get sick from accidentally ingesting high quantities of salt. Salt attracts deer to roadways, increasing the risk of accidents. Salt can also irritate animals paws, making them prone to infection.

Another issue caused by the mass use of salt is the gradually increasing salt concentrations in our waterways and groundwater. The EPA suggests that 20 mg/l is a safe level for sodium in drinking water but salt in water runoff puts these levels at risk. Higher concentrations of salt are more likely to occur in shallow wells in proximity to highly salted roads or storage facilities.

Chloride ions can dehydrate plants, kill small wildlife, and reduce water circulation in lakes, reducing aeration. The substance potassium acetate can melt ice without introducing chloride into the environment but unfortunately it is much more expensive than salt.

For now the best way to address the salt problem is to improve the effectiveness of road salting programs. Road design that reduces runoff is helpful.  Other strategies to keep the salt from finding its way into the environment include spraying wet salt, which keeps the salt from slipping off the road, and pre spraying before a storm.

Municipalities (and individuals) also need to be conscious of how much salt they use. This will not only save money but it will also reduce the salt that’s introduced into nature. The use of GPS, thermal mapping, and sensitized salt distribution can help municipalities accurately spread salt.

Salt may be natural (sodium is the 6th most common element), but we need to be more conscious of how we use it because even natural substances can shift the environment and get us (and animals) sick.

Salt piles via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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