May 06

Ways To Get Healthy That Are Also Good For The Environment

Ways To Get Healthy That Are Also Good For The Environment

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Two years ago, comedian Jeff Garlin wrote a book called My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World, describing his journey to becoming slimmer and more environmentally-conscious. Anyone who has seen the portly comedian on Curb Your Enthusiasm or any number of his movies and comedy specials knows that Garlin could stand to lose a few pounds. Garlin took it one step further though and tried to figure out how his food and life decisions impacted the environment. What he found out was that there was a connection between the two. With the help of a nutritionist and Ed Begley Jr., world-renowned environmentalist, Garlin is able to reduce his footprint, both figuratively and literally. The book presented an interesting argument, so let’s try to examine ways one can get healthier while helping the environment as well.

  • Eat more plants and fewer animals: Through countless documentaries like Forks over Knives and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, everyone knows that eating fewer animals is good for your overall health. Vegetarianism and veganism has been linked with lower incidences of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and countless other illnesses. The meat industry also costs our environment dearly. We use water, fertilizer and land to raise animals for food. These resources could be better used elsewhere. In addition, the animal waste produced in meat-producing farming often pollutes water sources and the air. By eating more plants and fewer animals, you’ll lower your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and your total carbon footprint.
  • Walk instead of drive: Garlin has one anecdote in his book where he rides public transportation in Los Angeles for the first time. Anyone who has ridden the bus knows the interesting characters you can meet. However, using public transportation can lower your carbon footprint as you’re emitting less pollution in the air than let’s say driving your SUV. However, if you can walk or ride your bike to your destination, that’s even better. The American Heart Association recommends at least thirty minutes of activity a day for optimal health, so you’re covered there; plus, you emitting no pollution in the air, which makes Mother Nature happy.
  • Try localized honey: Are you sniffling and sneezing a lot? You might want to try local honey. Honey has long been known as a natural remedy for allergies. In addition, buying local honey will help support an industry responsible for pollinating your fruits and vegetables. If you are really ambitious, you might want to try raising your own bees. It is a wonderful hobby that will afford you ample amounts of fresh honey as well as the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping the environment.

No matter who you are, you can start taking small steps towards a healthier you, and a healthier planet, today.

Alex White is a freelancer interested in writing about sustainability and environmental issues.

Apr 13

Uncovering Great Lakes Garbage Patch

Microplastics fro Great Lakes on Penny

A penny provides scale for the size of micro plastics being found in the Great Lakes ‘Garbage Patch.’ Credit: 5Gyres.

Until recently, my concept of a ‘garbage patch’ was of an area of ocean with large pieces of floating debris, the kind of stray fishing gear and trash from ships and shorelines that collect where currents form eddies far from view of most people.

Having seen my share of sea trash in 20,000+ miles of lake and ocean sailing and even untangled sheets of plastic and thick ropes from the propeller and rudder of my 37-foot sailboat, I was shocked to learn that the kind of garbage scientists are most concerned about is invisible to the naked eye. They’re finding tiny bits of plastic known as “micro-plastics” floating near the surface of the water in high concentrations. The particles are so small that a microscope is needed to even see them.

The scary news this week was about a garbage patch discovered in the Great Lakes last year. Although scientists have studied plastic pollution in the oceans since NOAA researchers discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in 1988, a team of scientists is conducting the first-of-its-kind research on the open water of the Great Lakes. One of the team members presented preliminary results of a study on the topic at meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Photo: Great Lakes Garbage Patch research team. Source: 5Gyres

The team of researchers studying the Great Lakes ‘Garbage Patch’ in 2012. Credit: 5Gyres.

I spoke with Lorena Rios-Mendoza, an environmental chemist at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and found that the buzz was certainly justified. Her background includes studying plastic debris and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Pacific Garbage Patch and in the Southern Ocean. Now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, she has turned her attention to these same issues on the North American Great Lakes.

“I’m interested in learning more about what happens to persistent organic pollutants when they attach to the plastic particles,” Rios-Mendoza told me. She is now studying 110 fish samples to see if they have plastic debris in their guts and to learn more about what happens to POPs associated with the plastic pollution. She wonders whether the accidental consumption of tiny bits of plastic by fish might be a new source for toxins in the food chain.

Photo: Sampling plastic pollution on the Great Lakes. Source: 5Gyres.

Sam Mason (on right) collecting samples of plastic pollution aboard the “Niagara” on the Great Lakes. Credit: 5Gyres.

Rios-Mendoza is working with a team of researchers led by Sherri “Sam” Mason, a SUNY-Fredonia chemistry professor and researcher at the forefront of research on plastic pollution within freshwater ecosystems, including the Great Lakes. Mason is actually an atmospheric chemist, but she also has a passion for environmental sustainability. A few years ago, a colleague at Niagara University invited her to teach an environmental science course aboard the Flagship Niagara, a rebuilt version of a tall ship used during the War of 1812 that is now used for on-water education programs. Having lived near the shores of Lake Erie for over ten years, she had never been out on the lake, let alone a sailboat, before teaching the summer course. Mason’s time on the water inspired her to take up an entirely new area of research: studying plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

Modeling herself after scientists like Rachel Carson who are committed to sharing relevant research, Mason found that studying and trying to raise awareness about plastic pollution in freshwater systems suited her. “This is a fantastic area for research because the information is much needed and relevant to the scientific community and to people concerned about the Great Lakes,” she told me.

Mason and Rios-Mendoza have been working in collaboration with the 5Gyres Institute, a research and education group studying garbage patches in five subtropical gyres in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans.

Photo: Microplastic pollution in Lake Erie. Source: 5Gyres

Tiny pieces of plastic pollution found while sampling in Lake Erie. Credit: 5Gyres.

The team of researchers studying the Great Lakes wasn’t surprised to find plastic pollution, especially in Lake Erie, the smallest (by volume) and shallowest of the five lakes. They did find something interesting when comparing their results to the research in oceans. The concentration of PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) in Lake Erie is twice as high as what is found in the world oceans. “This makes sense because the oceans are so much larger – there’s a dilution factor,” Rios-Mendoza said.

Something else the research team didn’t expect was the predominance of micro-plastic particles (less than 1 millimeter in diameter). In the world’s oceans, scientists have found higher percentages of debris in the 1-5 millimeter diameter size range as compared to the micro-plastics. Mason suspects that this is because of the larger ratio of shoreline to open water, creating an abrasive action to break down the plastic.

Photo: Sample of micro plastics from Lake Erie. Source: 5Gyres.

A sample taken from Lake Erie showing micro plastics less than 1 millimeter in size. Credit: 5Gyres.

They’re finding tiny, perfectly round beads of plastic in many of the samples, and this might hold another clue about the source of particles. “The cosmetics industry uses plastic micro-beads in soaps, toothpaste and other products. Because the products are not designed for ingestion, they don’t have to test for this. It’s completely unregulated and may be a significant source of micro-plastics finding their way into the environment,” she says.

Finding the sources of plastic pollution and getting a better idea of the degradation process is the subject of follow-up studies Mason and her team are working on.

More research is needed to compare the amount of plastic pollution from one lake to the next, but Rios-Mendoza explained to me that it takes more than two hours of towing the fine-mesh sampling net in Lake Superior to recover the amount of plastic in a 30-minute trawl from Lake Erie. The team plans to sample the St. Lawrence River and Lakes Erie, Michigan, and Ontario this summer, and as funding allows, to carry out more systematic studies of all five lakes.

How do plastics end up in oceans and now lakes? Well to begin with, we have become a throwaway society. We’re using and throwing away more and more plastics, sometimes after only using them once. The plastics are designed to last a long time, more than 500 years in some cases, Mason told me. In the U.S. alone, we consume “billions” of plastic bags and bottles. According to the 5Gyres website, only five percent of the plastics produced for things like water bottles, cups, utensils, toys and gadgets are recycled. “Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains unaccounted for, lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea,” their website states.

Photo: fishing boats on Lake Erie. Source: Lisa Borre.

From the deck of a boat on Lake Erie, micro plastics are not visible in the water. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Plastic pollution is not only a problem in the water but along beaches and shorelines as well. Beaches in Hawaii were found to contain 50% sand and micro-plastics, Rios-Mendoza told me. The research team has not studied the amount of micro-plastics on Great Lakes beaches yet.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes leads an Adopt-a-Beach program to address the problem of beach pollution throughout the Great Lakes region. Mason participates in the Adopt-a-Beach program and says that her students are always surprised by how much trash they find on a beach that doesn’t look that bad at the outset. She is also leading a one-week course this summer in collaboration with Pangaea Expeditions, collecting samples for future research along the way.

“People need to be aware that we are the source of the problem, and because of this, we need to be part of the solution,” Mason said. “We all need to become aware of how much plastic we use in our lives and avoid using single-use products. Don’t buy water in plastic bottles or cosmetic products with micro beads. Bring re-usable bags to the store with you. Simple things like this make a big difference, but it’s also important to keep talking about this issue and raising awareness about how it affects the Great Lakes and the world’s oceans.”

It turns out that even this observant sailor has sailed right through garbage patches on the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes without noticing anything but the deep blue water that appears infinitely transparent. Now I realize what all the fuss is about. These new findings give me all the more reason to find ways to reduce, re-use, and recycle plastic at home and on my boat.

In short, I need to do my part to reduce plastic pollution in the world’s lakes and oceans.

Lisa Borre is a lake conservationist, freelance writer and sailor based in Annapolis, Maryland. With her husband, she co-founded LakeNet, a world lakes network, and co-wrote a sailing guide called “The Black Sea” based on their voyage around the sea in 2010. She is a native of the Great Lakes region and served as coordinator of the Lake Champlain Basin Program in the 1990s.

Apr 03

5 Ways To Make Your Workplace Eco-Friendly

Ways To Make Your Workplace Eco-Friendly

Image by Chris Potter

From melting polar ice caps to smog-filled cities, the threat of global warming isn’t going away. Despite the red flags and the bombardment of warnings, the majority of people continue to turn a blind eye to their carbon footprint. Ignorance really is bliss.

It’s all too easy to turn away and leave it to someone else, but if we all do that then nothing’s going to change.

Instead, you could make a few small changes to your day-to-day life that can have positive effects on the environment. You may not have the money or time to become totally green, but these short easy to do steps will leave you slightly more satisfied in the knowledge that you are doing your part.

Here are five quick and easy ways to make your workplace more eco-friendly:

1. Less Waste, More Recycling

Minimize the amount of waste that goes to landfill by installing recycling bins in your workplace. The majority of packaging can be recycled now, and you’ll find that most of your colleagues will happily ‘go green’ if you provide them with the opportunity to recycle items.

2. Use Less Energy

Your workplace may be a-buzz with energy, but make sure it’s not wasted electronic energy. Turn off equipment such as computers, chargers and lights when they’re not in use, and remind your colleagues to do the same.

3. Minimise Your Mileage

Don’t travel unnecessarily for company business if a conference call could achieve the same result. If you can’t avoid travelling, try to car share where possible.

4. Be Proud To Be Green

Lead the way in your workplace’s green revolution by displaying your green credentials for all to see. Update your email signature to say:

Think before you ink – please consider the environment and do not print unless absolutely necessary.

5. Print Double-Sided

It seems so simple, but by printing and photocopying on both sides of a sheet of paper, you’re cutting your energy and paper use in half. If you have an IT team, speak to them about making double-sided printing the automatic default on all of the company’s computers and photocopiers.

That’s five simple ways to a more eco-friendly office, but it doesn’t end there. You could even speak to your procurement team about buying environmentally friendly products like Xerox business paper, which is manufactured using less water, chemicals and energy.

Have you got a great idea on making workplaces more eco-friendly? If so, leave a comment below!

Featured images:

Matt Reilly is a professional copywriter. He blogs about the environment, the business world and the links between the two. He writes for Continua.

Apr 03

Eco-home: 5 Tips To Make Your Home More Sustainable

ecohomeIt seems to be the new trend at the moment and with good reason too! In the last decade particularly, many governments and communities have zoned in on the idea of sustainability. Sustainability is the concept where current needs are met without depleting the resources of future generations.

Likewise, individuals and families can also operate in more environmentally friendly ways. Indeed, sustainability in the home can also cut down on costs and make your home more comfortable. There are countless ways to go about sustainability in your home. Here we survey five top suggestions.

Choose your plants wisely

Aren’t having plants an eco-friendly choice in the first place? In some respects, yes. However, plants that require lots of water are generally considered a less sustainable choice. The choice of plants will often depend on the climate in which you live in. For example, if you live in a dry climate such as in Australia, look out for Australian native plants. Fruit trees are also a good idea in providing shade for your backyard and fresh fruit for you!

Choose eco-friendly paints

Many people would be surprised to know that the UN International Agency on Research into Cancer (IARC) categorises painting as a “hazardous profession” due to various toxic components in many paints. This is because paints contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Instead, choose plant based oils. Plant based oils are low-VOC and more sustainable than paints derived from petrochemicals.

Choose eco-friendly floors

With flooring, it is not so much the material that matters but the maintenance routine required to maintain its durability. This is because most floor finishes are also plastic based, meaning that VOCs and allergens will be emitted from your floor after installation and recoating. Once again, you can avoid this by choosing low VOC floor finishes. Alternatively, choose ceramic, hard tiles, linoleum, and cork as your flooring.

Use less electricity

While the choice of paint and flooring are sustainable design choices, there are also sustainable living choices you can make every day in your home. Saving energy is an easy way to be sustainable. This includes simple things like turning off lights when not in use. Some less common ways: turning off your cable set-top box when not in use, having a correctly sized air conditioner, and organising your fridge!

Use recycled or reclaimed materials

If you’re hunting for that perfect piece of real estate to buy or build up, consider choosing or building a home with recycled or reclaimed materials. If you’re after wood, look for wood from older torn-down buildings or else types such as bamboo that grow quickly and sustainably. If you’re already settled into a property, consider buying more recycled products at the supermarket, whether it be pens or even toilet paper!

Amy Hopkins is a university student and freelance writer who is interested in flicking through the newspaper looking at NSW real estate. You’ll often find her dreaming about properties she can’t quite afford to buy!

Apr 02

Going Green To Save Green

Going Green To Save Green

green1Turning your home into a more energy efficient system, can improve performance, save money, and is good for the environment. With the right strategy, you can make any home more efficient and comfortable. Whether it’s an older home or a newer home, there are many measures homeowners can take to improve the efficiency. First you need to think about each part of your home, inside and out. Then, you can figure out which envelopes need the most work.

Insulation Can Go a Long Way

When installed properly, insulation slows the rate of air that flows out of and in the house. Whether it’s winter or summer, insulation improves your comfort, your efficiency and cuts the energy bills. If your house doesn’t have insulation in all the right places, you can usually tell… but sometimes it takes a little work. Plus, if your attic is unfinished, you should definitely think about getting it insulated. There are many types of insulation to choose from, but the most popular are made from fiberglass and foam. With insulation installation you should probably call an expert. They know where insulation needs to go and they install it correctly the first time. They also have special tools like infrared cameras to find all the hidden cavities where the air is escaping.

Windows

By upgrading or replacing your old windows with new energy efficient ones, you will feel the effects immediately. And even better yet, your energy bills will drop and drop fast. Yes, windows can become a little pricey, especially when you need to replace more than one.  But, it will pay off in the longer run… by a lot. Fortunately there are many types of energy efficient windows that offer a refund.

Let There Be Light

You wouldn’t think replacing your light bulbs would help the efficiency of your home. However, incandescent light bulbs not only use less energy, they are brighter then most regular bulbs. Plus, energy efficient light bulbs use less electricity to run. Do your research and compare the energy used for your old bulbs compared to new energy efficient bulbs. You will see a real difference in how much energy is used and how much it costs to run each one.

Outdoor Structures

Believe it or not, a verandah, car port, patios and awnings can make a big difference in energy efficiency. By installing an energy efficient roof, these home additions become an economic solution that you and your family can enjoy.

Eric Regan is a writer who loves the enviroment and has written many blogs on different going green and energy saving techniques

Mar 31

Endangered Species And Ecosystems

ecosystemTo save our environment is the primary responsibility of every one of us, and in order to save our environment, we have to make sure that all the species and animals on this planet must be saved. The reasons behind this are that many of these endangered species are important to sustain life on this planet. Some of these endangered species are an important part of the chain reaction that is important to save our ecosystem. We depend on different types of ecosystems to get food, fresh air,  and water. By polluting these ecosystems, we are actually gradually moving towards  the destruction of this planet. Cutting down the trees is the main cause for endangering the many important plant and animal species.

Causes of Endangered Species and Ecosystems
Industrialization has been the main cause of endangering the plant and animal species as well as ecosystems. Many of the animal species have already disappeared due to a lack of care, and every day we are threatening various other species by our continuous industrialization all over the world. Our planet is in danger at the moment, and every step towards industrialization is actually becoming the step towards destruction of this planet. The pollution caused by the industries also affected the animals living under the sea. It is not just the wildlife that is endangered at the moment, but the sea life is also in extreme danger. There are various causes for this process, but the results are the same, endangered species and ecosystems are increasing every day.

Why to Protect Endangered Species
Many plants as well as animals are important to develop medications, and research has revealed that almost half of the drugs prescribed by doctors are either made from the plants or animals. These animals and plants are not only working as the life savers, but these are also important for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. Besides medications these species are also important for agricultural purposes also. At the moment, 90 percent of the food needed for the world has been fulfilled through plants; therefore, we have to protect all of these endangered species for our future generations.

How Endangered Species are Important for Our Ecosystems
The basics of any ecosystem are plants and animals, and these ecosystems are the key to sustaining life on this planet. Some of these ecosystems are ancient forests, grasslands, and coastal estuaries. These ecosystems are responsible to provide clean air, food, and water to the humans. Without these ecosystems, we cannot imagine life on this planet. When animal and plant species are in danger, that means our ecosystems that are essential for life are also in danger. Protecting our ecosystems by protecting these endangered species is the responsibility of everyone.
The endangered species and ecosystem are the major environmental issues today which need to be addressed accordingly if we want to keep our planet in a better condition. It becomes the responsibility of all people to protect our environment,and these endangered species.

Khavin, S is a freelance writer with a tremendous knowledge about environmental issues. No wonder he is actively engaged in environmental issues. Read his latest post about Jaguars.

Mar 19

World Water Day 2013

World Water Day 2013

logo_mediaA celebration of all things water. World Water Day is almost here. March 22, 2013 is World Water Day.

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.
Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. In 2013, in reflection of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water and is coordinated by UNESCO in collaboration with UNECE and UNDESA on behalf of UN-Water.

Celebrations and events are taking place worldwide. People all around the world take action to raise awareness on water issues and improve the management of our water resources. Check what others are doing and get involved!

There are celebrations happening all over the world. Here is a partial list of happenings in the good old USA:

Reel Water Film Festival
Exact location: 7719 Wisconsin Ave Bethesda, MD 20814
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 15 Jun 2013
Event date (to): 15 Jun 2013
Event related to: International Year of Water Cooperation

A Walk for Water for Washington DC area students and families

Exact location: Locust Grove Nature Center at Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda, MD
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 11 May 2013
Event date (to): 11 May 2013
Event related to: World Water Day 2013

H2Oratorio: A Deluge of Songs
Exact location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 13 Apr 2013
Event date (to): 21 Apr 2013
Event related to: International Year of Water Cooperation

5th Annual Walk4Water
Exact location: Bidwell Park – 1-Mile Dam Recreation Area
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 6 Apr 2013
Event date (to): 6 Apr 2013
Event related to: International Year of Water Cooperation

Water Cooperation Presentations
Exact location: Colorado State University
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 25 Mar 2013
Event date (to): 31 Mar 2013
Event related to: International Year of Water Cooperation,World Water Day 2013

World Water Day Clean Up on Roosevelt Island
Exact location: Roosevelt Island, Washington DC
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 23 Mar 2013
Event date (to): 23 Mar 2013
Event related to: World Water Day 2013

World Water Day Beach Cleanup Kickoff!
Exact location: Euclid Beach Park 16250 Lakeshore Blvd. Cleveland OH 44110
Country: United States of America
Event date (from): 23 Mar 2013
Event date (to): 23 Mar 2013
Event related to: World Water Day 2013

See the entire list of events http://www.unwater.org/water-cooperation-2013/events/worldwide-events/events-list/en/

Aug 16

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Published: 12:15 AM, Tue Aug 07, 2012
Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims
Story Photo
AP file photo
In this 2007 photo. Jerry Ensminger holds a portrait of his daughter, Janey, in White Lake. Janey Ensminger died at age 9. President Obama signed into law Monday the Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

The Associated Press

RALEIGH – President Obama said the United States has a sacred duty to protect its men and women in uniform, even when the dangers lurk on the bases where they lived.

The president signed a bill into law Monday that provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

“I think all Americans feel we have a moral, sacred duty toward our men and women in uniform,” Obama said in an Oval Office ceremony before signing the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. “They protect our freedom, and it’s our obligation to do right by them. This bill takes another important step in fulfilling that commitment.”

The law also bans protesting within 300 feet of military funerals.

The bill passed Congress last week with bipartisan support. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted groundwater at the base along the North Carolina coast.

Jerry Ensminger of Elizabethtown was one of those affected and attended Monday’s ceremony. He led the fight for information about the water problems at Camp Lejeune since his daughter, Janey, died in 1985 at the age of 9 of a rare form of childhood leukemia. Other soldiers, who suffered from a rare form of male breast cancer, also said the government spent years trying to hide the problem and the poor response by officials.

“Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care,” Obama said. “And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.”

Documents show Marine leaders were slow to respond when tests in the early 1980s showed higher than normal levels of contaminants in groundwater and the base, likely caused by leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner.

“The Marines affected by this tragedy have sacrificed to keep our country safe,” Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said in a statement. “I am pleased that today, we are ensuring that our veterans and their family members are taken care of in their time of need.”

Dec 14

The Problem With Bottled Water & Its Effects On Our Environment

Individual use of plastic water bottles has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Not only is bottled water much more expensive than tap water, but there is also a serious cost to our planet:

  • 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually to manufacture plastic water bottles. (Earth Policy Institute)
  • 2 million tons of plastic bottles are land filled every year. (Worldwatch Institute)
  • Only 1 out of every 10 plastic bottles is recycled.
  • Bottled water has to either be pumped out of the ground or treated. Up to 1500 gallons of water are wasted during this process.
  • Bottled water uses fossil fuels in the making, filling, transporting, and recycling of plastic water bottles…up to 187 gallons of oil are spent! To learn more about this process, check out “The Story of Bottled Water” at www.storyofstuff.org/bottledwater.php
  • 1 billion pounds of CO2 is emitted in the transportation of bottled water in the United States alone.
  • 40% of PET bottles recycled in the United States in 2004 were exported – adding to the resources used.

Bottled water is drinking water packaged in plastic or glass containers. The dominant form is water packaged in new Polyethylene terephthalate bottles and sold retail. Another method of packaging is in larger high-density polyethylene plastic bottles, or polycarbonate plastic bottles, often used with water coolers.

Wasted material

The major criticism of bottled water concerns the bottles themselves. Individual use bottled water is generally packaged in Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). According to a NAPCOR study, PET water bottles account for 50% of all the PET bottles and containers collected by curbside recycling, and the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, an increase over the 2006 rate of 20.1%. PET bottled water containers make up one-third of 1 percent of the waste stream in the United States.An estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally.

Health effects

Bottled water does not imply a specific treatment process or better process than tap water or another water source. Some bottled water is simply tap water bottled and sold. In the United States, the FDA regulates bottled water whilst the EPA regulates the quality of tap water and has created 90 maximum contaminant levels for drinking water and 15 secondary maximum contaminant levels.

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time. However, the NRDC report conceded that “most waters contained no detectable bacteria, and the levels of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards.” Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, “federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides.”

The rate of total dissolved solids is sometimes 4 times higher in bottled mineral waters than in bottled tap ones.

Another study, conducted by the Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water, contained in plastic containers were polluted with estrogenic chemicals. Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers themselves.

Bottled water vs tap water

In the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than US$0.01.In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself—bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities, but may also produce negative toxicological side-effects.

Bottled water has reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion. However, this varies by the household and plumbing system.

In a study with 57 bottled water samples and tap water samples, all of the tap water samples had a bacterial content under 3 CFUs/mL and the bottled water samples’ bacterial content ranged from 0.01-4900 CFUs/mL(colony-forming unit). Most of the water bottle samples were under 1 CFU/mL, though there were 15 water bottle samples containing 6-4900 CFUs/mL.

In another study comparing 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples resulted exceeding the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium. Being exposed to these contaminants in high concentration for long periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage, and increase risk for lung and pancreas disease.

In much of the developed world chlorine is often added as a disinfectant. If the water contains organic matter, this can produce other products in the water such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. The level of residual chlorine found is small at around 00.2g per litre which is too small to directly cause any health problems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund have all urged their supporters to consume less bottled water. Anti-bottled water campaigns and organizations, such as Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2007 episode, that in a controlled setting, diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.

Privatization of water

The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the “privatization” of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more ecologically just than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has largely seen positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle.

Tapped is a film that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. visit: http://www.tappedthefilm.com/

The Answer?

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Aug 31

Kermit, TX Residents Seeing Dirty Water Pouring Out of Their Faucets

by Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

KERMIT – It’s freaking some people out in Kermit. Dark and dirty water pouring out of their faucets. It looks so nasty people are afraid to use it. Some of our viewers wanted to know what was going on.  So we decided to track down the problem. As NewsWest 9 found out, the city says it’s not only normal, it’s clean.

“Dirty water. If I’m drinking that water, I don’t know what I’m drinking,” Resident, Rita Dominguez, said.

Fear is what many residents in Kermit are experiencing when they turn on their faucet. They are scared of what will come out.

“My neighbor across the way came over one morning asked me if my water was brown. When she draws out bath water or it comes out of the toilet, it’ brown and really dirty,” Resident, Anita Gloege, said.

City officials say the water is safe and clean, even though it may look dirty, it isn’t.

“Sure the water is aesthetically pleasing to look at, there is no health issues,” John Shepherd, Director of Public Works, said.

Believe it or not, the City of Kermit doesn’t have a filtration system. They only use chlorine to flush out the chemicals.

The water they have been getting lately has high levels of manganese and iron and when those are mixed with chlorine and it comes out as brown pigmented water.

“We have got iron and manganese in our water. We have always had it, it’s a common element for this area. You can’t see it until the chlorine hits the water to disinfect it. As soon as we disinfect it, they show up and precipitate and become visible,” Shepherd said.

Officials say the more water that you use, the more likely you’ll be to see the dirty looking water.

“Where the demand goes, usually more affluent neighborhoods, you pull harder on systems and pull that dirty water towards them,” Shepherd said.

The city normally flushes their systems once in April and once in October. This is to help clean and get rid of all the elements. In the meantime, residents will have to wait it out a little longer before they get the pipes flushed out.

“If I flush now, I will be flushing it again. Economics and the demand on the water system, I will be doing it again in 30 days. We’re still in a high demand, we have about 30 more days,” Shepherd said.

Some residents are not happy with the wait.

“It’s not normal. We pay for the water, they need to do something about it,” Dominguez said.

City officials say if you get dirty water, let it run for 15-20 minutes. If you continue to see the dirty water, call the city in Kermit.