Wasted Water and Whose Responsible


The recent failures of local government officials and the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce safe drinking water in Flint, Michigan have raised concerns over our public water quality and the condition of its delivery infrastructure.

States, territories and authorized tribes establish the water quality standards for their waterways to protect human health and aquatic life.

The  EPA, then, evaluates the local authority’s standards for the desired condition of a waterbody and mandate the level of protection for those waters into the future.  They enforce those mandates as law under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

This law is the basis for controlling pollution entering the waters of the United States from a variety of sources (e.g., industrial facilities, agriculture, wastewater treatment plants, runoff, flooding, storm sewers, etc.) and for monitoring officials who have responsibility for keeping your water clean.

The EPA lists all testable water contaminants on their site, the safe amount of exposure (action level), the potential health affects from long term exposure, common sources of drinking water contamination and the safe exposure goal for public health. http://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview and click on Contaminants currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act

In Flint, Michigan the contaminant that went unregulated was lead. The EPA identifies lead as an inorganic chemical /  action level 0.0015(15 micrograms per liter) / delays in mental and physical development in infants and children, behavior problems, kidney damage and high blood pressure / corrosion of household plumbing fixtures and errosion of natural deposits / public exposure goal is zero.

You can reduce the amount of lead in your water:

  • Run the tap until water is cold to the touch before using it for drinking or imagescooking. This is especially important after the water has been standing in the pipes overnight or over many hours. (save the flushed water for house plants, washing dishes or general household cleaning)
  • Use only cold tap water for cooking, drinking or making a baby’s formula. Hot water is more likely to leach lead from pipes and solder.
  • Check household plumbing for lead-based pipes or solder.
  • Use only lead-free materials in all plumbing repairs or new faucets and pipes. The use of lead solder in plumbing was banned in most states in the 1980s.  Ask the plumber to show you the label from any solder packaging being used. It should state that the solder is lead-free.
  • Your local Department of Health can help you contact water testing facilities and help you if you have concerns.
  • Hold your local officials accountable.
  • You can get information about your local waterways testing from the EPA http://watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/mywaterway.html
  • Safe drinking water should come from the tap and not a plastic bottle.

Until next week,enviro_drinking-water_minisite_banner

Garbage Girl


Our Waste On Exhibit


New York City has a Garbage Museum!

Located in DSNY Sanitation Garage 11 on 99th street between First and Second Avenue, in a space deemed unsafe for garbage trucks, is a gallery filled with found objects from the city’s trash.  For those of us who have furnished our apartments with cool free stuff found on trash day, this is a welcoming sign of approval.   Curated by Nelson Molina, a retiring sanitation worker and Robin Nagle, anthropologist-in-residence for New York City’s Department of Sanitation, “Treasures in the Trash” is a uniquely New York space.

DSNY_TrashMuseum_NYC_UntappedCities_bhushan-mondkar-021Nelson grew up poor in New York City.  Before Christmas he discovered that he could go out on the streets and find stuff in the trash to fix up for his six brothers and sisters.  “I was Santa Clause in my family.” After passing the civil service exams, Nelson could chose to work at three city agencies. Not surprisingly, he chose the sanitation department and continued his passion for finding interesting New Yorker discards.

Nelson’s route, Manhattan District 11 between 96th Street to 110 Street and between 1st and 5th Avenues results in more than 90% of the museum’s collection.   As it grew, he started categorizing similar pieces together.  A variety of things from door knobs to train sets, watches, chinaware, toys, paintings, and chairs are all brilliantly organized, even though they were collected years apart.  Many pieces are in working condition, from an old projector of the silent films era to dolls, toy trains and the ubiquitous Nordic Tracks, of which my Martin has four.

Nelson used to document every piece by date, time and address where found until it became too time consuming. Yet, the unofficial count of over 50,000 pieces in the collection gets cleaned and fixed up before going on exhibit.  “If it looks cool, it becomes part of the museum.”  All of this experience gives Nelson the ability to detect just by the way a garbage bag sounds if it has anything worth checking out inside.

With Molina now retiring from the DSNY, with the building long unsuitable for its primary use, there are plans to bulldoze the current structure and build a new one. Nelson and Nagle are looking for the next home of this most unique of New York City places.  Check out his story & how to visit on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RkxkFALKPc

DSNY_TrashMuseum_NYC_UntappedCities_bhushan-mondkar-018Eddie, this image is for you.

Until next week,

Garbage Girl



No Waste No Impact


My hero!!

Colin Beavan—aka No Impact Man—convinced his family to spend a year, while living in New York City,  making no negative impact on the environment.   His first challenge was getting through everyday life without producing trash.  http://noimpactman.typepad.com

Stage 1 was figuring out how to live without producing garbage.  Stage 2 was figuring out how to cause the least environmental impact concerning food choices.  Stage 3 was figuring out how to reduce consumption to only what is necessary and sustainable.

Below are some of his favorite tips and tricks.

  • No soda in cans (you’re probably less likely to get cancer from aspartame).
  • No water in plastic bottles (you get to keep your endocrines undisrupted).
  • No coffee in disposable cups (you don’t suffer from the morning sluggishness that comes from overnight caffeine withdrawal).
  • No throwaway plastic razors and blade cartridges (you get to participate in the straightedge razor comeback).
  • Use non-disposable feminine-hygiene products that are good for the planet. http://lunapads.com/learn/getting-started-guide
  • No Indian food in throwaway takeout tubs.
  • No Italian food in plastic throwaway tubs.
  • No Chinese food in plastic throwaway tubs.
  • Taking your own reusable containers to takeout joints (or start eating local so this tip is out altogether).
  • Admitting that you sometimes miss Indian, Italian and Chinese takeout so you learn to make some of your favorite dishes fresh.
  • Hopping on the scale and celebrating the 20-pound weight loss since eating takeout stopped.
  • Buying milk in returnable, reusable glass bottles.
  • Shopping for honey, pickled veggies and other goods in jars only from merchants who will take back the jars and reuse them.
  • Returning egg and berry cartons to vendors at the farmers’ market for reuse.
  • Using neither paper nor plastic bags and bringing our own reusable bags when grocery shopping.
  • Canceling your magazine and newspaper subscriptions and reading online.
  • Putting an end to the junk mail tree killing.
  • Carrying an ultra-cool reusable cup and water bottle.
  • Carrying reusable cloths for everything from blowing your nose, to drying your hands, to wrapping up a purchased bagel.
  • Wiping your hands on your pants instead of using a paper towel when you forget your cloth.
  • Politely asking restaurant servers to take away paper napkins and plastic placemats, straws, cups and single-serving containers.
  • Explaining to servers with a smile that you are on a make-no-garbage challenge.
  • Giving servers big tips to participate in your make-no-garbage challenge.
  • Pretending McDonalds, Burger King and all take out franchises with their paper and plastic wrappers are nonexistent.
  • Buying no individually packaged candy bars, gum, lollypops or ice cream.
  • Making your own household cleaners to avoid throwaway plastic bottles.
  • Using baking soda from a recyclable container to brush your teeth.
  • Using baking soda as a deodorant to avoid their plastic containers.
  • Using baking soda for shampoo to avoid plastic shampoo bottles.
  • Using the plastic bags that other people’s newspapers are delivered in to pick up Frankie the dog’s poop.
  • Keeping a worm bin to compost your food scraps and return nourishment to the earth instead of toxins from the landfills.
  • Switching to real, cloth diapers which your kid will probably like better.
  • Not buying anything disposable.
  • Not buying anything in packaging (and count the money you save because that means pretty much buy nothing unless it’s second hand).
  • Shopping for food only from the bulk bins and from the local farmer’s market where food is unpackaged and fresh.
  • Forgetting about prepackaged, processed food of any description.
  • Being happy that the result is that you get to eat food instead of chemicals.
  • Giving our second-hand clothes away to Housing Works or other charities.
  • Offering products we no longer need on Freecycle instead of throwing them away.
  • Collecting used paper from other people’s trash and using the other side.
  • Using old clothes for rags around the apartment instead of paper towels.

Making a little less trash is a concrete first step everyone can take that leads to more and more environmental consciousness. Try a few and note what happens to you!

Until next week,images-1

Garbage Girl

Don’t Lose the Good News!


http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/392e5b652af00cc435c60662b7b82119.htm  The Polar Bears in The San Diego Zoo woke up to a snowstorm!  This project brings awareness to their plight and the rapid meltdown of their natural habitat.

UnknownimagesMicro beads are banned! These unbelievably destructive, tiny pieces of plastic are out numbering the plankton in our oceans and rapidly moving up the food chain.    http://beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/RED%20UNITED%20STATES.pdf

The Sponge Park is here!  Pollution absorbing plants are now part of New York’s Gowanus Canal working 24/7 to clean up decades of pollutants.   http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/38/40/dtg-gowanus-canal-garden-2015-10-02-bk.html


The Paris Conference negotiated a global agreement to reduce climate change!  The agreement will become legally binding in New York between April 22, 2016 and April 21, 2017 when 55 countries, representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions sign it and adopt it within their own legal systems.  The consensus of the 196 parties attending the UN climate deal experienced many frustrations and a lot of drama but it proved that we can compromise for our planet.


Eco Ministries are popping up all around the globe!  From wealthy industrial countries to the poorest and least powerful, their community service driven models declare that the climate crisis is a crisis of values—the essence of how we live our lives, share our resources, and respect one another.

How You Can Help:

  • Weigh the gains on economic growth with who benefits and how much.
  • Move towards a consciousness of the environment we live in and the waste we produce.
  • Learn how political policies control some of our most basic decisions.
  • Gain control over how your community is run.  Is it run on what is right and what is wrong?  Be aware of how large profit driven entities impose on the health of your local landscape and whether or not they actually help.
  • Find out how you are represented and get your voice heard.
  • We live with a lot of complexity regarding fossil fuels.  Our clothing, our food, our transportation, our vacation, our home are all possible because of extracted energies.  Sort it all out and learn how to be accountable.
  • Start discussions that change the current systems and policies from short term gains to value and ethics driven living.
  • Give our greatest asset, democracy, a chance to thrive again.
  • Accept that we all have to participate in the solution to our problems.
  • You live in an amazing place at an important time!

Until next week,Unknown-1

Garbage Girl


From Waste and Overconsumption to an Ecology of Hope

I hope to bring you a New Year of inspiration by starting with Frances Moore Lappe’s beliefs that solutions to today’s global crises are within reach.  In her book, “EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want”, she draws on research in climate, anthropology and neuroscience to find ways of thinking that are in sync with nature’s rhythms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9RFkkxqDY

Embracing an “EcoMind” means everything is connected and change is the only constant.  Co-creating our future moment to moment, preparing for surprises and knowing we can’t  possibly know everything our world challenges us with can encourage us to work towards solutions that benefit us all.  None of us would ever consciously choose the world we are currently creating together.  But we can use the power of ideas to make our choices life serving, sustainable and aligned with nature.

Frances Moore Lappe explains our current way of thinking with seven “thought traps”. Like growth is killing our planet, so we must adopt no-growth economies.  These thoughts defeat us by evoking fear.  Fear actually makes most people more materialistic and self-centered.  Furthermore, most of us experience growth as positive.  So, when our economics are about waste and destruction hidden by exclamations of growth, we need to understand the relationships that generate waste and destruction from plenty and see why our species actually creates scarcity instead of growth.

EcoMind also builds on the idea of a living democracy – a set of values that permeate every dimension of life.  Values of inclusion, fairness and mutual accountability can create what we can’t yet imagine.  A living democracy aligns human nature with mother nature.

We have the ability to experience and understand our planet’s challenges because we’re “soft-wired” for cooperation, empathy, and fairness along with a deep need to solve problems, create communities and find love.  We need to be connected.

Frances Moore Lappe encourages us to create the rules and norms that elicit these positive qualities and keep  our equally obvious capacities for cruelty in check. Three conditions that seem pretty sure to elicit the worst in us are concentration of power, secrecy, and a culture of blame.  Good rules and boundaries offer meaning, a sense of purpose and connectedness to others (think of the Ten Commandments or the Bill of Rights or simply traffic rules).  A new set of rules are in need.

We can find relief and direction in nature’s nonarbitrary, infallible rules.  The whole map is all ready laid out for us to respect and follow.  We learn more and more about this map everyday and the message of interconnectedness is obvious.

What rules do all people love?  Those that make sense to us because we can see how they serve us, make our lives better and respect us because the rule-makers are listening to our obvious natural surroundings.  Freedom comes from choice.  We can use our natural powers to make good life giving decisions for our planet and ourselves.  Wouldn’t you feel really good to take a deep, freeing breath of clean, fresh air and give a sigh of relief for our being’s real success this year?

How You Can Help:

  • Create a “New Rules” section for your own brain.
  • Share it with others.
  • Find ways to connect with and serve our environment everyday.

Until next week,

Garbage Girl