How bad has this year been for our environment? Here are 60 things in the last 12 months:
As scientists seek ways to improve the efficiency of solar cells, some have increasingly turned to thin film solar cells. Such cells are lighter and more manageable than traditional crystal-based cells and are expected to be more efficient if engineers can find a way to get them to work for longer periods of time. One of the roadblocks to improving the efficiency of solar cells is the high expense of motion hardware that tracks the sun. In this new effort, the researchers took inspiration from the rose butterfly, found commonly in India. It has soft black wings that warm the cold-blooded insect during cool periods.
To learn more about the butterfly’s wings, a team of researchers from California Institute of Technology and the Karlsruh Institute of Technology collected some samples and looked at them under an electron microscope. They found that the wings were covered with scales pockmarked with holes. In addition to making the wings lighter, the holes scattered the light striking them, which allowed the butterfly to absorb more of the sun’s heat.
In their paper, published in the journal Science Advances, the group explains their inspiration for studying the butterfly wings and the details of their improved solar cells.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-black-butterfly-wings-solar-cells.html#jCp
The researchers created similar structures in their lab using sheets of hydrogenated amorphous silicon sheets. A top layer with extremely tiny holes of various sizes caused light to scatter and strike the silicon base below. The design allowed for picking up roughly twice as much light as previous designs. The process took just five to 10 minutes.
Get off the fossil fuel grid! Go butterfly solar.
Until next time,
This Coop next to a highly littered bus stop in our neighborhood let me attach my really cool Bag Bottle to their fence in hopes of creating waste awareness while people wait for the bus.
The Bag Bottle is made of plastic soda bottles and stuffed with plastic bags. Dog owners, litter haters, or people who may just need a plastic bag are welcome to give a tug!
I easily collect a bag full of plastic litter everyday on my way to work. I will be bringing my own so there will be plenty to inspire others. Our Waste Matters will be starting a block sponsorship for those of us who want to keep plastic out of our environment.
In NYC, we failed to pass Ban the Bag legislation because people with less means would be disproportionately affected. If their neighbors provided extra bags for them to use at anytime, maybe we could be Bag Free?!
How is your state doing? http://www.bagtheban.com/in-your-state
Until next time,
I have been using Soap Nuts for my laundry for almost a year now. They come in a recyclable cardboard box and other than that they produce no waste.
The challenge is to keep them out of the dryer when you transfer your clean clothes. It won’t hurt them but it does make them last a little less long.
What are they? They are a deseeded, dried nut from a Soapnut Tree that contains a surfactant called saponin.
Surfactants reduce the surface tension of the water, essentially making it wetter and easier to penetrate into soiled fabrics. This combined with the agitation of your machine or handwashing removes the dirt or particles, then keeps them away from your clothing until rinsing occurs.
To see if your soap nuts are still releasing saponin, get them wet and see if the suds are still present. http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/
If you prefer a liquid detergent, whip up a batch of homemade.
1/3 to 1/2 cup liquid lavender Castile soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
Click product to Amazon
Mix all ingredients in a 2-gallon bucket. Add hot water to fill the bucket and stir well. This will be a thinner concoction than commercial laundry detergent. Store your homemade detergent in a saved commercial bottle . Shake before you use because it has a tendency to separate. Use 1/4 cup for an average laundry load.
Until next time,
A plastic cup that was used once for probably less than a minute? About 450-1000 years will pass before it decomposes in the ground. That’s if it made it to a landfill.
Plastic is made from petroleum or natural gas. Plastic production is estimated to use 8 percent of yearly global oil production—both as the raw material and for energy in the manufacturing process. Because plastics embody energy from fossil fuels (and actually have a higher energy value than coal), leaving so much of it in landfills is not only an environmental hazard, it’s an unconscionable waste of a valuable resource.
If it ends up in the water, it will keep breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces that our marine life will ingest. And eventually end up back in you. If the plankton are eating plastic then you are eating plastic.
Start saying, “NO!” to that plastic cup. You will feel tons better!
Until next time,
Honoring International Coastal Cleanup Day, Martin and I paddled our kayaks toward Jamaica Bay, an 18,000-acre wetland estuary surrounded by the Rockaway Peninsula to the South, Brooklyn to the West, and Queens to the East. The 10,000 acres of parkland (almost equal to the size of Manhattan)is managed by the National Park Service. It consists of numerous islands, a labyrinth of waterways, meadowlands, and two freshwater ponds, providing a unique environment for both wildlife preservation and urban recreation. A favorite stop for migratory waterfowl, the area is an essential part of making the larger regional ecosystem complete.
Jamaica Bay was a prime fishing and oystering center but it became so polluted by 1916 that all of those businesses ended. It took over 5 decades, but the Clean Water Act finally made dumping and polluting illegal by 1972 and the big bay has since made a comeback. Mussels (still inedible) are now embedded in the reeds along the shores. 50,000 oysters were planted in beds composed of broken porcelain, harvested from recycled toilets as part of New York City’s Water Conservation Program.
The Bay is full of islands and channels whose names have been lost in the mists of time: Point Elders Marsh, Old Swale Marsh, Nestepol Marsh, Grass Hassock, Jo Co’s Marsh, and many more known only by local mariners. Non are inhabited by humans.
We kayaked to Canarsie Pol with two extra large, clear garbage bags and the intention of making a dent in the amount of plastic washed up on the shore. All of this plastic was ocean bound trash from storm runoff, boats, the mainland and careless recreational practices while people were out enjoying what nature brings to them but not caring about what they bring to nature. A lot of this plastic becomes a structural part of the reeds and the beach.
After 4 hours, along a mere 200 yard stretch of reeds just west of this old pier, we filled 3 large bags (we found another one on the island) with plastic single use items. Mind you, this was only what was accessible to us where the reeds met the beach. The plastic we could see but could not reach went into the reeds for yards. Its anyone’s guess how much plastic is buried under the sand.
I wish I could say it felt good to be out on a beautiful fall day picking up garbage.
Plastic bags were so enmeshed in the reeds and the sand dunes that they are now a permanent part of Canarsie Pol. Weathered plastic shattered in our hands as we tried to pull it out of the sand. The amount of small pieces of styrofoam broken up over time was impossible to collect. We didn’t even bother with glass or aluminum.
The third bag had to be tied and securely left on shore for another concerned citizen to bring back to the mainland. We couldn’t securely attach it to our kayaks and we dreaded the thought of us and the other bags spilling into the bay.
I thought I could at least get a good feeling by knowing that the person who picks up our redeemables each week could make some money. He told me that all of these bottles are destined for the landfill because the barcodes which are printed on the plastic brand labels are gone.
The beverage companies must stop their practice of making the environment pay for their irresponsible profits.
We must stop giving these companies our hard earned money and our beautiful home.
NYC needs to lead the ban on single use plastic bags once and for all.
Until next time,
Global temperatures increasing steadily at their fastest rates in millions of years? Glaciers calving and collapsing into the sea? The Atlantic Ocean lapping down the streets of Miami? Extreme weather and massive flooding. Front page news everyday.
Declining soil health may be less dramatic, but it is equally impactful and even more far-reaching. Over time, erosion, pollution, losses in organic matter, and other climate change impacts on the soil will imperil a very basic human need. Eating.
Founded and chaired by former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, The Climate Reality Project is dedicated to catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. https://www.climaterealityproject.org/sites/climaterealityproject.org/files/Soil%20Health%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf?utm_source=advocacy&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=general&utm_content=soil_health_ebook
One of the project authors, Chris Clayton, is the agriculture policy director of DTN/The Progressive Farmer and the author of The Elephant in the Cornfield: The Politics of Agriculture and Climate Change. He examines the conflict in rural American farming communities over climate change. “The idea that you could have millions of migrants moving all over the world because they can’t eat, and the disruption and instability created by that doesn’t get enough appreciation around the world.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council has the following guidelines:
1. MESS WITH IT LESS No-till is a method of farming or gardening successfully while minimizing any physical disturbance of the soil. Overworked, compacted soil is a hostile environment for important soil microbes. Chemical or biological additives can damage long-term soil health, disrupting the natural relationship between microorganisms and plant roots.
2. DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY Diversity creates a better, more productive environment for everything. Different plants release different carbohydrates through their roots, and various microbes feed on these sugars, returning all sorts of different nutrients back to the plant and the soil. Planting the same plants in the same location can lead to a buildup of some nutrients and a lack of others. By rotating crops, and deploying cover crops strategically, farms and gardens can be more productive and produce more nutrient rich crops, while avoiding erosion, disease and pest problems.
3. LEARN TO LOVE THE RHIZOSPHERE Every living plant has a rhizosphere; the area near the root where microbial activity in the soil is concentrated. It’s the most active part of any soil ecosystem. Providing plenty of easily accessible food to soil microbes helps them supply nutrients that plants need to grow. Alternating long-season crops or a succession of short-season crops followed by a cover crop and a healthy dose of fresh compost will build out a healthy and diverse rhizosphere environment for your plants.
4. COVER IT UP Bare soil is bad soil. It’s important to both allow crop residues to decompose so their nutrients can be cycled back into the soil and to keep the soil protected with cover, because left exposed to the elements, soil will erode and the nutrients necessary for successful plant growth will either dry out or quite literally wash away. Additionally, the rhizosphere discussed above will starve and diminish without plants to feed it.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Agricultural and Biological Engineering , “Society gains from no-tillage systems on both large and small farms by:
After years of severe drought, the state of California, led by Governor Jerry Brown, has developed programs that place a financial incentive on the adoption of no-till techniques and healthy, soil practices. Exposed, compacted, soil would have washed away during the intense rains California recently experienced.
Until next time,
The New York Department of Sanitation has a goal of Zero Waste to landfills by 2030. Part of this initiative is getting New Yorkers to compost all of the organic waste they generate. It will apply to approximately 350 of the biggest food generators in the city, including hotels with 150 or more rooms, arenas and stadiums with at least 15,000 seats, as well as large-volume food manufacturers and food wholesalers.
Compo Keeper made a list of 25 items you use everyday that can go into the compost bin! http://compokeeper.com/25-non-food-household-items-youll-be-surprised-are-compostable/
Be especially aware that plastic fibers, films, and microbeads will break down, contaminate the compost and possibly enter the environment unchecked. Plastic fibers from polyester and other synthetic fabrics in our laundry are the number one worst environmental contaminants followed by microbeads.
One box of ziplocks will last you a lifetime, honestly! They are made of plastic so they can be washed, dried and used again and again. I even put them in the dishwasher. Don’t be shy. Try!
The benefits of reusing baggies—savings on raw materials, emissions from shipping, and landfill space—make washing worthwhile, says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “When plastic bags are reused, fewer plastic bags need to be produced. The production of plastic bags uses energy, water, and in most cases a non-renewable resource (fossil fuel-derived); reusing bags, even when you use water to wash them out, saves resources overall.”
I am not an advocate for anything plastic around my food. There are concerns about chemicals leaching into food from plastic. This is most true during microwaving and you should never microwave or boil food in a ziplock plastic bag.
Washing ziplocks with cold water and soap will get rid of the majority of food contamination in the bag. But, “if they change color or opacity, I’d say that to be on the safe side, you should discontinue using them,” warns Hoover. You can also disinfect with vinegar.
The best part about drying your ziplocks is the truly beautiful decorative hooks you can find in flea markets and second hand stores. Mine holds 5 bags.
Until next time,