Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bamboo's Got You Covered

Have an iPhone 4, 4S, or 5? Check out these phone covers from Mantrastyle. They are made from bamboo, which is sustainable because of how fast it grows... much better for the environment than the synthetic plastic that phone covers are usually made from. And 10% of each sale goes to provide safe housing for victims of human trafficking. Plus, the designs are really cool. You can even upload your own design. Now is a great time to buy one, because the iPhone 4 and 4S covers are on sale for almost half off. And you can get their iPhone 5 covers for a discount on the Roozt website. So if you're looking to give your phone some new style, try ditching the plastic and choose bamboo. You can cover up and go au naturel at the same time. I love double entendres.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Barbie... Doctor, Flight Attendant, Polluter

I am lucky to have my friend Alex, who sends me all kinds of environmental news for my blog. When she sent me one about Barbies, I thought it would be fun to do a post about it since we grew up playing with them together, although I was the weird child who preferred bugs, cars, and dinosaur toys over dolls. So just how eco-friendly is that iconic plastic doll? Really, she's anything but. Mattel says they are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a type of plastic that is very bad for the environment and your health. The production of PVC requires vinyl chloride, which is a carcinogen. A by-product of its production is dioxin, which is also a carcinogen. Dioxins are also produced when PVC is burned, and it is not easily recyclable. The recycling process can be dangerous because of all the toxic chemicals that can be released if it is not done properly. And it takes a very, very long time to break down naturally. Phthalates are also added to make the plastic flexible. They have been linked to cancer as well, along with endocrine disruption.
The doll itself is not the only problem. The box she comes in is also an environmental disaster. So much unnecessary plastic is used in the packaging. And Greenpeace says it has evidence that the cardboard is sourced from Indonesian rain forests.
In an attempt to jump on the bandwagon, Mattel turned to greenwashing to try and make Barbie seem environmentally friendly. They launched the Barbie BCause line; accessories for girls made from extra fabric from other Barbie products. While it's good they are not throwing this in the landfill, the fabric and materials are not eco-friendly in the first place. They are made from synthetic fibers and plastics. Mattel simply saw a way to turn their waste into money.
So while Barbie may be a veterinarian/princess/ballerina, she is also ruining the environment. No wonder Ken dumped her.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lip-sick... How Your Lipstick May Be Affecting Your Health

Fox News makes me laugh. The other day I watched them show a beautiful picture of the woods in upstate New York and then call it "a wasteland of economic development." In other words, destroy nature if it may make you money. But then they aired a story alerting the public about toxic metals in lipstick, so I have to "commend" them for that. Kind of. At least they talked about environmental health. I decided to look into it, and found the original study the report was based off of. Researches at UC Berkeley measured levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum, manganese, cobalt, copper, nickel, and titanium in 32 lipsticks and lip glosses used by young women. Twelve girls ages 14-19 were asked to record the brand and product name of lip products they and their family members use. The products were then purchased by the researchers. Although the product names were not released, 26 were from the drugstore, 4 were from a major department store, and 2 were from a specialty chain store.
It's not just the amount of metal in each product that is important... it's how much is actually ingested by the wearer. When you wear lipstick or gloss, you end up eating most of it. It gets on your food, and on your tongue and inside your mouth during the day. It was found that women ingest about 24 milligrams of lipstick per day, and up to 87 milligrams for women who use it a lot. Concentrations of metals in the lip products were converted to daily intake values (how much women ingest daily). Lead was detected in 24 of the 32 products, but was under the level that is considered safe. However, it is still a concern for children who may play with makeup because no level of lead exposure is considered safe for them. Estimated intakes for nickel and copper were also well below the safe intake levels even for high use. However, the study found that average use of some of the products tested could result in excessive exposure to chromium, aluminum, cadmium, and manganese. Chromium is linked to stomach cancer and high levels of manganese can be toxic to the nervous system. Cadmium can cause kidney and respiratory problems. Aluminum is relatively nontoxic, but can cause neurotoxicicity, kidney problems, and other health issues at high concentrations.
This study should make the FDA pay attention. Currently, there are no standards for metals in cosmetics. The FDA really needs to regulate. The European Union considers cadmium, chromium and lead to be unacceptable ingredients, at any level, in cosmetic products. Over the years, the US has banned 22 chemicals in cosmetics, but the EU has banned over 1,300 chemicals. Until Congress does something, (that's a joke) like passing the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act, consider trying safer cosmetics from companies that are committed to consumer and environmental safety. Generally, I would recommend Burt's Bees, but some disturbing findings show that one of their products contains lead. A 2007 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in their tinted chapstick (Is it a coincidence that Burt's Bees sold to Clorox in 2007?). Two follow-up studies were conducted in 2009 and 2012. Below are the results from the 2012 study. They show the top 20 lip products with the most lead out of 400 tested. Sadly, a Burt's Bees product was one of them. The values below are in parts per million (for example, 3 ppm means 3 out of every million atoms or molecules would be lead atoms). For reference, the "action level" for lead in drinking water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act is 0.015 ppm. The FDA even has a standard of 0.1 ppm for lead in candy. The levels below are well above that. So what can you do? I have recommended the Environmental Working Group's cosmetics database before, and I'll recommend it here. You just type in the brand or product you're interested in and it will give you information about it. This website by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also lists brands that are considered safe, along with links to their websites. It's impossible to cut out contact with all toxic metals, but by making an effort you can at least get rid of the ones in your makeup.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mount Everest Melt

Photos of Mount Everest taken 88 years apart. It's hard to tell
 from the black and white photo, but less ice is
present in the 2009 photo.
The news media were talking about global warming today after research presented at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun suggested that it is responsible for glacial melting on Mount Everest. As the world's tallest mountain, the disappearance of its snow caps will draw much attention to the problem of rising global temperatures. Scientists have found that the glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years and the snowline has risen by 590 feet. In the surrounding Sagarmatha National Park, the glaciers have retreated an average of 1,300 feet since 1962. And not only is the ice melting, but the rate at which it is melting is increasing; more is melting faster. The glacial melting is not only caused by the rising temperatures, but also by the fact that precipitation has decreased since the early 1990's (about 3.9 inches). Glaciers are melting and not being replenished.

The melting glaciers are not only an aesthetic problem, but an environmental problem that is causing water shortages for the 1.5 billion people who depend on the water from the summer thaw for drinking and power. "The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season. Downstream populations are dependent on the melting water for agriculture, drinking, and power production," said Sudeep Thakuri, the doctoral student who is leading this research.
Mount Kilimanjaro in 1993 and 2000
Mount Kilimanjaro in 1970 and 2000

The researchers said they suspect the melting is due to global warming, but need a firm connection. I think it is pretty obvious that there is a correlation between the two. It is not only occurring near Mount Everest, but at mountain ranges and glaciers all over the world. It was reported in 2009 that Bolivia’s Chacaltaya glacier had lost 80% of its surface area since 1982, and Peruvian glaciers had lost more than one-fifth of their mass in the past 35 years, which reduced the water flow to the country’s coastal region (home to 60% of Peru’s population) by 12%. Some reports argue that in certain areas, glaciers are staying the same or actually growing, with the Karakoram Mountains in Asia being an example. While this is true, areas like this are "anomalous compared with the global average," according to Graham Cogley, a researcher from Trent University. Growing glaciers are likely due to increased precipitation and/or lower temperatures in a local area. The overall trend is that glaciers are shrinking. If global warming is not slowed, it could have major impacts on the water supply, not to mention it will change the faces of iconic mountains we have come to know.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Update on Watershed Clean-up

If you remember, I posted about an environmental clean-up about a month ago. Just wanted to share the article about that clean-up that was written in the Lake Hopatcong News. It took place on April 13th. A lot of trash was collected. Between my boyfriend (or as the article calls him, my friend that I dragged along) and myself, we filled 4 huge garbage bags, thanks mainly in part to a lovely group of people who decided to "hide" about 40 beer and soda bottles, lots of paper plates, plastic utensils, and their pants (don't want to know what that was about) behind a tree. We also found some pregnancy tests, because the woods is clearly the logical place to find out if you're pregnant. Thank God we had gloves. Anyway, you can read the article here and see some pictures from the day, or just read below.

The Musconetcong Watershed Association held their annual cleanup day Saturday all along the watershed, from Lake Hopatcong to the Delaware River.
Throughout the state an estimated 400-500 people participate in the cleanup efforts. At Hopatcong State Park in Landing, project director Adrienne Kaczyaski welcomed about a dozen local volunteers to share in the cleanup efforts near Lake Hopatcong and along the Musconetcong River which flows south through Hopatcong.
This is the twenty-first year the MWA has spearheaded a spring cleanup. According to Kaczyaski, the majority of volunteers show up near MWA headquarters in Asbury, NJ, where, after a morning of picking up trash, volunteers are treated to a hamburger and hot dog barbeque. Through a “watershed ambassador,” Kaczyaski hopes to grow the project in the northern part of the state and enticing more people to become involved in the cleanup effort.
Of the dozen or so people who did take part, 8 were members of the Kiwanis Club of Lenape Valley which includes people from Hopatcong, Byram, Netcong and Stanhope. According to Alice Harrison, a Kiwanis board member from Byram, the club has a national project known as “One Day” in which clubs are required to participate in a local service project. Coincidently, the MWA cleanup day and “One Day” fell on the same day. The club thought helping with the MWA cleanup would be a “perfect project for us,” said Harrison. The group mostly walked along the bank of the river just west of the state park, filling garbage bag after garbage bag full of bottles and cans and plastic bags. Some larger items were pulled from the brush and left along the side of the road for pickup.
For Katie Della Terza and her friend, Jonathan Bullock, both from Jefferson, preserving the beauty and health of the local watershed is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. A recent college graduate with a degree in environmental science, Della Terza said she showed up a few years ago to help but no one else showed up. Undeterred, when she found out about Saturday’s event, she didn’t hesitate to help, dragging Bullock along to help with the heavy lifting. Della Terza and Bullock worked near the dam of Lake Hopatcong pulling garbage from thick underbrush.
“He comes with me to all my projects,” she said of Bullock who works as a grounds keeper at a local golf course.
Representing the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, Donna Macalle-Holly came prepared with rubber gloves and enthusiasm. Working alone along the bank and in the water of the river just down from the dam, Macalle-Holly spent about 2 hours of her Saturday to help with the project.