Climate change is adversely affecting childrens health worldwide

November 15, 2019 by  
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Today’s children are facing climate crisis-related health issues, warns The Lancet ’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change, the annual research collaboratively conducted by 35 global institutions. Collated and published each year before the international negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), The Lancet ’s Countdown strongly emphasizes that tackling climate change would be a significant global health opportunity. Unless significant intervention takes place, global warming and climate change will negatively “shape the well-being of an entire generation.” The Lancet ’s Countdown was established to provide a monitoring system to track health indicators across five criteria and thereby assess the complex association between health and climate change. These five areas include (1) adaptation, planning and resilience for health, 2) climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities, 3) finance and economics, 4) mitigation actions and 5) public and political engagement. Work began in 2015 and has since been annually tracked, with anthropogenic climate change threatening all the progress and gains made in public health for the past half-century. Moreover, since 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that health issues attributed to climate change can be prevented or improved upon simply by mitigating the climate crisis . Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs Climate change can no longer be ignored as a force multiplier threatening global public health. The direct impacts of climate change manifest as rising temperatures, heatwaves and frequent extreme weather events (blizzards, droughts , floods, storms and wildfires), all of which have far-reaching health and social consequences. Human activities have similarly been breaching environmental limits, instigating biodiversity loss, depletion of freshwater, ocean acidification, soil degradation and other irreversible processes. Health-related incidents flagged by The Lancet ’s report include increased risks of low birth weight and infant mortality for newborns. A warmer world affects food productivity, resulting in food and water shortages, population displacement and conflicts that leave children and youth vulnerable to health risks. Children, adolescents and young adults are likely to experience additional maladies that range from cardiovascular issues, asthma attacks, insect-borne diseases, malnutrition and exposure to extreme heat, weather vagaries and climate-driven catastrophes. If the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory persists with business as usual, then children will face billions of dollars in healthcare costs. The purpose of The Lancet ‘s Countdown is to bring awareness to the interrelationship between public health and climate change, in hopes that a shift can take place to steer society away from business as usual. Ultimately, it is hoped that by engaging with policy makers and the health community, better responses to climate change will happen to improve public health and well-being for everyone, including the most vulnerable demographic — children. + The Lancet Via EurekAlert Image via Shutterstock

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Climate change is adversely affecting childrens health worldwide

Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

November 13, 2019 by  
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Many people and municipalities turn to road salt to de-ice wintry streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, road salt poses serious environmental and water contamination risks. Just one teaspoon is enough to contaminate 5 gallons of water, making removal via reverse osmosis extremely expensive. Moreover, the health of humans, pets, wildlife , aquatic organisms, vegetation, soil and infrastructure are heavily impacted as road salts enter the environment, seeping into groundwater and draining via runoff into freshwater estuaries. At the forefront of advocating for better practices on road salt use is the Izaak Walton League’s Winter Salt Watch program. Just last winter, the League dispensed 500 chloride test kits to volunteers across 17 states. Tests showed consistently high levels of chloride ions in waterways surrounding eight major metropolitan areas, signaling excessive misuse of road salts. This year, the League has sent out a batch of chloride test kits to more than 200 new volunteers. Related: The Ocean Cleanup reveals the Interceptor to remove plastic pollution from rivers “Our goal is to not only make residents aware of the impact road salt has on local streams but also give them the tools to advocate for changes to road salt practices that will decrease salt impacts while keeping roads safe for drivers,” explained Samantha Briggs, the League’s Clean Water Program Director. Road salts are mainly comprised of sodium chloride, ferrocyanide (an anti-caking substance) and impurities like aluminum, cadmium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. All of these components are contaminants in water and exacerbate salinity levels. What risks do they pose? The sodium chloride, for instance, breaks down into sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) ions. Sodium in drinking water is unhealthy for individuals suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure, which explains the EPA’s measure of monitoring sodium content in public water supplies. Meanwhile, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has issued warnings regarding road salt ingestion and dangers to paw health of pets. Paw exposure to road salt exposure begets irritation, inflammation and cracking that leads to infection. When road salt is licked off paws or eaten, pets can exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, depression, disorientation, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, coma and even premature death. As for wildlife impacts, once road salt enters a body of water, it is nearly impossible to remove. This adversely affects bird, amphibian, mammal, fish and aquatic plant populations. Road salt in the environment elevates both salinity stress and osmotic stress, which are associated with aberrant development, nutrient uptake degradation, toxicosis, weakened immune systems, low reproductive levels, population decline and mortality. When road salt damages vegetation, that creates losses in food resources, shelter and breeding sites. Similarly, road salt’s presence accelerates infrastructure corrosion and structural integrity. Streets, highways and bridges are all subject to damage as road salt impairs asphalt and creates potholes. The corrosion extends to vehicles, as repeated salt exposure increases rusting and damage to critical vehicle components, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) . Even more worrisome, road salts damage water pipes, causing toxic metals, like lead or copper, to leach into drinking water. To promote awareness and best practices regarding the hazards of de-icing, the Izaak Walton League has been pushing for “smarter ways” of using road salt, especially with “alternative approaches that include brine or sand application.” For those interested in volunteering as a stream monitor with the League’s Winter Salt Watch program to help gauge water quality and road salt risks, a free chloride test kit can be ordered here . + Izaak Walton League of America Image via Eddie Welker

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Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

Consumers need more affordable access to healthy and sustainable living

November 13, 2019 by  
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New research shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about the environment, but don’t currently have lifestyles that reflect that.

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Consumers need more affordable access to healthy and sustainable living

Does water stewardship lead to brand value?

November 13, 2019 by  
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Performance can be transparently communicated through certification, helping build intangible value.

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Does water stewardship lead to brand value?

Tech-free hobbies that benefit you and the planet

November 12, 2019 by  
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Technology has become an integral part of our everyday life. From smartphones to smart appliances, the advancements continue to make our lives easier while simultaneous distracting us from traditional hobbies and interests. How we spend our time has changed so much over the past few decades that those seeking to reconnect with non-techy hobbies sometimes struggle to think of ways to spend their time that doesn’t involve a screen of some sort. So we’ve put together a list of eco-friendly hobbies that don’t require electricity and produce little to no waste.  Art Art takes many forms and all of them make great hobbies. Take a class to learn the basics of painting, ceramics or photography. You can even start with a paint by number kit to create your own wall art. Crafting There’s something innately satisfying about creating something creative, and crafting offers the opportunity to make gifts, cozy items for the home or products to sell. Take up sewing, jewelry making or needlework such as crocheting, knitting, counted cross-stitch or embroidery. For papercrafts, gather up the family photos and study your genealogy. Then organize your history through scrapbooking. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Puzzles Working puzzles snuggled next to the fire is a mind-expanding pleasure. If you’re looking for more physical activity, you can make your own puzzles from the print to the cutout or complete puzzles and frame them for decor. Reading and Writing Pen and paper bring the opportunity for endless hours of creativity. Practice poetry, jot down life lessons, produce creative pieces of fiction, start an autobiography or complete a manuscript. Sharpen the charcoal pencils and take up drawing — whether it be in the human form of portraits or natural landscapes . Keep the craft of calligraphy alive for the next generation with traditional feather and ink. Of course, reading is a fabulous non-tech activity that offers stress release, the ability to virtual travel to other lands and endless opportunities for deeper knowledge. Just be sure to put the e-reader and audio books aside and pick up a real, old-fashioned paper book. Gardening Gardening provides fresh air, fresh food and fresh flowers. How can that not be a winning combination? Growing your own produce is good for you and the environment. Add in oxygen-producing trees, root systems that filter and absorb water and plants that naturally provide shade to your home and you’ve got a perfectly-contoured hobby. Remember to opt for natural insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers, and skip the lawn tools that require gas or electricity whenever possible. Woodworking Hands on activities are therapeutic for the mind and healthy for the body. Woodworking allows you to express creativity and acquire skills in a variety of ways. Create yard decor with bird/bat/butterfly houses, arbors, lattices and garden boxes . Or accent the inside of the home with furniture and shelves. Further use your skills in combination with crafting by making wooden picture frames, signs and wood-cutouts for wreath-making. Music Take up an instrument or join the choir. Music brings joy to your soul and the spirit of others so experiment. For a unique experience take up an uncommon instrument like an alphorn or hydrolauphone. Heck, you can even make your own instruments from just about anything including fruits and vegetables, household items and jars of water. Knife making Another age-old art that you can master is knife making. Create hunting knives or kitchen knives. Build a small forge and use propane to fire the metal once you grind it into shape. Select, contour, sand and finish wood for handles and personalize with wood burning or carving techniques. Baking and Cooking Baking and cooking might be the ultimately satisfying hobby experience. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors, but you can create endless combinations of yumminess. Enhance your craft with a class on cake decorating or expand into beer/wine/cider making. Models Set up a classic train set and give it battery or solar power. Build miniature replicas or paint unfinished buildings, railcars and landscaping. Similarly, you can take up model building in the form of cars, motorcycles or boats. Sports and games There is a nearly endless list of ways to spend time exercising that require no electronics, produce nearly zero waste and are good for you. Here are some ideas to get you started: Mountain or street biking, running, hiking, training for a marathon, Ironman competition, swimming, tennis, racquetball, basketball, golf, dance, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, scuba diving, kayaking and baseball/softball. If you want to include lawn games, master croquet, cornhole or horseshoes. Bring the games inside with bowling, pool, ping pong and darts. Metal working Working with metal gives you opportunities to make and repair myriad gifts, decor and household items. Learning how to weld also allows you to repair cars and broken items around home. Another fun craft is making colorful designs by grinding layers off of sheet metals. Enjoy nature From day hikes to the vagabond lifestyle, nature provides endless opportunities to improve your health through activity, breathe in the fresh air and imprint images of Earth’s beauty. Take up backpacking, camping or even bird watching and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.  Images via AndreasGramer , LubosHouska , Foundry , rawpixel , Skitterphoto , naive_eye , Pexels, Skitterphoto

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10 healthy Halloween treats to make this October

October 25, 2019 by  
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Halloween is notorious for one thing: candy. While it is expected for everyone to indulge every once in a while, most people choose to forget about their health completely when it comes to Halloween , using the holiday as an excuse to eat too many artificial sweets. We’ve rounded up a list of 10 healthier options for Halloween party treats that are good for you while still maintaining the spooky holiday spirit. Bell pepper jack-o’-lanterns The best way to trick (and treat) your kids into eating their vegetables this Halloween has to be these quirky bell pepper jack-o’-lanterns. Carefully use a small paring knife or cookie cutter to cut the classic jack-o’-lantern shape into fresh bell peppers. Get creative with different shapes for the mouth, eyes and nose. Stuff the tops with salad or fresh veggie sticks and serve with a side of homemade hummus or balsamic dressing. Save any extra bell peppers in the fridge to use in a stir fry or soup the next day. Chicken, bison or plant-based meatball eyeballs Swapping beef for ground chicken, 100 percent grass-fed bison or veggies and beans in a meatball recipe is a leaner, healthier alternative. Pop on some sliced olives to turn your meatballs into eyeballs, or stick thinly sliced bell peppers into the sides to make them look like spiders. Place your meatballs on a bed of your favorite homemade sauce with either zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or brown rice pasta. Vegan cupcakes Take your favorite vegan cupcake recipe (we suggest our Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes ) and spice it up with a little Halloween flair. Top the cupcakes with delicious Greek yogurt frosting and fresh strawberry or raspberry compote for a blood-colored statement, or mix in some all-natural food coloring. Turmeric makes a good substitution for orange food coloring and matcha for green if you want to go with a pumpkin theme. Apple monsters Cut up some green apples into slices and sandwich your favorite nut butter in between. Stick in sunflower seeds to look like pointy monster teeth and add a sliced strawberry tongue. Instead of candy googly eyes, make eyeballs out of blueberries or grapes, and stick them into the tops of the apples with toothpicks.  Pumpkin soup witch’s brew Swap a regular bowl for a hollowed-out pumpkin tureen , and add a Halloween-themed topping to go along with your pumpkin soup. Use a bat-shaped cookie cutter to create bats out of whole-grain toast for dipping, or make a spider web shape out of crème fraîche to get extra festive. To double up on the party snacks, roast the pumpkin seeds from the tureen with salt, and set them out for your guests. Mandarin orange pumpkins and banana ghosts These little mandarin orange “pumpkins” are packed with vitamin D, and the accompanying banana “ghosts” are full of potassium . But the best part about making them? It is so easy, the whole family can join in. Peel mandarin oranges and stick a small slice of celery into the top to create the pumpkin stems. Use nut butter as a glue to place dark chocolate chips as the eyes and mouth on halved bananas for a ghostly face. Veggie dog mummies Swap classic hot dogs for vegan or veggie dogs for this flaky, filling recipe. Buy a pre-made dough or make your own, and cut it into strips before wrapping it around your hot dogs for a mummified look. Place your mummies on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the dogs are hot all the way through and the dough is golden brown. Homemade ketchup or honey mustard go great for dipping. Olive spiders Olives are high in antioxidants, healthy fats and vitamin B, not to mention they are low in cholesterol and high in fiber — a recipe for good gut and heart health. Connect two olives, one large and one small, together with a toothpick. Stick dried spaghetti pasta into the sides for legs (don’t forget to save the pasta to cook later so it doesn’t go to waste !). Candy or caramel apples Make your own caramel or candy apples using organic ingredients, and choose healthier toppings such as dark chocolate, chopped almonds, chopped dates, dried fruit or coconut flakes. For a party-friendly dish, arrange apple slices on a Halloween platter and drizzle with caramel sauce in a creepy, spider-web design. Mashed cauliflower ghosts Going low-carb this Halloween? Mashed cauliflower is a super healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. Spoon your mash into a piping bag to help shape it into ghost form and decorate with cut chives, black olives, peas or sesame seeds. To make sure they hold their shape, you can opt to bake or broil them in the oven for a few minutes until the mash is firm. Images via Shutterstock

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10 healthy Halloween treats to make this October

Microplastics accelerate cell death at 3 times the normal rate, study says

October 3, 2019 by  
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Researchers from the University Medical Centre (UMC) Utrecht recently announced that cells exposed to microplastics experience cell death three times faster than those that are not. With microplastic pollution everywhere, the findings are sobering. UMC Utrecht scientists presented their research at the Plastic Health Summit in Amsterdam on Thursday, warning that immune cells that attack microplastics are three times more likely to be damaged beyond repair, consequently prompting an immediate inflammatory response. This rate of cell death is in excess of normal immune cell behavior, such as engulfing bacteria or foreign bodies. Related: One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup “These results raise serious questions about what microplastics are doing to our immune health ,” explained Nienke Vrisekoop, assistant professor of quantitative immunology at UMC Utrecht and lead author of the study. “Urgent further research is needed to paint as full a picture as possible.” The term microplastics has steadily crept into contemporary literature. Plastic does not readily biodegrade , but rather splinters into progressively smaller pieces, or microplastics. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the size of microplastics as less than five millimeters in length, making them invisible to the naked eye. As an emerging field of study, only recently have microplastics been the subject of research, spurred by their ubiquity as pollutants . They contaminate the oceans and threaten aquatic life. They are also small enough to bypass water filtration systems and find their way into drinking water. There is growing concern that when a person consumes microplastics, the particles are tiny enough to enter through the gut wall and eventually the circulatory system. “The demonstrated impacts, along the life cycle of plastic , paint an unequivocally toxic picture: plastic threatens human health on a global scale,” said David Azoulay, Environmental Health program director at the Center for International Environmental Law. “It’s high time businesses across the world took responsibility for the plastic they produce.” + UMC Utrecht Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastics accelerate cell death at 3 times the normal rate, study says

New Animal Endangerment Map shows global distribution of threatened animal species

October 3, 2019 by  
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Today’s wildlife are in peril, facing a variety of threats that test their survivability.  To illustrate the crisis magnitude, a new Animal Endangerment Map has been presented that reflects the conservation status of globally threatened species . Species survival is vital to preserving biodiversity and a region’s unique natural history but progress has not been kind to flora and fauna of late.  What’s causing species endangerment? Some threats are natural, like disease, for instance. However, the main culprits are because of human activities alone. Climate change , habitat loss (deforestation, urban/suburban development, agriculture, livestock farming), illegal trapping and poaching for wildlife trade, invasive species, overexploitation (excess hunting, overfishing, over-harvesting of aquatic resources) and pollution all have the human footprint.  Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 Human population growth fundamentally leaves less room for wildlife species.  And as ecosystems are weakened, many species are forced to adapt quickly or face extinction in the decades ahead.  The newly devised Animal Endangerment Map collates and analyzes data from both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).  The map classifies global animal distributions as vulnerable, endangered or extinct .  How the species are assigned into the various categories is based on two factors standardized by the IUCN and WWF – the population size, as well as the amount of population decline over the previous 10 years or three generations. The Animal Endangerment Map has determined that the United States currently has 1,283 total species at risk. They are further sub-categorized as follows: 237 extinct, 4 extinct in the wilderness , 214 critically endangered, 277 endangered and 551 vulnerable. It is hoped data provided by the Animal Endangerment Map can assist in efforts to secure habitats and to sustain entire species. With this information, researchers and governments can address target areas for preservation.  The map, interestingly, has a toggle feature that displays data from 10 years ago to correlate with present day results, thereby allowing users to longitudinally compare conservation status of various species. Hence, the information provided can reveal efficacy and long-term feasibility of programs as they develop and are implemented.  More importantly, past initiatives have proven that well-managed protected areas can escape from the brink, allowing species to recover.  It is hoped therefore that the Animal Endangerment Map can inspire well-informed conservation action to safeguard the wildlife that currently need help.  + Animal Endangerment Map

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New Animal Endangerment Map shows global distribution of threatened animal species

Good Clothing releases capsule collection made from hemp and organic cotton

October 3, 2019 by  
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Manufacturing is bad for the planet in general, and the textile industry is one of the leading producers of manufacturing pollution and waste . With this in mind, the Good Clothing Co. decided to implement old-school clothing production that is better for the Earth and a pleasure for the consumer. The Good Clothing Co.’s Good Apparel Capsule Collection is the most recent clothing line to come out of the Fall River, Massachusetts mill, an area connected to the textile industry since the 1800s. The company aims to live up to its name at every level, beginning with providing jobs within the United States in an industry that has been mostly moved overseas in recent decades. Related: 6 eco-friendly ways to incorporate hemp into your daily routine Rather than focusing on fast fashion to keep up with the trends of the season, Good Clothing Co. targets classic, multipurpose designs meant to be in a closet for the long-term, reducing the need to purchase a lot of clothes. In fact, the newest release is a capsule collection, meaning that the basics are interchangeable for endless attire options from the boat to the boardroom. The move to offer quality clothing that is versatile and long-lasting stems from the company’s goal to produce sustainable clothing . Made in small batches, Good Clothing Co. produces little waste compared to other mass-produced, consumed and promptly discarded clothing lines. To ensure quality, each piece is made in-house under the supervision of master tailor and founder Kathryn Hilderbrand. To further its dedication to creating sustainable clothing, the company sources materials locally as much as possible and selects earth-friendly materials such as organic cotton and hemp . Both products are made without herbicides and pesticides , toxins that can end up in our waterways. With a continued focus on the entire production cycle, from design to material selection to production to consumer use, Good Clothing Co. hopes to not only put the United States back on the map of the textile industry, but to have the country stand as a shining example of sustainable fashion . + Good Clothing Co. Photography by Shannan Grant Photography via Good Clothing Co.

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Good Clothing releases capsule collection made from hemp and organic cotton

One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup

September 30, 2019 by  
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The next time you are craving tea , choose the paper teabag or loose-leaf tea in a reusable infuser — just steer clear of the plastic teabag. Why? A recent McGill University study found that just one plastic teabag can leach billions of microplastic particles into your beverage. Professor Nathalie Tufenkji, of the McGill University Chemical Engineering Department, was surprised to find that premium teabags, made of plastic , were offered at her local Canadian coffee shop. For research purposes, she then asked graduate student Laura Hernandez to purchase several plastic teabags from a number of different brands. Next, the research duo collaboratively ran tests and analyses in the laboratory to discover the amount of microplastics being released after steeping the teabag. Related: Have your plastic and eat it, too — average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year Results alarmingly showed that as many as 11.6 billion microplastic particles and 3.1 billion nano-sized particles were contaminating the tea. Nano-sized particles are small enough to enter the human bloodstream and human cells. These numbers were considerably above-average — in fact, thousands of times higher — relative to other food products and beverages. Tufenkji said, “you’re literally adding plastic” into your cup each time you steep a plastic teabag. Microplastics are everywhere, contaminating the oceans and the marine organisms that live there, and often making their way into our food chain. A joint study — published earlier this year by the University of Newcastle in Australia and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and available for viewing here — announced that humans are ingesting about 5 grams of plastic per week, which is about the size of a credit card. Consuming tea brewed from plastic teabags could very well increase that collective annual amount. Currently, the two types of plastics linked to adverse effects on the human body are Bisphenol A ( BPA ) and Phthalates. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued warnings on BPA exposure creating negative effects like metabolic disease, birth complications and other health problems. Phthalates, meanwhile, are known to disrupt the body’s natural endocrine functions. Even more worrisome, regarding ingestion of microplastics, is that microplastics act as “toxic rafts” that pick up other environmental pollutants around them. In other words, microplastics attract environmental pollutants, concentrate them and carry them. Ingesting these microplastic “toxic rafts” rife with concentrated pollutants therefore increases the risks to your health. Unfortunately, there is no study yet that examines the actual danger that the plastic teabags, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and nylon, pose to humans. Instead, more research is required to understand the long-term impact that various microplastics can have on human health . “There’s really no research,” Tufenkji said. “But this really points to the need to do those studies. Think of people who drink one or two or three cups of tea a day, every day.” Tufenkji moreover emphasized that these plastic teabags are just another example of single-use plastics that are fomenting more environmentally destructive trouble than they are worth. It is up to consumers to fight for alternative packaging and to urge government policymakers to regulate plastic production and plastic use. Decreasing plastic packaging will not only improve the environment, but it could also safeguard one’s health as well. + Environmental Science & Technology Via EcoWatch Image via Conger Design

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One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup

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