These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine

May 13, 2019 by  
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The earth is a fragile place, a bit more so with each day that humans contribute to chemicals in the waste stream and overconsumption of resources. While it may seem like a benign daily activity, doing laundry traditionally pours toxins such as microplastics into the water stream and drinks up valuable freshwater in the process. Since it is an activity we all do, and one we aren’t able to overlook (no one likes smelly clothes), there is a great opportunity to reduce the cumulative impact that laundry has on the environment . Here are some ways you can lower your laundry footprint by adopting sustainable practices. Laundry accumulation The best way to keep your laundry practices “clean” is to not wash clothes when it’s not necessary. Overwashing clothing wears down the fibers, which is bad both for your clothing and the environment, especially those materials that shed microplastics into the waste stream. Limit your laundry accumulation by re-wearing clothing. For example, jeans can handle several wearings before washing. Also, rehang and reuse bathroom towels a few times rather than washing them daily. Avoid washing items just because they have laid on the ground or are wrinkled. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine Prewash Instead of reaching for the chemical-laden prewash from the store, go old school with a more natural option. Laundry bars, like Dr. Bronners, remove stains without adding unnatural ingredients into the water supply. Simply keep it near the washing machine and rub it on stains to pretreat. Also avoid the prewash setting that requires more water and energy . If you have a tough stain try soaking it with a stain remover before washing. Dish soap may also do the job. Detergent options Commercial laundry detergents are loaded with nasty chemicals that run down the drain into the rivers and eventually make their way out to sea . While many might think these chemicals are completely removed with water treatments, the truth is not all are. However, fabrics will come clean without all the mainstream added toxins— so select your detergent with this in mind. For store-bought convenience, look for natural ingredients and read labels carefully. If you have the time to spare, try making your own laundry detergent. There are recipes all over the internet. Once you find your supplies, it is quick and easy to make and you can make enough to last months at a time. Fabric softener/dryer sheet options Clothes dryers rank high on the energy consumption scale, but they also add to waste with dryer sheets and chemicals from liquid fabric softeners. Clean up your act with homemade liquid detergent using a combination of 1/8 cup food-grade glycerin, two cups of water and two cups of white vinegar. Use about 1/4 cup per load. Also soften your fabrics and shorten drying time with wool dryer balls in each load. Alternately, you can make a liquid fabric softener that goes into the dryer instead of the washing machine. Just moisten a rag with the mixture and dry with your load of clothing. You can reuse the same rag endlessly without dryer sheet waste . Water usage As mentioned, the best way to reduce water usage is to avoid unnecessary washing. Also, skip the prewash and select the best cycle for the task at hand. For example, override the extra rinse for whites and choose a lower soil level for regular washings. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, select one with an energy star rating for low water and electrical consumption. Cold water It requires energy to heat water around the house, so save it for the shower. Your clothes will do just fine when washed in cold water and your pocketbook will thank you too. Line dry Another winning way to lower the electric bill is to skip the dryer all together. Instead, set up a clothesline and hang items to dry when the weather allows. If you don’t like the rough feel of sun-dried clothes, toss them in the dryer for a few minutes then take the clothes out. Trap the microplastics In the environmental realm, microplastics are making headlines around the globe. It’s said that they are found in nearly all tested fish, which means we’re literally eating our clothes . Because microplastics are minute, they are not filtered out at the the water treatment plant and instead travel right through to the ocean. There are now products, like the Cora Ball, designed to throw in your washer as a filter to capture the microplastics in your laundry. Newer washing machines are expected to have microplastics filters built in so keep an eye out for those to hit the market. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine The dry cleaner Dry cleaning is a chemical process, and therefore a foe of the environment. Avoid dry cleaning as much as possible by washing at home and being conscious of the fabrics you buy at the store. Doing laundry has become such a part of our daily routines that we might not notice how often we are tossing our barely worn clothes in the washer. It’s never too late to begin an eco-friendly lifestyle and incorporate new approaches to our routines. Follow these helpful tips and significantly reduce your environmental impact. Images via Shutterstock

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These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine

Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

April 17, 2019 by  
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A new study published in Nature Communications reveals alarming amounts of microplastic particles in the air, even in the most remote, mountainous areas. News about microplastics throughout the ocean, soil and every marine mammal studied has been widely documented and publicized in recent years. ‘Microplastic’ was even called the “2018 word of the year” for its number of mentions by the news media. However, very few studies have researched the abundance of microplastics specifically in the air we breathe. In addition to the recently published research, two previous studies analyzed airborne microplastics in France and China. Those analyses from 2016 and 2017 revealed a steady rainfall of microplastics in the air — findings that are unfortunately further confirmed by the results of this most recent study. Related: Microplastics have made their way into human poop The authors counted 365 plastic particles falling per square meter, every day, with comparable results from Paris to isolated areas of the Pyrenees mountains. The researchers concluded that the amount of microplastics is correlated with the strength of the wind, but not necessarily with proximity to major urban areas or even villages. The fact that plastic particles are found so far from urban areas and direct sources of pollution indicates that the world’s plastic crisis is not a localized issue, but a global problem that affects everyone, regardless of their location or sustainable habits. The new findings are a major public health concern. The vast majority of the plastic particles identified were polystyrene and polyethylene — toxic materials often used in single-use packaging and plastic bags. Microplastics have also been found in human lung tissue, but scientists are still unsure of exactly what impacts this could have on long-term human health. “When you get down to respiratory size particles, we don’t know what those do,” research team member Deonie Allen told The Guardian . “That is a really big unknown.” + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

March 25, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Having greater access to the latest trends in fashion is great, but the industry as a whole could do a lot better lessening its environmental impact on the world. Some of the biggest issues with the fashion industry are microplastics used in production, child labor violations and new disposable fashion trends— which put more waste into landfills around the world. If you are curious about how the fashion industry is affecting the environment, here’s an inside look at the industry’s biggest hidden secrets. Related: The sustainable wardrobe: it’s more accessible than you think Fashion’s Environmental Impact Mass-producing clothing items for the fashion industry has massive implications on the environment. The industry as a whole contributes greatly to water waste and has a large carbon footprint – and that is only considering production. Discarded items of clothing end up in landfills around the world, further polluting waterways and oceans. When it comes to clothing production, it takes thousands of liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt. Farms that grow cotton also use a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Around a trillion gallons of water are used to die fabrics, which further contributes to water waste . Child Labor Laws Aside from environmental concerns, the fashion industry also violates child labor laws in certain locations around the world. Areas most impacted by child labor violations include Bangladesh, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Bangladesh, for example, child workers – most of whom are women – only take home around $96 every month. The country’s government, however, says that its citizens need at least $336 a month to meet basic living requirements. Given how the country has little regulations on labor and environmental practices, the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Plastic Microfibers One of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of plastics in garments. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are used in over 60 percent of clothing. Plastics are used in fashion because they are long-lasting, budget-friendly, pliable and light. The problem with incorporating synthetics in the production of clothing is that they leach plastic microfibers into the environment. These microfibers eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine organisms ingest them. Once eaten, the plastics can lead to digestive blockages, growth issues, problems in the endocrine system and even starvation. “One of the problems is plastic ingestion at all levels of the food chain, which may pass plastic to larger animals and humans. The question is ‘is it acceptable to us to end up eating plastic?’” Heidi Savelli, an expert with the UN Environment, explained. Discarded Clothing Fashion sales have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The industry has seen a growth of around 60 percent since 2000, which is partly because clothing does not last as long as it used to. On average, people retain a piece of clothing for about half the amount of time as they did in the late ‘90s. This trend of discarding and buying clothes has been profitable for the fashion industry, but it has led to disastrous effects on the environment. With production steadily increasing, more and more water is being used in cotton farming while excess materials are overcrowding landfills . Industry Solutions With the fashion industry causing a major concern for the environment , there are a few things it can do to become more eco-friendly. For starters, companies can make changes to the manufacturing process, which will reduce the amount of plastic that ends of polluting the environment. The primary issues in clothing are the density of the material and the length of fibers. If these two problems are addressed, then there will be a lesser chance of plastic microfibers shedding in the wash. Companies can also incorporate better finishing techniques when making clothing, which can also reduce microfiber issues. There also needs to be an improvement in the way microfibers are captured, both in efficiency and scale. There are capturing devices on the market, but they are not geared towards large-scale operations. What Can You Do? There are a number of different things you can do to lessen the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. For starters, you can repair clothing items instead of replacing them whenever possible. When it comes to laundry, washing less is the best way to reduce microfibre shedding. You should also look into investing in a front load machine, as they are better at handling plastic microfibres. If you want to go the extra mile, there are special bags that catch plastic debris in the wash and reduce these particles by over 80 percent. At the end of the day, doing your part to help curb disposable fashion will only go so far, and unless the industry makes some major changes, these environmental concerns will continue to grow. Via UN Environment , The Progressive Images via Shutterstock

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

Microplastics 101

January 15, 2019 by  
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For something so small, microplastics have created big confusion. Depending … The post Microplastics 101 appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Microplastics 101

Butts Out of the Ocean

November 5, 2018 by  
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Butts Out of the Ocean

SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

October 25, 2018 by  
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SodaStream has announced the launch of its massive ocean-sweeper, a contraption designed to dismantle booming plastic waste patches in marine waters.  The “Holy Turtle” has already started cleaning up plastic in the Caribbean Sea; the specially designed model is stationed off the shores of Roatán, Honduras for its pilot project. Enlisting the aid of local youth and government, as well as environmental NGOs, experts and artists, SodaStream’s multifaceted mission is a four-day feat with a hopefully long-term impact. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum heads the ambitious assignment alongside a formation of international executives who have refocused their energies into acquiring the technology and partnerships they need for the bold initiative. Seven local schools in Honduras have also teamed up with the nearly 150 company execs. While the students are charged with providing a helping hand with the clean-up, their longstanding potential is even more significant. The kids will participate in educational courses alongside their clean-up duties, learning about the environment from international experts. Birnbaum and collaborating NGO Plastic Soup Foundation hope that the students’ involvement will influence them to become environmental ambassadors for their communities in the future. Related: Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans — for now Having spent his life side-by-side with water , Birnbaum is no stranger to how influential interacting with nature can be. Before leading SodaStream, the philanthropist was a naval officer and an experienced skipper. Birnbaum’s project was inspired by a 2017 BBC feature that brought to light the devastating stretch of synthetic trash floating off the Honduran coastline through the lens of videographer Caroline Powers. More than a clean-up job, Birnbaum became determined to dismantle the marine decay, regarding the plastic waste as both a somber byproduct of human consumption as well as an invasive force in its own right. “More than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. This plastic doesn’t disappear. It breaks up into tiny particles, floats in the ocean, endangers marine life and ends up in our food chain,” he explained. “We must all put our hands together to reduce the use of single-use plastic and commit ourselves to changing our habits and go reusable. It’s in our hands.” Related: Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the ocean, is plagued with plastic The company is the first known commercial entity to attempt a marine clean-up project, at least with this rank of potential and — true to its cause — the recovered debris won’t simply be trashed. The waste, gathered by the 1,000-foot-long “Holy Turtle” contraption, will be transformed into an exhibition aimed at raising awareness about single-use plastics and educating people on why adopting reusable cups, straws, bags and bottles is paramount in saving the environment. The one-of-a-kind vessel was developed by Florida-based company ABBCO, specialists in oil spill containment. Two marine vessels tow the extensive gathering unit that is able to cover vast portions of open water. Most remarkably, the “Holy Turtle” features specially engineered vent holes to protect wildlife while still gathering up significant amounts waste. “We can’t clean up all the plastic waste on the planet, but we each need to do whatever we can,” Birnbaum said. “The most important thing is to commit ourselves to stop using single-use plastic.” + Roatan 2018 Via Nasdaq Image via SodaStream

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SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats

October 25, 2018 by  
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October kicks off the holiday season with Halloween decor and candy lining the shelves of every store. While porches fill up with carved pumpkins, spiders and cobwebs, parents and children across the country begin planning their Halloween costumes. The tradition of neighborhood trick-or-treating holds strong in nearly every area of the country. With an estimated 40 million trick-or-treaters hitting the streets, the potential environmental impact is huge. If you are looking for ways to make Halloween more sustainable, there are several steps you can take. Trick-or-treat close to home to minimize transportation emissions. Avoid single-use plastic in decor and costumes, and invest in long-lasting options or shop secondhand to extend the life of products already in the consumption stream. Perhaps the biggest impact you can have is to carefully consider eco-friendly options when it comes to the Halloween treats you’ll hand out to Little Red Riding Hood and the superheroes that appear at your door. Provide nutrition bars Protein and granola bars are a healthier option than candy laden with sugar . Plus, there is more product per package over individually-wrapped candies, which results in less waste. Look for organic ingredients and rely on companies like Clif, winner of the 2017 Climate Leader award by the EPA, for its efforts in promoting climate action and implementing green power up and down the supply chain. Related: 6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume Offer natural candies There is no dispute that candy isn’t notable for its health benefits. However, not all ingredients are created equal. When reading the ingredient labels for your Halloween treats, see if you can even pronounce them all. Probably not. Instead of handing out artificial candies made in a lab, reach for a more natural option. Choose candies made with original recipes that date back to a time when foods weren’t made by someone wearing a lab coat. Natural candies are made using natural sweeteners such as sugar cane, agave and honey. Instead of coloring that has a number, natural candy is dyed using beet, cabbage and carrot juices. Check out your local market or jump online to order from the Natural Candy Store . Choose fair trade chocolate The fair trade movement guarantees certain rights across industries. From clothing, to coffee, to chocolate, products certified as fair trade ensure that workers are given a voice. Other fair trade practices include attention to working hours, equal gender pay, child labor laws and safe working conditions. With this in mind, look for chocolate made with fair trade cocoa when choosing your Halloween candy. One example is Justin’s brand of peanut butter cups, which are made with fair trade chocolate, plus the company donates a percentage of its profits toward ending world hunger. Look for sustainable manufacturing Take a look at companies like Mars, which is working toward sustainability through renewable energy at nine of its factories, water conservation practices and conscientious sourcing of ingredients. Most companies practicing sustainability in the material acquisition, manufacturing, packaging and transport segments of their businesses are quite transparent about their efforts, so hit up Google for more information. Take, for example, Equal Exchange’s fair trade, organic chocolate, which lists its certifications and ingredients right on the website. Consider packaging Tens of millions of trick-or-treaters, each scoring a bucket- or pillowcase-full of individually-wrapped candies, creates massive waste. With this in mind, think about the packaging of your chosen treat. Choose paper or cardboard packaging over plastic . Look for companies that package in biodegradable or recyclable materials. Go Organic fruit chews reportedly come in compostable bags. Alternatively, Yum Earth fruit snacks’ packaging is produced in a facility powered 100 percent by wind energy . Yum Earth also makes an organic lollipop that comes in a reusable and resealable bag. Consider Glee gum, made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. The packaging is recyclable, so you can feel good about avoiding the individual plastic surrounding most Halloween treats. Related: 10 sustainable Halloween decorations for your green home Another option is to hit up the bulk section at your favorite store. Because individual packaging is an unavoidable side effect of generously handing out treats, look for foil-wrapped chocolate balls and similar items that allow the packaging to be recycled . Of course, you could also go with cardboard boxes that can be recycled or will biodegrade 1,000 years sooner than plastic bags. Some candies (think Nerds) are packaged this way, along with things like raisins. If you want to take the natural route, fresh fruit comes in its own packaging, so small apples and mandarin oranges are an option, too. Understand the teal pumpkin Not long ago, families with children who have  food allergies had few options for traditional trick-or-treating. Instead of finding other activities or hunkering down to a movie with the porch light off, parents passionate about being able to celebrate the Halloween holiday like other families have come up with a solution called the teal pumpkin. Any family that puts a teal pumpkin on their porch on Halloween night is announcing that they offer food-free options for trick-or-treaters. In fact, there is a even a website where you can register your house or find participants in your area. To participate, keep non-food options available, such as Play-Doh, soap bombs, face paint, craft paint, tattoos, stickers, puzzles, markers (especially Crayola, which offers a recycling program), pencils, paper bookmarks, bubbles, playing cards, spinning tops, wooden yo-yos, small word games or puzzle books. Don’t forget to put a teal pumpkin on your porch as well. Holidays are full of opportunities to spend time with loved ones and create special memories. When it comes to providing treats for the little ghosts and goblins in your neighborhood, you can enjoy the holiday vibe and still feel good about helping create a cleaner planet that they will inherit. Via Yoga Journal , TreeHugger and Going Zero Waste Images via Marco Verch , Photo AC , Charisse Kenion , Mars , Incase and Shutterstock

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This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats

Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics

October 18, 2018 by  
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According to a new study that observed sea, rock and lake salts, 90 percent of the table salt brands sold around the world contain microplastics. Several years ago, researchers discovered that microplastics were in sea salt, but no one was certain just how extensive the problem was until now. National Geographic reported that researchers in South Korea and at Greenpeace East Asia tested 39 salt brands, and 36 of them contained microplastics. This study — published in this month’s journal of Environmental Science & Technology — is the first of its kind to look at the correlation between microplastics in table salt and where we find plastic pollution in the environment. Related: Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year “The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region,” said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea. The salt samples came from 21 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The three brands that did not contain microplastics were refined sea salt from Taiwan, refined rock salt from China and unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation in France. The density of microplastics in salt varied among the different brands. The study found that the tested Asian brands of salt contained the highest amounts, especially in the salt sold in Indonesia. An unrelated 2015 study found that Indonesia suffered from the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. Researchers found that  microplastic levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and rock salt. This latest study estimates that the average adult consumes about 2,000 microplastics each year through salt. But how harmful that is remains a mystery. Because of knowledge gaps and a mismatch of data in more than 300 microplastic studies, there is limited evidence to suggest that microplastics have a significant negative impact. Microplastics could be detrimental to our health and the planet, or the focus on microplastic could be diverting attention from worse environmental problems. + Environmental Science & Technology Via National Geographic Image via Bruno

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Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

August 25, 2018 by  
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The Kroger supermarket conglomerate announced on Thursday that it is planning a phase-out of plastic bags at all store locations as part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment . The company owns more than 2,700 stores throughout 35 states, including popular chains such as Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Related: UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86% Kroger is making a “bold move that will better protect our planet,” according to CEO Rodney McMullen. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” added Executive Vice President and COO Mike Donnelly in a press release. Seattle’s QFC grocery stores will be the first of Kroger’s chains to fully eliminate plastic bags, achieving the goal as early as next year. “Starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact,” announced Donnelly. Between the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste and the Restock Kroger commitments, the company hopes to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020 and provide food to families and individuals in need. Last year alone, the conglomerate sent more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and homes, providing over 325 million meals in total. In 2017, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled. Kroger, however, wants to achieve more. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Estimates suggest that less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America and nearly 100 billion are thrown away each year. Single-use plastic bags are the fifth most common plastic pollutant, harming waterways and marine ecosystems. Harmful microplastics result from the breakdown process and have made their way into soils, waters, air, and nearly everything we ingest. That’s why Kroger, rather than merely lessening the number of plastic bags, plans to eliminate them completely by providing reusable, recyclable multi-use bags. Kroger joins companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and the Marriot International Group in a stand to eliminate single-use plastics, which follows legislation banning them in states such as Hawaii and California. + CNN + Kroger + NPR Image via Pixabay

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Study: Microplastics Common in Bottled Water

April 30, 2018 by  
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For most of us, plastic is not a welcome dietary … The post Study: Microplastics Common in Bottled Water appeared first on Earth911.com.

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