5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

March 12, 2020 by  
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Wellness is an ongoing pursuit that involves diet, exercise, mental health and many other factors. But the activities that make us feel good might be causing  harm to the planet  without us even knowing. Here’s how.  Crystals For those who feel a connection with Mother Earth, crystals are said to offer healing qualities, protection and the ability to calm the mind, among other benefits. While crystals are natural resources from the Earth, problems arise from how they are sourced. Many reports claim anything but safe working conditions for those harvesting the gems, with lax labor laws and many poverty-stricken areas being ruled by brutal military groups. In many countries, the industry is completely unregulated, which means in addition to the human cost, the planet is paying the price. Without oversight, mines can destroy animal habitats and cause extensive water pollution. In tropical areas, abandoned pits fill with stagnant water and create an inviting habitat for malaria-ridden mosquitos that contribute to the spread of disease. Although many retailers do their best to buy from reputable dealers, the supply chain is questionable at best with no transparency to truly know the path of the crystal you hold. Related: Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact Essential oils For thousands of years, people have used plant oils to treat ailments, anxiety, headaches and much more. As the industry enjoys a resurgence, we wanted to peek into the production and waste components of essential oils, and what we found isn’t great news for the environment. Essential oils are naturally available from plants , some producing the oils on the outside and others storing it in pockets inside the plant. Regardless of the type of oil, it takes a lot of plants to source a single pound of oil. Many of these plants are grown on commercial farms with the same pesticide and water consumption concerns as other crops. Plus, if they are not native to the area, it can take more resources to keep them productive. For example, it takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to garner one pound of rose essential oil. An even bigger issue is the  post-consumer waste  from essential oils. If thrown into the garbage, it contributes to overflowing landfills, and down the drain, it can create toxic water for fish and other wildlife. Additionally, many municipalities don’t allow recycling of the glass bottles because essential oils are classified as a flammable substance. In short, that means there is no great waste solution for millions of bottles of essential oils that should responsibly be recycled through toxic-waste collection events. To try cleaning up your act, look for native plants rather than those forced to grow in an area outside their normal habitat. Also, look for companies that offer a return program to recycle bottles. Alternately, source your own plants, being sure to check local regulations for your area. Sheet masks Face masks hydrate and exfoliate, leaving your skin looking vibrant and healthy. However, the common practice of using sheet masks may not leave the planet so healthy in its wake . Starting with the production of millions of sheet masks, the carbon footprint begins to unfold. Plus, transport around the world further contributes to pollution and resource consumption. Then there is the post-consumer waste to consider. Most sheet mask packaging contains a combination of aluminum and plastic, making it unrecyclable, so it ends up in the trash. The thin plastic sheet that often accompanies the mask follows close behind. Finally, the sheet mask itself typically ends up in the landfill as well. Even bamboo and cotton options are often treated in a way that keeps them from being composted so they get tossed. Let’s be honest, sheet masks are marketed as single-use products and as such will continue to produce waste. But before you cut out your sheet mask treatment, consider purchasing brands with packaging made from recycled materials, composting or recycling options, or significantly reduced packaging waste as your first choice. You can also select 100% biodegradable masks. Keto diet There seems to be a diet plan for every week of the year and Keto has made more than a few headlines with its low carb, high protein layout. But all that steak and butter comes at a cost to the planet . Meat is a high-polluting industry, consuming high quantities of drinking water as well as water for feed crops. Plus, it contributes to  methane gas in the air. Even if livestock is not being raised for meat, the same problems occur when it comes to milk animals used for cream, butter and other fats. While many oils come from plants, the increase in livestock production equally contributes to greenhouse emissions. Put simply, raising plants is much better for the planet than raising cattle. Hot yoga While it might be good for your body, hot yoga’s ramifications on the planet are less appealing. Classes take place in a studio, heated excessively by natural gas, electrical heat, propane or other sources. This alone contributes significantly to the studio’s carbon footprint. Additionally, lighting the studio, washing towels, cleaning and showers eat up additional resources. If you travel for your yoga class or retreat, the plane or car contributes to air pollution. To minimize your impact, look into mass transit and carpooling options or simply take your yoga class online. As another option, invest in carbon offsetting programs. Also be aware of the fabrics you wear to the gym, selecting organic fibers and options that will last for many years. Plus, invest in a quality yoga mat for long-term use. Images via Pexels and Pixabay 

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5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

A zero-waste, self-sustaining home of the future

March 12, 2020 by  
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Designed by Shanghai-based firm YANG Design , the Green Concept House is a futuristic concept that envisions a residence where sustainable technologies are embedded into the living spaces to create a zero-waste, 100% self-sustaining home. The design features several high-tech systems that use spare household energy to provide water, lighting and energy for growing plants throughout the home, essentially becoming a living greenhouse. House Vision is an annual event that invites architects to create futuristic residential designs that incorporate innovative technologies. This year, against the backdrop of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing’s Olympic Park, 10 dwellings were unveiled, one of which was the incredible Green Concept House by Yang Design. Related: A greenhouse is transformed into an experimental living space in Taiwan Like the other full-scale home prototypes, the Green Concept House was a collaboration between architects and leading global companies that specialize in the various fields of technology, such as energy, vehicles, logistics and artificial intelligence. The 1,600-square-foot structure is a powerhouse of futuristic tech that merges organic food production into the house in order to create a living space that is 100% self-sustaining. Several compact garden pockets in every corner of the layout would allow homeowners to care for almost any type of plant using spare household energy (from solar and wind power generation ) to provide water and light for the gardens. The setup would permit residents to closely monitor their home gardens, including fruits, vegetables and herbs, via an app on their phones. For example, the app would sound an alarm when one of the plants is in need of specific care. Another notification would alert homeowners when a specific fruit or veggie is ready to be picked. Using this full-circle system, homeowners will not only be able to grow their own organic fare but will also be able to lead zero-waste lifestyles . + YANG Design Via ArchDaily Images via YANG Design

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A zero-waste, self-sustaining home of the future

Wood waste strengthens recycled concrete, new study finds

February 27, 2020 by  
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Research from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science has revealed that discarded concrete can be strengthened with the addition of wood waste. This pioneering technique promises to be an environmentally friendly way to enhance concrete structures while simultaneously reducing construction costs and curtailing carbon emissions . It is hoped that this groundbreaking new method will help make better use of old concrete and any waste plant or wood materials. With traditional methods, reusing old concrete is unfeasible. The research team’s first author, Li Liang, explained, “Just reusing the aggregate from old concrete is unsustainable, because it is the production of new cement that is driving climate change emissions.” The team, therefore, sought to find a better approach, particularly one that would “help promote the circular economy of concrete,” according to the University of Tokyo. Related: 11 green building materials that are way better than concrete The innovative process involves taking discarded concrete and grinding it into a powder. Wood waste is also sourced from sawdust, scrap wood and other agricultural waste. Rather than sending this wood off to landfills, it is instead leveraged in the concrete recycling process for the key ingredient, lignin. Lignin is an organic polymer that comprises wood’s vascularized tissue and accounts for wood’s rigidity. The concrete, now in powder form, is then combined with water and the lignin to form a mixture. This mixture is both heated and pressurized, allowing for the lignin to become an adhesive that fills the gaps between the concrete particles. What results is a newly formed concrete with stronger malleability than the original concrete. Additionally, the lignin makes this new, recycled concrete more biodegradable . “Most of the recycled products we made exhibited better bending strength than that of ordinary concrete,” said Yuya Sakai, team lead and senior author of the study. “These findings can promote a move toward a greener, more economical construction industry that not only reduces the stores of waste concrete and wood , but also helps address the issue of climate change .” + The University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science Via New Atlas Image via Philipp Dümcke

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Wood waste strengthens recycled concrete, new study finds

Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone

February 21, 2020 by  
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The first lowland gorilla born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 20 years is building her fan base while raising awareness about the connection between cell phone manufacturing and critically endangered gorilla populations. Baby Angela was born last month to mom N’dijia and dad Kelly. Along with Rapunzel and Evelyn, the LA Zoo is now home to five western lowland gorillas. This species is native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because only about 100,000 western lowland gorillas still survive in the wild, any new baby is cause for celebration. Related: Hope for mountain gorillas — new census results reveal the population is increasing Female lowland gorillas typically give birth every six to seven years in the wild. But the stress of captivity often short-circuits normal breeding habits. So far, mom and baby seem extremely bonded, zookeepers told the Today Show. N’dijia carries Angela around constantly, and Kelly shows affection by sniffing the baby and sometimes putting his lips against her. Gorillas in the wild face many dangers, including poachers, diseases, such as Ebola, and mining operations. While these threats may seem far away from the life of the average city dweller, most humans have a direct tie to gorillas through their cell phones. The Congo Basin is rich in coltan, a black metallic ore used in mobile phone manufacturing. Not only do miners disrupt gorilla life and ruin habitats, the miners — who are often there illegally — hunt wildlife, including gorillas, for food. Recycling your old cell phones is an easy way to help gorillas. A recycling company called ECO-CELL partners with primate conservation groups including Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), the Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Many zoos in the U.S. and Canada collect phones for ECO-CELL. So far, the company has recycled about 1 million cell phones. Phones that still work are sometimes reused by gorilla care staff and in veterinary labs. “ECO-CELL’s focus is squarely on the informed consumer piece,” Eric Ronay, founder of ECO-CELL, told Mongabay . “If we can reach consumers en masse, especially young consumers, and inspire them to demand ethical, gorilla-safe products, then the entire electronics landscape will change dramatically.” + LA Zoo Via Mongabay and Today Image by Jamie Pham via LA Zoo

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How China and the U.S. can innovate on plastic waste

February 14, 2020 by  
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The world’s two biggest producers and consumers of stuff stand to play a pivotal role in creating a circular economy, but they’ll both have to get out of their own way.

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The secret to the happy relationship between Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy

February 14, 2020 by  
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The partnership brings both companies closer to their sustainability goals.

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How to properly and safely dispose of these 10 items in your home

February 10, 2020 by  
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Toxic chemicals, e-waste, light bulbs and batteries are just a few common household items that exit our homes and can end up in the landfill , where they may or may not break down or leach into the soil and water. Equally concerning is the potential for broken glass and chemicals to cause problems to sanitation workers, the water system and wildlife. Even when you make the best purchasing decisions upfront, you will eventually find yourself with toxic household waste. Before tossing items in the trash, check out these disposal options for items like batteries and paint that are safer for the planet. Tires Because most automotive, tractor and machine tires are a mixture of rubber and steel, they can’t be recycled without separating those components. As a result, you will likely have to pay to drop them somewhere. The landfill is one option, but you can commonly return them to a local tire center. Regardless of where you take it, the fee typically ranges from $2-10 per tire, so consider upcycling those old radials into a property border or flower bed divider. Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected Light bulbs Your local recycling center probably accepts spent CFL light bulbs. Because CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, it’s important that they are properly disposed of. Most large home improvement stores also provide a return option for CFLs and basic fluorescent bulbs. Depending on your local recycling center, LED or incandescent bulbs may be recyclable with your glass items. You can also visit Pinterest for ideas on ways to repurpose bulbs. Batteries The best option when it comes to batteries is to make the investment in rechargeable batteries. When they wear out, look for drop boxes at your local home improvement and office supply stores. For single-use household batteries, you can return them during city household waste collection events, or your recycling center may have a drop spot. Some home improvement stores also provide a drop location. Car, tractor and motorcycle batteries are easily recyclable at any retailer that sells them. You will likely even get a core refund for returning them. Check with automotive repair locations, car part stores or your local Battery Exchange. Electronics When the stereo, computer, TV or cell phone bites the dust, skip the landfill and head to the recycling center. You may need to separate the cords and/or batteries from the laptop or TV remote, but most components are accepted at these locations. Also check with the manufacturing company or service provider. For example, Apple and many cell phone companies will accept old devices for recycling, and some even offer a credit for it. Medications Expired and unneeded medications are absorbed into the soil and waterways if flushed down the toilet. They are also a danger to children and pets, so proper disposal is important. Most local police stations accept medications, and they can be returned at city waste collection events. The U.S. DEA also provides an annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies. Stains and paints The good news is that modern paints and stains are formulated to last, so you can finish up the can while doing touch ups or other projects, even years down the road. If you’re moving and have to come up with a quick yet responsible disposal method, visit your local Habitat for Humanity reStore, where it will reformulate the paint for resale. Another option is to allow the paint to dry in the can, either naturally or with the aid of a commercial paint-dry product. Once dry, it can be thrown out with the rest of your garbage without a risk of contamination, although we do recommend using it entirely or donating it for resell before turning to the landfill. Related: 6 of the best places to donate your things Cleaning products Between glass cleaner and furniture polish, household cleaners have a way of accumulating. So when you pull out the last of the carpet and no longer need carpet spot cleaner or you make the switch to natural cleaners and need to do away with your old bottles, keep an eye out for that city waste collection event. For cleaners you can still use, try to use them up and recycle the container when you can. Also consider giving away any cleaners you no longer want, but note that most donation centers will not accept them, so offer them to friends, family and co-workers. Lawn and garden products Insecticides and pesticides should not be added to the garbage, where they can leak into water systems and soil. The same goes for the old oil and gasoline from your lawn mower and other equipment. This type of pollution will impact plants, animals and humans. Hold onto any lawn and garden chemicals for the next household waste round-up to return them responsibly. Personal care products If you find your bathroom cabinets and shelves full of old skincare , fragrances or nail polish you don’t want anymore, it is important to dispose of them properly, especially if they are from your pre-green beauty days. Unused, unexpired products may be suitable for donation. Otherwise, do not dump products in the sink or toilet. Check with your local hazardous household waste facility to see if it can accept your items. If you must, put all of the contents of the containers into one jar and place it in the garbage. Eyeglasses Whether you’ve undergone laser eye surgery or upgraded your style, eyewear is another common household item that may no longer be serving its purpose. Fortunately, there are many ways to donate old eyeglasses where they can provide the gift of sight and keep them out of the landfills. Lyons Clubs International, New Eyes (a division of United Way), OnSight and Eyes of Hope are all options. You can also drop eyeglass lenses and frames at most optical centers or local drop boxes, or donate them to a thrift store. Via Earth 911 and EPA.gov Images via Shutterstock

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Keep your cat safe with these eco-friendly cat toys

February 5, 2020 by  
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Veterinarian Lynn Bahr’s coworkers laugh at her when they see her mouth full of cat toy. “When I’m designing toys, I put everything in my mouth. If my cat is going to chew on it, or my dog is going to chew on it, I’m going to chew on it first. I feel it, I taste it. I just really pretend that I’m a cat.” The pet product industry has long thought that dog owners would shell out for products, but cat owners were stingier. “Cats have always been sort of a second-class citizen and not much thought has been put into products for them. Now, that’s changing,” says Bahr, founder of Dezi & Roo  pet  product company. As cat product lines become more robust, people are growing more concerned about exactly what’s in those toys. The demand for safe, eco-friendly products is growing. Dangerous ingredients for cat toys Unfortunately, no US regulatory body is responsible for tracking  toxins  in pet toys. This means manufacturers are expected to self-regulate. With many pet toys made overseas, it’s even harder to rely on any standards. Polyvinyl chloride  (PVC) is used to make auto parts, pipes, polyvinyl flooring, raincoats, shower curtains, shoes and pet toys, among other common products. And while you probably wouldn’t chew on your shower curtain, your cat may be chomping PVC toys. Manufacturers often use  phthalates — linked to liver and kidney troubles — to soften toys and make them more flexible. PVC is nicknamed “the poison plastic” for its unfortunate tendency to leach ingredients. Bisphenol-A (BPA), another common plastic ingredient, has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Lead, a neurotoxin, is still used in some imported toys, especially those that are painted. Eco-friendly, non-toxic cat toys So, what should you look for in the ultimate cat toy? Something safe for cats and that won’t cause environmental harm or clog a  landfill  for the next millennium. Instead of a plastic ball, check out  Billy Bob the Cork Ball . Made by From the Field pet product company, these balls are marinated in primo  catnip . Dharma Dog/Karma Cat  toys from Distinctly Himalayan are handmade by women’s collectives in Nepal , crafted from Himalayan and New Zealand wool and non-toxic dyes. Their packaging is also eco-friendly. Choose from adorable toys shaped like octopi, dolphins, snakes and starfish. Strictly Himalayan also manufactures cute pet beds and baskets. The baskets are made from seagrass and water hyacinth sourced in Vietnam. “Being sustainable and fair trade is actually very serious for us, and has been for decades,” Jennifer Neufeld, co-owner of Distinctly Himalayan, said. “We’re members of the Fair Trade Federation and Pet Sustainability Coalition.” Etsy  has a whole department of green cat toys. This is the place to get something really special to express your cat’s personality. You can get handmade fabric  sushi  rolls, zombie sharks and pot leaves stuffed with catnip here. About half of  Dezi & Roo’s line is eco-friendly. You can choose little felt clouds with stuffing made from post-consumer and BPA-free plastic bottles, or paper ring toys. The Hide and Sneak — which resembles a rectangular tube made from paper sacks with cardboard entries at each end — is a top seller. Bahr recommends dusting toys with silver vine, a catnip alternative. Dezi & Roo processes the silver vine in the US, then tests it for mold, yeast,  salmonella  and E. coli to ensure your pet’s safety. Making your own cat toys is another excellent option, allowing you to reuse and  recycle  things around the house. Holly Tse and her cat Furball wrote  Make Your Own Cat Toys  so other cats could have endless entertainment while reducing their carbon paw prints. Their cat crafts use old clothes and items from your recycling bin. Bahr says a good homemade toy can be as simple as wadding up some paper, dusting it with silver vine, and throwing it across the room for your cat to chase. DIY cat toy concerns Before you get too creative with your recycled toys, remember that cats often swallow things they shouldn’t. Part of the reason is just how they’re made. Those adorable sandpaper tongues are covered with backward-facing barbs designed for grooming. But those barbs can act like Velcro, forcing Kitty to swallow something before they — or you — know it. This can lead to illness, expensive vet visits, and death. So, tempting as it is to let your cat play with fun and inexpensive things like dental floss, rubber bands and hair ties, keep these easily-swallowed items away from them. Also, if your cat seems low-energy or has diarrhea after eating catnip, you might have got a moldy batch, or catnip treated with  pesticides . Find a reliable source of regular, US-grown catnip. Play with your cat Cats love to play. “I think the thing that really propels me is how many owners say their cats don’t play,” Bahr says. She blames a lack of good products, rather than your cat being too mature. This is especially tragic if you have an indoor cat. Instead of dooming your cat to life as a couch potato, try buying or making some new,  environmentally friendly toys for them. Also, supervised play is best. It bonds you with your cat, and if Kitty starts chewing up something they shouldn’t, you’ll be there to intervene. Via Lynn Bahr , Earth Easy and Pet MD Images via Teresa Bergen and Distinctly Himalayan

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Keep your cat safe with these eco-friendly cat toys

The State of Solar Panel Recycling in the U.S.

February 4, 2020 by  
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The U.S. has more than 2 million solar installations. This … The post The State of Solar Panel Recycling in the U.S. appeared first on Earth911.com.

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9 Ways to Reuse Aluminum Pie Pans

January 23, 2020 by  
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All those aluminum pie pans don’t have to go straight into the recycling bin — reuse them first in these seven clever ways. The post 9 Ways to Reuse Aluminum Pie Pans appeared first on Earth911.com.

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