Sadly, our oceans have become huge garbage dumps, and plastics make up a large part of that floating trash. Pilot Jeremy Roswell, dismayed at seeing so much plastic in the oceans he flew over, decided to do something about it. Partnering with Cynar, a company that turns plastic waste into fuel, Roswell plans to fly in 2013 from Sydney, Australia to London, England in a Cessna 182 fueled by the plastics-turned-fuel. The fuel is made via a process known as pyrolysis, which heats the plastic waste in an oxygen-free system, converting it to a gas first, and then to a liquid fuel, with roughly one ton of plastic garbage yielding 900 liters of diesel. Cost to produce the fuel is about $1.50 per gallon. Cynar hopes to promote the use of their cleaner, recycled fuel for jets flying under 8,000 feet. Roswell’s flight will take him up to two weeks. Though his journey involves some risk, Roswell feels that “unless we do something to give back to the planet, we’re stuffed.”
A popular chemical in “weed and feed” products (and a component of Agent Orange), 2,4-D, has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “2,4-D was found in 83 percent of household dust samples in North Carolina and 98 percent of homes sampled in Ohio in a 2008 study of 135 homes, despite the fact that only one homeowner in the study reported recent use of the pesticide.”—Natural Resources Defense Council
• Results of a study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports exposure to garden pesticides increases the risk of childhood leukemia nearly sevenfold.
• Of the 30 most typically applied lawn pesticides, over half are detrimental to birds, fish, and other aquatic creatures. Bees, currently struggling with various threats to their survival, are adversely affected by eleven of these pesticides.
• Women, how do pesticides particularly affect you? Even low levels of pesticides can be a factor in miscarriages. Breast cancer in women has been shown to be in part due to household pesticides.
• Beware of herbicides! When sprayed on lawns, herbicides double your dog’s chance of developing canine lymphoma.
A recent study showed high rates of this illness have occurred in farmers and rural populations, causing some to speculate whether pesticides are the culprits in the disease’s rise. In the Central Valley of California, 368 longtime residents who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s were studied, along with an additional 341 residents as a control group. Those who had lived within 500 meters of fields treated with the maneb, a fungicide, and paraquat, an herbicide, between 1974 and 1999 were reported to have a 75 percent higher risk of developing the disease compared with residents farther away. Researchers found that the risk of contracting Parkinson’s was two to six times greater if the exposure had been early in the resident’s life.
Foodborne illness outbreaks remind us to practice good hand-washing hygiene and a good produce-washing regimen. The general rule for ridding your hands of bacteria is to wash them in warm water and soap for twenty seconds, which is just as effective as washing with anti-bacterial soap. Always wash your hands before handling produce. But, to be extra sure your fruits and veggies are bacteria free, you can also make your own produce cleanser, with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. One recipe calls for 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold tap water. Put them all in a spray bottle, shake it up, and apply to your produce. Another recipe combines 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Let either cleanser sit for a while on your produce, then rinse with clear water before cooking or eating.
Have a cuppa joe or a tea party with your plants—they’ll thank you. Does it ever feel like when you’re sitting there with your hot beverage, your plants are wistfully sighing, wishing they could also imbibe? Why? Because both tea and coffee grounds are loaded with happy-plant nutrients, and your plants know they will help them grow and be healthy. Coffee grounds with high acidity, make great plant food for tomatoes, carrots, roses, rhododendrons and azaleas—the acid-junkie plants.
Tea tends to be less acidic, especially when dissolved in water. So, for those houseplants that don’t like their food so acidic, all you have to do is rip open a tea bag and pour the leaves into your watering can—then, don’t get distracted trying to tell your fortune reading the tea leaves, just water away! The itsy bits of tea will make these plants happy and healthy.
You know that one plant that just looks like it needs a sponsorship program? Instead of pledging a monthly donation, try nursing it with a double dose of twice-brewed tea that you’ve steeped (1 to 2 bags) in boiling water. Bring the brew to room temperature, water your special ward with it, and check it in the morning(s).
Any cotton-pickin’ cotton you might have around. Cotton balls, cotton swabs (but make sure the handle is cardboard and not plastic), lint from the dryer’s lint trap or from that one pair of slacks that is a lint magnet, and even old shredded cotton and wool clothing can all go in your compost bin (but don’t try shredding it in your office paper shredder!).
If you guessed aluminum cans, you’re right! Recent statistics cited by the Aluminum Association claim the recovery rate for the aluminum can reached 65.1 percent in 2011. Recycling these beverage cans also saves energy and resources, of course. Recycle your cans, and let’s see how high we can get the recovery rate this year! More at earth911.org