Worms and Flowers

Blog Action Day Climate Change

Posted in Environment by Lzyjo on October 15, 2009

Okay this is old news right, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We all know reduce comes first because it is the most important. Stop the chain of pollution at the beginning. Reuse is great, becuase it means you are not only using something again, but you are are also reducing by not using or buying something else. Recycling is last but not least, it’s almost the same as reusing. Paper and plastic products undergo reincarnation in the processing and subsequent remanufacturing. We don’t have the power to change global policy but we can start change on our own at home.

Just by evaluation my household needs I found a lot of way to use the three Rs.

Reduce

Reduce packaging by buying economical family sized products.

Avoid individually wrapped servings. Even buying a 2L of soda and drinking from tumblers can save a lot of packing from entering the recycling process.

A lot of packaging is plastic (petroleum) Amazon.com offer toys and other products that come packed directed in an amazon box, reducing a lot of packaging and the hassel of removing the molded plastic shells.

Henkel 00-09122 Indoor 5-Window Shrink Film Kit, 62-by-210-Inch

Reduce energy cost by insulating your home. This doesn’t mean spending a fortune having the walls restuffed, but rather take some simple non-permanent measures, like making draft dodgers and using shrink film on the windows. I LOVE the window kits, so easy to install and it makes a night tight barrier from the cold a must for any home with single pane windows.  This particular package claims you can save up to $190 per year. Great stuff, you’ll notice a difference as soon as it’s installed!

Reflective solar curtains are also a great way to keep out the hot sun in the summer, also a very economical product with a noticible effect.

Reuse

Reusing packing is a great way to get more use out of a produt before it becomes “garbage”

Single serving yogurts make great pots for seedlings or cuttings, making it worthwhile to buy small containers instead of a pint.

Reusing grocery bags is a fabulous way to prevent trash from littering the environment. We all know that an outrageous number of plastic shopping bags, 500 BILLION, are used around the world each year. 30 Billion plastic shopping bags are used in the US alone! Of course it takes a ton of oil to make that many bags, about 12 MILLION barrels worth! A lot of the 500 Billion bags end up as litter, where they hand around for a long time. Sometimes the bags are where we can see them, blowing across a parking lot or median. Sometimes they are found flood debris, but more often they in parts of your ocean-backyard that we don’t see. Places like the “Eastern Garbage Patch,” (sounds attractive, huh?) contains an enormous amoust of plastic debris that is harmful (no duh) to marine life (spell check just changed that the martian life) and shore birds like the Albatross. Marine animals also become entangled with debris or they can die from a stomach full of plastic garbage, lighters, bottle caps….The saddest part, only 1% of plastic bags are recycled annually, so take advantage of those plastic bags drop offs at the grocery store.

grocery bag canYou might think, in the middle of the bag controversy, that paper bags are the way to go. Save all that oil. Get a nice brown bag. Most often baggers put the paper bag in a plastic bag so the bottom doesn’t drop out and and so you’ll have handles to grab. The truth is, the pulp and paper industry is a major industrial energy consumer, the largest industrial water consumer, and the third largest polluter behind the steel and chemical industries.

Grocery bags don’t have to be a guilty pleasure because there are so many great (re)uses for them. For plastic bags try  Simple Human’s super garbage can that secures that loops the grocery bag under the can’s handles. This stainless steel wonder makes recycling grocery bags sexy. Even at 24.99, it will pay for it’s quickly, no more buying expensive trash liners, that waste use more petroleum. Beautiful, sturdy, effective. No more fishing the handles out of the garbage.  Of course you always want to use two bag, in case a hole or rip is hiding, you never know. Better safe than sorry, or in this case, better safe than cursing.

Paper bags, use them to wrap packages in a pinch. Also great for cooling cookies, especially at Christmas time. Cute the bag into a flat sheet, unload the cookies,  cool the sheets down outside and bake your next batch!

Don’t forget to recycle! The little things DO make a difference!

Blog Action Day

Earth Day

Posted in Environment, History by Lzyjo on April 22, 2009

A friend’s mom once told me Earth Day was her favorite holiday. I couldn’t agree more. Earth Day is the most universal global holiday we have. A day to unite for our one and only, Mother Earth.

The first Earth Day was organized by peace activist John McConnell, to coincide with the 1969 UNESCO conference held in San Francisco around the Spring Equinox on March 20th.

John McConnell was a Midwesterner who moved to San Francisco to continue his interest in activism. McConnell was a prolific activist. He organized campaigns for many causes, including peace, hunger, and environmental issues. McConnell was inspired by the pollution he saw while working at a plastic factory. McConnell was so appalled by the pollution resulting from plastic manufacture that he made it his life’s work to promote environmental activism and stewardship.

The Earth Day holiday was founded in 1970 with the help of Wisconsin-senator Gaylord Nelson. Since 1970, Earth Day’s are held on April 22nd of every year. Even Senator Nelson couldn’t predict the success of his ambitious idea, saying of the project, “it was a gamble, but it worked.”

The 1970’s were a very important time for environmental legislation. There was momentum built up by the growing awareness of social issues, pollution, and our impact on wildlife and wilderness.

Today many of the same issues exist, threatened and endangered species, pollution from nuclear waste, coal, munitions, boats, pharmaceutical waste, untreated sewage, mining waste, brewing waste, and so on. The Earth is not our garbage can, but we often treat it that way.

Since the new millennium, Earth Day has added Global Warming as another key issue. The good news is, 2007 was the most successful Earth Day, with an estimated one billion people participating in close to two hundred countries.

Happy Earth Day!

For Addition information:

Earth Day Network, a website organized by the founders of Earth Day.

Wikipedia Earth Day

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Save the Frogs

Posted in Environment by Lzyjo on December 27, 2008

Year after year, scientists report mass die-offs of frog species worldwide, yet, little changes to protect these delicate amphibians from the well-known environmental threats that besiege them.

A 2002 National Geographic article and a recent NPR story point toward Atrazine, Malathion, and Esfenvalerate, a synthetic pyrethroid, as the root causes of physical defects threatening frog populations. Atrazine has already been banned in the European Union, since 2004 due to pervasive groundwater contamination, but remains the second most widely-used pre and post emergence herbicide in the U.S., next to Roundup, with over 77 Million pounds applied each year. Atrazine is cheap and most commonly used on corn crops, sorghum, and sugarcane.

Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor, even in low concentrations. The most egregious effect of Atrazine is it’s ability to demasculinize male frogs. “Atrazine-exposed frogs don’t have normal reproductive systems,” said Tyrone Hayes, the leader of a team from the University of California at Berkeley. “The males have ovaries in their testes and much smaller vocal organs.” Atrazine exposure caused levels of testosterone in male frogs to sink below those in healthy female frogs. Not only does Atrazine disrupt the reproductive systems of amphibians and humans, but it impairs organ development, causing deformed hearts, kidneys and digestive systems.

Some of the developmental effects of Atrazine can be explained by an overgrowth of trematodes, the parasitic worm that causes swimmer’s itch. When Atrazine is introduced into an aquatic environment, it kills algae floating on the surface, letting in more light for algae growing on the bottom. The bottom-growing algae is a food source for snail populations, which begin thriving in the altered conditions. In some cases, snail populations quadrupled, providing a host for the trematode. When developing tadpoles are exposed to trematode larvae, they form cysts in the frog’s body that alter later development, causing missing limbs, or in some cases duplicate limbs. Normally, a healthy frog would be able to resist, to some extent, a trematode infection, but the Atrazine has a detrimental effect on the frog’s immune system, so it can no longer protect itself.

Other studies have linked physical defects to increased ultraviolet radiation exposure from ozone layer depletion. A survey of frog habitat in Minnesota showed that frogs were less at risk for physical defects in wetlands where the habitat absorbs much of the UV light.

Chemical pollution is not the only threat to amphibians, it is global warming and a series of ecological chain reactions. A 2006 article from Live Science, explains a fungal phenomenon is responsible for a huge worldwide decline in frog populations over the past twenty years.

From Australia to the Caribbean, species are being wiped out by Chytridiomycota a primitive water-borne fungus that attacks the frog’s skin, causing excessive peeling, lethargy, and death. Scientists blame the increase in Chytridiomycota on increased cloud cover and altered day and night temperatures that provide the ideal breeding ground for the fungus. Scientists working during an outbreak after all the frogs died described the silence in the forest as eerie.

As gardeners with a special appreciation for the little creatures that inhabit our cultivated paradise, it behooves to do what we can to protect these essential and delicate creatures. I’ve seen a least one toad (?) around and I wish to provide a small sanctuary in my garden for those insect-eating creatures. A Frog Pond does not have to be large and can easily be inserted and maintained in a garden area. It takes little to maintain a frog pond as they do not need filtration, only shade, muck, and old leaves, which nature will provide.

Toxic Algae Blooms Fueled by Fertilizer

Posted in Environment by Lzyjo on December 25, 2008

Every year between August and October cyanobacteria bloom, forming masses of brilliantly-colored blue-green flowers. There is fossil evidence that Cyanobacteria existed more than 2,000 million years ago. Before the Proterozoic Eon, cyanobacteria were the primary producers of nitrogen, capable of fixing the valuable nutrient from the atmosphere and more importantly, producing oxygen as a by-product, which caused an explosion of life on earth. Cyanobacteria have formed symbiotic relationships with many species. The bacteria is found in the roots of cycads, in rice paddies, and even in the fur of sloths. Cyanobacteria have made life on earth possible, but the blooms of some species produce toxins that are harmful to the nervous system, liver, and skin.

People and cyanobacteria have coexisted practically since the beginning of time. Only recently have things spun out of control. Excessive algae blooms, which smother aquatic life, have become a global problem, from Alaska’s Bering Sea to the Tasman Sea, surrounding New Zealand and Australia. Because of cyanobacteria’s ability to fix nutrients, synthetic fertilizers, particularly phosphorus, cause the cyanobacteria take over, choking-out other vegetation, which is left to die and be decomposed by bacteria. These bacteria require oxygen and quickly use up all the dissolved oxygen that is available. A healthy aquatic ecosystem retains 80% dissolved oxygen at all times. When available oxygen drops below 30%, it is termed hypoxic or anoxic, fish, crabs, and anything that is living, dies. In the U.S., many areas are effected, there are dead zones off of the Mid-Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific North-West. Florida’s St. Johns Rivers has been dubbed the Green Monster due to the algae blooms which have overrun the river. These dead zones cannot support aquatic life and have caused great economic damage to the lucrative fishing industry.

If we think back to a basic idea we learned in elementary school, about the continental divide. All water East of the Continental divide drains into the Atlantic and the Gulf and all water West of the continental divide goes into the Pacific. If this is true, than all fertilizer applied to each side of the continent will go into one or the other, that is, if it is not used by the plants it is applied to and allowed to leach away from the farmer’s field and into the water supply.

The EPA’s own documents agree that it must implement a numeric value for permissible levels of nutrients in water. Current regulations rely on a narrative paragraph, which states that nutrients should not be found in the water, but it does not give a numeric value and is therefore unenforceable.

Because cyanobacteria is found virtually everywhere, in fresh water, salt water, and land, there is an extremely high risk that surface drink water sources will become contaminated. The toxins are known to cause tumors, skin irritation, respiratory irritation, and other health complaints in residents who were exposed to the toxins in their water. A condition known as Baby Blue Syndrome is caused when infants, who have not been breast-fed, consume water containing toxins from cyanobacteria. In the anaerobic conditions of a newborn child’s stomach, the toxins produce changes in the blood that prevent the hemoglobin from carrying oxygen, thus suffocating the child from the inside-out.

Recently, there have been scares about manure and bagged soil contamination, which have revealed that historically, civilizations used dung as a fuel source, rather than a fertilizer. So what makes the ideal fertilizer? The cells of everything are made of carbon, and carbon balance is an important part of making compost, yet commercial fertilizers only include the nutrients N-P-K, plus what-ever filler adds up to 100, if the four numbers are added together. Good quality soil looks like black gold; moist, crumbly, full of organic material, and carbon. An NPR article, about global warming and farming shows that carbon dioxide is released when carbon rich soil is tilled, gradually depleting the soil quality and exhausting significant amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. By using cover crops that are retilled into the soil and composting carbon-rich corn stalks and garden waste, carbon and nitrogen are stored in the soil to enrich next year’s crops.