We live in a throw away society. Most of the things we buy every day are made from plastic.
The plastic water bottles, plastic packaging in the items we buy on-line, the plastic packaging with personal care products, toys, tools, household items, all add up to a lot of plastic! This plastic is mostly thrown in the garbage after only one use and either sent to a landfill, burned in an incinerator, or ends up in the ocean, where it slowly decomposes and becomes a health threat to marine life.
Of course, plastic is made from oil, a fossil fuel. When it is burned, it produces greenhouse gases which in turn contribute to climate change. It’s true that many kinds of plastic can be recycled, but a very small percentage of the total is actually recycled. A large amount of it ends up as litter and eventually in the oceans, where it kills marine life. Even if you want to ignore the environmental consequences of plastic garbage, you can’t ignore the fact that plastic containers expose consumers to dangerous levels of BPA and other endocrine disruptors, which cause cancer and other deadly illnesses.
What can we do about this problem? We can minimize our exposure to plastics by consciously avoiding products made from plastic! Instead of buying plastic bottles of water, disposable razors, disposable utensils, disposable plastic plates, disposable plastic cups, we can fill our reusable metal water bottle with filtered tap water, buy re-usable razors, and use reusable metal utensils, ceramic plates and cups, etc. Is that really so hard to do?
The Earth Day Network has a new campaign to End Plastic Pollution. They have lots of cool educational materials you can use for yourself or in the classroom. Visit www.EDN.org for more information.
Hurricane Harvey: What does it Mean for New York City?
As I write this article, Tropical Storm Harvey, downgraded from a category 4 hurricane just a couple of days ago is pummeling south Texas with torrential rain. The residents of Houston and the surrounding area are suffering from catastrophic flooding. Other than watching the drama unfold on TV, giving money to rescue efforts, and praying for the lives and the well being of everyone affected, what can we do here in New York City? What conclusions or lessons should we draw from this tragedy?
First of all, it is important to note that the City of Houston has grown tremendously over the last 25 years or so. In a very short period of time, the city has been paved and built up in a manner that is unsustainable. Houston is surrounded by many rivers and bayous. When it rains, the water should drain into the rivers and bayous and go into the Gulf of Mexico. However, because of all the building in recent years, excess water has no place to drain and it just sits in the streets, causing flooding. Scientists predict that storms like Harvey will occur more frequently and be more devastating than ever in the coming decades.
Is New York City vulnerable to a storm like Harvey? What is NYC doing to reduce the chances that we would suffer the same kind of flooding and devastation that Houston is suffering? Fortunately, New York City is doing a lot of good things to make it less vulnerable to storms in the future. There is a massive green infrastructure program going on throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Things like green streets, bioswales, green roofs, expanded tree pits, and similar structures are being built in areas that tend to flood easily.
For more information on the NYC Green Infrastructure Program, visit www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/stormwater/using_green_infra_to_manage_stormwater.shtml
The NYC Green Infrastructure Program is not only helping to make NYC more green in a literal sense, but it is also helping to make NYC more resilient and resistant to flooding.
You are invited to the Green City Challenge Back to School Party on Monday, September 25 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Raymour & Flanigan, 1961 Broadway at West 66th Street in Manhattan. We are excited to introduce a revised version of the What’s the Watts Challenge and to tell people about our new initiative to bring Green City Challenge into Middle Schools in the Bronx and Manhattan.
Please make your reservation now at www.greencitychallenge.org/rsvp or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-530-5074.
How to Safeguard Your Family Against Home Health Risks
The last thing we want to think about is the danger our homes could pose to our health. Yet, studies find that hazards, pollutants, and dangers exist within our homes that can aggravate allergies, sinuses, skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, and more. Worse still is the fact that so many people do not realize the ways in which our homes make us sick. To help you protect your family, we share some tips for safeguarding your family against home health risks here.
Take a Good Look at Your Household Cleaners
We think that our household cleaners are safe because they are marketed for home use. Unfortunately, studies show that 21 common household cleaners contain air contaminants, including 24 that are associated with serious health concerns and cancer. Even the fragrances in household cleaners are known to cause respiratory problems for people. If you have not looked at the ingredients and warning labels on your cleaners, do so immediately. At the very least, you should follow the directions for use to the letter and ensure that you run a fan and open a window when you clean.
Better yet, replace your household cleaners with organic or homemade, non-toxic products. For example, you can mix water with vinegar or lemon juice to clean glass. Use baking soda as a scouring agent and borax mixed with water as a multipurpose cleaner.
Get a Home Inspection
You may be familiar with home inspections as a task to complete when buying or selling a home, but you should consider getting a home inspection for peace of mind. Certified home inspectors carefully examine the interior and exterior of your home and can point out potential problems, safety hazards, defects, and other concerns to homeowners.
Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide Danger
Carbon monoxide poisonings can happen at any time, but the number of occurrences rises when the power goes out and people use generators, when people use gas ranges or fireplaces, or when people leave their cars running inside the garage. Other sources of carbon monoxide dangers in the home include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, furnace back-drafting, gas water heaters and woodstoves and fireplaces, and tobacco smoke.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, which makes it very dangerous. Initial symptoms include headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea, but symptoms can worsen to include vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness when the poisoning increases. If the carbon monoxide issues develop slowly, victims may mistakenly believe they have the flu.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, install carbon monoxide alarms in hallways near areas used for sleeping. Make sure that your appliances are in good working order and have them repaired if they are not. Have your heating system professionally inspected and serviced once a year and make sure that professionals check and clean your chimneys and flues. Do not operate any gasoline-powered tools or generators in the house or any enclosed space. Should your carbon monoxide alarm sound, immediately go outside and call 911.
Prevent Leaks and Check for Mold
Mold often is the culprit behind homes that make people sick. The problem with mold is that it can grow any place where small amounts of water collect. This means mold may form in air ducts, overhead vents, windows that collect condensation, bathroom floors, bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and any other area where water collects. If your home is too humid, mold can begin to grow behind walls and above ceilings, so you may not even be aware of its presence.
If you do see mold growing, use bleach to kill it and prevent more growth. If you suspect that mold is growing in hidden places, contact a professional to come in and do an assessment of your home. Sometimes, people must hire professional cleaning services to remove mold from their homes. The best way to prevent mold is to reduce the amount of humidity in your home, run bathroom fans during and after a shower, and use dehumidifiers when and where necessary.
Of course, you want to do all you can to keep your family safe and healthy. That’s why you should be aware of the hidden dangers in your home and know how to safeguard your family against them.
Image via Flickr
President – Elect Donald Trump has nominated some of the worst cabinet appointees in history! His nominee for Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas and two time Presidential candidate, promised to eliminate the Department of Energy during the 2012 Presidential Primary campaign and is a climate change skeptic. His nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency has sued the EPA for doing its job and wants to eliminate it or make it a powerless shell. His nominee for Secretary of State is the CEO of Exxon Mobil and was a climate change skeptic until very recently.
What does this mean for the environmental movement going forward? First of all, as far a Green City Challenge is concerned, we will continue doing what we are doing. Our mission is to educate New Yorkers about ways to live, work and eat green. It doesn’t matter who the President is. Our work continues regardless.
As far as the environmental movement in general is concerned, that is a different story entirely!
Environmentalists are in panic mode. Based on what Mr. Trump said during the election season and his cabinet nominees, the environmental picture looks very bleak indeed! However, we have to keep fighting for what we believe. We know there will be many legal and legislative battles ahead so we have to get ready. If you are not personally involved with any environmental organizations, this would be a good time to join one. It doesn’t matter what organization you join, but find at least one to join and volunteer, donate, and do something!
There are many national organizations to choose from including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon, etc. If you want to find a local organization to get involved with, you might consider Clearwater, the New York Restoration Project (founded by Bette Midler), Solar One, The Lower East Side Ecology Center, Green Home NYC and of course, Green City Challenge.
It goes without saying that if you would like to get involved with Green City Challenge, your assistance would be very welcome! We are looking for new board members with fundraising, marketing or governance experience. In addition, we are looking for volunteers to help us raise funds, create new games and challenges, conduct outreach, write articles for our blog, etc. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, please call Les Judd at 718-530-5074 or send an e-mail to email@example.com
Whatever you do in 2017, hang onto your hat because it’s going to be a bumpy ride!