Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tip of the Week #2

Tissues (and Handkerchiefs)

As anybody who sits through class with me is well aware, I have year-round, persistent allergies. I decided a while ago that the trees no longer needed my snot. Here's somethings to consider.

Environmental Impact

Tissues, whatever brand you buy, are made of paper. The largest producer of pulp for tissues is Kimberly-Clark, owner of the Kleenex® brand. Greenpeace waged an aggressive Kleercut campaign to get them to stop logging in old-growth forests that officially ended in 2009 due to a commitment from the company to protect Canada's Boreal Forest. Regardless, according to the NRDC the "virgin timber-based pulp and paper industry is the third greatest industrial emitter of global warming pollution. Its carbon dioxide emissions are projected to double by 2020."

Social Impact

The Kleenex® website provides a lovely history of its product. The company initially marketed it as a make-up remover, until some savvy employee noted how useful it was to deal with his hay-fever. And hence, a large contribution to the disposable culture pervasive throughout our society was born. For a great description of the breadth of this problem Green Coalition recommends the informative and entertaining Story of Stuff.

Americans have always been particularly germ phobic, and there may be some correlation between the fear of mucus and the tendency to want to throw it out as if it was toxic waste. But just FYI, you touch a lot more mucus than you think.

The Law

It's a big issue, so just focusing on the stance of the current administration protecting national forests: "No logging or road project on tens of millions of forested acres will proceed without personal approval by the Agriculture Department's secretary for at least a year while the Obama administration decides how to handle a controversial Clinton-era roadless rule, officials said today." -NYtimes May 28, 2009.

To learn more about the roadless rule, check out this timeline and website. Suffice to say, the current White House is more of a friend of forests than the previous, but it is NOT enough to rest on.

What can you do?

Number 1:
Use a handkerchief. I promise cloth is softer than any tissue you have ever wiped under your nose. This article> suggests a different hanky for each day of the week.

My personal strategy has been to cut up old t-shirts. Especially if it's a shirt that's too tattered/small to keep wearing but you really love it, it's a very special way to keep that shirt as a loving presence in your life.

Number 2:
Follow this guide published by the NRDC and purchase the most responsible disposable tissue product possible. Some composts can take your dirty tissues. Then you can think about eating your snotty tissue when you chomp into a beautiful homegrown tomato next August!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tip of the Week #1

Recycle your Batteries

Environmental Impact

Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment if not recycled properly. When incinerated, certain metals might be released into the air or can concentrate in the ash produced by the combustion process.

Currently, most batteries collected through household battery collection programs are disposed of in hazardous waste landfills. In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. In the past, batteries accounted for nearly half of the mercury used in the United States and over half of the mercury and cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.*

Social Impact

Landfills can leak. Toxic chemicals leaking from landfills are bad for people. Its almost that simple. Its gets more complicated when you start looking at who is most affected by leaking landfills.

Communities that live close to landfills are disproportionately endangered by the toxic chemicals that may leach from them. Historically, poor and minority communities have been located in close proximity to landfills and therefore have been burdened by a large share of the environmental impacts caused by toxins in landfills. These communities have looked to the law for remedies

The Law

Many states have regulations in place requiring some form of battery recycling. California mandates recycling for almost all battery types The U.S. Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act in 1996 to make it easier for rechargeable battery and product manufacturers to collect and recycle Ni-CD batteries and certain small sealed lead-acid batteries.*

When government doesn't have the correct mechanisms or fails to enforce them citizens suits are also an avenue for redress. The case of the Dickson County Landfill in Tennessee is a prime example of how communities have been damaged by toxic landfill leaks. In March 2008 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and two residents of Dickson, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against the Dickson County and City governments. The Complaint alleges that an industrial chemical disposed at the Dickson Landfill that has been linked to neurological and developmental harm and cancer, poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.**

Remedial Measures

One way to prevent personally generated toxins from reaching landfills is to not use them. If you do, then recycle those batteries. The NYC Department of Sanitation operates Self Help Special Waste Drop-Off Sites in every borough for the collection and recycling (or proper disposal) of batteries. Check out NYDOS site for more info.

If you want to get involved in working with communities that are adversely impacted by the sorts of issues that toxic chemicals in landfills pose as a good place to start would be to check out organizations like WeAct, the Environmental Justice Resource Center and Green For All.

Information from this Tip of the Week retrieved from:
Written by Patrick Foster