Archive for June 28th, 2010

More About the Pacific Garbage Patch

Most of us have heard of the large Garbage Patch floating in the ocean, composed of predominantly plastic, but how much do we really know about it? 

For instance, when I heard of a “plastic garbage patch,” I immediately visualized large pieces of plastic: bags, bottles, and so forth.  Of course there are these large pieces of plastic, but in reality, most the patch is made of billions of tiny pieces of plastic, making it almost invisible unless you’re actually in it.  This makes it even worse for the environment than plastic bags and bottles floating in the ocean would be!

The first discovered garbage patch is in the North Pacific Gyre, stuck in swirling currents.  The size is as yet undetermined because the borders of the patch are impossible to see from planes, much less satellites.  It has been estimated that the garbage patch could range anywhere from 250,000 square miles, about the size of Texas, to 6 million square miles. which would mean it covers about 10 percent of the Pacific Ocean.  Scary!  And even scarier: a second garbage patch was recently discovered in the Atlantic.

So where does all this plastic come from?  People use about 200 billion pounds of plastic every year, 10 percent of which ends up in the ocean.  Thirty percent of this plastic in the ocean is stuck on the surface because of ocean currents which sweep it along to the garbage patch.  An interesting statistic: plastic coming from the east coast of Asia reaches the patch in about a year, plastic coming from the west coast of North America reaches the patch in about five years.

The plastic littered in the ocean is broken down by the sun into ever smaller pieces, but can never be broken down entirely.  This plastic becomes small enough to be ingested by ocean life who mistake it for food.  Through this, plastic enters the food chain, ultimately being ingested by humans as well!  This is especially dangerous because the plastic floating in the ocean absorbs floating chemicals.   Many don’t realize how directly our health is impacted by litter in the ocean!

The plastic in the Pacific Gyre comes mostly from four items: plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and styrofoam.  All the more reason for us to stop our use of these items and turn to sustainable alternatives!

1 comment June 28th, 2010

Six Simple Ways to Live a Greener Lifestyle

Sure, you hear about tips on living a “greener” lifestyle, but do you actually employ them? Below are five simple ways to reduce our footprint on the earth (excluding the obvious . . . RECYCLE!), even for the laziest penny pinchers.

1. Unplug and Turn Off Your Lights

Taking those extra few seconds to flip off the switch when you leave a room or shut down your laptop before you close it not only saves the earth, but it also saves you some money.

2. Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle

Plastic is the number one waste product filling our landfills and spilling into our oceans. In addition to its environmental impact, certain studies have shown that drinking out of plastic bottles can increase your risk of cancer. So save yourself some money in the long run and purchase a reusable metal water bottle that keeps your drink cooler instead of a Costco pack of plastic water bottles.

bottle

3. Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store

As California moves towards banning the dispensing of plastic bags in stores, stay ahead of the game by switching to reusable bags for your shopping. Keep a few in the trunk of your car so that you are always prepared.

4. Use Less Water

Turn your water heater down. Wash full loads of laundry in cold water. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave. Small changes like these not only reduce your water heating bill, but also help reduce the energy used for heating the water—second only in energy consumption to the air heating system.

5. Switch to Compact Florescent Bulbs

bulb

By switching to compact florescent bulbs, you generate far less pollution as well as save $30 over the lifetime of the bulb. Look for phrases like “warmer light” for a glow that resembles incandescent light.

6. Drive Less

A daily car commute of 20 miles round trip can add up to around $2,000 per year. So instead utilize your area’s public transportation or start a carpool with coworkers. You will save money on gas and help reduce the pollutant emissions of cars destroying our environment.

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