Is A Steel Bottle Better than Plastic?

by Kimberly B.

It depends on how much you use them according to Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris of the New York Times.

How Green Is My Bottle?

Earth Day is this Wednesday, and all things “green” will be celebrated. But it’s worth asking: how environmentally friendly are “green” products, really?

Consider, for example, this paragon of eco-virtue: the stainless steel water bottle that lets us hydrate without discarding endless plastic bottles. Using a method called life cycle assessment, we have evaluated the environmental and health impact of a stainless steel thermos — from the extraction and processing of its ingredients, to its manufacture, distribution, use and final disposal. There were some surprises. What we think of as “green” turns out to be less so (and, yes, sometimes more so) than we assume.

Read more>



A voyage of awareness

by Amanda Brauer

David de Rothschild is making a statement and voyage with a vessel made of plastic bottles. He and his crew are constructing a 60-foot catamaran which, with exception of the metal masts, is made entirely from recycled plastic. He plans to set sail from San Francisco in April and make the 11,000 journey to Australia to raise awareness and boost recycing of plastic bottles. The boat is “all sail power” he explains. “The idea is to put no kind of pollution back into the atmosphere, or into the oceans for that matter, so everyting on the boat will be compoted. Everything will be recycylces. Event the vesssel is goint ot end up beng recycled when we finish.”

read more at CNN.com



What do soy, plastic, and cute little vinyl toys have in common? Don’t count on the FDA to tell you.

by Jessica Thompson

Recently over a vegan lunch, a girlfriend of mine told me of her favorite way to make a baked potato. She covers it in plastic wrap and puts in the microwave. I cringed, and held back the urge to lecture her over our tofu laden lunch.

There may not be evidence that plastic wrap leaches toxic chemicals when heated, but there’s plenty of evidence that other plastics do, and it’s probably not a good idea to have it draped over your food while super hot. BPA (bisphenol A) a chemical found in many plastics, is believed by scientists to pose serious health risks when leached into food products.  The FDA has not had the opportunity to “fully investigate” the findings on their own, but lucky for us they have decided maybe they should take another look.

They announced last week they would conduct studies over concerns that products such as baby bottles, water bottles, and microwavable containers might be poisoning people. According the center for disease control BPA is found in 90% of Americans urine samples, and since this chemical is not naturally occurring, we know where that came from. For example, when you buy a refrigerated bottle of water, how do you know that it was not sitting for days in a hot truck, and the water is not full of the tasteless, odorless BPA? I can’t help but think of the recent film Wall-E, where the whole planet was so toxic that nothing could grow. There’s so much plastic out there, that it’s even difficult for scientists to study the effects on humans because we are exposed to so many toxins, how do you isolate?

The Soy Connection

Three years ago I became  vegetarian thinking this was the humane and healthy choice. That’s until I started hearing about soy and estrogen. There’s something in soy just like BPA (in plastic) that acts as an estrogen simulator in the body. According to some studies this is a big risk, especially for women (think breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other hormone related issues.)  The irony is for years I drank a giant bottle of water (figi & volvic) and ate tons of soy, thinking all the while these were brilliant choices. It makes me wonder if this is how smokers felt when they found out cigarettes killed. It seemed so innocent, and hip. The jury is still out on soy (search soy, health risks), but my fear is that in my effort to live toxin free, I’ve really been pumping all these fake estrogen’s into my body that will lead to a mastectomy in my future. I’m going to the doctor next week.

If You Have A Dog Watch Out For These

With all these risks swirling in my head I started thinking of other places that a cancer might be ready to invade. Watching my dog play with his favorite vinyl chewy toy, my heart sank. Is this thing poisoning my dog too? Just like the kids toys, they come from China, red flag number one. Then I did a google search, and surprise surprise…

“Nov. 25, 2008 — A consumer watchdog group is urging parents to avoid buying soft plastic toys this holiday season because of a risk that the toys may contain toxic chemicals.”

If the chemicals are in the kids toys then they are definitely in the dog toys, which barely anyone bats an eye over. The chemical in this kind of plastic is different from the BPA, but non the less, pose similar documented health risks.

What to do?

We all know the FDA has not done a very good job protecting us from a wide variety of things imported into this country, and in some cases grown within. And since it appears they are at least 5-10 years behind on the science, or burying it because of insider interests, we the people have to do our homework. The unfortunate thing is that the toxins are everywhere, I even read recently that studies done on cows near a plastic manufacturing plant are showing altered DNA. This is for another blog. In the meantime, I’m opting for a sensory deprivation tank. Which of course, as luck would have it is made of plastic too.



Paper or Plastic, The Argument Goes On

by Kimberly B.

Well revelations come in many forms and this one happens to come in the form of a website!  Just when I thought I hated plastic (and I really do), I just learned that using plastic bags is better than paper but only if you ‘REUSE’ them… (much better than recycling).  Check out this website www.savetheplasticbag.com.  It will give you a zillion reasons why plastic can be better than paper when you’re checking out of the grocery store.  It even has a section about how Whole Foods Gets It Wrong because it has banned plastic bags.  The only problem with this whole idea, conceptually, is that I don’t have confidence that people won’t let them blow in the wind, gather on the side of the road or throw them away.  But maybe we can change behavior if we raise awareness.  This is a darn good start.  Www.savetheplasticbag.com



The Packaging Police! Raising the Alarm About Poison Plastics

by Jessica Thompson

Remember the days when you could buy a simple cable without any packaging? Or a light bulb in a cardboard container, or nearly any other product that did not require super human strength to open?  To the surprise of most people, this scourge of “clam shell packaging”, is not only crowding landfills, clogging oceans, and wasting energy to produce, it’s also commonly VERY TOXIC!

Clam shell packaging often contains a form of PVC, which has high levels of lead and phthalates. This makes the packaging more durable, less bendy, and impossible to open. Exposure to these chemicals according to researchers can be linked to premature birth delivery, early puberty in girls, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, genital defects and reduced testosterone production in boys. The clam-shell package isn’t the only place the PVC is prevalent, you know that ‘new car smell’, hate to ruin it for you but that smell is the poisonous chemical fumes put off by PVC. And that’s just one example.

The hazards don’t stop with consumers: PVC creates toxic pollution during manufacture, harming workers and local residents near PVC plants. And when we throw it away, toxins like lead and phthalates can leach into the ground and drinking water. When burned in incinerators, PVC produces dioxins and furans, chemicals that can cause cancer and considered to be among the most toxic environmental contaminants known to man. And to top it off it cannot be effectively recycled.

Now some companies are currently phasing out PVC from their clam shell packaging, including Walmart and Microsoft, and the state of California is considering a ban. We applaud that. But even if they do phase out PVC (which is far from a dream realized) they’ll replace it with PET, a chemical while better is still ecologically harmful. So how about this – why don’t we just quite it with the excessive, wasteful packaging altogether. There was a time when we did actually survive without it. With all the technology available today you’d think companies and stores could collaborate and find a non health destroying, environmentally safe way to make sure their products don’t get ripped off.

So next time your at the store looking to purchase a new set of headphones, opt for the pair in the cardboard box (like Apple sells) it’s not perfect, but at least your speaking out with your pocket book.



Bottled Water And Why You Should Quit

by Jessica Thompson

Last week I saw a provocative ad created for Brita+Nalgenes’ Filter For Good campaign, accompanied by the first commercial I’ve seen that shows a bottle of water for what it is. An energy inefficient, toxic commodity that we use once and throw “out”, where it languishes for 1,000 years. Now, I don’t buy bottled water anymore, but just a few years ago, before I “knew” all this, every morning I would buy a cup of coffee, and a bottle of water.  It’s just possible that over the last 5 years I’ve purchased 1,500 water bottles. (By the way interesting challenge to do your own math.)

Back when I used to buy all that bottled water, I also smoked. And while these two don’t seem likely bed fellows I can make a pretty good argument that the habits have their similarities. Both require a denial of the hard ugly facts. In the case of smoking you ignore the cancer threat, in the case of water bottles you deny how utterly wasteful the purchase was, from pollution, to energy costs, to your health (see BPA research.) The most important connection I would point out though, is education.

It’s hard to believe that back in the 1940s when everyone was smoking up a storm that they actually thought it would not have adverse health effects. But without the science, and the official health advisories, there was plausible deniability. Same goes for bottled water. Now that we know what’s really happening to all those inane purchases, really how can we just keep buying? Consider these facts:

  1. Of the 50 billion plastic water bottles used by Americans in 2006, 38 billion of them were thrown away, unrecycled. The 1.5 million barrels of oil it takes to produce 50 billion bottles could fuel 100,000 cars for a year. And that does not even include the oil used for transportation.
  2. Last year, the average American used 167 water bottles, but only recycled 38.
  3. More than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away every day in the United States. This is a growing problem—it takes up to 1,000 years for disposable water bottles to decompose.

Given these startling statistics, which have been circulating for quite some time, I figured there would have to be a groundswell against plastic water bottles, but it’s been a slow start to say the least. Finally, here’s an ad with the right visuals, reminding me of the first picture I saw of a smokers black lung. Unfortunately, the plastic narrative is a bit more complex, especially when its so easy to throw “out” the offender “out of sight, out of mind.” But once you put it all together, and you realize how pervasive the plastic problem is, a water bottle on a shelf might just look like that nasty lung in a cooler. It does to me…

http://www.FilterForGood.com/



My Recycling Bin Is A Temptress

by Jessica Thompson

A couple weeks ago my aunt handed me this postcard. She thought I’d appreciate it given my obsession with lecturing the family, and ‘going negative’ at events like kid’s birthday parties when living rooms become seas of clam shell packaging.   It’s a newish compulsion, but I every time I see one of my adorable nieces cuing over a new plastic baby doll I immediately picture it all gross and beaten up floating in the middle of the ocean. It certainly does dampen the moment.

But while I may feel compelled to lecture those around me, the hard truth is I don’t feel that my consumption has gone down all that much either. The difference is now, I recycle everything. But it’s like an act of blind faith, as I have grave doubts that most of it does not actually end up in a landfill.  It seems to me that other then organic waste just about EVERYTHING is recyclable.  I’m nostalgic for the days when we had the separate bins, one for paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. At least then I had some faith. Now, in my area we just get one big ol’ bin. Sometimes I look in there and I think how on gods earth is anyone going to sort this out!   When I think back to the early days of recycling it seems like the bins were not all that full. But now, I can’t fill it up fast enough. It terrifies me.

So I wonder, in our excitement over recycling did we close our eyes to just how much more stuff we accumulate and throw out? Is that why we did not question the fact that everything we buy is now wrapped in some totally unnecessary material? Did we figure, hey, its recyclable, no big deal?  Now I know the days of people looking at recycling as our salvation are over, our problems are much more complex then that. But in the part of my brain that loves the idea of utopia through regulation I wish someone would say to me “You can only fill that thing up once every two weeks, OR ELSE!”



PVC Packaging – gone by 2015??

by Amanda Brauer

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of Santa Monica has written a proposed law that would ban PVC packaging by the year 2015. The clamshell packaging with super sharp edges is not just a pain to open, it often contains lead and cadmium which are harmful to human health, as well as the environmental damage through the leaching of dioxin, a know carcinogen.

more about PVC and the bill to get rid of it (venturacountystar.com)

read what the Californians Against Waste have to say about the bill (cawrecycles.org)



“Trans-Fats” of the Skin Care World

by Shawna Robins

Yesterday’s article in Live Science Most Sunscreens Fail to Protect” came as no surprise to me. In fact, it seems that most Sunscreen Companies have been keeping us all in the dark for far too long. Last March, while I was cooking dinner one night and watching my two kids fighting over a toy in the backyard, I got a phone call that would change my life. It was my dermatologist. She told me that a mole I had removed a few weeks back was melanoma. I was in total shock. After a big chunk of my leg was removed and the lab determined that I was in Stage 1 cancer, the fear of never seeing my kids grow up finally began to dissipate. I had faced my fear of death. But how was I going to live? I had to figure out a way to do that in our sun obsessed, outdoor, year-around sunbathing California culture. This meant no more afternoon beach walks. No more family “surf Sunday” trips. No more trips to Maui to visit friends. No more afternoons at the park with my kids. “Don’t be in the sun between 10 and 4,” the doctors told me. [Read more →]



Proctor & Gamble: Adding A Touch Of Plastic To Your Next Seafood Dinner

by Jessica Thompson

While most environmentally conscious people know that no purchase, especially from SaveOn, is without it’s consequences, in the case of Oil of Olay, they’ve found a surprising way to keep the price down, and still get those spa results. The latest incarnation of Olay products, an ancient in the world of new beauty, are shower cleansers that make your skin feel like velvet. Sadly, rather then using salt, pumice, or other organic substances to exfoliate your skin, Oil of Olay uses teeny tiny pieces of plastic. These teeny tiny plastic pieces wash right down the drain, straight through the sewage filtration systems, and into the oceans.

If you have not heard already, our oceans are CLOGGED with plastic. Proctor and Gamble spokesmen say essentially “this stuff is so small, it’ll barely make a dent.” I am paraphrasing of course, but it’s smallness in this case is the whole point. Recent reports suggest that there may be 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile in our oceans. Not only does plastic in our oceans irreparably harm and kill sea life, it also makes its way back into the food chain as it’s ingested by the sea animals we eat. This plastic broken down into its smallest form is being linked by researchers to a number ghastly diseases and health problems such as prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, low fertility rates, and birth defects, to name a few.

Thanks to Proctor and Gamble they’re making new products with micro plastics ready to go, no need to wait for the sun and the elements to do their work. They’ll just flow out to the sea right under our noses, ready to be caught and cooked up in your next bucket of steamed clams. I guess the new catch phrase could be “You eat what you wash with?”

To Read More: See Slates: Scrubbing Out Sea Life