Monday, February 29, 2016

Why we Need Global Change!

Garbage around the World:

Here in America we are lucky enough to have one of the more established landfill systems, or an established system at all. Most developing countries are not as fortunate, which in turn is just as unfortunate for the rest of the world as well. Here we will take a look at only some of the countries who are contributing heavily to this global problem.

In 2004 China because the number one country in garbage and waste generation. Today, China is producing an average of around 2.5 pounds of garbage per day per person. Topping out a little over 7 pounds per person each day in the northeastern area of Hegang. The biggest problem that they face is by addressing this problem at the root. They have various efforts in how to rid of the trash that they produce, however they have no sort of reduction plan or restriction.
Recently, Lebanon has been in the news for what they call the "River of Garbage" flowing through their capitol city of Beirut. Many protestors are taking action by burning the garbage, however this increases the pollution in the air and also the chances of acid rain. By having garbage covering the city and in their water sources it also opens doors for diseases to be spread very easily.


Manshiyat Nasser is a city in Cario Egypt but is more often referred to as “Garbage city”. It is a slum settlement of about 60,000 people who live among these piles of garbage covering every open surface in this settlement. The garbage is the result of the 20 million people population in Cario, which has never established a landfill system. One tactic they have used to reduce this city of garbage is through pigs. The pigs will eat all of the organic material leaving behind what would otherwise not decompose effectively anyways. This has caused many health problems however, especially with the outbreak of the swine flu in 2009 causing the government to kill all of the pigs. 

Previously, this area of India has had an organized garbage system, however in the last few years due to a surge in population there has been limited space for all this increasing garbage. On top of this, there was a major garbage worker strike around this same time, which resulted in the dense population to have no where else to dispose of their trash than their very own streets. Another iconic "tourist" sight is the "trash trail" which is an 9 hour by foot or van trail of garbage through the cities wasteland. Along the way there are individuals who are trying to fix the garbage problem by sorting through it for things that can be reused and recycled. However, to have that much garbage coming from so much poverty is astounding and dangerous to their health along with the global contribution it is having on the problem that is pollution. 

Statistics in Waste

Once in our lives, whether it was us or someone we know, have thrown away an electronic. From cell phones to television, printers to game consoles, we end up throwing them away without a second guess if to donate it or recycle. In an article I have read, in 2011 “the world tosses 20-50 million metric tons of electronics, recycling only 10% to 18%.” It’s becoming an issue and it is one of the fastest growing waste while others are decreasing. This article gives statistics in infographic to not break down the numbers but gives examples as well that affects not only the land but to our bodies as well as majority of our electronics carry copper, tin, and iron. It also tells where it ends up and what we as a community can do to decrease the waste.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Savings All Around

Convenience, isn't this what we all seek? Being able to print your assignment from home right when you finish it? Sure beats having to leave the house earlier to find a printer which turns into at least a 15 minute endeavor. So one day you're sick of it and you go out for that "one time" purchase of your brand new (probably $40) printer! You are printing like there is no tomorrow until you run out of ink (probably after 5 assignments) and you realize that replacement cartridges cost just as much as your printer did! 

So now you need new ink and are concerned for your budget and especially the environment. You know (or at least you will after reading this) that every laser printer cartridge requires about 3 quarts of oil and 2.5 pounds of plastic to make, and the plastic is industrial grade taking about 1,000 years to decompose!!  If you don't consider the option of recycling you are now adding cartridges to the tons of e-waste we already produce. 

By now you are probably ready for options. The first is to reduce. Proofread and make sure that once you hit print, you are content with your product to avoid reprinting the same document. Secondly you can recycle your old ink cartridges. By doing this stores like Staples will give you money back which you can use toward your new purchase. Another is to buy remanufactured ink cartridges, which prevent them from landing in a landfill and can sometimes end up being 15% - 50% cheaper and have more ink in them since they are usually refilled up to capacity a luxury you don't usually get with new ones. This option provides you with savings to your budget and the environment without sacrificing convenience.  

You keep saying greenhouse gas but I don't own a greenhouse.

Greenhouse gas is a term that gets thrown around a lot. At first you might think it has something to do with fueling the big see-through buildings that people grow plants in. Well, not quite. Although, greenhouse gases work on our environment similar to what a greenhouse does for plants. A greenhouse traps heat so that crops can be protected from cold weather. Greenhouse gases trap heat on earth and prevent it from leaving the atmosphere.
Now, that may sound good to you. Maybe you prefer to be warm all the time. But, trapping too much heat is not good for maintaining temperature on earth. The sun emits radiation that reaches the earth. In order to prevent the earth from getting really hot some of this radiation needs to be released back into space. When the radiation that hits earth is equal to the radiation leaving earth that allows for the temperature of earth to be maintained. When there is more radiation coming to earth than there is leaving earth, temperatures begin to rise.
Right now, the amount of radiation leaving earth is not enough to maintain temperatures due to the increase in greenhouse gases created by humans. The increase in temperature has no only an effect on our climate but it also increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide. Waste releases methane into our atmosphere. The more waste we have the more methane that gets released. As we learned earlier when greenhouse gases increase so does the temperature. Increasing temperatures in itself also leads to an increase in greenhouse gases. Water vapor is created by evaporation. As temperatures increase, so does the amount of water that evaporates.
 In order to maintain temperature, As the earth’s temperature increases, so does the amount of radiation emitted from earth. However, without a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases being put in the atmosphere, the earth cannot emit enough radiation back into space to maintain the temperature on earth. Which keeps the earth in a loop of increasing temperatures until the amount of radiation the earth receives is equal to the amount of radiation that makes it out of the atmosphere.
While there are several ways to reduce greenhouse gases, reducing waste is the easiest way for each individual person to contribute to the environment. When it comes to reducing waste, one person truly can make a difference.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Technological Understanding and E-Waste

We know that community plays a role, with Reduce, Recycle, Reuse: Electronic Waste we cover the aspect of getting together with others to find a way to cultivate habits to not only recycle, but also reduce and reuse our electronics.

The Landscape of Today to The Landscape of the Future we learn why e-waste cannot be ignored, technology is growing and we are growing with it. With the breakneck speed technology is progressing we have both good news and bad news. The good news for technology, as this article from the Harvard Business Review goes into is that The Pace of Technology Adoption is Speeding Up.

But there's a phrase that apparently there isn't a consensus on what exactly it means; technological literacy. Education Week breaks it down in Tech Literacy Confusion, on one hand you have people saying it should be about interpreting digital forms of all kinds of media, and on the other you have people saying it should stick to the fundamentals of STEM, and then there's the whole issue of measuring technological literacy.

So the bad news for everything else is, as you can see from the fact that people can't even make up their minds on what technological literacy means, there are a lot more people using technology than there are people who understand it. So what does understanding technology have to do with e-waste?

A personal anecdote for example, my brother and I both love technology, which has naturally led to us gaining a strong understanding of it. My sister has never cared for it much at all, while she does reap the benefits of having a cutting edge smartphone and a good laptop. My brother and I combined, have gone through a total of five different phones, two for him three for me. My sister, by herself, has gone through ten. While our sister always has the newest smartphone, she has certainly sunk a lot more money into them, and has doubled the waste. Even with being able to use her brothers as a resource to fix her phone when its malfunctioning, her frustration with her devices built up much quicker than it ever would in either me or my brother due to a lack of understanding, which would lead to her being much more willing to replace it.

It's inevitable that technology encompasses our lives more than anybody could currently comprehend, which is why there is nothing but benefits to getting a head start on understanding it. A sustainable lifestyle is fueled by awareness and knowledge, while the scope of our lives expands it gets harder to be aware and be knowledgeable about everything we do, but Steve Howard goes into details on why we all (particularly businesses, but it applies to everybody too) should go all-in on sustainability in this 13-minute Ted talk.

The Landscape of Today to The Landscape of the Future

 In Reduce, Recycle, Reuse: Electronic Waste we go over the three Rs and one of the reasons why we all should participate beyond simply recycling. While community is a great reason to get into this stuff, it has been a topic of sorts among some that technology has actually led to people living more insulated lives, despite it being easier to communicate across any barrier than ever. While I could go into depth on that, I will instead provide another reason beyond just community for why the other steps in the process of sustainability are worthwhile. Another reason is that everybody's daily lives are changing in a massive way, and the driving force behind that change: Technology.

Like it or not, technology is now heavily entrenched in our lives. In the post Alarming Statistics around E-Waste  it was mentioned that there are more mobile devices than there people on the planet. That statistic is for mobile devices alone, there are significantly more electronic devices beyond the mobile ones. Is that trend going to change? Absolutely not, as this article from Business Insider suggests, you can bet on there being "10 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020". There's also Wearable technology which is an older but popular concept that has been gaining more ground in the last five years than it has in the previous three decades.  USA Today wrote a great article a couple of years ago about the  mechanization of jobs called "Could a robot do your job?'

It can get overwhelming trying to comprehend the full scope of technology that is slowly but surely headed our way. But while robots might leave us with no jobs, there is one function in our lives that simply wouldn't make sense to replace with robots: Using. If you don't think e-waste is a problem now, imagine it when you have electronics in your eyeglasses, your mirror, your cabinets or dressers, or even your clothes. While it's true that the incredible progress of technology has allowed engineers to do a lot in small spaces, you only need to see an ant hill to know that billions of very tiny things can make a nightmarishly large pile of unpleasantness.

Adopting good habits today allows for a much smoother transition to the future. If you follow the principle of reducing, become more selective in what technologies you involve yourself in, don't fall for the hype of the new shiny gadget with a higher incremental number, it will make the age of technology at every turn easier to digest.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why Disposable Diapers are Dirty and Dangerous

Why Disposable Diapers are Dirty and Dangerous
Babies do a lot of pooping. In fact, the average baby goes through 6-8 diapers a day. Unless you practice elimination communication, your baby will use between 6,500–10,000 diapers before potty training around 30 months old. If you use disposables and disposable wipes, this costs about $75–$100 a month retail—at least $3,000 per child!
According to a 2010 study, one-third of U.S. mothers are cutting back on basic necessities (such as food, utilities, and childcare) to buy diapers for their children. But as much as disposable diapers cost individual families, they cost us even more as a nation and as a planet.
Consider these alarming facts you may not know about disposable diapers: 

Disposable Nation

Approximately 90-95% of American babies use 27.4 billion single-use, plastic diapers every year. This generates 7.6 billion pounds of garbage each year—enough waste to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times over, or stretch to the moon and back 9 times. Every year.
Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills, and represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. The only other items that outnumber the amount of disposables in landfills are newspapers and beverage and food containers.
Even though it may seem as if an individual child doesn’t contribute much to those numbers, each baby wearing disposable diapers creates about 2000 pounds of garbage over the course of two years. 
(Yeah, that’s literally a ton of toxic waste. Could you imagine having to bury it in your yard?)
It takes hundreds of years for disposable diapers to decompose when exposed to sunlight and air. Since diapers are dumped into landfills, covered and not exposed to sun or air at all, nobody knows how many hundreds—or even thousands—of years they could be around.
Without sun and air, even so-called “eco-friendly” diapers labeled biodegradable do NOT biodegrade in landfillsand cause just as much of a problem as regular diapers.
Yet sadly, in the five minutes it will take you to read this article, another 200,000 throwaway diapers will enter landfills in the U.S. where they will sit for at least 500 years before decomposing.
In other words, if Christopher Columbus had worn Pampers, his poop would still be intact in some landfill today.
If the costs associated with needlessly landfilling diapers weren’t enough, consider that our landfills contain 5 million tons of untreated human waste—a breeding ground for diseases that could potentially contaminate our groundwater. The EPA notes that “…a significant portion of the disposable diaper waste dumped in American’s landfills every year is actually biodegradable human waste preserved forever.”
When you toss a disposable into the trash can, you are adding to the 84 million pounds of raw fecal matter going into the environment every year. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Public Health Association advise parents that fecal matter and urine should NOT be disposed of in the regular trash, because it contaminates the ground water and spreads disease.
In fact, printed on the side of every disposable diaper package are instructions for rinsing the diaper and flushing the fecal material down the toilet before putting it into the trash!
Have you EVER seen anyone rinse out a disposable, much less dump out the poop into the toilet?
Me neither.

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Electronic E-waste

When recycling old electronics, it may not cross our minds about what happens when they are discarded, how they are discarded, or if they are shipped somewhere else. I personally, did not realize how big of an issue electronic waste became to be not only in our country, but in other countries as well. The article that I have posted explains that 51% of iPhone users upgrade their devices every two years along with android users at 40%. With this percentage, it seems that it will rise and that it will end up in landfill, contained with lead and fuel, instead of being recycled.

It is a scary thought that what we once owned is rotting away in a landfill, creating hazardous smells and destroying the ground. It is even horrible that it became too much where we ship it to other countries for them to deal with it for a cheaper price. It is important for us, as a community to understand the outcomes of recycling electronics, and to make sure that what is recycle will be recycled and not transferred somewhere else to be another’s problem.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Alarming Statistics around E-Waste

It's hard not to be increasingly concerned about the issue of E-waste the more one educates themselves about it. Like many people, I never thought about or realized how bad this issue actually is. The article shared in this post highlighted 20 alarming facts about E-waste. Some of the facts blended together, but others really stood out. The fact that only 12.5% of all electronics are recycled is a problem. Especially when the article mentions how there are more mobile devices than there are people on the entire planet. Only 12.5% of these devices will be recycled, which is needless to say not very many, and this doesn't even account for all other electronic devices, only mobile devices such as cell phones. What this means to me is that 87.5% of all electronic waste is going to end up in a landfill somewhere. Not only does this add to issues such as the space landfills take up, but it also adds more hazardous chemicals to the ground and surrounding areas.

It is vital that we start spreading the word of E-waste recycling, but buyers beware! Just as the article mentions, some E-waste recycling facilities ship these items to other countries where they build up, and cause significant problems for ecosystems, and life quality for the areas impacted. Not only is it important to educate ourselves and our peers on the issue of E-waste, but we also need to make sure that the recycling outlets that we choose will actually recycle these items, and not just move the problem elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Environmental Problems: Landfills

trash in landfill
BA Environmental Science
Landfills have led to some of the most heated, acrimonious battles over pollution in the public commons that have ever been seen. While there are a number of reasons for the vehement arguments that often surround landfills, one of the largest is the juxtaposition of both the understood need for landfills and the lack of will to live near one. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person dumps almost 4.5 pounds of waste into landfills every single day. With the population skyrocketing across the country, these landfills will only become more of a public issue as time goes on. Despite the arguments over landfills in general, there are no arguments over the assertion that there are many things that contribute to the environmental problem of landfills.

Environmental Problems Caused by Landfills

The environmental problems caused by landfills are numerous. While there are many problems with landfills, the negative effects are most commonly placed into two distinct categories: atmospheric effects and hydrological effects. While these effects are both of equal importance, the specific factors that drive them are important to understand on an individual basis.

Atmospheric Effects

According to the EPA, the methane produced by the rotting organic matter in unmanaged landfills is 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat from the sun. Not only does methane get produced by the various forms of rotting organic matter that find their way into landfills, but household cleaning chemicals often make their way here as well. The mixture of chemicals like bleach and ammonia in landfills can produce toxic gases that can signfiicantly impact the quality of air in the vicinity of the landfill.
Aside from the various types of gases that can be created by these landfills, dust and other forms of non-chemical contaminants can make their way into the atmosphere. This contributes further to the air quality issue that plagues modern landfills.

Hydrological Effects

Landfills also create a toxic soup of industrial and home-cleaning chemicals. People throw away everything from industrial solvents to household cleaners in landfills, and these chemicals accumulate and mix over time. A more immediate concern is for the welfare of the wildlife that comes into contact with these chemicals, and it is not uncommon for animals to suffer inconceivably painful deaths resulting from chemical contamination.
Aside from chemicals, electronic waste is also a large contributor to water quality issues near landfills. Consumer electronics contain everything from lead to cadmium; the EPA reports that in 2009, of the 2.37 million short tons of electronic waste, around 25 percent or less were recycled. These chemicals accumulate and are washed away periodically by rain, potentially dragging them toward municipal water supplies.

Additional Landfill Environmental Problems

Emissions are not the only types of problems associated with landfills. A closer look can show why so many much needed changes are so difficult to come by.
  • Landfill Fires: Landfill gases, and the shear amount of landfill waste, can easily ignite a fire. Fires can be difficult to put out and contribute to the pollution of the air and water. They can also potentially destroy habitats nearby if not controlled soon enough. The most flammable gas that is most commonly produced by landfills is methane, which is highly combustable. Firefighters will often use a fire-retardent foam to fight fires in landfills due to the presence of chemicals that would not be subdued by water, further adding to the chemical load of these landfills.
  • Decomposition: Sometimes, landfills are covered with earth, seeded with grass, and transformed into recreational areas. The management of gasses coming out of these sites is a constant issue, and creates an ongoing cost despite the new facade of the landfill. Products that are natural, such as wasted fruits and vegetables, will decompose within weeks while No MOre Trash! reports that items like Styrofoam can take over a million years to decompose.

A Creative Solution

A number of landfills have been in use since long before the popularity of recycling. These landfills contain a wealth of mineral resources that are simply sitting there rotting away, and this has created a unique opportunity for "green" American mining. Miners have bought the rights to a number of different landfill facilitiesto conduct mining operations. With all of the precious metals and other minerals that are in electronic waste, more and more companies are looking at landfills as gold mines. This extra activity comes with larger atmospheric pollution via dust; however this is generally offset by the amount of pollution that is not being generated by mining new materials and shipping them around the world.

You Can Make a Difference

While you may not be able to completely eliminate the garbage coming out of your household, there are definitely steps that anyone can take to at least mitigate the amount of trash they produce. The EPA has a number of very simple tips that you can integrate into your life if you are interested in lessening your impact. Not all positive environmental steps need to be huge ones. Many small steps can often amount to a large move forward, and there are certainly a few things that everyone can change to become less wasteful.