Saturday, December 27, 2008

Can you live plastic free?

There was an interesting article in today's Chicago Tribune titled "A Life Without Plastics?" The author tried to live one week without plastic. Not an easy task, but it is possible.

After reading the article I looked around my home to assess how much plastic I use on a daily basis. My life, like most Americans, is surrounded by plastic. Plastic is an amazing product. It can be made in any color or no color, any shape or size, can be made strong and sturdy, or light and flexible. It's air tight keeping moisture, air, and germs in or out. It keeps food from spoiling quickly, it makes easy to carry bags, it's shatter resistant, lightweight, sanitary, and inexpensive. It's no wonder that plastic is everywhere.

Unfortunately due to our disposable lifestyle, disposed plastic is harming the environment and it's time that we learn to cut back on it's use. Based on the article, although it is difficult to avoid all plastic, it is possible to greatly reduce that amount of plastic we use and throw out. Instead of liquid shampoo in a plastic bottle you can use a shampoo bar. Plastic water bottles can be replaced with stainless steel bottles. Household cleaning solutions can be replaced with vinegar, baking soda, and water which clean just as well and at a fraction of the cost. Reusable grocery bags can be used instead of plastic bags and fruits and vegetables can use the packaging nature provided them.

We may not be able to eliminate all use of plastic, but at least we can make a significant impact. Are you willing to give it a try?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Swimming in an ocean of plastic

ABC News aired a disturbing segment tonight on a gigantic trash dump known as the Pacific Ocean. The segment followed Charles Moore, captain of the private research vessel Alguita, part of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, who pursues the Pacific’s floating plastic. It turns out that large amounts of plastic that we dispose of every day, from bags, to food wrappers, to packaging, and much much more make its way into the ocean where it stirs breaking down into finer and finer particles. These particles of plastic are at every level of the ocean from the surface to the bottom. Animals get entangled in this plastic and ingest the plastic mistaking it as food. Plastic is now making its way up the food chain. Small plastic beads are mistaken as fish eggs and ingested by fish and jellyfish which in turn are eaten by sea turtles and larger fish including many of the popular fish we dine on. Not only do these plastic pellets not have any nutritional value, but they also act like sponges for toxic chemicals and killing off much of the sea life we depend on. Plastic is now even making up a large percentage of the sand in the area. Instead of ground up pieces of shell and coral the sand is now make up of ground up pieces of plastic.

Cleaning up this mess is a gargatuan task that no one can afford. But there is something that each of us can do to help reduce the amount of plastic making it's way into the oceans. For starters we can insist that manufacturers reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging by avoiding purchasing products wrapped in plastic. We can also contact manufactuers and insist that if they must use plastic packaging they use plastic made of celulose which breaks down quickly and is biodegradable. Additionally we should contact our govornmental representatives and insist they create stronger laws to punish companies and shippers for dumping waste in the oceans and hold those companies accountable for accidents and spills.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How safe are your fruits and vegetables? The government doesn't want you do know.

Today's Chicago Tribune reported that the Bush administration abruptly halted a government program that tests the levels of pesticides in fruits, vegetables, and field crops. Their argument is that the $8 million a year program is too expensive. The article also states that the data generated from this program is used by numerous other public programs from the EPA to the Integrated Pest Management Center at the University of Illinois. These programs now must purchase unreliable data from private companies at a cost of $500,000 to $700,000 a year.

In other words, by killing an $8 million a year program because it's too expensive, other government agencies are now spending money that together approaches the $8 million but provides less actuate results thereby not really saving any money at all and putting consumers at greater risk by preventing regulatory agencies from really knowing how much pesticides are on our fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile we're talking about a $700 billion bailout of banks that made bad decisions while their executives will probably walk away with golden parachutes that will make $8 million look like peanuts.

So the next time you bite into an apple or have a slice of tomato or cucumber, just remember, the government doesn't care about your health, it only cares about protecting rich people who make stupid decisions from loosing their ability to make large donations to political campaigns.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A step in the right, albeit painful direction

An article on Yahoo's Green web site today said that due to record high gas prices more people are taking the bus. Although paying more at the pump may be painful to the pocketbook, it's actually a good thing for the environment. As prices climb past $4 a gallon people are starting to reevaluate their transportation decisions. Some are deciding to give up their gas guzzling SUVs for smaller more fuel efficient vehicle's, others are moving toward even more fuel efficient hybrid vehicle's. As an even better choice people are starting to get out of their cars and learn the benefits of public transportation. Now we just have to hope that the public transportation systems can handle the increased demand without collapsing and hope the federal government will realize we need to invest more in developing nonpolluting means of transportation.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

None of the above

How did we get to this position again? We are down to three potential presidential candidates, none of whom, in my opinion, are good for the people of this country. The two Democrat candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both have health care plans that if enacted I feel could bankrupt the country. On the Republican side is John McCain, who today's Chicago Tribune printed that he would repeal the alternative minimum tax saving tax payers $60 billion in one year, make President Bush's tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2011, permanent, make it harder to raise taxes by requiring a 3/5th majority in Congress to pass any tax hike, cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, ban Internet taxes and new cell phone taxes, and create a permanent tax credit to spur research and development.

Now I don't like taxes any more than the next guy, but what I do like is what taxes provide. Taxes pay for roads and bridges, fire protection, police protection, environmental protection, grants for research and development, education, museums, libraries, public transportation, and many many more things. The current administration has cut taxes and local spending (they're spending more than we can afford on a war that will never end) and as a result all of our public works are falling apart. Bridges are collapsing, roads are in the worst shape I've seen in years, we're falling even further behind in education to other countries, environmental issues are falling by the wayside, and the list goes on and on.

I agree that our current health care system has problems. There are far too many people who can't afford health care including those who work full time jobs, and those that can afford health care are paying far too much money for mediocre service. What this country needs is a leader that can bring these two extremes together. Someone who will not cut taxes (especially to those who can most afford it) to the point where our public works collapse yet at the same time reduce wasteful spending and provide services for the public good that the country needs and can afford. Unfortunately such a person is nowhere to be found and I'm sorry to say the looser of the next presidential election will once again be the American people. Oh well, let's hope we have better choices in 2012, if this country can last that long.