Rebranding?

Hey everyone!

I am rebranding to broaden up the scope of my reach. I am still going to focus on nature and all things nature, but I also want to write more things like my previous post. I want to put my essays out there whenever I am inspired to write out my feelings.

With all of this, though, I am going to need your help. I want to hear about topics you want me to look into or want me to talk about on here. The topics don’t always have to be about nature and the environment, but they can be about anything.

I want to be able to make this blog about everyday life with a focus on the environment and what we can do to help it. I also want to dedicate some space to talk about mental health, since that’s something I personally deal with and know people who deal with it, too.

So, that’s pretty much this entire blog post…let me know in the comments or to my email latinatreehugger@gmail.com with any post suggestions!

Until next time,

Dani

Giving Amazon up…

I think this is the hardest thing I have ever had to give up. Do you know how convenient Amazon is? Incredibly convenient…you get the lowest prices and two-day shipping? There’s Prime Now, where you can get emergency things delivered in maximum of 8 hours! How much more do you want?

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Well…let me tell you something. Amazon is extremely wasteful. Not just because they send something like an eyeliner in a box where you could fix two 8×11 papers….but because even if you buy “waste-free” or “eco-friendly” items, they still come in plastic packaging or there’s plastic bubble wrap wrapped around it. Recently, for some insane reason, this crazy packaging has been happening. I have ordered some makeup items that I can’t find in stores and both items, a mascara and an eyeliner, came in these giant boxes… Have they ran out of reasonably sized boxes/packages? I honestly don’t know, but I think it’s time.

It’s time to quit Amazon.

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Sure, you can recycle the box since it’s cardboard, but it’s so wasteful when you’re ordering normal sized things and receive them in these giant boxes. You also can’t recycle the plastic bubble wrap.

Tons of big stores like Target, Walmart, Michael’s, and more offer online ordering and in-store pickup. You can leave them a note in the instructions not to package it in anything so you can bring your own reusable bag and put your things in it. They send you an email when your order is ready and you can just swing by, spend 5-10 minutes waiting, and you’re out the door.

If it’s something you need urgently your best alternative is just to go to the store. Going to the store can ensure that you buy the items with less or no packaging. You can also reduce the amount of waste that you’re producing just by purchasing the things on Amazon. I have been trying so hard to stay away from Amazon and so far it’s been working. I have been going into stores more often and I have been getting back into my thrifting habits. The other day I got two 100% recycled glasses for $1 each. I would not have been able to find those super cute, recycled, vintage-looking cups for my makeup brushes on Amazon, or at least not for a dollar each.

With the holidays coming up and all of the Cyber Monday/Black Friday sales coming up, I know it’s hard to refrain from using Amazon. I know it’s hard, but try to limit the amount of things you purchase from them and maybe try to group your purchases to only one package instead of 10 different ones. If you are going to buy from them, then please recycle your cardboard boxes. At least this way you will be limiting the amount of damage that you might be doing to the environment.

CBS News Canada did a story on how online shopping increases your carbon footprint and they shared this graph. They wrote: Faster shipping completely changes what’s needed to get your order to you, and that drastically increases the carbon emissions generated in the process — the MIT study found online shopping with rush delivery was less environmentally friendly than going to the store. They do state that in store shopping will increase carbon emissions more than if you just order the thing with REGULAR shipping.

The argument for online shopping versus in store shopping is actually really interesting. Various sources say that UPS, for example, and other delivery carriers have been working towards more eco-friendly cars and that since they are on a single route delivering to multiple stops, they have less emissions than if each individual person were to go out individually in their, possibly, not-so-eco-friendly cars. That kind of makes sense to me, too. So, I think it just depends on how much online shopping you do and how much in person shopping you do. This blog started with me telling you not to shop on Amazon anymore, because their packaging is awful, but now I don’t know. I do know that you should try to group your purchases into the same packaging, but maybe it isn’t too terrible.

What do you think?

Microplastics in the AIR?

Hey guys, so I’m taking a little break from posting only podcasts and I’m going to get on here and write some short and sweet blog posts for the times that you or I can’t do the podcast thing.

Let’s talk about plastics…again. This time let’s focus on microplastics.

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I don’t know if you have been following any news source lately or if it’s just my college department’s newsletter, but I have been seeing a lot of news regarding microplastics. I’ve always known that they are an issue, obviously, but I didn’t think it was getting this out of hand.

Nature and NPR released articles relating to finding microplastics in the air in France’s Pyrenees Mountains.

Microplastics….in the air….

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Now we can’t breathe in either…first, we couldn’t eat salt from the ocean or fish and now we can’t even breathe in France and around the world. Incredible…

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These are the mountains in France, the Pyrenees Mountains.

All jokes aside, this is actually really alarming. Apparently, high amounts of microplastics are raining down on a remote and seemingly pristine part of the mountains and according to scientists, they could potentially be floating everywhere. So now it’s raining microplastics, too. I honestly don’t know how this isn’t extremely alarming to anyone else besides the professors that are sending the students these news articles.

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Let’s go back a little bit and talk about what microplastics are really. They are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. According to NOAA, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as cleansers and toothpaste. They easily pass through the water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and they pose a potential threat to aquatic life.

We need to be more aware of the way we are affecting our environment. Now it’s not even a matter of not using a plastic straw, it’s a matter of just completing stopping the use of plastic or generating better ways to recycle it or to reuse it in products we “can’t live without” or products that everyone uses. If we can find ways to repurpose all of this plastic we are wasting and throwing away, we could definitely make a huge difference. Obviously, completely getting off plastic worldwide is the goal, but we have to start somewhere, right?

So how did they find the microplastic in the mountains? Well, one day the researcher who was part of the team dreamed up the experiment, Steve Allen, thought about what happens to something like a plastic bag on a fence flapping away…the plastic has to go somewhere once you don’t see that bag there anymore. Allen’s team set up some collectors there for like five months to trap the plastic particles and they said they expected some, but not as many as they actually found.

They found…. get this…365 plastic particles on average every day on a square meter collector. They found several types of microplastic floating on the wind in the Pyrenees like fibers from clothing, and bits from plastic bags, plastic film, and packaging material.

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This is the kind of example of plastics stuck somewhere that will eventually break down into micro ones.

Apparently, it isn’t even local. The closest villages around the mountain are within 60 miles of the study site. In the NPR article, they said that scientists know how dust travels, like from the Sahara across the Atlantic, but scientists basically don’t know anything about how microplastics move. It’s not something that people have been observing in nature for decades…. this is something that has been happening recently.

So, this next part is the part that kind of shocked me a lot, besides the already shocking conclusion that there are microplastics in a mountain range that is 4,500 feet above sea level. Allen says that if this much micro plastic manages to get halfway up the Pyrenees mountains, it could theoretically be everywhere. And that probably means that we are most likely inhaling them right now. Another scary thing is that if we are inhaling them, what will happen to us? We don’t really know how our human systems will react to microplastic. Chelsea Rochman, a plastic researched at the University of Toronto found microplastics as far away from civilization as the Arctic. So, it doesn’t matter that you personally don’t use any plastics, if the person in another country is still using it. The broken-down plastics will find their way to you, apparently. Obviously, this is all speculation, but scientists believe it’s probably what’s happening.

If you want to read the NPR article yourself here it is. It’s really alarming to think that plastics are in our air now, but that is something for you to have an opinion, or not, about. Tell your friends about this and make them aware of what is going on in our environment. This is in France, but the trade winds and all the other wind systems make these things travel to us or to you.

Until next time and don’t breathe too much! (haha…just kidding?)

Dani

Why should we care about the environment?

I think this question has a pretty simple answer: if we don’t, then we will seize to exist.

Morbid, but true. Our overall temperature is increasing. I remember sometime in 2014, scientists were saying that if we increased in overall temperature by two degrees Celcius, then we were all going to burn to a crisp. Here we are, in 2018, just a degree away from the two. If that doesn’t make you care about the environment, then I honestly don’t know what will. According to NASA, 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celcius warmer than average temperatures. THAT’S ALMOST A WHOLE DEGREE!! IN JUST ONE YEAR!!!

This video was from 2013, since I couldn’t actually save the 2017 one (which I linked in the above paragraph).

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The Earth is warming up people!

Yes, using and throwing away plastic is awful because it ends up in ocean and in fish and eventually in our bodies, but there is another reason why single-use plastic sucks: it’s made from fossil fuels.

If that sentence didn’t just give you an epiphany, then let me break it down (see it what I did there? It’s punny) for you further.

Plastic in the United States is now most commonly sourced from the nation’s production of “abundant and affordable” natural gas. Natural gasses like ethane and propane. Do those sound safe? Because they’re not. These are also byproducts of petroleum. So, yes, both the oil and gas industries in this country are so happy that this nation makes so many single-use plastics. This is also why they have not been banned in our country. Sadly, everyone in this country and its politicians only care about one thing: MONEY.

In the US alone, producers of polyethylene are expecting to increase production capacity by as much as 75% by 2022. Why? We don’t need to do that. This is why I’m trying to encourage everyone I know to stop using single-use plastic. All we’re doing is releasing awful toxins into our ozone layer. An ozone layer that is already being extremely polluted by our cars, our businesses, factories, trucks, and anything that releases carbon dioxide.

But carbon dioxide isn’t even the worst chemical we are releasing into the ozone. Methane! Cows release methane every time they go to the bathroom. So by eating less cow meat and products, you are decreasing the supply of cows needed to produce the products. Hence, you are already helping the environment so much.

Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, in terms of its contribution to global warming. I’m not telling you to become a vegan, because God knows I can’t do that, but maybe try eating more fish or find alternatives for meats. Veggie burgers are delicious. Almond milk is way better than cow milk and it makes you feel better. Chicken meat is just as versatile as red meat.

I’m not here to try and force you to do anything you don’t want to, but I am here to try and make you more conscious about your decisions and how it will affect the rest of the planet.

Sure, it’s easy to just say “oops forgot I can’t use this spoon” when you get one in your delivery, but it’s also easy to just use your own utensils and write in the Special Instructions box that you don’t need a plastic fork or a straw.

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I’ll leave you with this image by www. bezero.org that I think helps.

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I personally believe in all of you. If my posts make every one of you make a small change, I will have been successful. It’s hard, I know, but you can do it!

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Breaking up with plastic!

Everyone has some terrible habit that they just haven’t been able to get rid of like biting their nails or shaking their leg. The one habit that we all in common is accepting single-use plastic everywhere we go. I was having a conversation with my friends and they were asking me “well what about…” in relation to situations where it was “inevitable” to use plastic.

It really got me thinking about how difficult it is to stop using plastic. Especially in a city like Miami, where the population is mostly Hispanic. In most, if not all, Latin American countries people don’t have the privilege to even think about going zero waste. If the only meat you can afford is inside of a Styrofoam container and wrapped in plastic, then that’s what you are going to get. So when these people move to the United States, they are not used to thinking about which plastic is recyclable or whether they can find an alternative. It’s just what we’re accustomed to.

I’m currently trying to educate my family on things they can do to reduce plastic waste. After I went to Verde and showed my mom my mason jar filled with soap and conditioner, I think she realized that it’s something that is feasible. In this country, we are so lucky that we can be and do anything we want. So, why not change those terrible plastic-related habits?

I’m going to try and answer some of the questions my friends had and see if it will make the transition to zero waste a little easier.

Question #1: What if I’m going out to the movies and I get thirsty, do I just buy a water?

Answer: No, try to have two (metal) reusable water bottles. One to keep, empty, in your car and the other that you use on a day-to-day basis. If at any point you don’t bring your day-to-day one then you already have a backup in your car.

Question #2: Protein (meat, fish, chicken) comes in plastic, what do you do?

Answer: Not everyone has the willpower to own a farm, raise their animals, and then slaughter them so…I looked it up online (because this question stumped me) and I found that if you bring your own container, most butchers are willing to use it to put your meats in. They will place your container (mason jars, Tupperware, tin container) and zero it. Then they will place whatever quantity of meat you ask for and you’re good to go. They will only charge you for the pounds of meat that you got.

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Now, I haven’t tried this out yet, but I think it’s something that can be done. If you live in Miami and buy your meat at Latino-owned supermarkets like Sedanos, Presidente, or Publix you for sure will get weird looks. They’ll definitely talk about how weird you were for the rest of the day probably, but you will have lessened the amount of waste you normally make.

Question #3: How do you store food in the fridge? Is foil okay to use?

Answer #3: You can use beeswax wraps as an alternative. They are a bit pricey, but they are reusable for a while and they can be dumped into your compost. You can find them anywhere on Amazon, Etsy or the link I provided, which is a store solely dedicated to beeswax wraps. The foil is not really an alternative because it is a bit more wasteful than plastic wrapping, believe it or not.

At the end of our conversation, one of my friends made a good point: To be zero-waste you have to think more.

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I’ll include a picture of my lunch box today, but I’ve been really good about not using single-use plastic in my lunch. My main lunch will always be packed in a glass pointer with a plastic lid (sadly, but not single use), my snacks will be packed in reusable snack bags. I found a pack of three at Marshall’s for $3.99 by a brand called Yummi Pouch. Today I reused the bag my trail mix came in to pack my chips. I had breakfast in the office so I brought my own milk in a mason jar and of course, my reusable utensils.

It is true, you have to think more because you are trying to break some habits that you’ve had since you can remember. You have to be more self-aware of everything that you accept at a grocery store or when you go out. You have to remember not to take the straw or not use another cup for a new drink when you go out. You have to be more conscious of your decisions, but once you start getting used to it, it becomes a new habit, a good habit.

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Garbage Beach, Dominican Republic

What the heck is going on in the DR??????

Well, some garbage, mainly plastic, has been drifting onto their beaches. I’m not talking about some garbage, I’m talking about A LOT of garbage!

Let’s talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch first, then we’ll get into what is happening in the Dominican Republic.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is this awful idea that some terrible humans had. They said “Hey! We have no more space for unrecyclable plastics in our landfills. Wait! There’s plenty of space in the ocean!” The GPGP is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s ocean. It’s between Hawaii and California. They estimate that 1.15 to 2.14 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Sinc plastic is less dense than water, the plastic just kind of floats on the top and creates a patch.

Number 1 in the image is the GPGP.

The GPGP really sucks because of its size. The big plastics that are in the ocean will eventually deteriorate into microplastics because of the sun exposure, waves, marine life, and even temperature changes. These microplastics are literally the worst thing ever because they’re so incredibly hard to remove and the marine animals confuse them for food…

So now that you know about the patches of plastic in our oceans (still the worst idea ever), let’s talk about the Dominican Republic.

This is what it looks like right now:

Photo credit: New York Times

Beautiful? Nope. Depressing? You bet.

For a country that thrives on tourism of their beaches, this is probably a nightmare right now. So far, sixty tons of garbage has been collected on the beach since last week. Yeah, that’s only what they have collected. The garbage being collected has been mostly plastic bottles and Styrofoam takeout boxes. The worst two unrecyclable things in the world.

(That’s sludgy water splashing. Gross) Photo credit: New York Times

Apparently, they love to throw garbage in their rivers, which eventually ends up in the ocean and then it’s not their problem anymore, right? Wrong. It comes back in the form of garbage waves. It happens quite regularly actually. I just found this out through this New York Times article. Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, says this happens especially when there is a strong rainstorm.

Single. Use. Plastic. Sucks. Guys!!!! 

Now let’s talk about how to really stop using single-use plastic. Sure, you don’t get a straw with your drink anymore! Great! But what about your detergent bottle that you just threw out? Or the plastic bag you just took from Walmart? Or the tons of toothbrushes you throw out every year? And don’t even get me started about the Chinese takeout box that you just threw away…

It’s so hard to change something you’ve been doing your whole life, but it could really make a huge difference.

Be more conscious about what you use, accept to take, and then throw away. I know everyone has heard “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Those are steps: (1) Reduce the use of anything that you know won’t be recycled or reused, (2) Reuse that awful take out box and reuse that plastic bag, don’t just throw it away, (3) The last step, if you’ve done everything you can to not throw that detergent bottle away, recycle it.

Not every type of plastic can be recycled and that’s the biggest misconception. Everyone tries to recycle every plastic, but you can’t recycle all of it, hence the PATCHES OF PLASTIC IN THE OCEAN.

Your plastics have this the little recycle triangle with a number in it. The number is super important.

The image above is super helpful and provides some examples based on the number of the plastic. Save it to your phone and the next time you want to buy something that comes in plastic, it might help you decide whether or not to take it. If the plastic is not recyclable, maybe if you really need the product, you have to find something that it can be used for after you don’t need it anymore. Plastic 1 (PETE) is recyclable, but 25% of the bottles in the U.S. are recycled. So, yes, they are recyclable, but that does not mean that your country will recycle all of it.

My point is: if you can avoid buying it, then don’t do it. Sure, it can be more convenient to go to Publix and buy your detergent in the plastic bottle, but you can take a big mason jar to your local zero-waste store and you won’t feel guilty. Just think about that DR beach. You won’t want to buy it anymore.

You can shop from brands that support reducing plastic waste and actually act on it. Take Adidas, for example.

They partnered with Parlay for the Oceans to repurpose the millions of pounds of plastic currently polluting the world’s oceans. Instead of remaining waste, Adidas found a really cool way to use recycling to their benefit (the shoes are pretty cool, too). They actually are aiming to ONLY use recycled plastic when making their shoes by 2024. It’s already 2018, so yeah it seems far away, but come on…they’re trying. They are the only ones (at last shoe company) trying for real.

Be more aware and be more conscious about what you spend your money on. It might not affect you directly, but any day now we could have Garbage Beach here in the U.S. or in your country.

Until next time,

Dani

Latino Conservation Week 2018 – Everglades National Park

Today I had the chance, alongside Cesar, the other LHIP intern, to take out 20 latinos out into the swamp.

As an intern with the Latino Heritage Internship Program, we were tasked with creating some sort of event or program to help bring out Latinos into National Parks, ours being the Everglades. We decided that hosting an event would be the best idea.

I started with maybe hosting a night bike right through Shark Valley’s tram trail during the sunset…but that was kind of boring and something everyone does anyway.

My second idea was a slough slog! Earlier in the summer, I was able to go on a slough slog with my boss and the rest of the interns as part of our orientation of the park. Some of you might be thinking “What in the world is a slough slog?” Well…it’s the best way to experience the Everglades, in my opinion. It’s essentially a wet hike, but it’s not just a wet hike out into the sawgrass prairie. It’s a wet hike in waist deep water (my waist deep…I’m 5′ 2″) through a cypress dome. Cypress domes are the coolest things ever. They are composed of cypress trees.

These guys:

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They’re super skinny trees with giant bottom trunks. They like to grow in disturbed areas with a lower elevation than hardwood hammocks. Usually, in a cypress dome, there is an alligator hole where it all started. The trees in the center, closest to the alligator hole, tend to be the taller ones and as you move away from them, you start seeing shorter ones, thus, a cypress dome is created.

In our slough slog, we started out in the sawgrass prairie outside of the dome where you can find periphyton. When you first look at periphyton it looks like poop or something close to that, but really it’s all algae, bacteria, and little tiny organisms. Three kingdom groups in tiny, sponge-like material. They help filter the water as well and retain it when it is the dry season so the things inside of it can continue to grow.

Here we are popping our visitors’ slough slog cherry!

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Everyone seemed pretty excited after a couple of minutes because it was the hottest day and the water was actually really refreshing. We stopped for a while and Ranger Dylann gave a talk about periphyton and how the domes form. We gave everyone some time to adjust and become accustomed to the floor and being in the water.

Once out of the sawgrass prairie, we moved into the cypress dome. We walked around and talked about the bromeliads (air plants), we found a butterfly orchid in bloom and a cigar orchid that seemed to be coming back to life after Hurricane Irma.

When we got deeper into the dome, one of our visitors, who apparently has an incredible eye for wildlife, found a barred owl on one of the cypress trees.

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We continued and stopped every once in a while to admire the silence inside the dome. It was incredible to see other people, who love our National Parks and nature, enjoy something that to me has changed the way I see the Everglades. Since I have started my internship, I have now gone out to slough slog three times. Trust me, there will plenty of other times. If anyone out there lives near the Everglades and is tired of the same trails, go past the Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail and go into a cypress dome. Of course, if you are going to do this, don’t forget to let someone at the visitor center know.

It was so awesome to see so many young Latinos come out and want to try something new. Everyone was so trusting of us and just went right into the prairie, no questions asked. Sure it was the hottest day to this day, but everyone forgot about that the second we stepped foot in the dome.

We also had a super special guest at our event: John Morales. For those of you who are not aware of who John Morales is, he is the person who we, South Floridians, watch for out weather. He is the one we watch during hurricane season. He is the senior meteorologist at NBC 6/Telemundo. He is honestly one of my greatest inspirations. Like everyone else, he seemed to enjoy the experience, even dropping pins whenever we would stop so he could bring some friends on another day.

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I really hope this event won’t be a one-time thing and that our local national park won’t forget that the majority of the population around it is made up of Latinos. Even though I won’t be with the park after my internship, until I graduate maybe, I want to leave an impact. I want the park to create a program where they do outreach for students my age who are mainly Latinos and have never been anywhere near the Everglades. I want everyone to come out and do something they would never do on their own. I want everyone to experience the Everglades the way that I have been able to this summer.

Visit your closest National Park. Be one with nature.

Until next time,
Dani

(Photo credits to Cesar Zamora and myself)