Episode 6: Plastic-Eating Fungi and Florida

Hey guys! I’m back with a quick podcast episode on some interesting environmental stories that I came across this week. It’s a short one, but do let me know if you have seen or heard of any other news stories that you would like me to dive further into!

Thank you for listening as always!

 

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

Episode 5: Carbon Footprints!

Have you ever wondered about carbon footprints? Maybe you want to offset your emissions somehow…well it’s a thing you can do and I talk a little bit about it on this episode!

Episode 4: Twenty-Something Environmentalists

Hey guys! I’m finally back with another episode. I know it’s been quite some time since I posted one, but it has been a couple of crazy weeks for me. Nonetheless, I’m back with another episode and this time I’m accompanied by one of my fellow classmates, Adrian Figueroa. He is a senior, like me, at Florida International University studying Environmental Studies. We kind of talk a little about everything relating to our field and what it is like being environmentalists in this world and at our age. We touch on some issues regarding diversity within our field and things that we would do to help move that forward.

I hope you enjoy this longer episode and I will talk to you guys in a week (hopefully!).

Until next time,

Dani

Episode 3: Zero Waste Journey

Hey everyone! I’m back with another podcast episode. I’m still trying to figure out what the best upload date and recording date is best for me. On this episode I discuss my journey to being zero waste so far. I’m far from being completely zero waste, but I’ve given you some tips and definitely tried to guilt you into becoming zero waste in this episode. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know if there are anythings you would want me to change or what other topics I can discuss on the podcast. If you would like to be on the podcast, don’t hesitate to comment and let me know!

Waste-Free Christmas Presents

I hope everyone has been having an incredible holiday season! Hopefully, it’s been a waste-free one, too.

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One of my very good friends from my time at Purdue, Alaina, who is a pretty waste-free person already, decided to gift me the most thoughtful gift this season. She got me shampoo and conditioner bars! She got me a sampler of different “flavors”, which is perfect because my hair can be a little temperamental.

This specific pack brings three shampoo bars and two conditioner bars. The three shampoo bars are Frizz Wrangler, Heali Kiwi, and St. Clemens.

Frizz Wrangler is made of coconut and is supposed to be perfect for dry, frizzy hair. Heali Kiwi is made from kiwifruit, neem and Karanja oils that help soothe and calm irritated scalps. St. Clemens is made from orange and lime oils that help cleanse and refresh.

The two conditioner bars are The Guardian and Wonderbar. The Guardian is made from coconut, cocoa butter, and crushed limes for a smooth and lush look. Wonderbar is made with coconut and cocoa butter, so like The Guardian is very smoothing and hydrating.

I have now used the bars a couple of times and each time I am amazed that they actually work. I think the concept to me is just so weird, but it works! My hair feels clean, frizz-free, not greasy, and super shiny. My hair is in between curly and waving and it actually makes my curls come out. I do think if I want to wear my hair curly, then I’ll have to find some sort of oil or solution that I can make at home to make my hair more bouncy.

The next thing that I got, for myself, for Chrismas was toothpaste in a tube. I know! A tube?? How COULD you?! I did it, but it’s not a normal toothpaste. It’s Dr. Bronner’s Pepperming All-One Toothpaste. It’s fluoride-free, made from 70% organic ingredients and the packaging is 100% recyclable (including the tube). I tried to buy Davids Toothpaste, which comes in a metal tube aka recyclable, but it would not get here in time for my trip.

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I previously had been using the Bite toothpaste bite things, but I am not really a fan of the taste of it and also I feel like I don’t know how to properly use them. It’s mostly the taste for me, though. So because of this, I had been looking up different toothpaste alternatives. I found out that there are companies that recycle toothpaste tubes. One of them is TerraCycle’s Oral Care Recycling Program. You can fill a box with toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and caps, and floss containers and mail them to TerraCycle for recycling. They have a rewards program where you can redeem the points for cash donations to the school or nonprofit organization of your choice.

There’s a website that helps you find recycling solutions in your area called Earth911 Recycling Search.

This coming year, I think if you can’t change your entire life to a zero waste life, try to change small things. This way you can get into the grove of living a little differently. Stop grabbing the plastic bag when you shop, start bringing your own. This can maybe lead you to stop asking for straws or single-use utensils with your take-out or at restaurants. It just starts with one small thing. You’ll start noticing that people are so wasteful all of a sudden. You don’t have to immediately change to shampoo and conditioner bars, but you can maybe buy bigger bottles of your shampoo/conditioner or buy bulk with your own containers. You’ll start to be more conscious of your choices and how they might affect our environment.

You can do this.

We can do this.

Until next time,

Dani

Zero Waste Holiday Tips!

So, I’ve been AWOL for some time, but I’m back with some zero waste tips!

This holiday try not to forget your “zero-waste” mentality. I know it’s going to be really hard, but you have to try.

First thing is first: WRAPPING PAPER.

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That’s actually me every year when I see the two giant black (plastic) garbage bags only filled with wrapping paper at my house.

You might not know this but wrapping paper is really hard to recycle. Some can be recycled, but before recycling, you have to remove any sticky tape and decorations such as ribbons and bows as those things can’t be recycled. Wrapping paper can only be recycled if it passes the scrunch test. Simple wrapping paper can be recycled but foil or glitter-decorated paper cannot and needs to go in the general waste.

Those very thick wrapping papers generally cannot be recycled because there is some component to them that has plastic, aka it’s not simple paper.

Some great alternatives can be kraft paper. That brown paper that is easily recycled and looks like something your kids probably used in their kindergarten class to drawn on. You can easily customize the wrapping paper with drawings and designs, if you have the time, if not you can just wrap some burlap around it and make it some cute, rustic-feeling wrapping style.

If you use paper bags at the grocery store, you can also use that as gift wrapping and reuse!

Some other alternatives (that might be weird, but are recyclable):

  • Recycled paper
  • Newspaper
  • Scrap fabric
  • Old men’s button down
  • A bag that’s part of the gift
  • Vintage scarf
  • Pretty dish cloth
  • Literally any fabric-like thing

You can decorate your wrapping with real plants, old jewelry, sticks, or cards written on recycled paper or cardboard to amp up that rustic style.

If you want to splurge on some fancy recycled wrapping paper, the Container Store has some at their stores.

This was wrapped with an old men’s button down. Picture from trashisfortossers.com

If you’re going to insist on going out and buying something new to use for wrapping, try to use gift bags. Those are always reusable and if you or the person receiving the gift is anything like my family, that gift bag will be reused over and over again. This does not reduce the waste, but it definitely delays it.

You can use reusable bags, like a cotton produce sack, that the present receiver will be able to use after opening their gift.

A produce bag. Picture from trashisfortossers.com

Here is a video on how to use fabric to wrap presents, it’s a little overwhelming, but at the end of the day, you are going to be reducing your waste…even if it takes a little longer to wrap.

Besides the wrapping paper, tape is also another major waste product that comes with the holidays. Paper tape is easily accessible and can be a great alternative to normal plastic tape. You can also use twine or any other (plastic-free) type of cord to close your present.

Recycled paper/Kraft paper can be used to make the card for the outside of the present.

I know it takes a little bit more effort, but you have to care just a little bit. The amount of wrapping paper that gets thrown out is insane. Americans throw away 25% more trash during Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of the year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million TONS of garbage, or about 1 MILLION EXTRA TONS PER WEEK.

If you’re not sure what to give people around you, you can try to go to the Package Free Shop. They have some really handy Zero Waste Kits that are easy gifts and come with their own reusable bag. You can encourage those around you to start their own zero-waste journey!

I hope these quick zero-waste holiday tips help you be zero-waste this holiday season.

Happy holidays!

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Dani