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

Back to School? How to be waste-free at school.

It’s that time again for a lot of us.

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That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.

BACK TO SCHOOL!

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I’m entering my final year at my university, but this year is different. I’m trying to be zero-waste this year, which makes shopping for school supplies a bit complicated.

I headed to Walmart with my brother the night before my semester starts, which was the worst idea I could have ever had, but we started to hunt for our supplies.

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I then realized, that I have to be as zero-waste as possible. It’s really hard to do that when all of the pens, pencils, markers, and other writing utensils come in plastic wrappings. Sure, the backing is cardboard (which we can recycle), but the wrapping covering them is plastic.

One of the blogs that I follow for zero-waste inspiration and shopping is called Package Free Shop. In this store you can find all sorts of package-free items like razors, toothbrushes, shopping bags, and other such things.

For back to school, they added some school supply items that are package free and sustainable. They have recycled paper notebooks, binders, and folders. They also have 100% cotton pencil pouches and book bags. I also recommend if you already have pencil pouches or notebooks that are half filled, just keep using them. If they have a rip, just do some basic sewing and fix it. That is one way that we create waste: by just throwing things way because we don’t like the anymore. There are DIY ways to just revamp something that we do not like anymore. Try to find those ways. If you really don’t want to keep it anymore, but it is still a good item, then just donate it to Goodwill or other secondhand-stores around you.

If you can’t get your supplies from this website and Walmart is just closer, then try to find the least wasteful things.

Pilot has pens that are called B2P (Bottle-2-pen), which launched in 2010. The gel ink and ball point pens are made from 89% and 83% recycled plastic bottles respectively. They are all 100% refillable.

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Notebooks are for the most part recyclable, but you can always try to reuse the ones from the last semester or school year. This way you can reduce the amount of waste you are causing. Always try to save things you used from the previous year so that you can use them for the following semester.

If you are in the market for a new notebook, there are these super cool reusable notebooks that I found out about last semester. They are called Rocketbook. It is a reusable, digital notebook. There is an app that the notebook goes with where you just upload the pages to and then erase it when you’re done.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write notes.
  2. Choose a destination. You use symbols at the bottom of the pages that connect to your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Each symbol represents a course that you are taking or a specific destination.
  3. Scan your pages.

To erase your notes, you just have to wipe them clean with water and a cloth. It’s really simple and can be used an endless amount of time.

It’s always a little difficult to be zero waste, but you just have to be conscious about the items you are grabbing and buying and how you can reduce your waste. Will it be recyclable? Can I refill it? Can I donate it when I’m done?

Good luck!

Until next time,

Dani

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.

This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.

I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.

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We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.

The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.

Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.

We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.

The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.

This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!

The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!

Until next time,

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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