By: s.e. smith
July 2, 2017
’tis the season for colorful, epic displays of fireworks – and my cat’s annual retreat behind the fridge. Americans use more 250 million pounds of them every year.
If you’re a fan of pyrotechnics shows, just thinking about fireworks probably conjures up a fond memory of oohing and aahing along with a crowd, as colors burst overhead and smoke drifts across the — hey, wait a minute.
Sorry, but I’m here to rain on your fireworks, because those delightful explosions come with a hefty dose of pollution. It doesn’t have to be that way, though — in fact, many municipalities are seeking out alternatives that allow residents to enjoy the fun, minus the environmental impact.
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Here’s the problem: Fireworks are made by combining gunpowder with metal that will react as it heats and ignites — that’s what causes the different colors and nifty visual effects. They also historically came packed with sodium perchlorate to act as an oxidizer to fuel that reaction. The explosion itself generates smoke as a byproduct of combustion, and along with it, tiny metallic particles that aren’t great for people — or animals — to breathe.
Researchers in Spain found that after major festivals, concentrations of strontium, copper, antimony, sulphur dioxide and lead, among many others, were much higher in urban areas than they should be. The pollution came not just from municipal fireworks displays, but also from members of the public who set them off in their backyards, just as millions of Americans do around the Fourth of July. They noted that poor quality control and questionable sources made some fireworks more hazardous than others.
Researchers have also found perchlorate in lakes after major fireworks displays. Surprisingly, the United States doesn’t actually regulate perchlorate content in fireworks, so companies have no particular reason to seek an alternative — unless consumers pressure them. Another source of pressure may be regional environmental agencies, which have the power to require permits from entities putting on major fireworks shows.
Between packaging, casing and other components, fireworks also generate a lot of litter. In the case of municipal displays, cities may have a contract clause requiring operators to clean up, but citizens feel no such obligations. The aftermath of a fireworks-laced weekend can include plastic and cardboard debris far and wide, from explosions as well as abandoned packaging.
The good news is that if you love the environment and explosions — like me — you actually can have your cake and eat it too. Researchers are developing less toxic oxidizers, as well as safer compounds that create dramatic color effects — and they’re even thinking about more eco-friendly shell casings. One of the biggest challenges the planet-loving crew faces comes in the form of the ubiquitous red firework, which is actually quite hard to create with eco-friendly compounds.
Disney uses compressed air to launch its fireworks, with the goal of achieving smokeless displays. That’s more enjoyable for theme park guests, but it also benefits the surrounding environment. It’s an important consideration for a business that puts on numerous shows annually.
One of the best sources for research into this issue may surprise you, because it’s the military.
Military personnel use flares that are very similar to fireworks in design, and as part of a goal to be a greener citizen, military researchers have been exploring cleaner burning materials and better packaging to reduce their environmental impact. One reason why? The military is still paying a high price for cleaning up pollution at abandoned bases across the United States, and it’s not eager to perpetuate the problem. In the short term, their work benefits civilian fireworks fans.
As you get ready to celebrate Independence Day, ask local officials about the fireworks used, and the specifics of the city’s contract with the company that puts on the show. If they aren’t using environmentally friendly options, ask why — and be sure to wear respiratory protection to the show. For those who love backyard shows — where it’s safe and legal — consider seeking out fireworks with biodegradable casings and look for products manufactured without perchlorate and other toxic compounds.
Photo credit: Kevin Muncie
Care2 Team Blog
It’s tine to take America’s plastic fork problem seriously
By Jenny Luna on Jul 3, 2017
This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Whether for stabbing salads at our desks or slurping up late-night Thai, plastic cutlery has become a signature side to our growing takeout habit. It’s hard to say exactly how many forks, spoons, and knives Americans throw away, but in 2015 we placed nearly 2 billion delivery orders. If at least half those meals involved single-use utensils, that would mean we’re tossing out billions of utensils each year. They don’t just disappear: A recent study in the San Francisco Bay Area found that food and beverage packaging made up 67 percent of all litter on the streets.
Apart from being an eyesore, disposable cutlery endangers wildlife. A survey by four major environmental groups determined that plastic utensils ranked among the 10 most common trash items found in California — which contributes to a larger problem: The United Nations estimates that the oceans contain more than 8 million tons of plastic. As plastic breaks down, it can be mistaken for food by sea creatures, which can harm them and our seafood dinners.
A few options have surfaced in recent years. In 2010, a company in India started selling edible spoons and forks made from grains. Closer to home, California-based SpudWare’s forks are made from potato starch. But such alternatives, which cost about twice as much as plastic, still require a lot of energy and water to produce, according to Samantha Sommer, who runs a waste-prevention project for Clean Water Action. What’s more, not all major cities compost. And even if biodegradable or compostable utensils make it to a facility, there’s a chance they’ll end up in a landfill, says Robert Reed, a spokesman for the West Coast recycling and compost plant Recology. Depending on what they’re made of, he says, biodegradable utensils might not degrade completely; if they don’t, they could be plucked out of the pile and thrown away.
Perhaps diners should take a page from China, where environmental protesters publicized how the roughly 80 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks produced each year eat up 20 million trees in the process. Greenpeace China launched a BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks) campaign and worked with pop stars to promote reusable chopsticks as a trendy fashion accessory. As a result, disposable chopsticks were banned from use at many venues hosting events at Beijing’s 2008 Olympics.
Metal spoons have not yet graced American celebrity Instagram accounts, but maybe it’s time: Encouraging customers to bring in their own utensils helps businesses cut down costs and waste. A few years ago, Clean Water Action ran a test case with restaurant owner Francisco Hernandez of El Metate in San Francisco. The restaurant staff used to include plastic utensils with every order. Now, sit-down diners get metal forks, and disposables are in a countertop container for to-go customers who need them. Hernandez saved money that year — now he buys just one case of disposable forks each week instead of three — and he decreased his restaurant’s waste by more than 3,600 pounds. The change means El Metate has more to wash, but it’s likely that the water used to run his dishwasher (one gallon for every one-minute cycle) is dwarfed by the amount needed to make those plastic forks.
Still, a sea change might require more research and toothier legislation — something that worked in the fight against plastic bags. A 2013 study found that after San Jose, California, enacted a bag ban, there was nearly 90 percent less plastic in the city’s storm drains and almost 60 percent less in its streets than there had been before. Data like that helped California finalize a statewide ban — over the strenuous lobbying of plastics manufacturers — in 2016. Such legislation appears to be catching on: Chicago, Seattle, and Austin, Texas, have also enacted bag bans, and between 2015 and 2016, lawmakers proposed at least 77 state-level plastic bag bills. Given that success, here’s an idea: Charge a small fee for disposable utensils to help nudge consumers to make a habit out of carrying their own forks. Prettier streets, healthier oceans, and cheaper takeout? Sold.
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Food Monster – Recipes
Simple Summer Macaroni Salad [Vegan]
July 3, 2017 18 Comment
If you enjoy recipes like this, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, it’s available for both Android and iPhone and has free and paid versions. The app is loaded with thousands of allergy-friendly & vegan recipes/cooking tips, has hundreds of search filters and features like bookmarking, meal plans and more! The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions!
While the black bean burgers and the veggie kabobs get all the attention, it’s the side salads, appetizers, dips, and chips that really steal the show. This super easy and totally creamy macaroni is right on the top of that list of things that will soak up the glory. Pasta is tossed with crisp vegetables like bell pepper, celery, and onion with pickles providing a tangy, salty punch that will leave everybody coming back for a second helping.
Simple Summer Macaroni Salad [Vegan]
This Recipe is :
Dairy Free High Carb Vegan Vegan
For the Macaroni Salad:
1 box of noodles of your choice
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup diced celery
1 diced red onion
1/2 cup diced pickles
1 cup corn
3 or 4 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1/2 cup pickle juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar
3 heaping tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Optional Add-Ins:
Cook pasta. Run under cold water to cool off.
Throw all the ingredients together and mix well.
Total Calories: 3884 | Total Carbs: 468 g | Total Fat: 170 g | Total Protein: 67 g | Total Sodium: 1345 g | Total Sugar: 64 g
Nutrition information does not include the optional add-ins.
6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Pet Calm on the Fourth of July
July 4, 2017
Independence Day is a time of celebration, but the Fourth of July firework displays can be extremely stressful for pets. The crackling booms in the sky make dogs and cats anxious and many will pace, whimper, hide or even become aggressive from the stress.
Here are six natural remedies to keep your pet calm on Independence Day:
- Exercise Early
Activity is a great way to manage stress, as it reduces tension and pumps up endorphins (mood enhancers). Exercising your pet a few hours before the fireworks begin can help to settle them down at night. While the amount of exercise a dog needs will vary with age and breed, a brisk walk around the neighborhood will benefit most pooches. For added intensity, try active games like fetch, tug or Frisbee. Cats need exercise too, and interactive toys like “Da Bird” (feathers tied to a pole with string) can provide a nice workout. Most cats also love to pounce on toys filled with catnip or chase a laser light around the room.
- Try a ThunderShirt
Based on the idea of swaddling an infant to provide comfort, the ThunderShirt is a unique fabric wrap that applies a gentle, constant pressure on a pet’s torso. Available in a variety of sizes for both dogs and cats, the ThunderShirt has been shown to reduce anxiety in approximately 80 percent of pets who wear it. You can find the product in most pet stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Pheromones are natural chemicals that animals secrete, that make them feel safe and relaxed. Comfort Zone with D.A.P. for dogs and Feliway for cats are products containing synthetic pheromones designed to mimic these soothing scents. Found in most pet supply stores as a spray, scented collar or a diffuser that can be plugged into a wall outlet, these synthetic pheromones are reported to be safe and have no effect on humans.
A national BARD research study showed that classical music with a slow tempo (50-60 beats per minute) and very simple arrangements, such as a solo piano piece, significantly lowered stress levels in animals. There are many CDs and downloadable music collections created specifically to relax pets, such as the “Through A Dog’s Ear” music series.
- Herbs and Flower Essences
Many pet stores carry supplements containing herbs that reduce anxiety, such as Lavender, Valerian Root, Passion Flower and Chamomile. Flower essences are diluted extracts from plants thought to have calming properties. One of the more common brands, Rescue Remedy for Pets, is available at many pet and health food stores. A few drops can be added to the water bowl to help relax a nervous dog or cat, always be sure to check with your veterinarian before administering these remedies to ensure it’s okay for your individual pet.
- Keep Yourself Calm
Animals pick up on our moods, so if you’re tense, your pet could be too. A recent behavioral study concluded that human emotions can be contagious to dogs, and a dog’s behavior could be influenced by their humans’ stress level. So if you stay cool, it will help relax your pet as well.
A recent article alerted to me to the toxicity of one of the most frequently prescribed anti-flea treatments for pets – Frontline. On the vets advice we previously used this product on our cat and another treatment is due soon. So I thought I had better do some research on the side effects of Frontline before the next treatment. What I found shocked me!
Frontline contains 2 very powerful poisons – Methoprene and Fipronil. You can find lots of information on both these poisons by Googling “side effects of….” The following is a brief summary.
Fipronil is a slow acting poison that seeps into the body of insects and stops the nervous system from working thus paralyses the insect. Fipronil is classified by the World Health Organisation as a hazardous pesticide. It is also classified as a Class C carcinogen which means when tested it caused tumours in rats and therefore there is…
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