Posts Tagged With: environment

So, what’s a BPA?

Labels you might see when purchasing plastic products. (Pro tip: Just avoid plastic all together!)

Labels you might see when purchasing plastic products. (Pro tip: Just avoid plastic all together!)

If you’ve ever paid attention to plastic products for sale, you’re bound to have seen at least a few companies advertising their goods as “BPA-free”. Seeing that on a label leads most consumers to immediately believe that BPAs must be bad for them, but the truth in this situation is a little murky, so here are the facts:

Bisephenol A (or BPA) is an epoxy used to make clear, hard plastics. You see this kind of plastic every single day, whether it be in the grocery store, in vending machines or in the tupperware you use to store your food. It’s often used as coating inside plastic bottles or tin cans. At high-dosage levels, BPAs have hormone like properties. They are endocrine disruptors, and some studies show that they can cause possible negative effects in animals and fetuses, causing birth defects. Some of these effects are stronger when BPA filled plastic is chipped, broken or heated.

In a historic move, Canada has recently declared BPAs toxic. This is upsetting to the American Chemical Council, which says that their product, Bisephenol A, is perfectly safe. One quote from that article said that, “last week, Statistics Canada disclosed that 91 per cent of people tested positive for BPA in their urine, with higher levels for children aged 6 to 11 than for adults over 40. The highest concentrations were in children.”

Most world governments, including the US,  Australia and the EU, have declared that BPAs are mostly safe for human consumption at low levels. However, several countries (even the US) have banned BPA use in products such as baby bottles.

But there are many, many studies supporting both sides of the debate, with the main issue being that studies showing harmful effects of BPAs (even at low does) are hard to reproduce. Scientific American covers the controversy surrounding the issue pretty well.

Wherever you fall on the argument, limiting exposure to possibly toxic chemicals is just another reason to use less plastic. But a life without plastic can be pretty tough. The stuff is ubiquitous! What’s a green-minded consumer to do?

The best way is the simplest, use alternatives.

Whenever possible, refuse plastic, single-use, disposable items. Choose glass, aluminum or paper over plastic whenever you can. Why? Because when items like these are recycled, they can be turned into new and equally useable products. Plastic, not so much. Keeping plastic out of the waste stream is just one more way to make a smaller impact on the Earth, and if it means being a little healthier in the process, even better!

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Recycling Tips

Alachua County is great at recycling, but what about you?

The numbers are in! Alachua County  has had the highest recycling rates in the state of Florida two years running. That’s a whopping 50% of all solid waste recycled. Even the next runners up, Lee, Brevard and Marion counties, are a whole five percentage points behind.

That effectively makes Gainesville one of the most sustainable counties in Florida. Pretty cool, right? What’s even cooler is knowing that the state of Florida has even bigger dreams.

Florida has a goal to recycle 75% of all waste in every county by 2020. Impossible? Maybe. On the right track? Absolutely! Lofty goals like these push everyone involved to act aggressively to meet them, and that’s exactly what’s going to help our county, our state and our world become more sustainable.

But why is recycling important? For one thing, by reusing materials, we cut down on how many new materials we need to harvest, including trees, water and oil. By recycling, we lessen groundwater leaching from landfills and air pollution from incineration. Recycling literally makes the planet a cleaner place to be.

You can help Florida reach this goal by recycling as much as possible at home, at school and work. Recycling just one ton of paper saves  17 trees, 6953 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space and 4077 kilowatt hours of energy. UF recycles over 2,000 tons of paper annually from campus. So next time you go to toss an old exam, aim for a recycling bin and let that scantron live on to terrorize someone else.

If recycling still confuses you, or you just need a refresher, here are some helpful hints for what goes in the bins:

In the blue bin:

  • Glass Bottles and Jars
  • Plastic Bottles, Jugs, Jars & Tubs 
  • Steel/Tin Cans (empty aerosol included)
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Gable top and Aseptic Cartons (milk and juice containers, with or without the screw-on tops)

But what about the caps?

In order to get your recyclables in perfect condition for the bin, remove all caps from plastics. Plastic bags, trays and styrofoam are not accepted in the bins, so try and use less of them in general. Jars, bottles and aluminum cans should be rinsed and have the lids removed. Put the aluminum can lids inside the can for safety.

In the orange bin:

  • Newspapers/Magazines/Catalogs
  • Telephone Books/Manuals/Paperback books
  • Paper Bags/Wrapping, Packing & Shredded paper
  • Corrugated Cardboard & Pasteboard (including clean pizza boxes)
  • Office Paper & Junk Mail

For paper products,

Place the blue bin on top of the orange bin to protect your paper from the wind and rain. Remember not to include any plastic bags or foil wrappers. Please put shredded paper in a bag so it doesn’t fly away.

However, pizza boxes are a special case. College students go through a fair lot of them, but most people have no idea that they are not recyclable if there’s any food contamination on them. So if your pizza box is a bit too greasy for the streets, why not try something more fun?

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5 Tips to Make Your Turkey Day More Sustainable

The holiday season is upon us! Now there’s an extra five-day weekend putting some much needed space between you and your next exam. Even better? The weekend is filled with a regular smorgasbord of savory snacks and delectable dishes. Suffice to say that Thanksgiving is a holiday a lot of college students look forward to.

Freshmen and seniors alike are returning home to see friends and family, and to maybe impart a little of the knowledge they’re picking up back in Gainesville. So how about coming home this year with some knowledge that will actually make a difference? Here are five tips to help you make your family’s feast a little more sustainable.

  1. Go local. By now you’ve realized that I’m all about the local food. It has so many benefits, the least of which is the opportunity to connect with your agricultural community. Since you’ve been informed about how great farmers’ markets are and visited the Gainesville one (right?) why not make a fun family event out of it and check out your local farmers’ market? Check online listings for the one nearest you.
  2. Go organic. Again, I believe I’ve made my point about how organic is a good choice for you and your family. Check out my earlier post about which produce is better organic for the most budget friendly choices.
  3. Go meatless. I know, I know, what blasphemy on the most hallowed of meat-eating days! But seriously, meat production makes a big impact on our planet (greater than transportation) and by eating a little less, you can lighten your impact. But coincidentally, turkeys are one of the most sustainable livestock to farm and produce. Try sticking with just the turkey, and keep the rest of your sides carb and veggie focused.
  4. Watch your waste. Americans waste a tremendous amount of food (40% of what we make annually, to be exact). Save your leftovers by giving them to friends and relatives or taking them back to school with you. Give away extra canned and pre-packaged food to nearby shelters, or maybe prepared food if they allow it. And if at all possible, compost what’s left. A more realistic method to reduce waste, however, is to use cloth napkins and actually use plates and silverware at your event. Washing dishes later is worth it compared to having needless plastic sit in a landfill for a few thousand years.
  5. Recycle. All those bottles, cans and boxes that went into preparing and serving your food have to go somewhere. Why not the recycling bin? Making an effort to save the recyclables is a great step to reducing waste as well, and saves overall time and energy to create new products further down the line.

This info-graphic is a great resource for checking to see what you can do to follow these tips, and more. Have a happy, fun and sustainable holiday!

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