Grey Water – (blog #7)

Sustainability is a key method on which the future is going to rely on. The Earth only has a finite amount of resources, and with the rise in ocean levels, more fresh water sources could become scarcer. Because water is such a precious resource, society needs to find a way to conserve water conservation. The Israelis invented drip irrigation, allowing us to utilize a small amount of water in a big way, but there is a next step towards water conservation

Grey water is a new method of recycling, that is growing in popularity. Grey water is water from the bathrooms and washrooms of peoples’ homes. Grey water comes from the sink, the tub, or the washing machine, but never the toilet because of feces. Grey water is a revolutionary product because can be used to water our lawns.

Why is grey water so cool?

Using grey water to water lawns and feed plants mean people can save on their water bills, which can be very costly. Another important thing about grey water is that during drought seasons, the plants that depend on rain or sprinkler systems do not die. California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada are all very dry states, and with the installation of a greywater system, a shower can clean a person and feed a plant.

If you are going to have a grey water system though, it is important to use eco-friendly products because grey water could feed your fruits and vegetables, which feed you. No one wants to knowingly eat a fruit that may have been grown using water and tide pods. We have already discovered how bad it is to eat tide pods.

Guidelines for Grey Water

  • It is best not to store the grey water for very long because of the properties of the water breaking down.
  • Grey water should be put directly into the Earth, not into people.
  • A simple, gravity pulled drip irrigation system is cheap, effective, and more accurate than using a pump or filtration device because it is easier to control how much grey water each plant/system needs.

Eco-friendly and Biodegradable soaps and products

The grey water system is a great concept that is being put to use in many peoples’ homes, but to make greywater even safer for use, it is best to use biodegradable eco-friendly products. There is an eco-friendly laundry detergent called Zum Clean Aromatherapy Laundry Soap in Eucalyptus-Citrus, Emma Laundry Soap by Eco-Me, and more. Seventh Generation and Method are widely known eco-friendly products, and there are also products that people can use on themselves that are all natural.

People can make their own shampoos by using ingredients like egg whites, coconut oil, castile soap, and baking soda. Making eco-friendly soaps are easy and cheap, and they are not harmful to use in a grey water system. Castile soap, olive oil, oats, and essential oils are common natural ingredients to make soap! I made my own deodorant out of Baking soda, corn starch, coconut oil, and tea tree essential oil!


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Winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize (blog #6)

Image result for flint water crisis leeanne walters

            The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prize that recognizes people around the globe who have been advocates for the environment. The prize goes towards grassroots leaders who have caused positive changes in their communities and ecosystem. The recipients of the prize are people who have focused on protecting or improving the quality of the environment, promoting sustainability, affecting policy, and/or fighting for justice.

The prize that the winner receives is “International recognition that enhances their credibility, Worldwide visibility for the issues they champion, [and] Financial support to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment” (Goldman Prize). The winner also receives a bronze sculpture of an ouroboros, because it is a symbol of nature’s renewal. The Ouroboros is a snake biting its own tail.

One of the winners of the prize this year was LeeAnne Walters, an activist who shed a lot of light on the Flint, Michigan water crisis. She led a citizen’s movement that exposed the danger of the drinking water, teaming up with environmental professionals to test the water. LeeAnne Walters conducted a study of the water n Flint by sampling from many homes across the city, going to multiple zip codes. LeeAnne Walters worked tirelessly to discover the level of threat that was in her city. She worked for over 100 hours per week to get the water samples and test them. Her study showed levels of lead in the water that far exceed the EPA’s acceptable levels. LeeAnne Walters’s study found lead samples as high as 13,200 parts per billion, which is twice the amount classified as hazardous.

LeeAnne Walters is the North American recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, and she deserves the prize. She has done a lot to affect change for the people of Michigan, who were dealt an unfair hand. The water crisis should have been averted the minute there was data presenting harmful chemical levels in the water, but it took 4 years for that to happen.

The Flint water crisis is a big issue in the US that is not being acknowledged or solved. The water in Flint has been of terrible quality for about 4 years, which is completely unacceptable. The city had rerouted its piping to save money, going from Lake Huron to Flint River. The problem with the switchover was that the state was not adding an anti-corrosive to the water. The iron pipes that delivered water to the people of Flint were being corroded and leaching lead into the water. Half of the homes in Flint had lead pipes, and because there was no anti-corrosive in the water, the lead pipes were eroding and causing the water to become so dangerous. On April 6th, the Governor ended the free water program, claiming that the crisis had been stopped, but only time will tell. It took 4 years for the state of Michigan to help the people of Flint, and because of this crisis, many families have been severely affected, and children have been harmed.



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Charleston Farmers Market (blog #5)

         This past Saturday, the 14th, I was able to go to the Charleston Farmer Market, and buy locally grown vegetables and other local goods. It was a great experience, and I try to go to it every Saturday when the city has the market. This weekend I was able to buy organic span peas, tomatoes, and potatoes. They are amazingly delicious, and I am so happy that I went because I am supporting the local community and being healthier at the same time.

It is very important to buy local foods because they require much less of a carbon footprint, you are directly supporting the farmer and not some giant corporation, and because the food tastes fresher in a way. It is great being able to meet one of the people who made the food you are about to eat, and there is an opportunity to learn more about how your food was grown and what makes it so special. I bought some organic snap peas, Roma tomatoes, and some potatoes from one of the organic farmers at the market, and the man I spoke with was one of the farmers working the field. It was really nice to meet the person who grew the food I am going to be eating this week because it gives a sense of personalization to buying food that you do not get in a grocery store. I also bought some amazing honey that is made from Tupelo trees and tastes amazing. The woman I bought the honey from was the apiarist who runs the beehive and lives just off the peninsula. She was able to explain to me how the flavors of her honey are made. She sold tupelo or blueberry honey, and the flavor was there because the bees harvest pollen from either the tupelo tree or from blueberry bushes, allowing some of that flavor into the honey. It was fun tasting her honey and being able to detect the differences in flavors.

There were so many tents set up at the market and it was really fun to see all of the handmade products, like soap and perfumes, being sold there. Going to the Farmers Market allows people to purchase goods that are a lot healthier, made without harsh chemicals, and locally sourced. The Farmers Market also is a great way for people to get together to enjoy the outdoors and help reduce their carbon footprints. Our carbon footprint is caused by many factors that include exhaust from vehicles used to transport us or products that we want. By walking down the street to the farmers market I am not directly polluting, and when the products I want are only coming from the Charleston area, the amount of pollution being made for the products to get to downtown are reduced. Rather than have food come from places like California or the Mid-West, locally grown food comes from much closer, and that closeness reduces the amount of pollution it takes for me to make a strawberry smoothie in the morning.

Plastic Invasion of the Seas

Image result for turtle eating plastic

There is way too much plastic in the ocean, and that too much, is 150 million tons of plastic trash, a number that is set to triple in the next seven years. People use plastic every day, and it is something that has become almost essential to 21st-century living. There is plastic involved in our clothing, our eating, and in our hygiene. But people do not think about where a lot of their plastic is going. It is going to the ocean.

Marine animals every day, are having their homes invaded by plastic, and every year 8 tons of it are being dumped on their front door. 70% of the plastic found in the ocean is a plastic product, and because we are putting so much plastic in the water, a terrible thing is happening. Marine animals are confusing the plastic for food and are eating it.

Why are animals eating plastic?

              Animals are consuming microplastics that are floating around in the sea because it looks almost like algae, or algae grow on top of the floating plastic, or because plastic bags look like jellyfish. There are many different factors that go into who animals are eating the plastic. Some animals like blue plastics because their food is typically food, and so goes for other creatures and other colors of plastic. Also, animals do not always use the same senses that humans do when it comes to food, and their senses are different from ours. To a human, a plastic bag in the water looks exactly like a plastic bag, but to a sea turtle, the bag could look like a jellyfish with weird tentacles.

What is the harm in eating a little plastic?

              Because animals are eating a lot of plastic, they are filling their bellies with something that they cannot digest but will sit in their stomachs making them feel full. Because these marine animals are full from the plastic, they have no desire to eat and they become malnourished from starvation and/or lack of nutrients. If an animal decides to eat something that has a sharp edge, they could be at risk of piercing something.  Also, from a more anthroponotic viewpoint, if a fish is eating a ton of plastic, and you get that same fish on your dinner plate, are you not also eating plastic?

What can be done?

              There are a lot of alternatives to plastic out there, and they are definitely worth the extra cost. There are many people trying to enact change, and a great example is how the UK banned microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic, from their country. In the US, California placed a ten-cent fee on plastic bags, so for every plastic bag the consumer gets, they have to pay ten cents. Because of this law, many people began using reusable bags and the liter from plastic bags in the streets was greatly reduced. Another fun plastic free item is the bamboo toothbrush, which either uses bamboo or charcoal bristles. Buying a metal or glass reusable water bottle not only saves the consumer money in the long run but also is plastic free and means no one must lug around a heavy pack of water bottles.


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Benefits of Cutting Red Meat

I made a very hard decision last semester, and that decision was to take red meat out of my diet. Doing so has made me feel a lot healthier because when I stopped eating red meat, I lost a couple of pounds in a couple of weeks. Cutting out red meat mean I was choosing leaner forms of protein, so I am now consuming less saturated fats than I was before. After watching a video of cows being penned in these small areas, walking around in their own feces, I would not stand to eat their flesh any longer and watching Food Inc was a good reminder of why I continue to not eat red meat.

There are many reasons to stop eating red meat, and a lot of those benefits are anthropocentric. The benefits affect humans in a positive way physically. Readers Digest has a whole article about the benefits to the body that comes from not eating red meat, and a couple that stood out was the lowered “bad” cholesterol levels, the decreased risk of heart disease, and the associated weight loss.

Many Americans suffer from high cholesterol, and according to the CDC, 95 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dL. Having a high saturated fat diet is attributed to high cholesterol levels, and if reducing intake of red meat can lower LDL levels, it seems to be worth the sacrifice. Heart disease is one of the largest issues in the United States and kills over 600,000 people per year, and one of the reasons people suffer from heart disease is because of high cholesterol levels. There is an obvious connection between lowered cholesterol and lowered risk of heart disease. According to a research article by Renata Micha, “On average, processed meats contain about 400 % more sodium and 50 % more nitrates per gram. Dietary sodium increases blood pressure (BP), and may also increase peripheral vascular resistance and impair arterial compliance”. The article explains how red meat can cause cardiovascular problems, and it is a commonly known fact that salt is not heart healthy. Burgers, Hot Dogs, and a lot of other processed meats are very salty and terrible for the body.

Why else should you quit eating red meat?

            Removing red meat from your diet is a great stepping stone towards becoming a vegetarian. I want to eventually be a lacto-vegetarian because it is not necessary to eat meat in order to get the necessary nutrients. Quitting meat cold turkey is very hard, so setting parameters and slowly increasing them is a slow way to introduce the idea that there are other foods that are filling and full of protein. Cows and other animals are not meant to live in cramped pens eating corn all day, shuffling around in feces and getting filled with hormones to make them grow. I drove past a cattle farm in Texas, and the smell was so terrible and spread for miles past the “farm”. There was no grass where the cows were, having been trampled on too many times to grow there, and the cows were loudly mooing, and the cows were shuffling around looking agitated. No living creature should live like our meat cattle do.


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The future of energy is sustainable: Artificial Synthesis is real


Solar energy is using the sun as a source of power, which is retained through photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies ( PV technology is the use of solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity, and CPS is using mirrors to convert sunlight into heat. Solar energy is a very important form of energy because it is a resource that we do not need to harvest by exploiting the earth. The sun is a giant ball of energy just waiting for us to absorb the rays it shines down on the planet. Based on a report from the International Energy Agency, solar energy technology is rising in popularity, increasing by 50% in 2016, with mostly China and secondly the US leading the charge in the expansion (USA today). The growing mode of solar technology is the use of PV technology / solar panels, because of mass installation in China and support from the Chinese government. With the rising popularity of solar technology, it is only natural that the next step in pursuing sustainable forms of energy would be to develop artificial photosynthesis.

What is artificial photosynthesis? It is a way of storing the energy that it collected from solar technology. Right now, we can use solar panels to power our stuff, but it really is only useful during sunny seasons. If there was a way to store the energy collected for use during the winter/darker seasons, people could be using sustainable energy all year long. That is the goal of creating artificial photosynthesis. With the creation of artificial photosynthesis, scientists hope to “store solar energy in a way that can be used later on.” (ZME Science). In order to actually start the process of creating artificial photosynthesis, there needs to be a catalyst for the chemical reaction of converting sunlight into energy. Plants use photosynthesis to make sugar from the carbon dioxide in the air, and the process is jump-started by a catalyst. The catalysts science has available to it are usually one-atom catalysts, and there is an exploration into the production of a 2-atom catalyst. Boston College Associate Professor of Chemistry Dunwei Wang is heading up experimentation into a 2-atom catalyst and was able to produce one that is durable and great for water oxidation (ZME Science). The catalyst created is made of iridium, which is a factor into the 2-atom catalysts strength. Having a durable catalyst could be the first major step towards a future where the sun powers the planet, rather than the precious resources we have almost drained completely from the earth. Professor Wang explains that artificial photosynthesis stores energy by directly harvesting solar energy and storing the energy in chemical bonds, similar to how photosynthesis is performed but with higher efficiencies and lower cost.” (IFL Science). Further study is still needed before artificial photosynthesis can begin production and get into the hands of the people, but there are high hopes because technology like this would be so beneficial to humanity and would help the world move towards a future with less negative environmental impact, and reduce our carbon footprint, especially since the artificial photosynthesis is literally taking in carbon dioxide and turning into energy.

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Feeling salty? Check out Desalination Plants


           A desalination plant is a system that converts seawater to drinkable water. These plants are very important because as sea levels rise, fresh water can become less available. Some countries and states even rely on desalination plants because they do not have enough freshwater of their own. Israel, a country smaller than New Jersey, gets half of its domestic water from desalination, and actually has more water than it needs. Water is such a precious resource and having a desalination plant can save people’s lives and livelihoods. Israel had an extreme drought a few years ago, where farmers were losing a year’s worth of crops, but because they built desalination plants, they have more than recovered from the drought, and a lucrative business was built. The company that built the most recent desalination plant outside of Tel Aviv just built one in Carlsbad, Southern California, a place notorious for their droughts and fires.

            The reason having desalination plants in dry areas is relevant today, because Cape Town, South Africa is about to completely run out of water, and there is a viable solution on the horizon. The city is rushing to build some temporary desalination plants, so the people can survive until the earth can replenish itself. Technology can do wonders, and desalination plants are further proof of that, but the main issue with building these desalination plants is that it will cost the city big time. The process to turn salt water into drinkable water is a very expensive process, that uses a lot of electricity. The timeline for a solution to this grievous event, running completely out of water, is drawing near. The calculated date that Cape Town’s taps will run dry is April 16th, and that date could end up changing to a sooner time. Cape Town is going to have to build a desalination plant and will apparently be called the Strandfontein plant and cost around $19.8 million dollars. This might be a big expense, but it is well worth the cost, because the alternative is grim. If there is no water in an entire city, how can people possibly continue to live there? People would have to leave Cape Town, and the city would pretty much disappear.  

            Desalination is bound to become a more important necessity in our future on Earth, considering how the Earth is getting warmer as time goes on. Even a small change in temperature can cause a lot of changes to the planet, because the waters get warmer, which causes events like ice melting – which destroys habitats for the polar bears and other creatures – coral bleaching, hurricanes, and other horrible natural disasters. Desalination plants are a great way to start evolving with the changing environment, since humanity would rather just build more tech than make actual changes to how we live, which would solve a lot of problems.