I have to admit, I had never really heard of greenwashing until class. Greenwashing is when a company, government, or organization promotes green-based environmental initiatives or images but in actually functions in a way that is dangerous to the environment. It is essentially misleading customers about benefits of the product through false advertising and false claims. So, I stared looking around my apartment for products with misleading labels and lo in behold I came across my antibacterial dish soap, Dawn. The image on the front label features a baby duckling with the phrase “Dawn helps save wildlife” next to it. After a bit of research I discovered that this is deceptive. Yes, it is true Dawn donates their soap to help clean animals that are affected by oil spills, but the product itself contains chemicals that are extremely harmful to animals. Animal tests have proved that the chemicals in this particular soap have extremely harmful effects. Some of these ingredients are, trisoclan, sodium bisulfate, and quaternium 15. Trisoclan is linked to heart disease/ heart failure and also impairs muscle formation. Sodium bisulfate can be toxic if ingested potentially causing life-threatening effects. And lastly, Quaternium 15 can cause non-reproductive organ toxicity and also irritate the eyes and skin. It is apparent that companies only have one goal in mind, profit, no matter the consequences.
It is frightening how companies are trying trick customers into thinking their product is healthier, more sustainable, or in some cases even helps wildlife (Dawn). Even so, it is even scarier that people are not particularly aware of this. It seems as though our society is generally trying to become greener, for instance, our semi-recent emphasis on buying organics. Companies are using this to their advantage in order to increase their profits.
I came across this article the other day that I found to be really interesting and concerning. There is a giant garbage patch that has been accumulating in the Pacific Ocean for quite some time. I have heard of the garbage patch before but didn’t realize just how large and harmful it really is. The National Ocean Service’s website states that the exact size of the concentrated debris is hard to estimate and is not as big as people have made it out to be. While other websites state that it is almost twice the size of Texas. Either way, it is a substantial amount of debris that poses a great threat to the environment and marine life. This giant patch is actually compromised of two other patches, the western garbage patch near Japan and the eastern garbage patch near California. The trash is being trapped by the north pacific subtropical gyre that is composed of four big ocean currents. These currents move in a clockwise direction around 7.7 million square miles of the ocean. The area in the center of the gyre is where the trash is accumulating from these currents. The convergence zone links together the spinning patches of garbage and is essentially a trash highway. Most of the trash is non biodegradable however it does break apart in smaller pieces forming microplastics. About 70% of these microplastics sink to the bottom of the ocean. According to National Geographic, 80% of the debris comes from land activities and the other 20% comes from boats, oil rigs, and cargo ships. Most of the 20% of debris coming from boats is fishing net, about 705,000 tons of it.
The effects on the animals and the environment are extremely dangerous. Marine animals such as turtles and birds mistake the trash for food. The tons of fishing nets create a death trap for whales, seals, sea lions, and many other animals. At least 136,000 animals are killed by these nets each year. The microplastics block the sunlight from getting to from reaching plankton and algae. This affects other animals as plankton is a main source of food.
So how do we go about stopping or at least reducing the size of this patch. First, I think we should try to cut back if not stop all trash entering the ocean. Maybe we could create bans on the use of plastic bags at grocery stories that are near the beach. I know Folly beach has recently placed a ban on using plastic bags, balloons, styrofoam plates, cups, and containers on the beach. The grocery stores on James Island have also been asked to provide recyclable bags instead of plastic.
Here in Charleston we are so lucky and fortunate to have such accessible recycling units. I have to admit, I took for granted our recycling and didn’t realize that a lot of people are not given the amazing accommodations that we are given in Charleston. This past weekend, I visited some friends at Clemson University and to my amazement, ALL of their housing complexes do not offer any type of recycling units. This blew my mind. There are 23,000 students that attend Clemson and none of their college housing units have recycling. I can’t imagine how much reusable material is going into landfills because of this. So I asked what the deal was and apparently, the students can drop off their recycling at a recycling center on campus. Considering the housing complexes do not have recycling, at least they have this alternative. Still, how many college students are willing to go that extra mile? As devastating as it is for me to admit, my friends doesn’t go that extra mile and neither do their roommates. (Yes I was questioning our friendship). They did say however, that Clemson took a survey at the beginning of this year that asked students if they would use recycling units if they had them in their housing complexes. No action has been carried out since that survey. So when I got back to the recycling city of Charleston, I told my roommate about this and she said she didn’t have available recycling units in her home town either! She promptly told me that up north, recycling isn’t nearly as available as it is here in Charleston. This really put into perspective how fortunate we are in Charleston to have such readily available recycling units. It also makes me wonder how we could even start to implement recycling units in areas that don’t have them.
Over this summer I worked at an all girls camp in North Carolina. At first I was a little hesitant about living in a log cabin with no technology, minimal electricity, and a bunch of kids. Needless to say, this experience was really eye opening for me. It made me realize how little we can live on and how much stuff I have that I don’t need. It also was a lot of fun because we didn’t rely on technology for entertainment. The camp itself was very sustainable. There was a huge garden that we would get most of our food from. Sometimes we would help with picking the food for the meals. And, as shocking as it may sound, to conserve water we were only allowed 5 minutes of shower time. I guess it helped that there was no water pressure and the water was usually pretty cold. Daily use of electricity was a minimum as we were more concentrated on bonfires and s’mores. We probably only used at most 30 minutes a day of electricity. Due to the fact hat we used minimal technology, there was more of a sense of involvement.
Overall this way of sustainable living ended up being a lot easier and actually more fun than I had originally expected. I was there for three months. It was hard leaving a place that was so off the grid for me and going back to a house with so many appliances and things I don’t really need. It was definitely a transition I wasn’t expecting. Although I am living in the city now and I recognize that I am not living as sustainable as I did this summer, I am still trying to do my part here in Charleston towards a more sustainable living.