WBEZ | EcoMyths Alliance http://www.wbez.org/tags/ecomyths-alliance Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EcoMyths: Rinsing before recycling? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-rinsing-recycling-109244 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths recycling.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><u>To Rinse or Not To Rinse: A Recycling Mystery Solved</u></strong></p><p>At EcoMyths, people ask us all the time about recycling. One of the most frequently asked questions is &ldquo;Do you need to rinse all containers before tossing them into the recycling bin?&rdquo; That&rsquo;s a great question and have often wondered that ourselves. To explore this issue on our <strong>EcoMyths</strong> segment on <em>Worldview</em>, Jerome McDonnell and I talked with engineering professor and researcher <a href="http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/directory/profiles/Eric-Masanet.html">Eric Masanet, PhD</a>, of Northwestern University.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/117664526" width="100%"></iframe>The good news is that more than half of Americans, 58%, say they recycle on a regular basis. Of the 4.5 lbs. of waste that we produce on average per person, each day, we recycle about one-third of it, according to the EPA. Not too shabby, considering how much of all that recycling reduces the amount of garbage going into landfills.</p><p>Most recycling programs in the U.S. co-mingle glass, plastic, aluminum and other recyclables into one bin. Then they are processed together in a single stream at the recycling plant. So Eric advises that most containers be emptied and rinsed out before you toss them into the bin. Yogurt still in the container? Rinse it first. Peanut butter still in the jar? Scoop out what is left, then rinse, before recycling. Why so serious? Because according to Waste Management, the company that collects half of all the curbside recycling in the U.S., a single dirty container can contaminate thousands of pounds of recyclables.</p><p><strong><u>Water you talkin&rsquo; about?</u></strong></p><p>We asked Eric if the extra water used to rinse out the containers would negate the environmental benefits of the recycling itself. He said that even with the water used both at home and at the recycling plant, there are significant water savings compared to what would be used to manufacture new containers from scratch.</p><p>Not only that, the environmental benefits of recycling go well beyond water savings, Eric says. Over the life of a product there are also significant energy savings. For instance, if your peanut butter container is recycled into plastic lumber, energy is saved because the upfront impact of extracting the oil or gas used to manufacture the plastic has been eliminated. In addition, no live trees need to be harvested to create the artificial lumber.</p><p>As a professor of materials and manufacturing that focuses on product life-cycle systems, Eric has much experience researching the economic and resource impacts that occur in manufactured products. A <em>life cycle analysis </em>starts from the time a raw material is mined, drilled, or harvested to the manufacturing and use of the product and until it is disposed of or recycled. Eric points out that when we recycle and re-purpose materials &ldquo;we cut the loop short&rdquo; of the lifecycle of a product, creating significant environmental benefits, not to mention the money that is saved.</p><p>That said, the rules regarding whether you need to rinse out your containers actually vary from city to city. It depends on who collects your recyclables and the capabilities of the facility where those items are recycled. Eric advised us to check on the regulations that apply to your city or town by going to <a href="http://www.Earth911.com">www.Earth911.com</a>.</p><p>I think that not only is Eric incredibly smart, but he makes it really easy to understand the environmental and economic impact of recycling.</p><p>To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to read more about <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/10/myth-you-must-rinse-all-containers-before-recycling-them/">how to rinse your recyclables. </a></p></p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 09:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-rinsing-recycling-109244 EcoMyths: Does antibacterial soap make us safer than regular soap? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-antibacterial-soap-make-us-safer-regular-soap-108709 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/washing-hands-plain-soap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When I go to the store to buy a refill for my home liquid soap dispensers, it is nearly impossible to find liquid soaps that are not &ldquo;antibacterial.&rdquo; I have heard for years that antibacterial soaps are suspected of helping to create antibiotic resistant bacteria.</p><p>So it got us thinking&hellip;does using antibacterial soap get us cleaner than regular soap and does it impact the environment the same way that antibiotics do? That is, does it get into natural systems and then back into our own?</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F105290486" width="100%"></iframe>To help us sort out the issues about antibacterial soaps, today on <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview" target="_blank">Worldview</a></em>, host Jerome McDonnell and I discussed it with our friend and water expert, Olga Lyandres. Olga is research manager at the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org" target="_blank">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>.</p><p>Olga confirmed that antibacterial soap is being found more frequently in our drinking water. In fact, she said that the main active ingredient in antibacterial soap, triclosan, is number 14 on the Alliance&rsquo;s list of emerging contaminants of concern in water. &ldquo;There is a misconception that these products are protecting you more than regular soap,&rdquo; Olga stated, adding &ldquo;washing hands with regular soap is just as effective at preventing the spread of disease.&rdquo;</p><p>The problem is that triclosan is a broad-range antibacterial, meaning that it kills good bacteria right along with the bad. It is a myth, Olga reminded us, that all bacteria are bad! In fact, we have tons of beneficial bacteria throughout our bodies and in our guts. So much so that when we take prescription antibiotics to cure bacterial infection, we can get stomach upset for awhile because our good bacteria is being beaten back at the same time as the disease-inducing bacteria.</p><p>Hand washing is a worldwide priority for promoting health and preventing disease. The Centers for Disease Control and the Global Partnership for Hand Washing are among the groups that promote <a href="http://globalhandwashing.org/ghw-day" target="_blank">Global Hand Washing Day</a> every year on October 15th. This initiative promotes washing hands with plain old soap, instead of just plain water. They do not at all promote antibacterial soap. Many people around the world are unaware of the need to wash hands with soap, especially after using the toilet to remove traces of fecal matter and the germs associated with it. Hand washing with soap prevents disease by removing bacteria and viruses from hands.</p><p>To learn more about this myth check out the full EcoMyth <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/08/antibacterial-soap-myth/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 09:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-antibacterial-soap-make-us-safer-regular-soap-108709 EcoMyths: Helping kids experience (their) true nature http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-helping-kids-experience-their-true-nature-107410 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F94531605&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Lanier2-slide_695x316.jpg" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Students participating in an environmental project. " />Hard to believe, but true:&nbsp; the average American kid spends an average of seven and a half hours per day using entertainment media on a computer, cell phone, TV, or other electronic device, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/" target="_blank">recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.</a>&nbsp; This is 53 hours per week &ndash; more than a full-time job!&nbsp; Much of the rest of the time, they are in school. So when do they have time to experience nature?</p><p>On today&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/" target="_blank">EcoMyths</a> segment on Worldview, host Jerome McDonnell and I explore this topic with two experts.&nbsp; Emilian Geczi, the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator for <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness</a>, addresses the reasons that youth these days are disconnected from nature and shows us that not only electronics are the cause.&nbsp; In addition, we talk with Elizabeth Soper, Associate Director of <a href="http://www.nwf.org/eco-schools-usa.aspx" target="_blank">Eco-Schools USA</a>,&nbsp; who helps lead school programs for the National Wildlife Federation.&nbsp; Elizabeth and Emilian explain why it is important to connect children to nature and offer simple suggestions on how to encourage them to do it.</p><p>Emilian Geczi&rsquo;s main recommendation is for kids to use every moment outdoors as an opportunity to be attentive to nature: listening for bird songs, touching tree bark or climbing the trees, watching ants crawl into their tiny anthills to store tiny specs of food and crawling back out again to look for more.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness</a>, a consortium of over 300 environmental organizations of all sized in the greater Chicago region, has an initiative called &ldquo;No Child Left Inside&rdquo;, which is being celebrated for the entire month of June 2013, starting next week.&nbsp; They have created a <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/childrens-outdoor-bill-of-rights/" target="_blank">Children&rsquo;s Outdoor Bill of Rights</a>, which asserts that every child has the right to plant a flower, follow a trail, camp under the stars, and more.&nbsp; During &quot;<a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/june-is-leave-no-child-inside-month/" target="_blank">Leave No Child Inside&nbsp;Month</a>,&quot; there will be numerous outdoor activities for children and their families throughout the region, all of which are listed on the <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/june-is-leave-no-child-inside-month/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness website</a>.</p><p>My favorite on this list is the right to play in the mud.&nbsp; There&rsquo;s nothing quite as satisfying as running around barefoot in a light, warm rain and squishing your feet into the soft, slimy mud. Everyone should experience it&mdash;preferably while watching the worms squiggle around on the grass while a stocky, shiny frog hops past.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A1-Green-Flag-SCDS-2_LauraHickey_219x165_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Students receiving the Green Flag, one of Eco Schools USA's three awards for participation in eco-friendly projects." />Kids in the Eco-Schools USA program have it made, too, because their teachers are encouraged to hold their classes outdoors!&nbsp; We were always trying to persuade our teachers to do that when I was in school, with little success.&nbsp; But in Eco-Schools, holding class in the dappled sunlight under the trees is not only likely, but it is also encouraged.&nbsp; Elizabeth Soper tells us about Eco-Schools guidelines and materials, most of which are available for free on the <a href="http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA" target="_blank">National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA website</a>.&nbsp; Getting kids outside actually helps them to be more confident and calm and even improves their academic performance, Soper said.&nbsp; They get in touch with themselves while getting in touch with nature. Eco-Schools USA shows teachers and administrators how to make their school buildings and grounds more eco-friendly, with the help of students.&nbsp; Their programs get students outside, showing them how to create rooftop gardens and wildlife habitat.&nbsp; Eco-Schools also encourages students to get involved in understanding issues in their local community, such as identifying sources of local water pollution and learning what they can do about it.</p><div><p>Our experts show that regardless of how busy children are, they can have more fun, get better grades and learn more about their world just by stopping to smell the flowers a little bit each day. Or by playing in the mud.&nbsp;</p><p>Amen to that.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-helping-kids-experience-their-true-nature-107410 EcoMyths: Emerald Ash Borer destroys millions of trees in Chicago and US http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-emerald-ash-borer-destroys-millions-trees-chicago-and-us-106872 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90022516" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Slash and burn: Why so many trees are cut down in the Chicago area.</strong></p><p>Say hello to a small unwelcome guest: the emerald ash borer.</p><p>This invasive wood boring beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the US and millions more to come. Cutting down these trees is just one strategy to get rid of the pest and save the remaining ash forest, but as we learned here at <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a>, it&rsquo;s not enough. For the next segment of our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">EcoMyths</a></em> series, Kate Sackman and Jerome McDonnell talk with Peter Gordon, city forester for Lake Forest, and David Horvath from <a href="http://www.thecareoftrees.com/">The Care of Trees</a> - both are ISA Certified Arborists.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP090611054785_1.jpg" style="float: left; width: 264px; height: 158px;" title="Emerald ash borer. Actual size of adult ranges from 3/8 to 5/8 inches. The invasive beetle has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees over the past decade. (AP Photo/Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, File)" /></div><p>Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic insect native to China and eastern Asia. The bug hopped a ride to the U.S. in cheap wood packing material more than ten years ago. First detected in Michigan in 2002, today EAB infestation is a problem in 19 states. Most recently in <a href="http://myemail.constantcontact.com/For-Immediate-Release--Save-Your-Ash-Trees---Learn-to-ID-EAB--.html?soid=1109594220206&amp;aid=hPdylZ4kTmU">New Hampshire</a>, the state&rsquo;s department of agriculture confirmed detection on April 5<sup>th</sup>.</p><p>Aside from feeding on leaves, the adult beetles do little harm. Ruin occurs when in larva stage, EAB</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>chew through trees and damage its vascular system &ndash; the tissue right under the tree bark that&rsquo;s responsible for transporting water and nutrients from the roots to the top leaves and branches.</p><p>Scientists say its continued spread across the country is most likely due to the sale of firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas across state lines. Even worse: Stress from climate change, namely drought, makes the trees more vulnerable to EAB. North American ash trees have no natural resistance to this foreign guest.</p><p>Arborists explain with such a large food source for the pests, the problem is only expected to grow. According to one of the nation&rsquo;s largest tree care companies, The Care of Trees, Ash trees comprise 10 percent to 40 percent of local urban forests. Many ash trees were planted during the recent housing boom &ndash; creating a monoculture that makes them easy targets for EAB -- and they are natural reproducers.</p><p>So what to do? Initially, many communities took a wait and see approach, says Peter Gordon, city forester for Lake Forest, IL -- where 19 percent of the tree inventory is ash. EAB came to attention during the economic downturn, Gordon notes, and budget-strained municipalities had few resources for tree treatment.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="181" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP1110260175558_1.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Forester Jeff Wiegert, of the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, points out markings left from emerald ash borer larvae on an ash tree. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)" width="240" /></div><p>&ldquo;The strategy was to see how states, count[ies] and towns handled EAB where it was first discovered,&rdquo; he adds.&nbsp; &ldquo;But now we don&rsquo;t have as many options.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed EAB is an epidemic and can&rsquo;t be ignored, says Fredric Miller, a professor of horticulture at Joliet Junior College and a research associate with the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill.</p><p>&ldquo;If you choose not to do any treatment, you will be overrun,&rdquo; Miller says. &ldquo;What communities have to come to grips with is that either you are going to manage this on your schedule, or the insect will dictate the schedule.&rdquo; And that means, in part, cutting down lots of trees in our neighborhoods in an effort to stop or slow the spread of EAB.</p><p>Arborists explain the alternative for a badly infested tree &ndash; allowing it to die from EAB damage and then cutting it down &ndash; is worse, because it does nothing to prevent the beetle from paying a house visit to a neighboring tree. Also, Miller points out, dead ash trees are a dangerous liability and must be removed &ndash; they&rsquo;re structurally weak and can fall during wind or ice storms. Many of these trees line walkways and paths in neighborhoods and forest preserves.</p><p>But some trees can, and should, be saved with proper insecticide treatment, explains David Horvath, an arborist in suburban Chicago with The Care of Trees.</p><p>Horvath says that homeowners and municipalities are now charged with identifying &ldquo;valuable&rdquo; trees &ndash; generally larger (greater than 12 inches in diameter) that provide environmental benefits such as shade to decrease energy demand, a deep root system that mitigates storm water damage or simply beauty to the property.</p><p>Overall, an integrated approach &ndash; treatment, prevention and some targeted tree removal &ndash; is the best way to put the brakes on EAB, and avoid destroying urban forest, say Horvath and the other scientists EcoMyths interviewed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP03041601077_0.jpg" style="width: 244px; height: 159px; float: left;" title="Crews cut down trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer, north of Whitehouse, Ohio. (AP Photo/J.D. Pooley, File)" /></div><p>According to a 2011 article in the <a href="http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/jrnl/2011/nrs_2011_kovacs_002.pdf">Journal of Environmental Management</a>, prevention and treatment may make more sense economically, too. The estimated cost of treatment, removal and replacement of EAB in all affected states from 2010 through 2020 is $12.5 billion. Prevention tactics (such as destroying egg-laying EAB and targeted tree removal) could slash those costs by up to $7.5 billion, the authors concluded.</p><p>In the Chicago area, for example, municipalities spend up to $1,100 to remove and replace one tree, according to a 2012 survey conducted by Miller and his team.&nbsp; He notes that the same tree can be treated with insecticides for more than 50 years at the same cost.</p><p>Insecticides may sound nasty, but remember the alternative: cutting down the tree or letting it die anyhow, while giving that nasty beetle a free pass for its next meal. Plus, when used correctly and responsibly, experts say, insecticides targeting EAB are not likely to harm humans or the environment.</p><p>How else are government and science addressing the spread of EAB? Interstate regulation prohibits the sale of firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas. Also any wood packing material used for international trade must be fumigated or heat-treated, explains Kerry Britton, a national pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service who studies invasive forest pests.</p><p>Another strategy: Britton notes that researchers are trying to breed ash trees with natural resistance to EAB by crossing Asian ash trees that fight off the pest with vulnerable North American ash species.</p><p>&ldquo;By the time the beetle was detected, it could not be eradicated,&rdquo; Britton says. &ldquo;The goal now is to slow it down.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>One Green Thing You Can Do: </strong></p><p>Don&rsquo;t move firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas. One study showed that EAB can establish on a credit card-size piece of bark.</p><p>Keep an eye out for EAB, whether in your yard or your neighborhood. Here&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.extension.iastate.edu/pme/Publications/EAB/FAQSUL21AshTrees.pdf">helpful guide</a> to identifying ash trees and distinguishing between EAB and other problems. Realistically, your best bet is to call an <a href="http://www.tcia.org/">accredited tree care company</a> since early evidence of EAB damage occurs at the treetop level, where it&rsquo;s not visible to most folks. <strong>Now</strong> is the time to act. Treating trees by mid-May minimizes the damage by adult beetles, which emerge in the spring. If detected early, trees can be treated with insecticide rather than being cut down.&nbsp;</p><p>Think you spotted one? <a href="http://www.emeraldashborer.info/call.cfm#sthash.59Vb2IGy.dpbs">Report</a> it to your state&rsquo;s agriculture department office or the call USDA&rsquo;s EAB toll-free hotline at 1-866-322-4512.</p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p>The unofficial <a href="http://www.emeraldashborer.info/treatment.cfm#sthash.jVmXYeMO.dpbs">EAB web site</a> with background and treatment information, a collaborative education effort by state universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service</p><p>A <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/downloads/multistateeab.pdf">map</a> showing EAB detections across the U.S. and Canada as of December, 2012 (does not reflect the recent discovery of EAB in New Hampshire)</p><p>To save or not to save? A <a href="http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/EAB/pdf/NABB_DecisionGuide.pdf">guide</a> deciding when to treat EAB</p><p>Summary argument by <a href="http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/eab/files/2012/03/EAB-Consensus-Document.pdf">Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation</a> on why ash tree conservation is preferable to wholesale tree removal</p><p><a href="http://www.slameab.info/">SLAM</a> (Slow Ash Mortality) is a pilot project in Michigan &ndash; ground zero for EAB &ndash; to slow down beetle infestation.</p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 08:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-emerald-ash-borer-destroys-millions-trees-chicago-and-us-106872 EcoMyths: The big reasons not to flush old medicines down the toliet http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80812811&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120218166375_3.jpg" style="float: left; width: 243px; height: 346px;" title="Area residents dispose of unneeded medications at the drug take back event on Feb. 18, 2012, at Walgreens and other participating locations in Palm Springs, CA. The event was sponsored by the C.A.R.E.S. Alliance, with support from the Palm Springs Police Department. (Rodrigo Pena/AP Images for The C.A.R.E.S. Alliance and Palm Springs Police Department)" />Over the years, you may have heard that the recommended way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals is to flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain - not anymore.&nbsp; The EPA and FDA backed off this recommendation for almost all drugs (exceptions are listed on the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#Flushing_list">FDA website</a>).&nbsp; Medicines are among the thousands of &ldquo;chemicals of emerging concern&rdquo; the EPA and much of the scientific community now monitor and study.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today for our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, Jerome McDonnell and I discuss the pros and cons of flushing medicines with two experts: &nbsp;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Olga Lyandres, PhD</a> of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, author of the paper &ldquo;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/document.doc?id=1263">Keeping Great Lakes Water Safe: Priorities for Protecting against Emerging Chemical Pollutants</a>&rdquo;; and <a href="http://apps.mwrd.org/commissioners/shore.pdf">Commissioner Debra Shore</a> of the <a href="http://www.mwrd.org">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago</a> (MWRD).&nbsp; Both had a lot to say about the dangers of and the solutions for the contamination of our drinking water by dissolved pharmaceuticals and other household products.<strong> See how we &quot;flush&quot; <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/2013/02/flushing-meds/">this myth</a> at the EcoMyths Alliance website!</strong></div><p><u>Why Dispose of Unused Drugs?</u></p><p>The &ldquo;chemical soup&rdquo; that Lyandres mentions is of concern because of the strange mix of chemicals that we dispose of in our waste stream.&nbsp; These chemicals show up in trace amounts in our drinking water, creating a potentially harmful cocktail of chemicals.</p><p>Source: <a href="http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis">http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis</a></p><p>Common chemicals in the waste stream include Prozac, Viagra, and caffeine. &nbsp;As she explained, no one understands the chemistry that occurs when these and other compounds are mixed together. Nor is much is known about the potential impacts on human health. But studies show adverse ecological impacts of <a href="http://epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare.htm">endocrine disruptors</a> in our waterways, including &ldquo;intersex fish&rdquo; &ndash; that is, the male fish in the Potomac River Watershed <a href="http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/DisplayNews.cfm?NewsID=E2FDE07T-74%20D0-11D4-288DC74E7914EA01">bearing eggs</a>!</p><p><strong><u>Two really important reasons to properly dispose of unused medicines</u></strong></p><ul><li>To prevent accidental, and possibly fatal, use of the drug by people for whom the medicine was not prescribed.&nbsp;</li><li>To prevent environmental contamination in of our waterways and soils.</li></ul><p><u>What Can a Person Do To Help?</u></p><p>First, it is important to note that using expired medications is potentially harmful to your health.&nbsp; Once a medicine expires, not only can it lose its potency, but also its chemical composition may have changed.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the past two years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has increased focus on this issue by instituting nationwide pharmaceutical &ldquo;Take Back Days&rdquo;.&nbsp; By making it easier for people to dispose of their medicines safely, the DEA has collected millions of pounds of drugs as a result of this program. The next <a href="http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html">National Drug Take Back Day</a> is April 27, 2013 and will be administered by state law enforcement.&nbsp;</p><p>Commissioner Shore points out that sewage treatment plants do not have the capabilities to clean out the thousands of chemicals that get into the waste stream from home plumbing, storm water, and other sources.&nbsp; So we have to do our part to keep chemicals out of the water system in the first place.</p><p>Both Shore and Lyandres advise people to keep an eye on the expiration dates of their prescribed and over-the-counter medications.&nbsp; When the drugs are expired or unused, there are several safe ways to dispose of medicines to keep them out of getting into your drinking water.&nbsp; Below are our experts&rsquo; recommendations on safe disposal.</p><p><u>Disposing of Medicines Safely</u></p><ul><li><u>Local Municipal and Other Agency Collection Sites</u>: Commissioner Shore recommends finding a drug collection location near your home.&nbsp; The Illinois <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/medication-disposal/locations/index.html">EPA lists medication disposal locations in by county</a> on its website. The MWRD also participates in the DEA Take Back days at several of its water treatment plants in Cook County.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Special Envelopes Sold at Local Stores</u>:&nbsp; Major pharmacies, such as <a href="http://info.cvscaremark.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-caremark-helps-launch-partnership-drugfreeorgs-national-campaign-curb-te">CVS</a> and <a href="http://www.walgreens.com/topic/sr/sr_community_safe_medication_disposal.jsp">Walgreens</a>, sell specially designed envelopes for mailing used medicines to safe disposal facilities.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Trash it as a Last Resort</u>:&nbsp; If there are no local medicine disposal alternatives, the FDA recommends throwing away old medicine in a plastic bag after mixing it with kitty litter or coffee grounds.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is not the best option, since the bag goes into a landfill. There is a chance that eventually the package could leak and the drugs leech into groundwater. However, disposing expired medications in the trash is still better than flushing them down the toilet.</li></ul></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 EcoMyths: Is organic food overrated? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-organic-food-overrated-104933 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/organic%20food.jpg" title="Cabbages, salad greens, radishes and broccoli are among the selection of organic produce on sale at a Whole Foods Market. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)" /></div><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F75061988"></iframe>As the mid-winter chill sets in, a tangy tasting ripe tomato with sweet fresh basil leaves can easily bring summer to mind. But often, grocery-store tomatoes don&rsquo;t taste good at all times of year and fresh basil is expensive.&nbsp; So how do we find and choose good produce year-round?&nbsp; In this latest <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, <em>Worldview&#39;s</em> Jerome McDonnell and I talked with sustainability expert, Environmental Studies Professor <a href="http://csh.depaul.edu/departments/environmental-science-studies/faculty-and-staff/Pages/willard.aspx">Barbara Willard</a>, of DePaul University.&nbsp; Barb knows the process of buying healthy, sustainable produce year-round can be confusing - there are so many factors we&#39;ve been told to consider.&nbsp; She helped us explore the conventional wisdom and tease apart the variables, including: local vs. imported, organically versus conventionally grown, and purchasing versus growing your own.&nbsp; She simplified the process of sourcing fresh produce year-round to some key factors in your buying decision.</p><p>So why is it important to buy locally-grown foods? &ldquo;Food miles&rdquo; is the term used to describe the carbon generated in transporting produce to market.&nbsp; But Willard reminds us that it is not just transportation miles we should consider when calculating the carbon footprint of a pepper - it is also production: was a lot of heavy equipment used to plant and harvest it? Was chemical fertilizer used? Was the product transported by truck?&nbsp; Even if the produce was grown at a local farm, all these components can create a large carbon footprint.&nbsp; If food miles are important to you, it is good to know the farming practices of the grower from which you buy your fruits and vegetables.&nbsp; The lowest carbon footprint tends to occur with farms that do not use chemical fertilizer, minimize use of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and travel the shortest distance to market.</p><p>Buying organic is widely understood to have environmental benefits too, but why? &ldquo;Organic&rdquo; simply means crops grown with natural fertilizers and pest-control methods rather than with synthetic chemicals.&nbsp; The benefit of eating organic produce is that it reduces or eliminates chemicals in both the food and the environment from the source.&nbsp; Only foods with the USDA seal are certified as having been raised using truly organic methods.&nbsp; Also, Willard reminds us that many people think organic food tastes better, due to the lower chemical content.&nbsp; The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a list of conventionally-grown foods to avoid due to chemical content - they believe these foods should be purchased in the organic section of the store instead.&nbsp; <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/2012/11/why-go-organic/">Produce myths are explored</a> and the EWG tips can be found on the <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/"><em>EcoMyth Alliance&#39;s</em></a> website or on the <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/">EWG Shoppers Guide</a> on their website.&nbsp; EWG also has an iPhone app (available <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dirty-dozen/id312336368?mt=8">here</a>) that tells you what foods are best to buy organic: &ldquo;The Dirty Dozen&rdquo; and also those that are safe to buy conventionally grown, &ldquo;The Clean 15&rdquo;.</p><p>As with organic, many people feel that eating foods when they are in season is the tastier choice. Willard encourages us to grow our own vegetables, both for the fun of it and for better tasting food.&nbsp; She even gives us tips on what to grow in the winter months (kale, spinach, herbs) and how to do it (outdoors under a hoop house).</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="260" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/organics%20hoop%20house.jpg" title="Growing spinach as a winter crop in a hoop house. (Photo by Barb Willard)" width="463" /></div><p>With these rules of thumb in mind: local, organic, and seasonal, I now feel inspired to go shopping!&nbsp;</p><p>For more information on these topics, see EcoMyths&rsquo; latest myth article: <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/2013/01/sustainable-produce/">&ldquo;Is Sustainable Food Out of Reach?</a>&rdquo; on the EcoMyths Alliance website.&nbsp; Other helpful resources are shown below:</p><p>-Michal Pollan Video, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GyIhXNilcg">Serious Sustainability</a>&rdquo;</p><p>-GoTo2040 Video: &ldquo;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbTxNkVdM38">Planning for a Sustainable Local Food System</a>&rdquo;<br /><br />-Earth 911 Slideshow of Winter Produce, by region - <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/01/10/your-local-guide-to-winter-produce/">http://earth911.com/news/2011/01/10/your-local-guide-to-winter-produce/</a></p><p>-Pick Your Own: List of crop calendars by state - <a href="http://www.pickyourown.org/US_crop_harvest_calendars.php">http://www.pickyourown.org/US_crop_harvest_calendars.php</a></p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 12:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-organic-food-overrated-104933 EcoMyths: 'Vampire Power' sucks out your energy and money http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-vampire-power-sucks-out-your-energy-and-money-104158 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Phanton%20Load_1.jpg" title="A cost-efficient way to combat vampire power is by using a power strip. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)" /></div><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F69840874"></iframe>No, &ldquo;Vampire Power!&rdquo; is not a rallying cry created by &quot;Twi-hards&quot; camping out at premier of <em>The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2</em>.&nbsp; It&#39;s not even a blood-red energy drink.&nbsp; But if you use electricity at home, vampire power is a phenomenon lurking in your household at this very minute.</p><p>According to energy expert, <a href="http://www.mech.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/profiles/masanet-eric.html">Eric Masanet</a>, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and associate professor of engineering at Northwestern University, vampire power is electricity loss by appliances in your house when they&#39;re not being actively used. For our regular <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, <em>Worldview&#39;s</em> Jerome McDonnell and I talked with Eric as he shared his passion for understanding energy demand and ways to reduce it.</p><p>At Northwestern, Eric teaches about energy and resource efficiency. His devotes his work to finding solutions to wasted energy.&nbsp; He explained a big source of energy waste is vampire power, also known as standby power, phantom load or plug load. Your household appliances that consume power when not in use include; your microwave oven, DVD, coffee maker, laptops, printers, televisions, and especially digital cable and satellite boxes. When turned off, many of these items remain in standby, ready for instant activation. Others continue to use power for their clocks (internal and external) or other displays. Actually, these items are never really &quot;off&quot; unless you unplug them. An average household has 40 appliances that use standby power when turned off. They unnecessarily consume up to 10% of total power used in your house! But also, energy lost through standby power accounts for 1 percent of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.</p><p>Other than unplugging offending vampire appliances from the socket, Eric suggests two practical ways to reduce standby loss.&nbsp; One is a power strip, a very simple solution for your home computer and related equipment.&nbsp; When you turn off your computer, if you also turn off the power strip, the whole suite of equipment will be <em>fully</em> off.&nbsp; Another solution is more long-term: buy <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/">Energy Star</a> appliances.&nbsp; These ideas are pretty compelling to me.&nbsp; No one likes to pay an electricity bill, or any bill, for something they don&rsquo;t actually use. So I am thinking of creating a vampire power rallying cry of my own:&nbsp; &ldquo;Save energy, save money, save our atmosphere&rdquo;!</p><p>See how we bust the vampire power myth at <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a>. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has more <a href="http://standby.lbl.gov/">info on standby power</a>.</p></p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 10:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-vampire-power-sucks-out-your-energy-and-money-104158