Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Bag It

August 22, 2013

Plastic bag of shrimps

We are on a family vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina this week. Although we are enjoying the local cuisine (lots of fresh seafood) and trying to avoid some of the local cuisine (hush puppies, cheese grits and fried seafood), we made a trip to the supermarket to stock up on a few basics to have around the house.

I was appalled as we left Harris Teeter yesterday with 4 plastic bags worth of groceries: 1 bag contained a small jug of laundry detergent and a container of yogurt, another had some ice cream and frozen fruit for smoothies, one was filled with a carton of orange juice, and the last contained a box of green tea.

Could that not fit into one bag? Did we really need to place a small item like teabags into it’s own private bag?

Us New Yorkers were appalled: the Floridians, not so much.

Relief came in the form of an article, outlining the proposed plastic bag laws back home.

New York legislators are proposing a 10-cent surcharge for each plastic bag used by consumers at retail establishments. A charge may also be levied for paper bags as well.

New Yorkers currently use about 5.2 million bags per year, at a cost of $10 million dollars for the city to transport them to landfills in other states.

Similar bills in other cities have been met with great success, including Washington D.C. whose use of plastic bags declined 60% and Los Angeles, who has seen a whopping 95% decline in the use of plastic bags.

Many of the stores where I shop at home incentivize customers to bring their own reusable cloth bags by offering bag credits, and weekly raffles. Some, such as Whole Foods Market do not even offer plastic bags, and use recycled paper bags for patrons who do not have their own.

Hopefully, plastic shopping bags will go the way of the cassette tape, and become something that our grandchildren will find unfathomable.

As one environmentalist summed it up so eloquently. “ Only vampires should be that thin, and last hundreds of years!”

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Organic Panic?

September 5, 2012

Health researchers at Stanford University released a study this week casting doubt on the advantages of organic meats and produce. While they concluded that most fruits and vegetables labeled organic were not more nutritious than the conventional versions, the jury is still out on whether or not spending extra for organic products is worth it.

Conventional varieties tested did have more pesticide residue on them, but the levels fall within the allowable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The question lies in whether or not these levels are in fact safe for humans long term.

Many of the key motivators for buying organic foods are the stringent rules governing the farming of these items.

Organic chicken and pork were found to less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The study also found that organic milk contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the heart. Organic produce also had higher levels of phosphorous, and phenols, believed to help prevent cancer.

Organic foods also have less environmental impact than large-scale conventional farming techniques.

More specific studies have found some added benefits to going organic.  A Washington State University study done in 2010 found organic strawberries contained higher levels of vitamin C than their conventionally counterparts.

Three other studies published last year, from Columbia University, The University of California Berkley and Mount Sinai Hospital, showed that children whose mothers ate organically during pregnancy had a higher I.Q. than those whose mother was exposed to higher levels of pesticides.

While this news is likely to spark controversy among farmers and nutrition experts alike, the facts are still somewhat inconclusive.

For children, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems, the benefits may still out weigh the expense of purchasing organically grown food.

The choice, as always, belongs to the consumer.

photos:Glasshouse Images

A Tale of Two Cities

June 4, 2012

This week, two major cities took steps to help us clean up our unhealthy lifestyles.

Los Angeles just became the largest city to jump on the sustainability bandwagon, by banning plastic grocery bags.

Not only do discarded bags clog our eco-system, but also the inks and dyes used on many of them are toxic. Over 100 billion bags are tossed in the United States each year, resulting in the environmental equivalent of dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

L.A. residents and businesses have 16 months to phase in the new plan. Although bringing re-usable bags is ideal, customers will be able to purchase paper bags at checkout, for 10 cents a piece.

While many support this bill, which is already underway in other cities, many are unhappy with the decision.

The detractors feel that is an inconvenience that will not have a significant impact.

Although the bags account to less than 1% of all waste in the area, Los Angeles uses an estimated 2.7 million bags per year.

Across the country on the east coast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City has proposed a ban on the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 oz. in an effort to stall the obesity epidemic.

The proposed ban would affect restaurants, sporting and entertainment venues, and fast food franchises. The measure would not affect diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy – based drinks or alcoholic beverages. It would not extend to products sold in grocery or convenience stores.

Many locals are up in arms over the ban, saying that is not the government’s business to get involved in such things.

Mayor Bloomberg has been a major advocate of health issues in the city. His ban of smoking in restaurants and other public places, ban of the use of trans fats, and the requirement that all chain restaurants post calorie counts, were also met with dissent, yet have been initiatives that have been rolled out across the country.

Bloomberg responded to his detractors by saying:

“Oh, come on. We’re not taking anything away. You don’t have to pay attention to the calorie counts. You don’t have to stop smoking. You don’t have to stop buying big bottles of soda.”

It seems that the general population is not willing to do their part in promoting good health and taking care of our environment. The local governments seem to be taking the matters into their own hands.
How much involvement is too much? Do they have bigger issues to work on, or are these initiatives more impactful than people give them credit for?

Join the conversation…

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