Harsh Facts of the Week
USA: 22.27%; China: 17.34%; EU: 15.43%; Russia: 6.1%; Japan: 4.8%; India: 4.4%; Australia: 1.3%
Approximately 27,000 species disappear each year. We lose 40 million acres of our forest through logging and land clearing annually. 70% of once forested tracts of the Amazon are now used as pasture. Only 12% of the planet’s forests are still in their natural state.
The Styrofoam cups used every year could circle the planet at least five times; they are not biodegradable and are rarely recycled. Recycling an aluminum can uses only 5% of the energy required to make a new one. Recycling glass uses 26% of the energy.
Do these Harsh Facts seem out of your control? How can one person possibly make a dent in the environmental catastrophe?
They’re not out of your control, and you can make a dent. Take Tristram Stuart, for example. He’s one man, and not only did he investigate the food waste scandal practically all on his own, but he sounded the alarm, and people all across the world have heard him. He began Feeding the 5000, an event that feeds 5000 people with food that would have otherwise been wasted. Learn more about Stuart in last week’s “Suggested Reading” section.
You don’t have to start a major event or organization to make a difference. Start recycling at your home. Reject Styrofoam cups and other plastic and paper ware and use your good China. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Drive less: carpool, ride your bike, plan ahead and combine your errands, use more public transportation. Join protests against cutting down forests, sign online petitions, and donate the money that you would have spent on Oreos, nail polish, and squeeze cheese to an organization that preserves nature. Oh, yeah, and you can use the tips I provide in Ecofriendly Economics! If you’re feeling especially motivated, take a crack at Viridorari’s Green Challenges, which come out every Saturday.
April's Animal of the Month: The Snow Leopard
The snow leopard is perhaps one of the world's most beautiful creatures, yet sadly, it has been considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1972. It is estimated that there are between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild. The number is difficult to determine because these wild cats are so secretive and elusive, and they live in some of the harshest environments in the world.There are between 600 and 700 snow leopards in zoos around the world.
Snow leopards live in twelve countries in Asia, in landscapes 3,000 to 5,400 miles above sea level, within a range that covers 2 million square kilometers. 60% of their range is in China alone. Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are the other eleven countries.
Picture Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_leopard#Conservation_status
There are three main reasons why snow leopards are endangered:
- Hunting due to conflict with herders who want to protect their livestock
- Habitat loss and fragmentation due to the conversion of land for agricultural use
- Poaching for illegal wildlife trade market. Snow leopard body parts can be sold for thousands of dollars. Their beautiful fur is highly sought after and their bones are used for traditional Asian medicine.
I will continue to provide facts about these majestic creatures throughout the month of April, including information about the organizations that support snow leopard conservation and ways that you can help their missions. In the meantime, learn more ways that you can incorporate greener habits into your life with this week's "Ecofriendly Economics" section.
Mini Ecofriendly Economic Tips
If you have an Apple product, download the free iRecycle app, powered by Earth911.com. iRecycle helps you locate recycling centers near you that can take those hard-to-recycle items, like automobile parts, electronics, and construction supplies. To get accurate results for centers near you, you’ll need to turn location services on in your privacy settings.
Brush Without Running
Don’t run the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Keep it off until you finish and you need to rinse out the sink. Your household can conserve as many as five gallons per day with this one simple step. Daily savings in the U.S. alone could add up to 1.5 billion gallons.
Use Cruise Control
When using cruise control your vehicle could get up to 15% better mileage. Considering today's gasoline prices, this is a healthy tactic not only for the environment, but for your wallet as well. Personally, I am addicted to cruise control. Not only does it make driving easier, but it keeps me from getting “heavy-footed” and accidentally speeding. However, be sure to never use cruise control in poor weather conditions. When it’s snowing or pouring rain, it’s safer if you’re in control.
Check out the website below to find forty-eight other simple things you can do.
Jumbo Ecofriendly Economic Tip
Did you know that you can recycle your used cooking oil- as in, the grease leftover in your pan? Yeah, neither did I! I stumbled across it while doing some recycling research.
Used grease is typically dumped down the drain or poured in the trash. During my research, however, I found that neither of these are very safe options, both for your home and the environment.
Drain Disposal: When you pour your oil down the drain, tiny particles of grease stick to the pipes, which then catch other particles, collecting until the mass is large enough to block sewage lines. Cooking oil and grease in our plumbing systems is the most common cause of clogged pipes. Stopped-up pipes can result in: foul odor; attraction of pests and vermin; raw sewage overflowing into your home or your neighbors’ homes; an expensive and unpleasant cleanup paid out of your pocket; raw sewage overflowing into parks, yards, and streets; potential contact with disease-causing organisms; and an increase in operation and maintenance costs for local sewage departments, which creates bigger bills for customers.
Trash Disposal: Your used cooking oil will go on to produce methane gas in landfills. Dumping too much used oil into landfills can slow down the rate of decomposition by bacteria, as the oil prevents micro-organisms from breaking down organic matter. When food waste does not decompose properly, it takes up space in landfills and attracts pests. Subsequently, many places in the United States have bans against putting used cooking oil and grease into local landfills.
So, there’s the bad end of the deal, but I have a solution! Our used cooking oil can be converted into alternative fuels such as biodiesel, which is biodegradable, non-toxic, and burns cleaner than regular diesel! Many recycling centers, and even landfills, now collect used cooking grease and oil to send to biofuel companies. Earth911.com offers a search engine where you can find recycling centers accepting cooking oil closest to you: http://search.earth911.com/ or download Earth911's iRecycle app mentioned above.
Unfortunately, there may not be a center accepting oil near you. If there is one in a neighboring county, it may only accept items from county residents, which Earth911.com will specify. Talk to your friends and family; if they start recycling their grease too, you could take turns driving out to a distant collection center after you have all collected sufficient amounts of oil.
Don’t give up if there isn’t a center near you! There are other things you can do to recycle your oil besides bringing it in to be converted to fuel! Here’s a list form Earth911.com:
- Use leftover lard, tallow, or animal shortening (all essentially the same substance) to make your own suet for feeding wild birds. (I’ve included a link to a recipe below!)
- Replace toxic lighter fluid with used cooking oil.
- Put some of the oil on the newspaper at the bottom of a chimney for faster lighting of the coals the fireplace or grill.
- You can filter out food particles and fry with the oil once again, but make sure that your cooking temperature is at least 190° Celsius. (Be careful with this method; reusing the same oil too many times can create health problems)
My grandparents have had bird feeders since I was little, and I’ve always enjoyed sitting with them on their patio and watching all of the different, beautifully colored birds gather in their yard. Turning your yard into a bird hot-spot with a feeder can be a delight for kids and adults alike. If you already have a feeder, that’s awesome! If not, learn how to make a bird feeder out of plastic bottle from last week’s “Recycling Projects for Kids.” Here’s a recipe to make bird suet with your old grease and oil: http://birding.about.com/od/birdfeeders/a/simplesuet.htm
I’m not entirely sure if that second bullet means it’s safe to refill your lighters with cooking oil, and I’m having no luck finding information about it online. So, I’m not going to suggest it, but if any of you are feeling lucky and daring I’d love to hear about the results of your refilling experiment. Either way, about 1.5 billion “disposable” lighters end up in landfills each year. Refilling your lighters, whether with actual lighter fluid or random kitchen supplies, will allow you to re-use them, rather than spending money on a new one. Both of my parents and step-parents have been smokers for most of their lives, and I can’t imagine how many lighters they’ve gone through between the four of them. (P.S., I’m proud of you, Mom, for how well you’ve been doing with quitting!!!) Here’s a video on how to refill a lighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ttjmi4PK0A
We’ll be able to put that third recycling option to use at my Dad’s house; we have a woodstove that we use frequently during the winter, and an outside fire-pit that we enjoy gathering around on summer nights.
To start recycling your oil, whether you take it to a collection center or keep it for home use, you’ll need a container that can be tightly sealed. My dad is planning on using our empty coffee cans that we have lying around. Strain your oil before you place it in the container to remove pieces of food that may be in it. Properly label your oil container, and make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. If your container is transparent, place it in a cupboard to hide its unsightliness. Earth911.com suggests putting signs on your trash can lids and your sink that say “No Grease Here” to remind everyone to put the oil in your new container.
For more information about oil recycling, check out these two helpful pages from Earth911.com: http://earth911.com/recycling/household/cooking-oil/10-things-to-know-about-recycling-cooking-oil/ and http://earth911.com/recycling/household/cooking-oil/the-ins-and-outs-of-recycling-cooking-oil/
Hotels and restaurants generate 3 billion gallons of waste cooking oil per year in the United States. Contact your local restaurant and hotel owners and share with them what you have learned about recycling cooking oil. Urge them to consider more environmentally-friendly disposal options. Some companies will even pay businesses to send in their used oil. Are you unconfident in your writing skills? Too nervous to talk on the phone or schedule a meeting? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a pre-written letter that will only require you to fill in a few blanks. I will also develop a separate letter for collection centers and landfills, if you would like to contact your local disposal departments about creating a recycling option for used cooking oil. You can mail it to the business or drop it off in person. Remember, there is power in numbers! Urge your friends and family to send in a letter to the same restaurant, recycling center, or landfill as you. You could even organize a petition. I’m planning on sending a letter to my local recycling center.
Come back on Wednesday for Viridorari's third edition of "Recycling Projects for Kids".