Cigarettes are well known for their ability to cause major health issues, ranging from asthma, to cancer, and even to death. We are warned not smoke around our young children to prevent the negative effects of secondhand smoke, and students are taught to avoid tobacco products in school. However, cigarettes have another dangerous side effect that isn’t well known; pollution.
Worldwide, smokers discard 4.5 trillion cigarette butts each year.
Discarded cigarette butts enter our storm drains, and then watersheds, and from there they can potentially travel all the way to the ocean.
Every cigarette butt can contain up to sixty known carcinogens including arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. There are 1,400 potential chemical additives.
Nicotine has been shown to be lethal to species of fish, crustaceans, zooplankton, and other aquatic organisms.
Cigarette filters are also composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that remains in the environment for long periods of time without breaking down.
For the past eight years (as of 1999), cigarette butts have been the leading item found during the International Coastal Cleanup Project, accounting for nearly one in every five items collected.
Do you smoke? If you are unable to quit, discard of your cigarette butts responsibly. Consider writing to tobacco companies to ask them to address the environmental impact of cigarettes, and consider writing to your local government to take cigarette litter seriously.
Ecofriendly EconomicsSaving money on organic
Buying produce from organic certified farms can be great; it means there’s no pesticides and no genetic engineering. For me, organic meat is awesome because it typically means that the farms meet my ethical standards for raising the an
But let’s face it- organic is more expensive. Organic farmers often have to put more time in effort into meeting the standards for organic produce and meat, as well as not get as much yield and profit as conventional farmers do. Not all of us can afford the organic prices, although we may wish we could.
According to the Vegetarian Times: Farmer’s Market Cookbook, pesticides are used more for some crops than others. So, if your main concern with buying conventional food is the health impacts of pesticides, here’s a guide to which items use the most pesticides and which use the least, via the Vegetarian Times: Farmer’s Market Cookbook.
These twelve foods have the most pesticides in them, so I suggest buying them organic: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and hot peppers. These fifteen foods are the lowest in pesticides, so if you want to save some cash, it’s typically pretty safe to buy these conventionally instead of organic: sweet corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwifruit, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms.
Vegetarian Times magazine, based in El Segundo, California, is printed on recycled paper. You can subscribe at vegetariantimes.com/customerservice.
Buy with a Conscience
As consumers, we have a lot of power to influence the environment and change the way companies think. It may not be immediately obvious, but we can support the causes we care about when we go to the grocery store. For example, I care about the way animals are treated, so I will only eat meat that is organic and/or humane certified, because I know that to get that certification the farmer had to raise their livestock fairly and healthily. Not only do I feel better about what’s on my plate, but my money is supporting the people who raise their animals right, not to the people who pump their cattle with hormones and cram twenty chickens in a cage meant for five.
So, when you’re out shopping, keep an eye out for these labels that signify environmentally and morally conscious products. You may not save money with these products- to uphold the important standards that allows them to receive their certification, farmers and companies have to do more and often produce less, and have to compensate for that with higher prices. Personally, I think that paying a little more is worth it for the environment, and when I use and eat these products, I feel better about myself and know that I'm supporting the companies that really deserve it.
Humane Certified- this label is put on meat products to show that the animal was raised in fair and natural conditions.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.slashfood.com/2006/04/29/humane-raised-certification-catches-on/
USDA Organic- This stamp assures customers that the foods they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to be consistent with national organic standards.
Picture courtesy of: http://nutritionwonderland.com/2009/12/the-truth-about-organic-farming/
Rainforest Alliance Green Frog Seal- Look for the green frog seal when you shop for coffee, cocoa, tea, flowers, fruit, paper and wood products. The green frog assures you that these products were produced by businesses and farms that have adopted practices to prevent deforestation, curb climate change, and alleviate poverty. Watch this video to see how it works.
Picture courtesy of: http://thinkoutsidethebin.com/2012/02/24/rainforest-alliance-thinks-outside-the-bin/
Fair Trade- When you purchase Fair Trade products, you can be assured that there’s no slave labor or unjust wages involved. Products that display the Fair Trade logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. The organization helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that have a positive impact on their communities. Click here for a video.
Picture courtesy of: http://genebrooks.blogspot.com/2012/02/look-for-new-fair-trade-logos.html
Picture courtesy of: http://cowiep4.edublogs.org/katie-and-ryans-page/
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified- This label provides assurance that the product (such as wood, furniture, and paper) came from forests that are being managed to the highest environmental and social standards. To see the criteria for receiving this label, go here.
Picture courtesy of: http://thegreengrocers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/label-hounds/
Animal of the Month Update
Picture courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_gorilla#Social_structure
Mountain gorilla troops are not territorial- the silverback will typically defend his group rather than his territory. Not only does the silverback protect his group from outside threats, but he mediates internal conflicts. Silverbacks have been known to remove poachers’ snares from their group members’ feet and hands. In the Virunga Mountains, the average length of reign for a silverback is 4.7 years.
When the dominant silverback dies, unless he leaves behind a male descendant to take over his leadership, the group will either split up or be taken over by an unrelated solitary male. When a new silverback takes control of a family group, he may kill all of the offspring of the deceased silverback.
The Virunga Mountains
Picture courtesy of: http://paradiseintheworld.com/virunga-mountains-africa/