The Rachel Carson Legacy Challenge
Why your action makes a difference.
Become carbon neutral. Lessen your carbon footprint
We’ve all heard this mentioned on television reports and read it in newspaper articles – but just what does it mean to the average person? Visit Native Energy to calculate approximately how much an average lifestyle contributes to carbon emissions and learn how you can help fight global warming.
Begin an Integrated Pest Management program in your home and garden
Adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in your home and garden is another way you can help yourself by helping the environment. IPM addresses pest problems through a step by step process, with the least toxic response as a first step. Pesticides are toxic, we use lots of them, we are exposed to many different kinds and we do not know much about their long-term health effects, especially in combination with each other and other chemical exposures. Home and garden applications account for more pesticide use on a per acre basis than agriculture. In the United States, non-farmers use over 163 million pounds of pesticide active ingredient, spending more than $2.1 billion per year ($7.50 for every woman, man and child). (Source: PA IPM http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/)
There are State and local organizations offering tips and advice on IPM across the country and there is a growing number of landscaping services offering IPM. Visit your local library, coop extension or search the Internet for Integrated Pest Management in your area.
CAVEAT – the remainder of this page, including links, are being reviewed. Apologies for any inconvenience!!! Your help and suggestions are welcome.
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
That means buying meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and even wines, beers and juices from local sustainable farms and producers. Luckily for us, western Pennsylvania has one of the highest concentrations of sustainable agriculture in the country and Pittsburgh has one of the largest representations of farmers markets.
10 Reasons to Buy Local Food
1. Locally grown food tastes better – Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.
2. Local produce is better for you – A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week
3. Local food preserves genetic diversity – In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.
4. Local food is GMO-free – Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don’t have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food – most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred as nature intended.
5. Local food supports local farm families – With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder – commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.
6. Local food builds community – When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.
7. Local food preserves open space – As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.
8. Local food keeps your taxes in check – Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.
9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife – A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.
10. Local food is about the future – By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.
Mildred’s Daughters Farm
Natural Acres Farm
Reduce your family’s use of and exposure to chemicals
For many people, the words “toxic” and “toxins” conjure up images of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Superfund sites. But a surprising number of the most harmful toxins ever created are found right in our own backyard, indeed in our very kitchens, bathrooms, and garages.
You may find toxins almost anywhere in your home, but some of the important places to consider eliminating toxic substances are:
- in your cleaning products
- in fruits and vegetables and in water
- in personal care products
- in home furnishings
You’ll also want to look at the toxins that could be encountered by children (and pets).
Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that as much as 24 percent of global disease is caused by avoidable environmental exposures, and that the environment significantly affects more than 80 percent of major diseases. More than 33 percent of disease in children under the age of five is caused by environmental exposures (WHO, 2006).
- The neurological, immunological, respiratory, digestive and other body systems in children are still developing and are more easily harmed by environmental exposures;
- Children eat more food, drink more fluids, and breathe more air than adults in proportion to their body mass—their food, water, and air must therefore be especially safe;
- Children play and learn by crawling and placing hands and objects in their mouths – increasing their potential exposure to environmental contaminants. They do not understand risk until they get older and are more mature, again enhancing exposure potential;
- There are unique exposure pathways such as through the placenta and through breast milk;
- Children have a long life expectancy during which the consequences of exposures might become evident; and
- Children are limited in their capacity to communicate and urge action about their environmental health risks, so others must speak and act on their behalf. (Source: EPA: Children’s Environmental Health: 2006 Report http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/CEH06_Final.htm/$file/CEH06_Final.pdf)
Additional exposures to chemicals can occur through use of personal care products – from make-up to shampoo. Unfortunately, the government cannot mandate safety studies of cosmetics, and only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients FDA has documented in products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetic industry’s review panel. Explore your products with Skin Deep’s in-depth rating guides, and find safer choices for you and your family. (Source: Environmental Working Group SkinDeep)
Chemicals to avoid
Risks: Prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union (EU); possible human reproductive or developmental toxin; endocrine disruptor
Found in: Nail polish
DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine)
Risks: Can form carcinogens, cause skin irritation
Found in: All varieties of personal care products
Risks: Possible human reproductive or developmental toxin
Found in: Nail polish
Risks: Possible human carcinogen; restricted in EU cosmetics
Found in: Moisturizers, conditioners, skin masks
BHA (also called butylhydroxy anisole, BHA/BHT, butylhydroxyanisol)
Risks: Possible human carcinogen; endocrine disruptor
Found in: Various types of makeup, moisturizer, conditioner, etc.
Risks: Known human carcinogen
Found in: Nail polish
Parabens (methyl, butyl or propyl)
Risks: Still being determined; possible allergen, possible endocrine disrupter
Found in: All varieties of personal care products
Some of the companies pledging to eliminate chemicals that can cause cancer, mutations or birth defects: The Body Shop, Burt’s Bees, Kiss My Face, Aubrey Organics, Avalon Natural Products
People are exposed to the chemicals by: absorbing them through their skin, ingesting them, inhaling fumes, and releasing them into the environment where they become part of the food chain. (Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Take the bus
Emissions from road vehicles are the largest contributors to smog. Over 200 million passenger cars and light trucks log almost 2 trillion miles on American roads every year. These vehicles account for about 50% of air pollution nationwide— even higher in polluted cities. The smog-filled air is devastating to the environment, reducing growth and survival of tree seedlings, and heightening the susceptibility of plants to disease and pests, among other damages. In addition, surfaces paved to accommodate more traffic result in increased urban runoff, which is responsible for:
- 55% of environmentally impaired ocean shorelines
- 46% of impaired estuary shore miles
- 21% of impaired lakeshore miles
Increased investment in and use of public transportation provides significant, direct environmental benefits and helps meet national air quality standards. By reducing smog-producing pollutants, greenhouse gases, and run-off from paved surfaces that degrades the water supply, and by conserving ecologically sensitive lands and open spaces, public transportation reduces pollution, thus protecting the environment and promoting better health.
- Public transportation reduces annual emissions of the pollutants that create smog—volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—by more than 70,000 tons and 27,000 tons respectively. These reductions equal:
- nearly 50% of all VOCs emitted from the dry cleaning industry, a major source of this pollutant
- 45% of VOCs emitted from the industrial uses of coal
- 50% of NOx from the industrial uses of coal
- more than 33% of the NOx emitted by all domestic oil and gas producers or by the metal processing industry
- The reduced VOC and NOx emissions that result from public transportation use save between $130 million and $200 million a year in regulatory costs.
- Public transportation reduces carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by nearly 745,000 tons annually. This equals nearly 75% of the CO emissions by all U.S. chemical manufacturers.
- Public transportation reduces emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming, by more than 7.4 million tons a year.
People across America are suffering from air polluted to a large degree by vehicle emissions.
- Every summer, high smog levels cause some 159,000 trips to the emergency room, 53,000 hospital admissions and 6,000,000 asthma attacks.
- One out of every three people in the U.S.—including active children, adults with respiratory or cardiovascular disease and the aging population—is at higher risk of experiencing ozone-related health problems.
- For every passenger mile traveled, public transportation produces only a fraction of the harmful pollution of automobile traffic: only 5% as much carbon monoxide, less than 8% as many volatile organic compounds and nearly half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
The supply of oil is finite. Public transportation is crucial in helping to save energy by using it wisely.
- Americans use more energy for transportation than for any other activity. Nearly 43% of America’s energy resources are used in transportation, compared to industrial use (39%), residential use (11%) and commercial use (7%). Any serious effort to address energy conservation must focus largely on transportation.
- For every passenger mile traveled, public transportation is twice as fuel efficient as private automobiles. Public transportation already saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline or 45 million barrels of oil a year. The number is equivalent to the energy used to heat, cool and operate one-fourth of all American homes annually, or half the energy used to manufacture all computers and electronic equipment in America annually. (Source: The American Public Transportation Association)
Conserve Energy: in the car
Drive sensibly – Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.
Fuel Economy Benefit: 5-33%
Equivalent Gasoline Savings: $0.12 -$0.76/gallon
Observe the speed limit – While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
Fuel Economy Benefit: 7-23%
Equivalent Gasoline Savings: $0.16 – $0.53/gallon
Group Against Smog and Pollution for more information about reducing emissions.
Conserve energy: in the home
Replace your ordinary light bulbs with long-lasting fluorescent bulbs
The best way to conserve energy is to not use so much of it. In Pennsylvania you can save $27.70 on your energy bill and prevent 364 lbs of carbdon dioxide (co2) being released by changing one regular 60 watt light bulb for a fluorescent bulb over the course of the bulb’s life! Imagine what a difference replacing all of your light bulbs would have! (Source: Environmental Defense)
One of the best ways of reducing the use of heating fuel in the home is to simply turn down the thermostat. A furnace or boiler has to maintain a differential in temperature between the inside of the house and the outdoors in order for the house to feel comfortable. On cold days that difference can be as much as 50 to 60 degrees (say, 20 outside and 70 inside). Any time the differential can be reduced, even by a degree or two, the heating system comes on less often, less fuel is burned, and savings result. Though dialing down might seem a hardship at first, after a while your body will adjust to the “new normal” house temperature and wearing sweaters and socks inside will become a part of everyday life.
The concept of dialing down can be reversed for energy savings during the warm months. “Dialing up” is an effective method of reducing the cost of cooling a house with room or central air-conditioning. The same principles apply: The less the temperature differential the air-conditioning system has to maintain between the inside and outside, the less often the compressor comes on, the less electricity is consumed, and the lower the utility bill. Instead of setting the thermostat to the point that the air-conditioning system makes the house cold, try dialing it up a few degrees and adjusting your clothing to deal with the slightly warmer temperature. Chances are you’ll never notice the difference. And, as is the case with heating, dialing the thermostat up when you’re away from the house results in lower energy consumption. (Source: How Stuff Works: How to Conserve Energy at Home)
From Allegheny County Sierra Club: Some politicians scoff at the use of CFLs, suggesting that the small amounts of mercury can be a serious hazard. So just to be sure, our good friends at the PA Resources Council (PRC) on the Southside have sent us a list of places where we can recycle CFLs.
First, PRC explains that there are currently no regulatory requirements (federal or state) for individuals and/or home owners to recycle or dispose of their CFLs, fluorescent tubes, LED, or incandescent bulbs as hazardous waste since they are considered small quantity generators. Only businesses that produce larger quantities are required to do so.
So go replace your old incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, and when the CFLs do finally burn out, you can safely recycle them.
Consider Alternative Fuels & Energy Sources:
Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend.
It can be used in compression- ignition (diesel) engines with no major modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. Biodiesel is registered as a fuel and fuel additive with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Neat (100 percent) biodiesel has been designated as an alternative fuel by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Biodiesel is the best greenhouse gas mitigation strategy for today’s medium and heavy duty vehicles. A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net carbon dioxide emissions by 78 percent compared to petroleum diesel. (Source: National Biodiesel Board)
Wind Energy Fast Facts: Electricity generated from wind, U.S.: Expected to produce close to 25 billion kWh in 20062 (about 0.6% of U.S. electricity generation), enough to serve more than 2.3 million average U.S. households.
Amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted if that amount of power were generated from the average U.S. electricity fuel mix: 15 million tons, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Over 5 million acres of forest would be needed to absorb that much CO2, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide is the leading gas associated with global warming. (source: American Wind energy Association)
Solar Energy: Shell International predicts that renewable energy will supply 60% of the world energy by 2060. The World Bank estimates that the global market for solar electricity will reach $4 trillion in about 30 years. (Source: American Solar Energy Society)
Visit Penn Future to learn about alternative fuels and why they’re important.
Americans use more than 67 million tons of paper per year, or about 580 pounds per person. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water!
Recycle: Plastics – In 2003, the United States generated about 11 million tons of plastics in the “municipal solid waste” stream as containers and packaging. Approximately 95% of all plastic beverage bottles in the United States market are manufactured from PET or HDPE (48% and 47% respectively). 56% of recycled PET finds a market in the manufacture of carpet and clothing. 29% of recycled HDPE bottles go into making new bottles.
(Source: Environmental Protection Agency and APC’s 1999 National Post-Consumer Plastics Recycling Study, R.W. Beck, Inc. September 2000.)
In 2003, the United States generated nearly 2 million tons of aluminum as containers and packaging, In the last decade, Americans wasted more than 8 million tons of aluminum cans: enough to manufacture 360,000 Boeing 737 airplanes. Recovering aluminum for recycling saves money and dramatically reduces energy consumption. The aluminum can recycling process saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite ore, as well as natural resources, according to the Aluminum Association. Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.
(Source: Environmental Protection Agency)
Americans generated 12.5 million tons of glass in the municipal solid waste stream in 2003. About 22 percent of the 10.9 million tons of glass was recovered for recycling. Ninety percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers, and the demand for quality recycled crushed glass, known as “cullet,” is greater than the supply.
Using cullet saves money and helps the environment, because:
Cullet costs less than raw materials.
Cullet prolongs furnace life since it melts at a lower temperature.
Cullet demands less energy from power sources like electricity, natural gas, and coal.
Less energy used means reduced emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, both greenhouse gases.
(Source: Environmental Protection Agency)
Environmental Paper Network – download facts about recycled paper
Enjoy the Great Outdoors!
When was the last time spent more than an hour immersed in nature? Driving through a park doesn’t count. Just you and the great outdoors. There’s always plenty to do out of doors no matter where you live. Whether it’s hiking, hunting, cycling, kayaking, fishing, climbing, or just ambling at our own pace in a forest, on the beach, in your own back yard, on just sitting still and listening. Nature and all its wonders surround us. Many believe it has the power to soothe our frazzled modern nerves.
Conserving natural spaces – from the tiniest community garden to the largest pristine wilderness to the oceans of the world – is so important for us all, and every single living species on this planet.
So get out there and enjoy the gardens, parks, forests, rivers, mountains and seas and help protect them for future generations.
Visit these sites for more helpful information: