Keeping Soil Healthy is Key to a Healthy Planet

Day 339World Soil Day (WSD) is held annually on December 5, as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources.”United Nations

One way to keep soil healthy is the use of regenerative agriculture practices. There doesn’t seem to be a very specific definition to describe this practice. However, there are certain methods that can be seen as “regenerative”.

  • Incorporating crop rotation and cover cropping
  • Increasing plant and crop diversity
  • Practicing conservative tillage to prevent erosion and increase soil health
  • Animal integration, managed grazing and pasturing
  • Composting and waste reduction
  • and more

Whether regenerative agriculture ends up being a scientifically-proven way to fight climate change or not, its methods still offer many benefits to the ecosystem, producers and consumers alike.” – Sustainable America

Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. The need for farming practices that will address these issues is critical to a healthy planet.

“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself”​ – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tomorrow, a look at what Taiwan is doing.

Indoor Vertical Crops, the Future of Farming

Day 338 – Traditional farming takes can take up a great deal of space and require a lot of water. Sadly, our planet is running out of space and fresh water. To help alleviate the problem, companies are creating vertical farms. One such company is Plenty, located in San Francisco, California.

Vertical farms provide numerous advantages over traditional farming.

  1. A perfect environment is offered, avoiding the unpredictability of changing climates.
  2. No bleach or pesticides used on plants. No GMOs.
  3. Crop yields are increased over 350x compared to traditional farming.
  4. Hundreds of acres of farmland are compacted into the size of a big box retail store.

Plenty offers a variety of different greens.

There is no denying that the planet is changing and that climates around the globe will begin to undergo major changes. Many have already started the transformation. Vertical gardens will be key in providing people with fresh produce.

Tomorrow, celebrating World Soil Day.

Flooding Reduced with the Help of Playgrounds

Day 334 – It brings joy to my heart when I read about innovative ideas that are being implemented in Chicago. More times than not, when it comes to the environment, Chicago is behind in making efforts to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. There are organizations and companies doing their part, but as a whole, Chicago is trailing behind other big cities.

So, I was happy to read about new playgrounds being built at five Chicago elementary schools this fall. The schools are O’Keeffe School of Excellence in South Shore, Arnold Mireles Academy and Horace Mann Elementary in South Chicago, Daniel Wentworth Elementary in West Englewood and John Whistler Elementary in West Pullman.

The playgrounds were built with the help of the Space to Grow program. The program is a joint effort between Healthy Schools Campaign, Openlands, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Department of Water Management, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Loyola University, Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, and United States Geological Survey. Together they have transformed a total of 30 playgrounds (including these last five).

“Space to Grow transforms Chicago schoolyards into beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn, garden and be outside. The schoolyards also use special design elements to help reduce neighborhood flooding. Schoolyard transformations prioritize physical activity, outdoor learning and community engagement. The green schoolyards incorporate landscape features that capture a significant amount of rainfall, helping keep the city’s water resources clean and resulting in less neighborhood flooding.” – Space to Grow

Providing children a space to learn and play, while helping the environment is truly a win for everyone.

Tomorrow, some sustainable holiday gift ideas.

The Zero Waste Center We All Need

Day 333 – Kamikatsu, Japan is a beautiful mountain region that has a total population of 1,500. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first in Japan to issue a “Zero Waste Declaration.” The idea is to prevent the waste from happening at it’s origin. Making changes to manufacturing, logistics, and consumption systems is key to reducing waste.

The town residents held many discussions and decided to have each household compost kitchen scraps and bring other wastes to the town’s waste station. Waste was initially separated into nine different categories, eventually increasing to 34 categories with the start of the Zero Waste Declaration and then 45 categories today. The recycling rate surpasses 80%.

Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center embodies the principle of Zero Waste as an earth-friendly complex facility that adds the functions of education, research, and communication to a waste-sorting treatment plant, aiming to recreate community and develop the region.” – nakam.info

The Zero Waste Center not only collects 45 different categories for recycling or reuse, but it also has a hotel, a community hall, a laboratory, and a resell shop. It is truly the blueprint for sustainability. Every town needs a Zero Waste Center. It may not be located in a lush mountain region, but it will make an immense positive impact on the planet.

Tomorrow, a playground that helps flooding issues.

Repurposing Turbine Blades into Bike Shelters

Day 331 – Back on Day 167, I wrote about the waste related to wind energy. I mentioned a study by University of Cambridge (2017) that stated that turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tons of waste by 2050. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle. The article went on to say that there are companies coming out with 100% recyclable blades.

However, what do we do with all the ones currently being used today that are not recyclable?

Well, Denmark has figured out a way to deal with the waste produced by wind energy.

Wind energy makes up 40% of the energy in Denmark and they hope to increase that to 70% by 2030. With the lifespan of a non-biodegradable wind turbine blade around 20 years, the Danish government assigned the recycling task to several companies. They have come up with some very creative ways to deal with these giant structures and keep them out of the landfill.

Two ideas that have been discussed in Denmark are using the blades as bike shelters and footbridges. You can already find bike shelters in parts of the country. Considering there are 675,000 bicycles and just 120,000 cars in just Copenhagen alone (bikes outnumber cars by more than five-to-one), you can imagine there is great need to keep all those bikes protected from the elements.

In Ireland, they are working to reuse old blades in skate parks, stadium bleachers, sound barriers and electric towers.

Every country needs to take a look at the waste they are producing and devise a plan to both reduce and reuse what they have. Dumping it in a whole in the ground, in our waterways or incinerating it, is no longer an option.

Tomorrow, another great option for sustainable straws and cutlery.

Dogs to the Rescue! Replanting Forests in Chile

Day 329 – It may be turkey day, but I wanted to talk about dogs today. I came across this story from 2018 and thought it was an amazing idea.

Back in 2017, forest fires devastated central Chile. Over 100 fires destroyed over a million acres of forest. People lost their lives and there was an estimated $333 million worth of damage.

The job to replant endless acres of forests seemed like a daunting endeavor. That is until three unusual workers took up the task. Six-year-old Das and her two daughters, Olivia and Summer are three Border Collies who have been trained to run through the damaged forests with special backpacks that release native plant seeds. Once they take root, these seeds will help regrow the destroyed area.” – weforum.org

Border Collies are an ideal breed for a job like this. They’re fast, intelligent and hard workers. Since they were bred to herd sheep, the likelihood of them running after other animals and causing injury, is very unlikely.

The dogs are able to spread around 20 pounds of seed over 18 miles in a day. Humans would only be able to cover a few miles each day.

These dogs don’t know it, but they are helping bring back a forest and allow wildlife to return.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow, avoiding more stuff this holiday season.

The Decomposition of Everyday Items

Day 328 – Most of us don’t give any thought about how long it takes for common items to decompose. We tend to toss things into the trash and never think about where it goes from there. Many everyday items are here to stay for a very long time.

Here are 20 items and the length of time it takes for them to decompose.

  1. Plastic bags – It can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  2. Cigarette butts – 10 years
  3. Plastic straws – 200 years
  4. Wet wipes – 100 years
  5. Plastic 6 pack holders – 450 years
  6. Tin cans – 50 years
  7. Tires – 2,000 years
  8. Nylon fishing net – 40 years
  9. Plastic bottles – 450 years
  10. Synthetic fibers – 100+ years
  11. Aluminum cans – 80-100 years
  12. Hairspray bottles – 200-500 years
  13. Shoes – 25-40 years
  14. Disposable diapers – 500 years
  15. Lumber – 10-15 years
  16. Batteries – 100 years
  17. Ink Cartridges – 450-1,000 years
  18. Glass – over a million years
  19. Aluminum Foil – never
  20. Styrofoam – never

We all need to think twice before we throw things away. We need to ask ourselves a few questions.

Can this be recycled? Items in bold print can be recycled.

Can this be reused?

Can I avoid using this item in the future?

We are running out of places to put our trash. We need to make changes now.

Tomorrow, dogs to the rescue.

How Much Trash Does One Person Make in a Year?

Day 326 – An unlikely source, TitleMax, looked at some gross data to calculate what one person produces in garbage in one year by type of waste.

Here’s what they found.

  1. Mail – 23.06 pounds per person
  2. Toilet Paper & Paper Towels – 22.36 pounds per person
  3. Paper plates and cups – 8.22 pounds per person
  4. Cardboard boxes – 187.77 pounds per person
  5. Cartons – 34.97 pounds per person
  6. Glass beer and soft drink bottles – 12.74 pounds per person
  7. Other bottles and jars – 24.52 pounds per person
  8. Metal durable goods – 92.80 pounds per person
  9. Aluminum goods – 10.89 pounds per person
  10. Steel cans – 11.78 pounds per person
  11. Aluminum cans – 9.04 pounds per person
  12. Durable plastics – 72.99 pounds per person
  13. Plastic plates and cups – 6.75 pounds per person
  14. Plastic trash bags – 6.50 pounds per person
  15. Plastic bottles and jars – 17.77 pounds per person
  16. Plastic bags and wraps – 24.27 pounds per person
  17. Clothing and footwear – 70 pounds per person
  18. Food waste – 220.96 pounds per person
  19. Yard trimmings – 91.53 pounds per person
  20. Wood – 854.20 pounds per person

That’s a grand total of 1,803.12 pounds per person

We can help reduce our waste by refusing, recycling, reusing and composting items off the list.

Tomorrow, reusable sticky notes.

Too Much Seafood Going to Waste

Day 325 – It’s World Fisheries Day! The first World Fisheries Day was celebrated on November 21, 2015. The day is dedicated to highlighting the critical importance of healthy ocean ecosystems and to ensure sustainable stocks of fisheries in the world. 

So, today was the perfect day to write about the large amount of seafood that is wasted every year. It is estimated that every year, almost half the seafood supply in the United States is lost, amounting to nearly 500 million pounds of protein waste. Globally, we lose 110 billion pounds. Getting fish from the sea to the table takes many steps through the supply chain. With each step comes a great deal of waste. It is estimated that 17 to 22 percent of fish caught in the US are discarded before reaching port. On top of that, many fish spoil during transport. Even more goes to waste at the markets and once they reach households.

Thankfully, there are some companies trying to combat the waste. They’re making fish jerky, turning fish skin into wallets and coin purses, making bioplastics for fish packaging, and much more.

There are things you can do to reduce seafood waste:

  1. Choose seafood caught or farmed via environmentally sound methods.
  2. Don’t be afraid to purchase frozen seafood. 
  3. If possible, buy whole fish straight from the source.  
  4. Find uses for your leftover seafood. 

“If current trends in overfishing and ocean pollution continue, scientists estimate that we’ll run out of seafood by 2050. Reducing global seafood loss will not only cut down on waste and reduce the amount of discards dumped back into the ocean, it’ll help combat overfishing and hopefully maintain a protein-rich supply of seafood to nourish a growing global population.” – Sierra Club

Tomorrow, the amount of waste one person creates in a year.

Keeping the Toilet Bowl Clean

Day 323 – Happy World Toilet Day! I thought it was the perfect day to talk about keeping your toilet bowl clean in an environmentally friendly way. On Day 21, I wrote about Blueland and their line of cleaning products. The people friendly ingredients are packaged in compostable bags. When the tablets are added to water in reusable bottles, various cleaning products are produced.

I was very excited when I heard Blueland added toilet bowl tablets to their product line. One tablet and a toilet brush and you have yourself a clean bowl. The Toilet Cleaner Set comes with a tin and 14 tablets. Refill tablets come in a compostable bag, so absolutely no waste.

Another great way to celebrate World Toilet Day is to help build toilets in countries where they are not available. Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits to ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet within our lifetime. They offer toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper or bamboo. It is packaged in brightly colored paper, so there is no plastic to discard. We have been using Who Gives a Crap since January and LOVE this company so much!

The next time you are in the bathroom think about the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers, beaches and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population. It’s a convenience we usually take for granted.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly blankets.