BPA- its hiding in plain sight and impacting on our health.

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BPA. Its in in most of the products we use on a daily basis, its toxic, and to top it off it also in our food.
Im guessing that most people have heard of BPA- your drinks bottles may make special mention of being BPA free, or those baby bottles might assure us that there is nothing toxic in their bottles because there is no BPA in their products. But is that the whole story?

What is BPA?
BPA is short for Bisphenol A. BPA is a chemical found in hard plastic such as drink bottles, the plastic lining in tined canned, dental devices, baby bottles, DVDs and CDs, electronic equipment, sporting goods, and even the ink on store receipts. The problem is that BPA become ingested into our system when the food we eat comes into contact with it through food storage or after we have touched items with BPA such as ink.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor – a substance which interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body’s own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health. Babies and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA.

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This can impact on our bodies in many ways such as:
reproductive disorders and infertility issues
Asthma
Sexual dysfunction
Higher risk of cancer
Type 2 Diabetes
Brain function

with babies being particularly susceptible particularly from breastfeeding mothers.

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However its important to note that even BPA-free is not completely safe. Often when they remove the BPA they replace it with another chemical which can be just as harmful such as
bisphenol-S (BPS) or bisphenol-F (BPF) with some evidence to suggest that even small concentrations of BPS and BPF may disrupt the function of your cells in a way similar to BPA.

So can any plastic be trusted? Im inclined to say no, and would even avoid BPA free due to the undisclosed other chemicals that may be found. To be honest until we go package free, its hard to avoid plastics, particularly when everything is over packaged!.. some things i have done to avoid BPA is use glass containers to store food, carry fruit and vegetable in heshan bags and avoid plastic bag, avoid heat any food in plastic containers. I have also swapped by plastic BPA free drinking bottle for a stainless steel bottle from Klean Kanteen.
As the father of a 8 week old baby, i became concerned about the BPA i was passing onto my little one, and hence have I have also bought some glass baby bottles to swap out his BPA free plastic ones, and have bought him natural rubber dummies to prevent usage of the plastic ones.

Some other things we can do is:

Avoid packaged foods: Eat mostly fresh, whole foods.
Drink from glass bottles: Avoid plastic bottles or cans
Stay away from BPA products: As much as possible, limit your contact with receipts.
Be selective with toys: Make sure that plastic toys you buy for your child are made from BPA-free material, especially for toys your little ones are likely to chew or suck on.
Don’t microwave plastic: Microwave and store food in glass rather than plastic.

For tips on how to be plastic free, visit http://www.myplasticfreelife.com

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Planetary Boundaries

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The earth requires certain environmental parameters for the earths systems to function as normal.  Scientists have developed nine key areas that have the potential to seriously affect the earths systems and essentially the earth as we know it. These nine key areas are what is known as the planetary boundaries.

We currently live within the holocene epoch which is defined by its hospitality towards humans and our societies, however the concern is that according to research papers “a continuing trajectory away from the Holocene could lead, with an uncomfortably high probability, to a very different state of the Earth system, one that is likely to be much less hospitable to the development of human societies”. What the planetary boundaries do is define a ‘safe operating space’ in which modern humans can thrive. It does this by defining boundaries of earth system processes that when crossed can change the way the earth functions. The planetary boundaries are defined as being within either the safe zone or the zone of uncertainty. Within the safe zone generally there is a high probability that we are able to predict environmental responses and outcomes, whereas in the zone of uncertainty, our ability to predict the earths response gets less accurate the further down the zone of uncertainty.

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The nine planetary boundaries are:

Climate Change: Which is the observed rise in temperatures and associated earth systems changes and related affects. It often looks at greenhouse gas emissions and has placed a value the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The Zone of uncertainty is currently defined as between 350-550 parts per million (ppm), although we are current sitting at approximately 400ppm.

Changes in Biosphere integrity:  This is essentially biodiversity loss and the impact that this could have on earth system functions, which are largely unknown. At present the extinction rate far exceeds the ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ extinction rate that would be occurring without human impacts. This has huge repercussions as a reduction in species and population numbers less to less genetic diversity and makes it harder for species to adapt to changing environments. This could result in the loss keystone species which can impact on ecosystems in huge ways.

Stratospheric Ozone depletion: This related to the ozone layer and the hole in the ozone layer that will have an impact on earth system function.

Ocean Acidification: This is linked to he climate change boundary in that ocean acidification is a result of CO2 in the atmosphere. As temperatures increase, the carrying capacity of CO2 in the oceans increase which leads to the acidification of the ocean. As the acidity of the oceans increase so too does the impact on ocean ex systems and the ability of the oceans to sustain life.

Biogeochemical flow: This looks at the chemicals of phosphorus and Nitrogen and other elements in the environment which can impact on biodiversity on both the land and the ocean. This is related to the use of chemicals including fertilisers which have devastating impacts water ways and freshwater.

Land System Change: The impact of our land uses and the changes made to the land that impact the environment and other earth systems. This included deforestation which changes the local environment through altering evapotranspiration. It also looks at the changing of the landscape for cropland and how much crop land can be created before it impacts on normal earth system functioning.

Freshwater Use: Freshwater security is important for earth system functions on many levels. It forms an essential part of certain eco- systems, as well as provided drinking water, and water for agriculture.

Atmospheric Aerosol Loading: Is the overall particle contamination in the atmosphere. These include both natural and artificial forms or aerosol. The gases can impact on the earth through the transformation into acid rain. They can also interact with the environment by the scattering of sunlight directly back into space. This can lead to a significant decrease in the temperature, being an additional element to the greenhouse effect and therefore contributing to the global climate change. Aerosols are able to modify the size of the cloud particles in the lower atmosphere, thereby changing the way clouds reflect and absorb light and therefore modifying the Earth’s energy budget. When aerosols absorb pollutants, it facilitates the deposition of pollutants to the surface of the earth as well as to bodies of water. This has the potential to be damaging to both the environment and human health.

Chemical Pollution/ Introduction of Novel entities: These novel entities are new substances or new forms of existing substances, that have the potential for unwanted biological effects. These are concerning as they often show (i) persistence, (ii) mobility across scales with consequent widespread distributions, and (iii) potential impacts on vital Earth-system processes or subsystems. The risks associated with the introduction of novel entities into the Earth system are demonstrated by the release of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which are very useful synthetic chemicals that were thought to be harmless but had unexpected, dramatic impacts on the stratospheric ozone layer. Today there are more than 100,000 substances in global commerce which have unknown impacts on the environment.

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Within the nine planetary boundaries, we have already crossed the boundaries into the zone of uncertainty for land use change, biosphere integrity, climate change, and biogeochemical flow. We have moved past the zones of uncertainty into areas of high risk for biosphere integrity as demonstrated by the high numbers of biodiversity loss, and biogeochemical flow.

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The longer that we disregard the need to live more sustainably and fail to address our resource use, overconsumption and general destructive behaviours, the higher the chance that we have of crossing the planetary boundaries which could have devastating and irreversible effects on the planet. We have already pushed the planet to the limit on several of the boundaries and moving that way with several others. It is important that we all acknowledge the need to address these issues, and make changes individually as well as on a larger scale politically. Although the prognosis looks grim, positive change has been been seen. Positive change was evidenced by the reduction of CFC’s in the atmosphere. Since the banning of these substances there has been an identified reduction which highlights the positive impact of public pressure and government policy change.

Be aware and make the change.

Innovative designs that could change the world

My Sunday was spent at the London Design Museum for the Design award 2015 nominations. There were an array of different design concepts on show, but what really interested me were the ones around environmental sustainability.

There were three design ideas that were of particular interest which i thought i would share:

1)Australia design

This one was an architecture design in Australia (Sydney). The feature of this design which was particularly impressive was the vertical gardens. The greenery which apparently covers 50% of the building creates a nice facade and stands out in a landscape of glass, brick and render. This building uses native plants and foliage, which protects the building from direct sunlight and creates a nice aesthetic appearance, which got me thinking about what the other benefits of have a vertical gardens that are part of new developments. I would suspect it would assist in the air quality of the city and help filter pollutants, although one building would have little impact, a whole city of green facades would surely make some difference. The foliage could also provide habitats and food for birds, bees and other native species, which would be great at supporting biodiversity. It also got me thinking about utilising the same methods to have vertical vegetable patches or even roof gardens that can provide food for the building. I understand that not all food requirements would be met for all residents, but there could be enough to provide significant amounts of vegetables and herbs. The waste from these organic products would be composted on site (eg rooftops) and the soil distributed amongst residents. This system would reduce amount of carbon used to produce the food, reduce the plastic used to package food, and reduce landfill. Although i believe the current vertical garner used n this building is hydroponic, if soil could be utilised, it would also provide insulations of the building, reducing costs and energy use further. I see this becoming a future form of sustainable development in all major cities in the future.
2)House tree

Another notable architectural design that i liked was the ‘House of Trees’ which was built in Vietnam. With the expansion of the urban landscape in Ho Chi Min City there is now less that 0.25 of the landscape covered in greenery. The aim of this project is to reintroduce the native tropical trees back into the landscape by planting them on the roof tops of buildings. The benefits of this are clearly the increase of native vegetation leaving to greater amounts of CO2 storage, building insulation, and increasing biodiversity.
3)theoceancleanup

The third design i liked was particularly inspiring- It was called the clean up the oceans project.
Essentially it was developed by a young engineer student who has developed a tool in order to clean the oceans

The Basic Principles of the project as taken from the website-(http://www.theoceancleanup.com/blog/show/item/the-ocean-cleanup-starts-phase-2.htmlPassive collection)

– Why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you? Attaching an array of floating barriers and platforms to the sea bed enables us to concentrate the plastic before extracting it from the ocean —a collection process 100% driven by the natural winds and currents.

– Capturing plastics, not sea life
Instead of nets, we make use of solid floating barriers, making entanglement of wildlife impossible. Virtually all of the current flows underneath these booms, taking away all (neutrally buoyant) organisms, and preventing by-catch, while the lighter-than-water plastic collects in front of the floating barrier.

– Highly scalable
The scalable array of moorings and booms is designed for large-magnitude deployment, covering millions of square kilometers without moving a centimeter.
Thanks to its projected high capture and field efficiency, a single gyre can be covered in just 5-10 years (or longer, depending on the chosen deployment strategy).

What this visit did for me, was remind me of the potential that we all have to change the world. The world is full of people that are attempting to make the world in which we live more sustainable and in better harmony with our environment. IN a time when our impact on the world and our destruction upon it are unprecedented, its comforting to know that there is a way back from it.

Peace and happy innovations

Recycled furniture is Free furniture! My attempt at building recycled furniture.

So I’m actually quite chuffed. Ive had a project in mind for  while now and finally this long weekend i have managed to mostly complete it. So what was this project? …. making recycled furniture.

Basically I needed a new outdoor table and chairs as its coming up to summer in good old England. I was loath to buy one new due to the environmental impact of new furniture (particularly as our budget would  mean i would be shopping at IKEA, and where they source their wood is somewhat questionable). I had been thinking about this for a while and i have read and watched some videos online about making furniture out of pallets. Pallets are great because they are often easy to obtain, found everywhere, and mostly free. Once i started keeping my eye out for pallets i noticed them everywhere, construction sites, commercial shops, pubs, and just sometimes lying randomly in the street. Now as i don’t have a car it was difficult to find them close enough to home, but on Saturday night (2 days ago) i found some up a few streets away. I picked them up and brought them home and thus began my two day journey into the world of homemade pallet furniture.

Now bear in mind i have no carpentry skills, and the last thing i made was a door stopper about 15 years ago at high school. This does not mean I’m some furniture making genius.. it just means it was easy and that anybody can do it… that rights ANYBODY!.. all you need are some basic tools and patience!

The tools i used for this project were:

Hammer, Nails, Drill, saw, and a sander (although you could do it by hand to save costs). As the hammer, Drill and nails were already in the shed.. my only cost was the sander which was about 30 pounds.

If you don’t feel up to making your own recycled furniture you can always just reclaim furniture that people how out and leave on the streets. Initially i felt uncomfortable about picking up ‘rubbish’ and taking it home, but when you think about the benefits on the environment by using recycled materials and reducing waste, suddenly it didn’t become important whether someone  looked at me funny while i walked down the street with a couple of chairs or some pallets…. coincidently the chairs you see next to the table were reclaimed on Saturday night when i was out getting the pallets…

Anyway here are some picture of the making of the table. Yes it needs to be painted ( don’t worry I’m using eco paint) and some minor alterations need to be made, but all in all its ready to use right now, just in time for our first bit of warmth.

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As you can see, i have started to dismantle the pallets.. i have chose one pallet frame which i will keep as is, but everything else comes apart.

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Here i have started to assemble the planks on the frame.. you can see the table top starting to take shape. Not all the planks of wood were in good condition so you need to choose the best ones.

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I have trimmed the edges of the planks. From here i bring out the sander and smooth the top.

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Im now attaching the legs. I was kind of making it up as i went along at this point….

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Putting the finishing touches to the legs.. it stands, and is stable so I’m pretty happy at this stage.

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Almost finished… and these are the reclaimed chairs. Just needs a nice coat of paint, and some edge smoothing.

 

So next time before you think about going to IKEA to buy a new piece of furniture, think about the packaging, where the wood was sourced, and the carbon used to ship it to your store. Then look around you and see if you can pick up something in the streets that is being thrown away-it might need some refurbishment but there is nothing wrong with a little project:) or you could find some old pallets and create what you want! Just remember …new isn’t always better!

Peace and happy building/reclaiming.

UK’s first ‘poo bus’……. would you take a ride?

Check it out… a bus run on poo. Well in technical terms i guess we would say human waste biofuel. Im not completely sure about any of the emissions (mind the pun) from the bus, or any possible negative side affects, however its good to see efforts made to address several issues at one time: human waste and sustainable energy production.  Its ideas like this that need to be explored and supported if we are to address the issues of sustainable development!

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Check out the article:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/15/uk-first-poo-bio-bus-bristol-regular-service?CMP=fb_gu

Do any of you know of any similarly cool ideas that have been implemented? I would love to hear about them.

Peace

Bees: The real 5 star chefs

Bee collecting pollen

What do Bees do? Well they give us honey don’t they. There is nothing like honey straight from a been hive and untainted by modern food giants. Real honey also has proven medicinal effects so not only does it taste great, but its also good for us. Bees are awesome are they not?

Yes Bees are awesome.. but they they are actually more awesome than you think. Bees are a very important aspect of our food production cycle. They may even be considered a keystone species, a species so important that without it systems would collapse, and in this case the food systems.

So how can something so small play such an important role in our existence and the existence of so much of our natural food?
As Bees search for nectar the transfer pollen from on plant to another, fertilising the plant and allow for reproduction.Bees pollinate and fertilise many of our favourite fruits and vegetables. Without bees we wouldn’t have watermelon, coconut, strawberries, figs, kiwi fruits, celery, broccoli, onions, cashews, rock melon (cantaloupe), lemon, limes, lychee ( a world without Lychee martinis is not even worth thinking about), apples, mangoes, passionfruit, avocado, tomato….. the list goes on and on. Honestly all my favourite foods are in some way here because of bees in some form or another. Bees also play an integral part to native flora that are integral to local ecosystems. Bees are the superstars of the natural world.

Whats happening to our bees?

Bees are suffering a bit of a crisis at the moment. The numbers are decreasing which is placing the our food productions systems on edge. Bees are dying off for many reasons.
Colony Collapse disorder, where whole colonies of bees are dying is the major concern, and have been attributed to:
The use of pesticides in crops. Pesticides are in effect poison chemicals sprayed on our crops to deter natural insects from eating them. There are not only contaminating our food, but are killing bees.
Climate change. Climate change is leading to many plants to bloom earlier or later than usual, which essentially messes with the bees system and denies them of the nectar and food they require in order to survive
Habitat loss. Monoculture and removal of native flora can also lead to a lack of food diversity for the bees which reduces their immune system functioning.
Parasites. The Verroa mite has played havoc with Bee colonies killing off bees and infecting the bee populations of whole countries.

Although the problems impacting the bees may not be attributed solely to one of the above, all of these combined are landing unstoppable combinations placing the bees existence at risk.

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What can we do?

Buy organic produce. The more we support organic produce the better the lives or bees will be.
Don’t use insecticides in our garden. Use natural methods of deterring pests.
Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different stages throughout the year to provide food for the bees
Plant wildflowers in your garden
Dont disturb bee hives!!

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Peace and happy Bee protecting.