1 the challenge: why green living
a. Toxic Chemical in everyday products: harmful to our health
Whether we know it or not, industrial chemicals trespass inside all of our bodies. Many of these chemicals are linked with obesity, learning disabilities, cancer, and other health problems. Many more are untested for their effects on our health. These dangerous and untested chemicals are in the items we all buy and use every day, like furniture, personal care products, toys, building supplies, and food.
We are living in a CHEMICAL world. More than 85,000 synthetic chemicals are in use today and the vast majority of them have never been properly tested for safety. When one chemical is proven toxic, legislators often try to regulate it. This happened with Bisphenol-A (BPA), which some states recently banned from baby bottles. But these regulations can’t stop companies from shifting to a similar, unregulated chemical that has similar or even worse effects on people’s health. This is happening today with baby bottles, many of which are now labeled “BPA-Free” but contain BPA replacement chemicals that appear to have the same effects on people’s health. It is dangerous, it is rampant, and it is wrong.
The health impact from combining chemicals is also largely untested. Each time you buy a product containing unsafe or untested chemicals, you are exposing yourself and your family to the possible/known harmful effects of these chemicals. You are also exposing animals, plants, and other people to these chemicals throughout the product's life cycle -- manufacturing, use, and disposal. Exposure to unsafe chemicals can also lead to a condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which can cause someone to have adverse reactions to even low-level exposures to chemicals.
b. Environmental pollution and Toxins: harmful to humans, plants and animals
Pollution is the introduction of harmful contaminants into air, water or soil. Pollution may muddy landscapes, poison soils and waterways, or kill plants and animals. Humans are also regularly harmed by pollution. Long-term exposure to air pollution, for example, can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Toxic chemicals that accumulate in top predators can make some species unsafe to eat. More than one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, putting them at risk of contracting deadly diseases. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the health effects from these toxins. In many cases, exposure to pollution has a cumulative effect on the body.
Unintentional poisonings kill an estimated 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries – where two thirds of these deaths occur – such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals. In many such settings, toxic chemicals may be emitted directly into soil, air, and water – from industrial processes, pulp and paper plants, tanning operations, mining, and unsustainable forms of agriculture – at levels or rates well in excess of those tolerable to human health.
Air pollution consists of solid particles and gases. Many pollutants are carcinogens. People who breathe in these poisons are at a higher risk for asthma and reproductive-system damage. According the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, birth defects can also be caused by air pollution. A 1995 study found a link between air pollution and increased deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Humans are not the only living creatures affected by toxic air pollutants. Some toxins, like mercury, settle onto plants and into water sources that are then consumed by animals. The health effects of these poisons are then magnified up the food chain. Animals that are are at the top of the food chain end up with the largest concentrations of toxins in their bodies.
Water is a necessity of life. People and animals need clean drinking water. Farmers need water to irrigate crops. People enjoy using lakes and rivers for recreation. Unfortunately, this precious resource is easily contaminated by agricultural runoff, mining activities, waste treatment plants and improperly disposed-of industrial waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors 80 different contaminants that may affect drinking water. Microbial contaminants include bacteria and viruses. Most people can fight off the microbial contaminants, however, people with compromised immune systems can get dangerously ill. Contaminants like solvents, pesticides, radium and arsenic are more sinister. This type of pollution can cause long-term health problems for people. Wildlife can also die from exposure.
Litter is unsightly and dangerous. It often consists of plastic, metal or glass — materials that do not break down easily in the environment. People, especially children, can be seriously injured by a broken bottle or a rusty piece of discarded metal. Medical and sanitary wastes are biohazards that can make people sick. Litter also destroys the beauty of parks and beaches, making people avoid these areas. Litter is deadly to wildlife, especially marine animals. Street litter washes into storm drains, into our waterways and ultimately ends up in the ocean. Some of this litter washes back up onto beaches. Some stays in the water, where it can kill wildlife. Entanglement causes animals to die slowly. Birds are particularly susceptible to entanglement as they collect material for their nests. A curious animal that ingests litter can die of starvation or malnutrition if the foreign object blocks the animal's intestinal tract. Litter can also smother and damage seabeds. Toxic substances from litter also accumulates in fish, exposing the people and animals further up the food chain to these pollutants.
Soil contamination consists of either liquid or solid particles mixed with soil. The contaminants may be physically attached to the soil particles or they may be in the spaces between the soil particles. Contamination results when hazardous substances are spilled or buried in the soil. It can also occur when pollutants settle on the soil, such as chemicals or waste from an industrial smokestack. Plants grown in contaminated soil take up the hazardous substances through their roots. Humans or animals that ingest these plants may get sick. People and animals can also inhale soil contaminants through dust that is present in the air or absorb these hazardous chemicals through their skin. A 20-year study published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" found that people exposed to dioxin in soil experienced a higher rate of diabetes as well as cardiovascular and endocrine problems over the course of the study.
c. Climate Change and Global Warming: threat to mother earth and our next generation
Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.
Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gasses produced by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.
According to the IPCC, the extent of climate change effects on individual regions will vary over time and with the ability of different societal and environmental systems to mitigate or adapt to change.
The IPCC predicts that increases in global mean temperature of less than 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 3 degrees Celsius) above 1990 levels will produce beneficial impacts in some regions and harmful ones in others. Net annual costs will increase over time as global temperatures increase.
"Taken as a whole," the IPCC states, "the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time."
Below are some of the impacts that are currently visible throughout the U.S. and will continue to affect these regions, according to the Third National Climate Assessment Report 2, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program:
Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
Northwest. Changes in the timing of streamflow reduce water supplies for competing demands. Sea level rise, erosion, inundation, risks to infrastructure, and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are causing widespread tree die-off.
Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.
Southwest. Increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks, all linked to climate change, have increased wildfires. Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.
We were established with the belief that healthy communities are only truly sustainable in healthy resilient environments. Presently, however, people’s needs are consuming resources faster than the environment can replenish them. With the middle class expected to nearly triple in the next 15 years, resource demands are only going to increase. Our future depends on our ability to efficiently use our precious resources and safeguard the environments which provide us our basic needs. The balanced use of these resources is no longer an issue of environmental sustainability, but a matter of survival.
2 green lifestyle: LOHAS
Green living means making sustainable choices about what we eat, how we travel, what we buy, and how we use and dispose of it. We can implement sustainability in our workplace practices, and by greening the buildings we inhabit. Our everyday choices can create a sustainable lifestyle.
Every person consumes a portion of Earth's total resources. We can calculate an individual's consumption or Ecological Footprint each year by the land required to grow our food, landfill our trash and generate natural resources. For the average American, the land required to sustain each of us is over 22 acres. If the entire population of the world consumed this many resources, the current population would require more than one Earth.
Another way to determine your impact on the environment is to estimate your household's greenhouse gas emissions. Calculate your carbon footprint with EPA's Greenhouse Gas Calculator. Learn more about things you can do, and here are some other tips:
Food: Buy local and organic food which requires less fuel for shipping or petrochemical based fertilizers and pesticides that can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Goods: Assess products on the basis of their entire life-cycle, not simply the time you use it. Support companies that will take back products after their useful life and reuse the materials. Be informed about the contents of personal care products and pharmaceuticals.
Housing: Change your incandescent lightbulbs to compact flourescent lights. The selection of energy efficient types is expanding and you'll save money on your electricity bill. Use strategies to green your home. If you have a yard, green landscaping can improve the sustainability of your yard.
Transportation: Use mass transit and carpool whenever possible. Explore biking and walking options and alternative fuels. If you drive, take the Drive Smarter Challenge.
3 OUR approach: Green Products
We are the leading brand of consumer products made with renewable resources and post-consumer recycled content. We are a mission-driven organization, using natural and environmentally preferable products as a means to advance Zero Waste practices and to raise awareness of the connections between the products we use, the materials they are made with, and what happens to them at the end of their lives.
Our mission is promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyles for individuals and societies by adapting green products in our everyday life. Without our health, without our planet, we have nothing. We are not perfect, and our products are not perfect. But we are trying. Ultimately, we aim to get to a point where the use of our products is healthy to our families, and regenerative to the environment.
We love plants and all things living. We design to maximize their usage in our products, and actively focus on minimizing the presence of petroleum in our products and packaging. One day (in the not-so-distant future) we strive to be 100% plant-based and sustainably-sourced, inside and out.
With that goal in mind, we aim to:
- Source natural, organic, sustainably harvested, renewable, pure raw materials for our products. You are invited to take the "Toxics Out" challenge by switching from using products containing unsafe or untested chemicals to products containing only nontoxic, biodegradable ingredients. [Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastic can be made from agricultural byproducts and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms. Common plastics, such as fossil-fuel plastics (also called petrobased polymers), are derived from petroleum or natural gas. Production of such plastics tends to require more fossil fuels and to produce more greenhouse gases than the production of biobased polymers (bioplastics).]
- Track all the materials, ingredients, and packaging used in our products to help us report on and understand trends in our cradle-to-grave impactReduce toxics in all products and packaging
- Commit to dramatically reducing petroleum-based plastic (virgin) in our packaging
- Specify and closely monitor the quality-control standards & protocols in our manufacturing to ensure highest quality, cleanliness, and overall product & ingredient integrity
- Use re-usable packaging, higher post-consumer recycled or FSC-certified materials, shipping material, & fully recyclable pillow pack materials
- Staying at the forefront of sustainable materials research. Research on biobased materials is developing rapidly. This is exciting in that it holds the potential for additional materials we could use in our products. Given our stake in renewable resources technology and its applications, we want to be involved in how this field develops.
- Taking it further: we encourage all of us start a green lifestyle. Eat organic produce whenever possible. Eat low on the food chain. If you work in an environment where you and your fellow workers are exposed to unsafe or untested chemicals, work with management to try to alter your company's purchasing and cleaning policies, and It never hurts to share your concerns with your elected representatives...