Archive | environmental laws

Energy Star Program on the Chopping Block

If you have shopped for a new appliance in the last 25 years, you may have seen the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate by promoting energy efficiency.

The program helps shoppers identify products that use less electricity. It also certifies buildings that meet strict energy performance standards set by the EPA. According to the EPA website, “ENERGY STAR certified buildings save energy, save money, and help protect the environment by generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than typical buildings.”

When news broke that the Trump administration wants to defund the program as part of the budget plan, more than 1,000 companies called for it to be saved in a letter to Congress.

This program is a great example of the government and the private sector working together. It costs just $50 million a year, and the EPA estimates that it has saved Americans $430 billion on utility bills since 1992.

So, why would the Trump administration want to cut this program? A CNN report on April 26, 2017, revealed that 11 of Trump’s 15 properties in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco have received scores below 50 (out of 100) in energy efficiency from the Energy Star program. Buildings with low energy efficiency — like Trump’s properties — tend to have lower property values than their competitors. Corporate, public and individual buyers are increasingly looking for green buildings, especially when these offer cost savings in the long run. Energy Star provides a mechanism to publicly inform buyers of the energy efficiency of their potential purchase, thus “outing” the energy hogs.

Congress needs to hear from individuals as well as corporations on the benefits of this important program!

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Weed-free—Naturally!

Keeping our yards weed-free: It’s more than just a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and not have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood. I would argue that most suburban homeowners in our area strive to maintain a beautiful yard because it is a pleasure to come home to a blooming weed-free paradise after a day of inside work. In our moderate climate zone, we are blessed with a fairly long growing season and an ability to cultivate a large variety of plants. With this opportunity, however, comes responsibility.

I noted in a previous blog (Invasives=Plant Litter March 20, 2017) the importance of planting non-invasives, and, whenever possible, removing invasives. However, what to do about weeds is another aspect of suburban gardening that requires careful decision-making to reduce negative environmental impact.

According to the Plant Natural Research Center, “While most modern herbicides are designed to kill only plants and have little or no toxicity to humans, many still have extreme consequences in the environment, changing habitats in ways that affect insects and wildlife. These consequences extend to water courses where they may kill beneficial aquatic plants and fish.”

In addition, a Purdue University study of dogs from treated and untreated yards found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards, and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue found that certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer.

And there is some evidence that toxins in herbicides CAN affect humans. A case-controlled study published in March 1999 by Swedish scientists Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson showed that non-hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is linked to exposure to a range of pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup often used to control poison ivy in this area. Relatively unknown prior to the 1940’s—about the time pesticides and herbicides came into more widespread use— NHL is now one of the most common types of cancer.

Fortunately, Earth 911 offers some excellent all-natural ideas on how to take care of weeds: http://earth911.com/home-garden/all-natural-weed-killer/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=50dab42296-Tuesday+Emails+5.9.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-50dab42296-167852373

You may also decide that that “weed” in your garden is really quite beautiful and worth leaving alone. Make environmentally sustainable choices in your garden this year!

(Native Joe Pye Weed is popular with both bees and butterflies—and is technically not a weed : -)

TRASH DAY OF ACTION: Battle of the Bottle

 

Pohick Creek. Difficult Run. Little Hunting Creek.

Yep, these are some of our streams here in Fairfax County. Notice the prevalence of plastic bottles!

If you think this is a problem, come join the Trash Action Work Force (TAWF), a coalition of citizen groups, in a peaceful demonstration on Monday, May 8, from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. in front of the International Bottled Water Association at 1700 Diagonal Road in Alexandria. Clean Fairfax will be distributing free REUSABLE water bottles at the King Street Metro Station.

The action intends to draw attention to the significant role of disposable plastic water bottles in the scourge of litter in the streams and waterways of Northern Virginia. Despite years of volunteer cleanups, this litter keeps coming back. This litter is not only ugly, but also impacts wildlife.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvE0FZHe6ls

The International Bottled Water Association, the location of our rally, has lobbied heavily to overturn legislation that allows national parks to ban disposable water bottles. About twenty parks have this ban in place and there is evidence that there has been a reduction in litter issues. Congress is preparing to approve a bill to support the International Bottled Water Association’s plan to put disposable water bottles back in the parks. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article148174439.html

TAWF membership includes Friends of Accotink Creek, Dyke Marsh, Huntley Meadows, Lake Accotink Park, Little Hunting Creek, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club (Great Falls and Mount Vernon Groups)  More at https://www.facebook.com/novatawf/

Thank you to Elaine Sevy, concerned Fairfax County resident and active member of Friends of Accotink Creek,  for providing the following fact sheet:

Why Make the Switch to Reusable Water Bottles?

Billions of disposable water bottles become litter.  Last year, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only about 23 percent.  The average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled approximately 38 of those bottles (Source: banthebottle.net).  Tragically, the bottles that aren’t recycled end up in streams, rivers and the ocean, or in landfills.

Disposable plastic bottles can take 450 years to decompose.  In the article “Why You Should Never Drink Bottled Water Again” by Nathaniel Berman, a major concern is raised that plastic water bottles “…can take up to 450 years to decompose, further releasing contaminants into the soil, water and air.”  (ECOwatch.com)

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink? Tap water and bottled water are generally comparable in terms of safety,” said Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., with the Mayo Clinic. “So the choice of tap or bottled is mostly a matter of personal preference.” (www.mayoclinic.org). More than 90 percent of U.S. water systems meet all regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

Is Bottled Water Just Tap Water in Disguise?   Twenty-four percent of bottled water sold in the United States is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water.” (Source:  banthebottle.net)

Good quality reusable bottles are affordable and available.  As of April 2017, analysts at thewirecutter.com have conducted more than three years of research into all types of reusable bottles including steel, insulated, plastic, glass and collapsible.  Many of these products are dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sanitize.  Click on the link for their suggestions and where to find them, http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-water-bottle/.

Electrolytes can be added to water in your reusable bottle.  Gatorade and other brands of electrolytes are available in single-use packets and multiple serving canisters for use in reusable bottles.  These products are available through Amazon and other retailers.  All-natural electrolyte packets and canisters also are available through Amazon and at local merchants such as Whole Foods.

Filtering Your Own Tap Water Saves a Bundle.  How much bottled water will $80 buy?  “In single servings it’s about 11 gallons,” calculates Emily Wurth, director of water policy at Food & Water Watch.  “So even if you’re a moderate water drinker who downs just one 16-ounce bottle a day, you’ll spend about $80 for just a 3 months’ supply, or 11 gallons worth, of bottled water.  That same $80 will get you at least a year’s worth of filtered tap water.” ((Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

An average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day.  With so many filter brands (Brita, PUR, ZeroWater, etc.) and types (pitcher, faucet attachment, under the sink, etc.) to choose from, a good place to start your research is choosykitchen.com, “Water Filter Reviews” by Kelly Burgess, March 2017.

 

 

The Case for Organics and Farmers Markets: Trump’s Chlorpyrifos Approval

 

President Trump has signed an order denying the petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) to ban chlorpyrifos (Lorsban), a pesticide that some say causes neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below EPA’s existing regulatory standard. The EPA claims that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.” The next reevaluation of the safety of this product is not scheduled until 2022.

Not willing to take the risk?  According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, when it comes to local produce, this will allow peanut growers in our area to continue to use this insecticide. The Environmental Working Group suggests that if you want to avoid feeding your family produce that may contain chlorpyrifos residue even after it has been thoroughly washed, choose organic versions for these fruits and vegetables:

  • Imported peaches from Chile (20 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported nectarines from Chile (13 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported bell peppers from Mexico (22 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported hot peppers from Mexico (15 percent samples tested positive)
  • Domestic and imported cilantro (27 percent of samples tested positive)

Unfortunately, chloropyrifos is not the only potentially toxic pesticide in use. There are a number of organophosphates, chemicals that are specifically designed to damage an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase, that are responsible for 70% of pesticide use in the United States, according to PANNA.

The argument for consuming organic produce is compelling. Consider buying organics and seeking out fresh LOCAL produce at area Farmers Markets.  You can just ask the farmer what is used to manage pests and make an informed consumer choice.

For more information about Fairfax County Farmers Markets and organic produce check out  https://ourstoriesandperspectives.com/2016/07/27/fairfax-county-farmers-markets/.   A listing of all area Farmers Markets can be found at www.cleanfairfax.org — Programs.

Bye-Bye Protected Bay

I noted in my 1/11/17 blog (We are Closer to the Ocean Than You Think— http://wp.me/pBXWQ-WC ) that while we are a few hours away from the nearest beach in Northern Virginia, our streams and rivers here in the Potomac Watershed all go to the Chesapeake Bay. Now our Bay is in jeopardy!

President Trump plans to completely eliminate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia) that has improved water quality in the Bay over the years.  In 2014, the partners signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which established specific goals, outcomes, management strategies, and work plans to guide the restoration of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands around them. The EPA has used the $73 million a year program—of which Virginia got $9.3 million last year—for such projects as the upgrading of deteriorating sewer facilities and the building of fences and dams to capture sedimentation and farm runoff.

According to the State of the Bay 2016 report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to “saving the Bay through education, advocacy, litigation, and restoration,” there has been a modest reduction in water pollution and increased abundance of blue crabs, oysters and other fisheries in the last few years. The Foundation attributes the improvement in part to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) plan, the largest cleanup plan ever developed by the EPA. This plan sets limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to meet water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers.

However the Chesapeake Bay Foundation still gives the Bay a rating of only C- as there continue to be problems with overall health of the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program website agrees: “The Bay’s health has slowly improved in some areas. However, the ecosystem remains in poor condition. The Bay continues to have polluted water, degraded habitats, and low populations of many fish and shellfish species.”
This is no time to be backing off protection for the Chesapeake Bay!  

 

 

Trump and the Environment

We are just past President Trump’s first fifty days. While the press has focused mostly on the President’s appointees for government positions, immigration issues, and health insurance, changes that affect the environment seem to have taken a back seat.

Earth 911 has done an excellent job keeping us on top of this administration’s impact on environmental issues so far:

http://earth911.com/business-policy/trump-50-days-in/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=c3932a5fe7-Tuesday+Emails+3.14.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-c3932a5fe7-167852373

Whatever your political bent, the environment is something that affects us all! Stay informed and inform others. Take action on the issues that concern you.

 

VA Bagged Out

Virginia is definitely not keeping up with Mumbai, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, China, South Africa, Tanzania, Australia, Ireland, and Italy. Nor with Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, MD, California, and other localities across the United States. When it comes to cleaning up our plastic bag problem, we are behind.

A proposed bill to add a plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (SB 925) was “passed by indefinitely,” i.e. defeated, on January 18, 2017, by the VA Senate Finance Committee. This bill would have imposed a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags provided to customers by certain retailers in localities located wholly within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and directed revenues to be used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. The bill would have allowed every retailer that collects the tax to retain one cent of the five-cent tax. And, as studies of areas that have passed similar legislation show, would have reduced plastic bag litter in Virginia’s environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay Watershed region.

Meanwhile, neighboring localities have taken action. In 2009, Washington, D.C. imposed a 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Using the slogan “Skip the Bag, Save the River” the campaign helped people make the connection between plastic bag use and the huge litter problem D.C. was facing. According to a May 2015 article in The Washington Post, the nickels from the bag fee contributed about $10 million to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund. While D.C. has struggled to scientifically measure the exact cleanup effects of the ban, in 2013 the Alice Ferguson Foundation surveyed 600 residents. The results of the survey showed that
District households, on average, estimated they had decreased bag use by 60 percent, from ten bags a week to four.

Legislation passed in January of 2012 requires retail establishments in Montgomery County, Maryland who provide customers a plastic or paper carryout bag at the point of sale to charge 5 cents per bag. The revenues from this charge are deposited into the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) fund. According to a July 2016 Washington Post article, Montgomery’s tax generated $10.4 million for pollution and stormwater control programs.  More importantly, traps at 15 stream sites in the county monitored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed a decline in the number of plastic bags collected, from 856 in 2011 to 777 in 2015. The figure from the first half of 2016 showed an even steeper drop, to 281.

And in locales farther away, more drastic measures have been taking place. Proposition 67 banning plastic bags passed by referendum this past November in California. China, not the country one usually thinks of when considering progressive environmental measures, announced on January 24 that it will prohibit the production and distribution of ultra-thin bags beginning June 1, 2017.

Why this attention on plastic bags? According to Plastic Waste Solutions, globally we use a trillion bags a year.  That is approximately 10 million every 5 minutes. And only a small number of these end up recycled since they are not typically part of regular curbside recycling programs. Wildlife ingestion and entanglement, detrimental changes in water chemistry, and unsightly litter are all results of plastic bag use—and misuse. Production of the bags also causes pollution. While the majority of plastic bags in the United States are made from natural gas, there is air pollution associated with the emissions from extraction.

For an excellent description of China’s recent environmental wake up call and the devastating effects of plastic bag litter that has prompted government leaders worldwide—though not in Virginia— to enact legislation to control or ban the use of plastic bags, read http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5565.

 

Clean(!) Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning is amazing: you bring in your wrinkled, stained clothing and several days later pick up crisply pressed clean clothes. There is, however, that faint chemical odor. Therein lies the problem!

In 1996, the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) found that the leading dry cleaning chemical, perchloroethylene, commonly known as PERC, was indicated in causing several types of cancer and had been evident in many hazardous waste sites. Since then, laws have been passed to regulate the exposure of dry cleaning employees to PERC, but most estimates indicate that it still remains in use in 75%-85% of dry cleaning facilities today.

So, what to do with your “Dry Clean Only” clothes?

Some alternative chemicals that seem to have fewer adverse health effects include DF-2000 made by Exxon-Mobil, EcoSolv made by Chevron-Phillips, and a silicon-based treatment called siloxane D5 or GreenEarth that is also found in many personal care products.

According to the EPA, if clothing from the dry cleaners has a strong smell, bring it back and ask them to re-clean the garment. The finishing process of dry cleaning should get much of the chemical smell out of the garment. Another way to potentially reduce the personal hazard of chemicals is to allow the clothing to “off-gas” by removing the plastic bag and letting the clothes sit in an open area.

If you want to truly get that dry clean effect without chemicals, the two most effective natural processes are wet cleaning and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning. Wet cleaning is essentially very gentle washing with controlled amounts of water and non-toxic biodegradable detergents. CO2 cleaning uses high pressure to convert the gas to liquid to wash the clothes, and then with a release of pressure, converts it back to a gas to dry the clothes.

According to the Mother Nature Network, it is important not to just go with a dry cleaner that advertises “organic” or “natural” because there is no legal definition for these terms when it comes to dry cleaners and there is great variance.

ASK your dry cleaner how they plan to clean your clothes. Then, make an informed dry cleaning choice.

Find your nearest eco-friendly cleaner here:
http://www.nodryclean.com/map/zip.html

#EcoMonday #Environment #GoGreen #Sustainable #cleantech #greenbiz

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