logo
Food Advertising by

Organic Milk: Not As Healthy As You Think?

Think all organic milk is healthy? It may not be as healthy as you think.

Is organic milk as healthy as you think? It may not be.

Did you know that most cartons of organic milk have an average shelf life of 6 months, no refrigeration required? Gratitude for this amazing shelf life belongs to a process called UHT or ultra-high temperature pasteurization. While milk pasteurization has been around for over a hundred years, UHT has only been commercially used since the 1970s. The consequences of UHT on organic milk (or any milk) are questionable.


Pasteurization is a heating process, legally mandated in any milk being shipped across state lines, to kill harmful bacteria. States also have laws about whether or not pasteurization is required for in-state sales. Pasteurization was implemented during a time when thousands of people were dying from diseases carried by milk. While several different pasteurization methods exist, two are most common:  high temperature short time (HTST) or flash and UHT.

HTST Pasteurization Method

Milk is heated to 161 degrees F for atleast 15 seconds. It kills harmful bacteria but leaves good probiotic bacteria. HTST ensures that your milk is fresher and likely, more local than UHT milk as its expiration date is much shorter.[i]

UHT Pasteurization Method

This method heats milk to 280 degrees F for 2 seconds. UHT quickly kills 100 percent of bacteria in milk, even the good ones. Milk that has undergone UHT often tastes “burnt.” Furthermore, the UHT process requires more energy than the HTST method. Using UHT method, it is also possible to reheat any unsold/unopened milk and place them back on the store shelf.[ii]

Controversy exists whether or not UHT is actually a beneficial process to keeping our milk healthy and safe. Some research claims that the nutrients that are killed through the UHT process are not necessary for human health. However, what is known is that yogurt or keffir cannot be made from UHT milk, but it can be made from HTST milk, implying that certain healthy bacteria are only present in HTST processed milk.  It is also important to keep in mind that much of the organic milk is packaged in a non recyclable container. Milk companies will state that consumers are demanding milk with longer shelf life for convenience. It is up to us to demand otherwise.

Want to know which brands of organic milk don’t use UHT? Thanks to research by the Sweet Beet blog, we have a list of milk producers, but always make sure you read the labels first before purchase.

Brands that don’t use UHT
Natural by Nature

Brands that use both HTST and UHT (read the label): 
Horizon
Organic Valley
Whole Foods 365 Organic



[i] If you want to find out where your milk is from, find the code on your milk and use this website Where is my Milk from?

[ii] Controversy exists whether or not this is actually happening, but research has been conducted on reheating milk using the UHT method. See Cattaneo, S., Masotti, F., & Pellegrino, L. (2008). Effects of overprocessing on heat damage of UHT milk. Eur Food Res Technology, 226, 1099-1106.Sources

  1. CDC. (2013) Raw Milk Questions and Answers.
  2. The Sweet Beet
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. Food Renegade
  5. Locavore Del Mundo

 

10th Annual Endangered Species Day

Endangered Species DayMay 15, 2015 is the 10th annual Endangered Species Day.  According to the National Wildlife Federation, this day is “to celebrate endangered species success stories and learn about species still in danger.” It is always held on the third Friday of May.

In America, over 1,300 plants and animals are listed as either endangered (at risk of becoming extinct) or threatened (close to becoming endangered). Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, a species can be listed when its natural habitat is threatened, it has been exploited by humans, or its number is decreasing due to illness, manmade causes, or natural predators. In some instances, other factors may also cause a species to be listed.

Of the 1,300 listed nationally, 12 animals and one plant, labeled as endangered, are found in Oklahoma, either seasonally (during migration periods) or year around. Nine different animals and two plants are also listed threatened. Three additional animals, while not recognized as endangered or threatened at the federal level, are recognized at the state level with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.


The Oklahoma City Zoo is hosting an Endangered Species Day event from 10:00am – 2:00pm on May 15. For more information visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org. You can find more information about endangered species in Oklahoma here: U.S Fish and Wildlife Services Endangered Species.

The Green State of Oklahoma – 2015

Oklahoma

2015 is a new year that brings with it continued challenges for Oklahoma’s environmental issues. Let’s see how Oklahoma fared throughout 2014 on green issues facing the state*.

Waste & Recycling
According to the 2014 American Litter Scorecard, Oklahoma was ranked 40 out of 50, or one of worst and dirtiest states.  The scorecard is compiled once every three years. This is a slight improvement from the 2011 scorecard, which had Oklahoma ranked at #42.


Pollution
The American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in the US according to three different criteria: by the number of high ozone days, by yearly pollution, and by short term (24 hour) pollution. Several cities in Oklahoma made the pollution list.  The Tulsa, Muskogee, and Bartlesville area came in at 14 out of 25 cities for number of high ozone days. Oklahoma City and Shawnee came in at 19 out of 25. The overall ozone grade for both regions was F. On the bright side, Oklahoma/Shawnee and Tulsa/Muskogee/Bartlesville areas were both given a grade A  for metropolitan areas with short term pollution.

Oklahoma also currently ranks 17 out of 50 states for carbon dioxide emissions, and 24 out of 50 for number of annual miles driven (2012)**.

Water
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program), 18% of Oklahoma’s population has been exposed to contaminated water systems, as defined by the EPA.

Meanwhile, the drought situation in Oklahoma isn’t improving. 2015 will bring the state into its fifth year of drought across most of the state.

Energy
In 2013, Oklahoma ranked 5th in crude oil production, and is one of the highest producing natural gas states**. The state also ranks 4th for highest wind electricity generated.

Green Schools
Of the 1,803 public schools in Oklahoma, only 22 are registered active Oklahoma Green Schools.

Wildlife Conservation
In 2014, the Humane Society ranked Oklahoma 30th on animal protection laws.

24 animals and 2 plants are listed as either endangered or threatened in Oklahoma by the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Although Oklahoma is doing some great green things – like being 4th in wind energy, improving its litter ranking, and receiving an A in two cities for short term pollution – Oklahoma still has much green work to do in 2015.

 

Note
*When available, comparisons were made with previous years and other states.
**This is the most recent data available.
Photo Credit- Okiefromokla

Plastics 101: The Recycling Process

plasticrecyclingWe look at the bottom of our plastics in search for a code number 1 through 7. This code, as previously explained in last month’s post, identifies the type of plastic resin. It also facilitates the recycling process as the type of resin an item is made of limits the products it can recycled into. For a printable list of resin codes, click here.

How are plastic resins recycled?  There are five basis steps to the Recycling Process (sometimes referred to as down-cycling):

  1. Sorting – After plastic is collected by the recycling company, it is sorted by resin type.
  2. Washing – Plastic items are cleaned of all adhesives and labels. You can help make this job easier and cheaper for recycling companies by doing the bulk of this process yourself.
  3. Shredding – Plastic is shredded by large machines and made into small pellets.
  4. Identification and Classification – So far, the plastic has been identified by the eye alone. Now, the small pellets are chemically tested to ensure accurate classification.
  5. Extruding – Finally, the plastic is melted and extruded into clean, properly identified pellets. (note, often the plastic resin is still not 100 percent pure)

The plastic is then sold or used to fill orders to manufacturers who create the new plastic product. Here is a list of the seven types of commonly used plastics and what they are frequently recycled into.


1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
First developed in 1957, the more commonly known name for this type of plastic is polyester. You can find PETE in the following items:

  • Nylon and polyester clothes
  • Bed sheets
  • Cosmetics
  • Household cleaners
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Water and Condiment bottles
  • Jelly and Peanut Butter Jars

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals, unless it contains BPA
CONS: Some studies have found that antimony is leached from water bottles made from PETE after prolonged use in heat; BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer

Commonly Recycled Into: Tote Bags, Furniture, Carpet, Paneling, Fiber, and Polar Fleece

2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Along with PETE, it is the most commonly used and versatile of plastics. HDPE resists UV rays, can tolerate high temperatures, and is dishwasher safe. It is found in a variety of items:

  • Landry detergent bottles
  • Milk jugs
  • Folding Chairs and tables

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals, no known health concerns.

Commonly Recycled Into: Pens, Recycling Containers, Picnic Tables, Lumber, Benches, Fencing, Detergent Bottles, Crates, Garden Products, Office Products, Automobile Parts[i]

3. Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
PVC might be the most difficult plastic to recycle, next to 7. It is incredibly durable and resists impurities, but it is also the most chemically dangerous. PVC can be found in the following items:

  • Shower Curtains
  • Cling wrap
  • Clothing
  • Inflatable structures
  • Waterbeds
  • Pool toys
  • Car interiors
  • Vinyl flooring

CONS: Known to leach chemicals, SHOULD BE AVOIDED[ii]; Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Paneling, Flooring, Speed Bumps, Decks, and Roadway Gutters

4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
This type of plastic was created in 1954. Polypropylene is excellent at withstanding heat. Research is mixed regarding the safety of polypropylene. Regardless, it is used in much of our plastic food packaging:

  • Bread and frozen food bags
  • Packaging material
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Squeezable bottles

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals
CONS: Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Compost Bins, Paneling, Trash Cans and Liner, Floor Tiles, Shipping Envelopes

5. Polypropylene (PP)
A very strong plastic with a high melting point, it is a likely candidate for reusable food containers such as:

  • Yogurt and margarine containers
  • Plastic cups
  • Baby Bottles
  • Kitchenware, microwavable plastic containers and lids2

PROS: Recycling becoming more common; dangerous during production process, but not known to leach any chemicals after the fact. Dishwasher safe
CONS: Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Brooms, Auto Battery Cases, Bins, Pallets, Signal Lights, Ice Scrapers, and Bicycle Racks, Flower pots

6. Polystyrene (PS)
This plastic can be converted into either foam, made 97 percent of air, or a tougher, yet brittle substance like that used for CD cases. Here are some of the items PS is found in:

  • Foam Insulation
  • Disposable cutlery
  • CD and DVD cases
  • Egg Cartons
  • Foam Cups & To-Go Foam from restaurants

CONS: According to the Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and carcinogenic effects. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).[1]; Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Egg Cartons, Vents, Foam packing, Insulation

7. Other
Any plastic that doesn’t fall under a 1 through 6 ends up with a 7. Bio plastics are also given the label 7. Other items include:

  • Microwave Ovens
  • Eating Utensils
  • Baby Bottles
  • 3 and 5 Gallon reusable bottles
  • CD and DVD cases
  • Electrical Wring

CONS: Made  with biphenyl-A (commonly known as BPA) that can leach into your food – a chemical that simulates the action of estrogen; rare recycling availability.

Commonly Recycled Into: Plastic Lumber and Custom Made Items

Although all plastics should be avoided whenever possible, we can conclude that there are some plastics safer to use than others – 2, 4, and 5 – as they have not been known to leach chemicals after production.[iii][iv][v].


NOTES:

1 For more information visit Baby Green Thumb.
2  Saying something is microwavable only means that it will not change the shape or melt during the process, it does not imply that it is safe or that toxics will not be released. /small>

 


SOURCES:

[i] Bear Board. (2014). What is HDPE?
[ii] T Jones (2010). Danger! It’s PVC, Plastic Number 3. GreenDepot: Blog
[iii]Amanda Wills. (2009). The Ultimate Plastic Breakdown. Earth 911.
[iv] Brian Clark Howard. What Do Recycling Symbols on Plastics Mean? Good Housekeeping.
[v] Jeffery M. Smith. (2012). 3 Plastics to Avoid. Esquire./small>

Photo Credit: Michal Ma?as

Plastics 101: Making Plastic and Introduction to the Plastic Code

recycleWe live in the Age of Plastics.[i] The quantity of plastic items in your home would likely surprise you.  A form of the Greek word, plastikos, plastic means “to mold, form.” Today, the word plastic is commonly used to refer to a singular type of synthetic substance that possesses the qualities, of well, plastic.  However, plastic should be thought of as a family of substances, each consisting of a variety of polymers[ii], (Greek for “many parts)[iii].

In general, the majority of mass produced plastics are made from hydrocarbons extracted from the cracking process when refining oil and natural gas. These hydrocarbons, through various chemical processes, become monomers (Greek for “one part”)[iv]which combine to form polymers. These monomers can be linked in different combinations to create diverse plastic resins. Visit this link for a complete list of resins.  Resins are typically produced in the shape of pellets. Often these resin producing chemical processes are patented and secretly held by companies.[v]  Therefore, we don’t know exactly what types of chemicals have been used in the plastic making.[vi]

Plastic resins can generally be classified into one of two categories: thermosets or thermoplastics. Thermosets are plastics that, once melted, retain their shape and cannot be remelted and reshaped. In other words, they cannot be recycled. They can only be reused as a different shape or as filler. On the other hand, thermoplastics can be reshaped through processes involving reheating and cooling repeatedly. It’s easier to recycle them into something else.


Recycling plastics became more common in the eighties. Since it is impossible to tell what type of plastic you are holding simply by looking at it, pressure was placed on the plastic industry to establish a common classification and identification system. In 1988, the Society of Plastics Industry developed the SPI resin identification coding system to facilitate the plastic recycling process. You will notice a wide variety of different materials listed underneath each plastic resin classification – giving testimony to the volume of different types of plastic polymers

For a printable chart of all 7 identification codes click here.  Next month, my last article on plastic will focus on explaining the SPI code in more detail and recycling process itself.

For more detailed information about the plastic making process – visit one of these references:

Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D. How Plastics Work – How Stuff Works
PlasticsEurope – How Plastic is Made
Wise Geek – What is the Plastic Manufacturing Process?

 


[i] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[ii] Please note that not all polymers are plastic. For example, proteins are starches are also made of polymers.

[iii] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[iv] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[v] Werner Boote. Plastic Planet. A Documentary

[vi] Werner Boote. Plastic Planet. A Documentary

 

10 Tips for Reducing Waste During the Holidays

christmas trashFrom the extra energy expended to keep the Christmas lights on to stacks of Christmas cards, the holidays inevitable generate a lot of waste. It is estimated that, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, an additional 1 million tons of waste fill our landfills each week.  However, being mindful that our Earth is one of the greatest gifts doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun or the holiday spirit. This Christmas, try to keep these 10 simple waste reduction tips in mind as you are wrapping presents and trimming the tree.

1. Use less ribbon or no ribbon at all when wrapping presents. If every household in the US alone used 2 ft. less ribbon this year, we could save approximately 43,470 miles of ribbon waste – more than enough to tie a bow around Earth’s 24,901 mile circumference.

2. Use wrapping paper that is recyclable, or made of recycled products, or think of innovative ways to wrap presents. For example, you can purchase wrapping paper that is made from hemp. You can use also fabric or cloth bags to wrap presents.


3. Recycle your live Christmas tree. Or better yet, purchase a potted tree and plant it after the holidays. Here is a link for various contacts in the metro area for recycling your tree after the holidays. You can also purchase an artificial tree and reuse it year after year.

4. Make sure you are using LED Christmas lights. Try to limit the time the lights are actually are at night by putting them on timers.

5. Send a few less Christmas Cards – or better yet, make them an e card. According to Hallmark, approximately 1.5 billion cards are sent out each year.  That’s enough to fill a football field 5 stories high. Here are some great, free, online e card resources: 123Greetings, Care2, and American Greetings. If you do send Christmas cards, use paper made of recycled material. Here are a few interesting resources for recyclable paper: Boomin, Botanical Paperworks, and Greenfield Paper. These companies produces paper with flower, herb, and vegetable seeds. Once used, it can be planted to grow! Make sure you recycle the cards you do receive or reuse them for a craft project.

6. Buy recharable batteries with your gifts. Even consider purchasing a battery charger with your gift. Approximately 40 percent of all battery sales happen during the holidays.

7. Don’t throw away leftover food and compost scraps if you can. If you can’t compost, check out this website to see if you can actually use your food scraps in a recipe.

8. Recycle, recyle, recycle.

9. Be creative in your gift giving and avoid potential waste. For example, consider giving the gift of an experience or event – a concert or lessons for a new hobby. Consider giving a charitable donation in someone’s name.

10.Donate Christmas gifts you received that you don’t want – don’t just throw them away.

Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by kugelfish, some edits by Green Oklahoma

Gluten Free White Chocolate Fruit Pizza

This is one of my favorite dessert dishes. It is certainly a favorite with my family. Try it  – you will get rave reviews. The kiwis and strawberries make it an excellent, unique Christmas dish, but you can also add other fruits like canned pineapple or mandarin oranges as well.

fruitpizza

Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups organic, unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 cups gluten free baking flour (I often use Pamela’s or Bob Mills)

Filling:

  • 1 12 oz package white chocolate baking chips
  • ¼ cup organic whipping cream
  • 1 8 oz package organic cream cheese (softened at room temperature)

Fruit Topping:

  • Strawberries (1 pint)
  • Kiwi (4 or 5)

Additional possible fruit to use: Canned Pineapples (1 20oz can), Mandarin Oranges (1 11oz can), Grapes

Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice

Crust Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Using a hand mixer, cream together the powdered sugar and butter.
  3. Slowly and gradually add the gluten free flour to the mixture.
  4. Once a dough like consistency has been achieved, press the crust mixture evenly into a large pizza pan.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Cool crust to room temperature. (place in freezer for 10 minutes if you are running short on time)

Filling Directions:

  1. Make sure your hand mixer is cleaned and ready to go.
  2. Melt white chocolate chips in microwave for 45 seconds – 1 minute (follow package directions). Be careful not to cook too long, the chips will easily burn.
  3. Immediately add a small amount of the whipping cream to the melted chips and quickly stir. (note – due to the differences in temperatures, melted chips will immediately begin to thicken; however, adding only a small amount of whipping cream at first will prevent hardened bits of white chocolate morsels from forming).
  4. Pour remaining whipping cream and cream cheese mixture into melted chips and use the hand mixer to beat until smooth.
  5. Spread white chocolate mixture over cooled crust.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (note – you can make crust and filling 1-2 days ahead of time and finish it with fruit topping and glaze on the day you need it)

Fruit Topping Directions:

  1. Slice and cut fruit as you wish and arrange over top of white chocolate filling. (note – if you decide to use canned pineapples as well, simply save the canned juice for the glaze)

Glaze Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine pineapple juice, lemon juice, cornstarch, and sugar.
  2. Bring all ingredients to a boil and then stir for 1 minute or until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Quickly, before allowing it time to cool, brush glaze over top of fruit. The glaze adds a shine to the tart and also helps preserve the fruit color while acting like a glue.

Keep refrigerated before and after serving.

NOTE – This recipe is modified from the original found at Taste of Home.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I have always loved to bake during the holidays. It is comforting when my kitchen is heavy with lingering scents of freshly made breads and pies. While I love traditional flavors like pumpkin, I also enjoy bringing unique dishes to the holiday parties. Ever been in the situation where there are 15 pumpkin pies at the office party?

Since going gluten free last year (per doctor’s orders) its been harder for me to enjoy baking.  However, this year its a bit easier. After some practice, I am able to approach the holidays armed with some of my favorite recipes modified to be full of gluten-free deliciousness. Here is one of my favorites.

Note – this bread would make an excellent homemade Christmas gift!

LemonPoppySeedBread


Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ cups gluten free flour baking blend (I often use Pamela’s or Bob Mills)
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • ¾ cup organic milk (can substitute a milk alterative if preferred)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 heaping tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest

Lemon glaze:

  • 1/3 cup sugar 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or concentrate from the bottle
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tbsp. organic, unsalted butter (melted and slightly cooled)
  1. Grease and flour one 9 x 5 loaf pan with organic vegetable shortening and gluten free flour. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine gluten free flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and poppy seeds. Stir until mixed well.
  3. In another bowl, beat together the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat until thoroughly combined.
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and beat by hand or with a hand mixer for a full minute until no lumps remain.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
  6. Lemon glaze: Mix together all glaze ingredients and brush over warm bread from the oven.
  7. Cool loaf about 20 minutes before eating.

Note: this is a modified version of the recipe found at A Cup of Jo

Plastics 101: A Series on Plastic Recycling Part 1: The Life of a Plastic Bag

plastic bagI have frequently wondered what happens to the plastics placed in Oklahoma’s recycle bins. Is it actually being recycled? What happens if a plastic bag is placed with plastic #3? What does plastic #3 really mean anyway? These questions pushed me to understand more about plastic recycling.  My research into plastics is too lengthy for a single blog post; therefore, I have partitioned the story into three sections. Part one focuses on the life cycle of a plastic bag.

As Americans, we throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags annually and less than 5 percent of all plastic bags used are recycled. Yep – less than 5 percent. It is estimated that 1 trillion bags are used each year around the world, which equates to approximately 1 million bags every minute.  46,000 pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans and 3.5 million tons of plastic were disposed of in 2008.

Plastic bags were first introduced into stores in 1977. A product of crude oil, natural gas, and other molecules[i], plastics bags were lauded for being cheap to manufacture and purchase, as well as convenient for carrying groceries. However, anything made from petroleum products brings with it the problem of disposal. Plastic bags are not biodegradable.

Four things can happen to used plastic bags:

  1. They can fill and contaminate a landfill.
  2. They might be recycled here in America.
  3. They could be exported to an overseas recycling market.
  4. They might be reused by the consumer.

The can fill and contaminate a landfill
This happens when plastic bags simply end up in the trash. It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, but it never completely biodegrades. Instead, sunlight breaks down the plastic into small contaminating bits that weasel their way into soil and marine life.

They might be recycled here in America
Based on the petroleum and other complex molecules plastic bags are made of, they are coded as a mix of plastic #4 and plastic #2[ii]. However, placing plastic bags inside your cities’ recycle bin will cause the recycling machines to clog and malfunction. Therefore, plastic bags are only accepted at certain locations. You can enter your zip code at the plasticfilmrecycling.org for locations near you.

Notice that this website refers to plastic film. Yes, plastic bags often fall into a larger category called plastic film. Usually locations that accept plastic bags (call ahead to inquire first) will also accept the following plastic items you were never quite sure what to do with:

  • Bread bags
  • The thin packaging around napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue paper, and diaper wrap
  • Case wrap (like the plastic film around water bottles)
  • Produce bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Air pillows
  • The thin plastic dry cleaning bags around your clothes
  • Cereal box liners
  • Sealable food storage bags (no food inside!)
  • Shipping envelopes

According to Wal-Mart, once the plastic bag recycle bins are full, they are picked up by an outside recycling company and transported to regional recycling centers. I have contacted Wal-Mart for more information and will provide you with an update when I hear back from them.  Target and Lowes are also popular retailers that offer plastic bag and film recycling.

So what are these plastic bags and films recycled into? One type of product is composite wood which can be used to make outdoor decks, window and door frames.  Other possible items your plastic bags might turn into include: garden products, crates, pipe, and new film packaging.

According to multiple sources, it is challenging to recycle plastics. First, it is costly to collect and sort through plastics. It costs $4,000 dollars just to recycle one ton of plastic. The recycled product can then be turned around and sold for just $32.00, according to the Clean Air Council.   Recycling plastics also releases many greenhouse gas emissions, harming the environment. Recycling plastics can also be difficult because after all, it is an economic market. If there are buyers for recycled plastics, then the plastics will likely be recycled, if there are no buyers for the product……then the plastic might end up in a landfill anyway.

Exported to an overseas recycling market
A lot of our plastic bags are shipped to China for recycling and reuse. However, as explained at myplasticfreelife.com, entire communities might be hurt by emissions from the recycling process there.

Reused by the consumer
Many consumers find ways to reuse plastic bags at home. For example, some may use them as trash can liners and others to pick up their dog’s poop. You could also bring them with you to the store for reuse. For those of you with a crafty side, visit this website for cool ways to reuse your bags.

Tips for Reduction of Plastic Bag Use:
1)      Get reusable bags
2)      When you purchase only 1 or 2 items at the store, decline the bag. You can carry those items out in your hand.
3)      Go to stores that don’t use plastic bags

 


[i] Approximately 12 million barrels of oil are used annually to make plastic bags. (Americans consume 18 million barrels of oil per day)

[ii] I’ll explain more about what plastic numbers actually mean in my next two posts

Photo Credit- EdinburghGreens

Are You Living on a Heat Island?

heat islandMost people in metropolitan and urban areas are unaware that they are living on a heat island – an area marked by significantly higher surface and air temperatures than surrounding rural areas. There are several causes of heat islands:

  • Replacement of the natural environment with pavements (especially asphalt) and buildings
  • Reduced air flow between large buildings
  • Heat from air conditioners, factories, and cars
  • Weather conditions
  • Location of city or town

According to the EPA, “cities with 1 million people or more can have air temperatures 1.8-5.4 degrees F warmer than surrounding areas” during the day and “as high as 22 degrees F” in the evening. Even cities with less than 1 million people often have higher temperatures of up to 10 degrees F than the surrounding areas.  Although inhabited by less than 1 million people, cities like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton are potential heat island locations.

Frequently, heat islands are discovered using satellite imagery and measured according to the urban heat island index (UHII)[i].  An UHII study was conducted in Oklahoma in 2003[ii]. At 29.5 feet (9 meters), the air temperature was consistently 32.09-35.15 degrees F (0.5 -1.75 degrees C) warmer at the center of Oklahoma City than in surrounding areas.


Why do heat islands matter? Heat islands have devastating consequences for communities: they increase energy usage, exacerbate air pollution and greenhouse emissions, damage water quality, and are contributors to heat-related illness, even death. What can you or I do?

1. Encourage our state and local policy makers and legislatures by writing or calling them.

  • To enact new tree and landscape ordinances
  • To  establish new zoning codes such as parking lot requirements
  • To reevaluate building codes to include green building standards

2. Increase tree and vegetative coverage, in your own yard, neighborhood, or community

3. Encourage businesses to install a green roof.
A green roof is simply a one that has a garden or vegetation incorporated as either a part of the roof or growing on top of it. The Cardinal Engineering building and the Winnie Mae House in Oklahoma City are great examples of a green roof top. For more information about green roofs visit www.greenroofs.org

4. Encourage governments and businesses to use cool pavements.
While regular pavements absorb and retain much of the sun’s heat, cool pavements reflect 5-40 percent of sunlight (there is no industry standard), and/or facilitate water evaporation. For example, one might use a lighter color of material to reflect the sun or use a pervious concrete to increase the permeability of the pavement .In addition to reducing the heat island effect, cool pavements also lower tire noise and increase road visibility at night.

5. Painting structures white or lighter colors

Currently, only 23 states have initiatives to reduce the temperatures and effects of  heat islands.   Oklahoma is not one of them. For more information on heat islands, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.


[i] Basara, J.B., Hall, P.K., Jr., Cheresnick, D.R., & Schroeder, A.J. (2003). An analysis of the Oklahoma City urban heat island. Oklahoma Climatological Survey. University of Oklahoma.

[ii] Basara, J.B., Hall, P.K., Jr., Cheresnick, D.R., & Schroeder, A.J. (2003). An analysis of the Oklahoma City urban heat island. Oklahoma Climatological Survey. University of Oklahoma.

Photo Credit-  Tobias1983