The Garbage Patch

Today is World Environment Day, first designated by the United Nations in 1974 to bring about awareness and to inspire people to take action to protect the environment. This year’s theme is plastic, so let’s talk a little about that.

Halfway between California and Hawaii, and floating just under the surface of the ocean is a soupy mix of trash and debris that has grown to more than twice the size of Texas. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, most of this mass of trash is made up of plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags, and such things as toothbrushes, printer ink cartridges, syringes, and children’s toys. Most of this trash is generated onshore when discarded items find their way into sewers and storm drains and then are picked up by ocean currents that sweep it into the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This trash has been collecting there in a slowly swirling, ever-growing mass since the 1950s.

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Boosting Your Immune System?

Wander around online and anywhere else that products are advertised and you will find hundreds of claims about boosting the immune system to ward off colds, flu and other illnesses. There are lists of vitamin supplements and specific foods that are said to do that very thing. But, it’s complicated…

If you look further you’ll find researchers who say that these claims are exaggerated. According to Charles Bangham, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, the immune system is a very complex system of different types of cells that interact to fight off bacteria and viruses. In other words, it would take more than just eating a certain food or taking a particular vitamin or mineral to affect your immune system in any meaningful way. I’ve been researching this subject and had actually hoped to find studies that show the immune system could be strengthened through diet. Sadly, I have not found good evidence that this is the case.

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Doing the Wash – Part 2

My last post was about laundry soaps and how making your own is healthier – for you and for the planet – than using conventional detergents. In today’s post I continue to trash-talk conventional laundry products, only this time it’s about bleach and fabric softeners.

I get that you want your white socks to be white not gray, but you only have to take a whiff of chlorine bleach to know that it can’t be good for you. Chlorine bleach irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs, and can be fatal if swallowed. It has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, immune dysfunction, and hormone disruption. It aggravates asthma and allergies, and is just as dangerous to pets and birds as it is to humans.

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Doing the Wash – Part 1

Some of us don’t mind grabbing the cleanest pair of dirty jeans off the floor on occasion (and I may or may not have ever done this), but most people would rather put on clean clothes to start their day. Unfortunately, the products we use to get those clean and fresh-smelling clothes are full of all kinds of nasty chemicals – things that are unhealthy for us and for the environment.

To start with, there is a big difference between soap and detergent. Soap has been around for thousands of years and at first it was made by boiling fats and ashes together. Later, higher quality soaps were made using olive-oil. During World War I there was a shortage of fats and oils so detergents were created in labs using petroleum as a base for the surfactant, the chemical that makes the bubbles, along with other chemicals.

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Clearing the Clutter

There really is a connection between stress and having too much stuff! When we look around a cluttered room it’s easy to feel bad about our lack of organization, tense because we don’t know where to start, and maybe even guilty at the accumulation of so many things we don’t really use.

There are a ton of books and websites these days to let us know about the benefits of de-cluttering and the various ways to do it. Nearly all of them mention that if you put your stuff away and tidy up once in a while you will lower your stress level and increase your focus and concentration.

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