environmentalism

Protecting Yourself and Marine Environments – Summer Skin Care

Featured image from National Geographic – (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080129-sunscreen-coral.html)

Going diving in a reef? Heading in the ocean for a cool down or body surfing? Common summer vacation trends, yet we do not always think about the consequences of our protection measures. The sun and UVA/UVB rays are harmful to skin, no doubt about that. What there is doubt about is whether our vacation habits, whether they be sunscreen or body oil for tanning, are not impacting the ocean when we carry those products in the water with us.

Re-application for any summer skin product, especially sunscreen, means that at some point that product comes off of our skin in the water. Unlike a bathing suit that sometimes slips off in a big wave, or the socks I’ve seen floating in the water, the compounds from these products cannot just be picked out of the water. The chemical components of your coconut oil blend for tanning or your SPF 100+ remain in the water, and are having devastating impacts on marine ecosystems, like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Divers and tourists alike commonly coat themselves in skin protection before diving, which creates a direct pollution source of chemicals being introduced into the water that all of the coral, fish, whales, and endangered species native to that area are then exposed to. These compounds are seen as changing the acidity of the ocean water, which makes it difficult for coral to survive. Their protective algae layer, with enough environmental stress, will eventually die or remove itself from the coral; this strips the coral not only of its protection but of its food source as well, because corals are primary producers that rely on the products of photosynthesis for food. Primary producers also support the rest of the food chain, so needless to say these aquatic environments are in danger.

Reef protection is a whole other conversation, and is a subject worthy of a novel and not a singular blog post. Sun protection, as I have found, is a lot more thorough and easier to manage with wearing of surf clothing and something more than a string bikini. I’m not condemning showing off your beach body, but I am condemning polluting the environment. Rash guards, UVA/UVB guards that are not chemically treated – both of these things offer more protective and reliable sun protection than sunscreen anyway. Studies have also shown that most sunscreens that claim to be above SPF 40 or SPF 50 offer no more protection than basic level sunscreen. If sun protection is something you are concerned about, it is worth considering the switch. I have had multiple skin surgeries due to sun damage from when I was younger, and I am much happier and have had more successful results with a longsleeve surf shirt and shorts than I have had with sunscreen protecting me, even when applied thoroughly. I can also go in the ocean with a clean conscience now as well.

As for the tanners out there, the same goes. Dipping into the ocean after a tanning session may seem wonderful, but at what cost to all the species that frequently habituate the ocean? It’s as easy as taking a quick rinse to get that body oil off before you go in, or maybe try to differentiate your tanning sessions from your swimming or surfing sessions.

The bigger picture here is that when you enter the ocean, you’re entering the home of millions of species. Probably billions. These species have no other place to go, and we are guests to their habitats and environments. If you had a house guest that came in and dumped some kind of chemical there that ruined your food, would you invite them back? Certainly not. The species that live in the ocean have door they can lock, they have no way of keeping us out. So we have to maintain a respectful treatment of their environment while we visit, or else we will be responsible for destroying their homes and the species themselves.

Here are some quick shopping links and informative links. I personally bought my sun gear from Athleta and have not been disappointed with quality at all, so I included the link to their gear. It is a little pricey, so there are some cheaper options out there, and I included an article or two about ocean pollution:

 

environmentalism

GMOs – greatly monocultured obstinance

Featured image from Earth Justice – (http://earthjustice.org/features/engineering-an-environmental-disaster-2)

The dreaded GMO, or genetically modified organism.

Cause of high debate levels and discord among the trending vegan or environmental movements, scientists, and consumers alike. Working in retail in a bath & beauty shop, I cannot count how many times I get asked these questions in succession: “Are your products organic?” followed by “are your products GMO free?”

I believe the argument against GMOs in terms of health and human welfare are largely formed without any literature, any research, and any background. There is no evidence or research that proves that consuming or relying on GMOs as a food source or in your everyday healthcare or beauty products will cause any kind of harm. The strains of fruits and vegetables that we eat every day are in some way, shape or form GMOs. In order to get certain crops to survive in new climates or against invasive pests, their genetic structures have to be modified. If you use cotton or flax, eat tomatoes, or smoke/chew tobacco – guess what? It’s been genetically modified at some point in its existence. Most crops in the United States have been at some point or another, and there is still no linkage of health issues to what we have been eating. There is more literature on how meat consumption is linked to health issues, so before you hoist the ”anti-GMO” flag for health concerns, maybe consider switching around health priorities.

The argument against GMOs and in terms of the environment however, is a different story. With certain crops or plants, GMOs are considered necessary in order for the strain to survive without using pesticides or insecticides. This leaves herbicides, or the chemicals used to destroy “weeds”, that are then used to create what we have been taught is the perfect agricultural situation. Herbicides cause immediate damage to the environment around them by killing pollinators and then getting left behind in the soil. Chemicals in the soil then become part of the water cycle through runoff and cause damage to aquatic ecosystems. So really the focus against GMOs should primarily be how they contribute to harm in all ecosystems, not that we may get cancer from it. One of these is proven to be true, one of this is entirely hearsay.

A large part of the cause for the bee population decline is due to pesticide and herbicide usage, yet humans are more concerned about non-existent health issues from genetic modification. Monarch butterflies accidentally ingest herbicides and pesticides and are dying off at exponential rates; this species is at risk for extinction. Another issue for that population is that native milkweed (NOT tropical milkweed) is considered a weed to humans because it is not pretty colors or elaborate in its leaf patterns, so we automatically get rid of it. This plant is necessary for the monarch’s growth and life cycle; the plant has compounds in it that help the larvae form the exoskeleton of the butterfly. How should these insects, and vital parts of our environment, feel when we are raising a ruckus about a non-existent problem, but then destroy their habitats and food and spray them with chemicals for our own benefit?

This debate is a prime example of humans picking up an environmental cause for human concern and not the bigger issue: the environmental concern. I am definitely pro-GMO for human consumption because there is no reason to fear them. I am definitely anti-GMO for what it does to the world around me. The greater lesson here is to fight for a cause for something more than yourself, and seriously do research before you stick a bunch of bumper stickers on your car and talk about how you’re so anti-GMO. Be anti-GMO for the right reasons, not the non-existent ones.

Articles for further reading that come from credible sources (which is highly important in this argument):

environmentalism

Palm Oil Consumption – Orangutans or Oreos?

Featured image from National Geographic -(http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141009-orangutans-palm-oil-malaysia-indonesia-tigers-rhinos/)

 

Let’s take a trip to the grocery store. An average shopper looks for the typical vegetables and fruits, main course ingredients, dessert, and snack food. Let’s fill up our cart: bean burgers, lettuce, orange juice, maybe some Halo Top ice cream that has a high protein content, certain snack food products like Oreos and Cheez-Its…all of these easily make their way into our carts. Maybe we browse the ingredient content, maybe we do not. There are ingredients people actively look to avoid, like high fructose corn syrup or a really high sugar content, because of personal health concerns and what it does to our bodies. What we do not always take into consideration is how that specific product impacts the environment or other animals on this planet. That Halo Top we put in our cart earlier, those Oreos and those Cheez-Its, they all contain one ingredient that hurts not only the environment, but our relatives the orangutans as well: Palm oil.

Also known as Palm Kernel oil, this ingredient is not only used in the food industry, but also personal care and beauty products. All of the ones I use are handmade and produce their sources, so there are not any I have a specific list of at the moment. In food, it is used as a vegetable oil for cooking, and sometimes for flavor benefits. Big commercial companies often exploit poorer countries (i.e. Indonesia), where people are willing to burn down the rainforests and destroy habitats in order to plant African oil palm trees, which are the parent plant of the palm fruit. The technique most commonly used to approach clearing the land is called slash and burn agriculture, where forests are set on fire and then the debris is cleared and the desired crop is planted. These smoke emissions also contribute to air pollution and climate change, especially when it is hundred of acres burning for days.

The word “orangutan” means “person of the forest,” so naturally this forest clearing is a huge issue for these species. These animals can live anywhere from 30 to 40 years in the wild, and are native to Sumatra and Borneo, both of which are being cleared for palm oil plantations. There are two species of orangutan, both named for their native regions, and both considered “endangered” or “critically endangered.” A critically endangered species is one that scientists declare at risk of extinction in the near future, while endangered species are slightly better off. So to summarize, these magnificent creatures are at risk of survival because we as humans are not using ethical sources for our ingredients, nor are we taking the time to educate ourselves about the world around us.

Humans tend to think that because we are at the top of the food chain that our actions are condoned, even when it is killing off other species. This is false. Even though not all of us share an environment directly with orangutans, we are responsible for supporting the industries and companies that are fueling their loss of homes and their deaths.

So what do we do? We STOP supporting companies who refuse to investigate where their palm oil is coming from and ones that refuse to switch to more ethical sources. We petition and write to companies whose products we love to make these concerns heard. We do support companies who take the time to source their palm oil ethically, and in some cases, we look for other products. Personally, I prefer Ben & Jerry’s to Halo Top anyway. Many corporations are taking note of customer concerns involving the environment lately, and that means now is the time to make your voice heard and take a stand for those who do not have a voice in our economy, and who are at risk to lose their voice in our environment.

The following links are ones that discuss what companies are using palm oil, which are using ethically sourced, and what consumers should be looking for to ensure that their palm oil products are not responsible for any deaths.

environmentalism · vegetarianism

Why Am I Not a Vegan?

[I promise that all of the posts this blog produces will not entirely follow diet trends]

As of right now,  I’ve given up my leather products, meat, any animal cruelty cosmetics and body care products, invested in reusable water bottles, and recycle constantly. I also make sure I stay on top of reading and learning about environmental issues, and trying to communicate them to other people.

After so many ooh’s and ah’s about the length of my vegetarianism, there have been people who definitely treat me as if I am half-assing my activism, and take the time to ask me why I am not a vegan, or if I have tried it, or if I have switched to that diet. Sometimes condescendingly, sometimes not condescendingly. I didn’t really have an answer at the time, so figured it was something worth looking into. Aside from it being a relatively expensive lifestyle choice, I wanted to do research. Could I healthily and eco-consciously make the switch? I spent hours upon hours of reading, product browsing, and weighing the benefits against my current vegetarian status.

So here is my answer. As an environmentally-minded person, I believe vegetarianism is the better solution for a healthy planet. Veganism relies heavily on soy-based product and substitution, and increased need for those crops fuels deforestation. Soy is also a crop that destroys the nutrient and mineral composition of the soil, so it takes a lot of fertilizer and planting of other crops after the soy has been cleared to restore any semblance of health to the fields. With these two very important factors, I found it unnecessary to switch to veganism to affirm my status as an enviro-activist to please those who consider themselves better than me in the fight for the planet. Do I agree with how a lot of animals in the dairy/egg/etc. industries are treated? No, absolutely not, but I do see animal activism and environmental activism as two separate things. Yes, vegan diets do eliminate the needs for those industries, but what do you sacrifice in return? To me, the current number of natural lands (i.e. the forests being destroyed for soy crops) is already too low and is not something we will see replenished or regrown in my lifetime. The added fertilizer requirements and additions to the soil to re-nourish those fields after soy is cleared also becomes a huge issue in terms of water pollution and how it impacts not just terrestrial ecosystems, but aquatic ones as well.

I’m slightly bitter about the way I’ve been approached by a lot of vegans, and I believe environmental protection is important to everyone, but if someone is doing something good for the planet and you believe you’re doing better, that does not give you the right to put that other person down or make them feel like they’re doing any less than you. We live in a society where the environment is something we see through screens and sometimes forget is a tangible object that we are responsible for and interacting with, whether it be by hiking or driving in a car. There are definitely right and wrong ways of approaching activism, but it all boils down to education, research, and opinion. My opinion is that vegan diets are too heavily based on deforesting crops like soy, and therefore do not do any better in the field of eco-friendliness than being a vegetarian does. There is always room for growth and improvement, there is always room for changing opinion, but right now mine stands as it is. I respect vegans, other vegetarians, people who promote environmental protection without modifying their diet. We are all a part of this earth, and we all should be individually and collectively working to protect it without making enemies and snubbing people because of their diet labels.

environmentalism

Vegetarianism & Me

I have been a vegetarian for at least 8 years. At least twice a year, I get asked “so you don’t eat cheese or eggs either?” so to start this post, we’re just going to do a quick and easy definition/vocabulary session.

A vegetarian by definition does not consume any meat, whether it be white meat, red meat, or fish. Vegetarianism is branched out into three separate categories: vegetarian, pollotarian, and pescatarian. Pollotarians consume only white meat, like chicken and turkey, while pescatarians consume fish as their only meat source.

On the other hand, a vegan is someone who does not eat or use animal products at all. These are the people who take a step beyond eliminating meat from their diet and also excludes dairy, eggs, gelatin, etc. from their daily food consumption.

The second most-asked question I receive is “so you only eat salads all the time, right?” Absolutely wrong. While I do enjoy a good salad, a strictly vegetable salad is not a good way to consume protein. Alternate protein sources normally include beans, nuts, some yogurts, quinoa, eggs, and soy. Every year that I have been a vegetarian, my iron levels and bloodwork turn out perfect. This means that I am not missing out on nutrients, which is a super common misconception that comes with a vegetarian diet. Certain Google searches bring up images of emaciated people with titles like “Why Vegetarianism is Bad for You”, but in truth, it is only bad for you if you cannot properly manage your diet. Being a vegetarian does not mean laying around eating just potato chips; you have to actively do research and find alternative protein sources and continue to balance what you eat, just without the hot dogs.

That being said, converting to vegetarianism does not always have to be an expensive or difficult process. Two of the substitutions I’ve personally found to be better than the originals are replacing meat in lasagna with spinach, and bean burgers for hamburgers. Studies continue proving that red meat is not beneficial for humans, and the more research is done the more that burger, that steak, that bacon – is linked to health defects like heart disease and high cholesterol. Full conversions are not always necessary either; I know plenty of people who do a set number of meat-less/vegetarian meals a week. But there is a cause greater than your personal health for eliminating meat: industrial agriculture.

Raising cows, pigs, even chickens requires so much land, so much food, so much water, and creates so much waste that it is considered one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The planet’s population goes up, food requirements go up, you can do the math from there. Studies have been done showing world hunger/starvation rates decreasing drastically if we took the grain and plants used to fatten up meat animals to feed people instead. Aside from the pretty blatant mistreatment of animals, think about the amount of waste they produce that goes into the air, ground, and water that the rest of us live with. Manure does not smell good in the first place, but when it gets tied to destroying the ozone, for me at least, there is all the more reason to decrease the amount of it in the air.

Humans are also tertiary consumers, which means we are higher up on the food chain than other organisms. It is also proven and a known fact in the scientific community that the higher up on the food chain you are, the less energy and nutrient content you actually get from your food. How do you solve that? Start eating more primary producers – aka: plants.

These are just the overall reasons and arguments that I find strongest in the argument for conversion to vegetarianism. I know there are people out there who won’t give up their bacon, and I’m not saying you have to entirely. Decreasing your meat consumption by a few days a week and finding ethical, local sources for your meat are two steps in the right direction. I’m not trying to shove my spinach down your throat – I am tossing it in with some facts and offering it to you as something to graze on and think about.

 

  • All of the information presented in this post is fact compiled from personal yet credible research. Please comment to request source links for specific details and I will be more than happy to provide them.
  • Here are some other articles I recommend that discuss vegetarianism:
    • “Weekday Vegetarians” by TIME – http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2010180,00.html
    • “Vegetarianism” by Kid’s Health – http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/vegetarianism.html
    • “Digging a Vegetarian Diet” by the National Institutes of Health – https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2012/Feature1
environmentalism

First blog post

This is exciting!

For a while, I have been looking for a way to reach out and promote environmentalism without just sharing factual articles or ranting on Facebook. This forum will open up a way for me to share ideas, promote products, and just discuss environmentalism as it applies to me, you, and the world around us.