Green Living is one of the hallmarks of the UUCNH community. As we look toward 2022 and the work that we are doing for our Green Sanctuary certification, here are some of the things that you can do in your home to be more green in your lifestyle
The Environmental Working Group and Pesticides
A quick tour shows the “dirty dozen” crops that absorb pesticides most greedily. Strawberries head the list (strawberry samples showed between 10 and 22 pesticide residues). Others include popular fruits (pears, nectarines, apples, grapes) and vegetables (peppers, spinach, potatoes, celery, tomatoes). A more cheerful read can be found with the “Clean Fifteen,” products that you can trust even if conventionally grown. Fortunately, these include some great health supports: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, honeydew melons, cantaloupes, kiwis and onions. A modest donation earns you a pair of ‘bag tags’ with these lists, and a visit to the EWG website yields more information on each item—as well as more detail about pesticides. Two examples that are banned in Europe: atrazine, found in U.S. water, and permethrin, a neurotoxic bug killer detected on three-quarters of U.S. spinach samples. Monsanto has mounted a campaign to discredit this group’s research, so it’s worth spreading the word about the good work they are doing to inform us and protect the environment.
Green Living – Food Storage
Some time ago, we posted a tip about using compostable “etee” wraps for food storage. One reader sensibly pointed out that these wraps are opaque, which can lead to waste. Of course, clear glass containers provide an ideal solution. But I’ll offer another thought, if cautiously. We’ve all seen those cute little containers that look like a tomato, onion, pepper, or garlic. I have adopted a set, and they’ve saved any number of small veggies from oblivion; plus, they have greatly reduced my need for saran wrap or zip-lock bags. They are practically indestructible, and they never ‘disappear’ in the fridge.
One family-based company, Hutzler, makes these and guarantees that none of their products contain BPA; the company plans to switch to using more metal, but in the meantime, they back the safety and quality of their materials. Other providers offer similar assurances.
So if your tomatoes and other things have a habit of migrating to the back of the fridge and turning into an unpleasant mess, these containers just might be worth a try.
Preserve Freshness, Prevent Waste
Ethylene gas, given off by produce as it ripens, can sometimes be helpful (putting an unripe fruit next to an apple, a high ethylene producer, can help ripen the new fruit). But more often, this gas hastens spoilage and causes waste. A product called “bluapple” has been getting excellent reviews for its ability to absorb ethylene gas and make produce last much longer. It comes as small, blue fruit-shaped containers with packets inside that contain sodium permanganate with a ‘carrier’ of volcanic ash. Placed in a produce storage area, this packet absorbs ethylene gas for about three months, after which it can be replaced, and the used contents put into the garden or compost. The website, www.theblueapple.com contains ethylene production information and advice on storage for scores of individual fruits and vegetables. There’s also a ‘white paper’ with links to relevant research, charts, and chemical formulas. Nearly as well-rated online are “dualplex fruit and veggie life extenders,” foam mats that improve air circulation in fridge drawers.
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Fund, reported in 2015, claimed that Americans discard 35 million tons of food per year, mostly due to spoilage and over-purchasing. So if we all bought less, used freshness-preserving methods, and supported groups that get food to needy people, we could do a lot for the health of both humans and the planet.
Green Living – Plastics
Plastics are everywhere: 299 million tons of plastics are produced annually; 6.3 billion metric tons, or about three-quarters of recent production, is now waste, with 79 percent of that ending up in landfills, as litter, and in the ocean. Experts predict that the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, by weight, by mid-century: each year, the ocean takes in enough plastics to fill five grocery bags of plastic for every foot of coastline globally. By about 2050, landfills will hold an amount of plastic that weighs 35,000 times as much as the Empire State Building. Percent of plastics recycled: Europe, 30 percent; China, 25 percent; U.S. 9 percent. Plastics take 400 years to decompose.
Scientists have found that the larvae of some waxworms (a moth evolved to eat wax in bee hives) can eat plastic, which has a similar chemical composition. But this discovery is recent, involves very small scale, and is years away from practical development.
What can we do? First, get informed. “Safe” plastics rated 1 should not be heated or reused. Nos 3, 6 (Styrofoam), and 7 should be avoided. No. 4, Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is not recyclable. No. 7 simply means “everything else,” so is poorly understood.
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UUCNH, located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and now serving the world through the Internet is a great place to find support and the friendship of other like-minded individuals and families. Why not use the form below to get more information about our church community?