Climate change is not just a concern of a few or confined to certain regions of the Earth. Rather, it is a serious threat that affects all mankind.  Each of us, citizens of the Earth, has contributed to the accumulation of carbon footprints.  And so, let us do something to restore and repair the damage that you and I have caused.  Let’s start from home and our immediate surroundings by at least minimizing our waste.

When we speak of waste, we refer to those materials that have lost their values in our lives and have no more economic values.  In other words, they are the things that we most likely would want to discard.

There are actually different types of waste, namely: bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, special hazardous waste.

Biomedical waste are those trash resulting from clinical activities, such as from the medical, dental, nursing, pharmaceutical, skin penetration, and other similar enterprises.

Hazardous waste, meanwhile, refers to trash that poses threat to human health and the environment.

I am rather interested to talk about municipal waste because it is something that you and I commonly produce everyday at home.

Minding the 3Rs: Recycle, Re-use, and Reduce  

Municipal waste includes our household trash , commercial garbage, and demolition junk. I seriously urge everyone to participate in managing our household waste by recycling materials, and re-using those things that can still be utilized for other purposes in order that we may reduce the amount of garbage at landfills.

Many of us may be wondering just how biodegradable or non-biodegradable are the products we commonly use at home.  For this reason, I decided to share what researchers have discovered regarding the decomposition time of the products we use everyday.

Plastic bags
Plastic bags: 200 to 1,000 years
Monofilament fishing line
Monofilament fishing line: 600 years
Disposable diapers: 550 years
Aluminum cans
Aluminum cans: 200 to 500 years
Plastic bottles
Plastic bottles: 450 years
Plastic containers: 50 to 80 years
Rubber-boot soles
Rubber-boot soles: 50 to 80 years
Foamed plastic cups
Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
Tinned steel cans
Tinned steel cans: 50 years
Leather shoes
Leather shoes: 25 to 40 years
Cigarette butts
Cigarette butts: 10 to 12 years
Milk cartons
Milk cartons: 5 years
Wool socks
Wool socks: 1 to 5 years
Plywood
Plywood: 1 to 3 years
Orange peels
Orange peels:  6 months
Cotton gloves
Cotton gloves: 3 months
Cardboard
Cardboard: 2 months
Apple core
Apple core: 2 months
Newspapers
Newspapers: 1.5 months
Paperbags
Paper bags: 1 month
Banana peels
Banana peels: 3 to 4 weeks
Paper towels
Paper towels: 2 to 4 weeks

Plastic bags, the commonest and most ubiquitous items in every household, are very popular among consumers and retailers because they are cheap, strong, functional, lightweight, and convenient to carry. But beyond its usefulness is its apparent danger and threat to human health, other living organisms, and the environment.  Since these materials take a very long time to decompose (in fact, we don’t get to live long enough to witness its decomposition), plastics tend to pile up in landfills once they are used.

Each year, an alarmingly increasing number of used plastic bags find their way into parks, streets, beaches, waterways, and finally, into oceans.  Some people even try to get rid of these plastic bags by burning them, consequently infusing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.  

Studies show that plastic bags that get to the oceans are responsible for killing around 100,000 animals such as dolphins, whales, turtles, other fishes, and penguins every year through suffocation and ingestion, as they mistake these materials for food.  It was even found that the ingested plastic bags remain intact inside the animal’s body even when the latter has long died and decomposed. Besides, production of plastic bags requires around 60 to 100 million barrels of oil each year.

Oil and other petroleum products are non-renewable resources and they are already alarmingly diminishing and costly by the day. Therefore, it is now imperative – and I’m urging everyone – to minimize our use of these non-biodegradable containers.  While governments and some shop owners have implemented a ban on the use of plastic bags, we, as individual consumers, can also do our share of reducing the amount of plastic bags in landfills and saving our environment by using environmentally friendly alternative packets.

Let’s start making it a habit to bring along a tote bag or eco-green bag each time we buy our groceries and other goods. Did you know that an environmentally friendly bag can be reused for more than a hundred times?  That means a lot to help reduce the amount of plastic bags in landfills.

Waste management: it’s everybody’s concern


Waste management should be a concerted effort of each and every member of a community, and not a responsibility of the local government alone.  For everyone is responsible in messing up with Nature.  In Iligan City,  it seems extremely difficult to enforce a waste management program because of the divisive political views of both those in power and the constituents.

Sendong IliganIligan City in the southern part of the Philippines was one of the hardest hit by typhoon “Sendong” (international name, Washi) that triggered a flash flood and landslide in the area, and claimed over a thousand lives on December 17, 2011.  The tragedy was blamed heavily on illegal logging, improper waste disposal, and other natural disaster-causing elements. Because of this, the newly-elected local government officials are trying to implement a waste management program to prevent the tragedy from happening again.  But sadly, many are skeptical, and even adamant, about the proposed project initiated by the city’s newly-elected mayor.

When politics gets the upper hand

The new mayor, retired Col. Celso Regencia, pointed out in his electoral campaign earlier that garbage has always been one of the major problems in Iligan City, and (as usual) promised that he would do something about it if elected.  And true to his promise, he issued an Executive Order regarding the collection and proper disposal of garbage, which took effect on September 1, 2013.

But the problem is: his Councilors and even the vice mayor are adamant about implementing the Executive Order, citing too many reasons and issues – from lack of funds to communication problem to the grassroots level. Other related issues also propped up, most salient of which is funding that has been misused by the previous administration.  Even as government officials squabble over the Executive Order issue, constituents are also divided on who to follow.  And this is why up until the present, Iligan City is yet to see a properly implemented waste management program.

I recall, in the early morning following the flood, I saw for myself the tons of garbage strewn all over most parts of the city – plastic, bottles, all sorts of wrappers and packaging materials, enormous logs, appliances, etc… – not to mention the lifeless bodies of both animals and humans – you can find it anywhere!  It was indeed a horror to witness the effects of people’s indifference to the environment.  Being an environmentalist, it created a profound impact on me. I could only utter, ‘I wish you all learn from this’ at the time.

The tragedy also created a sort of realization among government authorities and the people of Iligan, in general.  They became fierce about stopping illegal logging and bringing to book those responsible for it, rebuilding their homes and lives, and a bit of concern about waste disposal.  But unfortunately, though, the impetus I saw right after the storm has gradually died down.

And, the Executive Order?  I don’t know anymore what has become of it!  I think it’s now in the back burner again as the government officials continue to squabble over matters that might threaten their political standing among their constituents. What about the supposedly massive information drive about garbage disposal?

I’ve witnessed how a significant number of homeowners are either not keen about segregation as they see it as an additional task, or simply they are not aware of the essence of the proper disposal of garbage.  I was appalled by a resident’s comment when I asked her opinion about garbage segregation.  Without batting an eyelash she said, “Ah, I have no time for such thing, I would rather find other ways to dispose of my garbage than doing that time-consuming segregation.”

Obviously, the city government has still a very long way to make this Executive Order successful. First and foremost, politics has to be set aside.  Second, it needs the active participation of all its residents.  And, to get them involved in this important endeavor, the people must thoroughly understand the essence of waste management.

This leads me, then, to write this blog, hoping to help in the dissemination of the importance of proper disposal of common household trash.  And I am not addressing this only to the people of Iligan City but to all citizens of the world.

Why should we dispose of our trash properly?

Plastic, styrofoam, used electronic devices, and other waste materials strewn anywhere or thrust into rivers, streams, and other waterways can hamper the flow of water into its final destination.  The accumulated water will then find other course and overflow into the streets and other areas where it is not supposed to get into.  Besides, our trash serves as breeding ground for germs and insects, eventually causing the spread of several diseases.

Many of our household wastes are poisonous, and when discarded improperly, it may cause contamination and even death of people and other living organisms.

How to dispose of your household waste?

Segregation 2Segregate.  Separate your household waste according to biodegradable (nabubulok in Tagalog, malata in Cebuano or Bisaya); non-biodegradable (hindi nabubulok, or dili malata), and toxic waste, like used batteries. Assign a particular container, with color codes if necessary, for each category. Some localities assign Green for biodegradable materials, Yellow for Non-biodegradable, and Black for toxic wastes.  

Make a compost pit.  If you live in the rural area, or if your surrounding allows for it, make a compost pit where you can dump your biodegradable wastes.  By doing so, you will be generating fertilizer out of your unwanted items. Besides, composting our food scraps, paper, wood, waste, and yard trimmings, can tremendously cut down on the amount of garbage that would otherwise sit on landfills, serving as fodder for disease-carrying insects and rodents.

Recycle, Reuse and Reduce.  We can greatly help our environment if we make it a habit to recycle, reuse, and reduce household trash.  These are the key elements in which we can considerably minimize our production of waste.  Read Going Green Starts at Home for some helpful tips in reducing your impact on the environment.

Install a garburator.  Another way of eliminating food waste at home is by installing a garburator or garbage disposal unit under your sink. Here is how it works.

The average cost of a 1/3 horsepower-motor residential garbage disposal unit is usually around Php 2,200 to Php 5,000, depending on where you purchase it.  Nevertheless, it is important to shop around first for the appropriate unit that best suits your requirements. Beware, though, of the cheapest garburator; it might not perform the way you want it to be.

Cooperate.  Proper waste management is not a sole responsibility of the government or your barangay officials. Each person, young and old, who belongs to a certain community is responsible for maintaining cleanliness in his own area.  Let not politics, which seems to have eaten much of the fabric of development, get in the way to a cleaner Iligan City. What the community needs now is  political will to move forward!

Again, if only we strongly WILL to resolve the garbage issue and its consequential problems, we CAN actually materialize a cleaner environment and a healthier lifestyle – and we would be surprised to know that there are several ways to accomplish it! But, if we remain unwilling and passive, we will forever cling to nasty excuses!

Admittedly though, waste management is a legally, technically, and commercially complex system, not to mention initially expensive.  The local authorities, has to set specific dump sites for all the wastes, define a systematic way of collecting garbage, and spend for recycling facilities, to name a few.  But these should not stop us from doing our part as citizens of the earth and in our own locality.

As the saying goes, “Improvement begins with I, not Y”.  So, let’s get moving!  Besides, we don’t want to have a repeat of Sendong, Pablo, Ondoy, or Yolanda, do we?

First Option: Reduce Waste at Home

Even as we consciously make an effort to dispose of our garbage properly, we should also make it our primary concern to minimize our waste.  This way, we not only reduce our carbon footprints, but we also cut down on our expenses and bills.  Here are some helpful ideas that you might want to consider.

  • When buying new products, try to choose the better quality or more durable items, instead of opting for the cheaply-made or disposable ones.  The seemingly ‘high price’ you pay for the item will actually give you your money’s worth as you get to use the product for a longer period.
  • See if your old or broken items can still be repaired or restored before deciding to replace them.
  • Purchase products that can be reused for a long time.  For example, it is more practical to buy china or enamel crockery than paper plates and bowls.  It is also way better to pack your children’s school lunches in reusable containers with cover.
  • Buy products packed in recyclable containers, such as beverages in returnable bottles or packaging.
  • Buy your consumable goods in bulk to avoid unnecessary or excess packaging.
  • If you have some unwanted items in your home, you may give it to someone who might need it, or you may sell, or donate it.
  • If you need to purchase paints, pesticides, or other chemical-based materials, make sure to get just enough amount you need; otherwise, share the leftover with your neighbor or other people. This way, you are able to reduce toxic waste at home.

These are but a handful of many ways to reduce household wastes.  For sure, you also have your own ideas to share.  And, as we make this a daily habit, there’s no doubt that we will still discover more options to better manage our household trash.

Friendship knows no boundaries


Each creation is part of the ecosystem.  No matter what species you belong, you have an important purpose of being on this planet we call Earth.  It is worthwhile, then, to respect each species despite our differences.

See how domestic animals interrelate with wildlife!  Let us then be conscious and respect the rights of others – be they animals or plants – by creating a conducive place for each one of us to live.  Let us preserve wildlife!

If animals can come into a mutual relationship with different species, why can’t we humans do?  We are supposed to be endowed with intellect, reason, and a unique heart that is capable of loving, but we seemed to be acting like wild beasts when it comes to relating with Nature’s creation.

Wildlife: why should we care about it?


Save Wildlife
 
They are fierce!
They hurt people!
So why should we care to save the beasts that will only harm us?

Yes, it’s true, wild animals can hurt us.  But, ironically though, our very lives are interrelated to their existence.  Everything and everyone depends on wild species, either directly or indirectly. All animals – including us, humans – and all green plants depend on micro-organisms cycling the chemical components necessary for life, even as several plants bank on insects and other animals for fertilization and dispersal.  

Besides, the crops from which we get our food, and the domestic animals we raise for pets and/or for consumption descend from wildlife.  To sum it all up, all organisms are like parts of a human body with each part dependent upon others, and losing even one part would significantly create an imbalance.  

Wildlife is part of God’s Creation, they have the right to live just as humans do.

Animals are silent witnesses to global warming


Scientists warned that mass extinction of wild animals is likely to happen in the near future due to global warming. In fact, it has already started creating significant changes in climatic conditions that threaten species in different parts of the world.

Polar Bears

Polar bears depend on sea ice because they use it as a platform for resting, and to catch their prey – the seals. Sadly, some studies have revealed that the Arctic sea ice melt at an alarming rate of nine percent each decade, threatening the animals’ habitat and their existence. The increasing temperatures considerably cause the floating platforms to move farther apart and transform the once frozen areas of the ocean to become open water. These conditions make it difficult and dangerous for polar bears to swim long distances between stable ice. 

Unless we, humans, do something to make the pace of global warming slower, polar bears could just disappear in the wild.

 

Sea Turtles

Rising temperatures and the noticeably increasing sea levels pose threats on the lives of the world’s sea turtles.  In fact, six of its kinds are already listed among the Endangered Species, namely: the green turtles, hawksbills, loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, Olive ridleys, and the leather backs.

sea turtlesFemale turtles come ashore to lay their eggs at nesting beaches, make their nests under the sand, lay their eggs there, and then return to the ocean.  They have the unique ability to return to the same nesting beaches over and over for years because their memories seem to have been “stamped” with a magnetic map of the place where they hatch.

But with the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising sea levels, those beaches where they used to visit for their nesting ritual are beginning to disappear under water.

Likewise, the rising temperature consequently increases the thermal reading of the sand, which plays a significant role in determining the sex of the turtles’ eggs.  Hotter sand alters the natural sex ratios of hatchlings.  The upper limit for egg incubation is at 34ºC. But when the sand temperature becomes hotter, it results to more female hatchlings.

Moreover, extreme weather conditions associated with climate change lead to continual and severe storms, causing beach erosion, alteration on turtles’ nesting areas, and inundation of their nests.

right whaleNorth Atlantic Right Whales

Characterized as having a massive body and mostly black skin with pale patches on its head and belly, the North Atlantic Right Whale has been recorded as one of the rarest marine mammal species with an estimated population of way less than 500 individuals.

Its name was taken from the clue that it was the “good or right” whale to hunt for its slow movement, its inclination to come close to land, tendency to float after death, and for its abundant source of oil and baleen.

Historically, right whales have lived through both cooling and warming periods but the present global warming befalls at a much faster rate, exposing the cetacean to a high risk of heat stress.  Besides, climate change causes indirect impact on these whales by altering their prey resource, upsetting their calving intervals and the number of calves born each year.

Pollution is another factor that has significantly distressed the reproductive performance of the right whales and other cetaceans.

giant panda

Giant Pandas

Although, they possess the same digestive system of a carnivore, just like the other members of the bear family do, giant pandas rather live on a vegetarian diet, relying on bamboo for their main source of food. Its daily menu is ninety nine percent composed of leaves, shoots, and stems of the twenty different bamboo species. But sometimes, too, they do hunt for pikas, small rodents, and other plants.

Since bamboo has very minimal nutritional value, pandas have to eat around 12 to 38 kilograms of this staple food every day just to meet their energy requirements. This means they spend 14 hours a day eating.

Sadly though, scientists warned that some of the more than 100 varieties of bamboo are under threat of extinction due to the increasing global temperature; thus, indirectly affecting the giant pandas’ survival and existence, since these animals do not feed on all bamboo varieties.

orangutanOrangutans

Man of the Forest – that is what orangutan means!

The orangutans, Asia’s only ape, are at risk of extinction due to the effects of climate change. In fact, their number in the wild has remarkably dropped by fifty percent in the past decade. Their remaining habitats in the rain forests of Indonesia continually suffer from frequent and long droughts, and bush fires. Therefore, trees and plants no longer bear sufficient fruits, on which the orangutans feed on.

Besides, logging and mining industries are clearing the lowland rain forests, taking away their areas to find food and reducing their ability to freely move about in large radius.  Because of this, orangutans are forced to stay in one area and tend to deplete all food sources there.

How you and I may help slow down the rate of global warming

These are but few of the many animals that are silently trying to cope with the increasingly harsh environment.  But you and I can do something to reduce the rate of global warming. Here’s how:

  1. Let us actively practice the reduce, reuse, and recycle habit.
  2. Minimize the use of our heater and air-conditioning systems.
  3. Replace our regular light bulbs with compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs to save on energy.
  4. Drive less, walk more.
  5. Advocate energy-efficient products.
  6. Consume less hot water.
  7. Switch off light when not in use.
  8. Plant a tree whenever and wherever possible.
  9. Encourage family members, friends, associates, and neighbors to conserve.

Clean water is not everywhere


Water may be a renewable resource as it replenishes itself through rain. But we should bear in mind that only 3 percent of it is fresh, and only a third of this amount is potable. The rest of the Earth’s water is part of the ice caps and glaciers.  Over 700 million people in the world, especially those in populous states, don’t have access to improve water source.  Thus, it is imperative for all of us citizens in the world to be frugal in our use of water.

water 3
Water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases claim more than 3 million lives each year, 99% of whom are from the developing countries.

You don’t want to wake up one morning with this kind of water to wash your face with, let alone drink, do you?  

I’m not being grim here, but this can happen to us. Reality is that, at present, 780 million people in the world are already suffering from lack of access to potable water, which translates to a ratio of one in seven persons is deprived of it.

It is true that water is a renewable resource; but we should also take note that this basic life support is finite! Of the earth’s water resource, only 3 percent of it is fresh, the rest is salt water found in the ocean and seas, locked up in glaciers and constant snow cover. . Of this 3 percent fresh water, only a third is fit for drinking.  Research findings also show that water scarcity even occurs in areas that receive plenty of rainfall or freshwater. 

Here are more horrible facts related to world’s water condition:

  • Almost 4 million people die each year due to water-related water ailments, unsanitary conditions, and hygiene-related diseases. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths happen in developing countries.
  • In Africa alone, diarrhea kills five to ten times more people than war.
women carry water
Women and children in developing countries spend around 200 million hours a day fetching water from distant sources.Diarrhea is more widespread in developing countries because of their inadequate supply of clean drinking water and sanitation, aside from lack of access to life-saving treatment, hygiene, and nutritional condition.
  • Diarrhea claims a child’s life every 21 seconds.  Studies show that the disease is the second leading cause of death among children five years old and below. Because of inadequate access to fresh water source and sanitation, children’s death rate is equivalent to that of a jet airliner crashing every four hours.
  • Around 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation facilities or toilets, and around 1.2 billion of whom still resort to open defecation.
  • Contaminated drinking water, and poor sanitation and hygiene attribute to 88 percent of global cases of diarrhea.
  • An average toilet uses 8 liters of clean water in just one flush.
  • Studies made in 45 developing countries reveal that women and children bear the burden of collecting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning, and other uses in the household.  Most often, they have to travel an average of 3.7 miles (around 5.96 kilometers)  and spend untold hours daily waiting for their turn to collect water, often from polluted sources, and return home with around 40-pound jerry cans on their backs. Because of this responsibility, millions of them have to forego school or education, locking them in a cycle of poverty and unemployment. When the women get old, the girls have to carry on this task to provide such basic necessity for their respective families.
  • Around half of the world’s schools do not have clean water supply.
  • A simple washing of hands can significantly reduce the chance of diarrhea by around 35 percent.

Given these facts, what then should we do to solve and/or avoid potable water crisis?

As much as it is the duty of the local government to provide the community with water system and safeguard its quality, local residents must also cooperate in such an effort.

Protect the water supply.  Reduce or keep bacteria and other disease-causing organisms, nitrates, or synthetic organic chemicals from coming into your water sources by protecting your well or watershed.  In constructing your local well,  make sure that the ground around it slopes away so that rain and runoff water will not get into it.  Never allow surface water to flow down into the well.

Avoid and/or remove sources of contamination. Do not use pipes, fitting, and other fixtures that contain lead and other hazardous chemical compounds.  Keep your water sources away from possible sources of contamination, like industrial facilities, livestock holding areas, septic systems and sewage force mains, and underground storage tanks.

Apply water treatment.  To maintain a safe drinking water supply, you must treat your water regularly to eliminate bacteria and remove hard water and other mineral deposits. There is no single water treatment system, though, that can totally eliminate bacteria, but you can choose one that provides the advantages you want.

Develop new water supply.  Should you discover that your existing water supply is already contaminated by nitrate, fuel, pesticide, salt, or other organic chemicals, it is best recommended that you start developing a new source, or purchase from an existing water system.  Such move, though, requires assessment by geologists, engineers, and other professionals in the field to ensure that your new supply is safe and protected.

But above all these measures, we should do our personal share of water conservation at home.

water

 

February 2 is World Wetlands Day


World Wetlands Day is commemorated every second day of February to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar, Iran on February 2, 1971.  Also known as the Ramsar Convention, it aims for “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”

Ramsar

Over 98 countries around the world participate in various events. Government agencies, non-government organization, and groups of concerned citizens from all walks of life conduct lectures and seminars, nature walks, children’s art contests, community clean-up days, and other related activities to raise peoples’ awareness on the value of wetlands and its benefits.

This year, 2015, the program highlights the theme, “Wetlands for our Future”, to focus on the necessity of raising people’s awareness on the values of wetlands to the future generations and its importance to sustainability.

photo contestAmong the various programs lined up for this year’s celebration is a photo contest among young people 15 – 24 years old.  So, if you are fond of taking selfies, here’s an opportunity to take your personal interest to a higher level.

What exactly are wetlands?

Why should we give them so much importance? Wetlands are land areas that are seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water.  They play a very significant role in our ecosystems because they serve as home to several wildlife species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, crustaceans, and fish. These lands provide bountiful nutrients and water to animals; make a safe refuge for many animals and plants during hot seasons, especially during droughts, and; they accommodate nurseries for fish and migratory birds.

Wetlands are also capable of improving the quality of water and the general state of the drainage basins.  When water passes through a wetland, pollutants like silt, nitrates, and pesticides that are carried with it are purified, controlled, and broken down by the bacteria found in the soil or by the vegetation in the wetlands.  Thus, preventing harmful chemicals from going farther into the ocean.

In addition, wetlands provide mankind several socio-economic and environmental benefits, such as:

  • protect people and their properties from natural disasters, like raging storm waters, wind, landslides, and erosion
  • significantly slow down the effects of global warming by keeping greenhouse gases away from the earth’s atmosphere
  • prevent excess water from getting inland, which can pose threat on land use activities

There are a number of ways by which you can participate in the World Wetlands Day commemoration.  Most likely, there is a community in your area that organizes events for this purpose.  Or, you may even want to initiate a project in your locality.  Ramsar Convention would be willing to provide you with the materials you need.

Last year, 2014, the theme “Wetlands and Agriculture” emphasized on the need for the wetland, water, and agriculture sectors to work together for the best shared outcomes. While the 2013 event focused on “Wetlands and Water Management”.

Will we have enough fresh water by next century?


Water is a renewable resource.  But there is a danger that we might not have enough supply by the 21st century because of over-extraction and possible contamination of aquifers. If we mismanage the natural systems that provide us with fresh water, we will be making water unsustainable in the long run.

You might find me ridiculous when I say we might run out of water by the 21st century. What I’m referring here, though, is clean potable water.

hydrologic cycleYes, it is true that the earth is literally a world of water.  We use it in so many ways.  It is more than just a drink.  We use it for agriculture, for industry, and for energy.

Also, water is a renewable resource in the sense that it is powered by the sun, which vaporizes water from the oceans and other different bodies.  Through gravity, the vaporized water cycles and falls back to earth as precipitation.  Some of these water come as rain or snow.

However, worldwide precipitation is not the same in all parts of the world.  Some regions are water-rich in the sense that they get enormous fluxes, or flows, of water; while some places are water-poor, where they get low fluxes.  There are also places where there is a significant stock of water.

aquifer

Fresh water

There’s also another huge resource of water – underground, or in what we call aquifers. We tap into this source of fresh water for use in agriculture, energy, industry, or for human consumption. The water we extract from aquifers gives us a sense of how much water we can sustainably use each year.

We know that the stock of water underneath the ground takes a very long time to accumulate.  In some areas, aquifers are even thousands of years old.  If we just use fluxes for our different needs, we would not encounter major sustainability problems, since the water we take out would be replenished each year.  However, sustainability issues can come in when we take out too much water from these sources faster than it gets replenished.

Agriculture is the single major user of water worldwide.  Water loss during agricultural processes is so much more of a problem than water loss in the home. But I’m not saying, either, that it’s all right for us to not conserve water domestically. What I mean is that domestic use of water is just a small part of total use, and it is often highly treated, making it a special case of water.

Large countries, like China and India, are known to have been over-extracting fresh water for their intensive agriculture, as well as for consumption of their huge populace. Other countries and regions, too, have reached a dangerously low water tables and are experiencing water stress.

Water stress

This concerns the water in the natural system, or that which is part of a hydrologic cycle. Water stress refers to the amount of water required to make a product.

The illustration below shows the amount of irrigation water, or embedded water, used to produce common consumer products.  A cup of coffee, for example, requires about 200 liters of water to produce.  How does it happen?

savewater

Well, computation starts from the growing of the coffee plant itself.  To cultivate coffee, you’ll need a lot of precipitation and irrigation before the beans were ground up, and brewed. So that’s how we come up with the 200 liters to make a cup of your favorite drink.

Now, the processing and production of coffee is done and brought to supermarket shelves. You bought a pack of that coffee and prepare it at home.  Then you add about 250 milliliters of water to dissolve your coffee.  Obviously, you didn’t use as much water on it as the agricultural processes did. This is what I mean by domestic use of water is so much less than what is used for agriculture.  The same holds true in the production of the other products listed in the illustration, as well as in the manufacture of a car, or an aluminum can.

Water pollution

Another threat to water is pollution. Water pollution contributes much in the scarcity of clean water in the world today, making it unsustainable. Scientists even predict that we might be facing severe shortage of fresh water by the 21st century if we don’t properly manage what we have at present.

Water can be polluted in so many ways. Both industrial and agricultural processes can pollute the water sources. When an aquifer is polluted with heavy metals or organic compounds that cause cancer, that resource can no longer be used.

So, if we truly value the natural world, we must minimize the total amount of water that we extract, so that the natural systems will constantly have enough to provide us with.

Organic clothing for a healthier lifestyle


You don’t have to be an activist marching on the streets shouting for radical change, but you can make a subtle statement with the clothes you wear.  By choosing organic clothing, you can show your love for Mother Earth, as well as promote your own healthy lifestyle.

cloths

To be a fashionista is one thing, to be conscious about wearing what can be safe to the environment is another.  Although, you can be a fashionista with organic clothing, as eco-fashion is now an increasing trend.

When we say organic clothing, we refer to the materials produced from fibers that are raised in or grown naturally in compliance with organic agricultural standards. These materials are not treated with synthetic chemicals.  Instead, farmers who grow them use only natural methods to manage soil quality, diseases, pests, and other farming problems.

Among the most popular organic fabrics produced and available in selected outlets include organic cotton, organic linen, jute, silk, ramie or wool, tencel, hemp, bamboo, pineapple, banana, leather, and organic recycled fibers.

Admittedly, though, clothes made from any of these fabrics may cost higher than those made from synthetic or conventional materials.  But, beyond the cost are tremendous benefits both for your skin and for the environment.

hemp fiber
hemp fiber

Hypoallergenic. Organic fibers are hypoallergenic and do not contain pollutants, chemical-based dyes, resins, or formaldehyde, irritants that can trigger dermatological conditions and other allergic reactions to users.

Bamboo clothing, for example, is naturally antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-static, UV protective, flexible, and softer than silk when spun into yarn. It also absorbs sweat very quickly, keeping the wearer feeling dry and comfortable.

Bamboo-made clothes are oftentimes called ‘clothes that caress’ because of its softness and skin-friendly quality.

Toxin-free.  Organic clothing are free of toxins because they are grown using only natural fertilizers, compost and soil amendments, and natural methods of controlling pests.

Safe to human and animal health.  Since organic farming does not use toxic and chemical-based herbicides and pesticides, it is safe to farmers, farm workers, employees, as well as to the larger community around the farm.  Animals are also free from the effects of harmful chemicals.

Environmentally friendly. Not only is it safe to human and animal health, but organic farming also enriches the soil to its full potential, and rehabilitates those portions that have been damaged by too much chemical content. The nitrogen compounds from fertilizers, for example, enter the atmosphere and contribute much to global warming.  Excess nitrates percolate through the soil and contaminate both surface and groundwater sources.

organic cotton
organic cotton

On the other hand, organic farming takes around 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per acre per year from the atmosphere.  And, this means a lot!

Organic cotton farming alone produces considerably less carbon dioxide emissions, and uses up to 60% less water than conventional farming methods.  Likewise, all natural fabrics are biodegradable, making it easy on the environment.

Durable.  You would be pleasantly surprised to know that organic clothes are durable.

Hemp, which is perhaps the most durable of all natural fibers, is more porous than cotton and can last for years.

Meanwhile, tests show that an organic cotton or bamboo-made clothes can last over a hundred machine washes before its fibers begin to break apart.

Because of its durability, you are assured that organic clothes are more economical in the long run.

Superior quality.  The pineapple or piña fabric, for example, which is often used in wedding dresses, gowns, and other formal attire may look simple but it exudes a natural elegance.  It has a natural shimmer that it no longer requires synthetic finishing treatment. Many fashion designers even use it to clothe celebrities and personalities.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, has a natural wax that keeps it smooth.

Hemp is also antimicrobial, mold-resistant, UV and UVB rays protective, and keeps its user dry.

In other words, organic fabrics are far more superior in quality than its synthetic counterparts.

Organic clothing has gradually entered into the mainstream fashion; although, many department stores worldwide are yet to carry this line.  But with the increasing people’s awareness about climate change, global warming, and sustainability, it would not take very long for people to adapt to this kind of lifestyle.

organic tablecloth
organic tablecloth

Other uses

Aside from clothing, natural fabrics also make good material for bed sheets, table linens, handkerchiefs, bags, mats, fans, and other useful materials and novelties.

Few disadvantages

Just like in any other products, organic clothing has also its own disadvantages.  Although, these can be remedied with proper care.

  • Since organic linen is not treated with anti-wrinkle chemicals, it has the tendency to break with constant creasing, especially along the collar and hem parts of the garment.
  • As mentioned earlier, organic clothing are more expensive than its conventionally-manufactured counterpart.  That is, if you don’t consider its long time benefits.
  • Not every country imposes specific standards or laws regarding organic clothing. That’s why it can be possible that manufacturers can mark its items as organic even if it contain non-organic chemicals.

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