Breath of Fresh Air?

Probably the most underrated resource, and the most crucial to life on Earth, air is currently at risk. Now when I say risk, I don’t mean that all the air on the planet will disappear, I’m talking about he risks that pollution has on the future of this planet.

First off let’s talk about the roles that air plays in the everyday functions on Earth. Besides living organism needing it to breathe, air is crucial for the water cycle to exist.  Evaporation is needed to transport water from inland to outlets and eventually into the ocean, without air, water vapor would have nothing to ‘latch’ on to and be transported. The risk that pollution brings is that instead of the particles that make up air, nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases, heavier gases like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide will transport the water and be transported with it. This means that there will be an increase in these gases into the water, which can harm the environment from inbalancing pH levels to killing of vital organism. This effect is happening in the oceans with ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is when the pH levels in the oceans decrease, and this is happening because of the increase amount of CO2, carbon dioxide, in the air and therefore the water. This affects organism with calcium shell, and we see this effect the greatest with the Great Barrier Reef. 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by coral bleaching is when stressed coral covers itself in algae to protect itself. In this stressed state, the coal is more vulnerable to threat an typically leads to the coral dying. This causes the home of many organism to die, thus causing affecting us and humans.

Air also plays a huge role in the carbon cycle. Similar to the water cycle, carbon is deposited into the ocean to be turned into oxygen by phytoplankton. But with the increase amount of carbon that oceans and the rising temperatures of the water, phytoplankton are dying out and not producing new air. With more air into the system, this vicious cycle of decreasing air supplies continues, and it could be possible, very unlikely though, that we can run out of air on this planet. This can only happen is we continue of this path for a very long time, but nevertheless, it is still a possible path.

Along with providing water and carbon to their necessary places, air acts as an insulator to the Earth. The more air there is, the more insulation there is, that is why the jackets that keep you the warmest have the most surface area inside them to trap more air. This is also the reason why the pink insulation inside the walls of your house are fluffy like cotton candy, but make sure you don’t eat that stuff. Trust me, it kinda really sucks a lot. And I know its very tempting, but resist that urge to eat stuff that looks like food. I digress, so the air around the Earth insulates the planet keeping the global temperature steady and happy. But, with the increase amount of heavy particles, this makes air more insulative than it previously was. That means that more heat is being kept within and raising the temperatures.

Although these areas are different from one another, air is a vital to all of these function. So how can you do your part to help reduce the amount of pollution in the air? Taking public transportation, walking or taking a bike helps reduce the amount of pollution we output, but we all knew this. We truly have to want to make a difference on our planet for the better, not kick it down the road for the future generations to solve. We all must recognize the importance that air has to our daily lives, more than just breathing it in.

Wait, You Can’t Recycle WHAT?

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. We heard this mantra everyday lining up to get our school lunches, but how much do we know about what we can recycle. Typically, we think all paper can go with paper and all plastics can go with plastics, however, recycle can get a little complicated at time.

Let me first start off by saying that recycling is general is a wonderful thing and any efforts to do it is fantastic. This post is here to inform about the nuances of recycling and how to better educate the community on it.


So, with that said, not all plastics can be recycled together. The ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System (it’s quite a mouthful), is a system which identifies plastics based off of what they are made up of. Most of the common stuff we think of a recyclable plastics are made from plastic number #1 and #2, usually the water bottles and jugs we use every day. Plastic bags are made from #4 plastics and cannot be recycled with other plastics, mainly because they are too large for the machines and can cause jamming.

Another issue with recycling all plastics at once is that they all require different temperatures to be processed down to be properly recycled. Some of the higher density plastics, such as plastics 3,5,6,7 require higher temperatures and might not need to be recycled in general. Many of the recycling plants across the country are only equipped to handle a coupe types of plastics at once while others can change their recycling methods based off of demand. So it is crucial to figure out what you local waste management center takes. If you are issued a blue recycling bin, it usually has a mark on it which tells what types of plastics it can take. This is one of the first steps to becoming a more efficient recycler.


We all know that we can recycle paper (if you didn’t, now you know). A large majority of the paper we use nowadays has been recycled in one from or another, but they way we throw way our paper can determine whether or not it can be recycled.

Depending on your area and what kind of paper recycling facilities they have, throwing away your paper as shredded piece compared to whole sheets can cause them to not be recycled in general. When you shred paper, you are changing the “grade” of the paper to a mixed grade. Some facilities can’t take mixed paper, so while collecting the paper they see it is shredded, they wont take it. If you do shred your paper, composting it would be a better option than just throwing it away.

Pizza boxes are another point of interests. Although most boxes has the recycling symbol on the side, the grease from the pizza causes the box to become unrecyclable. Hypothetically, if you were able to get all of the grease and food remains off, the cardboard would then be able to be recycled. This happens with a lot of other paper products that have food remains still on them, even slightly used napkins. A rule of thumb, if food has touched the paper product, compost it rather than recycle it. The food remains can decrease the value of the paper by causing the fibers not to separate during the recycling process.

Milk cartoons and juice boxes pose a threat to recycling since they contain many materials from plastic #4 to aluminum foil that cannot be separated during the recycling process.


Now that I have finished talking about the fine details to recycling, we need to start a way to introduce these unknown rule into the classroom where we preach about reduce reuse and recycle. Nowadays, recycling is more common and easier to do, but it is rare when you see a school program teach about these specific details that can make recycling a lot more efficient. Especially with our current stance climate change changing, we need to stress the facts about recycling and make so more people understand how to recycle smart.

Although what we have in place currently at our schools is great, we can do much more and produce a better future.

Renewable Energy: Not as clean as you’d imagine

Ever since Edison and Tesla made electricity commercialized, mankind have been dependent on its almost unlimited power. But can it run out? Which is better, renewable or nonrenewable? And, well, you might be surprised by the outcome.

Electricity, the cornerstone of technology, without it we wouldn’t be able to have most of our daily comforts or run our most vital machines. Unlike water or food waste, electricity cannot reenter the environment after it has been used, leaving the question can it run out.

Well the answer is no, since electricity is energy which cannot be broken or destroyed, that’s is just not gonna happen. But the process of generating electricity can stop on a large scale. For the most part, the way we create electricity from generators is from magnetic induction, which is when you excite electrons by moving them between the opposite poles of a magnet. However, to start this process, we need turbines to start this process and start the power generation. And what fuels the turbines? Mainly finite resources such as fossil fuels and natural gases (nonrenewable). While other turbines depend on wind, solar power, geothermal, or falling water (renewable).

We all know that going green and using renewable energy is great in the long run, but renewable energies still have downsides to them.

Wind Energy

Wind Energy, one of the cleanest ways to harvest energy. They don’t require any fueling, just the wind to turn it’s turbine. But for wind turbines to fully function properly there is one thing needed, land. Since wind turbines work better with larger fans, it requires more and more space.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “they use between 30 and 141 acres permegawatt of power output capacity (a typical new utility-scale wind turbine is about 2 megawatts). However, less than 1 acre per megawatt is disturbed permanently and less than 3.5 acres per megawatt are disturbed temporarily during construction”.

Compared to coal’s 12 acres per megawatt, wind requires a lot more space. Now wind farms are moving to the shores, but again these require a lot of space and can affect fishing, aquaculture, and recitation activities. They also affect ship’s navigation causing them to divert their courses. Overall, wind turbines require a lot of space to work, and some think of them a ‘sight pollution’, but that might be the price we pay for clean energy.

Solar Energy

Unlike wind turbines, solar power plants require less space to operate, creating 3.5 to 16.5 acers per megawatt depending on the type of solar system used. However, unlike wind, you cannot use the land underneath it productively.

For the most part, solar facilities requires a lot of water to cool the panels. Usually cooling towers use between 600 to 650 gallons of water for every megawatt-hour. And since many ideal areas for solar plants are in dry climates, water usage becomes increasingly more important. There are some dry-cooling (not using water) methods, but these are less efficient and redly work at temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

PV solar cells, which are commonly used for homes or commercial buildings, are manufactured using hazardous materials. These materials are used to make the semiconducting face which captures the energy from the sun. The chemicals used can pose dangers to the health of the environment and to the people making the solar cells. However, many manufactures recycle these materials, so the usage of the materials are cutdown.


I firmly believe that we need to do what we can to help save the planet we live on. If we keep treating the way it, sooner or later it will fight back. And the idea that since renewable energies are coming out doesn’t necessary mean all is saved. As I’ve showed above, a lot of these technologies can cause other problems within the environment. It takes commitment to solve this global problem, not technology. Even some of the most promising energy harvesting methods have drawbacks, it is just our job as a nation to determine whether or not we can make things more efficient, both socially and environmentally, or to live with the best we got, and from looking at all of the methods in place now, we can do better.

Water, Water Nowhere

To quote the famous lines from Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Water, water, every where, /Nor any drop to drink”, would be fitting of our current standing with our water supply in the United States.

The resource that can lift nations into existence or crumble them into the dust is water. And according to the EPA, 40 states would experience water shortages by 2024. With water supplies decreasing every year, many ethical questions can be raised about one of the United States most well known city, Las Vegas. And when I mean ethical issues, I’m not talking about the gambling or the partying, I’m talking about their water usage. Most of you already know that Las Vegas is dead smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Not only does being in a desert make things hot, it makes things dry, really dry. The average rainfall in Las Vegas, Nevada is about 4 inches. So this means that a lot of water has to be shipped or pipelined down into the city, about 90% of the drinking water comes from the Hoover Dam and more specifically Lake Mead.

How does using a reservoir made for  cause ethical issues? Well, Lake Mead was formed when the Hoover Dam was constructed. Over 25 million people rely on the reservoir within Arizona, Nevada, and California. And as of 2016, the lake is at 37.5% capacity. This is from a mixture of above-average rainfall and increase in population. With more and more people requiring water every day, you have to stop and ask yourself whether it’s alright to drench a desert. Now before you mention it, I do know that Las Vegas has been at the forefront water wastage reduction and water recycling, but the suburbs of Nevada, Arizona, and California are using water supply to keep their lawns neat and clean.

Although there strict rules about watering lawn in these areas, but the fact that it isn’t outlawed in these areas feels like a problem to me. Let’s take California as an example. On average, households (three-person family) within California use about 150,000 gallons of water each year. Approximately uses 51% of its water usage on maintaining their lawn. That means 76,500 gallons of water is used on the lawns.

But overall, the amount of water used on lawn annually only accounts for 7% of the total water usage in California. Over 77% of water is used on agriculture.

Now this is where the lines are drawn: On one side you have critics saying that watering lawns is luxury and provides no value other than aesthetics while on the other side you have defenders of the lawn saying that the agricultural industry needs to become more efficient with their water usage.

Of the 25 million people that use Lake Mead, 19 million are from California. So that means Californians have the greatest impact on the other 6 million people. So the decision on whether lawn care is necessary affects more than the lawn owners. Many people opposed to watering lawns suggest other ways to keep lawn neat and clean like suggesting other drought resistance plants, or even native plants and are already accustomed to the environment. But on the other hand, about 2% of farmland in California uses overhead irrigation, which is water efficient since there is barely any waste from water seeping too deep for the plants. 40% of the farmland uses floor irrigation which isn’t water efficient and is costly. And changing to the newer overhead irrigation can be expensive. So in other words this debate can be whittled down to whether industry or private homeowners should answer for the water shortage.

So, either Californians could either give up their green lawns or Californian farms have to pay out to make farming more efficient. It really depends on who is willing enough to take the largest hit. And whatever decision happens, it won’t only have an affect on them, but the nearly 20 million people who rely on the most basic resource. I just hope and answer comes soon because with the current state that California is in with the mudslides and the wildfires, water conservation could come quicker, it all just really comes down to who is willing to suffer for the goodness of the community.



Landfills: The Unexpected Cornucopia

Today we live in a society where we can get anything we want with just press of a few buttons.  Technology gave us this wonderful luxury to relax in our homes rather than working out in the fields harvesting our own food. We can just go online and order out groceries  In our nation today, less than 2% of the US population are farms. On the outside, these numbers are outstanding. Being able to feed over 300 million people with only using 3 million farms is incredible and a feat in technology and agricultural advancements. But the underlying cyst underneath all of this growth can threaten us worse than any plague of locust. I’m talking about overconsumption folks.

So what do I mean by over consumption? By the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, overconsumption is the “excessive consumption or use of something”. Overconsumption nowadays is almost synonymous with American lifestyle. We see it virtually every single day through web banners or in our trips to the grocery store. Buying food in bulk is made more enticing with the promise of discounts and coupons so readily available. Hell, there is even a show called Extreme Couponing where people empty grocery stores and only pay a faction of what it is cost. How needs 75 tubes of toothpaste?? Overconsumption is ingrained in our culture and I personally feel that we will never be rid of it. Since we can’t get rid of it, how do we manage it? And furthermore, how will it affect us later on in the future?

First off, let’s go through some statistics. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2010, approximately 30-40% of the United States’s food supply was wasted and thrown out to be placed in a landfill. That means 1/3 of produce produced in the United States are never eaten and are just made to be thrown away. Not only is this a waste of product, it is a waste of capital. The 133 billion pounds of food waste cost $161 billion. To put that inter perspective, that is enough to

This is amazing to me, and not the spontaneous backflip type of amazing, more of the ‘what the f&@%’ type of amazing. Nearly 1/3 of what we buy as food consumers is wasted. Not only is this affecting us financially, this is causing huge damage to the environment by causing landfills to get larger and larger to accommodate all of this waste. Landfills are the 3rd largest contributor to methane gas in the atmosphere. Although a study done by Ohio State University in 2016 showed that a large portion of Americans are aware of the food wastage crisis, a Johns Hopkins study showed that people care more about a leaky faucet or leaving the lights on than throwing away food.

I did my own research of this:

Cost of a leaky faucet: $60-200 per year

Cost of leaving the lights on: $100-200 per year

Cost of food waste: $2,200 per year

What I gather from my mock research is that Americans are more concerned about the current pressing issues when it comes to saving money. It’s easier to flip a switch or to fix a faucet than to not throw out food. This seems to be a trend in American culture: If you can’t see it, don’t worry about it. But now we can see it, and with the environment already being in the terrible state it is now, this is an issue we all need to see now.

Thankfully, this food waste problem is being recognized by the USDA and efforts have been made to limit the amount of food we waste. By 2030, plans are to cut down food waste by nearly 50%. Although this is wonderful, we still need to inform the public about this. Soon enough, with all the drought and wildfires happening nationwide, the once plentiful fields we love and engineering so much will be gone and with it, our extravagate life styles. The fact is that we change either change now, or wait until the all the grocery stores are empty. At that point, those precious buttons we love some much are worth as much as the food we wasted, trash.