Air Pollution

COVID-19 Pandemic Indirectly Leading To A Reduction In Air Pollution

The coronavirus pandemic has been causing a lot of industries to completely shut down, which is indirectly benefiting the environment. A lack of industrial activity is temporarily causing air pollution levels to decrease, according to the European Space Agency which released satellite images showing the fall in global nitrogen dioxide levels. 

The sudden shift in atmospheric levels is being referred to as the “largest scale experiment ever” in terms of industrial emission rates in the atmosphere when certain businesses are shut down for long periods of time globally. According to the European Space Agencies (ESA) satellite images, over the past two months, levels of nitrogen dioxide over the planet’s most metropolitan and industrialized areas in Asia and Europe were marked much lower when compared to last year’s data. 

Embed from Getty Images

This is massively significant, as a decrease in these levels is relatively uncalled for, especially considering how fast and advanced the world runs when it’s not in the middle of a pandemic. nitrogen dioxide in general is produced from car engines, power plants, and basically any industrial business that’s known for its gas emissions. nitrogen dioxide is also known to speed up the development of respiratory illnesses.

“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen. Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved. A reduction in air pollution could also bring some health benefits, though it’s unlikely to offset loss of life from the disease [coronavirus],” said Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester.

While the health benefits of this reduction in air pollution may not offset the number of deaths as a result of COVID-19, it can help reduce the overall spread of the virus, as higher levels of pollution in the air causes those with pre-existing health conditions to have an even more compromised immune system. Additionally, individuals with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, living in these areas that are typically concentrated in nitrogen dioxide will benefit from the cleaner air in the long run. 

Embed from Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes nitrogen dioxide as “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways,” which is why it tends to intensify preexisting conditions, especially those of a respiratory nature. The biggest drop in pollution levels that also works to support the connection between the coronavirus and the improvement in air quality, comes from Wuhan, China, where the virus initially spread. The city itself has 11 million citizens and is one of the largest transportation hubs in the world, it also has hundreds of thousands of industrial factories throughout it. Now, according to NASA nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased up to 30% when compared to last year!

Other areas of Europe and Asia that support the “largest experiment in history” include South Korea, which is typically dependent on a multitude of power plants and industrial facilities in China. Milan, Italy, one of the most COVID-19 affected countries, has seen a 40% drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions. Many are crediting this to Italy’s current lockdown policy that the country is still enduring.  

In the United Kingdom, road traffic alone accounts for about 80% of all gas emissions, now that the UK has announced their own plans to lockdown, it’s predicted that they’ll see a similar drop as well. While coronavirus may be disrupting a lot of aspects of life right now, at least one small positive is coming out of this entire ordeal, and the planet is healing more and more everyday.


Top 5 Greenest Countries In The World

Climate change is obviously the largest issue regarding the health of our planet and its rapid deterioration. In the same regard, it’s just as obvious that the only way to reverse even a small percentage of the extensive damage that has already been done would be through serious systematic change brought on by our world leaders. In certain areas of the world, government bodies have finally begun listening to the outcries of the millions of individuals who are fighting for the survival of our planet and all its inhabitants, so much so that they’ve even seen a real shift in their natural environments. Here are some of the greenest countries on the planet currently, maybe we all can learn a thing or two from them. 

Iceland has always taken conserving its environment very seriously, even before climate change became as extreme of a threat as it is today. According to “Conserve Energy Future” a company that’s all about the many ways in which our planet can be more sustainable, Iceland was graded a 93.5 out of 100 on the Environmental Performance Index. They have such a high score due to the fact that they use geothermal landscapes to produce electricity and heat, as well as the fact that they’ve implemented multiple laws and policies that prevent their local waters/the ocean surrounding them from becoming polluted. 

Embed from Getty Images

Switzerland is close behind Iceland on the Environmental Protection Index, with a solid score of 89.1. Switzerland has taken on a multitude of “green projects” within the past decade, such as creating a whole new national park known as Alpine Park, as a means of making the whole country much more sustainable. Multiple bans on industrial and infrastructural expansion into farmland has also allowed the country to maintain clean air and preserve multiple bodies of water. 

Costa Rica scored 86.4 on the Index and if you’ve ever taken a vacation there, you’re sure to know why; there’s a reason those beaches remain so clean and pristine. Costa Rica citizens all use renewable energy for power as a means of reducing their individual carbon footprints, and meeting their goal of being the first carbon neutral country in the world. 

Sweden is up next with a score of 86 exactly. Sweden has a goal of eradicating all fossil fuel use by the end of this year as a way of reducing pollution, and so far they’re on the right track. They’ve also adopted multiple forms of renewable energy to help power their citizens homes and cities, and have passed multiple laws that work to protect the ecosystems/wildlife habitats within the country.

Embed from Getty Images

Norway is one of the few European countries that makes the cut with an index score of 81.1. In Norway residential and commercial facilities are not allowed to release any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by law. Instead, like many other countries on this list, they use renewable energy resources, and also have a goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2030. Norwegian culture has also always emphasized the importance and sanctity of our natural world. Children from a young age are literally taught in school to protect the planet at all costs as it’s the only home we all have. 

As we look down this top 5 list of the greenest countries in our world, according to Conserve Energy Future, there’s a lot of obvious similarities. They all use renewable energy sources to a certain degree, and have adopted an overall attitude as a country to prioritize the environment over anything else. Within the past ten years especially, the planet has seen an intense increase in natural disaster, endangered/extinct species, and general planetary destruction. These countries were able to unite together and create policies that are leading them all on a path of becoming completely carbon neutral. 

However, it won’t matter unless the rest of the world catches up and joins them in the fight to save our planet, so make sure that when it comes to climate change you’re not blaming your friends for using a plastic straw, and instead voting for a greener future when it comes times to hit the polls. Regardless of who you support we can all agree that we’d like to see Earth survive the next 100 years, so reflect that the next time you have a say in your countries policies. 


The Pacific Ocean Is So Acidic It’s Dissolving Crab Shells

One of the most unexpected effects of climate change would have to be the Pacific Ocean’s increasing acidity. Previously, scientists were aware that the world’s oceans were becoming more acidic, however, the changing nature of the marine environment’s pH is starting to affect the wildlife within it. 

The Dungeness Crab is labeled by Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as one of the most vital commercial “fishes” in the Pacific Northwest. This is especially troubling considering that the decrease in the Pacific’s pH is beginning to dissolve parts of the Dungeness crab’s shell, and damage some of their sensory organs, according to a new study

“Their injuries could impact coastal economies and forebode the obstacles in a changing sea. And while the results aren’t unexpected, the damage to the crabs is premature: The acidity wasn’t predicted to damage the crabs this quickly. If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late,” said study lead author Nina Bednarsek, a senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.

Embed from Getty Images

So how does the ocean’s pH become more acidic in the first place? Like most of the ailments to the natural world in the 21st century, the answer is climate change. As carbon emissions and greenhouse gases continue to rise in our atmosphere, they do the same in our oceans. An increase in carbon dioxide, specifically, in the Pacific Ocean is what has caused its pH to lower. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ocean acidification shifts coastal ecosystems by releasing an excess of nutrients that “can create algae blooms and increase sea temperatures and salinity.” Salinity is how high the salt levels are in a given body of water. 

Crustaceans such as crabs, oysters, clams, coral, and plankton all rely on compounds known as carbonate ions in order to build their shells and coral skeletons. The more acidic a body of water is, the less carbonate ions will be present, as they need a more neutral pH in order to truly grow and thrive. Without carbonate ions present, crustaceans aren’t able to build their shells as strongly; and now the Dungeness crabs are really feeling the effects of that. 

Embed from Getty Images

The deterioration of the Dungeness crab’s shell began with its larvae. Scientists began to notice that the larvae’s young shells were already becoming corroded. They were able to notice because the larvae itself was much smaller than it normally should’ve been. Upon further research, they discovered that their shells were dissolving; which explained the small size of the larvae. This quickly became an issue for the crabs, as their shells are their main defense mechanism from predators.

“We found dissolution impacts to the crab larvae that were not expected to occur until much later in this century. The tiny hair-like structures crabs use to navigate their environments were damaged by the low pH levels, too. Crabs without these mechanoreceptors could move more slowly and have difficulty swimming and searching for food,” said Richard Feely, study co-author.

It’s hard to combat a massive issue such as ocean acidification without some serious systematic change occurring. The NOAA suggests that a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions overall would be the only way to truly return the ocean’s pH to what it was. The Dungeness crab is the first to begin to fall victim to this issue, but as time progresses, and the Pacific’s pH continues to decrease, who’s to say what other crustaceans will be affected.

Recycle Christmas

How To Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle Those Old Holiday Decorations

Since the holidays are over, it’s time for the part of year that everyone dreads: the clean up. Cleaning up and throwing away all the remainders of the holidays can be downright depressing. What was one day the most wonderful time of the year is now just another winter day. However, with a new year approaching, it’s the perfect opportunity to modify your life and make some resolutions to make yourself an overall happier and healthier person to cope with this melancholy transition. 

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to be healthier and exercise more. As of the past few years, many people have applied that same logic to the planet. Maybe not the exercise part, but living a healthier and greener life. Our planet continues to deteriorate at an exponential rate due to climate change. There are plenty of things we all can be doing to reduce our carbon footprint every day, but since Christmas is officially over, why not get a head start now? 

Embed from Getty Images

When cleaning up after the holidays, most people don’t realize the amount of recyclable items they actually throw out every year when they’re doing their cleaning sweeps. It makes sense, the mess can be overwhelming, why not just throw everything into one big garbage bag and call it a day? Well, if you really want to dedicate yourself to your resolution and avoid being a part of the 92% of people who don’t stick to their New Year’s goals, than recycle that wrapping paper!

There is so much plastic wrap, tissue/wrapping paper, cardboard, lights, etc. that gets wasted and thrown into landfills every year after the holidays but the reality is all of those items and more are completely recyclable! Lowe’s home furnishings actually has a specialized recycling section for Christmas lights that no longer work after the holidays. You simply drop off the lights and they recycle them! In addition, if you know you have a local recycling plant that has a specialized area for metals, they’ll most likely also accept the lights. While the bulbs are made of glass and the wire casings are made of plastic, the interior wiring classifies them as a metal item in terms of recycling. 

Try to be conscious when opening wrapped gifts and boxes with tissue paper interiors. All of those items can be reused for next Christmas; even if your wrapping paper has some rips in it, you can cut the edges to wrap a small present for the next year. While this tip doesn’t necessarily help now, after all of the presents are opened, at least you can start being more aware of it now. 

Embed from Getty Images

Boxes that hold clothing items that were gifted can also be used year after year, as well as gift bags of any sort. Dedicate a plastic bin to hold all of these items to keep them safe until the next year. Boxes can be folded in on themselves, which is a great space saver. 

If you already did your holiday clean up and it’s too late to salvage and reuse any items for next year, don’t fret, just think of more sustainable solutions for next year! For instance, there are tons of biodegradable wrapping paper, box, and ribbon options for all of your future gift wrapping needs. This means that even after the holidays you can just throw away all these items in the regular trash and they’ll decompose back into the earth, instead of sitting and emitting harmful chemicals as they break down. 

Finally, it’s time to get rid of that massive Christmas tree in the living room. If your family uses a real tree, there are plenty of sustainable options for what to do with the tree after the holiday to ensure that it’s put back into the earth. The easiest option would be to just throw it in a woodsy area where it can eventually break down and be used as fertilizer for future plants. However, there are many individuals who don’t have access to the woods or any public space where dumping a dead tree would be deemed acceptable. 

Home Depot does a special every year where they collect trees free of charge after the holidays and recycle them, so if you have one near you, drop it there! Additionally, use the internet to see if any other local businesses in your area provide tree recycling services — you might be surprised how many actually do. Many community outreach programs like to use the trees for creative/environmental projects, a fertilizer source, or even as room fragrance with the pine needles.

However you celebrate the holidays, there’s always room to be more sustainable. So this year, welcome in 2020 by giving something back to the Earth and contribute to living a greener and healthier life for the new year.


Easy Ways To Live A Greener Life In 2020

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions to date is to live a healthier lifestyle. Whether that means a change in diet, an increase in exercise, or the purchasing of a gym membership, so often we always set a goal to live a life that is mindful and healthy. However, when it comes to living a healthier life, what about the planet that we’re living on? Climate change is moving faster than ever and causing atmospheric conditions to worsen, forests to burn, oceans to flood and fill with plastic, and lead more and more animals to a path towards extinction. If we want to live a life that’s healthy and thriving, shouldn’t we want the same for our planet? So this year, live your best healthy life by living a greener one!

Remember, no one is expecting you to save the planet all by yourself, and we all know in order for the environment to really bounce back, actual systematic change needs to come from the people in power, however, it never hurts to reduce your own carbon footprint and do the best you can at living a more sustainable life. At least at a community level you know you’re doing your best to make a difference. 

Embed from Getty Images

Single-use plastic products are one of the biggest contributors to ocean and land pollution. While the use of reusable straws may have been all the rage this year, straws only make up about .02% of ocean pollution, so buy a reusable cup, utensils, dishware, etc. to go along with your straw to really up the ante. When you’re making food to put onto all of your reusable dishware, try to use ingredients/produce that’s locally grown, as opposed to mass distributed.  

“If you are buying lettuce or another type of produce or even meat that was produced states away, then it takes gas to ship that food to where you are, to your grocery store, to your home. And in addition, it takes time so if you are buying something is locally grown, then you are getting something that is fresher. So even if you are spending a couple of bucks more, you are actually doing something that is better for the environment, and it is going to last longer in your fridge,” said Jen Ashley, an editor with a local South Carolina daily newsletter.

Ashley also suggests trading out the light bulbs in your house for LED bulbs. These are typically more expensive upfront, however, in the long run they use much less energy than standard bulbs, which means a cheaper light bill for you monthly. Additionally, these bulbs are more sustainable, and will last way longer than a regular bulb. 

Embed from Getty Images

An amazing thing that you can do that will not only help the planet, but contribute to your healthy lifestyle new years resolution, is to walk or take a bike ride as opposed to driving to places that are a short distance away. Reducing your personal carbon footprint is one of the best ways you can help the planet, besides recycling. So instead of driving a few blocks to Starbucks for your afternoon pick-me-up, go for a nice walk there instead. Since it is winter, the weather can sometimes make going for a walk or bike ride a lot less desirable, so instead ask around and try to carpool to where you need to go. While this isn’t nearly as sustainable as just walking, it’s better to have three people share a ride to the same place instead of taking three separate vehicles there.

“It’s all about baby steps, and so you don’t have to save the world today. You don’t have to put on a cape and think that you are going to reverse the effects of climate change or lower the sea levels, all you have to do are little things” said Ashley

When in doubt, look around your home and find all the plastic products that you own, and recycle anything that you deem as unnecessary and a waste to the environment. Replace the things that are most manageable. Buy a reusable water bottle, tote bags for shopping, and look into sustainable brands with recyclable or biodegradable packaging. Like Ashley said, no one is expecting you to save the planet by yourself, but doing your part will not only help the planet, but lead you into a healthier and more mindful life for the new year.

Thrift Shopping

Millennials Are Thrifting More Than Any Other Generation And It’s Saving The Planet

When it comes to the world of consumerism/retail, millennials are growing into the most resourceful generation while also becoming the most wasteful. However, whatever is wasted is also being re purposed and resold, causing a greener and more sustainable fashion industry to grow. 

Wealthy Business Man

How Rich People Can Single-Handedly Save The Planet

When we look at the wealthiest individuals in the world, we can’t help but feel jealous of them and their excess of money and assets. However, with great wealth, comes great responsibility, and an even greater carbon footprint.

It’s really quite simple, the more stuff you own and the more you travel, the larger your carbon footprint will be. For example, Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle recently made headlines for their controversial use of private jets due to the massive amounts of fossil fuel they burn. However, as individuals in political power, and with a newborn baby, their private travel needs are more safety based, but it’s important that we use the same energy we put onto them onto every other celebrity that uses their excess for individual gain.

According to CNN, “the average carbon footprint of someone in the world’s richest 1% could be 175 times that of someone in the poorest 10%. Studies also show that the poor suffer the most from climate change.”

Embed from Getty Images

It’s no surprise that something beneficial for the 1% is completely detrimental for the lowest 10%, however, on the opposite end, it means that people in fiscal power have the greatest ability to make an environmental impact that could actually change the course of climate change for the better.

The spending habits of rich celebrities globally impacts everyone, so it’s important that those with excess of wealth are self aware of the greater impact their spending has on the planet. Ilona Otto and her colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research wrote an investigative article on this very issue.

Otto and her colleagues estimated “that the typical ‘super-rich’ household of two people (having net assets of more than $1 million, excluding their main home) has a carbon footprint of 129 tons of CO2 a year. That’s around 65 tons of CO2 a year per person, which is over 10 times the global average. Clearly, the rich can change a lot, for instance, putting solar panels on the roofs of their houses. They can also afford electric cars and the best would be if they avoided flying.”

The wealthy have access to things that will greatly benefit the environment and reduce their massive carbon footprint. If one rich individual has the global impact of 10 average individuals, they themselves can reduce their carbon footprint ten times the amount an average person could, and they could afford it.

Embed from Getty Images

The rich not only have the choice of choosing more climate friendly assets, but also have the ability to invest in companies, businesses, charities, etc. that work to help reverse the damages inflicted by climate change.

As of the past year, businesses have created something called divestment, which is the process in which wealthy investors sell their shares of businesses that are known for harming the environment through their excessive use of fossil fuels.

“Over 1,100 organizations and 59,000 individuals, with combined assets totaling $8.8 trillion, have pledged to divest from fossil fuels through the online movement DivestInvest.”

In the same way that wealthy people have fiscal power that allows them to invest in things that either contribute to climate change, or do the exact opposite, they have political power as well. Rich individuals have the ability to fund certain political parties, campaigns, and lawmakers. By funding specific political groups/individuals/policies that positively impact the environment and have specific plans on how to combat climate change, the rich can start a ripple effect.

Many wealthy individuals are generally famous, meaning the spotlight is on them constantly. The social impact that celebrities have on the general public is not something to be taken lightly. They can use their wealth and power to actually make significant change in terms of investments, but can also inspire lower class individuals who look up to them to aspire to live green lives the best way that they can. Even if someone in the poorest 10% can’t afford any sort of major life change that would benefit their carbon footprint, if they’re seeing a celebrity they admire supporting a specific politician or policy, they too may feel inclined to not only support it themselves, but spread the word as well! It’s not all about the money when it comes to effectively changing climate change on a local level. However, for those with an excess amount of wealth it is 100% about their money, as it should be.