LVM's Environmental Action Blog

The purpose of this blog is to convey the importance that life choices and daily decisions have on the environment. I will, as a member of the kayaking community, effectively convey the importance and immediacy of environmental issues written in the paddling vernacular.

Monday, February 28, 2005

pvc Article for American Whitewater (references included)

Here are the first words of the movement going new school:
As far as eastern religions go, Jainism has not quite accomplished the worldwide familiarity of Buddhism, but parallels the teachings of the Buddha in origin and as a reaction to Hinduism. Jainism embraces all aspects of nature as possessing a spirit: all creatures great and small, even the life of flowers and seeds. As humans, our cognizance separates us and burdens our lives: with the ability of abstract perception we are responsible for limiting the inevitable suffering of all fellow earthly inhabitants. The penultimate reach of a Jainist can be to starve: naked and un-bathed (think of all the little creatures murdered by bathing) in full custodial commitment.
Now this may seem pretty far out there, especially for a whitewater magazine, but Jainism can send a perfectly clear message about responsibility. As lovers of and indulgers in the beauty of the river environment, we should be assuming an inherent responsibility. The new school frame of reference is about environmental protection and a custodial attitude towards our beloved rivers getting just as much attention as conservation and access.
As a springboard for our ideas: is first on the scene: an easily accessible medium, drafting concepts for later magazine or video publication. Our goals are not to rant and rave, adopting the pedantic environmental activist attitude of shaming and blaming, but to provide the information and resources allowing the kayaking community to act as front-runners in an ever growing green movement.
So after that brief introduction, like it or not--straight to your face—our first big issue: PVC foam. PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride: the cheapest, most disposable, low-grade polymer, which nearly all of us have strapped to our backs on every kayaking venture. For approximately fifteen years, PVC has been used in personal flotation devices (PFD’s) because of the malleable, gooey-soft quality of this buoyant foam, which makes for ideal flotation on our kayaking torsos. There are some major issues with PVC however: First of all, the manufacturing process involves the use of heavy metals, chlorine, and the formation of dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants. When the foam decomposes these same toxic additives leach out, and their presence within the plastic foam prevents it from being recyclable.
Individuals exposed during production or to production effluents in the air and water surrounding vinyl chloride plants have increased risk of cancer, birth defects in their children, and a laundry list of other health hazards. Although effluent from the plants is regulated by state and federal standards that does not mean harmful affects are eliminated, especially from the air and waterways surrounding the plants. Here is our connection as boaters and our opportunity to make an impact: toxic effluent in our rivers, their products strapped to our backs.
Currently one company in the whitewater industry is actively leading the way, pursuing and producing an alternative; without naming names that means everyone else is using PVC. The boys and girls at Astral Buoyancy Company are utilizing polyethylene foam and kapok fibers to manufacture their more environmentally conscious PFD’s. Polyethylene foam is more durable and produces the same buoyancy as PVC with half the product. In addition, it lacks all the nasty production drawbacks as its counterpart. Polyethylene is stiffer and more difficult to manage, however, creating design and comfort issues. According to Astral head honcho Philip Curry, “The well documented environmental negatives of PVC far outweigh the difficulties inherent in using polyethylene.” Polyethylene is not perfect, but is much less harmful and is a step in the right direction. Astral’s other ingredient, kapok, is a natural fiber harvested from the seeds of the tropical kapok tree; the tapered-shape of the fibers carry seeds in the tropical winds and will help float your body on the river. In all new models for 2005, Astral Buoyancy will have phased-out the use of PVC entirely with a great reduction of PVC use in older models as well.
Although the kayaking community is not going to make a huge impression on the multi-billion dollar plastics industry, we can certainly send a clear message to all our PFD manufacturers: with an alternative readily available and plenty of negative evidence against PVC—we want something different, we want a better product—NO MORE PVC ON THE RIVER.

1. Interview: Philip Curry. Owner/ Operator Astral Buoyancy Company. 02-21-05

2. Integrating industrial ecology principles into a set of environmental sustainability indicators for technology assessment. Jo Dewulf and Herman Van Langenhove.
Research Group ENVOC (Environmental Organic Chemistry and Technology), Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences, Ghent University
Received 8 December 2003; accepted 2 September 2004

3. A study on the production of a new material from fly ash and polyethylene Cihan Alkan, Mustafa Arslan, Mehmet Cici, Mehmet Kaya and Mustafa Aksoy
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey
Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey. 5 March 1994.

4. The Oil Daily, August 28, 1990 n9572 p5(1). Occidental takes the toluene entirely out of plant's PVC process. (Occidental Chemical Corp) Alan Kovski.

5. Chemical Week, Sept 22, 1993 v153 n10 p13(1)
PVC, chlorine makers urged to prepare for 'sea changes.' Elisabeth Kirschner.

6. Activist group urges phaseout of PVC. (United States/Americas)(Center for Health, Environment and Justice.)(Brief Article) Nancy Seewald.

7. Area logical choice for EPA toxic hunt. Mercury News: Pottstown, PA. Oct 05, 2003. Evan Brandt

8. Identification of organic compounds migrating from polyethylene pipelines into drinking water. D. Brocca, E. Arvin and H. Mosbæk. Environment and Resources (E&R), Technical University of Denmark, Building 115, DK-2800, Lyngby, Denmark

preventing waste with your toothbrush

The dentist recommends you change your toothbrush every three months, well with all the teeth brushers there are in the world, imagine how many brushes go to the landfills every year. A new company is putting a solution to just that very dilemma: Recycline. The company makes toothbrushes and disposable razors from the yogurt cups that never seem to be the right number plastic to make it into your recycling bin. A very environmentally progressive company who is involved with other good organizations like the National Wildlife Federation.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

global climate change

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The Kyoto Protocol is now in effect, and in its honor lvm environmental will now take on the hottest environmental issue (no pun intended): global climate change—the artist formally known as global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol is not the solution to all climate change problems, but it is a good start (even without the US participating). Essentially the agreement is designed to decrease global CO2 emissions, the main culprit gas which enhances the greenhouse effect. Britain is a big proponent of the agreement, especially since London is built right on the Thames River, whose flow is controlled by floodgates at the ocean. Britain’s use of these floodgates has increased exponentially over the past two decades, and the island nation of merry old England is worried.
Of all the written and verbal evidence we could share (like the already 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global average temperature); pictures speak a thousand words.

and just nineteen years later...

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Monday, February 14, 2005

green chemistry: the ultimate in reducing, recycling, and reusing

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A movement is beginning to pick up speed around the world of chemistry: green chemistry. Green chemistry may not sound that exciting or relevant to you now, but has huge impacts, especially (but not limited to) the health of rivers. Chemistry plays a major role in our every day lives: from the dyes on our shirts to the detergent with which we wash them to the pills we take to make ourselves feel better about our wardrobes; chemical processes are all around us all the time.

12 Principles of Green Chemistry
(Anastas, P. T.; Warner, J. C. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, Oxford University Press: New York, 1998, p.30. By permission of Oxford University Press)

1. Prevention
It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

2. Atom Economy
Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.

3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4. Designing Safer Chemicals
Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.

5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.

6. Design for Energy Efficiency
Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.

8. Reduce Derivatives
Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.

9. Catalysis
Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10. Design for Degradation
Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.

11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.

12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

Chemical factories release effluent into the rivers of every state in the union. Of course this effluent is regulated by state and federal standards, but we, the people, can take it one step further. Putting our money in support of green chemical companies:
Seventh Generation
Pfizer Pharmaceuticals :specifically Zoloft is manufactured using green chemistry principles
Ecos Organic Paints

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005


The health of our forests in the United States and all those around the world directly affect the health of our rivers and some would argue our general well being on this planet. Although some forestland has been and is being preserved, virgin and regrowing forests at home and abroad are still threatened by logging and other natural resource exploitation interests. These precious places need our vote, our interest, sometimes our money, and a change in our lifestyle. Recycling, reusing, and reducing our use of paper and other wood based products can help us preserve what we still have today.

This video from the forest council gives an interesting perspective.

Visit Forest Council to find out more information on how you can be active and supportive of preserving forests for the future.

Stay tuned for some ways and means of using recycled wood for a variety of purposes.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

sewage education

Have you ever wondered where the holes at the bottom of your drains and toilets lead to? Well, whether you have or not, here’s a tour of the fabulous world of sewage treatment.

Hendersonville, North Carolina’s wastewater treatment plant has been in operation for three years. With a capacity of six million gallons per day, this advanced facility produces some of the cleanest effluent in the country: cleaner than the creek it releases into (BOD wise). The only time the average household user puts unneeded stress on them and the creeks they release into is by pouring cleaners and other harsh chemicals down the drain.

First the solids are removed. The plant workers find all sorts of interesting stuff in here from live snakes to plastic baggies containing mysterious powders and pills and even $100 bills. fyi: if you lose anything down the drain, don’t call up and expect anyone at the plant to fish it out for you.

The solids removed at this step are dumpstered off to the landfill.

Next the sewage is moved into two huge tanks were oxygen is bubbled in from the bottom in what is called “activated sludge” treatment.
Here’s Scott, our guide, in front of the activated sludge tanks:

This step in the process actually cleans the water the most, with NO chemicals. The micro organisms and macro invertebrates, which are already present, feed off the organic matter dissolved in the water. The oxygen bubbled in from the bottom allows them to grow and feed at maximum speed, cleaning up the water at an amazing rate. These tiny organisms are the workhorses of wastewater treatment.
Here’s an example of one of the little jammers:

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The plant uses giant electric powered motors to pump the air into the tanks.

Some plants like MSD in Asheville, North Carolina have built their own hydroelectric dams to supply the massive amount of electricity needed to power these bad boys.

Next the water visits a sand filter for further solids removal.

This one is empty at the moment; so you can get a good look at the filtering mechanisms.

The water then passes through a clarifier. The clean water rolls slowly off the top out of this tank near the end of the treatment process. Notice the change in clarity of this water compared to that of the activated sludge tanks.

From here the water will pass through a final treatment with UV lights. Some plants use chlorine gas for this step to treat the water.
Next stop the river.
Solids removed from the activated sludge, clarifier, and sand filter steps are sent to a thickner, like the one pictured below, and other water removal processes before being transported to the landfill or turned into very potent fertilizer.

You can actually pick up this fertilizer for your own personal usage, and it’s free! Just contact your local waste water treatment plant and ask; they’d be fired-up about you coming to take some away.
Yellow Pages is a great place to look for the plant near you.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

greener music purchasing

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LVMEnvironmental gives a full two thumbs up for the use of mp3 players and buying music online, eliminating all the packaging and shipping associated with the old way of buying music. The batteries are a big issue and should be disposed of properly: not just thrown in the trashcan and sent to the landfill.