Leave No Trace

“Leave No Trace” educational programs began in the 1960s when hiking, camping & backpacking became so popular public land was being “loved to death”.  Education was needed to minimize their impact.  In the early 70’s, The Boy Scouts of America started advocating Leave No Trace’s seven principals –  “Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors”.  National & State Parks, Wilderness Areas, and National Forests have all benefited from these principals.

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Travels Southeast Bound

One January, we were chilled to the bone so we hit the road, heading south. Always aware of the environment, here are my sightings.

Our Mississippi State Park campground was absolutely beautiful but there were no recycling bins.  Anti-litter signs are prevalent – “Pick It Up Mississippi” along roadways and “Adopt-A-Highway America” along the Interstates.  It appears these signs are effective, as we didn’t notice much roadside litter.  As for local cuisine, I wasn’t much interested in fried chicken on top of waffles, boiled peanuts, or fried pies but I was glad to see the produce stands emerge as we traveled further south.  Overall, Mississippi is quite beautiful.  Much of the land is sparsely populated and filled with healthy forests.  While logging does occur, we didn’t notice clear-cutting scars.

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Merchants of Doubt

While now the jig is up for the tobacco industry, introducing the concept of “doubt” gave them enough time to secure billions of addicted customers. Documents now prove they knew tobacco caused cancer in the 1950s; in 1960 they realized it caused heart disease and was addictive.  Fearful of their findings, they hired a public relations specialist in 1953 who suggested they cast doubt.  The hired “independent” pseudo- scientists kept the doubt machine churning.  After 50 years of production, in 2012 a Federal judge ruled they lied. Now the four major tobacco companies are paying over 200 billion in settlements, yet they are still spreading misinformation about the dangers of second-hand smoke.  The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report clearly states exposure to second-hand smoke causes premature death and disease of non-smokers and no ventilation system eliminates that risk.  Fortunately, there is a strong national trend toward restaurants, bars and work sites going smoke-free state-wide; many municipalities in Missouri have smoke-free ordinances.  Unfortunately the town where I live, Boonville, lags behind putting our workers, visitors and citizens at risk.

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Reduce our Carbon Footprint

When we Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, we naturally reduce our carbon footprint.  As a side benefit, we use less energy and natural resources to produce products and keep more money in our pocket.  As we reduce, we only buy what we need and avoid expensive single-use, disposable and over-packaged products that crowd our store shelves.  We reuse items until we don’t need them, and then pass them on to a friend or thrift shop.

When a product has no more value in its current form, we recycle.  Additionally, we all benefit from avoiding products that cause harm to the earth such as Styrofoam, herbicides, pesticides, and preservatives.  If we don’t buy these products, they will quit producing them.  Don’t let anyone convince you our economy depends on mass production and consumption.

Lifestyle tweaks – Besides Reduce Reuse Recyling, consider walking/cycling/carpooling; Turn off lights when not in the room; Conserve water; Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products; Adjust thermostat a bit.

Purchasing tweaks – Buy recycled products and avoid single use/disposable products.  With energy intensive bottled water, water is flown to the factory, energy is used to produce its packaging, and then the bottles are transported to the store.

Housing tweaks – Energy and water efficient appliances; Programmable thermostat; Source to heat and/or solar energy sources; Add insulation and weatherize; On-demand water heater; Replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, or better yet LED lights; Rainwater catchment, Plant drought tolerant plants; Second-hand furnishings; Water filtering system.

Food tweaks – Buy local produce; Frequent the Farmer’s Market; Buy in season; Plant a garden; Compost; Eat lower on the food chain.

Invest in our future – Evaluate your investments and banking to assure you aren’t supporting carbon emissions; Invest in green energy and divest from fossil fuel companies; Consider purchasing carbon offsets from accredited companies – they invest in renewable energy products or plant trees; Donate to environmental organizations

Meanwhile, we need to elect leaders who will help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and increase our use of clean, renewable energy.  We need fuel efficient transportation emitting less carbon pollution and better regulated power plants. We need to increase our energy efficiency, and fund reforestation.  The EPA needs to more aggressively enforce our Clean Energy Act and we need leaders who will put our interests over the lobbyists. In turn we will create jobs, save money, cut pollution, and increase food and water stability.  Win-Win.


Microbeads Menace


It’s amazing how one simple tweak in purchases can tremendously help our oceans, and waterways.  Consider our body care products.


Microbeads are tiny pieces of spherical plastic used as scrubbing components in hundreds of personal care products including body wash, soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, anti-aging creams, and exfoliating scrubs.  One single product potentially contains thousands of microbeads.  When used as instructed, the product is rubbed on the skin, and then washed down the drain flowing directly into our water sources. Being smaller than one millimeter in size, microbeads easily slip through most water treatment systems.  Once in our marine environment, they accumulate quickly as they are impossible to remove and are not biodegradable.  They join the toxic plastic soup ever present and growing in our waterways.

These microbeads readily enter the food chain as they are tiny and look like food.  Once eaten, they quickly pass on to larger fish and wildlife making their way to the top of the food chain – humans.  As though eating plastic isn’t bad enough, those plastic beads are magnets for accumulate toxic chemicals already in the water, chemicals linked to a broad range of ailments ranging from birth defects to cancer.

Why would industry create such an environmental menace?  Plastic is Cheap.  How to avoid? Sometimes “Microbeads” is listed on the front label, otherwise read the ingredients.  Polyethylene (PE), and polypropylene (PP) are the plastics of choice.  While some products now boast “biodegradable plastics”, that is not a good alternative.  Plastic need high heat and light to biodegrade, conditions not present in a lake or ocean.  Many charts list microbead-containing products to avoid. Fortunately, there are many healthier alternatives available so watch for ingredients like oatmeal, ground nut shells, salt crystals, rice, apricot seeds, cocoa beans, and bamboo.

Many entities are passing legislation phasing out and/or banning microbeads.  Many European countries, Illinois and Michigan attempting to protect the Great Lakes, California, Vermont, and New York have all taken action.  Personal care product companies are also stating their commitment to phase out microbeads including Unilever, The Body Shop, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive and more.  While Johnson & Johnson was initially the leader in this movement, recent findings indicate they found a loop hole and are replacing plastics with plastics.

While avoiding microbeads is a great start, fact remains, personal body care products are filled with harmful chemicals, further damaging our waterways and bodies. A simple Google search will help you identify those unsafe chemicals, but given their prevalence avoiding them is a challenge.  Fortunately, we have a wide range of 100% natural skin care products available locally at Celestial Body, 221 Main St.


The UN Climate Pact (COP21)

It was exhilarating and a bit nerve-wracking, watching the Paris summit unfold as all our world leaders joined together to address climate change.  Speeches abounded stating commitments and encouraging the spirit of cooperation for our common good.  Smaller groups quickly formed working out the details. Soon the climate change deniers arrived on scene attempting to derail the progress and protect their profits.  Fortunately, they were promptly ignored and negotiations continued. Interestingly, the Marshall Island delegates emerged as leaders.  By gathering the voices and faces of many small poor islands struggling with ocean rise and damaging storms, they unified 100 countries vehemently requesting more ambitious global warming limits.  Other contentious issues included how to best secure funds from developed countries to help the disproportionately impacted poor developing countries and how to develop a transparent system to evaluate progress.

On Saturday, December 12, 196 parties adopted an agreement by “consensus”.  All are in agreement we need to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures with the ultimate goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit); certainly ambitious as we have already reached the 1 degree Celsius mark.  Although not legally binding, developed countries have committed to raise at least $100 billion annually to help undeveloped countries survive. All are in agreement to achieve climate ‘neutrality’ (no net carbon emissions) fossil fuels need to be phased out soon after mid-century, goals which will require keeping 80% of the world’s remaining fossil fuels underground. All countries are legally required to monitor their emission levels and reconvene every five years to publicly report their progress and commit to more ambitious goals. Disappointingly, while world-wide leaders were tirelessly working for the common good, our Congress voted to overturn the Clean Power Plan most Americans support.  With no super-majority to overturn a veto, we will continue to curb coal plant emissions. We have a precedent showing how effective world leaders can be when they come together.  Changes implemented after the 1989 Montreal Protocol effectively brought to a halt the damage caused by the growing hole in the Ozone. Those were the days when it was the norm to believe our scientists.

The United States remains committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025. Many are disappointed these goals won’t cover our fair share as the World Resource Institute reports we are responsible for 14% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.  You can bet other countries are watching us.  Meanwhile, our legislators are out of step, continuing to give the oil industry billions in subsidies annually, our tax dollars, and this month lifted a 40-year ban on crude oil exports.

The leaders from every country in the world, 196 countries, signed the pact.  The world is clearly embracing clean renewable energy as our future and markets are responding.  Technical advances make clean energy renewables more affordable, effective and growing.  Although reversing the course of climate change is a daunting task, the pact brings us hope.  As individuals, our vote, voices, and actions will help keep us on course.