Sea Turtles vs. Plastics

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Before reading this post, make sure you take a look at my last post about micro-plastics and the impact they are having on the overall health of our oceans. That post was written to leave you feeling empathetic for our ocean creatures and wanting to actively put forth that littttttttle bit of extra effort into helping them!!

More and more often we are hearing about the sea turtles and how they are being negatively effected by human behaviour, but how much of an effect are we really having on them? What harm are we really causing them?

I recently read an article written by individuals working with the Clear Water Marine Aquarium where readers were introduced to Chex, a rescued juvenile sea turtle. Chex-Turtle-Balloon-String

You can see that there is a balloon ribbon around him, which the rescuers of Chex found coming out of his back-end with the plastic balloon still attached and entangled within his organs. He was found floating in the sea and struggling to dive [tear].

When sea turtles cannot properly submerge, this is often caused from air bubbles or gas building up inside them, which in turn causes them trouble feeding and/or reproducing, and makes it very difficult for them to stay with their families. “This in turn makes them more vulnerable to the possibility of being hit by a passing boat, getting entangled within fishing nets/lines, and increases their predators chances of finding them” (Clearwater Marine Aquarium, 2018).

Inevitably, the process of gas and air bubbles building up inside sea turtles is a naturally occurring process. As the turtles move from above sea level to below quite often, it is easy for air bubbles to develop while they take a breath before re-submerging. The real problem here, and what continues to baffle me, is why so many humans continue to increase the turtles chances of ingesting plastic items that can force an air buildup?

Why are we still not properly disposing of our plastics!? Why are we still using plastic straws and spoons in restaurants? WHY are we still releasing balloons into the air!?

There is a reason why balloon and lantern release ceremonies are illegal in some states and countries around the world.

Each and every time that you use a plastic straw or spoon, release a balloon into the air, or choose not to take a few extra steps to properly recycle whatever other plastics you use throughout the day, you’re choosing to have an affect on the lives of our sea turtles and other ocean creatures every day.

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop

P.S. If you don’t use a plastic straw to drink your water in your own home, why do you need one when you go out to eat? 

The TRUTH Behind Tanning Beds

I recently came across an article that discussed the dispute about tanning beds and whether or not previous research conducted holds true. In this article, the dangers associated with tanning beds are being questioned, and the writer proceeded to state that there may be positives behind using these UV ray infested machines [shaking my head].

For some CRAZY crazy crazy crazy reason, there are still 2 myths about tanning beds circulating the internet and the news:

  1. Indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning
  2. Indoor tanning is a safe source for Vitamin D

Let’s talk Myth #1:

This one is tricky because neither indoor or outdoor tanning is safe for our skin. As we know, sun damage is caused by the harmful UV rays, which are emitted by both tanning beds and from the natural sunlight. When our skin has a “glow”, that is an indication of the damage our skin has experienced from exposure to UV rays. When we expose ourselves to UV rays, our skin produces the pigment known as Melanin, which is what causes our skin to turn to a tan colour.

Yes, everyone loves to have that “tanned” look, especially while travelling to tropical climates. But why is it that people have been lead to believe that a “base tan” from an indoor tanning bed is a real thing? OR that this so called “base tan” will protect you from exposure to the UV rays from the natural sunlight?

The UV rays you are exposed to in an indoor tanning bed (UVA rays) are not the same as the UV rays you are exposed to from the natural sunlight (UVB rays), so why would using an indoor tanning bed to achieve a “base tan” help with protection from the natural sunlight?

Did you know that using an indoor tanning bed increases your chance of developing Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by almost 75%?

Which leads me into Myth #2: indoor tanning is a safe source for Vitamin D

I know that there are many of you that still choose to use tanning beds, and I know many of the tanning salons around have signage indicating that indoor tanning is a healthy source of Vitamin D, but this couldn’t be more untrue. Indoor tanning beds emit roughly 12 TIMES more harmful UVA rays than natural sunlight. The UVB rays (from the natural sunlight) are the ones that produce Vitamin D, not UVA. When you use an indoor tanning bed your skin is barely producing any Vitamin D at all, and it definitely isn’t healthy.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the amount of Vitamin D an individual requires is based on:

Just a few minutes out in the sun is all we need to achieve a healthy amount of Vitamin D. The short, casual exposure you receive while going about daily life, is enough.

Of course it is merely impossible to have zero exposure to UV rays from the natural sunlight, but it is not difficult to protect ourselves. Stop being afraid of sunscreen, and start being smart enough to protect yourself. Stay out of the tanning beds!!!!

“The healthiest of glows is our skin’s natural one” – John Stoddard Cancer Center

 

THE INVASION OF MICRO-PLASTICS

Okay, so I know the majority of the World has a general understanding of the effects that plastic is having on our planet and its overall health, however, I do not think that most of us realize that there has already been a direct impact on the human population.

Tiny particles called “micro-plastics“, which are identified as extremely small pieces (less than 5mm) of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste, have made their way into something we, as humans, use on a daily basis.

Any guesses?

Last October, I spent a month in Indonesia with Dylan. We spent a lot of time exploring, learning about the different cultures and religions, and tasting exotic foods and drinks. Majority of Indonesia, Bali specifically, is rather clean. It is not like some areas in Ontario where you walk around and see tons of garbage or plastic debris on the sides of the streets. So, in turn, we figured this cleanliness would continue when we got to the beaches. Right???? Sadly, we were wrong.

Some (not all) of the beaches we visited were heavily infested with tonnes of plastic debris. Why? Because of lazy tourists. When traveling to an exotic country such as Indonesia, of course their are concerns about the safety of drinking the local water, making tourists turn to bottled water instead. I cannot argue that Dylan and I opted for the same choice, but you never caught us tossing our empty bottles to the shore line.

So what effect is this having?

First of all, although the plastic we see is often resting along the shore line, when the tide rises, all of the plastic debris along the shore is being washed into the oceans. Not only are the oceans soaking up chemicals from the plastics, animals are ingesting them and becoming severely beach1entangled within them. Sea creatures such as turtles, dolphins and whales are often mistaking different plastics for food. Seals and sea lions are often found tangled up inside of plastic netting, fishing lines or various sizes of plastic bags.

More often than not, plastic becomes embedded or wrapped around the organs of our sea creatures. When the animals ingest the plastic, they will eat less food, producing less energy, and in turn, reducing the overall health of our oceans.

As larger pieces of plastic debris, such as water bottles, food packaging or plastic bags sit in our oceans, it begins to slowly break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Some, eventually becoming less than 5mm in size.

Zooplankton, teeny tiny organisms that very weakly swim through our oceans, are one of the most important parts of the food chain. Almost every ocean organism depends on the existence of zooplankton for their own survival. Even though these organisms are microscopic, they are still capable of ingesting micro-plastics. Whether they ingest them while breathing or while searching for food, its happening.

It is possible that larger fish will not ingest plastic debris orally, but they will, at some point or another, ingest Zooplankton. The cycle is inevitable.

Smaller fish, such as catfish, perch, or trout, that bring water in through their gills to breath, are at an increased risk for ingestion of micro-plastics.

Why am I mentioning these animals specifically? – Because these are the fish most commonly ingested by humans. Plastic ingested by fish = plastic ingested by humans.

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How can you help?

Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. I cannot say it enough. RECYCLE!! It’s a very easy habit to implement within your home and it has so much more of a positive effect on the world than most of us realize!

STOP using face-washes, cleansers or exfoliants that contain micro-beads. These are SO bad because they are manufactured to be tiny. They don’t even need to be broken down to be consumed by zooplankton!

When traveling, hold on to your trash until you have somewhere safe to dispose of it. I know it can be annoying to carry around empty water bottles or empty packages all day so, try using a light-weight day bag when you are out on your daily adventures. Most hotels will have the proper procedures in place to dispose of your debris properly when you return.

Share your knowledge! I find that a large majority of individuals do not take the time to implement proper procedures because they are not aware of how bad the problem has become. Education is key – share what you know with your friends and family!

 

Littering vs. Unhealthy Eating

Yesterday afternoon, Prime and I went on our usual afternoon walk around the neighbourhood. We live in a fairly underdeveloped area so all that is around is our condo building and a high school, which means there are still tons of natural trails and park areas. It is great for us because I really wouldn’t like to go for daily walks through busy city areas and Prime loves to have the open trails to run around freely.

Where am I going with this? Well, there is a major downfall to these walks. Check this out…

I took these photos on our way back home after we had already walked by TONS of litter-filled park and trail space, so this is just a small glimmer of how much I see on a regular basis.

As we continued along our walk, I started to pay more attention towards what specific products people are littering. Soda pop cans, fast food packaging and containers, chip bags, candy and chocolate bar wrappers, cigarette butts… the list goes on. I started to realize that there is a common denominator here: the majority of litter I am seeing is directly associated with unhealthy food products. 

I can’t help but come to the realization that people that make unhealthy eating choices must be directly correlated to the carelessness of littering and polluting this beautiful World we live in [I am not saying that EVERY person that makes unhealthy food choices is also making the choice to litter] but I mean, come on, you’re not seeing vegetable, fruit, seeds or nuts, greek yogurt or protein bar packaging on the streets are you?

Later on in the day as I continued to think about this, I messaged a friend of mine to ask her opinion. She works for the city of Brampton so she is up-close-and-personal with pollution and litter on a daily basis. Coincidentally, her day yesterday was devoted to cleaning up part of the city. Check this out…

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[before]

She agreed, as 99% of the litter she picked up that day was associated with unhealthy food products. Which also got her thinking “just because you eat something unhealthy, why ruin the world for the rest of us?” Of course, on occasion, I also delve into the fast food products or other unhealthy food choices, but just because I make that choice does not mean I am also choosing to throw the packaging onto the streets. After a long day hard at work, she cleaned up every piece of litter she could find that day.

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[after]

Think about the impact she made in just a few hours [proud friend over here]!!! Sadly, it is nothing compared to the impact that littering makes both environmentally and financially each and every day. You may not see the immediate consequences, but what is the trickle down effect?

How much do you value your Health?

It has become very apparent that many people thinking about making the transition to organic products have stopped themselves due a lack of convenience, an overpricing of products, and a confusion as to what is really organic. Which leads me to this weeks question: How much do you value your health?

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Yes, organic foods have become very popular over the last few years, but the navigation of various food labels, benefits and claims from different companies can be mind-boggling. It is important to be in the know and be able to determine what really is organic, from what a company is “claiming” to be organic.

“100% Organic” – Can only contain organically produced ingredients, and will contain either the USDA Organic Seal or the Canadian Organic Seal.

“Organic” – Must contain a minimum of 95% organically produced ingredients. They are also permitted to display the organic seals, and must list the non-organic products on the backing of the packages.

“Made with Organic XXXX” – Must contain a minimum of 70% organically produced ingredients. They are NOT permitted to display the organic seals.

Any products containing less than 70% organically produced ingredients cannot display the organic seals and may NOT use the term “organic” on the front label.

The Benefits of Organic Food:

Those of you with severe allergies: don’t you want to experience your allergies lessening? Studies have shown that people with allergies to foods, chemicals or preservatives find their symptoms lessen or completely disappear when eating only organic foods. Organic foods have more beneficial nutrients than their conventionally-grown competitors. How our food products are grown has a major impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

As I discussed in my previous blog post, organic food production contains fewer pesticides, and is better for our environment, water quality, soil health, and air. In addition to this, organically raised animals are NOT given any antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed any byproducts. According to the National Institute of Medicine, 80% of all antibiotics sold in Canada and the US are used in livestock feed. The use of antibiotics in animal feed has lead to humans being antibiotic-resistant, causing a decrease in recovery from certain human diseases and illnesses. But it doesn’t stop there. The use of antibiotics and growth hormones has shown to lead to:

  • early puberty development in young girls
  • increased risk of breast cancer
  • increased risk of prostate cancer

Experts at Cornell University suggest increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, as they contain many important antioxidants. They also suggest limiting your meat intake and switching to lean meat, as these cuts will contain lower percentages of byproducts and hormones (if you are not going to switch to organic). If you are going to transition to organic meat products, limiting the amount of meat you eat will help save money.

Now, not all conventionally-grown food products are dangerous. There are some non-organic products that are relatively safe. “The Environmental Working Group”, a non-profit organization that I have found extremely useful, updates their list on a regular basis after analyzing government pesticide testing. They list the most important products to buy organic, along with the products that are safe to be purchased non-organic.

Find these lists here: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/organic-foods.htm

Here are a few tips to keep the cost of buying organic products low:

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  • Shop at a Farmer’s market
  • Join a co-op (low priced organic foods are offered to members, who pay an annual fee)
  • Buy in seasons (fruits & veggies are cheapest when they are in season)
  • Lower your meat intake (organic or not, meat does not need to be consumed on a daily basis)
  • Shop around!!!! Take a look at the same products at a few different places before making your purchases.

Farmer’s Markets Ontario provide information about all of the farmer’s markets throughout Ontario, including their locations. (http://www.farmersmarketsontario.com/)

With my busy schedule, food has become such an important staple in my life. With the proper nutrition and nutrient based products, I can be fueled and feeling full of energy throughout my long days. The products I consume are not an area of my life that I am willing to cheap out on. If you value your health, begin your transition!

Organics: Why Transition?

Organic food is great business, but a bad investment” – Bjorn Lomborg

This statement, made by a writer for USA Today, is one of the many negative statements revolving around Organic products that lacks any scientific backing. There are countless articles all over the internet putting negative information into consumers heads. With a bit more research and effort towards the subject matter, finding adequate research to support our decision to transition to organic products is not difficult. Here, I am going to discuss the many reasons why making the transition from conventional food products to organic can benefit our health, our environment, and our planet.

Biodiversity: the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.

Currently, the expansion of modern agriculture is one of the greatest current threats to the biodiversity of the Earth. Dramatic declines in both range and abundance of many species associated with farmland have been reported. This has left farmers with a growing concern for the sustainability of conventional farming practices. Birds, mammals, invertebrates and various flora are being effected. If the farmlands we are receiving our food products from are so negatively effected, why would an individual choose to consume these products?

This information alone, is enough of a reason for me to stick with my decision of consuming only organic products. The benefits of organic farming practices are clear. There is a typical increase in organism abundance of 40 to 50% across various species.

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Soil Health: This is such an important topic for us because without healthy soil, none of our crops would grow. Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow our food, so keeping it as a healthy as possible is essential. Soil contains food, water and air: all needed by plants to grow. Essentially, the healthier the soil, the more nutrients it contains, allowing for more nutrients to be absorbed by the plants. The healthier the plants, the healthier we are, as consumers.

Organic farmlands have a higher organic carbon content. Carbon is like the basis of fertility when it comes to soil. It releases nutrients for plant growth, promotes the structure of plants, aids in the health of the soil, and acts as a buffer against harmful substances. Additionally, organic soil reduces erosion, has a higher soil health, and a higher abundance of essential bacterial species.

Farm-worker Health: The individuals most effected by the harmful pesticides used with conventional farming are the farm-workers themselves, and their families. Most often these individuals live very close to the farmlands, leading to an increased chance of over-exposure of harmful pesticides. Pesticides drift within the air, leading to water contamination. The farm-workers are often directly in contact with the pesticides, bringing it into their homes by their clothing, exposing their children and/or pets. Additionally, pregnant women are at a very high risk of pregnancy complications due to over-exposure of pesticides.

Synthetic pesticides are banned from organic farmlands, resulting in the prevention of pesticide poisoning not only for the farm-workers, but for their families and neighbours as well. This has led to a dramatic decrease in over-exposure reported deaths and illnesses.

The discussion can go on and on forever. There are so many negatives to conventional farming, and so many positives when it comes to making the transition to organics. I hope I have given you some insight and have helped start your research towards making the transition yourself.

Looking forward to seeing some organic products on your next grocery store list!!!