On this Earth Day we would like to pay homage to the environment in which we live, work and play, and also provide a tribute to a variety of topics regarding sustainability.
Peat Moss Debate
We are going to start off with an age-old debate that many have had about whether or not peat moss is a sustainable resource and if it has a place in the ecological garden. In November of 2016, a new global initiative was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) aiming to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and save thousands of lives by protecting peatlands – the largest terrestrial organic soil carbon stock. According to the UN environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Peatlands Initiative seeks to mobilize governments, international organizations and academia in an effort to protect peatlands, which contain almost 100 times more carbon than tropical forests. If global temperatures continue to rise, this could lead to thawing permafrost, switching boreal and Arctic peatlands from carbon sinks to sources, resulting in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and potentially causing climate change to spiral out of control.
Peat moss develops in a peat bog or “peatland,” which is a special type of wetland on which decomposing moss has accumulated to a depth of at least 16 inches. Peat accumulation is around one millimeter (1/25th of an inch) per year. Approximately three percent of the earth’s surface is covered with peat bogs that have been developing for thousands of years. Finland has the largest expanse in the world, followed by Canada, Ireland and Sweden. The peat moss is commercially harvested (or “mined” – depending on which side of the debate you’re on) from these bogs. The process involves digging a network of drainage ditches and settling basins so that the water drains away from the wetland and the bog begins to dry out and die. Once that happens, all surface vegetation is removed and the deposit is ready for peat production. The surface peat layer is dried by the sun and wind. The topmost layer is typically harrowed to enhance the drying process. After a few days, the dry peat layer is collected using a large vacuum harvester or other equipment, then transported to a processing facility for screening and packaging.
Peat bogs are seen by some scientists to be as important and fragile as rainforests, and that’s where the concern lies about the use of peat moss by gardeners. Some say peat companies are destroying these fragile, unique and valuable bog ecosystems by removing the peat. There are many alternatives to peat moss, some of which are cheaper (often free) and may work better. PittMoss®, for example, is a revolutionary product that replaces peat moss, perlite, and coir. PittMoss products can be used as a soil amendment or a ready-to-use potting mix. PittMoss® is sustainable,peat-free, up-cycled gardening mix that helps the planet. It extends time between watering, has increased aeration, and reduces the need for chemical additives.
Sustainable agriculture is a way of growing or raising food, including animals, in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner using practices that protect the environment, safeguard human health, are humane to farm animals, and provide fair treatment to workers. Eating “sustainably” means eating food that is grown or raised according to these principles. Sustainable crop production is a way of growing or raising food in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner. This includes adhering to agricultural and food production practices that do not harm the environment, that provide fair treatment to workers, and that support and sustain local communities.
Eating sustainably provides numerous personal health benefits, including decreased exposure to harmful substances such as pesticides, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and unhealthful food additives, and the potential to increase consumption of certain nutrients and antioxidants. Finally, eating sustainably means that you are supporting a more environmentally and socially responsible food system. Eating sustainably-grown unprocessed (or minimally processed) food, such as whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables, has a number of health benefits, including decreased total cholesterol levels, decreased risk of certain cancers, increased colon function, and increased intake of important nutrients and minerals.
Reduce Toxic Chemicals for a Healthier Home
We all want our homes to be safe and healthy places, but indoor environments are two times more polluted than the outdoors, so it’s clear our homes are not the temples of health that we’d like to imagine. Much of these pollutants are toxins that leech out of the house itself—our walls, countertops, paints and varnishes as well as our furniture, carpets, and curtains.The choices we make about the materials that go into our homes have long term health impacts on everyone who lives there. Toxins are introduced to our bodies through our skin, through what we breathe and ingest. They can impact our neurologic, developmental, immune, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive systems and our genetic health. For those of us with children, this is even more concerning because their developing bodies are more susceptible to these toxins.
Paint the walls before installing soft furnishings. When porous substances, like upholstered furniture, drapes and carpets, act as ‘sinks’, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other contaminants are absorbed in high concentrations. They are released at lower concentrations over a prolonged period of time, exposing occupants to “chronic” exposure. Chronic exposure is much more dangerous than “acute,” or sudden, short term exposure at high concentrations. According to the EPA, VOCs can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; headaches; nausea; drowsiness and damage the liver, kidney and the central nervous system.
Whenever possible use recycled, recyclable, biodegradable, regional, renewable, salvaged materials and FSC-certified wood. All of these sustainable attributes mean reduced life cycle impacts and less impact to natural resources. Shop around for products labeled VOC-free or low-chemical content and emissions to avoid toxic solvents contained in paints, adhesives, wood floor sealers and coatings. Good ventilation is important in any healthy space. You could just open your windows—unless you live near an airport, landfill, highway or factory. If windows aren’t an option, a well-maintained ventilation system with high-performance filtration is ideal.
Houseplants that will Detoxify the Air in Your Home
Not only are houseplants an excellent way to spruce up your home with a little well-placed piece of nature, they are also known to have incredible air-purifying qualities, thanks to a new study by NASA. There are a wide variety of toxic chemicals lurking in your home, and there are certain steps that can be taken to minimize them. NASA’s Clean Air Study has found that there are a number of super plants that can detoxify your home from the airborne toxins, dusts and germs that can be found in a variety of household products, materials and furniture.
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