Category Archives: News

Is my Fridge “Made in the USA” or China?

Made in the USA

Outsourced. It’s a term you’ve heard used more and more often over the last few years. Many companies have relocated manufacturing and customer service positions overseas, presumably to cut down on labor costs. At a time when unemployment rates are high many Americans are finding it hard to get a job making a decent wage. In an effort to counter the trend of outsourcing consumers are voting with their wallets and buying American made goods instead of foreign products as often as possible. This Consumer Report goes into detail about which appliances are still made in the U.S. and which companies have moved manufacturing operations overseas.

I wanted to share this article with you because it brings up a very important point about manufacturing. With Americans choosing to buy American Made some crafty corporations have created a new label, “Assembled in the USA” for their products. The parts are manufactured overseas and shipped here to be assembled. This is a mixed bag of results because on the one hand some jobs are remaining here, but others are still being outsourced. In the world of appliances companies such as Whirlpool (who owns the brands Maytag/Amana, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air) manufacture their refrigerators, dishwashers, etc in the United States, but the replacement parts are made all over the world.

Why have so many manufacturing jobs been outsourced?

This means that when you buy a Whirlpool refrigerator you may see that it has been proudly “Made in the USA”, which is true. Many Whirlpool models are made in Ohio, but the replacement parts that you purchase for it may come from outside of the country. If you order a Whirlpool replacement water filter for your fridge you could get a part that was manufactured in Mexico or Taiwan. A Maytag refrigerator on the other hand could be made in the USA and have a water filter which is also made in the USA, like the UKF8001. Here is a list of the major brands and where their refrigerator filters are manufactured.

There is some good news on the horizon. While it will probably take some time to sort out the current unemployment issues and bring enough jobs back to the U.S. the process is already underway. According to this article from Area Development on reshoring, “American business executives are reconsidering their overseas operations and realizing that outsourcing may not be the best option.” The article discusses “reshoring”, which is the business equivalent of undoing the damage that outsourcing had on manufacturing jobs by bringing them back to Americans. CEO’s and business execs once thought of outsourcing as a cheaper way to compete with other companies, but now higher shipping and transportation costs combined with tax breaks and incentives are luring some manufacturers back to the U.S.

Sea turtles mistake plastic for jellyfish

Sea turtle

I already knew that fish were eating plastic from watching the documentary film Tapped, but I was not really prepared to see this article from Mother Nature Network, or @MotherNatureNetwork on twitter. A green sea turtle, rescued in 2009, was found to have eaten a large amount of plastic. The team of marine biologists was able to extract the largest piece, but the poor turtle still excreted plastic for a month. Marine biologists believe that sea turtles are eating the plastic waste that finds its way into the ocean because it looks like a jellyfish. Since sea turtles love to eat the jellyfish they chomp down on the plastic bag look-a-likes as well.

Reducing the amount of plastic that we use and dispose of every day can make a difference. Everyone has a part to play in helping keep plastic out of the ocean.

It does not have to be a huge life altering decision, because every little bit helps. Try taking a re-usable cloth bag to the store to get groceries instead of using plastic bags. Take a re-usable water bottle with you to work instead of a single use PET plastic bottle. Remember that re-using is better than recycling and if you can’t avoid disposable goods make sure to recycle whenever you can. Cheap plastic water bottles and plastic grocery bags are convenient, but they cause damage to the environment. Challenge yourself to try just one way to reduce plastic waste. I chose to stop buying bottled water and instead keep a bottle of filtered water in the fridge. I haven’t bought bottled water at all in several months. It’s a small change, but it starts with you and me making the right decisions. Together we can make a big difference.

When water isn’t just water

Water test

It’s real water. Or at least that is what the makers of Real Water want you to believe. According to the Real Water website the water that we drink is damaged, or too acidic and does not hydrate the body properly. The science behind their claims is fairly impressive…in volume. It is true that tap water is slightly acidic, which means it has a pH level lower than 7, but is it really bad for your health? Real Water thinks it is and charges $36 for a case of 24 bottles.

You may think that’s not too much to pay if you are going to get better water. After all if you check out their website Real Water claims to be adding free electrons to the damaged water to increase the pH level. The result is a water with greater alkalinity, or pH level higher than 7, so it actually hydrates you far better than damaged water. To be honest their science looks good to an untrained eye, but an alert tweet from @OpheliaRising led me to a great piece in the Guardian written by Rebecca Hill. In the article she explores the claims made by Real Water and spoke with both a chemist and a nutritionist to get their take on positively charged water and the effects of low pH on “damaged water”.

So the first claim that our drinking water is “damaged” and bad for our health is untrue. The chemist, Professor Stephen Fletcher, point out that “The lowest possible pH of carbonated water is around 5″. That means that carbonated water, which is obviously bubbly and not at all like tap water, still only has a pH of 5. Vinegar is a thousand times more acidic than carbonated water and is not dangerous to human health so it is perfectly safe to drink water with a pH level that is slightly less than 7.

So what about the claim that water treatment systems cause water to lose electrons to the point where it no longer hydrates us and the loose free radicals harm our cells? Again bogus. Fletcher argues that, “Water molecules do not act as free radicals” and “The acid component of water (called a hydrogen ion) emphatically does not have an unpaired electron. In fact, it has no electrons at all.”

Finally the company claims that their proprietary process adds millions of free radicals back into water to pair with the loose electrons (free radicals) to bind them back together and increase the alkalinity of water. As Fletcher points out the principle of electro-neutrality prevents water from becoming positively charged in the first place. So if the water was never positively charged, how could Real Water add back missing electrons in the form of free radicals? As Professor Fletcher points out “It follows that the E2 technology cannot add ‘hundreds of millions of free electrons’ to anything, no matter how it works.”

So it seems that Real Water is not real water after all. Like other fellow water bottling companies they are trying to convince you that the water you can buy from them is better than the water that comes from your own tap. You can pay $1.50 a bottle for Real Water, or you can pay a few pennies for a nice glass of water from your own home. As nutritionist Sue Baic points out in the article “Normal tap water is perfectly healthy.” Public water systems routinely test your water and have to adhere to higher health and safety standards than bottled water companies. Don’t buy the hype and especially don’t buy Real Water.

A newer “greener” bottle?

Plants

The biggest players in the bottled beverage industry have announced a change to a more green friendly bottle. The new bottles from Pepsi are made from 100% plant based renewable sources (for a great breakdown of the new Pepsi bottle check out myplasticfreelife.com), while Coke has announced their new bottles will be 30% plant based. This is definitely a move in the right direction by both companies. At least this shows that we are seeing a shift in the mindset of major players like Pepsi, Coke and Nestle, but it still is not a substantial change to the problem posed by single use plastic bottles…and here is why.

  • These new bottles are not biodegradable, despite the fact that the name makes them sound that way
  • These new bottles are still made from PET plastic, which can leach endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • The majority of plastic bottles are not recycled
  • Pepsi’s bottles only use 10% rPET (recycled PET) from recycled bottles

I still avoid plastic bottles and prefer re-usable coffee thermoses and water canteens. Filling your own bottles at home will always be cheaper than buying bottled water and helps cut down on waste. Don’t be fooled by the new plant based PET bottles, they are still not biodegradable. If you do buy them like all plastic they should be recycled.

UC Berkeley vote may do away with bottled water sales on campus

Bottled water stash

As a part of this year’s ASUC voting at UC Berkeley students are asked to lend their support for Bill 94 to help UC Berkeley reach its waste reduction goals. The vote, which lasts from April 5th-7th, will determine the fate of bottled water sales on campus. Thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing the Daily Clog post about the vote.

I wanted to find out more about the ASUC voting so I looked up the 2011 UC Berkeley voters guide to see what Bill 94 was all about and have included it below in it’s entirety.

Bill 94 The End the Sale of Bottled Water Initiative

“UC Berkeley currently has a goal to reach 75% waste diversion by 2012 and zero-waste by 2020. Barring emergency situations, do you support the respectful request for

(1) the renogotiation of any existing campus contracts to phase out the purchase, sale, and distribution of bottled water
(2) for increased campus access to public water including hydration stations and better maintenance of drinking fountains, in order to aid the realization of the aforementioned waste-reduction goals?”

Given what we know about plastic pollution and the negative effect that bottled water has on the environment, especially in the ocean, it is great to see more students get involved with our future. Bottled water is not sustainable, especially when you consider that only 10% of singe-use water bottles will be recycled. The second point in Bill 94 promotes better maintenance and more availability of hydration stations on campus so students don’t have to buy bottled water and can carry re-usable canteens instead. This is the perfect solution. Nobody likes to pay the high premium on bottled water so give them a viable alternative.

Your home has a hydration station already, your refrigerator. Your fridge is probably where you go when you are thirsty so be sure to keep it stocked with plenty of water, just not the bottled kind please. Use a water pitcher or dispenser to fill a re-usable bottle or glass and drink responsibly. If you have a newer refrigerator it may already have a water filter built-in. You can put Bill 94 to use in your home and help reduce your waste too.

Image Source: Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons

Dolphins ditch plastic bottles

Klean kanteen
Are you smarter than an 8th grader? I found this story on the Santa Cruz Sentinel site about a school that is ditching plastic water bottles in favor of reusable canteens. At Scotts Valley Middle School in California the students have picked up on a bright idea for the future, stop drinking from plastic water bottles. It can all be summed up in the message eighth-grader Hanna shared at a presentation for other students, “Water bottle trash is out of control. About 90 percent of the garbage in the ocean is plastic. Most of the garbage on the beach is plastic.” If you already knew that than you are at least as smart as Hanna when it comes to plastic pollution.

The class project to promote reusable canteens was put together by 3rd year teacher Brendan Dilloughery and received a $6,000 grant for the school from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So not only are the students at Scotts Valley Middle School learning about great ways to help the environment they are also learning there is a financial benefit to it as well. For the rest of us who won’t be receiving a $6,000 grant to stop using plastic water bottles there is still a direct reward to our wallet by giving up bottled water. Bottled water is far more expensive than tap water. Fill a reusable bottle, like this stainless steel bottle from Klean Kanteen, with water taken from your home refrigerator. The water will already be nice and cold and costs far less than even the cheapest brand of bottled water on the market.

I am pretty sure that the ocean bound namesakes of the Scotts Valley Middle School Dolphins would be proud of the students for their contribution to stopping plastic pollution.

Radiation detected on the East Coast

Radiation warning

Reports are starting to come in from monitoring stations around the country indicating that trace levels of radioactive materials have been detected in the United States. In some states testing has revealed an increase in the presence of radiation in rainwater. This increase in radioactive material is linked to the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

The most recent reports from the EPA continue to show that the increased levels of radiation detected are expected and still “far below levels of public-health concern”. The EPA is stepping up monitoring across the country to keep an eye out for public safety. Right now there is very little cause for concern as the increase in radiation levels is expected to be short-lived.

If you are concerned about the radiation level in your drinking water you can try a water filter to remove it. The NSF lists water filter systems that are certified to reduce radium here. A basic carbon filter will not remove radium or radon. These contaminants require a Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Ultraviolet (UV) filter to remove them from drinking water. For more information on radium in water you can check out this page from the Palm Beach County Health Department. It is important to remember that we are all exposed to small amounts of radiation every day and that low level exposure over a short period of time is not a significant health risk.

Vermont says “No” to bottled water

Say-no-to-bottled-water 250"/>

A bit of news from a Businessweek article I read today (special thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing it, follow him on twitter!), the state of Vermont is putting a stop to the purchase of bottled water in state buildings. State employees will have access to clean tap water, which the state government feels is a better use of their budget. Every year the state invests in public water so why spend extra on bottled water?

Even more important is the acknowledgment by Deb Markowitz of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that bottled water has a negative environmental impact on the state ecology. New York, Colorado and Illinois have also taken steps to reduce waste by switching from bottled water to tap water.

It just does not make sense to buy bottled water when we should be investing in public water infrastructure. Tap water is readily available and can be dispensed into re-usable bottles. A simple water filter can reduce chlorine taste and odor to make your tap water taste much better. If you live in an area with poor water quality you should have your water tested. Odds are you can probably get a water filter set up in your home that will remove most of the contaminants in your tap water.

World Water Day 2011

World water day

Today is world water day and I think it is important that we remember how lucky we are to have access to safe drinking water. According to the UN report “Sick Water” released last year on March 22, dirty water kills more people each year than violence, including war. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon The world’s water supply is contaminated every day with “millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste”.

Have you ever had to walk a mile or more to get water from a dirty well? Take a moment to think about where your water comes from and how amazing it is to be able to turn on the tap and have fresh water delivered directly into your home! Because it is so easy for us to access clean water we often take it for granted and leave the tap running longer than necessary.

Here is a simple challenge that we can all do to help on World Water Day 2011: see how little water you can use today. Try not letting the water run while you brush your teeth, or see if you can take your shower just a couple of minutes faster. Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher unless it is a full load. Remember that everything we buy takes water to produce.

Every little bit counts. Once you see how easy it is to reduce your own water footprint think about using those same good practices every day and tell your friends how they can help too!

More plastic than plankton

Plastic bottles washed up on the beach

We use plastic for a variety of functions because it is cheap and easy to use. The problem is how much of that plastic that we use every day is not handled responsibly and recycled. We have reached the point where pollution from plastics waste is having a severe effect on the environment. I am not talking about landfills, though there is definitely an argument to be made for the work we have to do there. What I wanted to talk about today is the accumulation of plastic in the ocean. Researchers, like Captain Charles Moore and his team, have discovered that plastic are polluting our oceans in a big way.

Ever take a trip down to the beach? Did it look like this image? Let’s hope it did not, but more and more beaches are becoming receptacles for plastic water bottles and other trash that are thrown into lakes and rivers and eventually find their way into the ocean. What many people do not realize is that plastic is forever. It cannot be dissolved or used up and instead is merely broken down into smaller pieces. While plastic waste on beaches is certainly not something we want to see the issue that Captain Moore and the researchers at the Algalita Marine Foundation are focusing on is the pollution found in the oceanic gyres.

Water sample from the north pacific gyre

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? You can take a tour and get out there to see it for yourself, but it is not a popular destination. Located in the Pacific gyre, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area where oceanic tides have created a gathering point for much of the plastic waste that has found its way out to sea. Samples drawn from the gyre have revealed that there is more plastic than plankton in the water. After being buffeted around and stirred up in the ocean water much of the plastic that has made it to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken down into small colorful pellets. With the number of these little plastic pieces floating in the water having exceeded the amount of plankton there many fish are starting to eat the plastic. Instead of eating their natural food source, plankton, the fish are eating our trashed plastics.

The garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is not unique. Researchers have found trash build up in gyres in the North and South Atlantic, Indian, North and South Pacific oceans. Some of the most commonly discarded items are plastic water bottles. With only a small percentage of water bottles actually recycled in the U.S. there is plenty of room for each individual to make a difference. Try to drink from re-usable containers whenever possible and if you do buy a plastic bottle or other container make sure to recycle when you are finished. These are small steps, but together it can make a big difference.