A confession: I’m a little afraid of the sun. The UV spectrum and I have had some ugly run-ins in the past: Miss Lisa’s pool, 1996, summer camp soccer fields, 1999, and who could forget the Terrible Sun Rash Incident of 2004? There’s a reason I live in Seattle now, where I only need to apply SPF 15 on especially bright rainy mornings instead of the multiple dunkings of 50+ I’d require in a place like California or — shudder — anywhere in the Southwest.
But I also love to swim in the ocean, which is why a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has me in the throes of a serious moral dilemma: To goop or not to goop?
It turns out that when all that sunscreen washes off of sun-phobic swimmers such as myself, it can cause serious problems for marine life. And when said marine life is already under attack from everything from overfishing to ocean acidification, do we really need to add to those woes?
As David Sánchez-Quiles, one of the study’s lead authors, told Treehugger, “Use of sunscreens has proven the most effective method to prevent a great number of skin diseases.” Right, good. But then Sánchez-Quiles went on: “However, due to its chemical composition, it is far from being environmental-friendly. In fact, previous studies have suggested that it should be labelled as an environmental hazard substance.”
Among the hazardous ingredients are tiny nanoparticles of zinc and titanium oxide, materials that can hang around in seawater long after you’ve crawled out. These particles react with UV rays to form hydrogen peroxide — you know, a common household disinfectant and bleaching substance. It should not surprise you that this is not great for phytoplankton, tiny photosynthesizing microorganisms at the bottom of the food chain. The hydrogen peroxide limits phytoplankton growth, and the shortage ripples all the way up the menu to less-micro organisms ranging from shrimp to fish to whales and dolphins.
The scientists carried out their research on a beach in Majorca (not bad for a “work trip”) along with some 10,000 greased-up beachgoers. They took water samples and extrapolated from tourism data on the Mediterranean, where 200 million tourists travel every year, to determine that all that SPF is the probable cause of a serious spike in hydrogen peroxide levels during the summer. Around the world, sun-wary swimmers slough off between 4,000 and 6,000 metric tons, or 13,227,736 pounds, of the stuff each year. That’s the equivalent of 75,000 average Americans made entirely out of sunscreen (you know, me on an average summer day).
Short of replacing our sunblock regimen with a full-body wetsuit, there are some things the more, uh, vampirically inclined among us can do to assuage some guilt here at the end of the beach season. First of all, it’s always a good idea opt for lotions with a minimum of toxic extras (Umbra has some words on this subject, and this list from the Environmental Working Group is a good place to start). Cream-based sunscreens beat spray-on, since these are less water soluble. You could also try to aim for stuff labeled “non-nano,” which might have fewer titanium oxide nanoparticles than others. Let the sunscreen dry before jumping the waves or, even better, hit the beach before or after the sun is at full strength and — gasp, I know — skip the stuff for short dips.
And in the meantime, science, please find a way that I don’t have to choose between not-killing-myself and not-killing-everything-else.
French electronic musician College (aka David Grellier), who, among other things, contributed the song "A Real Hero" with Electric Youth to the Drive soundtrack, will be returning to North America for a tour here this fall. The tour kicks off in DC and hits NYC the next night on November 28 at Highline Ballroom. Tickets for that show go on sale Friday (8/29) at noon.
All dates are listed below...
Did you know that only 1 percent of freshwater in the world is available for human consumption? Or that 140 litres of water are required to produce a single cup of coffee? Over 70% of water used in Latin American coffee farms is returned into rivers without being treated, causing severe damage to to downstream communities, aquatic fauna, and flora, due to its organic waste and high toxicity. UTZ Certified, a sustainable farming initiative, is changing that. 19 pilot sites across Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala received tailor-made coffee wastewater and solid waste treatment mechanisms, and the positive impact, both economic and environmental, has been startling.
Read the rest of 19 Central American Coffee Farms Now Generate Energy from Wastewater
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Post tags: clean water, coffee, coffee farm, coffee farming, coffee farms, coffee production, drinkable water, Guatemala, Honduras, nicaragua, recycled water, UTZ, UTZ Certified, waste water, wastewater, water initiatives, water issues
If you enjoy eating bread and butter that is a genuine dairy product (none of that ICan’tBelieveIt’sNotFood stuff), then you know that there is a bit of process involved in combining the two. Your toast must either be hot enough for the cold butter to melt, or the butter must be at room temperature to be able to spread. Seeing that you don’t want a melted pile of butter sitting in a bowl on the counter, the best place to keep it is in the fridge. However, if you don’t time things correctly, you can’t immediately get out your butter and put it on bread.
It’s taken all these years on Earth, but finally the ButterUp exists. Being an avid toast fan, the first time I saw this a Hallelujiah chorus sang out to the heavens as I realized its potential. This is a knife that has a built-in grater on a wide blade which will allow you to “aerate and soften” the butter, which makes it easy to spread. The easier butter is to move around means you’ll also be putting less of it on. Made of stainless steel with either a satin or polished finish, this is safe to go in the dishwasher.
It’s a simple idea, but seems ingenious. There are of course, other ways to deal with cold butter, but this $11 purchase might just be tempting enough to buy. This may be a crowdfunding campaign, but it has reached its goal seven times over. There’s always some measure of risk with these types of products, but this one seems like a pretty safe bet. Go out there and enjoy as much dairy-slathered toast as you can comfortably consume.
A home in which a classic, minimalist aesthetic works around intellectual values, we present a look at the Long Brick House completed by Földes & Co. Architects in 2013. Nestled in the side of the Big-Proud Peak in Pilisborosjeno, Hungary, this home was designed for a couple not only looking to retire from the hustle-and-bustle of Budapest, but also to support their large library of books. While its exterior features a canopy of trees for shade and a spacious terrace with sunset views of the rolling hills, its interior offers 17 meters of books space, a sauna, 50-centimenter thick brick walls created to retain heat, and an empty, well-ventilated attic that behaves as a "buffer zone" that optimizes the inner climate.