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Eco-Tip

Recreate Comfort

Secrets to Better Furniture

A new year can prompt us to refresh the look and feel of our home. Eco-minded individuals may wish to spruce up a treasured piece of furniture or find a replacement that's light on environmental impact.

  • Consider wood furniture made from sustainably harvested forests and tree farms or reclaimed wood.  Find explanations of Forest Stewardship Council certification requirements at US.FSC.org
  • Choose vintage and secondhand furniture to extend its life with a bonus of nostalgia. Avoid painted furniture from the early to mid-20th century, which may contain lead, or use a paint-testing kit.
  • Look for furniture with organic substances such as natural wood finishes, naturally tanned leather or organic cotton. Look for Greenguard product certification to ensure low toxicity (Greenguard.org).


Some businesses, like Upholstery on Broadway, in Arlington, Massachusetts, conduct money-saving classes for people that want to learn to repair or restore their own furniture. Owner Kevin Kennedy finds, "People bring in their own projects, often wing chairs and side chairs, along with stray pieces of materials. As long as they have 'good bones' [solid wood frames], new fabric can add many years." For those afraid of making mistakes in cutting fabric, "We help them measure carefully first, and that relieves their anxiety." A carpenter's rule is to measure twice, cut once.
 
* Get creative. Treehugger.com cites Pentatonic, a furniture line made from 100 percent recycled materials, including glass, plastics and metals, for easy assembly without tools. Standardized components deliver efficient manufacturing and shipping; each part has an identification number with the manufacture date and location and the type of waste used in production.

* In replacing furniture, make sure the old piece gets reused, as well. Sell it via CraigsList.org, eBay.com, the local paper or a yard sale; donate through Freecycle.org; or just give it away.

Global Briefs

Urban Trees

City Greenery Boosts Public Health

Urban trees reduce obesity and depression, improve productivity, boost educational outcomes and reduce incidence of asthma and heart disease for residents, yet according to The Nature Conservancy, American cities spend less than a third of 1 percent of municipal budgets on tree planting and maintenance; as a result, U.S. cities are losing 4 million trees per year.

Each summer, thousands of unnecessary deaths result from heat waves in urban areas. Studies have shown that trees are a cost-effective solution for both of these challenges. Too often, the presence or absence of urban nature and its associated benefits is tied to a neighborhood's income level, resulting in dramatic health inequities. In some American cities, life expectancies in different neighborhoods located just a few miles apart can differ by as much as a decade. Not all of this health disparity is connected to the tree cover, but researchers are increasingly finding that neighborhoods with fewer trees have worse health outcomes, so inequality in access to urban nature can lead to worse health inequities.

To read the white paper citing relevant studies, visit Tinyurl.com/FundingTreesForHealth.

Wellness Works

Corporate Programs Boost Health and Bottom Line

Corporate wellness programs are linked to a 25 percent reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, 25 percent reduction in health costs and 32 percent reduction in workers compensation and disability costs, according to a 2016 meta-analysis of corporate wellness studies by Edelman Intelligence.

For details, visit Tinyurl.com/EdelemansAtWork.

Veggie Doctors

Cardiologists Urge Plant-Based Hospital Meals

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) is advising hospitals in improving patient menus by adding healthy, plant-based options and removing processed meats, which have been linked to 60,000 cardiovascular deaths annually.

The ACC Heart-Healthy Food Recommendations for Hospitals states, "At least one plant-based main dish should be offered and promoted at every meal." ACC also urges that processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs and deli meats should not be offered at all. These guidelines extend to hospital cafeterias and onsite restaurants.

The American Medical Association has also passed a resolution that calls on hospitals to provide similarly healthy meals. Processed meats are now considered carcinogenic to humans, according to the World Health Organization. A 50-gram serving a day—one hot dog or two strips of bacon—increases colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent.

"Too many heart disease patients have had their recovery undermined by bacon and hot dogs on their hospital trays," says Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee.

Meatless Millennials

Young Vegetarians Worry Meat Industry

The 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit in North Carolina involved hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies discussing the fact that Americans are eating less poultry—and what to do about it. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained that Millennials need to be "inspired and coached" to consume more animal products, according to an article published on WattAgNet.com, an industry website.

"Compared to their parents, Millennials are more likely to believe in evolution and accept that climate change is occurring. They seek out facts and science to better understand a complex world, but the poultry industry doesn't have any fact-based information to defend its cruel, unsanitary practices," states animal rights advocate Nathan Runkle via EcoWatch.com. The majority of chickens raised for meat have been bred to grow so large so quickly that many collapse under their own unnatural weight. North Carolina has enacted an "ag-gag" bill, making it illegal to photograph or videotape abuse.

Cigarette Cutback

Higher Prices Lower Use

Research from the Medical University of Vienna found in a 30-year study that increasing prices for tobacco products by 5 percent reduced tobacco use by 3.5 percent.

Recycling Crusade

San Francisco Moves Toward Zero Waste

The San Francisco Department of the Environment's list of materials allowed in blue recycling bins has been expanded to include plastic bags, paper coffee cups, ice cream containers, milk or juice cartons and textiles; it is also downsizing refuse bins. It's all part of a shift to using dual-compartment trucks to collect refuse from black bins and organic waste from green bins, with a dedicated truck for recyclables. A national leader in recycling, the city is one of the first to attempt a zero-waste target of 2020.

California has a goal of 75 percent recycling by 2020, having achieving a 44 percent rate in 2016. Los Angeles is making progress with a new commercial waste recycling system. Washington, D.C., has also expanded its list of accepted materials for recycling bins, but still doesn't include plastic bags. With recent improvements to automated and optical sorting technology, some companies are becoming more accommodating about what they will accept.

Eco Pesticide

Safer Product Controls Citrus Pests

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Pest Regulation have approved CRS Plus, an aerosol pheromone biopesticide product that disrupts the mating cycle of Aonidiella aurantii, also known as California Red Scale (CRS). Pheromones do not kill or damage the target insects, and are species-specific, so pollinators and other beneficial insect species are not affected.

CRS attacks all aerial parts of citrus trees, including twigs, leaves, branches and fruit. Heavy infestations can cause reduced fruit quality, yellowing and dropping of leaves, dieback of twigs and limbs and even death of the tree.

Crackdown Needed

Glyphosate Found in Breakfast Foods

Of 24 breakfast foods samples tested by the Alliance for Natural Health USA, 10 showed the presence of glyphosate. Executive and Legal Director Gretchen DuBeau states, "We expected that trace amounts would show up in foods containing large amounts of corn and soy. However, we were unprepared for just how invasive this poison has been to our entire food chain." In the study, the chemical, now revealed to be a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, was found in oatmeal, bagels, eggs, potatoes and non-GMO soy coffee creamer. The presence of glyphosate in dairy products may be due to bioaccumulation in the tissue of animals.

DuBeau adds, "Glyphosate has been linked to increases in levels of breast, thyroid, kidney, pancreatic, liver and bladder cancers, and is being served for breakfast, lunch and dinner worldwide. The fact that it is showing up in foods like eggs and coffee creamers, which don't directly contact the herbicide, proves that it's being passed on by animals that ingest it in their feed. This is contrary to everything that regulators and industry scientists have been telling the public."

Plumbing Progress

Recycled Plastics Put to Good Use

Australia's Centre for Advanced Design in Engineering Training at Deakin University has an affordable way to increase the availability of potable (drinkable) water in needy areas of the world. The project involves collecting plastic garbage from around the Pacific Islands and turning it into pellets, which are then extruded as 3-D printer filament to make replacement plumbing parts, often in short supply in those locations. That effort is called 3D WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and children's charity Plan International Australia will be the first recipient (Plan.org.au).