Health effects of excess trash

Health effects of excess trash

Everyone knows that they should be recycling more, but for most of us, we don’t do it as much as we should. In the previous post I outlined how much trash is produced by an average family, (it’s a lot), and that it is vital that we keep our trash from ending up in nature. Trash that doesn’t end up in landfills finds its way into the food stream in various ways. Microplastic beads, like those that come in body scrubs, slowly poison small fish that think it’s food. Larger items can also be eaten by mistake, for example sea turtles eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish. These are a few obvious signs of the harm that trash can create, but they don’t paint the full picture. Trash also poses a threat to human health. 


The fumes and gases that come from landfills negatively affects the respiratory systems of those living close by. Children are often the most at risk to developing these breathing issues, with rates significantly higher than average. In addition, many studies have been done that show cancer rates go up for everyone that lives near landfills. Globally, around 15 million people live inside landfills, and with a life expectancy of 35 years our trash is killing them. As trash continues to decompose, it also creates toxic liquid waste that can leak into the groundwater. This can be especially deadly if there are large amounts of heavy metals, like from batteries or old tvs, present. While groundwater contamination can be dealt with, it has long lasting impacts on the health of people and the environment. 


There is no magic bullet to the issues that our excess trash creates. There are loads of things that we can do to help the situation and be healthier. Paper makes up a large portion of trash in landfills, up to 50%, if we recycle this instead, we will need less landfills. We need to monitor what goes into our landfills, properly disposing of items that contain dangerous chemicals. We will continue to produce tremendous amounts of trash for the foreseeable future, but we can do more to mitigate its harmful effects on us and our environment.  


  • Reduce consumption, try to only buy what you need. 
  • Purchase less single use goods, they go straight in the trash, reuse instead when possible. 
  • Recycle potentially toxic items like batteries, lightbulbs, tvs, etc.. 
  • Explore nature, evidence suggests that being in nature has health benefits, 2 hours a week is the amount of time that makes the most difference. 

Post by Jeremy Brown

The trash you throw out is choking our planet

Everyone can picture what a mountain of trash looks like. Most of us, have seen trash piles at various points in our lives. This could be something as incongruous as an overfilled trash can in a city park or the exuberant confetti shower that collects on the street after a parade. We assume that this will be cleaned up by some unnamed and unseen person, but we rarely experience what happens to our trash after it enters a bin.


The journey our trash takes can be quite the adventure. In the not too distant past it would have been burned in ones backyard, now it mostly ends up in landfills. These are places where trash is collected and through a series of steps is kept out of the environment. Encased in plastic and dirt, landfills are a much larger version of the trash bags that we already use. Most of this waste never really goes away, it’s out of sight and out of mind.


This is a problem because the average American produces upwards of 4 pounds of trash every day, meaning that every year a family produces an elephant (3.5 tons) of trash or, if stacked, would be the height of a small skyscraper (760 feet). That amount of trash adds up quickly. We need to do as much as we can to produce less waste, and be better at recycling and composting so that less garbage ends up in landfills or the oceans.  


  • The reason you need to clean recyclables is that dirty items get trashed, on average 25% of what is put in the blue bin is too dirty to actually be recycled. We can do a better job to make sure good our intentions aren’t for nothing.
  • The symbols on plastic tell you what its made of. Items of a lower number, like water bottles can be turned into a nearly endless number of plastic items (from shirts to shoes). However, it’s not infinite, a water bottle can be recycled up to ten times before it gets downgraded into another item.
  • Metal and glass containers, like bottles and cans, can be endlessly recycled. These materials don’t lose their quality through the recycling process. This partly explains why aluminum cans are the items we most often recycle.
  • Plastic bags are the most commonly found trash ocean trash, killing numerous marine animals across the globe. If bags are cleaned, collected, and returned to a proper recycling center, they can be recycled into bags or other composite materials.  

Written by Jeremy Brown

Recycle Plastic to do more

Plastic is the wonder invention of the 20th century, being used in nearly everything and by everyone. It was clear early on that plastics would be useful in a variety of applications, and we have been taking advantage of its favorable properties across the globe. For all of its advantages it has several downsides as well. The greatest concern is the slow rate at which it decomposes, which has lead to some unforeseen consequences.

Plastic waste is a man made catastrophe that will only get worse. Already there is a Texas sized plastic patch in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic trash from bottles to bags, can be found nearly everywhere such as Mount Everest and the Mariana Trench. We need to lessen the amount of plastic trash that ends up in landfills and out in nature, because it can take up to 1000 years to decompose!

Recycling plastic is something that we can all do to make a difference. On average we only recycle an estimated 30% of what is available to recycle. To help make it easier i’ll outline a couple things to know and remember.

  • Cleanliness is very important, in order to be accepted at a recycling center the plastics that we recycle need to be clean. Make sure to rinse out bottles, or remove food waste from containers. One dirty recyclable will get everything thrown out.

  • That recycle symbol you see on products actually means something, the number inside the symbol tells you what kind of plastic it is. Without getting complicated you can always recycle #1 and sometimes #2, #4, and #5. The other numbers can be much harder to recycle. So start with those easy ones.


  • Bottles, jugs, and jars can always be recycled, whether glass, metal, or plastic. The numbers are just a guide and don’t always get recycled, but you can be certain that those shapes can always be recycled  


written by Jeremy Brown, picture credit

Make Every Day Earth Day

5 Easy Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day

Earth Day started nearly 50 years ago and has been a major event around the world every April 22nd. It was inspired by man made catastrophes, such as the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and placed an emphasis on activism and action. The original events energy and drive are still going strong, and may be more relevant than ever. We know more now about the ill effects that human pollution have had on the environment and are grappling with potential catastrophic climate change events in the not to distant future.


A day of climate action that is enjoyed by 1 billion people across the globe is not enough, instead we should make everyday Earth Day! There are a couple easy and simple things we can do to make a difference.



  • Reuse products so we don’t create more stuff than we need. One area that can make a huge impact is to to ditch plastic water bottles, they can take over 400 years to decompose, it’s simple, use a reusable one instead!


  • Reducing consumption of meat is directly tied to our carbon footprint. Scientists urge that we need to cut 90% of the meat out of our diet if we really want to limit future damage caused to the environment. When replacing meat in our diets, we can eat more vegetables, beans, pulses, and nuts. Start doing meatless mondays, and work your way up from there.


  • Volunteering is another thing we can do to make every day Earth Day by spreading the word through action. You can volunteer year round for a variety of worthy causes and make a huge difference locally. Sign up for events such as Beach Cleanup.


  • Enjoy Nature and reconnect with the outdoors. We should make every day Earth Day. Every day, try to make time to get out in nature, our video highlights the numerous health benefits. You can take this spirit and enthusiasm with you wherever you go. The Boy Scouts have a rule “Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it”. Applied to our daily lives, we all can make the planet a cleaner, healthier place to be for generations to come.

Written by Jeremy Brown

Where does all the rain go?

Where does all the rain go?


This winter has seen Southern California inundated with larger than normal amounts of rain. An atmospheric river which starts far out in the Pacific ocean has been throwing repeated storms at the west coast of America. In California, this increase in rainfall has been doing its best to fill reservoirs and add to the snow caps. These reservoirs store water for use by the rest of the state later on in the year when the rain has long since stopped falling.  

The wet weather, while causing commuters much chagrin, has been hugely beneficial. “California is drought-free for the first time since Dec. 20, 2011,” said the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which jointly produces the monitor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is a big deal, as the melting snow is what provides one third to one half of our yearly water. Because of the snow, Californians won’t have to rely upon imported water as much as in the past.

In the more arid parts of Southern California, the precipitation has been falling at historic levels. Records that have stood for over a hundred years were being broken in the month of February and March. With all this rain, inquisitive minds might ask, “where does all the rain go?” The answer might not come as a surprise. Most of it is expertly diverted away from large population centers and moved towards the ocean. While this is the safest way to deal with a torrential downfall, it doesn’t allow water to enter groundwater reserves and aquifers.

Only a very small percentage of rain, under 8%, will end up soaking into the ground with over 80% quickly flowing to the ocean. Because cities don’t capture much rain, a large metropolis like Los Angeles imports nearly 90% of the freshwater that they use. But city officials are starting to make efforts to capture more and more rainwater. Measure W was recently passed by popular vote, and will raise a tax to capture, treat, and recycle rainwater.  Individual water districts have been handing out rain barrels. There are also numerous other future projects that aim to reclaim and reuse this liquid gold. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter there are various things you can do to play your part.

In summary, the snow in mountains gets trapped in the snowcap, while most rain that falls in cities is emptied into the ocean. Since nearly all of us live in cities, we need to continue to minimize water use, just because California is technically out of a drought, there may not be this much water in future seasons, leading right back to a drought. Best use practices, such as shorter showers and water efficient appliances, brought about by rationing are not going to be obsolete. There are a myriad of possible solutions to aid in water conservation, they will be explored further in future blog posts. We need to all do our best to use water wisely for today and for future generations to enjoy.

By Jeremy Brown

Climate and weather, What’s the difference?

Easy to remember difference between weather and climate

Across the United States, people have been locked in a struggle with mother nature. The harsh winter weather is being felt from coast to coast, people are seeing snow in places that rarely see snow, regions have experienced a wetter winter, and temperature seems colder than normal. This raises the question, does this weather show the climate is changing? From these recent trends (the polar vortex from last season), it would appear that things are getting colder. But this is not the correct interpretation of what a seemingly colder winter means, we are confusing the difference between weather and climate. We can simplify the distinction by thinking about the difference between the two in this simple way. Weather is akin to thinking “should i bring my umbrella today?”, while we can think of climate as, “should I buy a thicker down jacket that will last me years?”


With these differences in mind, it should be less confusing when people talk about climate change as meaning global warming. One might make the assumption that our current colder winters mean that things are not getting warmer. But this is not so, NASA studies the earth’s climate by examining the average weather over a 30 year or longer time period. From that compilation of data, they can anticipate future climate trends. Those trends show that things are in fact heating up across the planet.


The measurements that are used to come to this conclusion go back to the 1880s. We have over 100 years of data that show this warming trend, and while the increase, +1.4℉, may seem small it has mostly occurred in the last 30 years. Small changes in temperature can have an outsized effect, a -9℉ cooling buried most of the planet in huge sheets of ice 20,000 years ago. Ice sheets extended all the way to New York City and covered most of Europe(LGM).


NASA scientist are used to dealing with very large timeframes! Predictions for the future anticipate up to a +9℉ increase by the end of the century. These worst case scenario predictions have a corresponding sea level rise which will swallow up much of the current coastline. Cities and countries will disappear forever and billions of people will be displaced across the planet. We can see that the climate has been drastically different in the not too distant past, the only constant is change. The good news is that we still have some control over our future climate! This will the topic for upcoming blog posts where I expand on what is being done across the globe to limit climate change and combat its adverse effects.


Written by Jeremy Brown

Why is Climate Change Important to You

Why is Climate Change Important to You

posted 12/20/2018

This will be a short examination of something that frequently appears on news. I hope to write more on the topic as it is very complex and one short blog cannot do it the justice that it deserves. Climate change continues to influence more and more lives across the planet. Scientists are taking measurements that show that the temperature is increasing year after year. News publications and television often features major weather events, highlighting severe snowstorms, hurricanes, and wildfires to name a few. The question I find myself asking, is what does this mean for me?


According to NASA most scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activities that have expanded the natural greenhouse effect of the planet. To put it simply, the atmosphere traps some of the sun’s rays as heat and that human activity is making the atmosphere trap more and more heat. The greenhouse effect is heavily influenced by the types of pollution that are created through industry, automobiles, agriculture, and numerous other means. So long as we continue to create these types of pollution, the greenhouse effect will continue to increase.


This warming, which has increased 1.8 degrees globally, will have numerous consequences. For this blog I will only cover Sea Level rise, as it has the potential to effect the largest number of people. Nearly 1/10th of the world’s population call coastal areas home. You might have heard that climate change and sea level rise are related. They are related because the trapped heat, that results from the increasing greenhouse effect, needs an outlet. Unluckily for people who live at or near sea level, the increased heat has been, slowly melting glaciers across the planet. Researchers have been measuring this ice, which makes up 19% of the planets surface, and have noted that it is at the lowest levels since measurements have been taken. This corresponds with a rising sea level, 7 inches thus far, as former ice enters the oceans.


There are a number of models that examine how much the sea level will rise if current trends continue. In the next 30 years we could see a rise of anywhere from 6 to 24 inches, this spread shows average rise based upon how much warmer we make the planet. Even a small increase can have an outsized effect, as areas become prone to more frequent and severe flooding. The precariousness of sea level rise can be seen in places like Florida, where more than half of the population today lives at or below 4 feet above sea level. This situation is seen across the globe, it will impact everyone in one way or another.


If we can reduce how much the planet warms up, we will have the best chance to keep the sea level from rising to levels that impact us here and people abroad. Regardless of whether the American government has rejected climate change and instead aligned itself with Russia, and Saudi Arabia as the only countries to reject it, there is hope, we still have time to mitigate sea level rise.

Written by Jeremy Brown

Electric Car Performance

Save money and the environment with electric cars.


Growing numbers of electric cars bring a number of advantages to the average car owner. I will focus on two simple metrics, gas prices and emissions, to make this comparison easily digestible. As with all new technologies, there are some adjustments that end up having to be made by consumers. With regards to electric cars, owners have to adjust to a new way of using and interacting with their vehicles.


One place where consumers will see a savings is at the gas station. All car owners must stop here in order to refuel their tanks. How much this costs is an interplay between how many miles one drives and how much a gallon of gas costs after all taxes and fees are factored in. The average American drives between 12,000 – 15,000 miles a year according to autonews. If we use 22 MPG and the price of regular gas at $3.78 you could estimate that it would cost $1,900 for a year of refueling or a cost of $0.16 cents per mile. Next we compare that with an average electric car that travels 3 miles per kWh, using the same 12,000 miles driven, and the price of electricity in California at $0.18 per kWh. From these numbers it would a cost $600 for the year or a cost of $0.05 cents per mile. While these prices do not take into account how much it costs to add a charging station to one’s home, it does show a clear savings on a per mile basis.  


The other area where you save with an electric car is at the tailpipe. Electric cars reduce the pollution that our driving creates. Just as with gas prices being lower, a USC report found that emissions are nearly cut in half, stating,“The national average is 4,815 pounds of O2-equivalent emissions for a typical EV per year as compared to the average gasoline-powered car which produces 11,435 pounds of CO2-equivalent emissions annually”. As with savings at the pump, savings at the tailpipe are nearly double.


In places where electric car adoption is favored, subsidies are used to lower the price for the consumer, in California you can receive up to $10,000, this helps to make electric cars more affordable for more people. For example, The Chevy Bolt, an electric car that combines good range and usability, is a $38,000 dollar car and is $10,000 dollars more than a comparable mid size car, but rebates make this car competitive in the market segment. California’s use of rebates and subsidies to push electric car adoption has been moderately successful, as people there purchase more electric cars than other states, 4.8% of cars sold are electric. With more competitively priced electric cars, consumers will save even more money and emit fewer and fewer emissions into the environment!

Written by Jeremy Brown

Experts say urban coyotes are here to stay

Experts say urban coyotes are here to stay

On March 14, this year, a 5-year-old boy walking with his father on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles was bitten on the leg from behind by a coyote, setting off an intensive hunt by California Department of Fish & Wildlife officers to find the offending animal and igniting a sometimes heated debate on urban coyotes.

California’s extended drought may be causing the animals to move into the city, but there seems to be no simple solution, and according to Niamh Quinn, who studies coyote-human interaction at the University of California Cooperative Extension in Orange County, the coyotes are here to stay. “Coyotes are not coming from the hills anymore. We have urban coyotes.”

Family pets, primarily cats, have been killed by coyotes in places where one would not expect, like Culver City, a virtual island in the middle of Los Angeles where the recent attacks have residents on edge.

Grieving pet owners would like to see the coyotes removed by any means possible, however experts say killing off a local population of coyotes will not solve the problem, and could even exasperate it, as the surviving animals have been found to have a larger litters of pups when their population is threatened.

Lynsey A. White, Urban Wildlife Specialist at The Humane Society of the United States, authored a paper in 2012, after Denver, Colorado, achieved success in reducing human-coyote conflicts there using a program of hazing and public education.

According to White, successfully resolving human-coyote conflicts involves changing the behavior of both people and coyotes. Educating the public about the need to eliminate food attractants in neighborhoods is crucial for preventing coyote habituation to people. Communicating proper pet care and safety (such as keeping cats indoors and dogs on-leash, especially in parks and during the coyote breeding season) is also essential for preventing coyote attacks on pets.

Changing coyote behavior involves hazing, and according to Denver’s established guidelines, there are five critical rules to follow:

  1. You must make a connection with the coyote while hazing. In order for a coyote to associate hazing with a danger from people, the coyote must know that the hazing is directed towards them. There must be eye contact between the hazer and the coyote and action must be directed at the coyote. (For example, throwing rocks from behind a bush or a car is not effective because the coyote does not associate a human with the action.)
  2. Only use hazing techniques when the coyote is present. Hazing techniques are only effective when you have a connection with the coyote. Banging pots and pans every time you walk out into your yard, for example, will not be effective. (The coyote will quickly habituate to the sound and will not associate it with a danger from humans.)
  3. Put yourself between the coyote and your pet or child. If you are with your child or pet when you encounter a coyote, place yourself in-between the coyote and pet or child (pick up the pet if it is small), and focus the coyote’s attention on you.
  4. Continue hazing until the coyote completely leaves the area. Habituated coyotes that have never been hazed will commonly not react at first to hazing. It may be necessary to approach the coyote more closely, or intensify hazing until the coyote runs away (or both). Sometimes, the coyote will run a short distance and then stop and turn towards you again. It is important to continue hazing until the coyote completely leaves the area (otherwise the coyote learns to “wait you out”).
  5. A variety of methods and hazers is important. The more techniques you use and the more people who haze, the more quickly coyotes will learn to associate all people with danger.

Local leaders often find themselves caught in the middle between angry residents and animal rights activists, and ultimately siding with wildlife experts that say learning to live with coyotes is the really the only answer.

A Guest Post by G. Leonard


Oceans of Fresh Water?


Los Angeles is a metropolis of 11 million people living in an area that recieved just 4 inches of rain in 2018. Desalination is one possible solution to this problem. A new plant’s proposed site sits just beneath the path of planes taking off from LAX, and just North of the coastal community of Manhattan Beach. The proximity to popular beaches, which regularly see over 130 million visitors, and the surrounding affluent neighborhoods, would not regularly preclude the building of an expensive freshwater producing facility. Necessity being the mother of invention, we have developed ways of extracting salt and other harmful impurities from Ocean water, making it safe for human consumption.

There are several ways to achieve this result. The proposed plant would use a technology called reverse osmosis, where water is pumped across membranes in an effort to remove salt. This is an energy intensive process, requiring 10x the energy versus just filtering freshwater alone, it also produces water that is extra salty. What happens to this brackish waste? This salty brine has to be disposed of, and it is pumped out to sea where it can disrupt marine ecosystems. There are people working on reusing or reducing wastewater, advances such as graphene and carbon nanotubes are on the horizon, but these technologies are not ready yet. The energy used to pump water through membranes, renewable energy could reduce these costs, and the price of disposal mean that water from Desalination plants is comparably more expensive than bringing fresh water in via aqueducts.

As the population of large cities increase, Los Angeles is estimated to have 17 million people by 2050, It will become increasingly necessary to secure more sources of water. More water will be needed to grow the food that will feed this growing population. In some places water is pumped out of the ground to satisfy demands, in drought years wells can run dry.  While most of the planet is covered in water, 97% of it is undrinkable sea water. Desalination can be a reliable source of water for coastal cities, one that is not dependant on rain falling on far off mountains. This technology could help insulate populations of coastal cities from dependency on freshwater.

Human ingenuity may hold the solution to all of humanity’s problems, but there are always unforeseen consequences when it comes down to implementing various solutions. The benefits and consequences of something like a desalination plant have both an immediate impact and aftershocks that are not felt until many years later. One certainty is that the world population will continue to increase. That means more people will continue to live in places that need solutions to these increasing water demand. What are we going to do about it?

Author : Jeremy Brown