On The Radio- Waste Free Living


8770844739_e279befe82_o.jpg
Jars (LuAnn Snawder Photography/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | February 5, 2018

This week’s segment looks at a company in New York that focuses on making waste free living accessible to everyone. 

Transcript:

A recent waste free living trend has emerged and 2 NYU graduates are aiming to make the lifestyle accessible to everyone.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Lauren Singer and Daniel Silverstein started an online company to make waste-free living easier and more accessible. The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash everyday. Singer and Silverstein believe that given an easy alternative everybody would be in favor of reducing their own waste.

Singer has kept all of her trash from the last 4 years in a 16 oz mason jar. She started by making her own vegan, and organic laundry detergent and runs a blog called Trash is for Tossers. Silverstein uses scraps from other companies and is the creator his own line of recycled clothing. Together, their company, PackageFree, sells environmentally friendly home, bathroom, clothing, and beauty products.

To start waste reduction in your own life, they recommend 5 simple steps: The first is replacing your plastic grocery bags with reusable shopping totes. Next use reusable stainless steel water bottles and reusable silverware that you take on the go. When ordering a drink at a restaurant, ask for it without a plastic straw. And finally use biodegradable toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

A scientific explanation for why your phone dies when it’s cold outside


16646514046_f26375fcbd_o.jpg
iPhone 5 (Philip Brookes/ flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 24, 2018

Your phone uses rechargeable batteries called lithium-ion batteries. When your phone is on, the electric current moves from the top-half of the battery, the anode, to the bottom, the cathode. When your battery is dead all of the ions are in the cathode and at full capacity, the ions are all embedded in the anode. Scientists believe that battery runs slower in the winter because the cold creates slow reactions. The ions are having trouble jumping back and forth from the cathode to the anode and the phone interprets the lack of discharge as the phone being dead. Therefore causing it to shutdown sooner.

 

Turning food waste into green energy


502155430_4e6402872e_o.jpg
Wasting Food (jbloom/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 3,  2018

Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food each year. Not only is that a waste of natural resources but food waste produces methane which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Researchers at Cornell University have been looking at more productive ways of using leftover food.

The process is a combination of hydrothermal liquefaction and anaerobic digestion.

Hydrothermal liquefaction is a process where the food is heated (kind of like a pressure cooker) to extract oil that can be used for fuel.

The anaerobic digestion process breaks down the microbes in the food waste into a mixture primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. This gas can be used to power heat and electricity.

Other methods of turning food waste into energy are also being developed but Roy Posmanik, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell, is really excited about this quick new solution. “We’re talking about minutes in hydrothermal liquefaction and a few days in an anaerobic digester,” he said in a written statement. Posmanik says he could see a day where all food waste from homes, supermarkets, restaurants are immediately shipped to treatment plans. Posmanik needs to do more research before he discovers the cost but “government incentives for renewable energy credits can make a lot of difference.”

 

Coffee grounds to carbon-neutral fuels


7988774963_b5f7ebc067_z.jpg
Coffee by Rudolf Vlček
Kasey Dresser | November 10, 2017

In the U.S, 1.5 million tons of coffee grounds are wasted each year. Bio-Bean is a company founded in 2013 by Arthur Kay, a London based entrepreneur. His idea takes excess coffee grounds and turns it into clean fuel to power buildings, vehicles, appliances and more. Coffee grounds are not only carbon neutral but they burn hotter and slower than wood.

To begin the process, bags of coffee ground waste are gathered from businesses, transportation stations, factories, stores, etc. The bags are shredded and separated. Next they’re dried to extract the water and put under a high pressure system to create “Coffee Logs.” Right now, “Coffee logs” are the most popular for hearth fires and stove top cooking. The company already recycles thousands of tons of coffee grounds annually and plans to keep going. According to National Geographic research every ton of coffee grounds Bio-beans keeps out of landfills, saves 200 trees. Not only is this an effective environmental protection plan but it saves coffee shops and instant coffee factories a lot of money that would have gone to disposing of the excess waste.

Iowa DNR warns of health effects caused by fireworks


5393485546_e80294f862_o
Fireworks were legalized in Iowa for the first time since the 1930’s this year. (flickr/Jorgen Kesseler)
Jenna Ladd | June 30, 2017

A wide array of fireworks are now legal in Iowa, but officials warn that the festive explosives can have consequences for human health.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement this week encouraging people to sensitive to poor air quality to stay upwind and a safe distance away from firework smoke. Fireworks contain a fine black powder that allows for explosion and metals that provide their vibrant colors, both substances can get trapped near the ground, often accumulating to unhealthy levels.

A monitor in Davenport revealed unhealthy levels of fine particles in the air near Independence Day in 2008, prior to this year’s legalization of a much broader range of fireworks. The elderly, pregnant women, children and people with respiratory conditions like asthma are most likely to be affected. The statement recommended these populations stay indoors if they are unable to avoid areas with smoke accumulation and to contact their physicians if they experience any difficulty breathing.

Contaminants found in private wells pose health risks for Iowans


privatewell.jpg
Those interested in having their well tested for nitrates can do so for free by contacting their county health department. (co.hardin.ia.us)

Jake Slobe | January 16, 2017

This weeks’ On The Radio segment discusses nitrates in Iowa drinking wells and the negative effects they can have on human health.

Transcript: A 2016 special report found that water from many private wells in southwest Iowa contain high levels of contaminants that pose health risks for humans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

IowaWatch, a nonpartisan, non-profit news organization, tested twenty-eight wells in southwest Iowa as a part of their special report titled, “Crisis In Our Wells.” Eleven of the wells, which were tested in May and June, contained nitrate levels that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s health standard limit of 10 milligrams per liter. Water from fifteen of the wells tested had unsafe amounts of bacteria, and a few wells contained trace amounts of arsenic and lead.

The report notes that high levels of nitrates in drinking water can increase residents’ risk for some types of cancer, diabetes, thyroid conditions and reproductive problems. Bacteria in drinking water, while not necessarily harmful on its own, can be a sign that the well is susceptible to outside contaminants such as agricultural runoff or septic system leaks.

About 288,000 Iowans rely on private wells for their drinking water. Those that are interested in having their well water tested can do so free-of-charge by contacting their county health department.

For more information about these findings and for a link to the complete IowaWatch special report, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Experts urge Iowans to test for radon gas in homes


Radon
Radon mitigation systems use a ventilation pipe and a fan to push radon gas from the basement of the home into the open air. (Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services)
Jenna Ladd | December 29, 2016

As temperatures in Iowa plummet, residents are spending more time indoors, and some experts say there could be associated health risks.

Health officials and experts publicly encouraged Iowa residents to have their homes tested for radon this week. Anthony Salcedo, service manager at Thrasher Basement Systems in Omaha and Council Bluffs, said the odorless, colorless gas is found in many homes in the area.

Salcedo said, “We’re plagued with it, Iowa, Nebraska, we actually lead the country. It’s in about 70% of all homes.”

He noted that the presence of radon has nothing to do with the construction of the home. Salcedo explained,

“It’s not a foundation issue, it’s basically just what we’re building on. It could be a brand new home, it could be a 50-year-old home. We have a lot of clay soil and there’s no way to stop it on the front end. The soil breaks down, the uranium deposits, the radon gases will eventually make their way into your home and cause those health issues.”

Radon inhalation is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, it leads to 400 deaths from lung cancer in Iowa each year. Paul Niles, a certified physician’s assistant at Akron Mercy Medical Clinic, has set out to educate his patients about radon.

Niles said, “Most people confuse radon with carbon monoxide.”

At-home radon testing kits can be purchased for about ten dollars from most hardware stores. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if the test reads above 2 picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L), homeowners should consider having a radon mitigation system installed. Niles explained that the Akron Mercy Medical Clinic has had a mitigation system installed. A pipe along with a fan pushes radon gas from underground into the open air outdoors.

He said, “Every county has high levels of radon. While you’re outside in the environment, it doesn’t really cause any health problems, but it’s when you’re in confined spaces that it can really do damage to the lungs.”

Buchanan County ISU Extension and Outreach has partnered with Buchanan County Environmental Health to provide a free public radon workshop. Residents can attend the workshop to learn more about radon, how to test for it at home and what to do after the test results come in.

Free Public Radon Workshop
When: 
Tuesday, January 24th, 7-8:30 pm
Where: Quasqueton City Hall, 113 Water St N – Quasqueton

epa-map
All of Iowa falls into the EPA’s zone 1, meaning that Iowa homes are very likely to have high levels of radon contamination. (Iowa Air Coalition)