How Long Does Your Trash Actually Take to Decompose?

This post was originally published on this site

Yes, yes, we all know it’s important to recycle. But do you actually know why?

Related: 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Recycle and Five Reasons Why They Should

Most people have no idea how long it takes for their waste to actually decompose once it is launched into the trash. The fact is, the precise time it takes your trash to break down varies widely and depends on the local conditions.

Here are some general estimates for common household goods to give you an idea what kind of influence your trash has on the environment:

Paper towel — 2 to 4 weeks

Banana peel — 2 to 5 weeks

Newspaper — 6 weeks

Apple core — 2 months

Cotton T-shirt — 2 to 5 months

Plywood — 1 to 3 years

Cigarette — 1 to 5 years

Wool sock — 1 to 5 years

Nylon-based fabric — 30 to 40 years

Tinned can — 50 years

Leather — 50 years

Plastic foam cup — 50 years

Rubber boot sole — 50 to 80 years

Soda can — 80 to 200 years

Disposable diaper — 450 years

Plastic water bottle — 450 years

Monofilament fishing line — 600 years

Plastic bag — 20 to 1000 years

Glass bottle — 1 million years

Shocking, isn’t it? In some cases, our trash is farting around in the environment for literally centuries to come. It is important to take this into consideration when tossing household goods. Always make sure to recycle items like glass bottles, which are easily melted down and reused instead of taking up environmental space for millennia. Don’t leave fishing line snips stream side where they will pollute your favorite fishing spots. And, for goodness sakes, stop using plastic bags!

Unlike glass, plastic bags leach toxic chemicals into the environment and are not always easily recyclable. Items like plastic bags have only been in existence for about 50 years, so we can’t know for certain if and when they ever actually decompose. Decomposition actually relies on microorganisms who feed on the trash, which, in effect, breaks it down rather quickly. Unfortunately, plastic bags are made of polyethylene, something that those little critters don’t recognize as food. So, without the assistance of microorganisms, plastic bags can only photodegrade under the sun’s UV rays, which takes a really, really long time. Whether it is 500 years or 1000 years, the time it takes for single use plastic shopping bags to break down into toxic microscopic crumbs is rather offensive.

We all need to be more mindful about the goods we toss into the landfill. Our actions have consequences and it is important to weigh this long-term consequence with the immediate convenience. Let’s work together to move away from our single-use, disposable culture and start caring about our home.

*data sources: https://www.des.nh.govhttp://www.alternet.org

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How Light Pollution Affects Wildlife and Ecosystems

This post was originally published on this site

Night skies throughout the world are becoming brighter due to humans’ increasing use of artificial lights. This doesn’t simply interrupt our star gazing opportunities – it has a significant impact on many different animal species.

The term light pollution generally refers to how urban lighting blocks out our view of the night sky. But researchers are becoming more concerned about what’s called ecological light pollution, which alters light levels in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The following are some of their discoveries on the effects of ecological light pollution.

Bird Navigation

Nocturnal bird species use the moon and stars for navigation during migrations. Artificial lighting on tall office buildings, communication towers and other brightly-lit structures has been shown to throw them off-course with often fatal results.

Migrating birds are attracted to artificial lights and will fly in circles around them until they die from exhaustion or predators. Lights also cause a significant number of collisions with human-made structures.

For instance, a 4-year study that concluded in 2007 counted fatal night-time bird collisions at an illuminated offshore research platform in the North Sea. At the end of the study, 767 bird carcasses of 34 different species had been collected. Considering there are over 1,000 human structures in the North Sea, researchers estimated that hundreds of thousands of nocturnal migrating birds could be killed each year in that area alone.

Communication

Some night-dwelling creatures require darkness for proper communication. An example is the complex system fireflies use to communicate messages. The bioluminescent lights they emit from their bodies range from adult mating signals to young larvae warning off predators. These messages can be easily interrupted by stray light.

Darkness is also important for coyote communication. Coyotes howl more during the time of a new moon, when the sky is darkest. They most likely do this to reduce trespassing from other packs or to assist with hunting larger prey during dark conditions. A brighter sky reduces the amount they howl, which could disrupt territorial marking and group hunting coordination.

Reproduction

The reproductive behaviors of many animals may also be altered by light pollution. For instance, female glow-worms use bioluminescent flashes in order to attract males up to 45 meters (150 feet) away. Artificial lights can disrupt these important signals.

It’s been found that the female South American tungara frog is less selective about mate choice when greater amounts of light are present. Researchers suggest they may prefer to mate quickly in order to avoid an increased risk of predation in higher light.

Another experiment showed that frogs stopped their mating activity during night football games where a local sports stadium increased sky glow. Frog mating choruses resumed when a shield was put up to block the stadium’s light from the frogs’ habitat.

Ecosystem Interactions

Many predator-prey relationships are dependent on light. One study found that more harbor seals congregated under artificial lights to eat juvenile salmon migrating downstream. When the lights were turned off, the seals ate less salmon. This shows how increased light pollution can disrupt a natural balance, benefitting one species and putting another at risk.

The loss of nocturnal moths is another example of how local ecology can be impacted. Moths are attracted to lights and many are killed annually by touching hot components or getting caught in light-bated electric traps. The bats and birds who feed on them lose a food source. Also, moths play an important role in pollination for many different plant species. These are affected by declining moth populations.

Disorientation

Artificial night lighting may also disorient creatures that rely on darkness for navigation. The disruption of newly hatched baby sea turtles is a well-documented case.

When the hatchlings emerge from nests on sandy beaches, they will naturally move away from the dark silhouettes of vegetation on the beach. This causes them to head towards the open ocean. Beachfront lighting prevents the young turtles from seeing the silhouettes properly, and they become disoriented and remain stranded on the beach exposed to the elements and predators. Millions of hatchlings die this way each year.

What Can Be Done?

Many places throughout the world have taken steps to reduce light pollution. Audubon started a Lights Out program that now includes many major US cities.

In addition, the International Dark Sky Association works to conserve areas with dark skies through public education and designating Dark Sky communities, parks, and reserves. These are all listed on their website and many are open to visitors.

You can also take action at home to reduce ecological light pollution. Some helpful measures include:

  • Avoid using unnecessary interior or exterior lighting.
  • Install motion sensors on all outdoor lights. This will also help reduce your electricity costs.
  • Turn off any lights at night that are not motion sensing.
  • Take extra care to reduce night lighting during bird migration periods, typically in April and May, and again in August through to November.
  • Ensure all exterior lighting is “fully shielded” so light is prevented from shining upwards into the sky. These fixtures may also be called “zero light up” or “dark sky compliant.” The International Dark Sky Association has further information on types of fixtures to look for.
  • Use yellow or red lights when possible. These have a lower impact on wildlife and don’t attract insects.
  • Install window coverings that block as much light from escaping as possible.

Related
How to Grow Strawberries Year-Round for Free
Grow Your Own Goji Berries
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10 Hot Ideas for a Drought-Resistant Garden

This post was originally published on this site

Cutting back on water doesn’t mean the end of your garden. You can take many steps to reduce the water needs of your yard without sacrificing beauty or practicality. Try some of these suggestions to make your garden more resilient in the face of drought and summer heat.

1. Prepare your soil appropriately.

Organic matter helps your soil retain water as well as supplying nutrition for your plants. It’s best to mix compost, manure, shredded leaves, lawn clippings or other organic materials into your soil before you plant anything.

An exception to this rule is when you’re planting plants that are native to desert areas. Cacti, succulents, agaves and similar plants have adapted to living in dry soils, which are typically low in nutrients. You don’t need to add any extra organic matter for these plants, using regular topsoil is fine.

2. Install permeable surfaces.

Pathways and driveways made from materials like pebbles, bark chips or irregular stones will allow rainfall to pass through and absorb into your ground. Whereas, solid cement or pavement surfaces often direct extra rainwater onto the street instead of capturing it on your property.

3. Choose water-wise plants.

You don’t have to limit yourself when deciding what to plant in your garden. Many modern hybrids and varieties of plants are bred to be drought-resistant.

Using plants native to your area is another great option. These will already be well-adapted to your local climate and able to withstand water fluctuations.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association has an excellent plant database of many different drought-resistant annual and perennial flowers, as well as shrubs and trees. You can also ask your local garden center for recommendations.

Related: Best Drought-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

4. Reduce or remove your lawn.

Watering the lawn uses about 50 to 75 percent of a home’s water use during the summer. And this is usually treated, drinkable water. You could significantly reduce your water costs and conserve this precious resource by simply removing unneeded areas of lawn, or cutting it out altogether.

If you use your lawn as an area for recreation, consider putting in synthetic lawn or other material that doesn’t require water. There are also alternative groundcovers that can handle some foot traffic and need less water, such as thyme, clover, creeping Jenny, yarrow or chamomile.

5. Cover your ground.

Exposed soil will lose more water to evaporation than soil covered in some way. Groundcover plants, rocks, wood chips or other mulches add an attractive layer over your soil and keep in moisture.

Related: Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

6. Provide shade.

An extra layer of protection overtop your garden will block the sun and reduce evaporation from the ground. Structures, like arbors, raised decks, gazebos and pergolas, can all provide needed shade for plants and animals.

Planting drought-tolerant trees and shrubs is another great option. Ginkgo, red maple, hawthorn, honey locust and western redbud are all trees that can handle limited water. Hardy bushes include butterfly bush, lilac, rose of Sharon, holly, forsythia and sumac.

7. Water selectively.

When you’re planning or rearranging your garden, always try to group plants according to their watering needs. For example, vegetables or fruit trees need adequate water to develop their crops. You can easily group these together in one area of your garden, leaving the other areas to more water-wise plantings and pathways.

An automatic watering system can also be helpful. You can design the system to deliver water exactly where it’s needed and nowhere else. An automatic system can also prevent overwatering. These guidelines can help determine how much to water your plants.

8. Collect rain water.

Rain water can be collected in anything from a bucket to an underground cistern. Regardless of the amount, saved water can be put to use around your garden and will help reduce your water bills.

You can also design your garden to passively collect rainwater. Try placing plants at the bottoms of your eavestroughs or next to rocks and pavers to catch the runoff.

Related: 10 Uses for Rainwater

9. Weed your garden.

Weeds take precious water away from the plants you want to grow. Weeds are much easier to remove when they’re small, so short patrols of your yard to remove weed seedlings on a regular basis are actually more efficient than putting off weeding until it becomes a large project.

10. Build raised beds.

Certain types of raised beds are excellent for retaining water despite being more exposed to the elements.

Keyhole beds are typically circular, raised beds with a composting tube through the middle and a notch in the side. They look like keyholes when viewed from above. Keyhole beds were developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where they were proven to effectively grow food crops in their unforgiving climate.

Hügelkultur is a style of making raised beds filled with decomposing wood. The wood provides long-term organic matter and nutrients to the plants planted overtop. It also stores water. RichSoil has detailed instructions on how to build a hügelkultur bed.

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How Light Pollution Affects Wildlife and Ecosystems

This post was originally published on this site

Night skies throughout the world are becoming brighter due to humans’ increasing use of artificial lights. This doesn’t simply interrupt our star gazing opportunities – it has a significant impact on many different animal species.

The term light pollution generally refers to how urban lighting blocks out our view of the night sky. But researchers are becoming more concerned about what’s called ecological light pollution, which alters light levels in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The following are some of their discoveries on the effects of ecological light pollution.

Bird Navigation

Nocturnal bird species use the moon and stars for navigation during migrations. Artificial lighting on tall office buildings, communication towers and other brightly-lit structures has been shown to throw them off-course with often fatal results.

Migrating birds are attracted to artificial lights and will fly in circles around them until they die from exhaustion or predators. Lights also cause a significant number of collisions with human-made structures.

For instance, a 4-year study that concluded in 2007 counted fatal night-time bird collisions at an illuminated offshore research platform in the North Sea. At the end of the study, 767 bird carcasses of 34 different species had been collected. Considering there are over 1,000 human structures in the North Sea, researchers estimated that hundreds of thousands of nocturnal migrating birds could be killed each year in that area alone.

Communication

Some night-dwelling creatures require darkness for proper communication. An example is the complex system fireflies use to communicate messages. The bioluminescent lights they emit from their bodies range from adult mating signals to young larvae warning off predators. These messages can be easily interrupted by stray light.

Darkness is also important for coyote communication. Coyotes howl more during the time of a new moon, when the sky is darkest. They most likely do this to reduce trespassing from other packs or to assist with hunting larger prey during dark conditions. A brighter sky reduces the amount they howl, which could disrupt territorial marking and group hunting coordination.

Reproduction

The reproductive behaviors of many animals may also be altered by light pollution. For instance, female glow-worms use bioluminescent flashes in order to attract males up to 45 meters (150 feet) away. Artificial lights can disrupt these important signals.

It’s been found that the female South American tungara frog is less selective about mate choice when greater amounts of light are present. Researchers suggest they may prefer to mate quickly in order to avoid an increased risk of predation in higher light.

Another experiment showed that frogs stopped their mating activity during night football games where a local sports stadium increased sky glow. Frog mating choruses resumed when a shield was put up to block the stadium’s light from the frogs’ habitat.

Ecosystem Interactions

Many predator-prey relationships are dependent on light. One study found that more harbor seals congregated under artificial lights to eat juvenile salmon migrating downstream. When the lights were turned off, the seals ate less salmon. This shows how increased light pollution can disrupt a natural balance, benefitting one species and putting another at risk.

The loss of nocturnal moths is another example of how local ecology can be impacted. Moths are attracted to lights and many are killed annually by touching hot components or getting caught in light-bated electric traps. The bats and birds who feed on them lose a food source. Also, moths play an important role in pollination for many different plant species. These are affected by declining moth populations.

Disorientation

Artificial night lighting may also disorient creatures that rely on darkness for navigation. The disruption of newly hatched baby sea turtles is a well-documented case.

When the hatchlings emerge from nests on sandy beaches, they will naturally move away from the dark silhouettes of vegetation on the beach. This causes them to head towards the open ocean. Beachfront lighting prevents the young turtles from seeing the silhouettes properly, and they become disoriented and remain stranded on the beach exposed to the elements and predators. Millions of hatchlings die this way each year.

What Can Be Done?

Many places throughout the world have taken steps to reduce light pollution. Audubon started a Lights Out program that now includes many major US cities.

In addition, the International Dark Sky Association works to conserve areas with dark skies through public education and designating Dark Sky communities, parks, and reserves. These are all listed on their website and many are open to visitors.

You can also take action at home to reduce ecological light pollution. Some helpful measures include:

  • Avoid using unnecessary interior or exterior lighting.
  • Install motion sensors on all outdoor lights. This will also help reduce your electricity costs.
  • Turn off any lights at night that are not motion sensing.
  • Take extra care to reduce night lighting during bird migration periods, typically in April and May, and again in August through to November.
  • Ensure all exterior lighting is “fully shielded” so light is prevented from shining upwards into the sky. These fixtures may also be called “zero light up” or “dark sky compliant.” The International Dark Sky Association has further information on types of fixtures to look for.
  • Use yellow or red lights when possible. These have a lower impact on wildlife and don’t attract insects.
  • Install window coverings that block as much light from escaping as possible.

Related
How to Grow Strawberries Year-Round for Free
Grow Your Own Goji Berries
Genes Found That Come Alive After Death

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How Long Does Your Trash Actually Take to Decompose?

This post was originally published on this site

Yes, yes, we all know it’s important to recycle. But do you actually know why? Related: 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Recycle and Five Reasons Why They Should Most people have no idea how long it takes for their waste to actually decompose once it is launched into the trash. The fact is, the precise […]

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