Posts filed under ‘Be Green’

Cold Weather Doesn’t Disprove Climate Change

One common misconception about global warming is that it’ll impact each part of the globe in the same way. If it’s a global warming than why are some places getting cold winters? As it turns out, climate change is a bit more complicated than the Earth simply heating up in a uniform way. Climate change is exactly what it sounds like—a general change in the climate, not necessarily a single change that affects the entire planet evenly.

spring snow

Modern climate change, which scientists agree is largely caused by human activities, is a global change in climate. Although often called “global warming”, some scientists are shying away from the term because it makes people think that the entire Earth is heating up uniformly. In reality, while most of the planet is heating up (2016 was the hottest recorded year since 1880—the third year in a row to set this record), climate change doesn’t mean that every single part of the world will get hot immediately. Parts of the globe that are already hot, however, will begin to experience extremely high temperatures and serious droughts. This is not only unsafe for humans but will affect crops and livestock. Global warming is technically a correct term since temperatures are increasing overall but it doesn’t mean that every region will be affected the same way—weather is a bit more complex than that.

As the planet heats up, there are changes in jet stream patterns and precipitation. Heat is energy and moist warm air can fuel intense tropical storms and other weather anomalies. This can cause extreme lows and extreme highs—snow in Egypt and temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit in Iran. Jet stream patterns shift as Arctic ice melts; this can actually lead to colder temperatures in certain areas, as intensely cold Arctic air hits regions that aren’t normally exposed to such low temperatures. This explains some of the recent record low winters in parts of the United States. There are also plenty of weather events that aren’t directly caused by global warming—sometimes a cold winter is just a cold winter!

Cold weather happens, regardless of global warming or other types of climate change. A single event, whether it’s a drought or a blizzard, isn’t enough to prove or disprove climate change. Instead, scientists look at overall trends; the current analysis is that we are experiencing a global warming—and the global temperature is going up fast.

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Photo: Fort Wainwright Public Affairs (cc)

Sources: noaa.gov, yaleclimateconnections.org, usa today

December 4, 2018 at 4:01 am Leave a comment

Seabirds Eat Plastic Because it Looks and Smells Like Food

Marine pollution is a well-known, continuous problem in our world’s oceans. Of the types of anthropogenic debris (waste originating from human activity), plastic is perhaps the most dangerous. Few plastics are biodegradable, which means they stick around for a very long time without breaking down. According to NOAA and the Mote Laboratory in Florida, it can take hundreds of years for plastics to degrade. The length of time varies based on the type of plastic, product, and environmental conditions—but that doesn’t change the fact that it takes an average of 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down! A fishing line can take 600 years. Even when they do break down, they release tiny pieces of plastic that seem to persist indefinitely. Even worse, they’re regularly consumed by marine animals—often by accident. This can cause serious health problems, resulting in mortality for a large number of birds and other sea critters.

bird with plastic

Recently, a dead sperm whale was found with 64 pounds of plastic and other human waste in its stomach. It’s believed that the large amount of plastic was a major contributor to the animal’s untimely death. Plastics are even polluting the deep ocean, with many deep-sea creatures consuming microplastics (pieces of plastic about the size of a sesame seed or smaller) on a regular basis—including lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. Of all the animals being affected, the worst off are probably the seabirds.

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July 7, 2018 at 3:01 am 1 comment

Melting Icebergs Don’t Cause the Sea Level to Rise

Even among people who understand that the sea level is rising due to climate change, there are still some misconceptions floating around. It makes sense that as the temperature rises, floating sea ice would begin to melt, adding extra water and raising the sea level. In reality, that’s not quite how it works and sea ice is the least of our worries.

glacier

Sea ice is melting and we’re losing icebergs that have existed for millions of years. This doesn’t cause the sea level to rise, however, because the volume of this floating ice has already been accounted for. The ice was already displacing the water and as it melts, it simply adds the same volume in a liquid form. Put a bunch of ice cubes in a full glass of water and the glass won’t overfill from the ice melting. (more…)

May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm 8 comments

We’re Running Out of Helium and We Need It

By Chad Upton | Editor

Most of us only encounter helium at parties, but its role is far greater than floating balloons and squeaking voices.

Like oil, helium is formed deep in the earth over millions of years. It is created by radioactive decay of underground terrestrial rock. Helium is often trapped with Natural Gas and separating the two during natural gas extraction is typically how we get it.

Helium Balloons

About half of the world’s helium is located at the National Helium Reserve in Texas. This government reserve was originally setup in 1925, when the extraordinary value of helium was first recognized. The government believed airships were the future of defense and helium was the safest lighter-than-air gas to use since it’s not flammable. They were right in a way, helium was an important gas for future defense and science, but blimps were not a big part of that.

Helium is used to cool infrared detectors and was critical in the development of the atomic bomb and other scientific discoveries. Hospitals need helium to cool MRI scanners. It is also used in space rockets, defense systems, deep-sea diving, airships, optical lenses, power plants, wind tunnels, and other important areas of science.

Despite its great importance to our health and safety, we are squandering helium to the point where experts believe we will run out in as little as 15 years. (more…)

January 3, 2013 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Potatoes: Green Means Stop

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you eat potatoes, in any form, you’ve probably come across a partially green one.

Most importantly, don’t eat the green part — it’s toxic enough that you may get very ill, and it can cause death in rare cases. Secondly, it’s very bitter, so you’re not going to enjoy it. French fries and potato chips are also affected, so avoid the green stuff there too.

The green coloration is chlorophyll. Like many other plants, chlorophyll is formed with enough exposure to certain types of light. Of course, many green leaves are part of a healthy diet, so it’s not the chlorophyll itself that is the problem.

Exposure to light can also cause another reaction that forms a substance called “solanine.” It is not related to chlorophyll, but is often formed at the same time. Solanine is toxic. 16 ounces of a fully green pototo could be enough to make a 100lb person sick.

The green chlorophyll is a good warning about the presence of solanine, but solanine can form when chlorophyll does not. So, even if the potato looks normal, the bitter taste will serve as a warning.

Cooking a green potato will not help, it’s still toxic. But, a cooked potato cannot turn green since the required enzyme mechanisms are destroyed in cooking.

Bottom line: if it’s green or bitter, skip it.

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Photo: Selva / Eden (cc)

Sources: Purdue, Elkhorn

January 14, 2011 at 2:00 am 8 comments

How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste

By Chad Upton | Editor

Every home has things that should NOT go in the trash. Yet, many people don’t know what to do with them or even what some of these items are.

Some examples are:

  • batteries
  • compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • paints and stains
  • pesticides and herbicides
  • fertilizers and poisons
  • cleaners and disinfectants
  • car fluids
  • medicines and prescription drugs

The main concern is that when many of these hazardous materials make it to landfills, they will eventually leech into our water supply and have potentially dangerous consequences.

Many large retailers such as Lowe’s, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods and many others will accept certain types of batteries, Ni-Cad and Car Batteries being the most popular types accepted. Some retailers, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, will also accept compact fluorescent light bulbs.

For most other hazardous materials, you’ll likely need to go to your city’s drop off depot. Sometimes this service is paid for by your taxes, other cities charge a usage fee depending on what you’re dropping off.

A great site to help you find a nearby retailer or city depot to recycle or safely dispose of some of these items is earth911.com. You tell it what hazardous material you have and where you are, it will try to tell you the nearest place you can take it. I got really good results for everything I tried.

For medicines, check out this previous post: How to Dispose of Medicine.

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Sources: Oregon Live, Earth 911City of Toronto

January 3, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How to Dispose of Medicine

By Chad Upton | Editor

You should regularly check your medicine cabinet for expired drugs. Because, if you’re like me, it’s probably more like a time-capsule than a medicine cabinet. Yesterday, my wife excavated a teeth whitening kit of mine that expired almost 5 years ago.

When you come across unused or expired medication, you have two options: keep it or get rid of it. There is some debate about the safety and effectiveness of expired medication, but there is no debate about the risk to pets and children when they get into unused medication. Prescription medication can be extremely dangerous, in fact: the second leading cause of death in 35-54 year olds is accidental overdose.

The best way to get rid of old medication is to give it to an organization that can properly dispose of it.

Your local police department may have take back programs where you can return drugs and they will send them away to be discarded. Some local drug stores have take back programs and others, such as Walgreens, sell special envelopes that can be used to mail your drugs to a proper disposal facility.

If professional disposal is not available to you, the next option is to discard the drugs in your own trash. The FDA, and other experts, recommend putting the discarded drugs in a small Ziploc bag and mixing item with undesirable waste such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. This reduces the chance of pets and children finding them or being interested in them if they do find them.

The FDA also maintains a small list of medications that you can flush down the toilet, because they could be potentially dangerous to pets or children if found in the trash. Some of the common ones include demerol, percocet, oxycontin and morphine.

Although flushing these drugs is better than putting them in the trash, sending the drugs away for proper disposal is always the best option. Professional disposal reduces the probability that the drugs will end up in the water supply that we, and many other species, rely on.

You may also want to read this post: Most Medication is Still Good After the Expiration Date

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Photo: Sparktography (cc)

Sources: FDA, Tylenol.com, Smarxt Disposal, Walgreens.com, Sharps

November 15, 2010 at 1:00 am 2 comments

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