Why Your Canvas Tote Could Be Just as Bad for the Environment as a Plastic Bag

iStock.com/Rawpixel
iStock.com/Rawpixel

Many major cities and corporations are cracking down and banning plastic bags in an effort to reduce pollution and save our oceans. But is that really the best approach? While plastic bags are “almost certainly the worst” of all options in terms of ocean pollution, according to Quartz, the issue gets a little murkier when you take other environmental issues into consideration.

As it turns out, canvas tote bags might be less eco-friendly than plastic bags because they’re often made of cotton, which requires more energy and water to produce. According to one study from 2011, a cotton bag’s carbon footprint is 598.6 pounds of CO2, compared to 3.48 pounds for a standard plastic bag made from high-density polyethylene. Researchers concluded that it might actually be better to reuse those plastic bags you get from the supermarket, then recycle them once they’re no longer viable.

Similarly, a 2018 recent study from Denmark found that low-density polyethylene bags wreaked the least damage on the planet of all the different types of bag studied. (However, it’s important to note that ocean pollution was not taken into account in that particular study, and that plastic can still severely harm marine life and ecosystems.) Representatives of Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food determined that conventional cotton bags would have to be reused 7100 times to match the cumulative environmental performance of a plastic bag. Organic cotton bags are even worse, because those would need to be reused 20,000 times.

So what’s a well-meaning, environmentally conscious consumer to do in the face of conflicting information? To start, Quartz recommends reusing your bags—regardless of whether they’re plastic or cotton—as many times as possible. And if you already own a canvas tote bag, be sure to actually use it to ensure you’re hitting the threshold needed to offset the environmental impact.

[h/t Quartz]

Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin Urges Visitors to Treat the Exclusion Zone With Respect

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Following the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one tour company reported that bookings to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone located in Ukraine rose 35 percent. Now, series creator Craig Mazin is imploring the new wave of tourists to be respectful when snapping selfies at Chernobyl, Gizmodo reports.

A 2500-square-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after its reactor exploded in 1986 and flooded the area with harmful radiation. The abandoned towns are still too radioactive for people to live there safely, but they have been deemed safe to visit temporarily with the supervision of a guide.

Chernobyl has supported a dark tourism industry for years, but thanks to the miniseries, photographs taken there are gaining new levels of attention online. News of influencers posing for irreverent selfies at the site of the nuclear disaster quickly went viral. Mazin tweeted:

Regardless of why people are visiting the site, being respectful in the presence of tragedy is always a good idea. It's also smart to resist leaving a tour group to snap the perfect selfie in some abandoned building: Tour companies warn that breaking rules and wandering off approved paths can lead to dangerous radiation exposure.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Minnesota Wants to Pay Homeowners to Create Bee-Friendly Lawns

iStock/GoodLifeStudio
iStock/GoodLifeStudio

Bees are an important part of our agriculture, helping to pollinate around 30 percent of all the world's crops. That means humans have a vested interest in protecting bees from insecticides, predation, habitat loss, and other factors that have caused populations to drop worldwide in recent years. In Minnesota, legislators are taking steps to help bees by incentivizing homeowners to plant food sources for the insects on their property, the Star Tribune reports.

The new bill, which was recently approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, sets aside a yearly budget of $900,000 to be used to help state residents convert their lawns into bee sanctuaries. The program specifically aims to boost the rusty patched bumblebee, a pollinator native to the Midwest whose population has declined by 87 percent in the past two decades.

When the law goes into effect, homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance to plant their bee-friendly lawn, with 75 percent of the cost being covered for most projects and up to 90 percent being provided in areas especially suited to rusty patched bees. Approved properties will be planted with "native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes," according to the bill. Small common flowers that many homeowners try to eradicate, such as Dutch white clover and dandelions, are some of the most appealing sources of pollen to bees.

It’s still unclear when Minnesotans will be able to take advantage of the new law. The state's Board of Water and Soil Resources will give grants to local conservation groups, who will distribute funding to individual landowners. The state representative who introduced the bill, Kelly Morrison, has said she hopes the law goes into effect by next spring.

The bee-friendly lawn program is just one way people around the world are taking action to save struggling bee populations. In 2017, the UK announced it would ban pesticides that hurt bees, and in Amsterdam, bees can take refuge at strategically placed "insect hotels."

[h/t Star Tribune]

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