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]

2624-Year-Old Cypress Tree Discovered in North Carolina Swamp

iStock/earleliason
iStock/earleliason

National Love a Tree Day on May 16 is a day to appreciate all the world's trees, but a bald cypress recently identified in North Carolina is especially deserving of recognition. As Live Science reports, scientists date the tree to 2624 years old, making it one the oldest living non-clonal trees on Earth.

For their study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, a team of researchers studied the rings of trees in North Carolina's Black River swampland to learn more about climate history in the eastern United States. Bald cypresses are known to have impressive lifespans, but after analyzing specimens in the Black River's Three Sisters Swamp, an area that's notable for its long-lived trees, the scientists discovered that cypresses can grow to be even older than previously believed. The 2624-year-old cypress tree they found predates the Great Wall of China and the Roman Empire. Other remarkably old trees, including a 2088-year-old cypress, were also identified in the same grove.

The North Carolina cypresses are old, but there are other types of trees that can grow to be much older. Clonal tress are genetically identical plants that reproduce asexually from a single ancestor. Old Tjikko, a clonal tree in Sweden, has a root system that dates back 9550 years.

Despite all that North Carolina's bald cypress trees have endured, their lives are under threat. The swamp where the 2624-year-old tree stands is located just 6.5 feet above sea level, which means that floods driven by climate change could damage its habitat. And though the grove is in a protected area, industrial runoff and logging that's happening nearby could impact the trees' health. North Carolina is considering establishing a Black River State Park where the trees grow to further protect the ancient natural wonders.

[h/t Live Science]

This Beverage Maker Lets You Enjoy Carbonated Drinks Without Hurting the Environment

Sparkel
Sparkel

Whether you're preparing breakfast before you head off to work or looking for something to wash down lunch, procuring the perfect beverage is vital. If it's a carbonated drink, though, with that comes the carbon dioxide emissions that arise every time you hear that classic "fssst" sound from cracking one open. These emissions are actually quite harmful to the environment.

But thanks to the newly unveiled Spärkel, curating carbonated drinks can be done without using CO2 or any artificial ingredients.

"If you walk into any grocery store, the explosion in the popularity of sparkling drinks is plain to see with more choices and flavors than ever before, but why buy off-the-shelf when it is healthier, cheaper, and more fun to create your own drinks at home?" Darren Hatherell, CEO of Spärkel, said in a press release. "With Spärkel, we created a system that lets people use the freshest ingredients and convenient carbonation process to experiment and unleash their creativity in a way that is kind to their wallet and the environment."

Users can place any kind of ingredients they wish—berries, citrus, cucumbers, etc.—along with their drink of choice—water, tea, cocktails—into the 25 oz. (750 mL) bottle and choose what level, from one to five, of fizz they'd like to have added to their drink. The sealed chamber generates CO2 naturally from a sachet of Spärkel Carbonator powder, which is "made of a special granulation of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate." The CO2 bubbles are cycled through the liquid, and within a couple of minutes, you have a completely personalized sparkling drink.

On top of all that, the beverage maker is suitable for any number of usages from water and juices to cocktails. It also comes in nine different colors—black, white, gray, yellow, orange, red, blue, green, and pink—so it can match up with whatever kitchen palette you have.

To get your hands on the Spärkel, check it out on Indiegogo, where it's available for a pre-sale price of $59.

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