Friday, January 19, 2018

Easy Steps to Clean our Waterways

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Carefree man jumping by sea ocean water.We can easily take water for granted. It flows from the faucets and it keeps our boats afloat, so what’s there to think about, really? Actually, there’s a lot to focus on, as our drinking supplies are vulnerable, waterways are sullied, and marine creatures are jeopardized. Though that sounds more like a job for a superhero than an average person, each of us can incorporate simple changes into our lifestyles that will collectively make a big difference.

The typical American uses over 2,000 gallons of water per day, so there are opportunities to cut back without sacrifice. The Water Footprint Calculator helps figure out how much water you use in your daily routine, both directly and virtually, through a series of simple questions:  www.watercalculator.org. Once you know how much you use, you can modify your routines and your conveniences.

Start by changing out water-guzzling toilets with low flow models and shutting off the running water as you brush your teeth. Add more vegetables to your diet and reduce or eliminate meat, plant a rain garden or install a rain sensor on your sprinklers, and look into alternate energy sources that don’t rely on water for power generation.

What enters washing machines ends up in our waterways and food chain. Synthetic clothing fibers are a type of microplastic — toxic pollutants in the water eventually ingested by the smallest fish at the bottom of the feeding system. To minimize microplastics migrating from our washing machines into waterways and marine ecosystems, avoid buying synthetic clothing, instead choosing natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and silk. Even better, avoid trends and buy vintage clothing in those materials. You’ll eliminate the water used to grow the fibers and manufacture clothes even before you do the laundry.

Lawn care is another source of pollution. If you choose pesticides and fertilizers only based on how green the grass is on product labels, you’re likely contributing to groundwater and waterway contamination. Look for enviro-friendly products and services that are less hazardous, or cut your lawn less, aerate it more, leave the clippings after mowing, and treat only the type of weeds that are present.

Garbage is garbage, right? We know the answer is no! Many items don’t belong in landfills, flushed down the toilet, or hosed off at the boatyard. Quite a few products used at home and on boats contain hazardous or toxic substances, including oil, batteries, cleansers, paints, pesticides (including flea collars), and medications.

s from recreational boaters hosing away chemical detergents, copper-based anti-fouling paint, teak cleaners, bilge water fluids, antifreeze, oil, gasoline, and batteries can be toxic. If your boatyard isn’t a green collection and recycling facility, check with your municipality, http://earth911.com/ or 1-800-CLEANUP for local hazardous waste collection facilities or events. Also: https://www.epa.gov/hwpermitting/how-do-i-find-hazardous-waste-management-facilities-my-area.

Hazardous items such as batteries, oil, oil filters, and antifreeze need special handling and careful disposal. Put them back in their original packaging when possible and keep these items separate to prevent cross-contamination. Consult with your marina manager, municipality, or a local service station about proper collection and recycling.

Aerosol cans are thrown away by the billions. They pose environmental and safety problems on multiple levels: their outer materials, the possibility of some contents remaining, the small size of the particles they emit, and their capability to explode when under pressure or exposed to extreme heat. Make sure aerosol cans are as empty as possible before disposing (never puncture a can to drain it out). See if your municipality or marina has set up a separate aerosol can recycling method. If not, any can containing an environmentally hazardous material, such as oil, must be disposed of based on contents (plastic lids can be properly disposed of separately, but leave nozzles in place).

Disposing of medications improperly is impactful. Fish and other marine wildlife exposed to drugs may eventually stop reproducing, and those who survive contribute to drug-resistant health hazards. Ask your pharmacist, local hospital, or police station to dispose of unused or expired medications. See more: https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/collecting-and-disposing-unwanted-medicines

Cigarettes will kill you when used as directed. Though it may be your choice to smoke, don’t opt to harm the environment as well. Studies show that tobacco litter is toxic and very slow to decompose. Cigarette butts are nicotine and tar-filled biohazards that kill marine life, and swallowing the filter’s cellulose acetate causes digestive blockages in fish, whales, birds, and other wildlife. The best idea is to stop smoking. Short of that, dispose of your butts in proper receptacles.

According to published reports, half a million straws are thrown away daily in the U.S. At that rate, it’s easy to see how all that plastic waste can quickly proliferate in landfills and pollute our waterways. An almost effortless way to reduce plastic pollution is to say, “No straw, please” when you dine out or visit a convenience store.

Once you’ve become an aware consumer and boater, you may want to get involved with others towards taking bigger steps to preserve our precious waters. Volunteer with a local organization or the regional arm of a larger group whose mission or focus appeals to you. Can’t find a group to join? Try this resource: http://sourcewatercollaborative.org/connect-with-others/

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