Viable Earth: Upcycling for environment and society

By: Stefany Olivas, Guest Writer

The effects of sustainability can be difficult to grasp. Health, energy, economics and inevitably, the environment have a single concept that links them — sustainability. Over the course of this term, guest writer Stefany Olivas, a biology major with a concentration in sustainability, will explore the issues and concepts involved in “going green.”

Upcycling, the practice of repurposing an object for another use, has become a popular practice. Communications Major Dana Chandler and Nutrition Major Ernest Padilla-Garcia are two such people.

C h a n d l e r said she started Project Reuse New Mexico to encourage resi­dents to reuse dis­posable products, as a way to help the environment.

The idea began after a geology class in which students studied the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and a Public Speaking class where she used persuasive speech to encourage her classmates to use reus­able plastic bottles and grocery bags, she said.

“To me, it means trying to live in har­mony with nature, and try to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can,” she said.

Although recy­cling keeps trash out of landfills and the envi­ronment, it still con­sumes many resources; throwing used prod­ucts away is her last resort, she said.

In today’s soci­ety, plastic seems to be everywhere and making the right choice is not always possible, she said.

“It’s tricky. It’s hard to figure out what works and it’s not always realistic depend­ing on what you decide to be sustainable about. What’s worth trying to reuse or recycle and what’s not?” she said.

Padilla-Garcia said he began avoiding the use of plastic because he found out food pack­ages can contain toxins such as BPA that can get into the food,.

“BPA can be leached into what is in the container if the tem­perature is high enough or if it’s in there long enough,” he said.

Garcia first began to use glass jars for homemade smooth­ies because glass is not porous like plas­tic and is reusable, he said. Even though the jars are more fragile, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

The glass does not allow as much gas exchange inside the container where food is stored, which prevents the degradation of the nutrients, said Garcia.

“In the long term, you’re saving money. It’s also helpful to the envi­ronment since we’re not polluting the landfills with as much of the plas­tics,” said Garcia.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services website, BPA has proven to negatively affect the health of laboratory animals, but further research is needed to determine the effects on humans.

The DHHS recom­mends reduced use of certain plastic contain­ers for infants, and their website, at safety/bpa, has guide­lines on how to do so.

To get started, Garcia said he recom­mends occasionally buying glass containers and BPA-free products. Companies that do not use BPA will say so on the packaging, he said.

“Start to make the substitutions one at a time. Just choose one thing over the other,” said Garcia.

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