Friday, March 22, 2013

The problem with plastics (well, at least one of the many)

Is this true?

A while ago, a friend sent me this article from on BPA. BPA (for Bisphenol A) is a chemical found in many types of plastics, including those used for food (e.g., the plastic liner in some canned products, Nalgene bottles, etc). BPA has a similar molecular structure to estrogen, and when introduced to the body can interfere with processes that rely on estrogen. It has been associated with breast cancer, low semen production, and rising rates of early pubescence in girls.

SmartMama reviews a scientific study linking BPA to obesity. My friend asked me for my take on it.

Here is what I said. 

The abstract of the study does not say if they controlled for dietary choices. Obviously, eating more packaged foods equals more BPA and more calories...

However, these results are not surprising. The body is extremely parsimonious. The same hormones that lead to sexual development are also used in building muscle and controlling the metabolism. BPA is a hormone disrupter, so no surprise when we find out it is messing with our bodies in a multitude of ways.

What should you do about it?

I try to avoid eating processed foods as much as possible. Of course, that is a good move for many reasons (healthier, fewer calories, less packaging materials, etc). However, you can't always avoid it entirely. The trick is that only certain plastics have BPA. Typically plastics labeled 1, 2, 4, and 5 are BPA free. Here is the rhyme I came up with to help me remember which ones.

One, two, four, and five
If you want to stay alive.
Avoid number three
So you can be cancer free.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Repurpose: One of the many Rs (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repair, Refuse...)

During the course of my most epic adventure (err... I mean, moving, stressing about moving, and looking up organization tips), I found a few more great resources.

1. Homesteading and Survival-ism: They have a website, but their Facebook page is far more exciting. They have wonderful pictures of little cabins and other rustic living spaces, but they also have a lot of cute, cool little ideas how to do things on the cheap, like turn gutters into hanging gardens (see here).

2. Karmic Recycling: A woman catalogs her experience with her worm bin. Check it out here.

3. Apartment Therapy: Another great resource on how to live comfortably in small spaces, how to re-purpose trash into treasure, and other fun things (check their blog out here).

How to get rid of your stuff: Why George Carlin was right

I believe George Carlin once pointed out that other people's belongings are "shit", while your own things are "stuff." I'd like to carry that logic one step further and say that all stuff is shit. Seriously, why do I need a food processor, blender, and an immersion blender? And where the hell did that creme brulee torch come from?!?

I'm moving from a large apartment into a much smaller apartment, and I need to get rid of a lot of things that I do not use very often. But I can't just throw it away in the garbage! That means it goes to a landfill, to slowly corrode and seep into our water supply. Throwing things in the garbage unnecessarily is one of the high crimes of environmentalism, but one that is so easy to give in to. Here is what I've learned so far.

A. The resources listed below vary widely from county to county in what they will accept. Always check beforehand with your local facility to be sure they will accept your items.

1. Stuff: The vast majority of your stuff can be donated to Goodwill. For people in the Bay Area, you can check out the list here. There is a very small list of what they won't take, like really dangerous stuff (guns, knives, etc), or really big appliances (refrigerators, water heaters).

2. Furniture: The Goodwill in my neighborhood contracts out with a group called College Hunks Moving Junk. According to their website, they will pick up your furniture and haul it away for you. Anything that can go to the Goodwill, they give you a tax deductible receipt for, and anything that cannot go to the Goodwill, they take anyway and dispose of in the most environmentally responsible manner possible. Sadly, I cannot yet vouch for the attractiveness of their employees.

3. E-waste (Old electronics, cables, power cords, etc): Most electronics can go to (surprise!) the Goodwill. They will refurbish useable electronics (they erase and reformat the drive, to protect your privacy), and whatever doesn't work is disassembled and recycled. The few exceptions are fluorescent bulbs and batteries. Those have to go to the household hazardous waste facility.

4. Household hazardous waste: In addition to bulbs and batteries, you can take your old cleaning supplies here. The useable stuff is donated to poor families. I even donated old, but useable soap and shampoo to be put in their donation warehouse. Some of these facilities have weird hours (e.g., only Tuesday from 2-5pm), and most will require an appointment for drop-offs.

5. Medicine: As I mentioned in a previous post, you should not flush your unwanted medicine down the toilet. There should be a medicine drop-off box at your local sheriff's office that will take everything, including controlled prescription painkillers. As I've said before, I still cannot find out what exactly they do with the unwanted medicine. I've emailed a number of resources, and still no luck. Maybe I can find an investigative journalist to take this one on.

6. Miscellaneous: In one of my first posts I called out this website ( as a good place to find out where to get rid of your stuff. Another resource I stumbled across recently is the San Mateo Recology Database. Pretty good resource for all of the miscellaneous crap I need to get rid of that can't go anywhere else (e.g., used cds, crutches, eyeglasses).

B. Don't give up! You will have to make a number of trips to different places to get rid of all of your crap, but it will be worth it! At the end of the day you will know you've done the right thing and that somewhere someone treasures that thing you wanted to throw away like the piece of shit it was.