Southern California environment news and trends

How to avoid jewelry poisoning

No, this isn’t another edition of “Things Environmentalists Say to Ruin Everything.” Sorry, it’s true; your jewelry could be making you sick. (But isn’t it better to know the truth?) Just last week, we reported via the Los Angeles Times that popular retailers recently settled a law suit with California about the dangerous levels of cadmium in jewelry. 

In the settlement between the Center for Environmental Health and major retailers like the Gap, Forever 21, Target, American Eagle Outfitters, Saks, Hot Topics and more, these stores will no longer be able to sell jewelry containing 0.03% cadmium. Further, they will pay a total of $1.03 million to cover jewelry testing and future compliance testing. 

Cadmium is so toxic that the Occupational Safety & Hazards Administration (OSHA) declares even trace amounts as dangerous. At “best” it causes diarrhea and fever, at worse is causes cancer, genetic problems, and kidney malfunction. As the chemical helps add shape to jewelry, Chinese jewelry makers used it extensively in trinkets after 2008 U.S. legislation outlawed the use of lead.


How to remember your reusable bags at the grocery store

Consider the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where 3.5 million tons of trash swirls about the Pacific Ocean in an area the size of Texas. As much as 80 percent of that trash comes from the land. It contains, you guessed it, many of our plastic shopping bags.

While these plastic bags will never biodegrade, they may eventually photodegrade. This means they just turns into smaller and smaller pieces. This plastic gets ingested by fish: a recent study showed that “35% of the fish collected on a 2008 research expedition off the West Coast had plastic in their stomachs.”  

Something must be done to turn the tide on plastic shopping bags in the Pacific: in Southern California, we are doing it. On August 1, 2011, a plastic ban when into effect in Long Beach. The same happened last week for Santa MonicaHuntington Beach is now considering doing the same. 


How to prep for an emergency – without bottled water

Hurricane Irene has come and gone, but not before leaving its mark on the East Coast. After pounding the Mid-Atlantic States, the storm blew into New York City last Saturday before settling its wind and rain onto New England. As the East Coast wrings out, many are left with a massive stockpile of emergency supplies they hurriedly purchased just last week. What were people pulling off shelves in droves? Bottled water.

We may not live in hurricane territory here in Southern California, but we’re no novices when it comes to emergency preparation. (For a complete list of earthquake supplies, click here.) Experts urge that we stockpile a gallon of water per person per day, as a major metropolitan area could be without water for 72 hours or longer. We need to keep water on hand. However, what if you avoid bottled water? Are you able to continue your green habits in an emergency situation?


How to safely spot sea lions and seals along the Southern California coast

Last week, we shared the sad news that a sea lion had washed ashore in Venice Beach with multiple gunshot wounds. While authorities have offered a $5,000 award to any information leading to an arrest, the rest of us left are wondering just how we can all get along in Southern California. As we share habitats with seals and sea lions, you can’t help but think that the losing species is likely the one not pointing a gun at the other. 

But there are places along our coast where we can safely admire them without threatening beast or beach. (Or getting ourselves wacked by an angry sea lion or seal.) Here are three of our favorite California haunts for sea lions and seals.

King Harbor Marina, Redondo Beach

King Harbor is known for a bounty of (sometime seasonal) seals who like to hang out on a platform barge in the marina. Locals often kayak out among the seal pups that make playful cavorting look like an Olympic sport. No seals in sight? Don’t worry, a curious dolphin might make an appearance.


Shopping for furniture? Here’s how you can go green

Last year, I moved into a new apartment with my now husband. He had beautiful vintage pieces of furniture, carefully handed down from his grandparents. I had a bunch of Ikea assembled a decade ago, and I was determined to see how long it would last. (I didn’t say it was pretty.) So it was my carefully-preserved remnants of the 1990s that were destined for a second life second-hand shop. The problem? No one would take them.

As the mover for one thrift store informed me, second-hand thrift shops won’t carry particle-board pieces because their resale value is so low. For an extra fee, he offered to drop off my perfectly-functional coffee table, entertainment stand and dresser at a local homeless shelter who “might” take it. I took the offer, thinking it was the better plan. The other involved me likely falling under my “Vallvik” dresser as I dragged it to the curb, hoping LA DWP would mistake it for a blue bin and haul it away. At least this way my furniture wasn’t heading to a landfill….right?