Coca-Cola is once again the brand name most likely to show up on trash collected from UK beaches, the latest installment in a yearly analysis has shown.
The analysis was the result of a yearly brand audit conducted by ocean conservation group Surfers Against Sewage as part of a beach clean event. The group found that Coke was one of 12 parent companies responsible for more than 65 percent of all branded pollution.
"Our annual Brand Audit has once again revealed the shocking volume of plastic and packaging pollution coming directly from big companies and some of their best known brands," Surfers Against Sewage Chief Executive Hugo Tagholm said in a press release. "Serial offenders including Coca-Cola – which tops the leader board year on year as the worst offender – are still not taking responsibility."
The audit was based on the group's Million Mile Clean, in which more than 50,000 volunteers cleaned a total of 350,000 miles and collected 26,983 items of packaging pollution from May 11 to 23. This effort revealed the "Dirty Dozen" companies whose various product names were most often found on bags and bottles: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Bush InBev, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Heineken, Tesco, Carlsberg Group, Suntory, Haribo, Mars and Aldi.
Further, the analysis revealed the top 12 most polluting brands: Coca-Cola, Walkers, McDonalds, Cadbury, Tesco, Lucozade, Costa Coffee, Budweiser, Mars- Wrigley, Stella Artois, Haribo and Aldi. (Walkers is a UK chip company owned by Pepsi).
There were many repeat offenders on the lists, including Coke, which has taken the top spot for every year since 2019. However, the coronavirus pandemic does seem to have influenced the lists somewhat.
"Brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser have moved up into the top 12 polluting brands with Anheauser-Bush InBev moving from eight to third in the Dirty Dozen companies ranking," the report authors wrote. "This is likely to be due to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants increasing personal alcohol consumption in public recreational settings during lockdowns."
The audit also looked at non-branded litter, which accounted for 63 percent of the items collected. Cigarette butts were responsible for 25 percent of these items. In this case, further, the pandemic appears to have made less of a change. Personal Protective Equipment only was responsible for 2.5 percent of all the waste found.
"Whilst clearly an emerging threat, it is important that this should not distract from the significant amount of pollution caused by brands and their parent companies," the report authors wrote.
In response to the findings, Surfers Against Sewage is calling for something called an "all-in" Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). This is when a customer is charged an extra fee for buying a drink in a single-use container, The Guardian explained. When the customer returns the empty container for recycling, they can then redeem the fee.
The analysis found that nearly 30 percent of all the litter it looked at would have been eliminated through a DRS. In addition, such a scheme would have handled 52 percent of the Dirty Dozen litter and more than 80 percent of the Coke litter. In Germany, where such a scheme is in effect, 97 percent of cans, glass and plastic are recycled, The Independent reported. However, the UK government has said that such a scheme will not be introduced until 2024, a delay it blames on the pandemic, according to The Guardian.
"Legislation such as an 'all-in' deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments need to hold these companies to account and turn off the tap of plastic and packaging pollution flooding the ocean," Tagholm said in the release.
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All of us know what it's like to be in an energy slump, and most of us tend to address low energy levels with caffeine. Whether that's in the form of coffee or one of those little energy-shot drinks, there are plenty of caffeinated options. While caffeine has its place, excessive consumption of caffeine can contribute to some unwanted side effects including headaches, insomnia, heart palpitations, and beyond. Plus, many energy drinks are full of sugar and calories.
Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives available. These healthy energy drinks and supplements can help you with a lack of energy without the jitters and unwanted side effects. Keep reading to learn more about the best energy supplements and vitamin subscriptions available today.
Our Picks for the Best Energy Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best for B-Vitamins - Care/of B Complex
- Best for Athletes - Onnit Active B Complete
- Best Magnesium Supplement - Sunwarrior Liquid Magnesium
- Best for Energy Production - Bulletproof Forbose Energy
- Best Liquid Vitamin - Nested Naturals B Complex
- Best Vitamin Bites - GEM Daily Essentials
- Best Organic Option - Global Healing Vitamin B12
- Best Gummy for Energy - Goli Nutrition ACV Gummies
- Best for Mental Energy - Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered Superfood Honey
What are the Best Vitamins for Energy?
One way you can minimize caffeine dependence while boosting your natural energy levels is to make sure your body has the vitamins and nutrients it needs to support energy production at the cellular level. A few of the best vitamins for energy and overall wellness include:
You probably know that vitamin B12 is necessary for building red blood cells, which help to transport oxygen throughout the body. And that oxygen, in turn, helps the cells to produce energy. A vitamin B12 deficiency is often linked with fatigue.
One of the most abundant of bodily minerals, magnesium supports over 300 different functions, including energy production. It also helps promote restful sleep, which allows you to wake up feeling recharged and ready for the day.
Like vitamin B12, iron is essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body, supplying cells with the resources they need to produce energy. Iron deficiency, meanwhile, is linked with anemia, which can leave you with chronic fatigue and can impact your mental energy.
This Indian herb belongs on any list of the best supplements to boost energy. It helps fortify your body against mental or physical stressors, allowing you to conserve and increase energy levels.
A naturally occurring hormone, melatonin helps regulate healthy sleep cycles, allowing your body to replenish its energy reserves. The best melatonin supplements can help you get the rest you need to be vigorous and productive during the day. Getting enough sleep is also associated with health benefits like boosting your immune system.
The 9 Best Vitamin Supplements for Energy
What are the best multivitamins and dietary supplements for energy? Here are nine of the top options you can buy online.
Best for B-Vitamins: Care/Of B Complex
- Includes large servings of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Thiamin.
- Made with rice hulls, acacia, and sunflower oil.
- Non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free.
Best for Athletes: Onnit Active B Complete
- Supplements your level of thiamin as well as vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6.
- Includes small portions of rice hulls and sunflower oil.
- Gluten-free, soy-free, and caffeine-free.
Best Magnesium Supplement: Sunwarrior Magnesium Liquid
- Liquid magnesium fortified with chloride, sulfite, and boron.
- Soy-free, zero added sugars, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Why buy: Magnesium can help you with everything from sleep to muscle recovery, making this an all-around great option for anyone who wants to increase their physical energy and stamina. This supplement is an affordable and convenient way to boost brain function, fight fatigue, muscle cramps, and more.
Best for Energy Production: Bulletproof Forbose Energy Production
- Contains three ingredients that promote energy production and recovery: ribose, Coleus forskohlii root extract, and magnesium.
- Includes rice extract blend.
- Vegan and vegetarian.
Best Liquid Vitamin: Nested Naturals B Complex
- Provides a full range of the essential, energy-producing B-vitamins.
- Includes rice flour.
- Vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free.
Best Vitamin Bites: GEM Daily Essentials
- Each Daily Essentials supplement includes a different lineup of vitamins and minerals, including ashwagandha.
- Made with ingredients such as chickpeas, chia seed, curry leaves, quinoa, and other real food sources.
Best Organic Option: Global Healing Vitamin B12
- Includes a big boost of vitamin B12.
- USDA organic and vegan friendly.
- Supports energy, metabolism, and sleep.
Why buy: This is a simple, no-nonsense vitamin B12 supplement that can help you enjoy greater levels of energy and better metabolism, as well as more restful sleep. Also take note of the incredible value, including a year-long money-back guarantee. This is a great all-natural energy booster.
Best Gummy for Energy: Goli Nutrition Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies
- Includes apple cider vinegar as well as beetroot, citric acid, pomegranate, B vitamins, and pectin.
- Gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO.
- Promotes healthy digestion, energy, and detox.
Best for Mental Energy: Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered Superfood Honey
- Made with royal jelly, propolis, and bee pollen.
- Made without dairy or gluten.
- Caffeine-free, paleo-friendly, all-natural.
Why buy: Royal jelly offers incredible, natural compounds that help boost cognitive ability. This superfood honey is a great option to choose if you're seeking a natural supplement to help you power through brain fog or tiredness without added sugars or caffeine. This raw honey with bee pollen also contains amino acids and antioxidants.
Find the Top Supplements to Boost Energy
We all need a pick-me-up sometimes. Rather than reaching for that third cup of coffee for a short-term jolt, consider fortifying your diet with the essential, energy-boosting vitamins and nutrients your body needs. Use this guide to the best energy supplements as you consider healthy, holistic ways to increase your natural energy.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
By Stuart Braun
Mycelium, the silky thread that binds fungus, is being adapted to create everything from shoes to coffins to packaging and robust building materials. Best of all, it literally feeds on trash and agricultural byproducts, detoxifing them along the way.
The biodegradable material that is also grown vertically to save space and uses little water, has emerged as a low emission, circular economy solution in the bid to transition from extractive, carbon-based products.
There are up to five million types of fungus that constitute a "kingdom on their own," says Maurizio Montalti, a Dutch-based designer and researcher who has been working with mycelium for a decade.
Fungi are the "fundamental agents that enable the transformation of not only nutrition but also information across living systems. We couldn't live without it," said Montalti of what has also been called natures's internet.
Having experimented with mycelium furniture design, in 2018 Montalti founded Mogu, a company commercializing fungi-based bio-material products — including sound-absorbing tiles created from mycelium grown on corn crop refuse, rice straw, spent coffee grounds, discarded seaweed and even clam shells.
But fungi aren't changing the world just yet.
"There is a lot of excitement these days when talking about mycelium," Montalti said, adding that the challenge is in designing a "product that works and can compete in the market."
And although shoe and apparel giant Adidas as well as fashion labels Stella McCartney and Gucci have all recently hopped on the fungi bandwagon to try and meet that challenge, mycelium is yet to go mass-scale.
Here are four products that could herald the start of a revolution.
1. Mycelium 'Living Cacoon' Coffins
"Are you waste or compost?" That is the question according to Netherlands-based mycelium coffin manufacturer, Loop. The company is offering the dead a chance to birth new life via their "living cocoon" coffin, which it claims was the first of its kind.
As bodies decompose within a fully compostable mycelium cocoon, they can become part of the solution to reviving biodiversity that has depleted to the point where more than a million species are at risk of extinction.
"To be buried, we cut down a tree, work it intensively and try to shut ourselves off as well as possible from microorganisms," Loop said in a statement in reference to conventional coffins. "And for those that don't want to be buried, we waste our nutrient-rich body by burning it with cremation, polluting the air and ignoring the potential of our human body. It's as if we see ourselves as waste, while we can be a valuable part of nature."
2. Mushroom 'Leather' Shoes
Mycotech, based in Bandung, Indonesia, was growing gourmet mushrooms in 2012 before it shifted its business to use fungi to create a sustainable alternative to leather products, especially shoes.
Founder, Adi Reza Nugroho says it has great environmental advantages over traditional leather. "We consume less water, we don't have to kill animals, we can do vertical farming so we can save some space," he said, adding that it also produces fewer emissions and requires none of the chemicals used in plastic-based materials.
Feeding on agricultural waste such as sawdust, it only takes the mycelium a few days to grow to the point where it is ready to be harvested, tanned and further processed. The resulting material is breathable, flexible, robust and can last for years. While Mycotech is still creating limited runs of its fungi shoes, the company has orders up until 2027.
And this relatively small-scale start-up is not alone. While leather continues to dominate Adidas' sneaker lines, the German company is now also marketing mycelium shoes. Released in April, the Stan Smith Mylo is made using the brand's "Mylo" mycelium material.
Fungi-based footwear is also being touted by eco-conscious grassroots designers because the shoes can literally biodegrade — as illustrated by these Mycoflex-based slippers designed by Charlotta Aman.
This is what the biodegradation process looks like with our mycelium-based MycoFlex material over 4 weeks. Charlott… https://t.co/KIzRHp9doH— Ecovative (@Ecovative)1626985945.0
3. Transforming Plastic and Toxic Waste
Since they feed on trash, mushrooms can also detoxify our waste and transform it into usable materials that are non-extractive, offering a neat solution for closing the loop on unrecylable plastic, for example.
Established in 2018, US-based Mycocycle uses fungi to remove toxins from building materials like asphalt or petrochemical-based waste.
"We are actually using mushrooms to cycle these toxins, make them non-toxic and available for reuse in a closed loop economy," said company founder, Joanne Rodriguez.
A response to the fact that 85% of landfill space in the US has already been used up, Mycocycle aims to help in the shift to zero waste by decontaminating toxic building materials like asphalt that previously could not be reused.
Mycocycle claims that its trash-fed mycelium is fire and water-resistant and can be manufactured into a host of new products such as styrofoam, insulation, packaging and building materials.
"We take trash and make treasure, decarbonizing waste and creating a new value stream in the circular economy," said Rodriguez.
4. A Biodegradable Building Block
A fully compostable, zero-emissions mushroom tower called the Hy-Fy was constructed with 10,000 mycelium bricks in New York back in 2014. Numerous prototypes have been built since but mushroom-building largely remains in the conceptual stage.
"Co-create with fungi," is the mantra for the My-Co Space, a mycelium tiny house currently being exhibited in Frankfurt's Metzlerpark.
Designed for two occupants, the facade of the 20-square-meter structure has a plywood frame thatched in honeycomb-shaped mycelium blocks grown with a mushroom straw substrate. The intimate, organic shape plays on the fundamental interrelation between humans and fungi.
"We want to transform dead plant matter, which comes from agriculture or from forestry, and we want to transform this into composite materials. And we do this with fungi," explains Vera Meyer, a biotechnology professor at the Technical University of Berlin and founder of the MY-CO-X collective that created My-Co Space.
For Meyer, fungi are the "most important microorganisms" that can help make the transition from fossil to bio-based resources.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
If you're a fan of experimenting in the kitchen but are conscious of the amount of food waste you produce, it may be worth looking into purchasing an indoor compost bin. Purchasing one of the best compost bins is a great way to reduce food waste, even in small spaces.
In this article, we'll go over what at-home composting is, how to do it and the best compost bins to aid you in the process.
How Home Composting Works
Compost is organic material that is added to soil to aid plant growth. Thirty percent of the waste we create comes from food scraps and yard waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If these materials were composted, less waste would end up in landfills — where food scraps sit, take up space and release methane into the atmosphere — each year.
To create compost, just three elements are needed.
- Browns: This is the base of the compost and it includes organic waste like dead leaves, branches, dirt and twigs.
- Greens: These are the items that mostly come from your kitchen, like fruit and vegetable scraps or coffee grounds, but it also includes grass clippings.
- Water: Adding the correct amount of water to your compost will help it to develop.
The general rule is your compost should have equal parts browns and greens. The brown elements add carbon, and the green materials add nitrogen. The water helps by providing moisture and breaking down the organic matter.
How to Compost in Your Home
If you're interested in composting but don't want a large heap of kitchen waste and other compost materials in your yard, you're not out of luck. There are a variety of ways to compost at home without having a compost pile sitting in your yard.
The best way to approach composting will depend on how much, how often and how sophisticated you want your compost to be. For example, if you have a sizable garden, you may consider a compost tumbler or a worm composting bin with a large capacity. If you're in an apartment or don't have enough outdoor space, a countertop compost bin may be a better choice.
Listed below are several top-rated countertop composters, and further down, we explain a few different compost methods. This information can help you create the right compost style for your home.
Best Indoor Composting Bins
Now that you have an overview of the process and methods of in-home composting, we have compiled a list of the best compost bins for indoor use.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Best Overall: EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin
The EPICA Stainless Steel compost bin is easily cleaned and conveniently sized, as it's small enough to be kept indoors but big enough to hold several days' worth of kitchen scraps. The odors are concealed within the bin naturally, as it uses a replaceable activated charcoal filter. This makes it safe to keep on your kitchen counter without worrying about bad smells. It's also been featured in Forbes and Bon Appetit.
Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 12,400 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The bin is made from non-rusting stainless steel. It's designed to be leak-free and the 1.3-gallon capacity is a perfect size for any home or apartment.
Most Sustainable: Bamboozle Food Compost Bin
If you're looking for a kitchen compost bin that's made from more sustainable materials, you may be interested in the Bamboozle Food Compost Bin. This minimalist, dishwasher-safe bin is made with durable yet eco-friendly bamboo fiber that's harvested without damaging the natural landscape. This composter can hold over 1 gallon of food waste and has a charcoal filter in the lid that traps odors.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Bamboozle's modern-looking compost bin is an item you can be proud to display on your countertop. It's made with biodegradable bamboo fibers that are coated in a nontoxic cornstarch-and-melamine resin that breaks down in about 22 years.
Most Aesthetically Pleasing: Chef'n EcoCrock Compost Bin
The Chef'n EcoCrock long-lasting compost bin is odor-free and adorable, featuring a light green plant sprout on the lid. This bin can hold up to 0.75 gallons of waste and the lid is vented, allowing air to flow to the food scraps while locking in any foul odors with a charcoal filter. It has a dual bucket design, with a removable bucket for easy cleaning when the bin becomes full. The inner bucket is dishwasher safe on the top rack.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 2,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The size of this bin, and its style, makes it a great fit for apartments or smaller kitchens. The non-stick material of the inner bin makes the scraps easily slide out without a mess. This bin includes two disposable charcoal filters.
Best Bokashi Bin: All Seasons Indoor Composter
The All Seasons Bokashi bin is easy to use because it incorporates a spigot to easily access "compost tea" that can be immediately used as a powerful plant fertilizer. The bucket itself is made from high-quality BPA-free plastic, and the inner compost bin is made from 75% recycled plastic bottles. This bokashi composting kit can recycle all kinds of kitchen scraps — including dairy, meat, small bones and paper.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 450 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This 5-gallon bin can recycle more kinds of food scraps so that almost none of your kitchen waste will end up in the landfill. The microbes that ferment the compost help contain any smell and keep away pests. Plus, the recycled and BPA-free plastic ensures that no harmful chemicals will seep into the compost.
Best Food Cycler: Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50
A food cycler is an elevated kitchen compost bin — it takes your food scraps and turns them into usable fertilizer within a few hours. The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 breaks down food into a tenth of its original size, allowing you to mix it into your soil for a nutrient-rich fertilizer. The cycler is suitable for indoors because of its carbon filtration system.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 700 Amazon Ratings
Why Buy: The product, with a three-year warranty, processes your food scraps within four to eight hours. It has a 0.53-gallon capacity and can be stored and used anywhere there's a nearby power source. The cycler not only takes traditional compostable scraps, but it can also process bones. The cycler is simple and easy to use and can be cleaned in the dishwasher with the removal of the inner bucket.
Best Options for Indoor Composting
There are many compost bins to choose from if you don't have a lot of space or are looking for apartment-friendly composting. Here are three approaches that are great for indoor composting.
The simplest way to compost is with a compost bin. You can choose from many shapes and sizes depending on what your home can accommodate and the style of your home. Compost bins are made for storing food waste, which you can then put outside in a larger compost area. Your city or neighborhood may even have a community compost site. Worried about smells or fruit flies indoors? Don't be — compost bins are designed to seal tight and trap odors. Having a countertop compost bin allows you to toss food scraps right there in the kitchen rather than having to venture outside each time you need to compost something.
A food cycler takes your kitchen scraps and breaks them down to create a soil amendment. Many cycle for just a few hours and break down food almost entirely. You plug food cyclers into the wall, and the electric energy rapidly provides you with usable finished compost.
Food cyclers differ from traditional compost bins because they use electricity to speed the process of creating usable fertilizer, while traditional composting takes time, aeration and water to break down naturally. The food cycler's process of filtration, cooling, grinding and drying gives you easy access to a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
Bokashi, a Japanese word meaning "fermented organic matter," is a type of composting system that uses inoculated bran to help recycle kitchen scraps of all kinds — even meat, fish and eggshells.
Here's the process you'll need to follow if you opt for Bokashi composting:
- Mix food scraps and inoculated bran
- Press mixture into a Bokashi bucket
- Cover with another layer of bran
- Every other day, for 10 days, draw off leachate, or "compost tea," a liquid byproduct of anaerobic composting material
This is the only care needed throughout the Bokashi composting process. A Bokashi bucket includes a spigot where the leachate can come out.
Final Thoughts: Kitchen Compost Bins
Whether you invest in an indoor compost bin or have your own DIY system, finding ways to keep food scraps out of our landfills will help the environment and lead you to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Any of these indoor compost bins is a step in the right direction and will help make composting your food scraps seamless and easy.
- A new campaign draws attention to the fact that Starbucks cups are not truly recyclable due to a coating of polyethylene plastic on the inside of the cup.
- Starbucks has made several pledges to produce recyclable cups dating back to 2008 — but its cups are still unable to be recycled economically.
- Solutions already exist for fully recyclable cups, including a coating for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic.
When you order your Venti-sized espresso macchiato at Starbucks, it will arrive in what looks and feels like a cardboard cup topped with a plastic lid. After you finish your drink, you might think about dumping your cup into a paper recycling bin. But you shouldn't. Starbucks cups are actually lined with polyethylene plastic coating that makes it nearly impossible to recycle, experts say.
"Paper recycling is designed for recycling paper — not plastic," Will Lorenzi, president of packaging engineering company Smart Planet Technologies, told Mongabay in an interview. "There's a whole variety of products that have plastic coatings on it … and when those products hit the pulper [in a recycling plant] they block it up. It's almost like a storm drain. If there's a few leaves, a branch maybe, the storm drain is going to be fine. But if you get too many leaves and too many branches, all of a sudden the whole drain clogs up."
It's estimated that 1.6 million trees are logged each year to produce Starbucks cups, and that 4 million of these cups end up in landfills, according to Stand.Earth, a group that started
in 2016. Starbucks itself actually pledged to create a fully recyclable paper cup back in 2008, but nothing resulted from this commitment.
"So many people have confessed to us that they feel at least a little bit guilty about ordering a single-use coffee in a paper cup that came from critical forests," Jim Ace, a senior campaigner and actions manager at Stand.Earth, told Mongabay in an email. "Many feel even worse when they learn it's lined with polyethylene plastic, whether they are concerned for their own health or the health of the planet. Most consumers don't realize Starbucks cups have been uneconomical to recycle, in part because they are lined with plastic, so they've ended up in landfills."
According to a recent survey conducted in the U.S. by the SEAL Awards, which recognizes companies for their sustainability and environmental leadership, 83% of Starbucks customers actually believe that Starbucks cups can be recycled.
"At heart, the cup problem is a moral and leadership issue," Matt Harney, founder of SEAL, said in a statement. "Like the 83% of consumers we surveyed, I recently thought that paper cups were, in fact, recyclable."
Stand.Earth ended its campaign in 2019 when Starbucks partnered with other industry giants to support the NextGen Cup Challenge, which called on innovators to create a recyclable and compostable cup. Twelve winners were chosen, but two years later, the problem has still not been solved.
"Starbucks committed itself to solving its cup problem and have taken steps to develop solutions, but the majority of its customers still leave the store with single-use, disposable paper cups that are lined with plastic, which end up in the landfill," Ace said. "Until that is solved, Starbucks still has a responsibility to address the problem."
A commercially viable solution is already here, Lorenzi said. In 2016, his company, Smart Planet Technologies, developed EarthCoating, a film for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic than conventional plastic coating barriers.
"We came up with something that would basically be recyclable, and at the same time, work just as well as the current packaging we have," Lorenzi said. The coating uses a special mix of minerals and resin so that the coating can easily be separated from the cardboard during the recycling process, and sink to the bottom of the pulper along with dirt and other residue, he added.
Several big companies, including United Airlines and Taco Bell in Australia, already use recyclable products with EarthCoating, Lorenzi said. Yet Starbucks has not adopted this technology, despite Smart Planet Technologies reaching out to Starbucks on several occasions.
Coffe cups lined with EarthCoding. Smart Planet Technologies
"They pretend we don't exist," Lorenzi said. "They pretend it's not happening. They continue to do their own thing."
On Starbucks' website, the company pledges to "double the recycled content, recyclability and compostability, and reusability" of its cups and packaging by 2022.
Yet Lorenzi said he is not convinced this is a definitive goal. "It's about the fifth date they set," he said. "They started in 2008 — they were going to do it by 2012. And in 2010, they said they'd do it by 2015. In 2015, they said they'd do it by 2020. They're now with the next one, which is 2022."
Starbucks did not respond to Mongabay's request for comment.
This month, the SEAL Awards Impact Team launched a campaign called #UpTheCup to call on Starbucks to truly adopt a recyclable cup. An accompanying petition has already garnered more than 60,000 signatures.
"In reality, as a society, we entrust leaders to make decisions — like the type of cup used — in a truly responsible way, even if that issue has gone undetected by the general public," Harney said. "To quote C.S. Lewis, 'Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.'"
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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In Germany, hope is growing for wild bees and insects. Surprisingly, it's taking root in the country's large urban cities, thanks to wildflower meadows being planted precisely to reverse precipitous declines in insect populations.
Insects around the world are in danger. A 2020 study published in Science estimated that global bug populations are down 25 percent on land. Populations declined 9 percent every decade, meaning nearly a quarter of all insects have gone extinct in the last 30 years. The figure jumps to over half in the last 75 years. A different report estimated that all insects could be gone within 100 years.
According to the BBC, the losses are the worst in the West and Midwest of the U.S. and in Europe — especially Germany. The Guardian reported that Germany is home to about 580 species of wild bees. More than half are endangered or on the verge of extinction. The news report cited a 2017 study by the Entomological Society of Krefeld which showed a 75 percent decline in total flying insect biomass in protected areas in Germany since 1989.
Both the BBC and The Guardian listed the main causes of insect loss as climate change, the use of insecticides, land-use changes and pollution from chemicals, exhaust, light and sound. In Germany in particular, a loss of diverse habitats was listed as the main reason for the sharp decline, The Guardian reported.
The anticipated biodiversity loss has been dubbed the "Insect Apocalypse," and scientists are warning against it and the ripple-out effect that such a loss would have because bugs are the "fabric of life." They serve vital ecosystem functions such as aerating the soil, pollination and the recycling of nutrients, the BBC reported.
In the case of bees and other pollinators, the "perfect storm" of parasites, air pollution and other threats currently decimating insect populations could also lead to crop shortages and affect food security. The list of popular foods we would lose without pollinators includes everything from apples and strawberries to avocados, coffee, onions and tomatoes.
To combat this catastrophic decline in bee and insect populations, Germany has undertaken a country-wide project to plant urban wildflower meadows. The Guardian reported that more than 100 flowers and wild grasses have been planted throughout Germany's largest cities over the last three years, and more are on the way. Many of these included endangered plants that take two to three years to mature, mixed in with annual blooms.
At first, local neighbors were dubious about the floral additions, especially at the expense of vast grass patches and lawns.
"I was quite skeptical at first," said Derek O'Doyle, an Irish citizen living in Berlin, to The Guardian. "It looked disorganized. And I resented the loss of a large patch of grass where I could play catch with my dog."
With the German summer now in full swing and the meadows buzzing with color and activity — literally — even the most reluctant city-dwellers have been persuaded.
"I've changed my mind," said O'Doyle. "It's become an incredibly attractive addition to our neighborhood. You experience the seasons in a whole new way."
Longer-term efforts to save bees and other insects must move beyond city limits to address agricultural land use and pesticides, Christian Schmid-Egger told The Guardian. Schmid-Egger coordinates Berlin's wildflower meadows on behalf of the German Wildlife Foundation. Still, he hoped the urban effort would help raise awareness of the importance of preserving wild spaces, even within cities, and of protecting the insects we all rely on.
"Eventually, many such hotspots could create a network of wilderness right inside our cities," he said.
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Whether you're a conscious consumer yourself or are looking for the perfect gift for your environmentally-friendly friend or family member, we've rounded up the best eco-friendly gifts for sustainable living this holiday season.
According to Stanford University, Americans toss 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than any other time of year. Don't become a statistic — check out our last-minute eco-friendly stocking stuffer ideas, sustainable gift wrap guide, and the products listed below to have a low- or even zero-waste holiday.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
If you want to reduce your waste but are tight on space, the Utopia Kitchen Countertop Compost Bin is a must-have. This bin is ideal for apartment composting, as it holds five liters of food scraps and uses charcoal filters to eliminate odors and pests. Plus, it has a convenient handle for carrying your compost outside or to a food waste recycling center.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 8,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Odor-free composting; Easy to clean; Plastic-free
The key to delicious tofu is pressing the excess water out before cooking, but doing this can be a messy and time-consuming process. That's why one of our best eco-friendly gifts for plant-based eaters is the Yarkor Bamboo Tofu Press. It has a simple design that presses tofu blocks pressed between two bamboo plates while excess water drains into an easy-to-clean, leak-proof compartment.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with more than 150 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Vegan-friendly; Easy to clean; Plastic-free
Carrying a reusable, eco-friendly water bottle is one of the easiest ways to reduce your single-use plastic consumption – and stay hydrated throughout the day. We recommend Hydro Flasks because they're fun and functional, have a grippy powder coating that prevents bottle sweating, and can keep beverages hot or cold for hours on end.
Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars with nearly 11,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Free of BPA and phthalates; Easy to clean; Dishwasher safe
With an AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Garden, even serial plant-killers can have fresh herbs year-round. This innovative system takes the work out of gardening – simply pop in the seed pods, add plant food or water when necessary, and let nature take its course. If whomever you're shopping for already owns an AeroGarden, they may appreciate a Salad Greens or Salsa Garden Seed Pod Kit to grow.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 1,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Non-GMO seeds
"Unpaper" towels are a zero-waste alternative to your typical kitchen roll. Mioeco Reusable Unpaper Towels come in packs of 10 or 20 and can be wrapped around an old paper towel roll for convenience. They're made in a solar-powered, carbon-neutral facility and are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified, which means they're made with at least 95% organic fiber and aren't treated with harmful chemicals and dyes.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Solar-powered, carbon-neutral manufacturing; GOTS-certified material; Machine-washable; Plastic-free
Looking for eco-friendly gifts for the coffee lover in your life? The Original Grind Cold Brew Coffee Maker takes single-use plastics out of your morning routine. Just pour your favorite coarse-ground beans into the mesh filter, fill it with water, and let it sit for 12 to 18 hours. The stainless-steel spigot allows for no-spill dispensing, and you can use the grounds to make a DIY exfoliant (or toss them in your brand-new compost bin).
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with more than 700 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Plastic-free; Easy to clean; Great for small kitchens and apartments
After you've brewed your coffee, you'll need something to drink it out of. We like the KeepCup 16oz Reusable Coffee Cup, which can be filled at home or at a coffee shop (COVID-permitting). These sleek to-go mugs come in a variety of lid colors and sizes, but none is too big to fit in a standard cup holder. KeepCup is a certified B Corp, and the company donates part of its annual revenue to protect the environment through the 1% for the Planet initiative.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with almost 15,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Packaging made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cardboard; Certified B Corp; Supports 1% for the Planet; Free of BPA and BPS
If you're more of a tea person, the Origin Fruit and Tea Glass Infuser Bottle might be up your alley. The bottle comes with a fine-mesh strainer insert that you can fill with loose tea or fruit slices to make infused water or tea on the go. Along with promoting sustainability, Origin is a socially responsible company, donating 2% of revenue to address extreme poverty.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with almost 500 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: BPA, BPS, PVC, and lead-free; Dishwasher safe; Zero-waste; Supports socially conscious initiatives
The Stasher Reusable Storage Bag Set helps you cut out single-use plastic without skipping on convenience. They have a locking seal that keeps food fresh and can be tossed in the dishwasher after use. This gift set comes in multiple colors and includes two sandwich bags, a snack bag, and a half-gallon bag, making it a great eco-friendly gift for just about anyone on your list.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 700 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Dishwasher-safe; Non-toxic; Free of PVC, BPA, and latex; Supports 1% for the Planet; Certified B Corp
LaCroix cans cluttering your recycling bin? Ditch the aluminum and start making your own seltzer with the SodaStream Fizzi One Touch Sparkling Water Maker. The SodaStream infuses still water with carbon dioxide bubbles using CO2 canisters that can be sent back to the company to refill. It comes with a BPA-free plastic bottle, but you can also purchase a glass replacement. And don't forget the Fruit Drops for added flavor.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 700 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; Dishwasher-safe; Non-toxic; Free of PVC, BPA, and latex; Supports 1% for the Planet; CO2 canisters are reusable
If someone on your list is getting a new phone from Santa, get them an eco-friendly gift to go with it, like the Pela 100% Compostable and Biodegradable Phone Case. Not only are Pela cases stylish, but they're made from recycled materials, a plant-based biopolymer, and flax straw fibers that are a waste byproduct of producing flaxseed oil.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 350 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Zero-waste; 100% compostable and biodegradable; Non-toxic; Sustainable packaging; Supports 1% for the Planet; Certified B Corp; Made from recycled materials
The Suga Recycled Wetsuit Yoga Mat is one of our favorite sustainable gifts for yogis. Made from old surfing wetsuits, these upcycled neoprene mats are grippy, supportive, and more durable than a typical yoga mat. Plus, Suga encourages sending mats back for recycling at the end of their useful lives. Not sold on Suga? See our eco-friendly yoga mat review for more green gift options.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Made in the USA; Made from recycled materials; Can be sent back and recycled by the company; Supports 1% for the Planet; Non-toxic
Luxury meets sustainability with the Sheets & Giggles 100% Eucalyptus Lyocell Sheet Set. These buttery soft bed linens are made from high-quality eucalyptus wood pulp that's harvested on sustainably managed, biodiverse farms instead of wild forests. The best part? For every tree harvested, Sheets & Giggles plants two more trees in its place.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Hypoallergenic; 100% biodegradable; Non-plastic packaging; Pesticide-free; Plants one tree for every order received and two trees for every tree harvested
4ocean removes a pound of trash from the ocean for every product sold. Since 2017, the company has pulled nearly 12 million pounds of trash from our waterways and sustainably disposed of them, including recycling glass and plastic bottles to create their 4ocean Signature Bracelets. These bracelets make a beautiful, eco-friendly gift for those who like to show off their care for the environment.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with more than 1,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Each purchase removes 1 pound of trash from the ocean; Certified B Corp; Made from recycled plastic and glass
You can feel good about giving this eco-friendly gift to your dad, husband, brother, or any other whiskey enthusiast on your list. Not only is each Prestige Decanter Bourbon Barrel Whiskey Decanter made with sustainable materials, but for each product sold, the company plants one tree. The hand-blown decanter holds 1,000 milliliters and is available in many styles.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with about 150 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Handcrafted; Lead-free; Recyclable packaging; Plants a tree for each decanter sold
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Antidepressants are designed to make humans feel better, but they can have a surprising impact on non-human animals when they enter the environment.
That's the take-away of a study published in Ecosphere Tuesday, which tested the impact of antidepressants on crayfish, important players in freshwater ecosystems, and found that they altered the animals' behavior in ways that could threaten their survival.
"Our study is the first to look at how crayfish respond when exposed to antidepressants at levels typically found in the streams and ponds where they live," lead author and University of Florida assistant professor A.J. Reisinger said in a press release.
Antidepressants in the environment change crayfish behavior
To test the impact of common antidepressants on crayfish behavior, the researchers mimicked natural conditions in a lab. In one artificial stream, the water was not treated with any medication. In the other stream, the crayfish were exposed to 500 nanograms per liter of citalopram, a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), as National Geographic reported. The scientists observed the two groups over a two-week period and took notes on their behavior.
What they found was that the crayfish exposed to the antidepressants stuck their heads out of their built-in shelters twice as quickly when they smelled food, emerged altogether almost one minute earlier and spent 400 percent more time in the food section of their environment. For crayfish in the wild, such actions could be dangerous.
"This change in behavior could put them at greater risk of being eaten by a predator," study co-author and University of Florida assistant professor Lindsey Reisinger said in the press release.
The antidepressants also changed crayfish behavior in ways that could impact their environment. The exposed crayfish actually increased the amount of algae present in their artificial streams, The Guardian reported.
"We think that's because they are both stirring up a little bit of sediment on the bottom but also they are excreting when they feed on stuff on the bottom of the stream," A. J. Reisinger told The Guardian. "So crayfish are changing kind of where and how many different microbial components of the ecosystem are located."
However, the researchers found that exposing the crayfish to antidepressants did not alter the overall rates of photosynthesis or energy consumption in their ecosystem, potentially because the study period was so short.
The research is not the first to indicate that human medication might alter animal behavior. These medications can end up in waterways by various means, as National Geographic explained. Humans excrete them as urine, wastewater plants aren't designed to filter them and sometimes individuals or companies will pollute the environment directly by washing them down the sink or other improper disposal methods. Once there, SSRIs can decrease anxiety-like behaviors in aquatic animals or make them more aggressive or mobile.
None of this, of course, is an argument against taking necessary medications.
"The answer is not for people to stop using medications prescribed by their doctor. One big way consumers can prevent pharmaceuticals from entering our water bodies is to dispose of medications properly," A.J. Reisinger said in the press release.
This means never flushing them down the drain, taking them to drug take-back events if possible and disposing of them safely in a trash can if not. To do so, remove the medication from its packaging; put it in a sealed container with coffee grounds, cat litter or some other undesirable substance; remove your personal information from the medicine container and put both the empty container and the medicine in the trash.
Buying “green" can be confusing! Many products claim to be “natural," “eco-friendly" and “biodegradable." But what in the world does that mean? Unfortunately, because there's no standardized definition for any of these words, they're actually meaningless. In fact, many companies intentionally use vague words like these to market their products as if they're better for you and the environment than they actually are.
Here are 13 of the most reliable eco-labels in the market. What makes them so good? They've been defined by independent institutions or nonprofit organizations that have set meaningful criteria that companies must prove they've met in order to use the eco-label in question. When you shop for anything from produce to mattresses, look for these “third party" certifications to back up the claims a company makes regarding the environmental and human health benefits of their products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborated with scientists, consumer groups, environmentalists and the agriculture industry to set standards for the meaning of the word "organic." Products labeled "100 percent organic" must contain only organically produced ingredients. Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Products meeting either set of requirements may display the USDA Organic seal on their packaging. Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may use the phrase "made with organic ingredients," but may not use the organic seal. Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients may not use the term organic other than to identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced in the ingredients statement. Overall, when it comes to food, the organic label, while not perfect, is the best indicator that no or minimal pesticides, hormones and antibiotics were used for growing and processing.
For more than 25 years, this nonprofit, science-based organization has developed certification standards to minimize the environmental and health impacts related to cleaning products, coffee, paint, windows, even sticky notes. To earn the Green Seal, a product must meet rigorous evaluation and testing objectives, as must the facility where it is manufactured.
SCS certifies environmental claims related to recycled content, certified organic ingredients, water efficiency and sustainable forestry. SCS certifications meet international environmental labeling standards as well as guidelines issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for responsible environmental marketing.
FSC sets standards to ensure that forests are being managed in an environmentally responsible way, and that products like timber, paper and furniture are made sustainably.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) label represents a green building rating system for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. A program of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
This label, overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indicates homes and buildings, plus appliances, computers, lightbulbs, copiers, printers, furnaces and many other products that meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines that help save energy and money and protect the environment.
Developed by SCS (see above), this label is awarded to flower growers who do not use "extremely hazardous" or "highly hazardous" agrochemicals. The Veriflora label also indicates that growers are converting to organic and sustainable crop production practices. The standard contains extensive water and ecosystem protection measures to ensure that farmers are not damaging surrounding wildlife or habitats. In addition, it requires growers to provide a fair, equitable and safe workplace for their farmers.
This label demonstrates that the farmers and workers behind Fair Trade goods were paid fair wages and have opportunities for better health care, housing and education. The Fair Trade label is attached to coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, fruit, rice, sugar, spices and a variety of clothing and crafts produced in developing countries.
This label provides independent verification that the care and handling of livestock and poultry on farms enrolled in the program meet high-quality, humane animal care standards. These include access to clean and sufficient food and water; sufficient protection from inclement weather; and enough space to move about naturally.
Leaping Bunny is the certification program of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. The mark certifies that companies have not tested their products on animals during any stage of development. The company's ingredient suppliers make the same pledge. Look for the Leaping Bunny label on cosmetics and personal care, household and cleaning products.
11. Marine Stewardship Council
The Council's eco-label indicates seafood that comes from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Look for it on fish and shellfish.
This label represents the Demeter Farm Standard, which indicates that a farm is organically farmed, GMO-free and also operated to promote soil fertility, animal welfare, conserve water, protect biodiversity and managed to follow the cycles of nature. Look for it on wine, tea, juice, pasta, sauces and many other foods.
13. NON-GMO Project Verified
This label indicates that products bearing it have been produced according to the best available practices for avoiding genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). It does not promise that a product is "GMO free" because there is always some risk that seeds, crops, ingredients and products have been exposed to GMOs somewhere along their growing or production cycle. It does, however, create a powerful incentive to seed breeders, farmers, processors and manufacturers to adopt practices that reduce use of GMOs while giving consumers a way to limit their exposure.
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By Jenna McGuire
In a groundbreaking report published Tuesday, researchers revealed that just 20 companies are responsible for producing 55 percent of all single-use plastic waste worldwide.
The 20 global businesses are both state-owned and multinational corporations, consisting mainly of energy and chemical giants, and are responsible for a plastic waste footprint amounting to more than half of the 130 million metric tons of single-use plastic thrown away in 2019, the analysis found.
The first Plastic Waste Makers Index report was produced by the Australia-based philanthropic Minderoo Foundation and warns that production of single-use plastics is set to grow 30% in the next five years, exacerbating both the climate crisis and ocean pollution.
Single-use plastics — cheap plastic goods that are used once and then thrown away, such as face masks, bottles, shopping bags, coffee cups and cling film — account for over a third of plastics produced every year and are almost entirely (98 percent) manufactured by fossil fuels.
"The cost of single-use plastic waste is enormous," the report states. "Of all the plastics, they are the most likely to end up in our ocean, where they account for almost all visible pollution, in the range of five to 13 million metric tons each year. Once there, single-use plastics eventually break down into tiny particles that impact wildlife health — and the ocean's ability to store carbon."
These wasteful plastics, it continues, "contain chemical additives such as plasticisers that have been found in humans and are linked to a range of reproductive health problems. And if growth in single-use plastic production continues at current rates, they could account for five to 10 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."
Despite the consequences to the environment, the report details how the plastics industry has operated with little regulation or transparency for decades and insufficient attention has been paid to the manufacturers of "polymers," the foundation of all plastics.
According to the report, Australia leads countries in generating the most single-use plastic waste on a per capita basis, followed by the United States, South Korea and Britain.
U.S.-based companies ExxonMobil and Dow were the top corporate polymer producers, followed by China-based Sinopec, with these three companies together accounting for 16 percent of global single-use plastic waste.
Top global investors of the plastic industry included U.S. companies Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Capital Group. Together with 17 other companies and financial institutions, these investors own over $300 billion in shares to parent companies of the major polymer producers. Twenty of the world's largest banks, including Barclays, HSBC, and Bank of America, are estimated to have lent nearly $30 billion for the production of polymers in the last decade.
"In the next five years, global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow by over 30 percent — and by as much as 400 percent for individual companies," the report warns. "An environmental catastrophe beckons: much of the resulting single-use plastic waste will end up as pollution in developing countries with poor waste management systems."
According to the report's authors, "Transitioning away from the take-make-waste model of single-use plastics will take more than corporate leadership and 'enlightened' capital markets; it will require immense political will."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Many people reach for a cup of this caffeinated beverage immediately after rising, whereas others believe it's more beneficial to hold off for a few hours.
This article explains when the best time to drink coffee is to maximize its benefits and minimize its side effects.
Cortisol and Coffee
Many people enjoy a cup — or three — of coffee upon rising or shortly thereafter.
However, it's thought that drinking coffee too soon after rising decreases its energizing effects, as your stress hormone cortisol is at its peak level at this time.
Cortisol is a hormone that can enhance alertness and focus. It also regulates your metabolism, immune system response, and blood pressure.
That said, it has been suggested that the best time to drink coffee is mid- to late-morning when your cortisol level is lower.
For most people who get up around 6:30 a.m., this time is between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.
While there may be some truth to this, no studies to date have observed any superior energizing effects with delaying your morning coffee, compared with drinking it immediately upon rising.
Another reason why it has been suggested that you should delay your morning coffee is that the caffeine from coffee can increase cortisol levels.
Drinking coffee when your cortisol level is at its peak may further increase levels of this hormone. Elevated levels of cortisol over long periods can impair your immune system, causing health problems.
Still, there have been no long-term studies on the health implications of elevated cortisol from drinking coffee.
Moreover, caffeine-induced increases in cortisol tend to be reduced in people who regularly consume caffeine.
That said, there's likely no harm if you prefer to drink coffee upon rising rather than several hours thereafter.
But if you're willing to change up your morning coffee ritual, you may find that delaying your coffee intake a few hours may give you more energy.
The best time to drink coffee is thought to be 9:30–11:30 a.m. when most people's cortisol level is lower. Whether this is true, remains to be determined. Caffeine can increase cortisol, but the long-term health implications of this are unknown.
Coffee Can Boost Exercise Performance
Coffee is known for its ability to promote wakefulness and increase alertness, but the beverage is also an effective exercise performance enhancer because of its caffeine content.
Plus, coffee can be a much cheaper alternative to caffeine-containing supplements like pre-workout powders.
Several studies have demonstrated that caffeine can delay exercise fatigue and improve muscle strength and power.
While it may not make a significant difference whether you choose to enjoy your coffee upon rising or several hours thereafter, the effects of the caffeine from coffee on exercise performance are time-dependent.
This is the time it takes caffeine levels to peak in your body.
For a 150-pound (68-kg) person, this equates to about 200–400 mg of caffeine, or 2–4 cups (475–950 mL) of coffee.
The exercise performance benefits of caffeine from coffee can be experienced within 30–60 minutes of drinking the beverage.
Anxiety and Sleep Problems
Caffeine in coffee can promote wakefulness and increase exercise performance, but it can also cause problems with sleep and anxiety in some people.
The stimulating effects of caffeine from coffee last 3–5 hours, and depending on individual differences, about half of the total caffeine you consume remains in your body after 5 hours.
Consuming coffee too close to bedtime, such as with dinner, can cause sleeping problems.
To avoid caffeine's disruptive effects on sleep, it's recommended to avoid consuming caffeine for a minimum of 6 hours before bed.
In addition to sleep problems, caffeine can increase anxiety in some people.
If you have anxiety, you may find that drinking coffee makes it worse, in which case, you may need to consume less or avoid the beverage completely.
You can also try switching to green tea, which contains one-third of the caffeine in coffee.
The beverage also provides the amino acid L-theanine, which has relaxing and calming properties.
Caffeine can cause sleep problems when it's consumed too close to bedtime. The stimulant may also increase anxiety in some people.
How Much Coffee is Safe?
Healthy individuals can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine daily — the equivalent of about 4 cups (950 mL) of coffee.
These recommendations for safe caffeine intake include caffeine from all sources.
Other common sources of caffeine include tea, soft drinks, healthy energy drinks, and even dark chocolate.
Healthy adults can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, whereas pregnant and nursing women can safely consume up to 300 mg per day, with some research suggesting that 200 mg is the safe limit.
The Bottom Line
Coffee is a popular beverage that's enjoyed throughout the world.
It has been suggested that the best time to drink coffee is mid- to late-morning when your cortisol level is lower, but research on this topic is lacking.
Consuming coffee 30–60 minutes before your workout or sporting event can help delay fatigue and increase muscle strength and power.
Keep in mind that the stimulating effects of caffeine from coffee can cause sleep problems if consumed too close to bedtime, as well as increase anxiety in some people.
We often hear about foods that can boost our immune systems, but did you know there are dietary choices that can actually weaken your body's ability to fight off infections? Studies show that ultra-processed foods, and those full of empty calories without nutrients can be detrimental to your health.
Our immune systems exist to protect us from bacteria and other microbes like viruses and parasites, and with a healthy diet, they have a better chance of thwarting those diseases and pathogens. A balanced diet is one that includes a plethora of vitamins and minerals, in addition to the calories we need to burn to survive.
So, we know what helps us, but what hurts us?
1. Sugary Foods
When we think of sugary foods, baked goods, candy, chocolate, and other processed sweets come to mind. But even dried or canned fruits or juices contain a lot of added sugar which can put your system out of whack. The microbiome living in our guts keep harmful bacteria in check, but the glucose and fructose in sweetened foods feed those unhealthy microbes, making it harder to fight infection. In addition, sugar begets craving more sugar, as the yeast and other sugar-loving microbes in your system get used to the added sugar in your body.
In addition, adding too much sugar to your diet can raise your blood sugar, which increases inflammatory proteins — particularly in those with diabetes whose blood sugar stays higher for longer. High sugar levels could also inhibit immune cells that protect the body against infection.
2. Salty Foods
Salt makes food taste so much better. It brings out natural flavor, and spices bland dishes up. But it's bad for you. It can stop immune functions from working normally, alter your gut bacteria and increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. Preliminary research indicates that the Western world's rate of autoimmune diseases. It also can exacerbate existing autoimmune diseases like colitis, Crohn's disease and lupus. One small 2016 study showed that men on a high salt diet had higher levels of monocytes and inflammatory markers, which indicates an excessive immune response.
3. Processed Meats
The meats also have advanced glycation end products which are harmful compounds that form when fat and protein mix with sugar in the blood. Most AGEs come from the foods we eat, and if we have too many, we cannot regulate them out, and they cause oxidative stress and inflammation. Fried bacon, hot dogs, roasted chicken thighs and steak have high levels of AGEs.
4. Fast Food
Everyone knows fast food isn't great for you, but sometimes the convenience and deliciousness overcome those facts. Still, fast food isn't just bad for your weight, it can actually harm your immune system. It's bad for your gut biome, and can increase inflammation. In addition to holding a lot of that salt we just talked about, it has added chemicals, sometimes from the plastic or Styrofoam packaging, which mess up hormone production in humans, weaken immune responses and even cause dysfunction.
5. Foods with Additives
The more processed a food is, the more additives it contains — to improve texture, taste, preservation and the like. These additives, particularly emulsifiers and carrageenan, can cause immune dysregulation by altering gut bacteria and increasing inflammation. Studies have linked these additives to immune dysfunction in rodents. What foods are highly processed? In addition to lunch meats and bacon, canned soups, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, snack foods and anything else with a long shelf life.
6. Certain Fatty Foods
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There are some fats that are good for us, but saturated fats are bad for the immune system. They can activate pathways for inflammation, which inhibits immune response, and they suppress white blood cell function which can increase risk of infection. Studies in rodents have shown a high-fat diet could even damage intestinal lining, which increases susceptibility to disease.
Western diets tend to include many omega-6 fats and far fewer omega-3s. The omega-6 fats have been shown to promote inflammatory proteins that weaken our immune systems. Studies also show that omega-6 fats possibly increase the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis.
7. Artificially Sweetened Foods
It's not just sugar that can harm your immune system. The sweeteners we use when we are trying to avoid sugar can be just as harmful if not more. They are connected to altered gut bacteria, more inflammation and a slower immune response. Sucralose and saccharin in particular can cause gut biome imbalance. It could even push forward the progression of autoimmune disease.
8. Fried Food
Fried foods compete with fast foods and processed meats for AGE content. Remember, these end products increase risk of cell damage and inflammation. They also drain your body of antioxidant mechanisms, disrupt gut bacteria and introduce cell dysfunction. All this could lead to increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and even malaria. So, as much as we would love to kick back and enjoy some fried deliciousness, lay off the fries, potato chips, fried chicken, bacon and fish and chips for a healthier germ-fighting response.
9. Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine in and of itself won't hurt your immune system, but lack of sleep will, and if you consume caffeine anywhere close to bedtime, you may find yourself awake in the wee hours. We're not talking just coffee. Certain types of teas, chocolate, even protein bars can contain the stuff.
If you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a night for best results. Consider replacing the drinks with fruit-infused water or teas (without caffeine).
10. Refined Carbohydrates
Not all carbohydrates are bad for you; they do give you a long-term energy boost, especially the whole grain varieties. But refined carbs, like white bread, pasta, bleached flour, and, of course, sugar, can cause imbalance in gut bacteria which will compromise your immune system. They are also high glycemic foods, which cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, which could result in free radicals and inflammatory proteins roaming the body.
It's not just diet that impacts our immune health. Other factors include age (the older we are the less efficient our organs become at producing immune cells), environment (if you are a smoker or live in an area with increased air pollution), weight (heavier people have more issues with chronic inflammation, which taxes the immune system), chronic physical or mental diseases like autoimmune diseases or prolonged heightened stress levels, and lack of sleep.
For true immune health, we need to live a balanced life with conscientious dietary, exercise, and self-care decisions.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
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