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Safety needs to be part of sustainability education

That the idea of sustainability has taken off and is being embraced by almost every aspect of our lives is positive and to be encouraged however, sometimes not enough knowledge can be dangerous.

For example, loading groceries into reusable bags is an excellent way to reduce the use of plastic and paper bags. Plastic bags take over 200 years to decay in a land fill and are not recycled as often as paper bags however, paper bags require the use of harmful chemicals for processing and usually require some virgin wood content to be included for paper strength. The overlooked piece of this is that a plastic bag that was used one day for raw meat should be washed before placing cooked food or raw fruit in the same bag the next day. Cross contamination is a real concern. Either designate certain bags for these kinds of groceries or make a point of washing the bags as needed.

Another concern is the CFL light that saves so much energy and has been a boon to reducing energy consumption. Consumers should be aware that this light as well as fluorescents contain mercury and need to be disposed of properly should they break. The EPA recommends opening nearby windows and airing the room for 15 minutes before cleaning up a broken bulb. The spillage should be treated as hazardous waste and instead of throwing it into the trash can should be brought to your local hazrdous waste materials drop off location. Home Depot has boxes near their front entrances to dispose of unbroken CFL bulbs.

Rain barrels are a great way to capture and reuse water that might otherwise just run off your roof however, if this water is being used to water your vegetable garden you need to be aware of the roof material it is being collected from. A metal, non-copper roof is best with cement tiles or clay roofing tiles coming in as a distant second. An asphalt roof is the least desirable material bringing chemicals into the water, not a healthy option. If the rain water is to be harvested for ornamental plants only then this does not need to be a concern. Don’t have the right roof material? Consider having a rain barrel located out in the open away from trees and other stuctures to collect rainwater. Another consideration, make sure that the rainbarrel is food grade and previously only contained food.

About Valerie J. Amor:
As an architectural consultant, LEED AP, LEED certification reviewer, real estate broker and AIA associate, Valerie J. Amor is dynamically engaged in sustainability and issues regarding the built environment. Actively participating in several local, county and national organizations and committees focused on sustainability issues, she is also owner/principal of Drawing Conclusions and founder/president of Green Collar Connection, companies engaged in sustainable design, real estate development, green job training and research. Knowledgeable and well connected she brings you timely and thoughtful articles. Reach her at .

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Posted by Valerie J. Amor on Oct 18 2010. Filed under Broward County, Emerging Green, Fort Lauderdale, Local news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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