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Reducing water pollution

Photo: Biodôme de Montréal

Recycle paper and buy recycled, unbleached post-consumer paper.

Because a lot of water is needed to make paper, it is important to use it judiciously and to recycle it. As with many products, producing paper requires a great deal of energy and water, from harvesting trees and transformation at the mill to transporting it to the places where it will be sold. It is more cost-effective to reintegrate recycled paper into a shorter production process. It is even more profitable to buy recycled paper, made from post-consumer fibre. Sixty per cent less water is used to make recycled paper than paper made from new fibres.

Another thing you should check when buying paper is how it was bleached. Ideally, it’s best to use unbleached paper, but it is becoming harder to find. Of all bleaching processes, chlorine is the most harmful for the environment. So look for labels that say “chlorine-free.”

Avoid drinking bottled water.

Plastic bottles are made of non-renewable materials which include petrochemical derivatives. Nine times out of 10, these bottles are found in nature or in dump sites instead of being recycled, making these toxic products a threat to health and the environment. The substances in plastic bottles can contaminate groundwater, soil and even air.

The transportation of these bottles is another aspect to consider. In the United States alone, an evaluated 178 million litres of gasoline are needed to deliver water bottles. And that’s without counting the energy needed to purify the water itself or cool down the bottles.

A great deal of water is needed for the bottling process. In fact, three to four times more water is needed to produce a plastic bottle than the water it contains. Some organizations say it takes as much as seven litres to produce a bottle. In any case, it costs much more in water and money to bottle commercial water than to use tap water, especially considering that many brands of commercial water come directly from municipal sources. The Safe Drinking Water Foundation says that more than 25 per cent of water bottled in the United States comes from tap water.

Many studies have mentioned that toxic chemicals may leach from the plastic bottle into the water. Two factors that increase the risk are storage time and exposure to heat.

Did you know?

Space for Life chose to promote municipal water by no longer selling bottled water and adding water fountains.

Use non-toxic cleaning products that have little impact on health and the environment.

Even though wastewater from our homes is treated, treatment stations are never 100 per cent effective. Phosphates and metals are released into the environment and affect the lives of plants and animals. There are issues with blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) along the shores of Québec’s lakes caused by the cleaning products and fertilizers we use. The phosphate in these products, although it is not toxic, causes cynobacteria to multiply, which is harmful to our health and to the environment. It’s better to choose phosphate-free detergents and fertilizer. Also avoid other chemical products that could cause problems at the treatment station.

Have you ever read the ingredients in your cleaning products? Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t read past the eco-friendly logo. If there is a symbol for hazardous materials on the bottle, don’t use it. Instead, choose products with Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice EcoLogo, which certifies that the product or service causes as little harm as possible to the environment. Better yet, make your own cleaning products using environmentally-friendly base products: baking soda, white vinegar, pure soap, lemon juice and essential oils such as lemon and eucalyptus.  

Did you know?

The Biodôme and other Space for Life museums use some of these homemade recipes and biotechnological cleaning products that are not harmful for the environment.

Here are some environmentally friendly recipes

Source: Sedna Foundation

All-Purpose Cleaner: For all cleaning jobs

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) pure soap (olive oil based soap, also called Castile or Marseille soap)
  • 2 litres (8 cups) hot water
  • 40 ml (3 tablespoons) lemon juice

Green Window Cleaner: To clean glass

  • One part white vinegar
  • Four parts water

Use a cotton cloth or newspaper to wipe down windows. If windows are very dirty, first clean them with the all-purpose cleaner or increase ratio to one half vinegar, one half water.

Eco Scrub: Scouring product

  • 250 ml (1 cup) baking soda
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) borax
  • A few drops of lemon juice or essential oil (optional)

Sprinkle on surface, scour with a wet sponge and rinse.

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