Nature Watch: How Are You Being Environmentally Friendly?

Nature Watch: How Are You Being Environmentally Friendly?

What innovations are you bringing to the table? In a world where we are increasingly worried about our environment, things like reusing plastic, making use of sustainable materials, and decreasing your carbon footprint are things people stand up and take notice of. Especially when it comes to things like grocery stores, restaurants, and other shops using sustainable materials. Seattle has often been on the forefront of environmental changes for the better. Getting rid of plastic bags in Seattle was a small but noticeable trend. It helped spark things like paper straws instead of plastic ones. However, Seattle still has some environmental areas for improvement. For example, the Puget Sound, though most of it looks healthy, has several issues that are not visible to the naked eye.

 One is changes in the water chemistry is making the Puget Sound more acidic. This is making it tougher on organisms that need hard shells and bones such as shellfish, plankton, and other fish. The acidification seems to be stemming from carbon dioxide absorption. Carbon dioxide leeches into the water from things like use of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Another issue the Sound has is a great number of bacteria. Microbes can enter the Puget Sound from several different sources, but the most likely are animal waste, faulty septic systems allowing human waste to enter the Sound, waste discharges from boats, sewage overflowing, and polluted storm water run-off. All of these bacteria can make for unsafe swimming conditions on saltwater beaches. It can also close harvest on all shellfish beds in the contaminated area.

The third issue the Puget Sound is facing is lower levels of dissolved oxygen in conjunction with higher levels of nitrogen. What this means is that things like heavy fertilizer use, manure, and wastewater from septic systems or waste water treatment plants introduce a lot of nitrogen into the water. This nitrogen then produces algae blooms. The algae blooms die and their deaths consume oxygen. This stresses and could even suffocate some of the marine life in the Puget Sound.

Finally, toxic chemicals enter the Puget Sound from everyday waste. Everything from brake fluid to chemical softeners in plastic products filters down to the water through rivers, lakes, and the Puget Sound itself. Not only are the toxins in the water, but in the fish and other marine life who live in it as well.

Scientists in the area are coming up with interesting ways to track changes and gauge the overall health of the Puget Sound. They do everything from monitoring water and sediment quality, to checking pH levels and salinity, to studying how and which toxic chemicals are reaching the Sound, to even monitoring the changing marine life living at the bottom of the Sound. The Department of Ecology for the State of Washington even posted a list of different ways people can help protect the Sound in their every day life.

So what ways are you inspiring innovative ideas for environmental change? You could start by wearing your new pair of bamboo sunglasses or vegan watch from Wearpanda. Looking good and being environmentally friendly at the same time. What could be better?