Insight News

Oct 04th


"Trayless Tuesdays" in the school cafeteria

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that New York City schools are trying out “Trayless Tuesdays” in their cafeterias in order to reduce waste. Why are trays such a big issue? And how can cutting them out on one day a week really make a difference? -- Mark, Brooklyn, NY

Unlike the old days when many school cafeterias offered reusable trays that could go into big industrial dishwashers after lunchtime, the trend since the early 1990s in New York City and elsewhere across the country has been to provide students with disposable polystyrene (tradename: Styrofoam) trays that are used once—typically for less than 30 minutes—and then thrown out. From there, most of the trays end up clogging already overburdened landfills or posing a litter problem. Polystyrene, impossible to compost and difficult to recycle, is one of the predominant features of litter-filled beaches, not to mention trash-based ocean gyres hundreds of miles from shore.

Greener electronics

Greener electronicsDear EarthTalk: Where can I find information on which electronics and their manufacturers are greener than others, with regard to components, manufacturing processes and end use efficiency? -- John Franken, New York, NY

Now that many consumers are beginning to care about their own environmental footprints, manufacturers are responding with loads of greener offerings. One good place to find them is the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, televisions and game consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Greenpeace hopes that by publishing and regularly updating the guide they can both educate consumers about their choices and influence manufacturers to eliminate hazardous substances, take back and recycle their products responsibly, and reduce the climate impacts of their operations and products.

Health reform seminars target artists, entertainers

The Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) will offer two free health care seminars, hosted by Springboard for The Arts, to Minneapolis/St. Paul area visual and performing artists, arts administrators and entertainment professionals on Thursday, December 16, 5:30 - 8 pm and Saturday, December 18, 1–3:30 pm. The seminars will be held at Doctor Sam, 1300 Quincy Street NE, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55413.

AHIRC promotes full access to quality, affordable health care and health care coverage for artists and entertainers. The information is comprehensive and unbiased, with no commercial or political sponsors. 

Depression: More than “just the blues”

Clinical depression can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, age, creed or income. Every year more than 19 million Americans suffer from some type of depressive illness. According to a Surgeon General’s report, African Americans are over-represented in populations that are particularly at risk for mental illness. Consider the following:
•    African Americans are 30 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
•    Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as are Non-Hispanic Blacks.
Depression robs people of the enjoyment found in daily life and can even lead to suicide. The truth is that depression is not a normal part of life for any African American, regardless of age or life situation. Unfortunately, depression has often been misdiagnosed in the African American community. However, help is available.

What is clinical depression?
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Doctors use the term "clinical depression" to describe the more severe, persistent form of depression also known as "major depression" or "major depressive disorder."

Breast cancer: Early detection is key

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer deaths among African American women. This year alone, an estimated 19,540 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African American women, and about 6,000 deaths are expected to occur. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, African American women who get breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease than white women and are less likely to survive for five years after diagnosis.

Why is death from breast cancer more prevalent among African American women than Caucasians?
Studies suggest that this disparity is due to African American women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage, and receiving treatment later after diagnosis. When not detected early enough, breast cancer leads to poor survival rates from the disease, and in turn, needless loss of loved ones.

Jacqueline Gray interview

Jacqueline Gray interviewBreast cancer: words once thought to be as crippling to the ears as the diagnosis of this life changing disease. Nowadays, however, with efforts from individuals like breast cancer advocate Jacqueline Gray, a significant amount of hope has been restored to many women and men who have been affected in some way or another by this non-discriminatory disease.

Gray, who is also a breast cancer survivor, turned her circumstances into a positive venture and created Woman 2 Woman Breast Cancer Foundation which provides a myriad of unique programs that are designed to assist families on the road to recovery, and alleviate some of the mental, emotional, and financial anxieties that come as a cost to fighting the battle.

Environmental links to prostate cancer

Environmental links to prostate cancerDear EarthTalk: Is it true that environmental factors could be playing a role in the increasing number of prostate cancer cases in the U.S. and elsewhere? -- Joshua Gordon, New York, NY

Prostate cancer is a growing problem for men in the U.S. as well as in other developed nations around the world. Some 40,000 American men lose their battle with prostate cancer every year—the only cancer more deadly for U.S. men is skin cancer. Age is the primary “risk factor” for developing prostate cancer. One out of every six American men over the age of 40 will develop prostate cancer, while four out of five over 80-years-old will get it. Of course, genes also play a big role. The American Cancer Society reports that a man’s prostate cancer risk doubles if his father or brother has suffered from the disease. Researchers believe a genetic predisposition accounts for as many as 10 percent of all cases of the disease in the U.S.
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