Cleaning Water with a Cactus Water Filter

Prickly Pear Cactus Water FilterAbout a year ago, I wrote about the benefits of four natural water filters — plants, sand, oysters and coconut. Well, it seems you can throw the prickly cactus in there as one of nature’s water filters as well, according to Norma A. Alcantar, an assistant professor in the University of South Florida chemical and biomedical engineering program.

Alcantar first learned about the thick, gooey mucilage from her grandmother. Now, she and her team are using the gummy goo to provide clean drinking water to residents of rural Mexico. Apparently using the mucilage of a cactus to filter water is nothing new, but it’s now been scientifically-validated.

So how do you filter water with a cactus? Just extract the cactus mucilage from the cactus and put it in the water, where it binds to dirt, particles, bacteria and even arsenic. The mucilage and other contaminants bound to it can then be removed. Alcantar and her team are still researching to see if the cactus mucilage will remove other heavy metals.

Five Must-Watch Water Movies

Hollywood has long scared audiences with monstrous creatures just below the water’s surface. Usually these beasts are sharks, squid or some other creature of fancy, but in recent years filmmakers have turned their attention to even scarier things in our water. Sometimes the scariest water issues these filmmakers examine, however, have nothing to do with what’s actually in the water, but in who owns the water and who has access to this water.

Here are five must-watch movies about water issues that plague many around the world today:

1. The Story of Bottled Water – The quirky stick figures that help narrate this short film are funny, but the overall message isn’t. This film has spread like wildfire since premiering in March, and for good reason. In the film, director Annie Leonard and her troupe of stick figures share staggering facts about bottled water’s impact on our environment. You’ll never look at that bottle of Dasani in the same way again. At times funny and at times scary, this is one of the most talked-about movies about water issues out there.

2. Tapped –  Like Annie Leonard’s film, Tapped focuses heavily on the “marketing scheme” that is bottled water. The environmental impacts of bottled water are shown most notably in the shots of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre of plastic products and other trash in the North Pacific that many estimate to be between Texas and the continental United States in size. The film also delves into the impact bottled water has on our own health, and talks about the danger inherent in bisphonel-A and other chemicals that have been found in some plastic bottles.

3. FLOW: For Love of Water – Whereas The Story of Bottled Water and Tapped focused on bottled water, FLOW looks at the dangers that may be in our tap water. But more than this, the award-winning documentary investigates the many ways that water is being privatized across the globe. The film is a call-to-arms, urging its viewers to stand up for their right to clean water. Finally, the film also shows the many people and organizations that are trying to fight such a fight.

4. Thirst –  Like FLOW, Thirst also investigates the privatization of water. The film follows grassroots initiatives in India, Bolivia and Stockton, California. Though they are all from different countries, these water activists are united against the global water privatization and agree that water should be a right, not a commodity to be owned.

5. The Waterfront – If you’re thinking by now that water issues primarily apply to third-world countries, think again. The citizens of Highland Park, Michigan are also fighting to keep their water from being privatized. With residents of the city receiving water bills as high as $10,000, you can understand why the film begs the question: “What if you lived by the largest body of fresh water in the world but could no longer afford to use it?”

These are by no means the only movies about water issues out there. Are there any we overlooked that you found particularly interesting?

RecycleMania: Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle all Year

It’s easy being green!

I just wanted to share this article recently posted on our website.

We contacted nearly 200 schools who have participated in the Waste Minimization division of the RecycleMania competition, this year, and in years past, and asked for their creative ideas on how to keep sustainability moving all year-round once the competition ends.  We then incorporated many of their responses into an article titled, “Year-Round RecycleMania: Creative Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle All Year.”

We got so much response that we were not able to directly quote everyone who participated.  However, we would now like to open up this blog space for additional comments and discussion from everyone who was involved in RecycleMania.

Students, faculty and staff, please feel free to share your thoughts on any of the ideas mentioned in the article, as well as any others not mentioned.  If your school did not participate in the Waste Minimization division, but participated in the other divisions, we’d love to hear from you as well!  Or, if you’re not a college student, but you know of great ways to “go green” outside of college campuses, we’d also love to hear from you. This platform is open to anyone who reads our blog.

In an attempt to  make sustainability a convenient and habitual part of our everyday lives, we would like to continue to spread the word about events like RecycleMania, so check back often for other articles and blog posts related to sustainable efforts.

Thanks again to all who participated!