I love to play golf, but is it bad for the environment?
—Jared Pyatt, Springfield, MO
The relationship between golf courses and the environment is not a simple one. Many golf courses are public parks that help preserve native habitats and get millions of people outside. But golf courses can also be elitist playgrounds, put thousands of pounds of pesticides and fertilizers into the ground, displace animals and birds, and use exorbitant amounts of water. Until the 1990s, the phrase "environmentally sensitive" was not even mentioned in golf circles.
Now, most golf course architects, superintendents and executive boards are working to create an environment for players to enjoy nature without harming it. The United States Golfing Association (USGA) annually publishes the magazine Green Section, and all certified golf course superintendents must go through environmental management training.
As an environmentally conscious golfer, you can ask the local Audubon society to set up bird sanctuaries at your course and support the links in your area that implement environmental policies. Earth Share also gives the following tips: a) Support positive turf management techniques; b) Encourage alternative fertilization processes and overall reduction of chemicals; c) Be happy playing on brownish fairways in dry spells and encourage reduced water practices; d) And always replace your divots and ball marks.
Tel: (908) 234-2300
What are the health and environmental effects of chlorinated solvents in commercial dry cleaning?
—Earl Eckstrom, Portland, OR
Studies show perchloroethylene (perc), the most popular solvent used in dry cleaning, is hazardous to the environment. Greenpeace found that perc breaks down into the toxic byproducts phosgene, vinyl chloride, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says, "Phosgene is an extremely hazardous gas that is potentially lethal in closed spaces. Vinyl chloride is a proven carcinogen and carbon tetrachloride is a known liver toxin." TCA has been linked to extensive tree damage in Europe. Solomon also notes that if perc is found in groundwater, the threat becomes very serious. "Perc is very volatile and can be absorbed through the skin while one showers."
A Danish study shows that pregnant dry cleaning workers are twice as likely to have a miscarriage as pregnant women in other professions. The University of California at Berkeley found that male dry cleaning workers have more sperm abnormalities and a significantly lower sperm count than men not employed by the industry.
Less toxic alternatives to dry cleaning are taking hold across the country. Comet Cleaners in Colorado replaces perc with the more benign petroleum solvent Exxon D-2000. Over 200 shops, including Chicago's Greener Cleaner, employ "wet cleaning," a non-toxic, non-polluting method based on biodegradable soap, water and computer technology.
Tel: (212) 727-2700
How can scuba divers and snorkelers avoid harming coral reefs?
—Harry Chase, New Orleans, LA
Scuba diving and snorkeling provide excellent opportunities for people to intimately explore the ocean. But people don't always think about the possible harm done by their pleasure trips to coral reefs. According to the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and Hillary Viders, author of Marine Conservation for the 21st Century, divers can protect the reef with two words—"minimal impact."
"Even a seemingly insignificant brush against coral can remove its protective mucus coating, making it vulnerable to algae infestation, and …fatal disease," writes Viders. Certification for diving teaches proper techniques and safety, although some divers may forget about the basics that keep them from brushing against a reef: Carry the proper weight to effectively control buoyancy and streamline equipment close to the body. Swimmers should take care that their kicking doesn't ruin visibility. Controlled breathing is particularly crucial in confined spaces like shipwrecks and caverns, where damage can occur more easily. Some diving instructors also recommend against gloves, because they tend to make people clumsier.
Tel: (800) 553-6284