In the process of sustaining and reserving our environment, the idea of “going green” has expanded the drive for recycling and conserving resources by adopting an earth-friendly approach to living.

Activities aimed at “greening” our society are at an all-time high and are increasing rapidly.

Ever sat back and wondered whether the popular plastic bottles from everyone drinks, or the plastic bags everyone uses to carry groceries are good for health? Most people tend to believe that all bottled water is pristine and healthy. Not so, says environmentalists who tend to dislike plastic bottles. It would be better for both the water-drinker and the environment to use special store-bought environmentally safe bottles.

Considering that water is normally the healthiest drink, chemicals used in most plastic water bottles consist of hydrocarbon molecules and other substances added to give them color and flexibility. According to a 2009 study by German scientists, polyethylene terephthalate water bottles contain trace amounts of chemicals that can mimic hormones when ingested. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is an inexpensive and lightweight plastic that is “harmful to human health,” according to lead researcher Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

Once these plastics are recycled, they can be “down cycled” to make a lower quality form of plastic.

Recycled PET plastic bottles are used to make products such as carpets, and are sold under the name Resistron and Permalon, says the Environmental magazine, Earthtalk. Beneficial in polyester carpets, the high quality of resins included in PET plastic bottles helps prevent stains, resist fading, and do not require harsh cleaning. Although PET may be harmful to human health if ingested it is useful in applications such as car parts, insulation, pillows and furniture stuffing. To prevent PET carpet fibers from being harmful to humans requires good maintenance and the avoidance of consumption or inhalation into our systems.

Plastic bottles aren’t the only products that contain chemicals and offer major health concerns.

The nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found that about 10 percent of the reusable plastic bags tested in 2010 contained lead. Local grocery stores have begun banning plastic bags and many now recommend that customers use their own reusable shopping bag.

Plastic grocery bags have the possibility being harmful to the groceries in the bags and can lead to food poisoning. According to the magazine Earthtalk, plastic reusable shopping bags are petroleum-derived and may contain other contaminants, including lead, especially if they feature designs or patterns.

While reusable plastic bags are being sold at retail stores as an alternative to throw-away bags and may be a step closer to helping restore our environment compared to disposable plastic and paper bags, but they may contain harmful contaminants. Some reusable plastic bags contain lead above 100 parts per million, and have been pulled from the store shelves.

To ensure you’re not at risk, cloth reusable bags are highly recommended because they are free from lead and other potential hazardous substances. Cloth bags could last for more than a year, but should be washed frequently to prevent contaminants and bacteria.

The West Coast Expo, Aug. 12-14, will feature a Sustainability/Green Pavilion that will address the importance of adopting a green approach to both businesses and everyday lifestyles. The pavilion will showcase sustainable products and services, which demonstrate green technology applicability and information for both commercial and residential usage. Highlights of the pavilion include seminars and workshops such as The Green Marketplace, Reducing Our Carbon Footprint, Water Conservation, Green Life Pavilion’s seminars, and many more. Each workshop and seminar will feature eco-friendly products, ways to improve the quality of water, ways to conserve/upgrade energy, and most of all “best practices” for sustainability.