Friday, March 24, 2017

Top 5 Sustainability Documentaries

Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to do your own research on sustainability, and all the facets that go along with it. Fortunately over the years,  there have been amazing documentaries created about sustainability and the environment around the world.

Food Inc. 
This documentary is centered around the conditions of the American food industry and food system and how its aggressive structure is affecting the world. It features interviews from farmers who are pressured by huge corporations and their deceitful marketing and intensive farming techniques. Hopefully this film with enlighten you and change your view on what foods we eat.

Plastic Planet
This film analyzes the material that has become indispensable in today's society. It highlights the consequences of the mass consumption and production of plastic and how it is extremely harmful to the world. This documentary will hopefully put a perspective on your consumption habits of plastic and make you more aware of the pollution caused by it. Just because you may not see the repercussions it in your environment, does not mean it doesn't exist in someone else's.

Cowspiracy
Many people might not think anything of cow farms, slaughterhouses, or even our consumption of beef. However, the director of this film points out how this industry is very destructive toward our planet. Animal agriculture is seen to be one of the leading causes in deforestation, pollution, water consumption and much more. Even if you don't want to give up eating meat, at least educate yourself on the process and harms of this industry.

Waste Land
Rio de Janerio is popularly known as the city that held the 2016 summer olympics, but did you know it is also host the largest waste dump in Latin America? This documentary shows what life is like to the people  living here is like. This film with make you face the harsh reality of something that can eventually become a problem in your city. Hopefully you can be aware of your waste habits after watching.

Before the Flood
This film follows Leonardo DiCaprio around the world as he meets with some of the most powerful and influential figures to talk about climate change. He takes you to places that you might overlook to really show how global warming is affecting our planet. It can be engaging, emotional and alarming to witness such terror, but can also inspire people to make a change. This film points out that even though humans created this, we are powerful enough to do something and change the outcome of our planet's life.

More links:
http://www.salon.com/2016/10/28/watch-before-the-flood-director-on-how-humanity-is-a-mess-and-why-we-cant-ignore-climate-change/

http://www.cowspiracy.com/about/

http://www.activesustainability.com/best-films-documentaries-sustainability

Thursday, March 23, 2017

7 Easy Ways To Go Green in College

Being in college, you are bogged down by the stress of school and daily responsibilities. However you can make small changes that help the planet without much effort or money.

1.  Take Electronic Notes-With the world being so digitally focused, so can your studies. Try saving paper (and money) by taking your notes electronically instead of purchasing notebooks and flashcards.

2. Start Using Reusable Bags- Everybody goes grocery shopping, and if you think about it, that is a lot of paper and plastic bags being accumulated and wasted. Reusable bags are under $2 and will help the environment in the long run.

3. Stop Using Bottled Water- Buy a reusable water bottle, or even they are too expensive, reuse old water bottles. Landfills are a filled with over 2 million tons of water bottles! That is very sad. So please, save yourself some money, whilst saving the world along with it.

4. Get Paperless Mail- Junk mail is an annoyance to both you and the environment. Hundreds of pieces of paper from junk mail are being tossed out everyday. Opting out online can save resources! Also, opt into paperless billings for all your bills. With everything being digital now a days, there is no reason to get wasted paper sent to you.

5. Get Rid of Aerosol Sprays- Not many people know this, but aerosol sprays contain many gases that lead to global warming. With thousands of different products in the world, it is not hard finding a pump spray alternative.

6. Walk/Bike More- Not only does it help with a healthier lifestyle, cutting down on driving can help save you gas money and the environment!

7. Recycle- Recycling should be a no-brainer by now. When you can, recycle. By sorting paper, plastic, or up-cycling old things, you can save a lot of trash from reaching landfills.

These are just a few tips that can be easily implemented into your life, and will save you money. By going green, you are saving green!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sustainability in Tea Drinking

All true tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis. It is grown on nearly every continent on Earth, however the majority of production is concentrated in China, India, and Kenya. There are a variety of ways that tea is grown from heavily managed tea plantations where plants are only kept for about a maximum of three years before being tossed out to ancient wild forests. When considering buying sustainable tea there are five major factors to examine; soil, water, pest management, transportation/carbon footprint, and labor.

We first consider soil because not only does the quality of soil have an effect on the end product that we consume, but also the plant itself has an effect on the soil and therefore the surrounding ecosystem beyond the tea farm. Tea requires a soil rich in nitrogen, preferably ammonium, in order to grow healthily and produce its desired theanine and caffeine. This means that the plants need to have a source of fertilization whether from decaying surrounding biomass such as dropped leaves, commercial fertilizers, or agricultural fertilizers such as manure. Depending on the climate and the positioning of the tea farm, the way that the fertilizer is applied can also affect nearby water sources and thus surrounding ecosystems. Tea farms that use commercial fertilizers will likely still leave the soil of their farm greatly depleted and contaminate local water sources such as rivers or groundwater supplies. These will usually be the large scale farms which require efficiency to operate profitably. Some larger scale farms are able to use natural compost fertilizers, but that is often something a smaller garden can do more easily and profitably. Wild tea forests harvested for tea (almost exclusively found in some areas of Eastern Asia) rely on natural fertilization sources such as surrounding decaying plants and wild animal manure. Some modern farms are exploring ways of mimicking this natural fertilization system too.

The next factor to consider is water. As briefly touched upon this is related to the issue of soil. However there are two further reasons to consider the issue of water when deciding where to source your tea from. Tea requires a considerable amount of water to grow. Some tea plants such as the purple variety have been cultivated in order to be more drought tolerant, but much of tea is not. If planted in an area without sufficient natural water tea can drain the groundwater supply, harming the local ecosystem. Furthermore the water that the tea uptakes will naturally impart some of what it contained. If the tea is planted in an area where the groundwater supply is contaminated by other agricultural or mining operations then that can damage the plants and possibly leave trace concentrations of heavy metals in the final product. Higher elevation rural farms with reliable rainfall and fog as their main sources of water may have better chances of being uncontaminated.

This then brings us to the issue of pest management. As with every living thing, tea has some natural predators in the insect and fungal world and weed world. There are multiple ways to combat pests and many different available pesticides. Tea itself produces natural pesticides such as caffeine. In order to protect their yields, large tea plantations often use pesticides to control or prevent pests. Without getting too deep into the issue of pesticides specifically, the main thing to consider here is actually how strict a country’s laws are about pesticide useage and safety and how strictly those laws are enforced as well as how easy it is to apply those pesticides and even whether or not they’re wanted. One common misconception about a particular tea, Oriental Beauty (Dongfang Meiren) is that because its processing requires it to be bitten by a particular pest that no pesticides at all are used on these plants. However there are still weeds that farmers might use herbicides against or harmful fungi. Since transporting pesticides up into remote mountainous regions is difficult, it is less likely that pesticides are used on wild tea trees.

However the more remote that a tea forest is the more carbon will be needed to transport the finished good to international markets. Furthermore wild tea trees have significantly lower yields than large plantations or even small to mid sized farms and the per-unit carbon cost will also substantially increase. In this respect farms closest the consumer are likely to have the lowest transportation/carbon-footprint cost.

Finally we come to the issue of labor. Depending on the region, tea farmers and tea pickers can be treated extremely differently. In the modern age living costs have increased, wages have increased, and young people’s interest in being tea farmers has dramatically decreased. This has led to some farms in rural and poorer regions relying on human trafficking in order to get the labor they need to pick all of their tea. Estates in India are known for housing their tea pickers/producers in small towns nearby. The BBC did an investigation into some of these estates at one point and found many of the tea workers were living in deplorable conditions, being refused wages, and instances of illegal child labor as well. This is not true of all Indian tea estates, but it’s a reminder that we as consumers must pay attention to the issue of labor in addition to the environmental aspects of our tea. Some teas are more likely to be mechanically harvested than others such as the case with most Japanese teas. This increases the carbon footprint to an extent, however the people who work on the farms are more likely to be paid livable wages and live in good conditions.

In many of the aforementioned respects, small producers who produce primarily from wild tea forests are most likely to be doing so sustainably. However for Western markets and especially mid-to-lower level prices that leaves consumers with very little tea to consume, not to mention it is nearly impossible for the average consumer to be able to distinguish wild tea from farmed tea on their own. So how do tea consumers trust what they’re drinking and know how it was produced? Look to the suppliers. Many tea shops go through wholesale tea suppliers to get their products. Their names and descriptions and offerings will all sound very similar and it is rather unlikely that the owners of the tea shops know where they are selling from or the conditions under which the tea was produced. However there are wholesalers such as Tealet which care greatly about sustainability and go through great lengths to visit the tea farms themselves and confirm all aspects of sustainability before putting bids on their teas and selling them abroad. Many small tea stores also source the tea themselves by visiting farms abroad as well. Consumers can look for this by reading tea shop owners blogs, talking to the tea shop owners, and asking questions about the discussed important aspects of tea production sustainability. Tea is a fantastic drink with consumption continuing to grow worldwide. Without sustainable practices in production it’s future will end up in jeopardy.

One of the best sources of tea information in English:

Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Pollution Reality

A few months ago I got my first Samsung smartphone, a Galaxy S7. One of the perks of getting this phone at the time was a free Oculus Gear VR- my first virtual reality headset. I’ve been dreaming of VR and AR (Augmented Reality) since the 90’s when I was in elementary school pretending to be a Pokemon trainer with my classmates on the playground. All I wanted was a way for Pokemon to be more solid than just in my imagination. However in the years that I’ve grown up and VR has finally become a consumable reality I’ve realized that I had completely overlooked the immense transformational effect that is possible with VR.

VR is more than about putting yourself in a fantasy world wherever you live. It’s capable of more than just being another gaming device or educational tool. VR is also fantastic as a vacation device. One of the first things that I did when exploring my Oculus Gear’s capabilities was go into Hulu. There they have a large library of 360 videos- and in particular 360 National Geographic videos. My favorite one to go to is that of a Glowworm Cave in New Zealand.

In reality, New Zealand is about 7000 miles away from where I live in Portland, Oregon. A plane trip there would take around 16 or more hours. A really rough estimate puts that at 371,000 pounds of CO2 from that one flight, and of course that would be doubled on the return trip for a rough total of 371 tons of CO2. For comparisons sake the average car is estimated to only produce about 5.2 tons of CO2 per year. Not only has this Oculus Gear saved me the several thousands of dollars that it would take to fly me to New Zealand, it has also helped prevent me from contributing to an added 371 tons of pollution to the environment.

Of course, one could argue that the plans will fly without me, but consider what will happen when VR headsets become as ubiquitous as our TVs and our smartphones (and when the image quality also improves greatly). Thousands and millions of people could then make the choice to see these amazing sights without contributing to global pollution.

Furthermore, thanks to VR I can visit the caves as often as I’d like without ever disturbing that environment. Imagine a future in which there might be thousands of different live streaming 360 VR cameras in natural zones where people might go and experience serene nature without disturbing nature.

I forgot where I read this, but someone once said that the best way to protect nature is to stay away from it. Living in cities is more environmentally friendly than suburbs, staying out of nature preserves is better for them than exploring them, avoiding wildlife keeps them healthier and happier than trying to spy on them. With VR this ideal of experiencing nature while staying separate from it in order to better protect it while still enjoying it becomes ever closer to reality.

And the extra bonus is, I didn’t have to worry about carnivorous worms falling on my head!

VR is going to be a win for humanity and a major win for nature.

Do Houseplants Really Purify Indoor Air?

I started this blog post out intending to figure out which of the infamous NASA air purifying plants were safe for pets. However along my search I noticed that all of my sources for which plants were best for purifying the air were terrible. They were from blog sites themselves or otherwise commercial sites. I studied biology with the intent of being a scientist for three years, so I decided to go and find that original infamous NASA study and read it myself. What I ended up finding in the process of doing so was quite surprising.

The study in question is titled “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.” It was published in 1989 and authored by B. C. Wolverton Ph.D., Anne Johnson M.S., and Keith Bounds M.S. In it Wolverton et. al. describes testing 12 different plants for their capacities to reduce the amount of Benzene, Trichloroethylene, and Formaldehyde from sealed chambers over a period of up to 24 hours of exposure to different concentrations. It also teased at testing a special plant and carbon filtration system and went into slightly further depth about whether it was the leaves or the soil that was helping to filter the air.

The way this study is treated online one could easily imagine that it had looked at a hundred different house plants. Putting aside whether such a study does exist or not, this widely cited NASA study definitely does not do that. Furthermore when you read short plant lists on blogs titled things like, “Top NASA Air Purifying Plants” realize that they’re almost always just the same plants used in the study, not even removing the ones that performed comparatively poorly.

So what’s a green-thumb who wants to breathe cleaner indoor air to do?

First, ventilation. If you’re in an area with a relatively low level of environmental air pollution then you should look at opening up your windows more often. A large reason this nearly 30 year old study was done in the first place was because indoor areas were becoming more sealed-in to reduce energy bills causing people respiration and skin problems due to the resulting higher concentration of chemicals from indoor pollutants from everyday items such as detergents, dyes, varnishes, particle-board wood, and fire-retardants.

Second, have less polluting household items. I have no idea how to do this, but I’m certainly going to be paying more attention to it than to what plants to get from now on and I recommend you do as well.

Do plants do anything at all for indoor-air quality?

Yes-ish, although quality ventilation systems will render most of their impact meaningless. However if you’re in a climate where the outdoor air pollution levels might be high or maybe the weather gets too cold or too hot to leave the windows open all the time then indoor plants might be beneficial for your indoor air quality.

Then what plants are the most beneficial?

The plants that are best for air quality will be the ones that have high transpiration rates- basically ones that require large amounts of water. As these plants soak water up from their roots through to their leaves they also pull large amounts of air down to their roots. This air interacts with the microbes in the plant’s soil which often use what we consider to be pollutants as sources of nutrients.

Ferns, palms, and tropical plants with high water needs will probably serve you best, however that’s not to say that many other plants will also be beneficial. Plants that prefer less water will be less effective. Plants without soil and therefore without soil microbes will be even further less effective (sorry air plants!).

Now what about that plant-carbon air filtration system?

In a nutshell (although it was not the main focus of this particular study) Wolverton et. al. looked at a special planter with an activated charcoal carbon part that the plant sat on top of that had a small motor in the bottom which forced air into the bottom chamber through the soil and carbon. This study found it was quite effective at removing the investigated chemicals, however again this was not the main focus of the study. I looked up where Wolverton went with this idea and found that a company was created around the invention that is still going today.

The moral of the story is be skeptical about blog claims without clear citations of their sources and going through those sources yourself.

Sources:

Suing for the Right to a Habitable Climate


Of the recent court cases, one in particular that has garnered national attention and has reached the attention of both the previous administration and current one.
In Juliana v. United States, the plaintiffs  are suing the federal government for violating the people's constitutional rights and human rights to vital public trust resources, claiming that the government had been fully aware of the damage being done by its reliance on fossil-fuel based energy, putting capital gains before the preservation of a habitable planet for future generations. The current administration's response so far has been to seek the case's dismissal on the grounds that there is no constitutional right to a habitable environment.
The main thing to take away from this case is its potential to pave the way for other legal action to take place, even if their case is unsuccessful. There could very well be a precedent set.





Links:
This climate lawsuit could change everything. No wonder the Trump administration doesn’t want it going to trial
'Biggest Case on the Planet' Pits Kids vs. Climate Change
Should the youth of Australia sue the government for inaction on climate change.
Teens Challenge CO's Oil and Gas Regulators On Fracking, Climate Change
Children’s climate lawsuit to Donald Trump: See you in court
Kids Name Trump as Defendant in Landmark Climate Case
Teens suing U.S. over climate change ask for Exxon's 'Wayne Tracker' emails
This Peruvian Man is Suing an Energy Company Over Climate Change: VICE News Tonight on HBO

Bonus:


Looks like he's not learning :/

Monday, March 20, 2017

Is Access To Water A Right?

When was the last time you were thirsty and you could not get a drink of water?



Do you remember how good if feels to have clear clean water refreshing you on a hot day? I can barely remember that because I'm in the worst winter I've had in Portland, Oregon. We have more water here than we know what to do with. It just won't stop raining to be honest.

What a luxury that is.


85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
2013 UN Study 

Well there's nothing that we can do about that here in the Pacific Northwest right? Actually no. You are wrong. Many of the products and services we enjoy consume incredible amounts of water. In fact, many see water as the next oil and around the world large corporations are purchasing land with access to water - often at the expense of the indigenous populations that live in the region. 

Consider the material used to deliver bottled water! It takes 24 gallons of water to produce one pound of plastic. One t-shirt made of cotton requires 700 gallons of water. 

By reusing items and purchasing things made locally with sustainable processes, we localize our water consumption and reduce the burden placed on people who may not be so rich in the element that literally defines our planet's ability to support life.

Human Welfare or Profit?


It is illegal for many corporate managers to make choices that don't maximize the profits of their companies.


If you had a choice between a profit return of 50% or 20% but the higher margin meant a village would be destroyed somewhere to mine for some mineral or the water supply for a village would be tarnished for human use forever, which would you choose? 

Well if you are in charge of one of the many large multinational publicly owned corporations, you don't have a choice. You MUST pick the one that returns that largest profit to your investors or you can be sued.

Even in financial circles there is commentary about the rise of a growth imperative and a profit imperative that values the perception of growth but often doesn't value the stability of a company or it's ability to generate wealth over a longer period of time.

It is a socialist idea that making profits is a vice. I consider the real vice is making losses.
- Winston Churchill
When someone as lauded as Winston Churchill makes this commentary it is easy to fall into the trance of the capitalist dream. The issue with capitalism and the profit imperative isn't that it is inherently evil, it is that it is born out of incomplete accounting. 

Walmart makes its profits on the backs of people who don't make a living wage. Chevron and other oil giants make their profits by destroying the environment. The fashion industry drives a continual buy and discard economy that devalues natural resources and also the people who it uses as it's models and spokes figures. Capitalism as we know it is incomplete and without a way to include the human and environmental cost of doing business on the balance sheet, then we will not realize the true cost of these "profits" until it is too late.


The death of the Great Barrier Reef is a good example. Where are we to account for this in the practices that led to it's death?


There are some motions that show that we are finding our conscience lately:


Whatever you do, remember that one of our only votes that matter any more is where we put our money. Humans or Profit, you decide.


Repair it!

Don't replace it! Don't get the new one! Repair IT!


When was the last time you repaired something? If you are like me, it's been a while. Living in Portland, there are a ton of people mending and fixing and buying used - but we are not the norm in the United States. Frankly, most of us don't need new things most of the time. When we do decide to buy new, it's often due to the planned obsolescence of the items we are compelled to purchase.

We are being constantly taught by our profit focused culture to buy buy buy! This has driven the market toward the production of products that are designed to be thrown away shortly after purchase. 

We throw away 99% of everything we buy within 6 months.

That is insane. 

Do you buy things because you need something new? Do you buy things because you want to appear differently than you do now? Do you buy things because you need it, or because you have been taught to? Who is really making the decisions in your life?

When we repair something, we make repairing things cool. We start to buy things that can be repaired, and the companies will respond with products that can be fixed if that is what we purchase. 






Do Green People Lead Happier Lives?

Do green people lead happier lives?


An article published by the Danish Ministry of the Environment looks into this question.

The short answer is it looks like there might be a link there.

They found that there was a circular relationship between sustainable behaviors and happiness. Happier people tend to live more sustainable lives and also, those who led sustainable lives were happier.

But there was a third thing that informed this happiness-sustainability link.

Altruism.
al·tru·ismˈaltro͞oˌizəm/ nounthe belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
"some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism"
ZOOLOGYbehavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.
Is there a way to move large swaths of the population toward more ecological habits if they are very unhappy? 

Do you feel that your desires to make more sustainable choices make you happier? Do you do them out of a yearning to help the greater good, or does it come from a motivation rooted in personal advancement? 

Urban Farming: The Future, or Just Another Fad?

(Image Courtesy of Boston Planning and Development Agency)

Throughout the nation, one of the hottest trends in green living is urban farming. At its core, the idea of urban farming is to take unused, vacant spaces in large cities and turn them into productive "urban" farms. Often, these farms pop up in vacant lots, on rooftops, or really anywhere else that can support them. 

As with anything new, though, many people are questioning whether urban farms are just another fad, or if they're here to stay. To answer that question, it's helpful to first look at some of the benefits of urban farming.
  • It's a green solution to excess stormwater.
  • It improves air quality.
  • It reduces the 'urban heat island effect'.
  • It increases biodiversity.
  • It can positively influence waste reduction.
  • It has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
  • It fosters community citizenship.
With all of these benefits, it's not hard to see why urban farming has become so popular in many of the nation's largest cities. Detractors often say that urban farming reduces the availability of open spaces in densely populated cities which can lead to the reduction of new housing developments. This is a valid point. However, as long as urban farms are carefully coordinated to ensure long-term sustainability, there's really no downside.

If you're interested in getting involved in urban farming in your area, check out this link.

Or, if you want to find out more about the benefits of urban farming, click here.

Happy farming!




Overpopulation and why it matters more than you think

Overview
The human population is growing exponentially. Current estimates have the world population around 7 billion people with a jump to 10 billion expected by 2050. A lot of this population comes from Africa and parts of Asia. However the population of the united states continues to climb as well, with the average woman giving birth to 2.4 children during her life. This might not seem like a lot but when growth is exponential even a small gain over time will turn into huge number long term. If you want to see the united states numbers grow in real time you can check out this website from the us census bureau.
It shows that on an average in the united states we are gaining a person every 16 seconds (in terms of people born versus those that are passing away). This amounts to a net increase of 5400 people a day or almost 2 million a year in the United States alone.

How overpopulation affects the environment
Overpopulation is a serious issue when it comes to environmental concerns. This is due to the fact that everyone has a carbon footprint. While some work to reduce their carbon footprint many don’t do enough or anything at all. This means that as the population of the world increases the global carbon output increases as well. In fact many researchers believe that overpopulation is one of the worst (if not the top contender) causes of pollution. This line of thinking is easily backed up when you look at the data from both carbon reductions and population increases

For example a study in Portland Oregon from 2000-2005 showed that the average carbon footprint was reduced by 5%. However the population increased by 8%. This means that there was a net increase in carbon output from Portland residents in that time. It also important to note that while developed countries in general have a lower population growth than less developed countries, the average carbon emissions of developed countries is 3 to 4 times that of their less developed counterparts. That means that each additional person living in a country such as the united states or Australia has the same carbon output as 3 to 4 people in many of the countries in south america or Africa.


How it affects you
Overpopulation is a huge concern for global climate change. Hopefully everyone realizes how important global climate change is and how it affects us. The problem of population is deeper than just climate change though. Overpopulation raises additional risks of soil degradation, animal endangerment, loss of habitat, poverty, famine, overcrowding, smog and more. Overpopulation is definitely a big problem and it will affect you in your lifetime in at least one of the ways i just listed.

What can be done
There is a lot that can be done to help control overpopulation. Research shows that when people have access to affordable (preferably free) and effective contraception options, as well as proper reproductive care for women, that the average number of children per person goes down significantly. This suggests that people are having babies that they didn't plan and would not have had if they had access to additional resources.

Unfortunately reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies may not be enough. This means that people should consider having two natural children or less (one if conceiving as a single parent). This would guarantee that you only replace yourself and don’t increase the population count. If you wanted more than two children that adopting would still be an option. Of course this is something everyone must decide on their own or with their partner. However it is important to note that each additional child will that is born will account for far more pollution over their lifetime then you could save via any other carbon reduction method.

Further reading

Here is an article that goes far deeper into the numbers then i went

An interesting look at carbon emissions per ca pita by nation

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Waste Management

It is estimated that the average person uses up to 4.5 pounds of waste each day.  Unfortunately less than half of that is recycled while most of the waste ends up in landfills. It has been reported that 75% of solid waste can be recycled, but the likelihood of that is slim. As a society, we need to change the way we are thinking about waste and how to dispose of it. Sweden is a great example of a country that has taken waste and and turned it into energy. Not all waste can be recycled, but the rest of the waste that cannot be used, the Swedes reuse it. 

Getting rid of your waste is not as simple as it seems. If it is not disposed of properly it can have consequences on the environment in a harmful way. Your garbage is composed of many different products that need to be disposed of in different ways. Not everything can be reused. The materials such as paper, plastic, aluminum, and the materials to make fertilizer are the materials that can be recycled. Due to the low slow decomposition rates, land that has been used as a landfill waste area are rendered useless because it takes thousands of years for most of those products to decompose completely. Here are some ways that we can carry out to help the waste management. 
  1. Donate Clothes- Instead of throwing away clothes that would go straight to the landfill, we can donate them and reuse them. 
  2. Reuse Food Waste- We are careless when it comes to conserving food. We throw it out as fast as we get it. Instead of throwing our food away, make use of it. There are so many people that are in need of food and if you really have no need it is always a good idea to donate it to those in need. 
  3. Eat Healthy- Eating healthier foods do not require as much disposable waste. Try to not eat out as much as well.
  4. Save Leftovers for the next day- Instead of making more food, do not forget the leftovers that you had the night before. Eating leftovers saves money as well as the energy that you would put into making another meal with more food. 


Sources:

http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-easy-ways-to-reduce-landfill-waste.php



Friday, March 17, 2017

European Parliament Votes to Halve Food Waste by 2030 Thanks to Viral Petition

Food waste is becoming more of an issue for governments, businesses and environmentalists around the world and this week the European Parliament took action on the issue.
The Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted to introduce regulations that will require all member countries to halve food waste by 2030. A triumph for those lobbying their elected representatives in recent years.
The new target was introduced as a draft amendment to the Commission’s Circular Economy Package -“a new legal framework to foster sustainable growth” – which will come into force later in 2017.
Pressure was being put on the European Parliament by lobbyists and environmental groups throughout Europe. Fifty one organizations, from seventeen different countries promoted a petition which asked for the fifty percent target. It garnered more than 64,000 signatures and became widely shared across social media.

The campaign came as a result of the fact that 88 million tons of food are wasted each year in the European Union. This food waste would be enough to feed the 55 million Europeans living in food poverty more than nine times over.
The EP has been focussing on the area of waste heavily in recent weeks. This month a 2030 target for packaging recycling was increased to 80%. A target of 75% was previously backed by the Commission.
Those who have been advocating the Circular Economy Package say that the new measures will lead to reduced landfill rates, increased recycling statistics (both household and commercial) and the growth of the circular economy across the EU.

Do you think eventually America could take steps against food waste like Europe? 

Website: 
http://islwastemanagement.co.uk/isl-blog/european-parliament-votes-halve-food-waste-2030-thanks-viral-petition/

Biofuels Can Slash Aircraft Particle Emissions and Reduce Contrails


By collecting and analyzing the contrails created by planes running on a biofuel mix, a NASA study has found that biofuels can cut particle emissions by as much as 70 percent. The benefits come not just from reducing carbon emitted directly into the atmosphere but by also cutting down the chance of contrails forming, which can have an even bigger impact on the Earth's atmosphere.
According to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), aircraft were responsible for producing over 780 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015. To try to reduce that footprint, the industry is improving the efficiency of its jet engines, looking at alternate flight paths, and increasingly, turning to biofuels. Made from various plant material, including the hardy halophyte, camelina or waste from the forestry industry, biofuel-powered planes have been making the rounds from the likes of United AirlinesVirgin Atlanticand the US Air Force.
To investigate the effects of using biofuels, NASA and agencies in Germany and Canada ran a series of tests as part of the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study (somehow shortened to ACCESS). A DC-8, running on a 50-50 blend of standard jet fuel and a biofuel derived from camelina oil, was flown in several tests in 2013 and 2014, while research aircraft trailed it at distances of between 300 ft (91 m) and 20 miles (32 km). These trailing craft measured not just the carbon emitted in the exhaust, but how contrails formed in the wake of the plane. 
Before you whip out your tinfoil hat, note that we're not talking about the conspiracy theory of chemtrails – contrails are formed when the hot exhaust from aircraft engines meets the chilly high-altitude air, and are mostly made up of water vapor and ice crystals. But they are still problematic, since they're thought to sometimes spread out into artificial cirrus clouds that can disrupt natural weather processes. In fact, contrails are believed to have a larger impact on the planet's atmosphere than all the aviation industry's carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of powered flight.
And that's where biofuels can help. The ACCESS tests found that the biofuel mix reduced particle emissions by between 50 and 70 percent, which is good news not just for CO2 air pollution, but for cutting back the likelihood that contrails will form.

"Soot emissions also are a major driver of contrail properties and their formation," says Bruce Anderson, a scientist on the ACCESS project. "As a result, the observed particle reductions we've measured during ACCESS should directly translate into reduced ice crystal concentrations in contrails, which in turn should help minimize their impact on Earth's environment."
NASA plans to continue to study the benefits of biofuels, and will demonstrate them with the supersonic X-plane, QueSST.
The research was published in the journal Nature.
Source: NASA

Website Link: http://newatlas.com/nasa-biofuel-impact-study-contrails/48433/

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How One Young Entrepreneur is Cleaning up our Oceans

(Image Courtesy of Juniorinventors.com)

Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, saw a problem that needed to be fixed. That's why, at age 17, he dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering program and decided to do something about the historic levels of plastic accumulating in our oceans.

Currently, over 5 trillion pieces of plastic litter the ocean -- most of which has accumulated in five ocean 'garbage patches' throughout the earth's seas. Normally, picking up five trillion pieces of plastic would take us eons to accomplish. However, the magic of Slat's company, the Ocean Cleanup, is that with their proprietary technology, the feat of cleaning up our oceans can be done in a fraction of that time -- just ten years, to be exact.

Here's how it works:

Slat's design works with the ocean's currents to funnel plastic into a particular area of the ocean. Once there, the plastic can then be picked up by a weekly or bi-weekly collection ship. Think of Slat's design as a sort of long funnel that works with nature instead of against it. The best part? Slat's company recycles the plastic that they find, ensuring both that it doesn't just get dumped elsewhere and that The Ocean Cleanup's project is a financially self-sustaining one. Ultimately, Slat says, this is why The Ocean Cleanup is able to have a project goal length of ten years instead of many, many more.

Why Does it Matter?

Beyond the enormous impact that ridding the ocean of five trillion pieces of plastic will have on sea creatures and the environment as a whole, Slat shows us through his work that no environmental issue is too big to tackle. His story is an inspiring one that reminds us all to do our part to make our world a more environmentally safe place to live.

For more, check our Blat's work at this link.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Alternatives to Cutting Down Trees

Recent estimates indicate that there are approximately, three trillion trees living on earth and about 15.3 billion of them are cut down every year.  It is also estimated that about 46% of our forests have been destroyed since the beginning of the agricultural era, about 12,000 years ago.  This isn't good.

Why wouldn't we want to cut down trees?

Great question!  Let me tell you. 

Many of the trees that we use for our homes and our lifestyles take hundreds of years to grow, making them a virtually non-renewable resource.  This means that they are not easily or quickly replaced.  These trees are essential to sustaining life in their environments and on our planet as a whole.  The end of them means the end of us.

Fortunately, we do not have to contribute to this destructive trend.  There are many options available to us.  Below is a list of things that you can do to prevent unnecessary deforestation:

1.  Consume less.

Much of what we buy is unnecessary to purchase all together.  Consider nurturing a minimalistic lifestyle.  This does not mean that you have to turn your lifestyle upside down or make an drastic changes.  One small, sustainable change at a time is better, in fact when working toward long-term goals.  Check out this website for the psychological benefits of minimalism.

2.  Buy used wood products. 

Vintage wood furniture is absolutely beautiful and tasteful.  Alternately, there is a world of used furniture out there that is economical and practical.  Also, consider fixing up an old house instead of building a new one out of wood.



3.  Re-purposed wood.

When working on a project that requires wood, use re-purposed wood.  It is a much higher quality than tree-farmed wood, which means that it will last substantially longer, it is more economical and it saves trees.  When remodeling or demolishing a home, save the lumber from it.  It is a very valuable resource that can be reused for many years.

4.  Choose fast-growing and renewable wood and paper products.

Great examples of renewable wood and paper products include bamboo, hemp, flax, wheat straw, agri-pulp, cotton and kenaf.  Just make sure that they are not shipped from to far from you, lest you defeat the purpose of purchasing renewable resources.

5.  Buy products that are recycled.

Products that are made from recycled material are labeled as such. Purchase them instead of items made from new materials.

These are simple steps that will enhance the quality of your life as well as contribute to the preservation and restoration of our planet.  Making them a matter of habit in your life will have a huge impact.  You will feel better about yourself, you will teach others these great steps and the world will be better off for your choices.

Sources:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

5 Ways to Help the Declining Bee Population

Since the late 1990s, scientists have been observing a mysterious disappearance of bees including bumblebees and commercial honeybees across the globe. (1)


But why should we care?

Bees play a very vital role in our ecosystems. Bees do more for our food than just make honey: a third of all of our food is dependent upon their pollinating processes (these include fruit, vegetables, vegetable oils and spices).  While manual pollination of these foods by humans is possible, it is extremely hard, inefficient and expensive compared to the natural process in which bees pollinate. (1)

There are many theories as to why the population of bees is declining around the world. Most scientists agree that the use of pesticides is to blame for the weakening of bees’ immune systems. Additionally, many believe that their natural habitats of wildflower meadows are being destroyed by human traffic and industrialization. (2)

The most important thing to know is that everyone can do something to help save the bees. Here are some simple ways YOU can make a difference:

1.     Plant native wildflowers and flowering shrubs such as berries in your backyard. These are great food sources for bees and will allow the pollinator population to thrive. (1)
2.     Don’t mow more of your lawn than is necessary. Small backyard blooms such as clover and dandelions are critical to the survival of our backyard pollinator friends. (2)
3.     Purchase organic cotton. Cotton is one crop that is highest ranking in pesticide usage, so this is a way to make sure that bees were not endangered in the production of this fabric. (2)
4.     Support current bills that ban or limit the use of pesticides or that protect pollinators in other ways. (1)
5.     Some big-business farms transport bees to pollinate their vegetables for one season and let them die immediately afterwards. (3) To combat this, buy local produce and honey from farmers and beekeepers that care about their bees.

 

To learn more about the decline of the bee population and what you can do to help, visit http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/sustainable-agriculture/save-the-bees/ .

Sources

Images