Boyan Slat has a great idea, but I don’t believe his claims are realistic

Have you heard that a 19 year old has made a presentation about cleaning up plastic from our ocean? If you haven’t I have to tell you that this Ted talk is worth watching. If there is one thing I hope you walk away with from watching his presentation – its  that you contribute to plastic pollution without thought or intentionality.   His video  a real problem for our planet. I hope that you are so moved by this young mans ideas that you begin to realize how big of a problem we have made by the thoughtless ways we are habitually destroying our planet.

Does Boyan Slat have a good idea?  YES, YES he does.  His idea is amazing, use the motion of our planet’s oceans to clean up the mess we have made.  Sounds good to me.  Is the idea to clean our planet in a manner of 7 years realistic? No, not really.  The first and most basic reason is that the time to build his theoretical machinery could take a decade just to build.   There are some concerns in how machinery could remove plastics that are known to be suspended up to 90 meters below the ocean.  An additional concern for this particular project focuses on the dangers that occur when you add physical materials directly to the ocean that weren’t there to begin with.  In the case of the plastics themselves, we already know that they leach chemicals into the ocean.  How would a new material added to the ocean impact life?  One answer is that life will begin to develop under and around the introduced product.  We know this is true because there are multiple examples of efforts to build and grow habitats using man made structures.  Below is one such example, from attempts to regrow corral reefs in Florida.  This blog from the Scuba Divers Travel Network discusses many areas regarding the efforts of rebuilding the reefs as well as many global concerns for our oceans.

https://i0.wp.com/www.aquariumtiptank.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/biorock-reef-sculptures-tedtalk.jpg
But the truth is, I don’t believe this solution is the end all be all to ‘saving our planet’ from ourselves. I don’t think that this well intentioned and idealistic man really intended to misrepresent his ideas as an end all solution to plastic pollution in our oceans. Unfortunately, this is what has been happening.  Because I’m into telling people about plastic pollution in the ocean, I often feel that I’m the first person that people run to when they first hear of this concept idea.

The truth is, that it would  take a massive fleet of ships, ones that are stationary – one that are actively moving about our gyres to clean them.  If you have followed my posts you know that there are reasons for Plastic warriors to  unite!  The reality is that all of our planets oceanic systems are being clogged at the arteries with plastic and we are approaching a time when active remediation will be required for life to survive.  These sad truths are represented in studies like this one by Dr. Jennifer Lavers, shows that birds are not only eating plastic, but that they are becoming weak from the leaching of contaminants into their bodies.

As a person who daily preaches the dangers of our addiction to plastic, I have been aware of the problems facing our planet and I communicate them regularly in all I do. I ask the waitress or bartender to not bring straws to the table, or to be used in a beverage delivered to the table. I bring my own bags to the store, or I grab used bags from the recycling bin. In fact there are many times that flat out refuse a bag, or specifically request paper bags.

But that’s my story about my personal activism.   In my experiences, the majority of people don’t really think about how we consume, or what happens when this consumption is over and the materials end up outside in a rubbish or recycling bin.  In an earlier blog I discussed the advantages of setting up a second waste can for recycling.  Those who do find that this one act changes both their awareness and effective recycling rates!

Why do we want to change these rates?  Because materials consumption is at a rate greater than anytime previous in our history.   This poses problems as we are consuming materials at a rate greater than our planet can support.  The cost of industry is pollution.  This pollution comes in the form of CO2 emissions, foreign materials in our water supply, spills and fires from oil.  This trend isn’t going to end any time soon.  This is why it’s so important to recognize that each individual action we take today, impacts the ability for us to fix things in the future.

 

5 reasons Denver’s proposed plastic bag fee has potential

According to a report on CBS-Denver, “Denver City Councilwoman Deborah Ortega has proposed a five-cent fee for every disposable bag used at grocery and convenience stores in the city limits.”  Under the current proposal 60% of this fee would go to the city while 40% would go to vendors.  The estimates of combined generated revenues according to CBS-Denver is in excess of 6  million of dollars!  While many will consider 2 million dollars in handling fees an excessive cost, and a potential ‘tax on the poor’; I would like to propose that there are at minimum five reasons why ‘Plastic user fees’ are of value.

1.  Plastic pollution is a real and present danger to our environment.  Researchers at the 5 Gyres Institute have found significant evidence that plastic pollution is a global issue polluting the natural homes off both land, sea and air animals around the globe.  In a lab project for 7th to 12th graders indicates that some bird colonies have as much as 80% of their populations that have consumed plastic in their diet.

2. User fees are proven to change consumption patterns. According to an interview by NPR’s Michel Martin, Michael Bolinder of Anacostia Riverkeeper indicates that plastic bag consumption went from over 22 million bags on a monthly basis to about 3 million.  Community governments around the country are seeing the reduction of single use plastic as additional fees encourage citizens to modify consumption patterns and incorporate more conservation minded practices into their daily lives.

3. Single Use plastic bags have low plastic recycling demand.  Consider that while many grocery and chain retail locations provide recycling collection of single use bags, curbside recycling does not.  Because the plastic density and composition of these bags there is little demand for this grade of plastic.  This limited demand means little to no profit margin, and can actually be a financial burden to waste management which is why these plastics are restricted from community recycling programs.

4. Plastic does not decompose.  Instead it behaves like rock in that it breaks down into smaller portions of itself.  Plastic is made through a chemical manufacturing process called polymerization, and is designed to be a lightweight alternative for manufacturing, storage and transportation costs.  Unfortunately, the only way to convert plastic back to natural materials is to reverse manufacture them via a process called depolymerization.  Studies by the 5 Gyres  Institue show how plastics of all sizes are contaminating oceans and beaches around the planet as well as all five great lakes.

5. Plastic is made up of oil, a primary source of single use consumption on the planet.  A report by Friends of the Earth states, “Humans today extract and use around 50% more natural resources than only 30 years ago, at about 60 billion tonnes of raw materials a year”.  This includes increasing levels of oil consumption globally that has pushed for the expansion of environmentally dangerous sources of gas and oil collection like Bitumen Tar Sands and Hydraulic Fracturing.

So while the current proposal before Denver’s City Council may not be the version that gets a final vote, I hope that you will agree that the prospect of such an action is a timely and responsible course in environmental responsibility.  If you are not already in the habit of bringing reusable shopping bags, your family and friends may  thank you, plus think of all the money you will be saving once the fee’s begin!

No really, recycling isn’t good enough – it’s time to recognize the impact of over consumption

Yes that’s right, I said it.  If you recycle your plastic you are doing a good thing, but really it’s not enough to make a difference.  According the the EPA, currently  only 8% of plastic is being recycled.  If your plastic doesn’t have a stamp and a number on it, most waste disposal companies don’t want your plastic.  If it’s got moldy food on it, you probably just tossed that plastic into the garbage can, where it will never change form from the oil it was polymerized out of.  Going out to eat?  Did you notice how many items like straws, ramequins, and lids are made of plastic and get thrown into the waste stream on a regular basis?

No, most people who find this post will be forced to admit it –  American’s as a whole do not appear to be attentive to the levels of consumption they participate in.  It’s a hard truth to face because we Americans have been raised by the corporations around us to consume as much as possible with minimal efforts going toward reducing those numbers. This has been a business model for all of time.  Fortunately American’s only need to go back about 100 years to the creation of the National Forest Service to see examples of why a conservation method of consumption and production is necessary.  Without the efforts of the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir; hundred of ranchers, woodsmen, hunters and loggers would have mass consumed the natural resources of our land.  Instead these resources are still being used generations later – all because a conservation methodology was pressed upon them.

Recently a friend of mine posted a comment that essentially indicated that because she participated in recycling processes, mass consumption of plastic bags was acceptable.  I’m here to argue this as a falsehood.  Besides the fact that most plastics are not recycled; the act of consumption equates to the justification for manufactures to continue taking virgin oil and producing virgin plastic as a sustained and profitable practice.  Unfortunately, this practice is not considered sustainable as oil is available on a limited basis, once we run out, there is no more.  We have but one planet to live on.  Ironically, it’s also the one source for all concepts of life as we know it.  With one planet providing us with a limited stream of resources, the concept of limited consumption should be a no brainer.

Unfortunately for our grandchildren, these concepts were not passed effectively from generation to generation.  Remembering lessons from our past allows us to prepare for our future.  Only we don’t have a past where we polluted our oceans and skies while piling ‘single use’ materials all around ourselves.  In fact, the lessons from the greatest generation – about working hard, achieving, thinking outside of the box, tending to the space you are given, giving more than you were given ( just to name a few); well these lessons are falling by the wayside of I want it now and I shouldn’t have to work at it.  But, the most important of these lessons should really be about supply and demand.

If I don’t use or make purchase of plastic, I’m not generating any demand for the product.  However, when you slow your consumption of plastics, a movement is afoot.  If you and I use less oil, participate in ride sharing, public transportation and planning trips to the store; if we can begin to work with others in our community to change the way we think as a group, then we become more than a movement.  Changing your consumption habits is not going to be an easy thing, but when the day comes when birds on remote islands stop dying from plastic ingestion, the day when all plastic is recycled or depolymerized back into natural or refined chemicals then maybe we will be glad that we took time to appreciate the efforts.  If we don’t make these changes, we can’t teach our children by example.  They follow in our footsteps, replicating the behaviors they see at home.  So instead of participating in destructive behaviors toward our planet, consider the positive impact your hard work will benefit those to come in both indirect and direct ways.  Can you think of three ways which changing your consumption will benefit the planet?

I am grateful for moments when it all comes into line!

“Do we have any cold water bottles?” – The sing song voice of my sister’s question hit me sideways, as the idea of single use plastics makes me cringe.  Then I heard the answer, “No”.  While I’d like to say that my heart was flipping cartwheels, I really was to busy trying to get everything ready to go to the pool to realize the enormity of the situation.   I don’t remember who was speaking at this point, but I do remember the idea behind the words – all my preaching was working it’s way into the practices and habits of my family!

Yes, I’m one of those people who does more than recycle plastic, I refuse it every possible chance!  What does that mean?  It’s simple, I tell people, vendors and corporations that I don’t want their plastic. I do what it takes to avoid new single use plastic in my life, I recycle everything that should be recycled, regardless of what the recycling company requests I limit my items to (in order to assist with their profit model).  I may be considered a radical by many, including my own family, but that’s just how I roll – revolutions don’t occur quietly and change doesn’t happen effectively without leaders giving the example.

By the way, this task isn’t for the meek in heart or spirit.  I mean consider any given day in your world – unless you are out somewhere in the part of the world that resembles the planet pre 1850’s, you have used plastic that has been viewed as ‘Single Use Plastic’.  This could have been in the form of a portable beverage container, drinking straw, a sandwich bag, a plastic grocery sack, and the packaging your food came in – it’s all considered single use plastic by the manufacturer.

Single use – it’s interesting to think about how many things in the world are intended to be single use.  Besides toilet paper and tampons there aren’t many things that I can truly justify as single use, other than Gasoline and other burned fuel sources.  I’m sure the reasons why items aren’t make for single use are obvious, but today I want to focus on just one of them.

We have a limited amount of natural resources.  Yes I said limited.  For every manufactured item, there were a series of process that had to be used to extract and refine the natural elements from our planet.  For every step of that process cost time, energy and financial expense.  This is true for both natural as well as man made products.  A great example of the realities of limited and finite resources can be found in the work of John Muir and Stephen Mather who proved to America’s west that responsible use and conservation efforts are necessary to provide resources and stability for generations to live off the land and enjoy it’s beauty.  These efforts from 100 years ago are what have allowed our great nation to preserve the natural beauty we have today, while having provisioned to provide income not only for past generations, but for those of the foreseeable future as well.

While these examples of conservation show that American’s have the potential to protect and preserve the resources we have, no effort has ever been successful without a battle of some sort.  I have a feeling that these battles will wear many of you down.  I know they do me.  Which is why it’s important to stand back and appreciate every once in a while.  It becomes apparent that while progress may be slow, it happens.    This is the reason I have to step back for a moment and acknowledge this win publicly.   So the next time your friends do something simple like rinsing out a plastic container and putting it the recycling bin, or requesting that no straws be brought to the dinner table when going out to eat, or when family members start bringing grocery bags and stop buying plastic water bottles – remember that these are huge wins in the fight against plastic.

Just say no – Plastic Warriors Unite

“Plastic, plastic, plastic – Is that all you ever talk about?” a friend recently asked me.  Well no I like to talk about other things, like my love of music, Jesus and volunteering.   However I have to ask, what’s the point of changing topics if you don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to plastics?

I thought I had made a good point, I mean how many crusades can one person take on at one single time?  If you and I went around solely participating in the process of evangelizing on the problems with life and the world around us, how quickly would we burn out.  I think the answer is obvious – it would take some days, others a few weeks, but eventually it would happen!

In today’s world plastic is everywhere.  Go out to eat, plastic.  Eat in, plastic.  Shopping, driving, worship, vacations, airline flights, school lunches, household chores the list goes on.  PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE. Here’s a video on bottles…

Wow, that’s a bit overwhelming.  So what can you do?  The answer isn’t easy, and quite honestly sometimes it’s difficult and can offend others.  Yesterday, for example.  My brother-in-law stopped at McDonald’s for water.  Choice one – a plastic bottle and plastic lid filled with water, shipped and transported into Colorado.  Option two – paper cup with Plastic lid and plastic straw.  I was thirsty but opted out because option two wasn’t really provided to me, it was here’s a plastic bottle of water.  Not perfect, but there was a delicious cup of water from the tap waiting for me when out got home, only problem… I’m drinking out of a plastic cup.

Today, I will continue to take plastic out of the trash and put it in the recycling containers, speak awareness and live simple changes that will reduce my imprint on our planet.    What steps are you taking to ‘cut the plastic’ from your life?

What’s for dinner tonight?

I was riding the train yesterday, thinking about the ideas in, “The Impact Equation” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  What strikes me today is that I haven’t been a prolific writer over the last 20 years.  According to Brogan, it’s necessary to write regularly, because well – Practice makes perfect.  This is great for the organized non ADHD brain that is quite comfortable with scheduled activities, the kind of person that knew what was for dinner tonight, last weekend when the shopping was being done.

So I am making a commitment to more frequent writing, in order to effectively stretch my writing muscles.  That’s great, but really what does dinner have to do with any of this?  I’m glad you asked.  When I first made a decision that I wanted to promote the responsibilities of tending to our planet and avoiding fossil fuel based plastics it wasn’t because I got tired of looking at trash in my neighborhood.  I became aware that for the last 50 years, humans have been inserting deadly products into the food stream of natural wildlife, causing mass genocides of entire species, all without intention or knowledge of our actions.

In a conversation later that day, someone asked me, don’t we do enough through current recycling programs?  The answer is not at all.  In fact, I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about this.  In the Berkley, California –  Ecology Center’s website – you can read about how plastic recycling education isn’t all true, and the pretenses you and I have about recycling may be false   http://www.ecologycenter.org/ptf/misconceptions.html

Spend some time with the 5gyres institute ( Facebook, Twitter and http://www.5gyres.org) and you will learn about how bad the problem of single use plastics really is, and why it’s a problem we will never get away from.  Yes I said never, as in permanent damage that may very well out live the human race.  (More about this in future posts I promise).

Why am I ranting?  Because today, something you eat will come in a single use plastic.  And because I too am guilty of this in the last 24 hours, that plastic went to a garbage pile, placing more fossil fuels back into the waste stream.  If I’m lucky, that piece I’m guilty of will end up in a landfill where it will be buried and take hundreds of years to break down, if it ever does.  The other potential is that it will  landing on a beach or floating in the ocean for some animal to confuse with natural foods.  This will not digest well, and will probably contribute to the death of some living creature or if it does break down, the joy of additional toxins being released into the environment will be something for future generations to deal with…. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/how-long-does-it-take-for-plastics-to-biodegrade.htm )

Makes me want to go on a hunger strike just thinking about it all.

Beer makers changing production

Beer makers changing production

Energy efficiency and conservation are not just idealistic concepts that we as citizens should ‘aspire to’.  This is story about The Alaska Brewing Company shows that innovation is a sound business practice.  According to the Physics.org story, Alaska Brewing will cut energy usage by 70%!  If projected numbers are correct, the upgrades will have paid for themselves within 5 years.  
Have you ever offered an efficiency or conservation idea to your employer?  If you had a suggestion to make, do you know whom within your orginization is most likely to be in a position to effectively promote your ideas onto the drawing board?

 

 

Conservation -It’s your money after all

Let’s face it.  If someone were to sit down and show you five ways that you could change the environment and all it took was one hour of your time, you probably wouldn’t take the time to find an hour out of your busy life to find out more.  In contrast, if I told you that in just 5 minutes I was going to show you one trick that would save you up to $500 year if you made just one change to the way you did one thing in your life that you do everyday, you might stop and listen.  

As I’ve been thinking about what I want this blog to be, I feel like this is what will be required of me, to hone a pitch about why, with just five minutes of your day, you will feel a gain in your life, by changing the way we do little things in our lives that make sense, but might require a little effort, those five minutes out of your day.

Today’s tip: reduce the flow of water in the kitchen.  Today’s manufactures like American Standard and Kohler manufacture kitchen faucets with aeration and flow control to help families save thousands of gallons of water a year.  Many new facets have a setting for flow or aeration on them.  Recently the EPA’s WaterSense program awarded these two company’s as well as Lowes, Colorado Springs Utilities, and builder KB Home as the 2012 WaterSense Partners of the year.

http://www.epa.gov/watersense/partners/winners_2012.html#one

 While the EPA provides a rebate finder that allows you to find some rebate programs in your area, the reality is that most areas don’t have them – or it’s not always listed.  American Standard has a fun little quiz,  http://responsiblebathroom.com/ where I learned a lot (I only got about 65% of the questions right).

Will you take the quiz with me?  I’d like to hear in the comments what you found to me the most interesting thing you learned from the quiz!

 

Welcome to my blog – Day 2,

As this journey begins, I am sure that there will be many learning experiences along the way.
Today I want to answer some simple questions.

The first is – why blog?

Blogging offers a wide variety of flexibility and an active way to communicate with people without seeing each other face to face.  Blogging about topics that can be searched by others, you who are reading this now allows us to connect to one another in ways we might not imagine previously.   I am starting this process to not only share my passion for protecting the environment through enhancing the way we make daily decisions, but also to connect to those in the community that share similar passions so that I may continue to learn along the way.

My goal is to change the mindset of Earth’s inhabitants and the way we produce, consume and dispose of all the materials in our lives so that we individually and as a collective, consciously enhance our environmentally conscious behaviors.

I hope you will change your habits because of the things you see here.   From spending habits, active recycling and conservation efforts I intend to provide a platform where a slew of earth friendly practices and products will be make known as well as participated in.

In the last thought today, I want to know what you my reader would like to know more about?   Do you know about the different types of plastics and how they are reused?  Do you want to know how your practices can save you money?  Are there issues near and dear that you would like to know more about?  Please ask away, comment often, and help build this community together.