Water without plastic — a choice we can make

Photo by tanvi sharma on Unsplash

Plastic bottles are insidiously convenient. They’re easy to pack, relatively lightweight and inexpensive.

Every year, over 481 billion plastic bottles are purchased across the globe. In the US., we buy one million of them every day. Yet 91 percent of the world’s water bottles don’t get recycled, ending up in landfills, oceans or waterways.

The effects of this scourge are grim. Scientists recently reported finding microplastics in human blood and lung tissue. And marine and wildlife die from ingesting plastic, mistaking it for food.

69 billion single-use plastic water bottles are consumed annually in the US, But there’s an innovative alternative that’s convenient, lightweight and recyclable. To find out more click here.

Eco-Anxiety – a Real, Often Frightening Thing

The idea of climate change affecting people’s well-being may seem like science fiction. Yet evidence of climate change has barreled full force into our lives – more frequent, more destructive hurricanes; rising temperatures; melting glaciers and disintegrating ice shelves; severe droughts. This has given rise to what’s termed eco-anxiety. And psychologists are paying attention.

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association linked the impact of climate change to mental health and referenced ‘eco-anxiety’ as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” The Climate Psychology Alliance – founded by Portland psychologist Thomas Dogherty who specializes in climate – sees this as “an inevitable, even healthy response to the ecological threats we are facing, such as food / water shortages, extreme weather events, species extinction, increased health issues (and pandemics), social unrest and potentially the demise of human life on Earth.”

According to a NY Times article, many leaders in mental health maintain that anxiety over climate change is no different, clinically, from anxiety caused by other societal threats, like terrorism or school shootings.

To learn more about this, go to https://bit.ly/3uQcxw2.

An Innovative Solution to Plastic Bag Recycling

Across the globe, we use 5 trillion plastic bags per year. According to the EPA, the U.S. uses 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps annually – and less than one percent of these get recycled. Few US recycling centers or curbside recyclers accept them because bags gum up and contaminate their sorting machines. An environmental scourge, few plastic bags make it to landfills. Most get blown by the wind or end up in our oceans, smothering and killing marine life, birds and other wildlife.

Boston-based entrepreneur David New believes he has the solution.

News’s sleek-looking, innovative Obaggo is the world’s first and only in-home plastic bag and packaging film recycling appliance. It compresses up to 25 plastic bags and/or packaging film at a time, creating disks that are the perfect shape and size for recycling.

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Could the EV Superhighway become a reality?

EV Charging Station, photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Transportation, flickr

Electric vehicles are cool. Secretly a lot of us would love to own one. But a few factors stand in the way. For many, cost is a big consideration .And because we Americans love to travel by car, the toughest factor that keeps many from splurging on an electric vehicle is that there aren’t enough EV charging stations to make long distance travel easy.

But this problem could be in the process of changing.

The National EV Charging Initiative, a group of associations representing automakers, utilities, labor unions, investors and public interest groups, is working together to bring about the construction of this nation’s electric-vehicle charging network.

“We are driving together toward the future we want and need, delivering the charging network that will allow the transition to zero-emitting vehicles,” said Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The new bipartisan infrastructure bill would invest $7.5 billion into putting charge points along highways and in disadvantaged communities. Private companies, meanwhile, have already installed more than 100,000 public charging stations, and investor-owned utilities are investing $3 billion to deploy many more.

“With new federal and private investments – and breakthroughs in battery technology – range anxiety should soon go the way of the horse-drawn carriage,” Baumhefner said.

We may not have the much longed-for EV superhighway this year. But the possibility of this certainly is a lot closer than ever before. And that makes buying an electric vehicle a lot more attractive.

Food waste – a huge problem

Americans discard nearly 40 million tons of perfectly good food each year

With the pandemic still very wrecking havoc in our lives, it’s easy to ignore many other important problems, many hidden in plain sight One such issue is that of food waste. Here are some sobering statistics.

The United States has the dubious distinction of being the global leader in food waste. America wastes between 30 to 40 percent of its food supply. We discard nearly 40 million tons of food each year. That’s approximately 219 pounds of wasted food per person.

But we’re not the only ones. The UN reports that globally an estimated 17 percent of the food produced each year is wasted. And most of this – 61 percent – happens in homes, although food service accounts for 26 percent and retailers account for 13 percent.

Why does this happen, particularly with so much food insecurity taking place across the globe?

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A waste problem in plain sight finds a simple recycling solution

Photo courtesy of Dean Moriarty from Pixabay 

If I had to pick, I’d say that my top 2 favorite foods are really good Chinese and Japanese. And, over the years, I’ve become fairly proficient in using chopsticks to enjoy them with. I’ve even been known to quietly swipe a couple of extra one pairs from restaurants so that I can have some at home to use with my leftovers.

But as an environmental journalist, I sheepishly admit I never gave any thought to what happens to the millions of chopsticks used by thousands of restaurants across the country. It’s one of those in plain sight “small” issues that seem insignificant. Even considering the slim figure the humble chopstick presents, imagine the HUGE mountain they would make if they were all gathered together and stacked. The sight would be daunting.

LOOK: This Modular Shelving System Is Made Entirely Of Chopsticks |  Metro.Style
Felix Böck, innovator and CEO of ChopValue

One man stumbled on the idea to make used chopsticks recyclable – and this seemingly ridiculous idea is gaining traction.

Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, Canada, had been venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites. Chopsticks in hand, Thalia Otamendi, the woman who is now his fiancée, looked at him and said: ‘Felix, maybe you just have to start with something small,’” said Böck. “And maybe it’s the chopstick.”

From that one statement, a uniquely innovative idea and recycling business was born. Böck sketched out plans for ChopValue, a start-up aimed at giving a new, useful second life to chopsticks. Soon enough, recycling bins were being dropped off at restaurants across Vancouver, methods of cleaning the simple utensils were developed and a process was developed to transform the chopsticks – most of which are made from bamboo – into sleek household items that range from tablet stands to tabletops.

Now, four years later, more than 32 thousand chopsticks have been successfully recycled and repurposed – diverting them from ending up in landfills and creating 40 new jobs.

ChopValue has expanded its North American presence and its process, which uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles. It’s now also being used in Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles. And the company is dedicated to leading by an example of sustainability in its business practices.

There’s more to the story, which you can find here. But there’s also an important message here. Innovation can come by looking at simple, everyday objects and thinking about them a different way. And one person’s idea can transform something that others consider a wasted product into something new and useful again.

Something to ponder, yes?

Buyers beware. Do your favorite products test on animals?

Chimpanzee in laboratory cage. Photo courtesy of PETA

As consumers, we gravitate to products that are convenient, that are good quality, that have what we consider to be good reputations. But there’s another factor we need to consider and add to our list of “should we or shouldn’t we” when it comes to purchasing. And that is do they test their products on animals or not?

Here are two graphics, courtesy of the Beagle Freedom Project, that show the major brands that DO do animal testing and those that don’t. Bear in mind that as more consumers protest this horrendous practice and put pressure on corporations, more of them are ceasing it. One of the major obstacles has been and continues to be that some countries such as China require this barbaric practice, even though such tests yield NO beneficial results as to the impact on human health.

It’s heartening to know that we consumers can make a difference by speaking up and signing petitions against animal testing. Our voices do count.

So the next time you go to the supermarket, the pharmacy or any other shopping, you may want to check out these graphics beforehand, just to be sure that your purchases won’t add to the cruelty going on.

Julián Castro introduces extensive animal welfare platform

Editors Note: This is NOT a paid political advertisement or endorsed by anyone other than the writer / author of this blog.

On Monday, August 19th, Democratic Presidential candidate Julián Castro unveiled a platform focused on advancing the welfare of animals around the globe, both domestic and wildlife. It would raise standards for factory farms and encourage conservation efforts, including expanding U.S. protected lands to 30 percent by 2030 with the goal of 50 percent by 2050.

The “PAW (Protecting Animals and Wildlife) Plan” is comprehensive. It proposes:

  • making animal abuse a federal crime
  • ending the killing of domestic dogs and cats for population control
  • strengthening the Endangered Species Act, creating a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund to protect wildlife populations
  • banning the use of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction and
  • eliminating the import of big-game trophies.

Castro, the former Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Mayor of San Antonio, Texas is the first presidential candidate to address these important animal welfare issues.

Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, says “the fact that a presidential candidate – as a matter of personal compassion or as a political calculation — has identified animal welfare as a campaign issue is huge. “

“The President does not care about animals,” Castro said, “and his cruel actions prove it. He has put corporate profits over living creatures and individual fortunes over our future.”

Chickens caged on chicken farm; photo by Artem Beliaikin

The issues of animal welfare and lack thereof have become more visible to the American public over the past few years. Social media, whistleblower videos and celebrities such as Jon Stewart have brought our attention to the cruelty and abuse that factory farmed animals suffer. And although the number of companion animals euthanized each year has steadily decreased – from 7.29 million in 2011 to 733,000 last year, according to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s latest statistics, those numbers are still too high.

Approximately 68 percent of American households have one or more pets. Most view them as family members. Castro’s plan addresses issues such as animal cruelty, policies for homeless pets, abuses related to factory farming, private ownership of big cats and animal testing.    

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Zoo

With the President’s gutting of the Endangered Species Act and the steady race towards extinction of too many animal species around the world – a race caused by factors such as poaching, trophy hunting, overfishing, climate change and the loss of critical habitat – you begin to see how the PAW platform and Castro could be a vital force for positive change.

Best Friends’ Castle says “Every candidate has an opportunity to get on the right side of history with this issue and demonstrate to our country of animal lovers that this bipartisan cause is important.” Castro’s bold animal welfare plan could be a key that pushes him to the top of the pack.

The PAW Plan can be viewed here.

Wild salmon documented inside fish farm

How wild salmon are supposed to look. But you won’t see this at British Columbian fish farms. Photo by Barbara Jackson, Pixabay.

They said it couldn’t happen. They said wild salmon would never breach penned-up fish farms. They were wrong. And that’s a big problem.


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We don’t need a Border Wall. There’s a good solution in plain sight

Trump’s border wall would disrupt and potentially destroy the already fractured habitat of endangered species such as this jaguar. Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency has escalated tensions all across the southern border. The large majority of residents who live near  the Mexican border don’t want the Wall built. Their reasons include fear of the government’s use of eminent domain, the high probability of flooding from a built wall, concern of escalating tensions with Mexico resulting in loss of trade and tourism, serious repercussions for wildlife across California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The President is adamant that the wall be built. He’s clear he MUST keep his campaign promise, no matter the cost. But scientists agree that the consequences of a Border Wall would wreak havoc on the surrounding areas.

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