Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

my plastic obsession confession

July 6, 2011

UPDATE: All of the plastic bits were claimed by a budding fashion designer, Sarah, who will make plastic couture with them. I’m so excited to have found someone who’s going to put all of my trashy treasures to use!

I’ve admitted this before, but I think I’ve lapsed into denial for a spell. Here’s my confession: I can’t throw plastic away. Mainly because I’m fully aware there is no “away.” Away is a hole in the ground in the best case scenario, and in the worst, away is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (there’s also a North Atlantic version, though it seems to get less press) and perhaps eventually our bodies (by way of the fish who are eating the plastic thinking it’s smaller fish or plankton). I think of the harmless creatures who end up living with and consuming this eternal flotsam. How can I discard all of these plastic bits that inevitably end up in my home in seemingly benign ways? Surely I won’t stop buying glass bottles of olive oil (with a plastic cap) or milk (with plastic cap), or stop buying plants (that come in plastic starter pots). And so I collect.

{bucket o’ plastic}

obsession #6

My collection started back when I had a regular day job and still drank coffee. I started thinking about my daily cup and the plastic (#6 polystyrene, or PS) lid that kept hot java from spilling on me or my computer. I thought about how just little old me was using up at least 250 of these plastic lids a year (now think of all of the people in the office, in the building, on the block, in the city, &c). For some time, instead of bringing my own travel mug, I continued to utilize this “free” paper cup and plastic lid as my vessel. And I began collecting. But then I quit my job and coffee along with it. To freelance gigs, I’d bring my own mug and tea. Though I still had that collection sitting in a box at home…

{PS. i hate you. yes, i’m talking to you, smiley plastic bear!}

 

what doesn’t get trashed, gets stashed

The #6 obsession was just the beginning. Plastic tabs from bread bags, bottle caps, grocery store vegetable conveyances – it all became fair game. Whatever bits of plastic I can’t recycle now get stashed in what has been deemed the crap closet, aka The Library of Trash (we are blessed with abundant closet space). The intention with the collection was to create something, a sculpture perhaps, that would heighten public awareness to the plastic pollution problem. My inspiration was an image that is deeply embedded in my psyche, encouraging my obsession to thrive: a dead albatross, stomach cut open to reveal about a half a pound of plastic bits.

{tragedy as a source of inspiration}

 

obsessions are obstructive

The collection sits and grows. And although my library of trash has proved useful for other projects, this sculpture I dreamed up has not come to be. I’ve decided it’s time to move on and find a new home for all the petroleum-derived bits & pieces. I know it will never really have a rightful home because it will outlast us by many millennia (no known organism has been found to degrade #6 plastic – move over Iron Age, the Plastic Age will live on in infamy!). But I imagine it will make a good material for kids’ art projects or might make a fellow trash artist happy for a while. I’m posting it on Craigslist, Freecycle, Krrb, Facebook, Twitter & right here. Any takers?

{polystyrene comes in many forms}

{#3 plastic, aka, PVC, polyvinyl chloride. another plastic i love to hate}

{this sticker is likely made of vinyl}

{i bring this form of polystyrene to the local postal shop for reuse}

{i’ll reuse some of these as packing material}

{it’s hard for me not to picture some kind of sea creature caught up in these nets}

For more about how to avoid the dangers of plastic & other toxins, check out Plastic Albatross.

related posts:

when will demand for virgin resources be exhausted?

revisiting the 3 Rs

 

it’s save the frogs day!

April 29, 2011

I couldn’t let this day go by without a nod to my amphibian friends (after all, raganella means tree frog in Italian). You might have heard that amphibian species are in trouble worldwide. Their numbers are declining, with numerous factors bringing about their demise. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s what this day is for. There are events taking place all over the globe to bring awareness to the frogs’ plight.

Find an event near you, or make one up (it doesn’t have to be just today, either).

Here’s one simple thing you can do to support frogs. Push for the banning of atrazine, a potent and widely used herbicide that’s no longer legal in Europe due to its harmful effects on amphibian reproduction and development (you can also take action via NRDC). Atrazine is the most commonly found pesticide in rainwater, groundwater, and tapwater in the US.

Frogs are an indicator species, showing us when an ecosystem is polluted or out of balance. Let’s listen to these sensitive creatures and stop using atrazine to kill plants (and unintentionally, amphibians).

 

restoring the ecuadorian amazon with mycoremediation

November 14, 2009


Macrolepiota procera [image: Wikipedia]

Between 1964 and 1992, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped over 18.5 billion gallons of oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Birth defects, cancer rates and general malaise are exceedingly common in the city of Lago Agrio and other communities living near the 627 open, unlined waste pits that remain full of crude petroleum. The toxins have seeped into the groundwater, poisoning crops and livestock while leaving many residents with no choice but to drink contaminated water. Mycorestoration uses a host of mycological technologies to rehabilitate ecologically degraded habitats. Mycoremediation applies the natural capacity of mycelium to break down or remove toxic substances such as petroleum hydrocarbons, PCBs and heavy metals.

Cloud Forest Institute & Amazon Mycorenewal Project
Ecuadorian Political Ecology, Oil Pollution, and Mycoremediation
Service Learning Course with Spanish Language and Science Labs
Dec 15, 2009 – Jan 15, 2010 (or select dates)

The Cloud Forest Institute in collaboration with the Amazon
Mycorenewal Project and The Clean Up Oil Waste Project invite
undergraduate, graduate and lifelong students to attend our 2009
Winter Service Learning Course on Ecuadorian Political Ecology, Oil
Pollution, and Mycoremediation.

Mycoremediation is a developing scientific field experimenting with
mushrooms to sequester toxins. Mycelium is now being tested in Ecuador
in an effort to clean up billions of gallons of toxic oil wastes left
behind by Chevron Texaco during its 20 years of operation there (for
which the company is currently on trial in perhaps the largest
environmental lawsuit in history).

This course will take students to Quito, Lago Agrio, Mindo and
Cuyabeno to experience the striking biological and cultural diversity
of Ecuador’s many regions including the Andes Mountains and Amazon
Rainforest. Students will participate in the development of ground
breaking mycoremediation technology and study Latin American political
ecology. Service learning with local community members will help heal
lands polluted by the oil industry. Students can receive independent
study credit through their existing college or universities.

Students may enroll in four week-long sections individually or for the
entire month long course in which we will examine Ecuadorian cultural
traditions, political ecology, oil economics, toxicity and
bioremediation. You may also pick and choose which courses you would
like to attend in sections of one-week, individually.

COURSE DESCRIPTION & ITINERARY*

A Country Study: Introduction to Ecuadorian Culture, History and Ecology

Monday, December 14th: Arrive in Quito, evening introductions, welcome
and orientation. Tuesday, December 15th: Morning tour through colonial
Quito, we spend the first day learning about Ecuador’s history and
culture, including do’s and taboo’s and the importance of respectful
behavior while in a foreign country. Afternoon travel to Lago Agrio
for the first Mycorenewal Workshop.

Section 1 – Field Study: Mycorenewal of Toxic Sites
Wednesday, December 16th – Monday, December 22nd

Students journey to Lago Agrio with the Amazon Mycorenewal Project.
This Service Learning mycoremediation course will run in conjunction
with community workshops training locals to utilize mycorenewal
techniques to clean toxic petroleum pollution. A seed germination
toxicity experiment will be installed to test the effectiveness of
previous AMP experiments of soil mycoremediation by observing seed
ability to germinate and grow. This will take place during two week-
long workshops.

Section 2 – Cloud Forest Conservation Holiday Retreat
Tuesday, December 23rd – Sunday, December 28th

While the seeds germinate, students journey to Mindo where they enjoy
the cloud forest while learning about Ecuador’s incredibly diverse
ecology. Students will be able to participate in a wide range of
activities while in Mindo including bird watching, hiking, mushroom
hunting, river rafting, visiting waterfalls, orchid and butterfly
attractions, and just relaxing by the riverside amongst the
butterflies and hummingbirds. Topics to be covered include Biology of
the Cloud Forest, Threats to the Cloud Forest, and Conservation of the
Cloud Forest. Spanish language instruction is available during this
session. Sunday 28th: Leave Mindo and go back to Quito for the night.

Section 3 – Journey Into the New Year
Monday, December 29th – Monday, January 5th

In this session, students foray into the Amazon wilderness in Cuyabeno
to observe an intact Amazonian environment. Activities include hiking,
mushroom hunting, swimming, fishing, and canoeing. Students will meet
with indigenous community members and spend time in ritual with
shamans of the community.

Section 4 – Myco Workshop II
Tuesday, January 6th – Thursday, January 14th

Peak Oil Issues – Production: Destruction of Ecology, Community and
Traditional Ways of Life

The course then returns to Lago Agrio for the final session and
completion of the seed germination experiment. Stops along the way
introduce students to communities and show toxic sites abandoned by
the oil industry, including pipeline ruptures, abandoned wells, and
communities located near active wells. Thursday 14th: Farewell dinner.
Program ends.
Itinerary dates subject to adjustment.

COSTS
$1,000 per section or $3,600 when enrolled in all four sections. Cost
covers food, lodging and in country transportation, special gear, as
well as all activities listed in the itinerary. Spanish language
instruction is optional and costs $10 per hour for individual
instruction; this cost may be split between up to 5 students of the
same ability level. Additional costs not covered may include, but are
not limited to: airfare, required travel insurance, optional travel
immunizations, suggested reading, beverages, souvenirs, tips and
donations. $100 articulation and curriculum fee for students seeking
college credit through independent study. Spanish instruction is
included in the $1000 individual section cost for the Cloud Forest
Holiday Retreat.
Limited scholarships are sometimes available. Students may inquire
with Cloud Forest Institute to find out more.

FACULTY & STAFF

Freeda Alida Burnstad, Director Cloud Forest Institute
Course organizer and promoter. Acts in a supportive capacity to the
course and course leaders while in Ecuador. Guest speaker during Cloud
Forest portion. AMP team member.

Lindsay Ofrias, The Clean Up Oil Waste Project LLC Founder
New York City liaison. Person of contact for students interested in
attending the workshops. Collaborates with universities, NGO’s, and
Ecuadorian leaders. Spanish translator and project coordinator.
Assistant teacher, Globalization.

Cristian Vaca, Environmental Activists and Eco-tourism Organizer
Cloud Forest Institute coordinator in Mindo. Provides in country
logistical support. Guest speaker during Cloud Forest portion.

Mia Maltz MS, RITES Project Founder
Permaculturist and Mycoremediation Specialist. Workshop presenter for
this course, Solar Living Institute, and many other venues. AMP team
member.

Auriah Milanes, Environmental Engineer
Cloud Forest Institute Alumni. Course leader.

Donaldo Moncayo, Amazon Defense Coalition
President (Mayor) of the community Santa Cruz. Local host and
experiment lead. AMP team member.

Nicola Peel, Eyes of Gaia
Amazon Mycorenewal Project Founder. Documentary Artist. Guest speaker.

Dr. Robert Rawson, International Wastewater Solutions
Bioremediation and Waste Water Specialist. Course workshop presenter.
Part-time faculty for Santa Rosa JC. AMP team member.

Silvia Sornoza, Executive Assistant Cloud Forest Institute
Provides in country logistical support. AMP team member.

Ricardo Viteri, Ecuadorian Mycological Society Kallambas
Commercial mushroom grower in Quito. AMP team member.

Language instruction is provided by the licensed instructors of
Amazonas Spanish School. Other guest lecturers and local experts will
be featured in the course.

SERVICE PARTNERS
Amazon Defense Coalition, Amazon Mycorenewal Project, Cloud Forest
Institute, Ecuadorian Mycological Society Kallambas, The Clean Up Oil
Waste Project LLC.

***Contact Luz at the Clean Up Oil Waste Project for questions or inquiries regarding this program: cleanupoilwaste@gmail.com, (631) 645-0021.

save coal river mountain

November 5, 2009

As I’ve mentioned many times before, the destructive practices of mountaintop removal coal mining are not just devastating the ecology of the Appalachian mountains, they’re destroying the health and livelihood of the Appalachian community. Please take action to end this filthy, immoral practice:

Today, organizations across the nation are joining forces with iLoveMountains.org to send a powerful message to the Obama Administration that blasting on America’s Most Endangered Mountain-Coal River Mountain- needs to stop now. This could be the largest day of action on mountaintop removal ever, and we need your help to make history.

Use the form to send your message now.

Coal River Mountain is the last remaining mountain untouched by mountaintop removal in the Coal River Valley of southern West Virginia- but Massey Energy wants to turn it into a 6,600-acre mountaintop removal wasteland. Local residents have a different vision for Coal River Mountain – a wind farm that could provide 70,000 households with clean energy, sustainable jobs and a symbol of hope for new industry in the Appalachian coalfields.

The fate of Coal River Mountain is still uncertain, but its implications for our energy future are clear. Will we continue down the path of destroying our nation’s oldest mountains for a few years worth of coal, or seize the opportunity to produce clean wind power and generate green jobs and a new energy economy?

Please send your message now.

how can we improve the air quality of our cities?

September 28, 2009

Find out on my new post on Aribra.com!

big cities: exhausting and exhilarating

In the big city, on any given day, anything seems possible. Millions of thinkers, dreamers, and doers exchange ideas, creative sparks, and currency. There are plenty of reasons to be a city dweller – more jobs, much inspiration, more opportunities to help people who need it. But there’s one big drawback to city dwelling, especially New York City dwelling: dismally poor air quality.

Some might argue we just can’t help it. In a city of millions where almost all of our goods are trucked in and 12,000 tons of residential trash is trucked out every day, how could we fight the beast of diesel exhaust? When coal-burning power plants in the MidWest are emitting mercury and other harmful pollutants that drift our way with the air currents, what are we supposed to do to stop that?

Keep reading…

are we living in the age of stupid?

September 4, 2009

I’m inclined to say yes. And I’d like to confirm my suspicions by watching this:

The Age of Stupid Global Premiere Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

This isn’t just a film about climate change and what could happen if the most severe predictions come to fruition. It’s also a global call to action (before the film even launches). I think director Franny Armstrong and the producers learned from the anti-climactic, uninspiring suggestions at the end of An Inconvenient Truth for individual energy consumption reduction.* Of course, I think each of us is responsible for our ecological actions, but something as big as climate change requires the attention and concerted effort of policy makers around the world. And the film’s release just happens to coincide with the UN General Assembly’s climate session.

*Not to discount Gore’s own current efforts to thwart climate change.

Want to see what the world might look like if our climate nightmares come true? The Age of Stupid premieres September 21/22.

Find out where it’s playing.

Find out what you can do to help.

the virtues of raising beef on the pasture

August 31, 2009

I came across this terrific video where cattle farmer Will Harris describes simply why he raises cows on the pasture. He started his career like most cattle farmers in this country, growing beef in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) where the animals are fed commodity corn and kept in pens – the fast and cheap way. He compares applying chemical fertilizers on grass to cocaine – it feels good at first, but then you become dependent on it. Everything he says makes complete sense to me. It’s a bit long, but it’s shorter than your average TV program and definitely worth a watch. Check it out and then let me know what you think.

CUD from Joe York on Vimeo.

now read this! a web roundup

August 28, 2009

Here’s a collection of some of the information that’s been shaping my world lately. It runs the gamut, so be prepared (and some of the titles have changed to suit my mood – so there!)

1.
“Old” SIGG reusable water bottles contain BPA [AlterNet]
Time to trade in for a Klean Kanteen! Even though SIGG has a trade-in program where you can return your old BPA-containing bottle for a new, improved BPA-free bottle, I’d rather support a company that was “klean” from the beginning (and didn’t cover up the truth).

What’s so bad about BPA (bisphenol A)?
= YES!

= NO!*

*Unless it was made after 2008. Check the article for a visual reference.

2.
Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food [Time]
If you haven’t had a chance to read Omnivore’s Dilemma or see Food, Inc., here’s a relatively brief, yet in-depth look at the problems plaguing our industrialized food system.

3.
“Organic”: Is It Healthier? [by Susun Weed]
Oh man, this article – part of my permaculture reading this week – made me laugh out loud. Susun has a great way of explaining the finer mechanisms of the world around us. She can make anything hysterical or completely logical just by the way she describes them. Here’s a taste:

I live on an old quarry. When I went to the extension and said, “I’m looking to buy this piece of property,” they pulled out the soil maps and they said, “Ah, there’s no soil on your property, did you realize that?” I said, “Yeah, it’s an old quarry.” They said, “This place is useless. The only thing that you could possibly do there is raise goats or grow weeds. So I went to the people selling it, and I said, “It’s a worthless piece of property, it will only grow weeds.” I got it for a very good price.

She goes on to tell us that, yes, she grows a lot of weeds. Weeds that feed her rabbits and goats. Those rabbits and goats feed her. There are some other, more ‘adult’ things that made me laugh in this article, too. But I’ll let you read those yourself!

4.
Why are we still using atrazine when 7 European countries have banned it?
[Daily Kos]
The health and healthy presence of frogs are a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, and therefore, the health of us. Well, hate to break it to y’all, but we’re up sh*t’s creek without a paddle, ’cause frogs are mutating and disappearing at alarming rates. Their permeable skin leaves them vulnerable to chemical contaminants like pesticides and herbicides – chemicals used in agriculture and on lawns like atrazine, methyl bromide, and chloropicrin (a nerve gas!) which end up in our drinking water, and in our bodies.

And just in case that wasn’t enough to cheer you up, here’s a related article [NY Times] about the legal allowable limits of atrazine in drinking water, and the detrimental effects of atrazine on women and children.

5.
Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil [by Daniel Hillel]
Soil is the skin of the earth. Yet we literally treat it like dirt. Some say it’s our nation’s biggest export (meaning it erodes away at a disturbingly steady rate). I’ve been really hot for this topic lately, and there’s a chapter out of this book that made me melt. An excerpt:

Soil and water have a physical affinity. Dry soil is “thirsty,” sucking up water the way an old-fashioned blotter sucked up ink. When the soil surface is wetted by rain, the suction force of the deeper soil layers, augmented by the force of gravity, draws the water downward. The soil drinks the rain in a process called “infiltration.” The maximum rate at which the soil is able to absorb water applied to its surface is called the soil’s infiltrability. It is greatest when the soil is dry, and diminishes gradually as the soil is wetted to progressively greater depth. Since the water permeating and seeping in the soil must make its way through the intricate labyrinthine passages between the irregularly shaped and oriented soil grains, it is obvious that a soil’s infiltrability depends on the widths and tortuosities of these interstices, called pores…

Wow!

See also: i enjoyed a dirty movie today (my post about the film “Dirt”)

now see this! crude, sweet crude

August 28, 2009

We all know by now that petroleum is poison and that it’s time to move on to cleaner & more ethical forms of fuel, right? Well, I guess not everyone is getting the message, including of course the oil companies themselves. Two films expose the dirty, unjust, and plain despicable practices of big oil. Check out the trailers and reviews below:

Crude

Coming to IFC Center Soon (9/9/09)
Check if it’s playing near you

The Official Site

Read a review of Crude [AlterNet]

Sweet Crude

The Official Site

Read a review of Sweet Crude [Variety]

oooh that smell!

July 29, 2009


[Image: Lexington, Mass. Town website]

Have you ever walked into an elevator, a subway car, or any other crowded confined space and been smacked in the face by a toxic cologne cloud?

There are times when this overpowering scent actually makes its way up into my nasal passages, down my throat, and onto my tongue. Excuse me, Stinky, I already had breakfast, I don’t want to taste your perfume bath!

I lovingly call these offenders Personal Air Polluters (PAPs). To be fair, I’ll assume they’ve dulled their precious olfactory senses so much that they’ve become “smell blind,” and as such just keep adding more and more fragrance as a result of their nasal numbness. After all, our senses can become dulled when they’re overexposed to stimuli.

So-called “good” scents like certain beauty products and cleaning solutions set off an alarm in my brain: Danger! Danger! Step away from that stink! And for good reason, these fragrances are actually bad for us.

Whether it’s the noxious fumes of cologne or perfume, the petrochemical laundry detergent emanating from clothes, or the synthetic fragrance wafting from just-shampooed hair – the deluge of synthetic fragrances in this world culminates in a harmful chemical cocktail.

get the stink out: antidotes to air pollution
Once I eliminated the culprits in my own home, I became acutely aware of these terrible odors. Here are some simple switches to help reduce your exposure to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) causing the toxic stench.

beauty regimen

  • Read labels. Avoid products containing phthalates, benzyl acetate, hydroquinone, formaldehyde, or the catch-all term “fragrance” (also: parfum). These products have been associated with neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and cancer
  • Look out for other ingredients that may induce similar health implications (eg, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and immunotoxicity) – read more
  • Some of my favorite brands:
    Suki
    Kiss My Face (Obsessively Organic line)
    John Masters Organics
    Dr. Bronner’s
    Simply Divine Botanicals

cleaning solutions

air fresheners

laundry & dry cleaning

  • For laundry: Switch to a less toxic alternative such as Ecos or Seventh Generation. Or try a laundry ball like this one from True Green (I tested it on my sweaty yoga towels – it really works!)
  • For softening: Skip the fabric softener and use 1/8 cup vinegar in the wash. The vinegar smell does not stick around, I swear
  • For scent: Add a few drops of essential oil to the wash. I use Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus – so fresh and so clean! (and also antibacterial)
  • For dry cleaning: Opt for handwash with a product like The Laundress or visit a dry cleaner using CO2 such as Green Apple Cleaners

paint & furnishings

  • No or low-VOC paints like Mythic offer high-quality coverage without the noxious fumes. Or try American Clay, a wall covering that adds beautiful texture while actually filtering the air
  • Check for formaldehyde and other off-gassing VOCs in furniture & carpeting. Stick with natural floor coverings made from wool or seagrass. Check the Sustainable Furnishings Council for brands that don’t emit VOCs

Aah, now let’s all take a breath of fresh air!