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The slowly moving, perpetually undulating mass of pastel and primary colored plastic trash that bobs up and down in the middle of the ocean is perhaps one of the biggest man made eyesores of its kind aside from the infinite landfills of rotting post consumer waste that continue to dot our landscape. We’ve seen photos and video footage documenting the existance of this aquatic nightmare and every single one of us probably understands the correlation between our consumer obsession with plastic and what happens when we discard the temporary fixtures of our lives. For years, human beings have purged ships and boats of their excess plastic waste. We’ve conveniently forgotten to clean up after ourselves following long, lazy days at the beach. Countless plastic shopping bags, one-time-use plastic water bottles and beverage caps have been wind-swept from the pavement (where we dropped them) into overflowing sewage systems or carried there following rain storms.
Our rational minds may tell us that a state-sized mass of plastic trash does not belong in the middle of the ocean and our mouths may even fall agape at the sight of hard to fathom images of the chunky plastic buouyant soup. In spite of the shock that may radiate through our systems, every single one of us is to blame for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s existance. Scoff if you will. Cling onto the fact that you are a diligent recycler — go ahead and pound your chest while proudly declaring that you gave up bottled water one year ago and that reusable bags are your thing. You can itemize all of the personal efforts you’ve made to positively impact the environment but the bottom line is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the result of society’s carelessness, and as a member of the human race, every single one of us is to blame.
There is now so much plastic waste clogging the ocean 1,000 miles north of Hawaii that scientists estimate it is now about twice the size of Texas. This is hardly accidental, unless you consider apathy and outright littering a chronic mistake that has been coincidentally repeated ad nauseum by the large majority of our population. Perhaps it is a symptom of our cultural ignorance or it demonstrates the general lack of regard that humans have for what happens beyond our own small sphere. How many times have you or someone else you know uttered such phrases as: “I’m too busy.” “It’s not my fault in the first place.” “Let someone else deal with it.” “I’ve never thrown out a single piece of plastic in my life, so don’t look at me.” “There’s no recycling service in my neck of the woods.” “I don’t live in the middle of the ocean, so why should I care?”
Not only is it our problem, we’ve got to stop passing the buck and presuming that someone else will take care of this mess. It may be unreasonable to suggest that everyone should start paddling out into the middle of the ocean on their weekends and dragging as much plastic trash as they can back to the mainland for proper recycling — that job is perhaps best left to marine scientists who must figure out how on Earth they can resolve this ecological problem as effectively as possible. In the meantime, we can’t allow these images to fade from our minds because they serve to remind us that our daily eco-friendly efforts can make a huge difference. Stay away from non-recyclable plastic products and make sure that every single piece of plastic that does enter your household leaves in a recycling container or is repurposed in a responsible manner. Pick up plastic “junk” that is discarded in public places and relocate it to a proper recycling bin. Shift your household over to more eco-friendly alternatives such as glass, wood and ceramic. Stop thinking that recycling one bag or cap is not going to make a difference. Clearly, it all adds up over time…just take a good long look at what is clogged in the middle of the ocean for all the proof that you’ll ever need.
The Top 10 Facts About the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:
- Each year, 10% of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced globally ends up in our oceans and now, roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of the ocean.
- A 1,700 mile mass of plastic garbage sits in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slowly moving, clockwise spiral of ocean currents.
- The gyre actually consists of two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, the Western Pacific patch (located east of Japan and west of Hawaii) and the Eastern Pacific patch (floating between Hawaii and California).
- Both zones form what is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and they are connected by a thin 6,000-mile long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone.
- The mass moves seasonally as much as a thousand miles North and South in the Pacific while in warmer El Nino periods, it drifts even further South.
- Approximately 3.5 million tons of plastic waste can be found in this water-bound waste zone.
- 90 percent of all trash floating in the world’s oceans is plastic-based and some of the most common items found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch include toothbrushes, wrappers, bottle caps, plastic shopping bags, pacifiers, old toys, fishing floats, soda bottles, Styrofoam chunks, tangled nets and even patio chairs.
- The plastic pieces in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contain toxic elements able to absorb other chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, and these components can persist in the environment for decades.
- 100,000 marine mammals each year — such as sea turtles, seals and birds — are the victims of plastic trash-related deaths because they consume or become entangled in the waste.
- There are up to six pounds of marine litter for every pound of plankton in the ocean.
Posted using ShareThis by Rebecca Lacko, LA Parenting Examiner
Put a little green in your red, white and blue celebration
This Fourth of July weekend, Americans will light up more than 60 million barbecues and will roast about 150 million hot dogs and 890 million pounds of chicken and red meat. A yummy prospect for most picnickers, but consider that, according to Jason Green, coordinator for St. Petersburg College’s Office for Sustainability, “A typical party of 30 guests can create 80 pounds of waste.”
Not only is paper waste an environmental concern, but as Green reports, “It’s estimated that Americans using their grills will create the same amount of carbon dioxide as if 2,300 acres of forest were burnt.”
Think it ends with paper waste and CO2 emmissions? Think again. Fireworks contain potassium perchlorate, which gets into the soil, air and water and causes damage to the thyroid gland. Other ingredients include such heavy metals as barium and copper, which are toxic.
Party Like an Independent American, AND Minimize Damage to the Environment!
What are the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in an environmentally friendly way? Here are some ideas:
- For July 4 parties, use real plates, silverware and cloth napkins and stay away from paper napkins, disposable paper plates and plastic utensils. If you must use disposable plates, buy plates that are biodegradable. Did you know that disposable plates are now available that are made from corn, potato and sugar-cane pulp?
- Throw a potluck party to share resources and carpool.
- Prepare meals and desserts with locally-grown organic ingredients and free-range, grass-fed meats and poultry. (Bonus: they’re much more delicious!)
- Balance your meat dishes with more sustainable vegetable-based items. Potato salad, anyone?
- Provide recycling bins for glass bottles, cans and plastic — A must-do!
- When BBQ-ing, use natural gas grills — they pollute less than charcoal grills. To make matters worse, over-charring meat produces toxic chemicals in the food itself.
- Don’t shoot off polluting fireworks at home; instead, go to one of the city- or county-sponsored events.
- Make your own natural insect repellent! Frequently reapply basic essential oils like lavender, rosemary and cedar wood. These oils can trick insects into thinking you’re a plant.
- If you must use a DEET-based insect repellent, choose products with less than 20% DEET. Never apply over cuts or wounds; never apply on infants or if you are taking any medications; don’t spray in enclosed areas; and wash skin with soap and water after use.
- Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products and cloths or micro fiber rags to clean up after the party.
For more info: Learn more about the sustainable | SPC initiative
Filed under: celebrations, Consumption, Environment, Events, health, Recycling | Tagged: 4th of July, barbecue, biodegradable plates, fireworks, grills, hot dogs, insect repellent, locally grown, paper plates, plastic utensils, re-usable plates, Recycling, Red, waste, White and Blue | Leave a Comment »
I Recycle in Georgia supports a statewide campaign to change misperceptions about recycling – and to get the 45 percent of Georgians who don’t recycle to get started.
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Join me and break the bottled water habit! Getting rid of bottled water is a win-win! You save money and water and help lessen the amount of plastic in landfills! You can now even win a trip to Glacier National Park. Please learn more about the campain here http://water.newdream.org/campaigns/water/register/78023085e295e74b21a82b2bb7894a34/
For each gallon of water bottled, two gallons are wasted; producing the plastic wastes the energy equivalent of a quarter-bottle’s worth of oil. And what’s in the bottle could just be tap water.
New American Dream and Corporate Accountability International is asking you to think about where the water in that bottle came from, where the plastic is going, and take the Break the Bottled Water Habit pledge(water.newdream.org) and drink to a healthy ecosystem.
During October, make a conscious choice to slake your thirst without drying up our planet’s resources. In addition to benefiting the environment, participants will have a chance to win a free condo for a week at a ski resort in Idaho. Visit the website (water.newdream.org now to get started.
Filed under: drought, Energy conservation, Environment, Recycling, water conservation | Tagged: bottled water, Environment, landfill, plastic, waste, water, water conservation, water quality | 4 Comments »
The Gardens at Kennesaw Mountain in Marietta, GA is THE Eco-Friendly Wedding and Event Facility in GA.
They recently installed a Solar PV System to Generate Clean Electricity and Caroma Dual Flush Toilets to Save Water
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, August 2, 2008 –
Back in the twentieth century Billy Idol sang about a “White Wedding” in his 1982 hit. But in the twenty-first century, mother and son team Ellie and Marc Sommers are leading the charge in Atlanta for “green” weddings, as well as “green” special events and “green” corporate events. They are the owners of The Gardens at Kennesaw Mountain in Marietta, Georgia. This event facility is on four idyllic, forested acres near the entrance to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
The Gardens at Kennesaw Mountain, formerly known as the Kennesaw Mountain Winery, was acquired by the Sommers in 2006. They began implementing numerous environmentally friendly initiatives. Most recently they had a 1.3kW DC solar PV electric system,
manufactured by Schuco Solar of Germany, mounted onto the roof of the facility’s Grand Ballroom. The solar array was supplied and installed by Marietta-based SOENSO GA (soenso.com). The 1.3kW solar PV system will produce an average of 145kWh/month of free electricity. A system this size will generate just a portion of the total power needed for the facility, but it will shave peak-usage kWh’s and reduce each month’s electric bill.
In addition, generating 145kWh/month of clean electricity from solar PV instead of using that same amount of electricity generated by coal-fired utility power plants will have the following positive annual impact on the environment:
2,826 pounds of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere
3 barrels of foreign oil not imported
145 gallons of gasoline not consumed
Other sustainable initiatives underway at The Gardens at Kennesaw Mountain include locally inspired and organic food, biodegradable and compostable food containers and flatware, waste recycling by Conex Recycling of Alpharetta and dual-flush toilets from ecoTransitions of Marietta. The Sommers also plan to install a solar thermal water heating system from SOENSO GA.
Update: They were recently featured as the “Going Green Champion of the Week” by WSB TV, see here http://www.wsbtv.com/video/17642364/The Gardens at Kennesaw Mountain, 1127 White Circle NW, Marietta, Georgia 30060 On the Web: www.gardensatkennesaw.com, Phone: (770) 396-5361, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to SOENSO GA for providing this information SOENSO GA solar energy dealer/installer – On the Web: www.soenso.com. Email: email@example.com
Filed under: caroma, Dual Flush toilets, Energy conservation, Recycling, water conservation | Tagged: dual flush, Energy conservation, event facility, green event facility, soenso, solar pv, solar water heating, water conservation | 1 Comment »
I just found this great article, published by Fred A. Bernstein in the New York times. The only part I just don’t understand is why it is such a big compromise for Americans to turn on lights or wait a few minutes until the room has reached the perfect temperature. These ‘compromises’ can help us all in saving money, resources and helping to get to Energy independency from countries we don’t want to be dependent on! Please see his article below or view it here http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/realestate/commercial/03sqft.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=business&pagewanted=print
Will Americans Accept Greener Hotel Rooms?
SEAN MacPHERSON, the New York hotelier, has been to Europe dozens of times. And he knows that across the Continent, many hotel rooms have master switches that help reduce power use.
Usually, a guest inserts a card into a slot when entering the room to turn on the electricity. Removing the card (which doubles as the room key) on the way out the door shuts off the power.
It is an easy way to conserve energy. Yet it is almost never seen in the United States. Guests who are in a hurry — or simply don’t care about saving electricity — leave TVs, air-conditioners and lights on when there is no one in the room. Brian McGuinness, a vice president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, explained the mind-set of some travelers: “Part of being on the road means the ability to live a little more luxuriously than at home, and that means not having to turn off the lights and the TV.”
Mr. McGuinness added, “People say they want to be green, but they don’t want to compromise.” As a result, he said, “We don’t really know yet what it means to be green in the hospitality field.”
Last month, Starwood, which owns Westin and Sheraton Hotels, began a new “green” brand, called Element, which it bills as being eco-conscious and “kind to the environment,” with ample natural light, in-room recycling bins and faucet filters meant to reduce reliance on bottled water. But so far, Element hotels do not have master switches in their guest rooms.
Mr. McGuinness, the executive responsible for the Element brand, said that before building the hotels, the company surveyed potential customers about energy-saving features, including master switches.
“Some,” he recalled, “said they would suffer discomfort because they would get back to their room and it would be extremely hot.” Others, he said, “indicated that entering a dark room could be a safety issue.”
He said that future Element hotels might have a compromise master switch — one that controls the lights and the TV, while leaving the air-conditioning on.
Wen-I Chang, the developer of the Gaia Merced — a hotel being built in central California with master switches — estimated the price of installing them at about $300 a room, or less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the cost of construction.
Raefer K. Wallis, a Canadian-born architect living in China, helped design a hotel in Shanghai that is intended to be “carbon neutral.” That meant giving the hotel, called URBN, energy-saving features, including master switches. But in North America, he said, hoteliers think: “Why run the risk of losing a customer because a room needs a few minutes to cool while the air-conditioning kicks in? It’s better business just to run the A.C. and make sure the client comes back.”
Mr. Wallis added, “North America just doesn’t have the culture of saving resources.”
But Mr. MacPherson said he thinks the mood in this country is shifting.
He and his business partner, Eric Goode, didn’t install master switches at the Maritime Hotel, which opened in 2003, or the Bowery Hotel, which opened in 2007, both in Manhattan, believing that customers were not ready for them. But at their low-priced Jane Hotel, which opened last month on Jane Street in the West Village, they took the plunge.
At the Jane, the master switches are not controlled by key cards, which Mr. MacPherson said “seem impersonal and corporate.”
“We wanted to do it in a more stylish way,” he added.
So Mr. MacPherson had a metal shop make small brass cylinders, which he attached to each of the Jane’s key chains. Place the cylinder into a slot near the door to your room, and the power goes on. Pull the cylinder out, and it goes off. Mr. MacPherson’s team rigged the switches, he said, from standard electrical parts.
As recently as two years ago, he said, guests might have been put off by the enforced conservation. Now, Mr. MacPherson said: “The world has shifted. If you do the right thing, people pick up on it.”
Another device, also common in European hotels, raises similar issues. It saves a lot of water, but also forces guests to think about how they use resources.
The device is a dual-flush toilet. Instead of one button to operate the toilet, there are two: one for a 0.8-gallon flush (for liquid waste) and one for 1.6 gallons (for solids). The toilets, which average just under one gallon per flush — as opposed to 7 gallons for some older toilets — are standard in much of the world.
But in the United States, few hotels have installed them. Consumers expressed concern that the dual-flush toilets would not work, Mr. McGuinness said.
An American hotel that has tried the toilets, however, has reported no problems at all. In early 2007, Siegfried Richter, the manager of the Hilton Palacio del Rio in San Antonio, replaced more than 400 toilets in the hotel with dual-flush models.
The idea came from the San Antonio Water System, which was looking for a hotel to serve as a model for its “kick the can” program to replace wasteful toilets. Mr. Richter jumped at the chance.
The toilets are made by the Australian manufacturer Caroma, and were installed as part of a project that also involved switching to low-flow showerheads. Since the change, water use at the hotel dropped by about a million gallons a month, according to Eddie Wilcut, conservation manager of the San Antonio Water System. Mr. Wilcut attributed about 60 percent of that savings to the toilets.
The drop was so substantial that “the hotel thought its water meter was broken,” he said.
According to Mr. Richter, there has not been a single customer complaint about the toilets.
Mr. Chang said the Kohler dual-flush toilets he chose for the Gaia at Merced added about $80 to the cost of each room, which he described as a small price to pay.
Mr. Richter would like to see other hotels install the water-saving toilets. “We informed Hilton of our experience,” he said. “But I’m not an officer of the company,” he said, “nor do I have any great influence there.”
A few months ago, on World Water Day, I saw Stephen Colbert’s show dedicated to Water. Colbert Report, March 20, 2008
Regardless of the opinion you may have of him as a comedian or on his political views, he made some very valid points and had some very interesting interviews. Please visit Water is Life on Colbert to view some of the videos; especially thirst locally – drink globally and Visit to the American Museum of Natural History is extremely interesting (more info on this exhibit can be found here Exhibition H2O=Life)
Clean, plentiful water is not always available where and when it’s needed. Indeed, water shortages and pollution threaten individuals, communities and countries around the globe. But many water problems also have solutions. From households to huge cities, elected officials to entrepreneurs, everyone has a role to play in protecting Earth’s water.
How much water do people use each day?
573 liters (151 gallons) per person per day U.S., average domestic and municipal use
118 liters (31 gallons) per person per day United Kingdom, average domestic and municipal use
10 liters (3 gallons) per person per day Ethiopia, average domestic and municipal use
People in the U.S. and Canada use much more water than residents of most other countries. In the U.K. and most other European countries, people live more water-efficient lifestyles. Most Ethiopians, like many others in the developing world, can’t get enough water to ensure basic health and sanitation.
Message in a Bottle
The average North American in 2005 consumed about 80 liters (21 gallons) of bottled water. Globally, consumption nearly doubled between 1997 and 2005, and the U.S. is the largest total consumer of bottled water. Manufacturing all those bottles uses a lot of water—twice as much as the bottles contain. Worldwide, over 2.7 million tons of plastic are used for water bottles, but in the U.S. only about 20 percent of the bottles are recycled. The total estimated energy needed to make, transport and dispose of one bottle of water is equivalent to filling the plastic bottle one-quarter full of oil.
People often choose bottled water assuming it’s safer than tap water, and perhaps imagining it comes from a pristine mountain spring. Most bottled water is safe-but so is the municipal water that is the source of an estimated 40 percent of U.S. bottled water. About 25% of bottled water sold is simply re-processed/used municipal(city) water according to a 1999 study in the United States. Both Aquafina from Pepsi-Cola Company and Dasani from The Coca-Cola Company are reprocessed from municipal water systems.  Some bottled waters, such as Penta Water make unverified health benefit claims. While there have been few comprehensive studies, one analysis several years ago found that about 22 percent of brands that were tested contain, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. If consumed over a long period of time, some of these contaminants could cause cancer or other health problems at rates higher than those considered tolerable by the regulatory body setting the standards. In addition, 60 to 70 percent of all bottled water in the U.S. is packaged and sold in a state that is not regulated by the FDA
If you want to carry water with you, why not get a reusable bottle and refill it at the tap?
By the Numbers
Average price of tap water in the U.S. = less than $.01 a gallon
Average price of bottled water in the U.S. = about $10 a gallon
More on Bottled Water on Wikipedia
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.